Log In Start studying!

Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

Medinan Period

Medinan Period

The Medinan Period covers the last ten years of the Prophet Muhammad's life, which he spent in the city of Medina. It was marked by several significant battles, for example the Battle of Badr and the Battle of the Trench. These years were some of the most significant in Islam - within just a decade the Muslims went from a small group suffering extreme persecution to a powerful force with control of almost the whole Arabian Peninsula. But how and why did this dramatic transformation occur?

Medinan Period History

The history of the Medinan period can be split into four stages:

  1. The Hijrah

  2. Consolidation and Constitution of Medina

  3. Conflict with the Quraysh

  4. Expansion into the Arabian Peninsula

1. The Hijrah (622)

The Medinan period began in 622, when the Prophet Muhammad made the 200 mile journey north from his hometown of Mecca to the city of Medina. This journey became known as the Hijrah, and was so important to the early Muslim community that the Islamic calendar bases its start date from the date of the Hijrah. This means that the year 622 in the Gregorian calendar (the calendar Westerners use) is the year 0 in the calendar of Islam.

Why did the Prophet Muhammad migrate to Mecca?

Muhammad preached that there was no God but Allah. This infuriated the leaders of Mecca, the Quraysh tribe, who believed in many different deities. Therefore, they began to persecute Muhammad and his followers. Initially, Muhammad's clan protected him from physical harm, but when leadership of this clan changed hands in 619, Muhammad's life was in danger. Therefore he decided to migrate to Medina where he would be safe.

2. Consolidation and the Constitution of Medina (622-624)

One of the Prophet Muhammad's first actions when he arrived in Medina was to create a document to determine how the Muslim emigrants from Mecca, the Arab tribes in Medina and the Jews of Medina would get along with one another peacefully. This document became known as the Constitution of Medina.

Medinan Period: Illustration showing Muhammad teaching at Medina Study SmarterIllustration Showing Muhammad Teaching at Medina. Wikimedia Commons.

In the Constitution of Medina, the Prophet Muhammad created a new political community which he called the 'Umma'. The Umma was a revolutionary idea in the region because it said that membership to the Umma was based not on which tribe you were born into, but whether you believed in one God and agreed to 'follow' Muhammad.

3. Conflict with the Quraysh (624-630)

The majority of the Medinan period was spent in continuous conflict between the Muslims and the Quraysh tribe of Mecca.

It was not until 629-630 that the Prophet Muhammad finally defeated the Quraysh. Then the Quraysh were forced to submit to Muhammad and the Muslims, and they converted to Islam. The historian Fred Donner writes that:

One of the puzzles of Muhammad's life is to explain how, after failing so utterly in his native city, he was able to subdue the Quraysh in such a relatively short time once he had moved to Medina."1

- Historian Fred Donner, 1977

There are no easy answers to this puzzle. One convincing explanation by Fred Donner is that Muhammad's strategy of raiding trade caravans from the northern Arabian peninsula and Syria enabled him to control the food supply to major cities. This tactic was so effective that Muhammad caused a severe famine in Mecca, which severely weakened the Quraysh.

4. Expansion into the Arabian Peninsula (630-632)

After conquering Mecca in 630, the last two years of the Medinan period was spent extending Islam into the rest of the Arabian peninsula. There were two major campaigns during this time:

  1. The Eastern Expedition: The Muslims won a decisive victory against the Hawazin and Thaqif tribes in the Battle of Hunayn in 630. This extended their influence to the east of the Arabian peninsula.

  2. The Northern Expedition: The Muslim force went north to engage with the Byzantines and Ghassanids. They didn't actually meet any enemy forces but Muhammad used the opportunity to ally with many of the local chiefs in the northern territories.

Medinan Period: Map Showing Muhammad's Conquests during the Medinan Period Study SmarterMap showing Muhammad's conquests in the Arabian Peninsula. Wikimedia Commons.

The green arrows on the map highlight the Prophet Muhammad's conquests and battles to the north, south and east of Medina. The black arrows represent the conquests under the first four leaders of the Islamic community after Muhammad's death.

Medinan Period Events

Here is a short table highlighting the key events of the Medinan period.

DateEventImportance
622HijrahEnabled the Prophet Muhammad and his followers to move from a place of weakness and persecution to a place of strength and safety with allies.
Early in the Medinan Period (exact date unknown)Constitution of MedinaFounded the Umma, which changed the basic unit of society from tribes to religion. Created Islam as a political community.
624Battle of BadrThe Prophet Muhammad won a significant victory against the Quraysh at Badr.
625Battle of UhudThe Quraysh won a victory against the Muslims at the mountain of Uhud. However, they failed their main objective which was to wipe out the Muslims completely. This made the Quraysh look weak.
627Siege of Medina/Battle of the TrenchThe Quraysh failed to besiege Medina. This greatly increased the Muslims' prestige.
628-9Famine of MeccaMuhammad's control of the food supplies to Mecca meant that the Quraysh were severely weakened. It also made other tribes more likely to ally with the Muslims.
628Treaty of HudaybiyyaThe Prophet Muhammad and the Muslims agreed to to a ten year ceasefire in the conflict. This included a ceasefire between their allies. This showed that the Muslims were now equals of the Quraysh rather than their victims.
630Conquest of MeccaThe Prophet Muhammad led a campaign against Mecca after some Quraysh allies fought with the Muslims' allies - breaking the terms of the Treaty of Hudaybiyya. He conquered Mecca and the Quraysh converted to Islam. This made the Muslims the definitive regional power of western Arabia.
630Battle of HunaynThe Muslims won an important battle in Hunayn. This expanded their influence to eastern Arabia.
631Expedition of TabukThe Muslims extended their influence to northern Arabia. This gave them even more control over the food and trade routes. Many Arab tribes submitted to the Muslims. Most of Arabia was now under Muslim control or influence.
632The Prophet Muhammad diedThe end of the Medinan era.

Characteristics of Medinan Period

What were the major characteristics of the Medinan period?

Growth

The dominant characteristic of the Medinan period was the rise of Islam. The Muslim community grew in strength, in allies, in military success, in territorial conquest, and in political power throughout this period.

Transition

Accordingly, another significant characteristic of the Medinan period was transition. As Islamic scholar Dr Ibrahim Syed argues:

...the migration was a transitional line between the two major eras regarding to the message of Islam: the era of [Mecca] and the era of [Medina]. In its essence, this signified a transition from one phase to another."2

- Former Islamic Research Foundation President, Ibrahim Syed.

Some of these changes included:

  1. Transformation of Islam from a small, persecuted minority to a powerful political community with allies.

  2. Transformation of Islam from an informal group of family and friends to a political unit with a constitution.

  3. Transformed focus within Islam from converting the Quraysh of Mecca to all the people in the Arabian peninsula, and possibly even further to the rest of the world.

3. Violence

It is hard to escape that this decade was marked by continual violence between the Muslims at Medina and other groups. There were two main groups on the receiving end of Muslim military action.

1. Quraysh

As we have already noted, the Medinan period was marked by continual fighting between the Muslims and their greatest enemy, the Quraysh of Mecca. Significant battles included the Battle of Badr (624), the Battle of Uhud (625), the Siege of Medina (627) and the Conquest of Mecca (630).

2. The Jewish tribes of Medina

Between 624 and 627, the Prophet Muhammad successively turned on the three major Jewish tribes of Medina: the Banu Qaynuqa, the Banu Nadir, and the Banu Qurayza.

Medinan Period: Illustration showing Muhammad riding out to receive the submission of the Jewish Banu Nadir Study SmarterMuhammad riding out to receive the submission of the Jewish Banu Nadir clan in 626. Wikimedia Commons.

The first two tribes were expelled from Medina in 624 and 626 respectively. However, the worst violence was unleashed on the Banu Qurayza. When Muhammad learned that they had assisted the Quraysh at the Siege of Medina, he ordered that every Jewish male who was not willing to convert to Islam would be executed. The result was a massacre in which nearly all of the men of the Banu Qurayza were killed. The women and children were enslaved.

Medinan Surah

Surah

A chapter of the Qur'an - the holy book of Islam.

The Medinan Surahs were the chapters of the Qur'an which the Prophet Muhammad taught while he was in Medina. In this way they are distinct from the Meccan Surahs, which are the teachings that the Prophet Muhammad gave while he was in Mecca. This table outlines some of the differences:

Meccan Surahs Medinan Surahs
Set at the end of the Qur'anSet at the beginning and middle of the Qur'an
Short chapters Long chapters
Major themes: Belief in Allah Day of Judgement Heaven and Hell Stories about Adam and Satan Commands to prostrate to Allah
Major themes:
Jihad (holy war) Laws governing political community, family, money, international law and acts of worship 'People of the Book' - Jews The Islamic community
Main enemy: polytheists Main enemy: Munafiq

Who were the Munafiq?

The Munafiq refers to 'false' Muslims who acted piously on the outside, but who rejected Islam on the inside and worked to bring down the community from within. They were held to be worse compared to non-Muslim enemies of the Muslims in the Medinan Surahs.

Differences between Meccan and Medinan Periods

As we saw from the quote by Ibrahim Syed earlier, the Muslim community sees a sharp divide between the Meccan and Medinan periods. There is no doubt that there were many distinctive features that made these two periods different eras within the beginning of Islam. Let's take a look at some of these differences in this table.

Meccan PeriodMedinan Period
Muhammad wrestled with what his divine purpose was - for example, he had to be encouraged by his wife and a Christian friend that he was a prophet, and he delayed preaching his revelations for three years after his first vision. Muhammad called himself the Prophet and Messenger of Allah in the Constitution of Medina and the Medinan Surahs.
The Muslims were a weak and persecuted minority in Mecca. The Muslims grew into a powerful regional force with allies, and by the end of the Medinan Period they ruled almost the entire Arabian Peninsula.
Muhammad was focused on converting the polytheistic Quraysh of Mecca. He did not consider going elsewhere to preach. Muhammad focused on spreading Islam to the entirety of the Arabian Peninsula and beyond.
The Muslims were an informal group of friends and family. The Muslims became an official political community with a constitution.

The Medinan period represented Muhammad's incredible rise to power. It saw the transformation of the Muslims from a small and persecuted minority into a force to be reckoned with.

Medinan Period - Key takeaways

  • The Medinan period refers to the ten years the Prophet Muhammad spent at Medina from 622 to his death in 632.
  • The Medinan period comprised of four stages: the Hijrah, the Constitution of Medina, the Conflict with the Quraysh and the Expansion into the Arabian Peninsula.
  • The three major characteristics of the Medinan Period were growth of the Muslim community, transitions from weakness to strength and violence.
  • The main two groups who engaged in or received violence from the Muslims during this period were the Quraysh of Mecca and the Jewish tribes of Medina.
  • Islam became a powerful force for the first time during the Medinan period.

References

  1. 1. Fred McGraw Donner, 'Mecca's Food Supplies and Muhammad's Boycott' in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 20, (1977), p.255.
  2. 2. Dr Ibrahim Syed, The Significance of the Hijrah (622C.E.), History of Islam, The Significance of the Hijrah (622 CE) – History of Islam [accessed 28/06/22].

Frequently Asked Questions about Medinan Period

The Medinan period refers to the ten years which Muhammad spent at Medina from 622 to 632. It was an important period in the history of Islam because it saw the sudden rise of Islam as a political community and as a powerful regional force within the Arabian Peninsula. 

There were many important evenings during the Medinan period, but the most defining moment of this period was the Conquest of Mecca in 629-630. This was when Muhammad definitively won his long conflict against the Quraysh tribe of Mecca. From this point onwards, no tribe was powerful enough to resist the Muslims.  

There were three main differences between the Meccan and Medinan periods. The first was that the Muslims went from being a weak, persecuted minority in Mecca to a powerful force with allies in Medina. The second is that the Muslims went from being an informal group of family and friends who followed Muhammad to a political community with a consitution. The third difference was that Muhammad broadened his horizons to focus on spreading Islam everywhere rather than just in his locality.

The defining characteristic of the Medinan period was growth. The Muslims grew in numbers, military strength, wealth and prestige, and political power while they were based at Medina. Another characteristic was violence against the pagan Quraysh tribe and the Jews of Medina, and a third characteristic was that it was a period of transition from weakness to strength.

The Prophet Muhammad stayed in Medina for ten years, between 622 and 632C.E.

    The Prophet Muhammad entered Medina in 622, having migrated from Mecca to escape persecution. This journey was known as the Hijrah. The people of Medina welcomed Muhammad because they wanted him to arbitrate between the tribes of Medina which had suffered from severe in-fighting for many years. 

Final Medinan Period Quiz

Question

What does hijra mean in Arabic? 

Show answer

Answer

Migration or emigration

Show question

Question

What was the hijra?

Show answer

Answer

The 200 mile journey Muhammad made from his hometown of Mecca to the city of Medina to avoid persecution. 

Show question

Question

What is religious persecution?

Show answer

Answer

Systematic mistreatment of people based on their religious beliefs 

Show question

Question

When was Muhammad's first revelation in the cave of Hira?

Show answer

Answer

610 C.E.

Show question

Question

Which clan initially protected Muhammad from opposition? 

Show answer

Answer

The Banu Hashim clan

Show question

Question

Who died in 619, leaving Muhammad more vulnerable than before?

Show answer

Answer

Muhammad's uncle and the leader of the Banu Hashim clan.

Show question

Question

In what year did Caliph Umar decide that the start of the Islamic calendar should start with the Hijra?

Show answer

Answer

639 C.E.

Show question

Question

Who gave Muhammad the first words of the Quran?

Show answer

Answer

The angel Gabriel

Show question

Question

What was Muhammad's central message and why did it annoy the leaders in Mecca?

Show answer

Answer

That there was no God but Allah. This frustrated the polytheistic leaders of Mecca, who believed in many deities. 

Show question

Question

What did Muhammad do in 615 C.E?

Show answer

Answer

Arranged for some of his followers to escape to Ethiopia where a Christian king offered them protection. 

Show question

Question

What was the Night Journey?

Show answer

Answer

A supernatural revelation when Muhammad travelled with the angel Gabriel to Jerusalem and then to heaven where he conversed with the prophets and Allah in one night. 

Show question

Question

What is monotheism?

Show answer

Answer

Religions which believe in only one God. 

Show question

Question

What were the names of the two dominant clans of Medina?

Show answer

Answer

Aws and Khazraj

Show question

Question

Who did Muhammad leave behind with his cloak as a decoy on the night he left Mecca?

Show answer

Answer

His son-in-law, Ali.

Show question

Question

Which friend did Muhammad make the hijra with?

Show answer

Answer

Abu Bakr

Show question

Question

What was the significance of the hijra?

Show answer

Answer

It was the divide between the two eras of Islam - the Meccan era and the Medinan era. 

Show question

Question

What transitions occurred as a result of the Hijra?

Show answer

Answer

1. Muslims went from being a persecuted minority to a strong regional power with allies. 

2. Muslims went from being an informal group of believers to a political community with a constitution. This is why Islam is said to begin with the Hijra. 

3. Transition from local focus on converting people in Mecca to universal focus to reach everyone with the word of God.

Show question

Question

Which country continues to use the Islamic calendar as its main calendar today?

Show answer

Answer

Saudi Arabia

Show question

Question

What three continuities were there between the Meccan and Medinan period

Show answer

Answer

1. The central message of Muhammad remained monotheism. 

2. The Muslim community grew in both eras. 

3. Accounts overemphasise how weak Muslims were during the Meccan period. They were a powerful force in both eras. 

Show question

Question

What is another name for the Night Journey?

Show answer

Answer

The Isra and Miraj

Show question

Question

Why was the Constitution of Medina created?

Show answer

Answer

To help the Muslim emigrants, Medinan Arabs and Medinan Jews to get along without violence. 

Show question

Question

What is a constitution? 

Show answer

Answer

A basic set of rules that sets out how a nation-state will function

Show question

Question

What is the major issue with calling this document a constitution? 

Show answer

Answer

Medina was not a nation-state. It was a city. 

Show question

Question

What is a municipal charter? 

Show answer

Answer

A legal document which establishes a city of town and gives its inhabitants certain privileges. 

Show question

Question

What is the modern political motivation behind calling this document 'proto-Islamic public law'? 

Show answer

Answer

The desire to create a similar historical story for Arabia as for Europe. 

Show question

Question

What is the pro and con of calling the document a 'pact of security'?

Show answer

Answer

Pro: More accurate to the culture of the document

Con: Overlooks the fact that this document created a new political community. 

Show question

Question

What does Eurocentric mean? 

Show answer

Answer

The tendency to interpret the world according to European experiences and to import European language to explain customs of non-European societies. 

Show question

Question

What was the umma? 

Show answer

Answer

A political community based on belief in God and willingness to follow Muhammad. 

Show question

Question

What conditions were non-Muslims expected to fulfil in order to get certain rights within the umma? 

Show answer

Answer

To follow the Muslims and help pay for the warfare of the umma. 

Show question

Question

What is religious pluralism? 

Show answer

Answer

Enabling different religions to coexist peacefully without taking away the rights of any religion. 

Show question

Question

Were Jews included in the umma? 

Show answer

Answer

Sort of. They were included in the umma as a distinct sub-group on an inferior level to the Muslims. 

Show question

Question

What military title did the Constitution of Medina give Muhammad? 

Show answer

Answer

Commander of the faithful covenanters. 

Show question

Question

Why did the Constitution of Medina order violence against the Quraysh of Mecca? 

Show answer

Answer

The Quraysh had been enemies of the Muslims in Mecca. It was due to the Quraysh persecuting Muhammad and the Muslims that they had to flee to Medina in the first place. 

Show question

Question

When was the Hijra migration to Medina? 

Show answer

Answer

622 C.E.

Show question

Question

What was the significance of the Constitution of Medina? 

Show answer

Answer

It changed the organising principle of society from kinship in the tribal system to religious affiliation in the umma. 

Show question

Question

Which area did Muhammad conquer by his death? 

Show answer

Answer

Most of the Arabian peninsula

Show question

Question

Which tribe were the main enemies of the Muslims of Medina?

Show answer

Answer

The Quraysh tribe

Show question

Question

Which early battle did Muhammad win against the Quraysh in 624?

Show answer

Answer

The Battle of Badr

Show question

Question

Who won the Battle of Uhud in 625?

Show answer

Answer

The Quraysh tribe.

Show question

Question

In which year did the Quraysh unsuccessfully besiege Medina?

Show answer

Answer

627

Show question

Question

What was the treaty called which agreed a ten year ceasefire between Muhammad and the Quraysh?

Show answer

Answer

The Treaty of Hudaybiyya

Show question

Question

When was the conquest of Mecca?

Show answer

Answer

December 629-January 630

Show question

Question

When did Muhammad die? 

Show answer

Answer

632

Show question

Question

Which expedition enabled the Muslims to win influence in northern Arabia?

Show answer

Answer

The Expedition of Tabuk

Show question

Question

Why were the Muslim caravan raids so effective?

Show answer

Answer

Mecca's main weakness was that it had to import all its food. Therefore the raids not only disrupted trade, but also stopped Mecca getting their food. This led to severe famine in Mecca. 

Show question

Question

How many Muslims fought at the Battle of Badr in 624?

Show answer

Answer

300

Show question

Question

What was the other name for the Siege of Medina and why?

Show answer

Answer

The Battle of the Trench - because the Muslims built trenches around the city to stop the Quraysh cavalry. 

Show question

Question

Why did Muhammad break the Treaty of Hudaybiyya? 

Show answer

Answer

Some of the Quraysh allies attacked some of the Muslims' allies. 

Show question

Question

What were the names of the three major Jewish tribes that Muhammad turned against? 

Show answer

Answer

The Banu Qaynuqa, Banu Nadir and Banu Qurayza

Show question

Question

What happened at the Battle of Hunayn in 630?

Show answer

Answer

Muhammad won a decisive victory against the Hawazin and Thaqif tribes at Hunayn. 

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Medinan Period quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.