Walls, Towers, Forts and Gates.
The idea of constructing defence walls, towers, forts and gates was a pre-Islamic practice. Many fortresses were built to defend the inhabitants of Yathrib against dangers and enemies. The numbers of these structures reached approximately 72 prior to the time our Beloved Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wasallam made his Hijrah. After Islam various walls were constructed for protection, connecting fortresses and defence towers and huge imposing city gates. At times there were a series of inner walls and outer walls, some of which remained until the 1950’s, when the last one was demolished with the extension of the Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah. However sections still remain, with certain groups concerned for preserving what little historical features are still present.
This map represents Al-Madinah Al-Munawwarah at the end of the Ottoman Reign, approximately one hundred years ago. Also the approximate date the black and white photo above was taken and when the excerpt, (from here) below was written.
The yellow line represents part of the origianl Abbasid wall, the blue line is part of the Husseini wall and the orange the Ottoman wall. The red dots were the guard towers, the pink dots the gates to the city, the lime green lime was the railway track, and the lime green dot the position of the station. Masjid Nabawi is the dark rectangle with the Dome marked. The enclave immediately surrounding the Masjid was regarded as the inner wall, while the Ottoman section to the south of this as the outer wall.
Arthur J.B. Wavell at the age of twenty five, in 1908 was an “imposter Muslim” travelling from Damascus to Madinah on the Hijaz railway. He describes how the Bedouins along the way would plunder the travelers as they saw that the railway was a threat to their livelihood of collecting money from camel caravans as they passed their tribal areas. Also there was great animosity between the Arabs and the Turkish residents.
“At the time of our arrival the Turkish troops in Madinah may have mustered ten thousand, with twenty guns; the Arabs, upwards of twenty thousand , and were daily increasing.
Madinah is situated in an open plain at an altitude of about three thousand feet above sea level. In three sides the plain is bounded by mountains, from five to ten miles distance from the town, but to the south the country is open. The city itself in shape is roughly an oval, measuring about a mile at its greater diameter. It really consists of two towns joined together. The older one, which has a separate wall, contains the mosque and most of the dwelling houses and shops; the other is the more modern part, in which are situated most of the public buildings, markets, and barracks. It includes a large open space in which caravans assemble on arrival or before starting. A smaller wall has been built on to the other to protect this quarter. There are several gates, which are named after the places to which the roads issuing from them lead: one, for instance, is called Bab a-Sham, or Syrian Gate, another the Mecca gate and so on. Water is supplied by a number of wells, and is plentiful and good in quality. There are date plantations and other cultivation almost completely surrounding the town, and extending for several miles. The railway station lies to the west of the town, about a quarter of a mile from the outer wall. At the time I was there, it was not completed, but some substantial stone buildings were then in course of erection, which, by the way, being quite bullet proof, proved very useful during the fighting. The cemetery, known as the Baqiyya’ is on the south side, abutting onto the wall. Here are buried many of the famous men in the history of Islam, including several relations of the Prophet. During my stay it was almost constantly under fire.
I should put the normal population of Madinah, apart from troops and pilgrims, at thirty thousand all told. Their occupations are almost all in connection with the pilgrims, on whom they subsist almost entirely. They work hard for the three months of the pilgrim season, and do nothing the rest of the year. There is a place for everyone in the system. The wealthier classes own the houses, which they let for large sums. The younger men are mostly employed as guides, and are often very generously rewarded for their services. The shopkeepers of course do a roaring trade, and every one, down to the porters and water carriers, make a good thing out of the visitors…..”
Part of the remains of an Ottoman stone and clay wall, to the north west of Masjid Nabawi.
A corner tower, with wooden water spouts.
A detail of the wall with one of the small openings that were set at regular intervals for guns.
Anas RadhiAllahu anhu related that whenever the Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wasallam returned from a journey and observed the walls of Madinah, he would make his mount go fast, and if he was on an animal (i.e. a horse), he would make it gallop because of his love for Madinah. SubhanAllah, how everything about this Mubarak City of Enlightenment is a Ni’mah, Alhumdulillah.
So, Insha’Allah upon seeing the walls of Madinah we can supplicate “O Allah this is the Sacred Area of Your Messenger, so make it a protection against the Fire for me and a protection from punishment and any misfortunate that may befall me.”
To be continued, Insha’Allah.
All good is from Allah Ta’ala whereas mistakes are from this humble speck. May Allah Ta’ala Bless all readers, bringing you all closer to Him and His Rasul SallAllahu alaihi wasallam. May He accept our humble efforts and grant us the capacity to be good and do good. Ameen.