What was the geographical, political and social situation in Madinah like when the Prophet (pbuh) migrated to Madinah?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Medina had become “the center of Islam” after the migration of the Honorable Messenger. Therefore, it would be useful to give concise information about Medina of that time and its people.

Medina was regarded as one of the important cities of Arabian Peninsula in those times, as it still is in our day. It has a valley with a quite wide area. The valley is all surrounded by mountains. Its climate is favorable, and its soil is fertile. It has got beautiful weather, cool and abundant water. It receives more rain than Mecca.

The city was called “Yathrib” until the migration of the Messenger of Allah. It is said to have taken this name after the Amaliqan called Yathrib, who was the first settler of the place.1 However, the Prophet disliked this name because it meant “sinister” and changed it to Medina. Although it was called “Medinatu’n-Nabi” for a while, it began to be called by the name Medina alone later. Historians record that Medina has got ninety-four names, mentioning them all one by one.2

Apart from Muslims, there were Jewish people and Christians residing in Medina, too. In this sense, the city was highly populated. It is assumed that the city population in that time was about ten thousand.

Muslims in this city were from Aws and Khazraj tribes. As it is in the nature of Arabs, disputes, fights and collisions followed one another between these two tribes, which generated from two brothers named Aws and Khazraj. The last one of these civil fights, Battle of Buath, had continued for a hundred-and-twenty years until it ended five years ago before the migration of the Prophet. In this bloody battle, the most honorable warriors of both sides were either killed or left disabled. The immigration of the Messenger of Allah took place at that time when the Ansar (people of Medina) were in this pitiful situation.

With the immigration of the Prophet, the enmity between these two tribes developed into brotherhood and love. Resentment and discontent came to an end entirely. Undoubtedly, heroic legends told by poets and memorized by women and children from both sides, which tell about how this enmity of a century turned into brotherhood is a gift blessed upon our dear Prophet from Allah, the Glorious.3

Hazrat Aisha says:

“The day of Buath is a day which Allah prepared for His own Messenger, and as a result of this battle, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) migrated to Medina. Before the migration, the unity of Aws and Khazraj, which had fought each other, had been disrupted; their elite people had been killed and wounded. Because of this miserable situation, Allah prepared this day for the Prophet (pbuh) so that Ansar, who had fought each other, would convert to Islam.”4

Jews living there were members of three tribes: Bani Qaynuqa, Bani Quraiza and Bani Nadr

Christians held the smallest portion of the population. They could not tolerate the rapid spread of Islam throughout Medina and left Medina after a short time. These Christians, who fought against Muslims in the war of Uhud, took refuge in Byzantine later.

As for the political life of Medina, it was at a primitive level at those times. Tribal lifestyle still prevailed. Just like that of the polytheist Arabs, each tribe of Jews were regarded a community on its own. They did not obey any other authority than their own chiefs.

A lifestyle which was not familiar with the notion and practice of equality was adopted at that time. For instance, the blood money paid to weak tribes was half the blood money paid to strong and powerful tribes. Community life was deprived of laws. Arbiters were appointed when necessary and judgments were made based on those arbiters’ personal decisions and views. The number of literate people was quite few.

So, our reverend Prophet migrated to such a city which we have told roughly about in geographic, political and social terms. He had important missions ahead and a lot of difficult situations to be solved awaited him.

Footnotes:

1. Suhayli, Rawdu’l-Unf, V. 2, p. 16; Muslim, Sahih, V. 4, p. 120.
2. See Âsım Köksal, Hz. Muhammed ve İslamiyet: Medine Devri, V. 1, p. 30.
3. Tecrid Tercemesi, V. 10, p. 123.
4. Bukhari, Sahih, V. 2, p. 309.

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