In the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, nearly 280 miles north of the Holy City of Makkah, lies Madinah, the second holiest city of Islam.
Yathrib (the name of Madinah pre-Islam) became known as the City of the Prophet (Madinat an-Nabi) after he migrated there from Makkah in 622, but it is more commonly referred to today as Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah (The City Given Light), or just Madinah.
While some historians believe that there are over 100 names for the city of Madinah, authentic names from the Quran and the sunnah (traditions of the Prophet, peace be upon him) include Taabah (good, pleasant, agreeable), Taibah(pleasantness, goodness), Al-Daar (The Home) and Al-Imaan (The Faith).
Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, or the Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is the main attraction of Madinah. The center of the mosque hosts the Prophet’s tomb as well as the tombs of the caliphs Abu Bakr as-Saddiq and Umar ibn al-Khattab. This area of the mosque is topped by a green dome and is known as ar-Rawdah, or the Meadow.
Among the many virtues attributed to Madinah is one found in a hadith narrated by Abu Huraira:
“One prayer in my mosque is better than one thousand prayers in any other mosque excepting Al-Masjid Al-Haram.” (Al-Bukhari)
Madinah is also home to the King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Quran, located on its northwestern side. It is at this complex that over one hundred million exquisite copies of the Quran have been printed and distributed to Muslims worldwide.
Residents of Madinah enjoy moderate summer and winter temperatures when compared to those of Riyadh or Jeddah, with differences of up to 60°F. The daylight hours are marked by predominantly dry, southwesterly winds, while rain mostly falls during November, January, March and April, when the typically low humidity turns significantly higher. Madinah is surrounded by several mountains: Mount Aynain, Mount Dthabbaab, Mount Sila’a, Mount Thawr, Mount Ayr, Mount Silee’a, Mount Uhud and Jumaawaat.
In 1992, King Fahd established new bylaws making Madinah one of Saudi Arabia’s thirteen provinces. In 2005, a new governor was appointed over the city’s 920,000 residents.
Many hope that Prince Abdul Aziz ibn Majed will continue developmental projects, such as establishing an e-government and working to better accommodate the annual influx of visitors at Hajj (pilgrimage) time, when Muslims by the hundreds of thousands converge upon Madinah.
View from the Inside
What do you see when you drive down a busy Madinah street?
A multi-ethnic society comprised of visitors, pilgrims and residents dressed in variations of the modest clothing representative of Islam.
Madinah is divided into several districts. Ann Reese, who embraced Islam on January 1, 1989 and thereafter adopted the name Anisah, lives in the district of Al-Khaldia. Born and raised in Northern Illinois, Anisah is grateful for the blessing of having spent the past thirteen years living in Madinah with her Saudi-born husband and their five children. Anisah describes her neighborhood as consisting primarily of villas and a few apartment buildings and says there is a higher concentration of apartment buildings in the heart of the city.
The neighborhood has several small mosques and a larger mosque used on Fridays for the Jummah (congregational) prayer. Muslim men who are able must attend this prayer.
While women who migrate to other countries often face hardships in coming to terms with leaving behind family, friends, career and belongings, Anisah says she made the decision without hesitation, adding, “Making friends has been very difficult, but I have met some very wonderful people over the years, and have had opportunities to travel in The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and witness many of the customs of the Saudi people.” Anisah feels she has integrated herself into Saudi society and enjoys the conservative lifestyle.
What’s Not to Like?
Madinah is a city of markets, where, if you enjoy bargaining, shopping can be quite entertaining as nothing has a set price. Among the many markets are the vegetable market, animal market, date market, gold market and flea market. Every neighborhood has corner grocery stores, which are a great convenience when needing something in a hurry. Most also carry fresh fruits and vegetables, and people generally consider it safe to send their kids to pick up whatever they need.
In addition to schools and numerous barbershops, a typical neighborhood might also contain a clinic, a public park, a community center, a fire station, a police station, a tailor, a hairdresser, and a neighborhood bakery – all easily accessible by foot.
With all the amenities Anisah enjoys in the peaceful Al-Khaladia district of Madinah, the one that impresses her the most is full service gas stations.
“Not once have I seen a self-serve station,” remarks Anisah. Some gas stations even have small stores or coffee shops that will send someone out to your car window to see if you need anything from inside. Now, that’s customer service! For Anisah, there couldn’t have been a better place in which to raise her family than a city where the echo of the adhan (call to prayer) serves as a reminder to be grateful for finding herself a resident of Madinah, revered city of blessings.