Lit. “The city.” The city celebrated as the burial place of Muhammad. It is called Yatrib (see Qur’an, Surah xxxiii. 13), but was distinguished as al-Medinah. “the city,” and Madinatu ‘n-Nabi,” the city of the Prophet,” after it had become famous by giving shelter to Muhammad it is esteemed only second to Makkah in point of sanctity. Muhammad is related to have said. “There are angels guarding the roads to al-Madinah, on account of which neither plague, or the Dajjal (Anti-Christ) can eater it.” “I was ordered,” he said, “to flee to a city which shall eat up (conquer) all other cities, and its name is now al-Madinah (the city); verily she puts away evil from man, like as the forge purifies iron.” “God has made the name of al-Madinah both tabah and taiyiba.” i.e. both good and odoriferous.
Al-Madinah is built on the elevated plain of Arabia, not far from the eastern base of the ridge of mountains which divide the table-land from the lower country, between it and the Red Sea. The town stands on the lowest part, on the plain whore the water courses unite, which produce in the rainy season numerous pools of stagnant water, and render the climate unhealthy. Gardens and date-plantations, interspersed with fields, inclose the town on three sides; on the side towards Makkah the rocky nature of the soil renders cultivation impossible. The city forms an oval about 2,800 paces in circuit, ending in a point. The castle is built at the point on a small rocky elevation. The whole is inclosed by a thick wall of stone, between 35 and 40 feet high, flanked by about 80 towers and surrounded by a ditch. Three well-built gates lead into the town. The houses are well built of atone, and generally we stories high. As this stone is of a dark colour, the streets have a gloomy aspect, and are for the most part very narrow, often only two or three paces across; a few of the principal streets are paved with stone. There are only two large streets which contain shops. The principal buildings within the city are the great mosque containing the tomb of Muhammad, two fine colleges, and the castle, standing at the western extremity of the city, which is surrounded by strong walls and several high and solid towers, and contains a deep well of good water.
The town is well supplied with sweet water by a subterranean canal which runs from the village of Quba’, about three-quarters of a mile distant in a southern direction. In several parts of the town steps are made down to the canal, where the inhabitants supply themselves with water which, how-ever, contains nitre, and produces indigestion in persons not accustomed to it. There are also many wells scattered over the town; every garden has one by which it is irrigated; and when the ground is bored to the depth of twenty-five or thirty feet, water is found in plenty. During the rainy season, many torrents descend from the higher grounds to lower depression in which al-Madinah is built, and part of the city is inundated. This plentiful supply of water made this site a considerable settlement of Arabs long before it became sacred among the Muhammadans, by the flight, residence, and death of the Prophet, to which it owes its name of Madinatu ‘n-Nabi, or the City of the Prophet. (See Burckhardt’s Travals in Arabia.)
An account of the Prophet’s mosque is given under MASJIDU ‘N-NABI, and of the burial chamber of Muhammad under HUJRAH.
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam