Written by: Abdul Muhaemin Karim
Allah (SWT) said: “The first house (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka (Makkah): full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings” (Ali Imran:90)
The city of Makkah is unequalled in the world, and stands as the most beloved place of Allah (SWT), and is the holiest mosque in the world and the primary destination of the Hajj. It is the city in which the Masjid al Haram stands, where Muhammad (SAW) was born, and where he spent the early part of his blessed life.
Makkah was a central point on the caravan route running over the Arabian Peninsula at the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). It was revered as a holy city even before the first revelations came to him.
The city of Makkah contains the holiest mosque in the world and the main destination of the pilgrimage. The Mosque complex covers an area of 356,800 square meters and can accommodate up to 820,200 worshippers during the hajj. The Ka’bah itself is the qiblah (direction) for the whole Muslim world.
Al-Masjid al-Haram was first built in 7th century under Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattab (634-644) and has been modified, demolished, rebuilt, and expanded on a regular basis ever since. The most recent work on the Holy Mosque was sponsored by the late King Fahd (1982-present) of Saudi Arabia and included the edition a new wing and the installation of air conditioning circulates below the tiled floors and supplied through ventilation grids located at the base of each column.
The monumental King Fahd Gate consists of three arches with black and white marble decoration, flanked by two new minarets matching the older ones. The windows are covered with brass mashrabiyya and framed with carved bands of white marble.
At the advent of Islam the believers lived closed to the Masjid. For that matter, the courtyard of the house of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is believed to have been the first gathering place for the early converts. At that time, the Ka’bah was being maintained by pagans; it housed pagan idols for which were celebrated pagan rituals and ceremonies, and the inhabitants of Makkah would circumambulate the Ka’bah naked. Many idols were worshipped, the most notable of which were called al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat.
Much like the Prophet Ibrahim (AS) who pointed out to his people that the idols were not gods; the early Muslims protested these corrupted and false acts and were persecuted culminating in their eventual hijrah from Makkah to Madinah. When they returned to Makkah in 8 After Hijrah they purified Ka’bah and re-established the worship of Allah (SWT) alone, the One True God.
On the excellence of the prayer in the Masjid al-Haram, the Prophet (SAW) said: “One prayer in this mosque of mine (Madinah) is better than 1,000 prayers offered anywhere else except the Sacred Mosque (al-Masjid al-Haram), and one prayer in the Sacred Mosque is better than a 100,000 prayers offered in any other mosque.”
The Ka’bah is a small building located within the courtyard of al-Masjid al-Haram. It is the holiest site in Islam. The Holy Mosque was built around it and because of it. The qiblah, the direction Muslims face during prayer, is the direction from any point to the Ka’bah.
The Ka’bah houses the mysterious Black Stone (al-hajar al-aswad), which was revered in Mecca in pre-Islamic times as well. It became a Muslim relic in the time of the Prophet Muhammad and pilgrims to Mecca try to stop and kiss it while circumambulating the Ka’bah during the hajj.
The Ka’bah is roughly the shape of a cube and is made of granite from the hills near Mecca. It stands 15 meters high, with sides measuring 10.5 by 12 meters. It is covered by a black silk cloth decorated with gold-embroidered calligraphy. This is known as the kiswah and is replaced yearly.
The Ka’bah is opened twice a year for the ceremony of “the cleaning of the Ka’bah.” This ceremony takes place roughly fifteen days before the start the month of Ramadhan and the same period of time before the start of the annual pilgrimage.
The keys to the Ka’bah are held by the Bany Shaybah tribe. Members of the tribe greet visitors to the inside of the Ka’bah on the occasion of the cleaning ceremony. The Governor of Mecca leads the honoured guests who ritually clean the structure, using simple brooms. Wallahu A’lam.