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Medina History, Saudi Arabia

Medina History – Pre-Islamic Period

Medina, also known as Medinat an-Nabi or Madinat Rasul Allah, is the city where Prophet Muhammad (along with his companions) escaped to from Mecca in 622 CE to avoid persecution by the ruling Quraysh-tribe. Although, this event marked the beginning of the Muslim calendar (Hijra or Hegira), this was certainly not the beginning of Medina history and an oasis-town named Yathrib or Iatribu had already flourished at the present-day Medina-site by the 6th century BC. Like the other Hejaz-cities of Jeddah and Tabuk, Yathrib initially saw settlements by Arab-tribes; however, the Jewish-Roman wars in 2nd century AD also brought Jewish settlers to the region. Till the time that Prophet Muhammad arrived, the Arab-tribes and the Jews co-existed as politically independent groups (though not always peacefully).

Medina History – Between 622 And 661

The period of Medina history, starting from Prophet Muhammad’s arrival in Medina to the closing days of Rashidun Caliphate, is extremely important as it saw the rise of a non-descript oasis-town to the central city, administrative capital of the Islamic Empire.

Prophet Muhammad arrived in Yathrib on September 20, 622, and soon the scenario started changing. With Muhammad preaching his new monotheistic religion of Islam, people of the Arab-tribes started embracing the new religion and even proclaimed Muhammad as their leader. Inspired by the many conversions, Muhammad unified his followers to protect Medina (by then, Yathrib had become Medina) from the Mecca-rulers. Within a span of three years, three battles – Battle of Badr (624 CE), Battle of Uhud (625 CE) and Battle of Trench (627 CE) – were fought between the Meccan Quraysh-forces and Muhammad’s followers. All these confrontations ended in the Muslim’s of Medina ably defending their city and resulted in the signing of the 10-year truce, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, in 628. The truce, however, did not last long as the terms were violated by the Quraysh-tribe (and their allies) leading to the peaceful Conquest of Mecca (630 CE) by Muhammad and his men. After this conquest, almost all the Arabian tribes converted to Islam (and the Jews fled elsewhere), leading to the foundation of the Islamic Empire. Muhammad was unanimously named the leader of this Muslim-world and Medina became the capital city.

Medina remained the central city of the Islamic Empire even after the death of Prophet Muhammad (in 632 CE), when the rule of the Rashidun Caliphate (The Rightly Guided Caliphs) was established by appointing a successor (or caliph) from among Muhammad’s closest followers. The rule of the Rashidun Caliphate continued for 29 years from 632 to 661, even as the Empire kept expanding to include important centers like Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Syria and even parts of North Africa under the rule of four caliphs – Abu Bakr Siddique, Umar ibn al-Khattab, Uthman ibn Affan and Ali ibn Abi Talib.

Medina lost its political significance after the death of the fourth caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib in 661, as the power was usurped by the Umayyad dynasty and the seat of the Caliphate was moved to Damascus (capital of the province of Syria).

Medina History – 662 to Present Times

After the fall of the Rashidun Caliphate Medina history has been quite uneventful. The city’s religious importance remained unscathed (it is the second holiest city of Islam after Mecca) but it suffered from political-anonymity. From the 7th century till the dawn of the 20th century, Medina had been subject to various rules, including the Umayyads, the Abbasids, the Fatimids, the Mamluks and finally the Ottoman Turks.

Entering into the 20th century, Medina witnessed a period of siege during the WWI when the local ruler (Sharif of Mecca Sayyid Hussein Bin Ali) revolted against the Ottoman Caliphate and joined hands with the British forces. The siege lasted for three years (from 1916 to 1919) as the Ottomon Governor, Fakri Pasha, held his ground against the siege laid by Hussein before surrendering. The end of the WWI saw Medina becoming a part of independent Hejaz as Sayyid Hussein Bin Ali proclaimed himself the ruler. The defeat of the King of Hejaz at the hands of Ibn Saud in 1924 resulted in the inclusion of Medina (along with the whole of Hejaz) into the Saudi Kingdom. The city continues to be a part of Saudi Arabia till today and is now the seat of the Islamic University besides being an important pilgrimage.

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