The Holy City of Medina Sacred Space in Early Islamic Arabia By Harry Munt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 244 pages.)

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Rose Aslan



In The Holy City of Medina: Sacred Space in Early Islamic Arabia, Harry
Munt offers a much-needed look at the history of Madinah through scholars’
writing about its significance and the construction of its sanctity. By examining
the city’s history through a spatial lens, Munt presents a new perspective on
134 The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 33:3
the history of a city that has been written about for more than a millennium.
While Madinah has served as a catalyst of religious formation, identity, and
practice, until now it has not been studied as a sanctified city (ḥaram) in and
of itself.
As the city that welcomed Makkah’s Muslim refugees, Madinah has a
rich and complicated history. In addition, it is a sacred city. While modern
Muslims primarily view it as sacred because of the presence of the Prophet’s
grave, the author returns to early Islamic sources to understand how early
Muslim scholars between the seventh to the ninth centuries viewed the city
and how it became sanctified. He argues against the modern normative Islamic
viewpoint that the city was immediately viewed as sacred and posits that it
took several centuries for the normative viewpoint to consolidate into a popular
narrative ...

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