The holy and great mosque of Mecca or Masjid al-Haram is around ‘Kaaba’. Indeed, it is the place where millions of Muslims come to perform pilgrimage like Hajj and Umrah. Also, Muslims pray and gather at Masjid al-Haram to perform ‘Tawaf’ (the ritual circling of the Kaaba). It is the second biggest mosque after the Mosque of the Prophet (SAWS) in Madinah.
Importance of Masjid al-Haram
- The largest mosque in the world where Muslims unite and pray.
- Muslims believe that it is the holiest place on earth as Kaaba is located in its center.
- There are nine minarets.
- It also accommodates millions of pilgrims coming in to perform Hajj and Umrah.
- Transformative experience is further enhanced with the realization that you no longer need to ask Qibla’s direction for praying. You can look at Ka’ bah and be aware of Allah’s (SWT) presence in Masjid al-Haram.
History of Masjid al-Haram
As per Islamic belief, Masjid al-Haram was first built by Prophet Ibrahim along with his son Ismail. Allah ordered them to build the mosque and the Kaaba. Over time, different expansion and modernization occurred in this holy mosque. However, its first construction began under the supervision of caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattab in the 7th century (Georgian calendar).
Each year, the number of pilgrims was increasing drastically. Consequently, Omar ibn al Khattab ordered to demolish some of the buildings adjacent to the Kaaba. So, he wanted to accommodate as many pilgrims as possible. Also, he ordered to build a wall to appreciate a larger praying area. Further enlargement of the prayer area and roofing occurred in his successor, Caliph UthmanIbnAffan’s era (644-656).
Extensive Expansion and Renovation of the Sacred Mosque
Later Caliph Abdul Malik bin Marwan conquered the city of Mecca from Ibn Zubayr. He was the custodian of the Kaaba at the time. The caliph ordered to raise external walls of the Masjid al-Haram, to paint column capitals in a gold while, and to cover the ceiling with teak.
By substituting wooden columns with marble ones, his son later contributed to the beautification of the mosque. He adorned the arches with mosaics as well. Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdī (775-785) tore down the original mosque and its surroundings and enlarged the design. A more thorough reconstruction took place on a grid plan, relocating the outer walls so that the Kaaba stood in the middle of the courtyard.
Unfortunately, fire and floods demolished the mosque in the early 14th century. In 1571, the Ottoman sultan Selim II ordered architect Sinan to make changes to the structure, another renovation of the mosque was undertaken. Ottoman additions, such as replacing Kaaba’s flat roof with small domes, are the oldest enduring parts of the modern structure.
Also, during Caliph Al-Mahdi’s time, authorities ordered the construction of three minarets topped with crenellation above the mosque’s Bab al-Salam, Bab Ali, and Bab al-Wadi. Likewise, they included the extension of the pathway between Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, including it in the mosque’s structure.
King Abdulaziz Al Saud launched the development efforts, and King Fahd followed. King Abdullah IbnAbdulaziz was behind a campaign to significantly increase the mosque’s size from about 800,000 to 2 million worshipers.
Under the new King Salman, a fourth expansion project provides air conditioning to all enclosed areas and enlarges the northern portion. According to Islamic teachings, one of the miraculous things about this Grand Mosque is that of oasis ‘Zamzam’ which has certainly not dried out ever since its revelation.