The Holy Mosque in Makkah
The Prophet's Mosque in Madinah

The Two Holy Mosques :: The Holy Mosque in Makkah

About the Mosque

The Holy Mosque in Makkah is the most revered place of worship for Muslims around the world. At the center of the Mosque is the Ka'aba, which literally means 'cube' in Arabic. All Muslims are required to face in the direction of the Ka'aba five times every day when offering their prayers.

Muslims believe that the Ka'aba, constructed of stone blocks, was originally built by Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmail. Many believe it was erected on the original site of a sanctuary established by the first Prophet, Adam. Embedded in the corner of the structure is the Black Stone, a meteorite used by Abraham as a foundation stone. This stone, although respected as the only surviving object from the original building, has never been worshipped and has no special sanctity or power.

Over the years, the message of Abraham was forgotten, and the Ka`ba became filled with idols, some say as many as 365 of them. People continued to make the pilgrimage, but it had become an idolatrous business enterprise for the pagan tribe of the Qu'raysh, the residents of the city of Makkah who were the traditional custodians of the Ka`ba.

After the peaceful re-conquest of Makkah in the year 630 AD by Prophet Muhammad, the Ka`ba was purified of the idols in it and the pilgrimage made obligatory for all Muslims at least once in a lifetime, if feasible, and worship returned to that of Allah alone, the one and only God and Creator. At that time, the Holy Mosque consisted of an open circular plaza no larger that 2,000 square meters, located in the center of the city.


Throughout Islamic history, successive Islamic regimes have spared no cost or effort to dignify and honor the Holy Mosque of Makkah. To do so was not only a matter of extreme pride, but was also viewed as the highest and most solemn of responsibilities a ruler has towards Muslim pilgrims. In the year 638, after flash floods had damaged the Holy Mosque, the Caliph Omar Bin Al-Khatab repaired the damage and enclosed the courtyard, extending the area by 500 square meters. His successor Uthman Bin Affan made a further extension in 646, estimated at 1,700 square meters. The Holy Mosque enclosure was once again enlarged in 684 by Abdullah Bin Al-Zubair, increasing the area by 3,300 square meters. In 754, 5,300 square meters were added by Abu Ja'far Al-Mansour.

The successive extensions of Muhammad Al-Mahdi increased the area of the Holy Mosque by 15,000 square meters, and when the Dar Al-Nadhwa was encompassed within the Holy Mosque by Al-Mutadil Al-Abbasi, another 1,300 square meters were added. Finally, in 918 Al-Muqtadri Al-Abassi added a 950-square-meter entrance hall, increasing the area of the Holy Mosque to a total of 30,200 square meters. This size and layout was to be maintained for over one thousand years.

The modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established in 1932 by King Abdul Aziz Al Saud, and during his reign a new extension was contemplated. This, however, was only executed after his death, beginning in 1955 with the development of the Masa'a, the sacred track that follows the path that Haggar took between Mount Safa and Mount Marwa. It had always been set apart from the Holy Mosque, out in the open and exposed to the heat, dust and distractions of the city marketplace. The first phase of the project was to enclose the Masa'a and incorporate it into the Holy Mosque complex.

Construction continued over the next twenty years, with surrounding districts of the old city demolished to make way for the expansion of the Holy Mosque, designed as a series of concentric octagons radiating from the existing structure. The Mata'af was cleared of some old pavilions, including the one over the well of Zam-Zam, which was relocated nearby. This meant that when the expansion was finally completed in 1976, 300,000 worshippers could complete their sacred rituals in comfort and with full concentration.

This immense extension, however, was not adequate for the unforeseen numbers of worshippers now coming to Makkah with the momentous changes in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and in the Muslim world, and a great strain was placed on the Holy Mosque and the surrounding city. To cope with this, an ongoing program of improvements was undertaken by the government, including the replacement of the Mata'af paving with pure white marble to keep it cool to the feet under the most intense heat.

As Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz continued the policy of previous Saudi leaders to expand the facilities at the holy sites to facilitate the annual pilgrimage for a greater number of Muslims from around the world: today more than two million pilgrims take part in the annual Hajj. In 1988 he laid the foundation stone for a project designed to double the capacity of the Holy Mosque. It was completed in 1992, expanding the Holy Mosque in Makkah and its surroundings to accommodate more than one million worshippers at any one time. It is for the Ummah, the Islamic Community, that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques made this magnificent contribution to the architectural legacy of the Holy Mosque, so that believers may worship the Lord in His House in an atmosphere of majesty and beauty.

The prayer area alone was increased by 76,000 square meters, including a basement, ground, and first floors as well as a roof, and designed to accommodate an additional 170,000 worshippers. At the same time a piazza extending from Al-Masa'a was constructed, plus a continuous piazza surrounding the rest of the mosque, covering a combined area of 86,800 square meters and increasing the capacity of the Holy Mosque complex from 300,000 to 700,000 worshippers.

Included in the new extension are two new 89-meter-tall minarets soaring over the new King Fahd Gate. Each is identical to the seven minarets of the existing mosque. In addition, two escalator annexes have been added as well as the extension's centerpiece, three massive domes, each 15 meters in diameter and 30 meters high.

Many new technologies were developed specially for the latest expansion, and from all over the world teams of specialists, engineers, artists and craftsmen assembled to bestow on the House of Allah and its visitors the best that human ingenuity has to offer. Deep excavations were carried out to accommodate a two-level basement area extending beneath the entire extension to house auxiliary prayer space and utilities and services for the Holy Mosque.


The Ka`ba

The Ka`ba is the building towards which Muslims face five times a day, everyday, in prayer. This has been the case since the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) over 1400 years ago

The current height of the Ka`ba is 39 feet, 6 inches and total size comes to 627 square feet. The inside room of the Ka`ba is 13X9 meters. The Ka`ba's walls are one meter wide. The floor inside is 2.2 meters higher than the place where people perform Tawaf. The ceiling and roof are two levels made out of wood. They were reconstructed with teak which is capped with stainless steel. The walls are all made of stone. The stones inside are unpolished, while the ones outside are polished.

Some other names for the Ka`ba include:

Bait ul Ateeq which means, according to one meaning, the earliest and ancient. According to the second meaning, it means independent and liberating. Both meanings could be taken.

Bait ul Haram the honorable house


A Short History of the Ka`bah

It is definitely known that it was Ibrahim al-Khalil, peace and blessings be upon him, who built the Ka`bah. The residents around it at that time were his son, Isma`il, and the tribe of Jurhum (originally from Yemen). It is an almost square building whose sides face the cardinal points of the compass; the winds, no matter how strong, lose their force when they strike it - without doing it any harm.

The construction of Ibrahim stood intact, until it was rebuilt by al-'Amaliqah, and later by the tribe of Jurhum (or vice versa).

When the management of the Ka`bah came into the hands of Qusayy Ibn Kilab - an ancestor of the Prophet - in the second century before Hijrah, he demolished and rebuilt it on firm foundation, putting a roof of doom palm timber and date-palm trunk on it. He also built 'Daru 'n-Nadwah' (Council House) on one side. It was the place from where he ruled and where he held counsel with his colleagues. Then he divided various sides of the Ka`bah. Among different clans of the Quraysh and each clan built their houses at the side allotted to them; and they opened their doors towards the Ka`bah.

Five years before the start of the Prophet's mission, there came a flood which destroyed the Ka`bah's building. The Quraysh divided among themselves the various responsibilities connected with its reconstruction. They hired a Roman builder to build it and an Egyptian carpenter to help him with the woodwork.

 When the time came to fix the Black Stone, a dispute erupted as to which clan should be accorded the honor of putting the Black Stone in its place. Then they agreed to leave the decision to Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, who at that time was thirty-five years old, because they had full faith in his deep wisdom and sound judgment. He got his robe, and putting the Stone on it, told all the clans to hold the sides of the robe and raise it together. When the Stone reached the required height (on the eastern corner), he took it in his hands and fixed it in its proper place.

But the Quraysh found their funds exhausted. So they reduced the size on one side - as it is today; thus a part of the original foundation was left out, and that is the portion known as 'Hijr Isma`il' (the Enclosure of Isma`il).

The building remained in that condition until `Abdullah Ibn Az-Zubair established his rule over Hijaz during the reign of Yazid Ibn Mu`awiyah. Husain Ibn Numair, the commander of Yazid's army, besieged him at Makkah and struck the Ka`bah with catapult. The Ka`bah was demolished, the 'Al-Kiswah' (covering of the Ka`bah) and some roof timbers were burnt down. The siege was lifted when news came of Yazid's death. Ibn Az-Zubair decided to demolish the Ka`bah completely and rebuild it on its original foundation. He got good mortar from Yemen and constructed the new building.

 Hijr Isma`il was re-included in the Ka`bah; the door was fixed at the level of the ground; another door was fixed on the opposite side, so that people might enter from one door and go out from the other. He fixed the height of the House at twenty-seven arms. When the building was ready, he covered the whole building with musk and perfume inside out, and put silken Kiswah on it.

 The construction was completed on 17th Rajab, 64 A.H. When `Abdul-Malik Ibn Marwan came to power in Damascus, he sent his commander, Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf, who defeated Ibn Az-Zubair and killed him. Entering the Sacred Mosque, he saw what Ibn Az-Zubair had done regarding the Ka`bah. He wrote to `Abdul-Malik about it who ordered him to return it to its previous shape.

Hajjaj, therefore, demolished six and a half arms from the northern side and rebuilt it according to the plan of the Quraysh; he raised the eastern door and closed the western one; he also filled the inside with the stones that could not be re-used (thus raising the inside floor to the new level of the door).

When the Ottoman Sultan Sulaiman ascended the throne in 960 A.H., he changed the roof of the Ka`bah. Sultan Ahmad (who came to power in 1021 A.H.) made some other repairs and alterations. Then came the great flood of 1039 A.H. which demolished parts of its northern, eastern and western walls. Therefore, the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV got it repaired. And the same building continues till this day and it is the year 1375 by lunar Hijri calendar, and 1338 according to the solar one.


The Shape of the Ka`ba

The Ka`bah is nearly square in shape, built with hard dark bluish-grey stones. It now rises to sixteen meters; but was much lower at the time of the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, as may be inferred from the fact that, on the day of conquest of Makkah, the Prophet raised `Ali Ibn Abu Talib on his shoulders so that `Ali could remove and break the idols that were placed on the roof of the Ka`bah.

The wall [the northern one that faces the Enclosure of Isma`il and] over which is placed the water trough and the one on its opposite side [the southern one] are ten meters and ten centimeters long; while the [eastern] wall which has the door and the one opposite to it are twelve meters long. The door is placed at a height of two meters from the ground level.

The Black Stone is fixed in the [east-south] corner, so that if one wants to enter the door, the Stone would be on his left. This Stone is one and a half meters above the ground level, that is, above the level of the circumambulation area. The Black Stone is a hard rock of irregular oval shape, black with some reddish tint; it has red dots and yellow wavy lines which appeared when some broken pieces were soldered and joined. It has a diameter of about thirty centimeters.

The Ka`bah's corners, since ancient days, are called "Al-Arkan (pl. of "Ar-Rukn" pillar); the northern one is called, the Iraqi Rukn; the western, the Syrian; the southern, the Yemenite; and the eastern (wherein the Black Stone is fixed), is named the Black. The area between the door and the Black Stone is called "al-Multazam" (lit.: the place where one clings to) because when one circumambulates one adheres to it for invocation and prayer.

The trough fixed over the northern wall, which is called the Trough of Mercy, was an innovation of Al-Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf; in 954 A.H. Sultan Sulaiman changed that with a silver one; that too was replaced by Sultan Ahmad in 1021 A.H. with another one of enameled silver with golden designs. In 1273 A.H. Sultan `Abdul-Majid replaced it with another one made of gold, and it is the present one.

Facing the northern wall is a wall-half circle in shape. It is called, Al-Hatim. It is like a bow whose two ends face the northern [Iraqi] and the western [Syrian] Rukns; there is a gap of two meters and three centimeters between the ends of the bow and the said Rukns. The wall, Al-Hatim, is one meter high and one and a half meters wide. It is paneled with carved marble. The distance between the center of Al-Hatim and the center of the northern wall of the Ka`bah is eight meters and forty-four centimeters. The area covered by al-Hatim and the northern wall is known as Hijr Isma`il [Enclosure of Isma`il]. About three meters of this space was included in the Ka`bah built by Ibrahim, peace and blessings be upon him

The changes and alterations that were done inside the Ka`bah, and the rituals and Sunnah rites connected with the House are not so necessary to be described here.


The Covering of the Ka`ba

As for the covering of the House itself, it is said that the first to cover it was the Tubba [Tubba' - was the title of the Kings of Yemen.] Abu Bakr As'ad, who hang on it the sheets embroidered with silver threads. His successors followed this custom. Then people started covering it with sheets of various kinds - putting one upon the other. Whenever a covering looked old, a new one was put over it. This continued until Qusayy came on the scene. He imposed a tax on the Arabs for putting a new covering every year. This system continued in his descendants. Abu Rabi`ah Ibn Al-Mughirah used to put a covering one year and all the clans of Quraysh did so the next year.

The Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, covered the House with Yemenite sheets. This custom continued. When the `Abbaside caliph Al-Mahi went for pilgrimage, the attendants of the House complained to him about the coverings that had accumulated on the roof of the Ka`bah. They said there was a danger of the roof collapsing down because of that load. The King ordered that all the old coverings should be removed and that every year a new covering should replace the old one - and that custom is followed up till now.

The Ka`bah is draped from inside too. The first to do so was the mother of `Abbas, son of `Abdul-Muttalib - she had done so because of a vow she had taken regarding her son- `Abbas.