Masjid al-Haram: The holiest shrine for Muslims all over the world

Middle East Contributor
Masjid al-Haram
Model of Masjid Al Haram in the Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | Dreamstime

No discussion about mosques can be complete without the mention of al-Masjid al-Haram. This mosque is also known as the Great Mosque of Mecca, the largest mosque in the world. And is also considered to be one of the three oldest mosques in the world.

History of Masjid al-Haram in 7th Century

Masjid al-Haram is also among the holiest sites for all Muslims across the world. Pilgrims use the courtyard of this mosque to circumambulate the Kabah. This apart, this courtyard is also the site for tow greatly holy relics. Maqam Ibrahim, the station of Abraham, and the Zamzam spring well. Maqam Ibrahim is a stone, which according to Islamic tradition is related to the rebuilding of the Kabah by Prophet Ibrahim(AS) and Ismail (AS). Zamam is the sacred spring.

The history of this great mosque goes back to the early 7th century CE. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, “The first Muslim structure on the site was a wall around the Ka’bah. Built by the second Caliph ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattab, in 638 CE.” Ever since, over the next 1300 years the mosque has been renovated again and again. Until it has turned to be the eighth largest building in the whole world, as of 2020. The first major renovation was carried out in the time of Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdi (775-785).

He rebuilt and elaborately renovated the structure in such a manner that the Kabah stood right at the centre of the courtyard of the mosque. Domes were added to the erstwhile flat roof of the mosque. This was done about eight centuries later, in 1571, when Ottoman emperor Selim II asked his court architect Sinan to improve upon the existing structure. These domes are the oldest parts of the mosque that survive till today.

Accommodating millions at a time

Renovation of the mosque has continued in the 20th and the current century. The latest renovation was started by Saudi Arabia in 2015. The area of the mosque was expanded to 400,000 Sq.Mt so that 1.2 million people could offer prayer at the same time.

The mosque is central to the dream destination of every Muslim around the world, because, as I said before, because the holy Ka’bah is located right at the centre of its courtyard. The Kabah is the most sacred spot on the earth to every Muslim, and in keeping with the command set in the Quran it is there cherished dream to go to a pilgrimage, known as the Hajj to this site. The Kabah is a cubic structure, of about 15 metres in height and 10 by 14 metres at its base.

There is nothing worldly inside the Kabah except three pillars, which hold the roof, and some gold and silver lamps. According to Quranic traditions, the Ka’bah was built by Ibrahim (AS) and Ismail (AS). According to Islamic legend, the original colour of Kabah was white, but it has become black over centuries absorbing the sins of billions of pilgrims who have touched and kissed it over several centuries. Circumambulating the holy Ka’abah is also considered among holiest acts in Islam. All this draws Muslims in millions across the world to al-Masjid al-Haram.


(Written by Author and Translator Nilanjan Hajra)

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