History and Archaeology of Medina



By the Editors of the Madain Project

Medina, also transliterated as Madīnah, is a city in the Hejazi region of the Arabian Peninsula and administrative headquarters of the al-Madinah Region of Saudi Arabia. At the city's heart is al-Masjid an-Nabawi ('The Prophet's Mosque'), which is the burial place of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, and it is one of two holiest cities in Islam, the other being the city of Mecca.

Medina is generally considered to be the "cradle of Islamic culture and civilization". The city is considered to be the second-holiest of three key cities in Islamic tradition, with Mecca and Jerusalem serving as the holiest and third-holiest cities respectively. The original name of the city before the advent of Islam was Yathrib (Hebrew: יתריב; Arabic: يَثْرِب), and it is referred to by this name in Chapter 33 (Al-Aḥzāb, literally meaning 'The Confederates') of the Quran. It was renamed to Madīnat an-Nabī (literally 'the City of the Prophet' or 'The Prophet's City') after Muhammad's death.

Medina is home to several distinguished sites and landmarks, most of which are mosques and hold historic significance. These include the three aforementioned mosques, Masjid al-Fath (also known as Masjid al-Khandaq), the Seven Mosques, the Baqi' Cemetery where the graves of many famous Islamic figures are presumed to be located; directly to the southeast of the Prophet's Mosque, the Uhud mountain, site of the eponymous Battle of Uhud and the King Fahd Glorious Qur'an Printing Complex where most modern Qur'anic Mus'hafs are printed.

Related Subjects: Levantine Archaeology, Islamic Archaeology

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Brief History

Yathrib (Pre-Islamic Era)

During antiquity the city of Medina was known as Yathrib (يثرب). In historiography, the term "Yathrib" or "ancient yathrib" describes the periods of occupation starting with early Arab-Jewish settlements in the area during the fourth or fifth century CE. Though it is uncertain how far back the settlement history of Yathrib Oasis goes, it is believed that the area was inhabited at least for over 1,500-1,700 years (circa 900-700 BCE) before prophet Muhammad's migration from Mecca. The Yathrib region received peoples from various regions who formed its pre-Islamic community and fomulate history.

History of Ancient Yathrib

Medina (Islamic Period)

Much like most of the Hejaz, the historic city of Medina has seen numerous exchanges of power within its comparatively short existence in the recorded history. The history of Medina starts with the advent of Islam, after the Hijrah of prophet Muhammad, the event that marked the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Today, Medina continues to be a vital center for Islam, attracting millions of pilgrims and visitors from around the world. It remains a city of historical and religious significance, deeply embedded in the cultural and spiritual heritage of Saudi Arabia and the broader Islamic world.

History of Medina

Archaeology of Ancient Medina

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