Makkah Al-Mukarramah, in the west of Saudi Arabia, is the holiest place of Muslims around the world along with Madinah Al Munawarah. Makkah is at a distance of 75 km from the port city of Jeddah (which is the largest city of the province), around 400 km from Madinah, and is at a distance of 1000 km from the capital city of Riyadh. It is in Makkah where the Grand Mosque, Masjid Al Haram, with the holy shrine of Ka’bah situates. The only place in the world where a Muslim can go for Pilgrimage in terms of Hajj. The Ka’bah in Makkah is the Qiblah (direction of prayer) of the Muslims around the world. It was in this sacred city that the Prophet Muhammed (Peace Be Upon Him) was born and brought up. In the outskirts of Makkah, in the cave of Hira, the Prophet (PBUH) received the first Revelation from God Almighty through the angel Gabriel.
City of Security
Makkah is an ancient mountainous city. Even before the advent of Islam, Makkah was a major trade center, the meeting point of south-north and east -west caravan trails.
The Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) left his wife, Hajarah (Hager), and his infant son, Ismail (Ishmael), in a deserted valley in western Arabia as per the commandment of God with no sufficient food or drink left in the place. The baby, who was left in the ground cried out of hunger and thirst. God Almighty sent an agel who made water to gush out under the feet of Ismail. Hajarah enclosed the spring, called “zamzam”, which later became a well. As word of the water source spread, Arab tribes began to settle in the area, and so was born the city of Makkah.
The changing face of Makkah is that of an ultra modern city. It is one of the fast developing and expanding cosmopolitan cities around the world with high rising buildings and modern amenities that are made available for the thousands of pilgrims who visit Makkah daily.
Immigrants who settled in Makkah in the past, built their houses on slopes and hilltops due to shortage of land in the valley and the problem of seasonal flooding those days. These structures are very slowly affected by the uninterrupted expansion projects of Makkah.
The city is called by different names in the Holy Quran, such as Mother of Towns (6:92), Makkah (48:24), Bakkah (3:96), The Sacred House (5:2), the Ancient House (22:29) and City of Security (95:3).
Masjid Al Haram (The Haram Mosque)
Masjid Al Haram has a capacity to host 72,000 pilgrims at a time. The Haram, meaning “sanctury” has a set boundary with an area of 550 sq. kilometers. The Haram Mosque is almost the center of it. The first one to define the boundaries of the Haramwas Prophet Ibrahim (AS) on the command of Jibril (Gabriel) and he set up stone markers for them. After the conquest of Makkah, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) sent his disciple to renew them.
Islam is based on 5 pillars of which the last is Hajj. In Islamic terminology, Hajj means to visit the Sacred House of Allah in Makkah to perform certain rituals that Allah has legislated in His Book (the Holy Qur’an) during the 12th month (Dhul Hajj) of Arabic Calendar . It is an obligation once in a lifetime for those Muslims who are physically and financially able to perform it.
Ka’bah, the Sacred House
Without the distinctions of class, colour and culture, people circumambulates the Ka’bah.
The black square building (14 meter in height) in the central courtyard of Masjid Al Haram is the Ka’bah towards which Muslims all over the world turn for Prayer. Ka’bah in Makkah is the first house built on earth to worship Allah (the God Almighty) by the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ismail (Ishmael) by the command of God.
The expansion of Masjid Al Haram after the advent of Islam started with the Caliph, Umar bin Al Khattab, in 639 A.D. After which it has been expanded eight times before the Ottoman construction in 1571 A.D.
The tenth expansion of Masjid Al Haram was in 1955 by the late King Abdul Aziz bin Saud and the latest expansion took place in 1988 by the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, King Fahad bin Abdul Aziz.
A modern marking of one of the Haram boundaries. This boundary, Nakhlah, which is 13 km from the Masjid Al Haramis on the Makkah-Taif road.
Mount Safa & Marwah
Pilgrims walk the distance between the Safa and the Marwah(two mountains in Makkah) as an act of worship (performed during Hajj or Umrah).
Every year, around 3 million people visit Makkah during Hajj alone from all over the world. So, the word mecca (“Makkah” in Arabic) has been used in English to denote “a central or popular place that is visited by a great many people”.