History of the City of Medina


Heinrich Ferdinand Wüstenfeld (1808–99) was a German Orientalist who specialized in Arab history and literature. He studied at the universities of Göttingen and Berlin, and taught at Göttingen from 1842 until 1890. His Geschichte der Stadt Medina (History of the city of Medina) is a history of Medina (present-day Saudi Arabia), the burial place of the Prophet Muhammad. It is based on Khulāṣat al-Wafā (Summary of the fulfillment), itself a concise version of Wafa al-Wafa bi akhbar Dar al-Mustafa (Fulfillment of the promise on the history of the home of the Chosen One). Both the short and the long versions of this work are by ʻAlī ibn ʻAbd Allāh al-Samhūdī (1440‒1506), a scholar who was born in Samhud in Upper Egypt and raised and educated in Cairo. In the 1460s, al-Samhūdī moved to Medina, where he taught at al-Masjid al-Nabawi (The Prophet’s Mosque). He lived in Medina until his death. He is best known for his histories of the holy city, which earned him the title “the sheikh of the Medina historians.” Wüstenfeld organized his book in eight chapters of varying length, with each comprising several sections. The chapters discuss broad themes, including the many names of the city throughout history, its prominence in Muslim life, its inhabitants before and after the advent of Islam, the history of the Prophet’s Mosque and its surroundings, other religious monuments, wells and springs, and the topography of the city and its environs. Two sketches illustrate some of the renovations and expansions that were made around the Prophet Muhammad’s grave and those of his two immediate successor caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar ibn al-Kattab. The book concludes with an Arabic‒German index of Medina place-names.

Last updated: February 18, 2016