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To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site

 

Medina the Illuminated

The Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad at Medina. Qaisra Khan, 2010.

The Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad at Medina. Qaisra Khan, 2010.

After Mecca, Medina is the second holiest site in Islam. Medina is known in Arabic as (al-Madina al-Munawwarra (the Illuminated City). Its importance lies in the fact that it was the place that the Prophet Muhammad migrated to in 622 – the first year of the Islamic calendar. The Prophet built the first mosque at Medina and for Muslims this place has great significance. Although visiting Medina is not an official part of Hajj, most pilgrims will go there before or after visiting Mecca. The Prophet’s Mosque contains within it the tomb of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as the tombs of his companions and successors Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. Other members of the Prophet’s family, including his daughter Fatima and several of the Imams revered by the Shi‘a branch of Islam, are buried in the Baqi‘ cemetery outside the mosque.

Plan of the Mosque of the Prophet

Plan of the Mosque of the Prophet after Eldon Rutter (in Medina 1925)

The long line of camels…and the pilgrims waiting eagerly to catch their first sight of the house of their beloved messenger of Allah caused a strange welling up of emotions inside me. Tears came into my eyes.
Amir Ahmad ‘Alawi (1879–1952)

View of Medina, by Colonel Muhammad Sadiq Bey (c. 1880)

Victoria and Albert Museum, PH.2131-1924

Victoria and Albert Museum, PH.2135-1924

This view was taken from the north of the city. In the background to the left can be seen the Prophet’s Mosque and tomb, with its prominent dome and four minarets. Outside the walls to the right are camels, luggage and tents of pilgrims. Sadiq Bey began taking photographs of Medina on his first visit to the Hijaz in 1861, ‘No one before me’ he noted ‘has ever taken such photographs.’ This was taken on his second visit in 1880.


The Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad at Medina (c. 17th-18th century, probably Mecca)

The Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad at Medina

Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, MSS 745.2 (© Nour Foundation. Courtesy of the Khalili Family Trust)

Depictions of the sanctuary at Medina, like those of Mecca, often took the form of a two-dimensional diagram with labels. Here, the tomb chamber of the Prophet, with its green dome, is depicted in the upper left-hand corner. The grille and tomb itself are covered with a green-and white, chevron-patterned textile.

The Prophet’s pulpit (minbar), on which he preached sermons to the community, is depicted within the arcades on the right. In the centre is the tomb of the Prophet’s daughter Fatima, in the garden that she planted with two palm trees when her father was alive. The tombs of some of the Prophet’s companions are shown beyond the sanctuary walls. This painting was originally part of a Hajj certificate.


The Sanctuary at Medina from a manuscript (c. late 17th-18th century, Ottoman Empire)

The Sanctuary at Medina from a manuscript

Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art, MSS 97 fol.9b (© Nour Foundation. Courtesy of the Khalili Family Trust)

This illustration from Dala’il al-khayrat of al-Jazuli (d. 1465) shows the sanctuary at Medina in side elevation. The domed tomb of the Prophet, covered in chevron-patterned textile, is surmounted by a fiery nimbus. The pulpit (minbar) of the Prophet is shown on the right. The tombs of the first two Caliphs (the Prophet’s successors), and of the Prophet’s daughter, are marked. The historical sites of Mount Hira and Mount Uhud are shown beyond the walls.


Section of the cover for the Prophet’s tomb (c. 17th-18th century)

Section of the cover for the Prophet’s tomb

Victoria and Albert Museum, 39-1889

In addition to the textiles made for the Ka‘ba and the holy sanctuary in Mecca, similar textiles were also made for the Prophet’s Mosque at Medina. These textiles either adorned the tomb of the Prophet or hung on the grille near the tomb.

Here we have a section of a cover for the Prophet’s tomb. It is clear that this fragment was highly treasured. After it had been taken down from the tomb chamber it was cut up and lined with another fabric to preserve it.


Candlestick (1317-18, probably Iraq)

Candlestick

Benaki Museum Athens, 13038

This candlestick was made in Mosul, an important metalworking centre. Figures within the dense arabesque designs and inscriptions have been scrubbed out to make it an appropriate gift for the sanctuary at Medina. The inscription states that the candlestick was given in waqf (endowment) to the sanctuary by Mirjan al-Sultani, a vizier connected to the Il-Khanid sultan Uljaytu. Candlesticks were popular gifts to the sanctuary. This one is signed ‘Ali ibn ‘Umar ibn Ibrahim al-Sankari al-Mawsuli and dated 717/1317–18.


Supported by

Arts and Humanities Research Council