Medina (city, Saudi Arabia)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Medina (city, Saudi Arabia)

Medina (mĬdē´nə), Arabic Medinat an-Nabi [city of the Prophet] or Madinat Rasul Allah [city of the apostle of Allah], city (1993 pop. 608,226), Hejaz, W Saudi Arabia. It is situated c.110 mi (180 km) inland from the Red Sea in a well-watered oasis where fruit, dates, vegetables, and grain are raised. Before the flight (Hegira) of Muhammad from Mecca to the city in 622, Medina was called Yathrib. Muhammad quickly gained control of Medina, successfully defended it against attacks from Mecca, and used it as the base for converting and conquering Arabia. Medina grew rapidly until 661, when the Umayyad dynasty transferred the capital of the caliphate to Damascus. Thereafter Medina was reduced to the rank of a provincial town, ruled by governors appointed by the distant caliphs. Local warfare drained the city's prosperity. It came under the sway of the Ottoman Turks in 1517. The Wahhabis captured it in 1804, but it was retaken for the Turks by Muhammad Ali in 1812. In World War I the forces of Husayn ibn Ali, who revolted against Turkey, captured Medina. In 1924 it fell to Ibn Saud, Husayn's rival, after a 15-month siege. The city is surrounded by double walls flanked by bastions and pierced by nine gates. The chief building is the Prophet's Mosque, which contains the tombs of Muhammad, his daughter Fatima, and the caliphs Umar and Abu Bakr. The pilgrimage to Mecca (see hajj) usually includes a side trip to Medina. Medina is the seat of Islamic Univ. (1962).

See E. Esin, Mecca, the Blessed; Madinah, the Radiant (1963); M. S. Makki, Medina, Saudi Arabia: A Geographic Analysis of the City and Region (1982).

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