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'Gazetteer of Arabia Vol. II' [‎1122] (171/688)

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The record is made up of 1 volume (341 folios). It was created in 1917. It was written in English. The original is part of the British Library: India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.


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There ia a copious supply of water conducted from a tepid source called 'Ain-az-Zafqa.,
at the village of Kuba, 2 miles south and distributed in underground cisterns in each
quarter. The glory of Al-Madinah and the only important building is the mosque of the
Prophet in the eastern part of the city, a spacious enclosed court about 420 feet in length
from north to south and about 340 feet in breadth. The minarets and the lofty green
dome above the sacred graves are imposing features but the circuit is hemmed in by hous
es or narrow lanes, and is not remarkable except for the principal gate (Bab-as-Salam)
at the south and of the west front, facing the sacred graves, which is richly inlaid with
marbles and fine tiles, and adorned with golden inscriptions. This gate leads into
a deeper portico, with ten rows of pillars running along the southern wall. Near the
farther end of the portico but not adjoining the walls, is a sort of doorless house or cham
ber about 20 feet by 25 feet built of square cut standstone blocks and hung with rich
curtains, which is supposed to contain the graves of Mahammad, Abu Bakr and 'Omar,
and has a blank space left for Isa-bin-Maryam (Jesus Christ) after his next appearance
on earth. To the north of this is a smaller chamber of the same kind, draped in black
which is said to represent the tomb of Fatima. Both are enclosed with an iron railing,
so closely interwoven with brass wire work that a glimpse of the so-called tombs can only
bo got through certain apertures, where intercessory prayer is addressed to the Prophet,
and pious salutations are paid to the other saints. T he space between the railing and the
tomb is seldom entered except by the servants of the mosque ; it contains the treasures
of the mosque in jewels and plate, which were once very considerable but have been
repeatedly plundered, last of all by the Wahhabis in the beginning of 19th Century
The portico in front of the railing is not ineffective, at least by night. It is paved
with marble, and in the eastern part with mosaic, laid with rich carpets ; the south wall
is clothed with marble pierced with windows of good stained glass, and the great railing
has a striking aspect; but an air of tawdriness is imparted by the vulgar paintings of the
columns, especially in the part between the tomb and the pulpit, which has received in
accordance with a tradition of the Prophet, the name of the '' Garden * (raudhah), and
is decorated with barbaric attempts to carry out this idea in colour. The word raudhah
also means a mausolem, and is applied by Ibn Zubair to the tomb itself ; thus the
tradition that the space between the pulpit and the tomb was called by the Prophet one of
the gardens of Paradise probably arose from a mistake. Visitors passing along the
south wall from the Bab-as-Salam to salute the tomb are separated from the garden by
an iron railing. The other three sides of the interior court have porticoes of less depth
and mean aspect, with three or four rows of pillars. Within the court are the well of
the Prophet and some palm-trees said to have been planted by Fatima ; this grove
is separated from the rest of the court by a wooden partition. Flocks of pigeons similar
to the famous pigeons of St. Mark's at Venice feed quite tamely among the worshippers.
The original mosque was a low building of brick, roofed with palm branches, and
much smaller than the present structure. The wooden pulpit, from which Mahammad
preached, appears to have stood in the same place as the present pulpit in the middle
of the south portico. The dwelling of the Prophet and the huts of his women adjoined
the mosque. Mahammad died in the hut of Ayesha, and was buried where he died ;
Abu Bakr and 'Omar wore afterwards buried beside him. In A. D. 711 the
mosque which had previously been enlarged by 'Omar and 'Othman, was entirely
reconstructed on a grander scale and in Byzantine style by Greek and Coptic artificers
at the instance of Khalif Wahid and under the direction of 'Omar Ibn 'Abd-al-Aziz.
The enlarged plan included the huts above named, which were pulled down. Thus the
place of the Prophet s burial was brought within the Mosque ; but the recorded discontent
of the city at this step shows that feeling which regards the tomb as the great glory of
the mosque, and the pilgrimage to it as the most meritorious that can be undertaken
except that to Mecca, was still quite unknown. It is not even certain what was done
at this time to mark off the graves. Ibn 'Abd Rabbih, in the beginning of the 10th Cen
tury describes the enclosure as a hexagonal wall, rising within three cubits of the ceiling
of the portico, clothed in marble for more than a man's height, and above that height
daubed with the unguent called Khatuk. This may be supplemented from Istakhri
who calls it a lofty houses without a door. That there are no gravestones or visible
tombs within is certain from what is recorded of occasions when the place was opened
up for repairs. Ibn Zubair and Samhudi speak of a small casket adorned with silver

About this item


Volume II of III of the Gazetteer of Arabia. The Gazetteer is alphabetically-arranged and this volume contains entries K through to R.

The Gazetteer is an alphabetically-arranged compendium of the tribes, clans and geographical features (including towns, villages, lakes, mountains and wells) of Arabia that is contained within three seperate bound volumes. The entries range from short descriptions of one or two sentences to longer entries of several pages for places such as Iraq and Yemen.

A brief introduction states that the gazetteer was originally intended to deal with the whole of Arabia, "south of a line drawn from the head of the Gulf of 'Aqabah, through Ma'an, to Abu Kamal on the Euphrates, and to include Baghdad and Basrah Wilayats" and notes that before the gazetteer could be completed its publication was postponed and that therefore the three volumes that now form this file simply contain "as much of the MSS. [manuscript] as was ready at the time". It further notes that the contents have not been checked.

Extent and format
1 volume (341 folios)
Physical characteristics

Foliation: This volume's foliation system is circled in pencil, in the top right corner of the recto The front of a sheet of paper or leaf, often abbreviated to 'r'. of each folio.

Written in
English in Latin script
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'Gazetteer of Arabia Vol. II' [‎1122] (171/688), British Library: India Office Records and Private Papers, IOR/L/MIL/17/16/2/2, in Qatar Digital Library <> [accessed 27 February 2020]

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