Al Madinah Al Munawarrah (kingdom of Saudi Arabia) : as Islamic Culture Capital of the Arab Region for 2013

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Records indicate that Al Madinah Al Munawarrah, one of the world’s ancient cities, was built by the 5th generation of the descendants of Prophet Noah (PBUH) when they were looking for a home to settle in. During their search, they found a prairie surrounded by mountains, and decided to build a village there, and call it after their leader “Yathrib”.

Yathrib was unknown for long ages (future archaeological discoveries might tell us more about this period) until its name appeared in the Minaean, Assyrian and Greek inscriptions that date back to a score of centuries before the Hijra (the emigration of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) from Makkah to Al Madinah).

Those inscriptions and scriptures reveal that Yathrib was a station on the route between the Levant and Yemen, and that its people lived peacefully away from the bloody wars between the big kingdoms, under the sovereignty of the Hejaz kingdom, providing a safe place for caravans.

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Al- Baqi’a Cemetery

Also, Arab historical sources indicate that Yathrib later became home to individuals and tribes from the Arab Peninsula, Palestine and Yemen. They together with the Yathribis (people of Yathrib) formed a multiracial and a multi-religious society, and co-existed peacefully before a struggle for power was provoked by the despotic Jewish leader of the al-Fityawn of Banu Thaalaba who was later killed by Malik bin Ajlan of the Banu Khazraj. After killing al-Fityawn Jew leader, Malik bin Ajlan sought the help of his kin, the Ghassanids of the Levant and the Himyarite Kingdom in Yemen, to defeat the Jews.

Not long after that, strife between the two sisterly tribes Al Aws and Al Khazraj erupted. This strife, which was provoked by the Jews, caused intermittent wars over 6 decades, during which many lives were lost. The last of these wars was “Baath”, which took place 5 years before the Prophet’s journey from Mecca to Medina. When the wise people of the two tribes realized the expensive cost of the war they decided to call a halt to it and look for someone to bring about peace, justice and concord to Yathrib.

At that time, the Prophet (PBUH) was being distressed by the polytheists of Quraysh. During the time of pilgrimage, he would go to Minah to invite the delegations of tribes to enter Islam. In the 11th year of his prophethood, he met 6 pilgrims from Yathrib, and invited them to enter Islam. Not only did they accept his invitation, but they also reported it to their fellow Yathribis.

In the following year, he met 12 people from Yathrib, who pledged allegiance to him. A year later, he met 75 people, whom pledged allegiance to him and invited him and the other Muslims to emigrate to Yathrib.

Indeed, the Prophet’s hijrah (emigration) to Yathrib marked the beginning of a golden era in the holy city’s history. Following the emigration, the name of the city was changed, Islam was propagated in it, wars ended, and its people were called the Ansar (the Supporters). Though the city was a site for two major battles, “Uhud” and “Ahzab”, it soon evolved into a center for preaching the word of Allah and a destination for delegations from around the Arab Peninsula coming to it to give a pledge of allegiance to the Prophet (PBUH).

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The grave of the Prophet (PBUH) and those of his companions Abu Bakr Al Siddiq and Omar Ibn Al Khattab

Over the ten years that the Prophet lived in the Madinah, the city was a center for political, cultural and religious radiance. The Prophet’s revealed message and teachings came to pass in the sayings and deeds of his companions whom he entrusted with transmitting his message; a mission they so ably accomplished, paving the way for renowned jurists to contribute through scholarly works to spreading the Prophet’s message all over the world. This has earned Al Madinah its status as the first capital of Islamic culture. After the death of the Prophet (PBUH), Al Madinah continued conducting its mission, and so it became the center of the Khilafh (the Caliphate rule) and the capital of the growing Islamic state. Al Madinah was also able to protect its integrity against the apostates, send preachers everywhere and implement the legacy of the Prophet in the daily life of its people and in their way of educating future generations, i.e. the “Tabi’in” (the Followers).

When the Umayyad took over authority in 40 A.H. Al Madinah was relieved from political burdens, and their people were able to devote their lives to the knowledge circles in the Prophet’s Mosque. Therefore, the collection of the Prophet’s Ahadith (sayings) gained momentum, and distinguished scholars who helped people lead their lives in an Islamic way emerged. Also, the city grew larger, palaces were built along Al Aqiq River, dams were constructed, farms were set up, and the first water supply network (Al Ayn Al Zarqaa or the Blue Spring) carrying underground water from Qubaa wells to the Prophet’s Mosque and its surrounding neighborhoods was established. Likewise, the Prophet’s Mosque was rebuilt and expanded, and riches grew. And except the war of Harrah in 63 A.H., in which many people of Al Madinah died, the city lived in peace.

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Quba’a Mosque

When authority was taken over by the Abbasids in 132 A.H., the people of Al Madinah pledged allegiance to them, and until the end of the 2nd century of Hejira, life was relatively peaceful in Al Madinah, until two big events took place. The first was the murder and fleeing of some of its inhabitants from the Banu Umayya. The second event was the rebellion of Muhammad al Nafs Azzakiya against the Caliph Al Mansour in 145 A.H. Muhammad al Nafs Azzakiya and a group of his supporters were killed by the Abbasid army, which invaded the city and extinguished his rebellious movement. After that, the city restored its scientific and economic thrive. Among the scholars that were famous then was Imam Malik, whom people from different countries sought to acquire knowledge. During the 2nd decade of the 3rd century A.H., the city was still a destination for Muslims to visit the Prophet’s Mosque and meet renowned Muslim scholars. These visits were an occasion for some visitors to receive licenses for Quran recitation, and to preach and teach for some others.

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Omar Ibn Al Khattab Mosque

The city remained introverted within the wall that was built around it in 263 A.H. to protect its people. The Abbasids and the Fatimiyeen made sure to get the allegiance of its people. They delivered sermons from the minbar of the Prophet’s Mosque, and would send them money and gifts. When the constructions extended the wall both from the south and the west, another wall was built at the expense of Sultan Noureedine Zinki. Also, Salah Eddine Al Ayoubi and his sons managed to retain the allegiance of the city to the Abbasids. After the downfall of the Abbasid state, the Husaynid Dynasty took over the city and gave their allegiance to the Mamluks in Egypt. The city often enjoyed autonomy, and the Sultans used to often send appointment or dismissing decrees, in line with the recommendations of the Husaynid Dynasty. The Mamluks intervened in the city only in case of turmoil.

During the Mamluk era science was greatly promoted. This contributed to the emergence of many scientists, scholars, men of letters, and historians who enriched the Arab library with important works, especially on the history of the city and on its public figures. Before the end of the Mamluks reign, the principality of Al Madinah was annexed to the principality of Makkah. This weakened the Husaynid princes who then became deputies of their cousins, the princes of Makkah.

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Abu Bakr Al Siddiq Mosque

During the Hashemite rule, Al Madinah partially recovered and a large number of its indigenous people returned to it. However, the state’s limited resources and the conflicts between the short lived Hashemite Kingdom and Al Saud in Najd, made the city suffer. Then, the people of Al Madinah wrote to King Abdulaziz who was uniting the country. In response to their letter, he sent his son Muhammed to rule the city on 19 Jumada I, 1344, and take allegiance on behalf of his father. This ushered in a new era for the holy city, which became one of the Saudi provinces.

King Abdulaziz and his sons took great care of the administrative, cultural and architectural aspects of the city. Also, a special attention was devoted to the Prophet’s Mosque. King Abdulaziz ordered an expansion (the first Saudi expansion) which doubled the size of the Mosque, and all the kings that succeeded him ordered expansions either in the Mosque itself or in its courtyards. They also revamped its equipments and the services provided to the worshipers and visitors. The most recent of these improvements was the one ordered by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah when he commanded the shading of its courtyards, and an expansion of the Mosque and of its courtyards, which doubled its capacity and made it an architectural masterpiece that provides the best worshiping conditions.

Over the last seven decades of the Saudi rule, the city has seen major developments: its population has increased by 5 times, its size has grown larger, its lands have been reclaimed, new buildings have been erected, gardens have been created, and courtyards and roads have been built. Also, the houses surrounding the Prophet’s Mosque have been rebuilt in accordance with the international building standards to provide the best accommodation and shopping services to the city’s visitors. Likewise, education have been developed, and thousands of scholars, writers and media pundits, both male and female, have graduated from its institutes and universities and have contributed with their works to the activation of the cultural movement in the city, in particular, and in Saudi Arabia, in general. In addition to this, the city is now embarking on a new phase by building the Knowledge Economic City (KEC) which uses the modern architectural technologies in building model cities. Through this project, the city seeks to attract scientists, innovators, investors and renowned international universities, take a leading role in science, culture and economy and pursue the mission it began in its first golden era, i.e. the mission of spreading light, virtue and peace for all.

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The Prophet’s Mosque

By holding the title of the “Islamic Culture Capital” this year, Al Madinah will seek to bring to the minds the seeds of that culture which were sowed in all Islamic countries, and to affirm that those seeds are still arable. This will revive the beautiful gardens of the centuries-long Islamic civilization, thus proving that the lights of Islamic culture, which sprang from the prophet’s city, are still glowing and illuminating mankind’s path towards virtue, good and beauty and guiding their steps towards success in their religious and mundane life.

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The Prophet’s Mosque