Medina (mod. al-Madinah, Saudi Arabia) is, after Mecca, the second holiest city in Islam, situated in an agriculturally rich oasis in the Hijaz to the north of Mecca.
In 622 the Prophet Muhammad, having been forced out of Mecca by polytheistic Quraysh kinsmen, withdrew to Medina, which thereupon became his base for preaching and military operations. The Prophet’s move to Medina is known as the hijra, and the Muslim calendar begins with the year of this event. Those who accompanied the Prophet from Mecca to Medina were known as muhājirūn, and their withdrawal from a city ruled by polytheists provided a precedent in later centuries for those Muslims who argued that Muslims under Christian rule, for example, in Palestine or Spain, should withdraw and seek refuge in a Muslim land.
The Prophet died at Medina in 632 (the eleventh hijri year) and was buried in its chief mosque. Although a visit to Medina and the Prophet’s tomb is not formally part of the hajj (Islamic pilgrimage), most pilgrims would visit the Prophet’s tomb and pray there. According to medieval anti- Muslim polemic, the Prophet’s tomb seemed to float miraculously in midair, and this fraud was managed by magnets.
After the Prophet’s death, the place was of little political importance. It became something of a pleasure resort to which people retired who were looking for fun or just a quiet life. Medina was governed by the Sharifs of Mecca throughout the crusade period.