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Title: The sacred history of early Islamic Medina : the prophet, caliphs, scholars and the town's Ḥaram
Author: Munt, Thomas H. R.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2707 3496
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis investigates the emergence of Medina in the Ḥijāz as a widely-venerated holy city over the first three Islamic centuries (seventh to ninth centuries CE) within the appropriate historical context, with special attention paid to the town’s ḥaram. It focuses in particular upon the roles played by the Prophet Muḥammad, Umayyad and Abbasid caliphs, and early Islamic legal scholars in this development. It shows that Medina’s emergence as a widely-venerated holy city alongside Mecca was a gradual and contested process, and one that was intimately linked with several important developments concerning legitimate political, religious, and legal authority in the Islamic world. The most important sources for this study have been Medina’s local histories, and Chapter One investigates the development of a tradition of local history-writing there. The Prophet Muḥammad first created a form of sacred space, a ḥaram, at Medina, and Chapter Two seeks to provide the context for this by investigating some forms of sacred and protected space found in the pre-Islamic Arabian Peninsula. Chapter Three then examines a rare early document preserved in the later Islamic sources, which deals in part with Muḥammad’s creation of Medina’s ḥaram, the so-called “Constitution of Medina”, and investigates why and how Muḥammad created that particular form of sacred space at Medina. The remaining two chapters deal with the history of Muḥammad’s ḥaram at Medina after his death as its original raison d’être disappeared. Chapter Four analyses some aspects of Muslim legal scholars’ discussions concerning Medina’s ḥaram, and demonstrates that certain groups disputed its existence. Chapter Five then seeks to understand why caliphs and other scholars invested so heavily in actively promoting its widespread veneration and Medina’s status as a holy city. It concludes that caliphs from the late first/early eighth century patronised Medina to associate themselves with legitimate political authority inherited from Muḥammad, and that from the late second/eighth century certain legal scholars argued for the continued existence of Medina’s ḥaram because of its association with the Prophet and his Companions who had come to be for them the ultimate source of legal authority.
Supervisor: Robinson, Chase ; Pfeiffer, Judith Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History of Asia & Far East ; Late antiquity and the Middle Ages ; Islam ; Islamic history ; Arabic historiography ; Medina ; Saudi Arabia ; sacred space