Medina: The City Renewed by EmigrationNihal Şahin Utku
Following a gloomy Maghrib prayer, the congregation leaves the Prophet's Mosque; all are silent. The congregation has shrunk in size; familiar faces have been replaced with faces that are now strangers through a loss of trust. The locals have gone to perform pilgrimage or have locked themselves into their homes. The Egyptian dissidents, slaves who are accustomed to rebellion, and the Bedouins, who still are not accustomed to the idea of a nation, have taken over the streets, causing an upheaval of anger and hatred.
A small group separates from the bitter crowd that is leaving the mosque and turns toward the house of the caliph. A quiet person emerges from the crowd, which now dominates the entire city and forms a human wall in front of the caliph's house. The rage and the desire for vengeance have still not subsided, despite the fact that the caliph's blood has been spilled. The only reason that those standing with rocks in their hands do not hurl them at the newcomers is the silhouette of the Prophet's nephew, watching the unruly crowd from close by.
It is not long before the lifeless body of the caliph of Islam, whose beard is covered in blood, appears on the shoulders of some men. Thanks to the efforts of the caliph's wife Naila the body of the caliph is taken to be buried around the time for Maghrib prayer. The pallbearers set off toward the Jannat'ul Baqi cemetery; however, the tyrants do not allow the body to pass.
It is said that in this burial ceremony, which could only take place three days after the caliph was killed, not only was the brutalized body of the caliph buried, but also the political future of Medina, this first capital of the Islamic world. Caliph Ali, who, under normal circumstances, would have been accepted by all, now headed toward Kufah in the hopes of creating a new start, thus freeing Medina from being the capital. Ali took this move after realizing that he would not be able to form an impartial government and serve Allah Almighty in Medina because of this atmosphere that threatened to unleash havoc.
Medina was a city that longed for the Prophet who had lived on its soil; this longing grew with every passing day and the city was now in a state of mourning. Medina felt a deep sense of remorse in the name of all the rebels and murderers. Ever since that day, every believer who visits this "enlightened city" partakes in that remorse. When one refreshes their longing for Prophet Muhammad in Medina, one unwittingly also expresses regret for the caliph whose blood was spilt. In this town, a place that asks for forgiveness from all sins, repentance is requested. Hands are lifted towards the sky with the emotions of longing and regret. If every city has a spirit and if every city possesses a certain temperament, then surely the spirit of the "enlightened" city embodies longing, and its temperament has been shaped through regret and repentance.
Medina flourished on the land that is known as the Hijaz, an area that is established on sharp rocks that were spewed out by volcanic activity during the era of Caliph Uthman; it is a dry and mountainous region that is relatively abundant in water. As in all landscapes where soil and water work together, this land has become fertile, like a mother who raises her offspring. Medina is a town that is always ready to accept and open up its arms to newcomers. It is for this reason that it opened its arms to the tribes of Sami Amalika who, according to the Old Testament, were descendents from the lineage of the Amalek, the grandchildren of Prophet Isaac and the first to settle in the region.
Then a group of Jews came to the region at the beginning of the 6th century B.C., following the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonian King Buht an-Nasr. The towns of Wadil Kura, Fadak and Yathrib (Medina) greeted these new settlers. According to one account, the Jews migrated here in order to witness the arrival of the sacred Prophet, whose existence was heralded in their holy book. Taking on the local Arab traditions, their tribes became known as the Bani Qureiyza, the Bani Nadir and the Bani Qaynuka. They found a place for themselves among the locals of city, becoming involved in agriculture and trade, as well as working in the making of jewelry, ironwork, the production of weapons and farming utensils, as blacksmiths and in textiles. After the famous dam of Ma'rib in Yemen collapsed, causing the lands to be flooded with water, the area opened its doors to the tribes of Aws and Hadhraj, and two tribes from Kahtan also sought refuge in Yathrib. For over a century the city of Yathrib was witness to a conflict between the People of the Book, that is, the Jews, and the merchants who arrived there later. All of this continued until Yathrib opened its gates to a new group of immigrants.
With the new beliefs that came with the migration to the area, the fate of the city was entirely altered. This land became the soil for the last religion to be sent to mankind. It was not just the immigrants that Medina welcomed, but the tribes of Aws and Hadhraj, which had been decimated by the Jews and which were also experiencing inner conflict. Yathrib was now called "Medina-i Munawwara" and the believing locals were called the "Ansar." Thus, the first city to be conquered by Islam was taken over not with spilled blood or trickery, but with the Holy Qur'an.
From the very beginning, longing was embroidered onto the city of Medina with the Hijra, the migration. The migration was an escape from torture, suffering, belittlement and boycotts; it was a caravan for salvation. In the same way that the Hijra does not have any meaning without Medina, Medina cannot bear to be without the Hijra; this city embraced all of the immigrants with the compassion of a mother. While the longing for the hometown of Mecca never ceased, Medina now was the home due to the gratitude and loyalty it evoked. Even though Mecca was later to be conquered, neither the Prophet nor his Companions ever returned to live there.
The departure of Prophet Muhammad from this world must have undoubtedly affected the city of Medina the most. The city did not give in to the Umayyad caliphate, which put pressure on them to take Prophet Muhammad's grave and pulpit to Damascus. Thus the city of Medina remained a place where the longing for Prophet Muhammad was materialized and established. Medina, with a cemetery in housing the grave of Prophet Muhammad, became a gate for millions of Muslim migrants who were seeking refuge and it alleviated the longing of the believers. The city grew and expanded with a restless migration of the heart. The legacy of the Prophet, the Sunnah and the Hadith affected the community of knowledge here more than anywhere else. What is known as the "School of Hadith" or the "School of Medina" in fiqh (Islamic canonical law) was shaped here.
Medina opened its doors to many tribes throughout history and it is not the land of any one tribe or nation. Medina, who saw off the believers to new Islamic lands and conquests, lost its importance as a government after it ceased to serve as the political capital. The city was witness to many exiles, executions and imprisonments during the eras of the Ayyubids and Abbasids; many of its scholars set off to new lands and it was left with no local inhabitants, thus becoming the gateway for Hijra (migration). It is a city for all people who long for the Prophet and all who feel a sense of sorrow.