Masjidul Haram

Posted on 06/02/2012 by marina

Wikis > Dictionary of Islam > Masjidul Haram

MASJIDU ‘L-HARAM مسجي الحرام
“The Sacred Mosque.” The temple at Makkah which contains the Ka’bah, or Cube-house in which is placed the Hajara ‘l-Aswad, or “Black Stone.” The term Baitu ‘llah, or “House of God,” is applied to the whole enclosure, although it more specially denotes the Ka’bah itself.
The following graphic account of this celebrated building is given by the travaller Burckhardt, who visited it in AD. 1814. Captain R. Burton, who visited the temple thirty-eight years later, testifies to the great accuracy of Burckhardt’s description, and quotes his description in extensor. The account by Burckhardt is given in the present article, with some alight corrections.
The Ka’bah stands in an oblong square, two hundred and fifty paces long, und two hundred broad, none of the sides of which runs quite in a straight line, though at first sight the whole appears to be of a regular shape. This open square is enclosed on the eastern side by a colonnade; the pillars stand in a quadruple row; they are three deep un the other sides, and united by pointed arches, every four of which support a small dome, plastered and whitened on the outside, These domes, according to Qutbu ‘d-din, are one hundred and fifty two in number. Along the whole colonnade, on the four sides, lamps are suspended from the arches. Some are lighted every night, and all during the nights of Ramazan. The pillars are above twenty feet in height and generally from one foot and a half to one foot and three quarters in diameter; but little regularity has been observed in regard to them. Some are of white marble, granite, or porphyry, but the greater number are of common stone of the Makkah mountains. Fasy states the whole at five hundred and eighty-nine, and says they are all of marble excepting one hundred and twenty-six, which are of common stone, and three of composition. Qutbu d-din reckons five hundred and fifty-five, of which, according to him, three hundred and eleven are of marble, and the rest of stone taken from the neighbouring mountains; but neither of these authors lived to see the latest repairs of the mosque after the destruction occasioned by a torrent, in A.D. 1628. Between every three or four columns stands an octagonal one, about four feet in thickness. On the east side are two shafts of reddish gray granite, in one piece, and one fins gray porphyry column with slabs of visits feldspath. On the north side is one red granite column, and one of fine-grained red porphyry; these are probably the columns which Qutbu ‘d-din states to have been brought from Egypt, end principally from Akhinim (Panopolis), when the chief Mahdi enlarged the mosque, in A.H. 168. Among the four hundred and fifty or five hundred columns, which form the enclosure, I found not any two capitals or bases exactly alike. The capitals are of coarse Saracenic workmanship; some of them, which had served for former buildings, by the ignorance

of the workmen have been pieced upside down upon the shafts. I observed about half a dozen marble bases of good Grecian workmanship. A few of the warble columns bear Arabic or Cufic inscriptions in which I read the dates A.H. 863 and A.H. 762. A column on the east side exhibits a very ancient Cufic inscription. somewhat defaced which I could neither read nor copy. Those shafts, formed of the Makkan stones, cut principally from the side of the mountain near the Shubaikah quarter. are mostly in three pieces; but the marble shafts are in one piece.
Some of the columns are strengthened with broad iron rings or bands, as in many ether Saracen buildings of the East; they were first employed here by ibn Dhaher Berkouk, King of Egypt, in rebuilding the mosque, which had been destroyed by fire in A.H. 802.
This temple has been so often ruined and repaired, that no traces of remote antiquity are to be found about it. On the inside of the great wall which encloses the colonnades, a single Arabic inscription is seen, in large characters, but containing merely the names of Muhammad and his immediate successors, Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Usman, and ‘Ali. The name of Allah, in large characters, occurs also in several places. On the outside, over the gates, are long inscriptions. in the Sulusi character. commemorating the names of those by whom the gates were built, long and minute details of which are given by the historians of Makkah.
The inscription on the south side, over Babu Ibrahim, most conspicuous; all that side was rebuilt by his Egyptian Sultan al-Ghauri, A.H. 906. Over the Babu Ali and Babu l-’Abbas is a long inscription, also in the Sulusi character, placed there by Sultan Murad ibn Sulaiman, A.H. 984, after he had repaired the whole building. Qutbu ‘d-din has given this inscription at length; it occupies several places in his history, and is a comment of the Sultans vanity. This side of the mosque having escaped destruction in A.D. 1623, the inscription remains uninjured.
Some parts of the walls and arches are gaudily painted, in stripes of yellow, red, and blue, as are also the minarets. Paintings of flowers, in the usual Muslim style, are nowhere seen; the floors of the colonnades are paved with large stones badly cemented together.
Seven paved causeways lead from the colonnades towards the Kabah, or holy house, in the centre. They are of sufficient breadth to admit four or five persons to walk abreast, and they are elevated about fine inches above the ground. Between these causeways, which are covered with fine gravel or sand, grass appears growing in several places, produced by the zamzam water oozing out of the jars, which are placed in the to ground in long rows during the day. The whole area of the mosque is upon a lower level than any of the streets surrounding it. There ii a descent of eight or ten steps from the gates on the north side into the platform of the colonnade, and of three or (our steps from the gates, on the south side.
Towards the middle of this area stands the Ka’bah; it is one hundred and fifteen paces from the north colonnade, and eighty-eight from the south.
For this want of symmetry we may readily account, the Ka’bah having existed prior to the mosque, which was built around it, and enlarged at different periods.
The Ka’bah is an oblong massive structure, eighteen paces in length, fourteen in breadth, and from thirty-five to forty feet in height. I took the bearing of one of its longest sides, and found it to be N.N.W 1/2 W. It is constructed of the grey Makkan stone, in large blocks of different sizes, joined together in a very rough manner, and with bad cement. It was entirely rebuilt as it now stands in A.D. 1627: the torrent, in the preceding year, had thrown down three of its sides; and, preparatory to its re-erection, the fourth side was, according to Assami, pulled down, after the ‘Ulama’, or learned divines, had been consulted on the question whether mortals might be permitted to destroy any part of the holy edifice without incurring the charge of sacrilege and infidelity.
The Ka’bah stands upon a base two feet in height, which presents a sharp inclined plane; its roof being flat, it has at a distance the appearance of a perfect cube. The only door which affords entrance, and which is opened but two or three times in the year, is on the north side, and about seven feet above the ground in entering it, therefore, wooden steps are used; of them I shall speak hereafter. In the first periods of Islam, however, when it was rebuilt in A.H. 64, by Ibn Zubair, Chief of Makkah, the nephew of ‘Ayishah, it had two doors eyen with the ground-floor of the mosque. The present door which, according to Azraqi, was brought hither from Constantinople in A.H. 1633), is wholly coated with silver, and has several gilt ornaments. Upon its threshold are placed every night various small lighted wax candles, and perfuming, pans, filled with music, aloe-wood, &c.
At the north-east corner of the Ka’bah, near the door, is the famous “Black Stone’; it forms a part of the sharp angle of the building, at four or five feet above the ground. It is an irregular oval, about seven inches in diameter, with an undulated surface, composed of about a dozen smaller stones of different sizes and shapes, well joined together with a small quantity of cement, and perfectly smoothed; it looks as if the whole had been broken into many pieces by a violent blow, and then united again. It is very difficult to determine accurately the quality of this stone, which has been worn to its present surface by the millions of touches and kisses it has received. It appeared to me like a lava, containing several small extraneous particles, of a whitish and of a yellowish substance. Its colour is now a deep reddish brown, approaching to black; it is surrounded on all sides by a border, composed of a substance which I took to he a close cement of pitch and gravel, of a similar, but not quite the same brownish colour. This border serves to support its detached pieces; it is two or three inches in breadth, and rises a little above the surface of the stone itself the border and the stone itself are encircled by a silver band, broader below than above and on the two sides, with a considerable swelling below, as if a part of the stone were bidden under it. The lower part of the border is studded with silver nails,
In the southeast corner of the Ka’bah, or, as the Arabs call it, Ruknu ‘l-Yamani, there is another atone, about five feet from the ground; it is one foot and a half in length, and two inches in breadth, placed upright and of the common Makkah stone. This the people walking round the Ka’bah touch only with the right hand; they do not kiss it.
On the north side of the Ka’bah just by its door, and close to the wall, is a slight hollow in the ground, lined with marble, and sufficiently large to admit of three persons sitting. Here it is thought meritorious to pray. The spot is called Mi’jan, and supposed to be that where Abraham and his son Ishmael kneaded the chalk and mud which they used in building the Ka’bah; and near this Mi’jan the former is said to have placed the large stone upon which he stood while working at the masonry. On the basis of the Kab’ah, just over the Mi’jan, is an ancient Cufic inscription, but this I was unable to decipher, and had no opportunity of copying it. I do not find it mentioned by any of the historians.
On the west side of the Ka’bah, about two feet below its summit, is the famous Mizab, or water-spout, through which the rain-water collected on the roof of the building is discharged so as to fall upon the ground. It is about four feet in length, and six inches in breadth, as well as I could judge from below, with borders equal in height to its breadth. At the mouth hangs what is called the beard of the Mi’zab, a gilt board, over which the water falls. This spout was sent hither from Constantinople in A.H. 981. and is reported to be of pure gold. The pavement round the Ka’bah, below the Mi’zab, was laid down in A.H. 820, and consists of various coloured stones, forming a very handsome specimen of mosaic. There are two large slabs of fine verde-antico in the centre, which, according to Makrizi, were sent thither as presents from Cairo in A.H. 241. This is the spot where, according to Muslim tradition, Ishmael, the son of Abraham, and his mother Hager, are buried; and here it is meritorious for the pilgrim to recite a prayer of two rak’ahs.
On this west side is a semi-circular wall, the two extremities of which are in a line with the sides of the Ka’bah, and distantfrom it three or four feet, leaving an opening which leads to the burying-place of Ishmael. The wall bears the name of Hatim, and the area which it encloses is galled Hijr, or Hijru Isma’il, on account of its being “separated from the Ka’bah. the wall itself, also, is sometimes call; and the name Hatim is given by the historians to the space of ground between, the Ka’bah and the wall on one side, and the Bi’rn ‘z-Zamzam and Maqamu Ibrahim on the other. The present Makkans, however, apply the name Hatim to the wall only.
Tradition says that the Ka’bah once extended as far as the Hatim, and that this side having fallen down just at the time of the Hajj, the expenses of repairing it were demanded from the pilgrims, under a pretence that the revenues of government were not acquired in a manner sufficiently pure to admit of their application towards a purpose so sacred, whilst the money of the pilgrims would possess the requisite sanctity. The sum, however, obtained from them, proved very inadequate: all that could be done, therefore, was to raise a wall, which marked the space formerly occupied by the Ka’bah. This tradition, although current among the Makkans, is at variance with history, which declares that the Hijr was built by the Banu Quraish, who contracted the dimensions of the Ka’bah, that it was united to the building by Hajjaj, and again separated from it by Ibn Zubair.
It is asserted by Fasy, that a part of the Hijr, as it now stands, was never comprehended within the Ka’bah. The law regards it as a portion of the Ka’bah, inasmuch as it is esteemed equally meritorious to pray In the Hijr as in the Ka’bah itself; and the pilgrims who have not an opportunity of entering the latter, are permitted to affirm upon oath that they have prayed in the Ka’bah, although they may have only prostrated themselves within the enclosure of the Hatim. The wall is built of solid stone, about five feet in height, and four in thickness, cased all over with white marble, and inscribed with prayers and invocations, neatly sculptured upon the stone in modern characters. These and the casing are the work of al-Ghauri, the Egyptian Sultan, in A.H. 917, as we learn from Qutbu ‘d-din.
The walk round the Ka’bah is performed on the outside of the wall—the nearer to it the better, The four sides of the Ka’bah are covered with a black silk stuff, hanging down, and leaving the roof bare. This curtain, or veil, is called kiswah, and renewed annually at the time of the Hajj, being brought from Cairo, where it is manufactured at the Sultan’s expense. On it are various prayers, interwoven in the same colour as the stuff, and it is, therefore, extremely difficult to read them. A little above the middle, and running round the whole building, is a line of similar inscriptions, worked in gold thread. That part of the kiswah which covers the door is richly embroidered with silver. Openings are left for the black stone, and the other in the south-east corner, which thus remain uncovered
The kiswah is always of the same form and pattern; that which I saw on my first visit to the mosque was in a decayed state, and full of holes. On the 25th of the month Zu ‘l-Qadah, the old one is taken away; and the Ka’bah continues without a cover for fifteen days. It is then said that “The Ka’bah has assumed the ihram,.” which lasts until the tenth of Zu ‘l-Hijjah, the day of the return of the pilgrims from ‘Arafah to Wadi Mina, when the new kiswah is put on. During the first days, the new covering is tucked up by cords fastened on the roof, so as to leave the lower part of the building exposed; having remained thus for many days, it is let down, and covers the whole structure, being then tied to strong brass wings in the basis of the Ka’bah. The removal of the old kiswah was performed in a very indecorous manner; and a contest ensued among the pilgrims and the people of Makkah, both young and old, about a few rags of it. The pilgrims even collect the dust which sticks to the walls of the Ka’bah, under the kiswah, and sell it, on their return as a sacred relic. [KISWAH.]
At the moment the building is uncovered and completely bare (‘uryan), a crowd of women assemble round it, rejoicing with cries called walwalah.
The black colour of the kiswah, covering a large cube in the midst of a vast square gives to the Ka’bah, at first sight, a very singular and imposing appearance: as it is not fastened down tightly, the slightest breeze causes it to move in slow undulations which are halled with prayers by the congregation assembled round the building, as a sign of the presence of its guardian angels, whose wings, by their motion, are supposed to be the cause of the waving of the covering. Seventy thousand angels have the Ka’bah in their holy care, and are ordered to transport it, to Paradise, when the trumpet of the Day of Judgment shall be sounded.
The clothing of the Ka’bah was an ancient custom of the Pagan Arabs. The first kiswah, says Azraqi, was put on by Asad Tubba’, one of the Himyarite kings of Yaman; before Islam, it had two coverings, one for winter and the other for summer. In the early ages of Islam, it was sometimes white and sometimes red, and consisted of the richest brocade. In subsequent times it was furnished by the different Sultans of Baghdad, Egypt, or Yaman, according to their respective influence over Makkah prevailed; for the clothing of the Ka’bah appears to have always been considered as a proof of sovereignty over the Hijaz. Kalaun, Sultan of Egypt, assumed to himself and successors the exclusive right, and from them the Sultans at Constantinople have inherited it. Kalaun appropriated the revenue of the two large villages, Bisaus and Sandabair in Lower Egypt, to the expense of the kiswah and Sultan Sulaiman ibn Salim subsequently added several others: but the Ka’bah has long been deprived of this resource.
Round the Ka’bah is a good pavement of marble, about eight inches below the level of the great square; it was laid in A.H. 98l, by order of the Sultan, and describes an irregular oval: it is surrounded by thirty-two slender gilt pillars, or rather poles. between every two of which are suspended seven glass lamps, always lighted after sunset Beyond the poles is second pavement, about eight paces broad, somewhat elevated above the first, but of a coarser work; then another six inches higher, and eighteen paces broad upon which stands several small building; beyond this is the graveled ground, so that two broad steps may be said to lead from the square down to the Ka’bah. The small buildings just mentioned, which surround the Ka’bah are the five Maqams, with the well of Zamzam, the arch called Babu s-Salam (the Gate of Peace), and the mimbar pulpit). Opposite the four sides of the Ka’bah stand four other small buildings. where the Imams of the four orthodox Muslim sects, the Hanafi, Shafi’I, Hanbali, and Malaki, take their station, and guide the congregation in their prayers. The Maqamu ‘l-Malaki, on the south, and that of Hanbali, opposite the Black Stone, are small pavilions, open on all sides and supported by four slender pillars, with a tight sloping roof, terminating in a point, exactly in the style of Indian pagodas.
Thei Maqmu ‘l-Hanafi, which is the largest, being fifteen paces by eight, is open on all aides, and supported by twelve small pillars, it has an upper storey, also open, whore the Mu’azzin, who calls to prayers, takes his stand. This was first built in A.H. 923. by Sultan Salim I.; it was afterwards rebuilt by Khushgildi, Governor of Jiddah, in A.H. 947; but all the four Maqams, as they now stand, were built in A.H. 1074. The Maqamu ‘sh-Shafi’i is over the well Zamzam, to which it serves as an upper chamber.
Near their respective Maqams, the adherents of the four different sects seat themselves for prayers. During my stay at Makkah, the Hanafis always began their prayer first: but, according to Muslim custom, the Shafi’is should pray first in the mosque, then the Hanafis, Malakis, and Hanbalis. The evening prayer is an exception, which they are all enjoined to utter together. The Maqam ‘l-Hanbali is the place where the officers of government and other great people are seated during prayers; here the Pusha and the Sharif are placed, and, us their absence the eunuchs of the temple. These fill the space under this Maqam in front, and behind it the female pilgrims who visit the temple have their places assigned to which they repair principally for the two evening prayers, few of them being seen in the mosque at the three other daily prayers. They also perform the tawaf, or walk round the Ka’bah, but generally at night, though it is not uncommon to see them walking in the daytime among the men.
The present building which encloses Zamzam. stands close by the Maqamu l-Hanbali, and was erected in A.H. 1072; it is of a square shape, and of massive construction, with an entrance to the north, opening into the room which contains the well. This room is beautifully ornamented with marbles of various colours; and adjoining to it, but having a separate door, is a small room with a stone reservoir, which is always full of Zamzam water, this the pilgrims get to drink by passing their hand with a cup through an iron grated opening, which serves as a window, into the reservoir, without entering the room.
The mouth of the well is surrounded by a wall five feet in height, and about ten feet in diameter. Upon this the people stand who draw up the water, in leathern buckets, an iron railing being so placed as to prevent their falling in. In Fasys time, there were eight marble basins in this room for the purpose of ablution.
From before dawn to near midnight. the well-room is constantly crowded with visitors. Everyone is at liberty to draw up the water for himself, but the labour is generally performed by persons placed there on purpose, and paid by the mosque; they expect also a trifle from those who come to drink, though they date net demand it. I have been more than once in the room a quarter of an hour before I could get a draught of water, so great was the crowd. Devout pilgrims sometimes mount the wall and draw the bucket for several hours in the hope of thus expiating their evil deeds.
Before the Wahhabi invasion, the well Zamzam belonged to the Sharif, and the water becoming thus a monopoly. was only to be purchased at a high price: but one of Sa’ud’s first orders, on his arrival at Makksh, was to abolish this traffic, and the holy water is now dispensed gratis. The Turks consider it a miracle that the water of this well never diminishes notwithstanding the continual draught from it. There is certainly no diminution in depth for, by an accurate inspection of the rope by which the buckets are drawn up, I found that the same length war required both at morning and evening, to reach the surface of the water. Upon inquiry, I learned from one of time persons who had descended in the nine of the Wahhabis to repair the masonry, that the water was flowing at the bottom, and that the well is therefore supplied by a subterraneous rivulet. The water is heavy to the taste, and sometimes in its colour resembles milk ; but it is perfectly sweet, and differs very much from that of the brackish wells dispersed over the town. When first drawn up, it is slightly tepid, resembling in this respect, many other fountains of the Hijaz.
Zamzam supplies the whole town, and there is scarcely one family that does not daily fill a jar with the water. This only serves. however, for drinking or for ablution as it is thought impious to employ water so sacred for culinary purposes or on common occasion. Almost every pilgrim when he repairs to the mosque for evening prayer, has a jar of the water placed before him by those who earn their livelihood by performing this service.
The water is distributed in the mosque to all who are thirsty for a trifling fee, by water-carriers, with large jars upon their backs; these men are also paid by charitables pilgrims for supplying the poorer ones with this holy beverage immediately before or after prayers.
The water is regarded as an infallible cure for all diseases and the devotees believe that the more they drink of it, the better their health will be, and their prayers the more acceptable to the Deity. I have seen some of them at the well swallowing such a quantity of it, as I should hardly have thought possible. A man who lived in the same house with me, and was ill of an intermittent fever, repaired every evening to Zamzam, and drank of the water till he was almost fainting; after which he lay for several hours extended upon his back, on the pavement near the Ka’bah, and then returned to renew his draught. When by this practice he was brought to the verge of death, he declared himself fully convinced that the increase of his illness proceeded wholly from his being unable to swallow a sufficient quantity of the water. Many pilgrims, not content with drinking it merely, strip themselves in the room, and have buckets of it thrown over them, by which they believe that he heart is purified as well as the outer body
Few pilgrims quit Makkah without carrying away some of this water in copper or tin bottles, either for the purpose of making presents, or for their own use in ease of illness, when they drink it, or for ablution after death. I carried away four small bottles, with the intention of offering them as presents to the Muslim kings in the black countries. I have seen it sold at Suez by pilgrims returning from Makkah, at the rate of one piastre for the quantity that filled a coffee-cup.
The chief of Zamzam is one of the principal ‘Ulama’ of Makkah. I need not remind the reader that Zamzam is supposed to be the spring found in the wilderness by Hagar, at the moment when her infant son Ishmael was dying of thirst. It seems probable that the town of Makkah owes its origin to this well For many miles round, no sweet water is found, nor is there found in any part of the adjacent country so copious a supply.
On the north-east side of Zamzam stand two small buildings, one behind the other, called al-Qubbatam; they are covered by domes painted in the same manner as the mosque, and in them are kept water-jars, lamps, carpets, mats, brooms, and other articles used in the very mosque. These two ugly buildings are injurious to the interior appearance of the building, their heavy forms and structure being very disadvantageously contrasted with the light and airy shape of the Maqams. I heard some pilgrims from Greece, moon of better taste than, the Arabs, express their regret that the Qubbatain should be allowed to disfigure the mosque. Their contents might be deposited in some of the buildings adjoining the mosque, of which they form no essential part, no religious importance being attached to them. They were built by Khushgildi, Governor of Jiddah. A.H. 947 one is called Qubbatu ‘l-’Abbas, from having been placed on the site of a small tank, said to have been formed by al-’Abbas, the uncle of Muhammad.
A few paces west of Zamzam, and directly opposite to the door of the Ka’bah, stands a ladder or staircase, which is moved op to the wall of the Ka’bah, on the days when that building is opened, and by which the visitors ascend to the door; it is of wood, with some carved ornaments, moves on low wheels, and is sufficiently broad to admit of four persons ascending abreast. The first ladder was sent hither from Cairo in A.H. 818, by Mu’yad Abu ‘n-Nasir, King of Egypt; for in the Hijaz, it seems, there has always been so great a want of artisans, that whenever the mosque required nay work it was necessary to have mechanics brought from Cairo, and even sometimes from Constantinople.
In the same line with the ladder, and close by it stands a lightly-built, insulated, and circular arch, about fifteen feet wide and eighteen feat high, called Babu ‘s-Salam, which must not be confounded with the great gate of the mosque bearing the same name. Those who enter the Baitu’llah for the first time, are enjoined to do so by the outer and inner Babu ‘s-Salam; in passing under the latter, they are to exclaim, “O God, may it be a happy entrance! ” I do not know by whom this arch was built, but it appears to be modern.
Nearly in front of the Babu ‘s-Salam, and nearer to the Ka’bah than any of the other surrounding buildings, stands the Maqamu Ibrahim. This is a small building, supported by six pillars about eight feet high, four of which are surrounded from top to bottom by a fine iron railing, which thus leaves the space beyond the two hind pillars open; within the railing is a frame about five feet square, terminating in a pyramidal top, and said to contain the sacred stone upon which Abraham stood when he built the Ka’bah, and which, with the help of his son Ishmeel, he had removed from hence to the place called Mi’jan, already mentioned. The stone is said to have yielded under the weight of the Patriarch, and to preserve the impression of his foot still visible upon it; but no pilgrim has ever seen it, as the frame is always entirely covered with a brocade of red silk richly embroidered. Persons are Constantly seen before the railing, invoking the good offices of Abraham, and a short prayer must be uttered by the side of the Maqam, after the walk round the Ka’bah is completed. It is said that many of the Companions, or first adherents of Muhammad, were interred in the open space between this Maqam and Zamzam, from which circumstance it is one of the most favourite places of prayer in the mosque. In this part of the area, the Khalifah Sulaiman ibn ‘Abdi ‘l-Malik, brother of al-Wahid, built a fine reservoir, in A.H. 97, which was filled from a spring cast of ‘Arafat; but the Makkans destroyed it after his death, on the pretence that the water of Zamzam was preferable.
On the aide of Maqamu Ibrahim, facing the middle part of the front of the Ka’bah, stand the Minibar, or pulpit, of the mosque; it is elegantly formed of fine white marble, with many sculptured ornaments, and was sent as a present to the mosque in A.H. 969, by Sultan Sulaimin ibn Salim. A straight narrow staircase leads up to the post of the khatib or preacher, which is surmounted by a gilt polygonal pointed steeple, resembling an obelisk. Here a sermon is preached on Fridays and on certain festivals; these, like the Friday sermons of all mosques in the Muslim countries, are usually of the same tenour, with some alight alterations upon extraordinary occasions. Before the Wahhabis invaded Makkah, prayers were added for the Sultan and the Sharif; but these were forbidden by Saud. Since the Turkish conquest, however, the ancient custom has been restored. The right of preaching in the Mimbar is vested in several of the first ‘Ulama’ in Makkah they are always elderly persons, and officiate in rotation. In ancient times Muhammad himself, his successors, and the Khalifahs,whenever they came to Makkah; mounted the pulpit, and preached to the people.
The khatib, or preacher, appears in the Mimbar wrapped in a white cloak, which covers his head and body, and with a stick in hand; a practice observed also in Egypt and Syria, in memory of the first age of Islam, when the preachers found it necessary to be armed, from fear of being surprised. As in other mosques, two green flags are placed on each aide of him.
About the Mimbar, the visitors of the Ka’bah deposit their shoes; as it is neither permitted to walk round the Ka’bah with covered feet, nor thought decent to carry the shoes in the hand, as is done in other mosques. Several persons keep watch over the shoes for which they expect a small present; but the vicinity of the holy temple does not intimidate the dishonest, for I lost successively from this spot three new pairs of shoes; and the same thing happens to many pilgrims.
I have now described all the buildings within the enclosure of the temple.
The gravel-ground, and part of the adjoining outer pavement of the Ka’bah is covered, at the time of evening prayers, with carpets of from sixty to eighty feet in length, and four feet in breadth, of Egyptian manufacture, which are rolled up after prayers. The greater part of the pilgrims bring their own carpets with them. The more distant parts of the area, and the floor under the colonnade, are spread with mats brought from Souakin; the latter situation being the usual place for the performance of the mid-day and afternoon prayers. Many of these mats are presented to the mosque by the pilgrims, for which they have in return the satisfaction of seeing their names inscribed on them in large characters.
At sunset, great numbers assemble for the first evening prayer; they form themselves into several wide circles, sometimes as many as twenty around the Ka’bah, as a common centre before which every person makes his prostration; and thus, as the Mohammedan doctors observe, Makkah is the only spot throughout the world in which the true believer can, with propriety, turn during his prayers towards any point of the compass. The Imam takes his post near the gate of the Ka’bah, and his genuflexions are imitated by the whole assembled multitude. The effect of the joint prostrations of six or eight thousand persons, added to the recollection of the distance and various quarters from whence they come, or for what purpose, cannot fail to impress the most cool-minded spectator with some degree of awe. At night, when the lamps are lighted, and numbers of devotees are performing the Tawaf round the Ka’bah, the sight of the busy crowds, the voices of the Mutawwifs, intent upon making themselves beard by those to whom they recite their prayers, the loud conversation of many idle persons, the running, playing, and laughing of boys, give to the whole a very different appearance, and one wore resembling that of a place of public amusement. The crowd, however, leaves the mosque about nine o’clock, when it again becomes the place of silent meditation and prayer to the few visitors who are led to the spot by sincere piety, and not worldly motives or fashion.
There is an opinion prevalent at Makkah, founded on holy tradition, that the mosque will contain any number of the faithful; and that if even the whole Muslim community were to enter at once, they would all find room in it to pray. The guardian angels, it is said, would invisibly extend he dimensions of the building, and diminish the size of each individual. The fact is, that during the most numerous pilgrimages, the mosque, which can contain, I believe, about thirty-five thousand persons in the act of prayer, is never half-filled. Even on Fridays, the grater part of the Makkans, contrary to the injunctions of the law, pray at home, if at all, and many pilgrims follow their example. I could never count more than ten thousand individuals in the mosque at one time, even after the return from ‘Arafat, when the whole body of pilgrims was collected for a few days in and about the city.
At every hour of the day, persons may be seen under the colonnade, occupied in reading the Qur’an and other religious books; and here many poor Indians, or negroes, spread their mats, and pass the hole period of their residence at Makkah. Here they both eat and sleep but cooking is not allowed. During the hours of noon, many persons come to repose beneath the cool shade of the vaulted roof of the colonnade; a custom which not only accounts for the mode of construction observed in the old Muslim temples of Egypt and Arabia, but for that also of the ancient Egyptian temples, the immense porticoes of which were probably left open to the idolatrous natives, whose mud-built houses could afford them but an imperfect refuge against the mid-day heats.
It is only during the hours of prayer that the great mosques of these countries partake of the sanctity of prayer, or in any degree seem to be regarded as consecrated places. In al-Azhar, the first mosque at Cairo, I have seen boys crying pancakes for sale, barbers shaving their customers, and many of the lower orders eating their dinners, where, during prayers, not the slightest motion, nor even whisper, diverts the attention of the congregation. Not a sound but the voice of the Imam, is heard during prayers in the great mosque at Makkah, which at other times is the place of meeting for men of business to converse on their affairs, and is sometimes so full of poor pilgrims, or of diseased persons lying about under the colonnade, in midst of their miserable baggage, as to have the appearance of a hospital rather than a temple. Boys play in the great square, and servants carry luggage across it, to pass by the nearest route from one part of the town to the other. In these respects, the temple of Makkah resembles the other great mosques of the East. But the holy Ka’bah is rendered the scene of such indecencies and criminal acts, as cannot with propriety be more particularly noticed. They are not only practised here with impunity, but, it may be said, almost publicly; and my indignation has often been excited, on witnessing abominations which called forth from other passing spectators nothing more than a laugh or a slight reprimand.
In several parts of the colonnade, public schools are held, where young children are taught to spell and read they are most noisy groups, and the schoolmaster’s stick is a constant action. Some learned men of Makkah deliver lectures on religious subjects every afternoon under the colonnade, but the auditors are seldom numerous. On Friday’s after prayer, some Turksth ‘Ulama’ explain to their countrymen assembled around them a few chapters of the Qur’an, after which each of the audience kisses the hand of the expositor, and drops money into his cup. I particularly admired the fluency of speech of one of these ‘Ulama’, although I did not understand him, the lecture being delivered in the Turkish language. His gesticulations and the inflexions of his voice, were most expressive; but, like an actor on the stage, he would laugh and cry in the same minute, and adapt his features to his purpose in the most skilful manner. He was a native of Brusa, and amassed a considerable sum of money.
Near the gate of the mosque called Babu ‘s-Salam, a few Arab shaikhs daily take their seat, with their inkstand and paper, ready to write, for any applicant, letters, accounts, contracts, or any similar document.
They also deal in written charms, like those current in the Black countries, such as amulets, love-receipts, &c. They are principally employed by Bedouins, and demand an exorbitant remuneration.
Winding sheets (kafan and other linen washed in the waters of Zamzam, are constantly seen hanging to dry between the columns. Many pilgrims purchase at Makkah the shroud in which they wish to buried, and wash it themselves at the well of Zamzam, supposing that, if the corpse be wrapped in linen which has been wetted with this holy water, the peace of the soul after death will he more effectually secured. Some pilgrims make this linen an article of traffic.
Makkah generally, but this mosque in particular, abounds in flocks of wild pigeons, which are considered to be the inviolable property of the temple, and are called the pigeons of the Baitu ‘llah. Nobody dares to kill any of them, even when they enter the private houses. In the square of the mosque. several small stone basins are regularly filled with water for their use; here, also, Arab women expose for sale, upon small straw mats, corn and durrah, which the pilgrims purchase, and throw to the pigeons. I have seen some of the public women take this mode of exhibiting themselves, and of bargaining with the pilgrims, under pretence of selling them corn for the sacred pigeons.
The gates of the mosque are nineteen in number, and are distributed about it. without any order or symmetry. The principal of these gates are: on the north side, Babu ‘s-Salam. by which every pilgrim enters the mosque Babu ‘l-’Abbas; Babu ‘n-Nabi, by which Muhammad is said to have always entered the mosque; Babu ‘Ali. On the east side: Babu Zai. or Babu ‘t-Ashrah, through which the ten first adherents of Muhammad used to enter; Babu ‘s-Safa: two gates called Babanu ‘ah-Sharif, opposite the palaces of the Sharif. On the south aide Bau Ibrahim, where the colonnade projects beyond the straight line of the columns, and forms a small square Babu ‘l-’Umrah, through which it is necessary to pass, on visiting the Umrah. On the west side: Babu z-Ziyadah, forming a projecting square similar to that at Babu Ibrahim, but larger.
Most of these gates have high-pointed arches, but a few round arches are seen among them, which like all the arches of this kind in the Hijaz, are nearly semicircular. They are without any ornament, except the inscription on the exterior, which commemorates the name of the builder and they are all posterior in date to the fourteenth century. As each gate consists of two or three arches, or divisions, separated by narrow walls, these divisions are counted in the enumeration of the gate, leading into the Ka’bah and thus make up the number thirty-nine.
There being no doors to the gates, the mosque is consequently open at all times. I have crossed at every hour of the night and always found people there, either at prayers or walking about.
The outside walls of the mosque are those of the houses which surround it on all sides. These houses belonged originally to the mosque, the grater part are now the propery of individuals, who have purchased them. They are let out to the richest pilgrims at very high prices, as much as five hundred piastres being given, during the pilgrimage, for a good apartment, with windows opening into the mosque. Windows have, in consequence, been opened in many parts of the walls, on a level with the street, and above that of the floor of the colonnades. Pilgrims living in these apartments are allowed to perform the Friday’s prayers at home because, having the Ka’bah in view from the windows, they are supposed to be in the mosque itself, and to join in prayer those assembled within the temple. Upon a level with the ground-floor of the colonnades, and opening into them, are small apartments formed to the walls, having the appearance of dungeons, those have remained the property of the mosque, while the houses above them belong to private individuals. They are let out to watermen, who deposit in them the Zamzam jars, or to less opulent pilgrims who wish to live in the mosque. Some of the surrounding houses still belong to the mosque, and were originally intended for public schools, as their name of Madrasah implies: they are now all let out to pilgrims. In one of the largest of them, Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha lived; in another Hasan Pasha.
Close to Babu Ibrahim is a large madrasah, now the property of Saiyid Ageyl, one of the principal merchants of the town, whose warehouse opens into the mosque. This person, who is aged, has the reputation of great sanctity; and it is said that the hand of the Sharif Gahlib, when once in the act of collaring him for refusing to advance some money, was momentarily struck with palsy. He has evening assemblies in his house, where theological books are read, and religions topics discussed.
Among other buildings forming the enclosure of the mosque, is the Mihkam, or house of justice, close by the Babu ‘z-Ziyadah; it is a flue, firmly built structure, with lofty arches in the interior, and has a row of high windows looking into the mosque. It is inhabited by the Qazi. Adjoining to it stands a large Madrasah, enclosing a square, known by the name of Madrasah Sulaiman, built by Sultan Sulaiman and his son Salim II., in A.H. 973. It is always well filled with Turkish pilgrims, the friends of the Qazi, who disposes of the lodgings.
The exterior of the mosque is adorned with seven minarets, irregularly distributed: 1. Minaret of Babu ‘l-’Umrah; 2. of Babu ‘s-Salam; 3. of Babu ‘Ali; 4. of Babu’l-Wada 5. of Madrasah Kail Beg; 6. of Babu ‘z-Ziyadah; 7. of Madrasah Sultan Sulaiman. They are quadrangular or round steeples, in no way differing from other minarets. The entrance to them is from the different buildings round the mosque, which they adjoin. A beautiful view of the busy crowd below is obtained by ascending the moat northern one. Taken with slight alterations, chiefly in the spelling of Arabic words and names, from Burckhardt’s Travels in Arabia vol. i. p. 243.)
Mr. Sale says: “The temple of Mecca was a place of worship, and in singular veneration with the Arabs from great antiquity, and many centuries before Muhammad. Though it was most probably dedicated at first to an idolatrous use, yet the Muslims are generally persuaded that the Ka’bah is almost coeval with the world; for they say that Adam, after his expulsion from Paradise, begged of God that he might erect a building like that he had seen there, called Baitu l-Ma’mur, or the frequented house, and al Durah towards which he might compass, as the angels do the celestial one. Whereupon God let down a representation of that house in curtains of light, and set it in Mecca, perpendicular under its original, ordering the patriarch to turn towards it when he prayed, and to compass it by way of devotion. After Adam’s death, his son Seth built a house in the same form, of stone and clay, which being destroyed by the Deluge, was rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael at God’s command, in the place where the former had stood, and after the same model, they being directed therein by revelation.
“After this edifice had undergone several reparations, it was, a few years after the birth of Muhammad, rebuilt by the Quraish on the old foundation, and afterwards repaired by Abdullah Ibn Zubair, the Khalif of Mecca; and at length again rebuilt by Yusuf, surnamed al Hijaj Ibn Yusuf, in the seventy-fourth year of the Hijrah, with some alterations in the form wherein it now remains. Some years after, however, the Khalif Harun al Rashid (or, as others write, his father al Mahdi, or his grandfather al Mansur) intended again to change what had been altered by al Hijaj, and to reduce the Ka’bah to the old form in which it was left by Abdullah, but was dissuaded from meddling with it, lest so holy a place should become a sport of princes, and being new modeled after everyone’s fancy, should lose that reverence which was justly paid it. But nothwithstanding the antiquity and holiness of this building, they have a prophecy by tradition of Muhammad, that in the last times, the Ethiopians shall come and utterly demolish it, after which it will not be rebuilt again for ever.” (Prelim. Dis., p. 83).
The following are the references to the Sacred Mosque in the Qur’an:-
Surah ii. 144, 145: “From whatever place thou comest forth, then turn your face towards the Sacred Mosque: for this is a duty enjoined by they Lord; and God is not inattentive to your doings. And from whatever place thou comest forth, then turn thy face toward the Sacred Mosque; and wherever ye be, to that part turn your faces, that men have no cause of dispute against you.”
Surah v.2: “O Believers! Violate neither the rites of God, nor the sacred month, nor the offering, nor its ornaments, nor those who press on to the Sacred Mosque, seeking favor from their Lord and His good pleasure in them.”
Surah viii. 33-35: But God chose not to chastise them while thou wast with them not would God chastise them when they sued for pardon. But because they debarred the faithful from the Sacred Mosque, albeit they are not its guardians, nothing is there on their part why God should not chastise them. The God- fearing only are its guardians, but most of them know it not. And their prayer at the house is no other than whistling through the fingers and clapping of the hands – ‘Taste then the torment, for that ye have been unbelievers.
Surah ix. 7: “How shall they who add gods to God be in league with God and with His Apostle, save those with whom ye made a league at the Sacred Mosque? So long as they are true to you, be ye true to them: for God loveth those who fear Him.
Surah ix. 28: “O Believers! Only they who join gods with God are unclean! Let them not, therefore, after this their year, come near the Sacred Mosque. And if ye fear want, God, if He please, will enrich you of His abundance; for God is Knowing, Wise.”
Surah xvii. 1: “Glory be to Him who carried his servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the temple that is more remote (i.e. Jerusalem), whose precincts we have blessed, that we may show him of our signs; for He is the Hearer, the Seer.”
Surah xxii. 25: “From the Sacred Mosque which we have appointed to all men, alike for those who abide therein, and for the stranger.”
Surah xlviii. 25: “These are they who believed not, and kept you away from the Sacred Mosque, as well as the offering which was prevented from reaching the place of sacrifice.”
Surah xlviii. 27: “now hath God in truth made good to His Apostle the dream in which he said ‘Ye shall surely enter the Sacred Mosque, if God will, in full security, having your heads shaved and your hair cut; ye shall not fear; for He knoweth what ye know not; and He hath ordained you, beside this, a speedy victory.”

Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam