Page 1 of 1  
List of subjects |  Sources |  Feedback 
MECCA
 
 

MECCA
     The Ka'ba
     Mecca and Muhammad
     Muslims and Mecca




Share |




Discover in a free
daily email today's famous
history and birthdays

Enjoy the Famous Daily



Mecca before Islam

The town of Mecca, in a rocky valley with no agricultural resources, develops in the centuries immediately preceding Islam into a place of considerable prosperity. There are two good reasons. It is a trading post on the caravan route from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean. And it has become Arabia's most important place of pilgrimage.

By at least the 4th centurylarge numbers of pilgrims arrive in Mecca to perform a ritual act of walking seven times round a small square building known as the Ka'ba (Arabic for 'cube'). The building is full of idols, which are the objects of worship. It also includes a sacred black stone, possibly in origin a meteorite.
 








Mecca and Muhammad: c.570 - 622

A child, Muhammad, is born in a merchant family in Mecca. His clan is prosperous and influential, but his father dies before he is born and his mother dies when the boy is only six.

Entrusted to a Bedouin nurse, Muhammad spends much of his childhood among nomads, accompanying the caravans on Arabia's main trade route through Mecca.
 









It is on Mount Hira, according to tradition, that the archangel Gabriel appears to Muhammad. Muhammad describes later how he seemed to be grasped by the throat by a luminous being, who commanded him to repeat the words of God.

From about 613 Muhammad preaches in Mecca the message which he has received.
 







When Muhammad reveals his message from God, he meets increasing hostility from the traders of Mecca. He is preaching one God. They are making their living from a profusion of idols.

Eventually, in 622, there is a plot to assassinate him. He escapes with his followers to the town of Medina, about 300 kilometres to the north.
 






The Muslims and Mecca: 624-630

Relations with Mecca deteriorate to the point of pitched battles between the two sides, with Muhammad leading his troops in the field. But in the end it is his diplomacy which wins the day.

He persuades the Meccans to allow his followers back into the city, in 629, to make a pilgrimage to the Ka'ba and the Black Stone.
 









On this first Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Muhammad's followers impress the local citizens both by their show of strength and by their self-control, departing peacefully after the agreed three days. But the following year the Meccans break a truce, provoking the Muslims to march on the city.

They take Mecca almost without resistance. The inhabitants accept Islam. And Muhammad sweeps the idols out of the Ka'ba, leaving only the sacred Black Stone.
 







An important element in Mecca's peaceful acceptance of the change has been Muhammad's promise that pilgrimage to the Ka'ba will remain a central feature of the new religion.

So Mecca becomes, as it has remained ever since, the holy city of Islam. And Muslim tradition locates in Mecca many of the events described first in the biblical book of Genesis (see Biblical events in Mecca).
 







The preaching of Muhammad and the founding of Islam turn Mecca from a local place of pilgrimage to one of world-wide significance - though only Muslims are allowed to enter the city. Where pagan pilgrims once walked seven times round a Ka'ba filled with idols, Muslims now walk seven times round the same Ka'ba - but empty now, and sacred to the one God ('Allah' is God in Arabic).

The Ka'ba is not only the central shrine of Islam, and the focus of every pilgrimage to Mecca. It has also been, since Muhammad's time, the place towards which all Muslims turn when praying (see Ka'ba - description of the shrine).
 






  Page 1 of 1