Mecca is the most important city to Muslims, and they are required to face it when they Pray. It is important because Muslims believe that the Patriarch Abraham personally built the Kaaba (cube-shaped building), using the Black Stone in its construction. Abraham's son Ishmael assisted in that construction, according to Islamic beliefs. Because Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son because the Lord asked him to do so, clearly indicated that Abraham was the first truly Devout believer in the One God (Allah). This makes Abraham the central human figure in Muslim beliefs, the first of the Patriarchs. (This is the very same Abraham that Christians and Jews similarly revere as Patriarch.) The fact that Muslims face Mecca is really them facing the Kaaba, in honor to Abraham.
Mecca (Arabic: Makkah), the birthplace of Muhammad, is the holiest city of the Islamic faith. Capital of the Hejaz province of Saudi Arabia, Mecca is located 72 km (45 mi) east of Jidda, its port on the Red Sea, and about 485 km (300 mi) south of Medina. Mecca's population is 367,000 (1976 est.). The city is located on the sandy, narrow valley of the Wadi Ibrahim and is surrounded by hills from 60 to 150 m (200 to 500 ft) high. The 914-m-high (3,000-ft) Jabal Khandama is located nearby.
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The main economic activity in Mecca is the provision of services to pilgrims. Merchants in particular benefit from the trade of travelers, as huge fairs are held during the month of the pilgrimage. Because of the yearly influx of visitors, the city's transportation network is well developed. Mecca is connected to Jidda and Riyadh by road, and the airport at Jidda serves Mecca.
Even before Muhammad's birth (570), the city was an important commercial and religious center (the Black Stone was sacred in early Arabic religions). Muhammad began to preach in the city c.613 but was forced to flee to Medina in 622 (the Hegira). In 630 he returned with 10,000 men to conquer the city and establish it as the center of the Islamic world. The city was ruled by the Carmathians from 930 until 1269, when the Egyptian Mamelukes gained control.
The Ottoman Turks ruled from 1517 until 1916, when the Hejaz region became independent, with Mecca as its capital. Mecca fell to Ibn Saud in 1924, and in 1932 Hejaz became a province of Saudi Arabia. In November 1979 a group of 200 Muslim zealots seized Mecca's Great Mosque; they were driven out by Saudi troops after 10 days, and many were executed. In 1987, Iranian pilgrims staged violent demonstrations in the city.
Gaury, Gerald de, Rulers of Mecca (1951; repr. 1982); 1982); Hirashima, H. Y., The Road to Holy Mecca (1972); Hitti, Philip K., History of the Arabs, 10th ed. (1970); Steward, D., Mecca (1980).
Mecca, also Makkah (ancient Macoraba), is a city in western Saudi Arabia, located in Al Hijāz (Hejaz) Province, near Jiddah. Mecca is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, and the most sacred of the Muslim holy cities. According to Islamic tradition, Muslims around the world must face Mecca during their daily prayers. Every year, during the last month of the Islamic calendar, more than 1 million Muslims make a pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca. The city's location on several trade routes has made it commercially important since ancient times. Mecca was a religious center before the time of Muhammad, and several holy sites within the sacred precincts of the great mosque, called al-Haram, had religious significance in pre-Islamic times.
The Kaaba (or Caaba), a windowless cube-shaped building in the courtyard of the mosque, is believed to have been built by the Hebrew patriarch Abraham. In the southeastern corner of the Kaaba is the Black Stone, supposedly given to Abraham by the angel Gabriel. Also within the precincts of the mosque is the sacred well, called the Zamzam (Zemzem), which was reputedly used by Hagar, mother of Abraham's son Ishmael. The city is first mentioned by the Alexandrian geographer Ptolemy, who in the 2nd century AD called it Macoraba.
From the time of Muhammad, Mecca was besieged on various occasions. It was taken by the Egyptians in the 13th century. In the 16th century control passed to Turkey. From 1517 the sharifs, or descendants of Muhammad through Hasan, son of Muhammad's son-in-law Ali, governed Mecca for the Turks. The latter were driven from the city in 1916 by Grand Sharif Husein ibn Ali, later first king of Al Hijāz. In 1924 the city was occupied by Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, then sultan of Najd (Nejd), who made Mecca the religious capital of Saudi Arabia. Population (1994 estimate) 1,500,000.
Mecca, the capital of Arabia and the sacred city of the Mohammedans, is situated in the district of Hijaz about 21Ā°30' N. latitude and 40Ā°20' E. longitude, some seventy miles east of the Red Sea. It lies in a sandy valley surrounded by rocky hills from two hundred to five hundred feet in height, barren and destitute of vegetation.
The birthplace of Mohammed and the seat of the famous Kaaba, it was celebrated even in pre-Islamic times as the chief sanctuary of the Arabs, and visited by numerous pilgrims and devotees. The city presents an aspect more pleasing than that of the ordinary Eastern town, with comparatively wide streets and stone houses, usually of three stories, and well aired and lighted. The inhabitants, numbering about 60,000, are with few exceptions Arabians whose chief employment consists in lodging the pilgrims and serving the temple, although no inconsiderable amount of trade is carried on with the Bedouins of the surrounding desert. Mecca, the seat of government during the reign of the first five Khalifs, is now governed by a Sharif, chosen by the people from the Sayyids or the descendants of Mohammed, but under the immediate authority of the Sultan of Turkey (Hughes, "Dictionary of Islam", q.v.). Mecca is annually visited by some 80,000 pilgrims from all over the Mohammedan world. On their way the pilgrims pass through Medina, the second sacred town of Arabia, and on approaching Mecca they undress, laying aside even their headgear, and put on aprons and a piece of cloth over the left shoulder. Then they perform the circuit of the Kaaba, kiss the Black Stone, hear the sermon on Mount ArafĆ¢t, pelt Satan with stones in the valley of Mina, and conclude their pilgrimage with a great sacrificial feast. In a year or two Mecca will be reached by the Hijaz Railway already completed as far as Medina (about eight hundred and fifty miles from Damascus). From Medina to Mecca the distance is two hundred and eighty miles, and from Mecca to Damascus about one thousand one hundred and ten miles. The railway passes through the old caravan route, Damascus, Mezarib, Maan, Medawara, Tebuk, Madain Saleh, El-Ula, Medina, and Mecca. The early history of Mecca is shrouded in obscurity, although Mohammedan writers have preserved an abundance of legendary lore according to which the city dates back to Abraham who is said to have there worshipped the true God. It is also stated that after the death of Abraham, the inhabitants of Mecca, owing to the evil influence of the heathen Amalekites, fell into idolatry and paganism, and the Kaaba itself became surrounded with their idols. Hundreds of these idols were destroyed by Mohammed on his entrance into the city at the head of a Moslem army in the eighth year of the Hejira, or A.D. 629. During the century before Mohammed, we find the tribe of Quraish in undisputed possession of the city and the acknowledged guardians of the Kaaba. The leading events in Mecca at that period, such as the Abyssinian expedition against Yemen and the utter defeat of Arabia's army at the hand of the Meccans, have been already discussed in the article CHRISTIANITY IN ARABIA.
Publication information Written by Gabriel Oussani. Transcribed by WGKofron. With thanks to Fr. John Hilkert and St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York
See the bibliography appended to the articles ARABIA, MOHAMMED AND MOHAMMEDANISM; BURKHARDT, Travels in Arabia (London, 1830); BURTON, Personal narrative of a Pilgrimage to El Medina and Mecca (London, 1857); HURGRONJE, SNOUCK, Mecca, mit Bilder Atlas, II (The Hague, 1888); IDEM, Het Mekkanische Feest (Leyden, 1888).
Unfortunately, we are not aware of any scholarly texts on this subject which have yet been translated into English. We know that a number of Arabic scholars have written wonderful texts in Arabic, and look for the day when we will be able to add higher quality texts to this presentation.
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