1902 Encyclopedia > Mecca, Arabia

Mecca
Arabia (modern day Saudi Arabia)




MECCA (______ [Arabic], Makka), the chief town of the Hijáz in Arabia,[669-1] and the great holy city of Islám, is situated two camel marches (the resting-place being Bahra or Hadda in the Batn Marr), or about 45 miles, almost due east, from Jidda [Jeddah], on the Red Sea.[669-2] Thus on a rough estimate Mecca lies in 21° 30' N. lat. and 40° E. long.

It is said in the Koran (sur. xiv. 40) that Mecca lies in a sterile valley, and the old geographers observe that the whole Haram or sacred territory round the city is almost absolutely without cultivation or date palms, while fruit trees, springs, wells, gardens, and green valleys are found immediately beyond. Mecca in fact lies in the heart of a mass of rough hills, intersected by a labyrinth of narrow valleys and passes, and projecting into the Tiháma or low country on the Red Sea, in front of the great mountain wall that divides the coast lands from the central plateau, though in turn they are themselves separated from the sea by a second curtain of hills forming the western wall of the great Wády Marr. The inner mountain wall is pierced by two and only two great passes, and the valleys descending from these embrace on both sides the Mecca hills. The north-western pass, through which the Nejd traffic descends to the coast, and which also affords the easiest though longest route from Jidda and Mecca to Táif and thence through the true Hijáz to Yemen, is the Derb el-Seil or torrent path down the well-watered Wády Marr.[669-3] This Wády skirts the complex of Mecca hills on the north-west from Zeima by Wády Fátima (where it is joined by the great coast road from Medina and Syria) to Hadda on the Mecca and Jidda road, a distance of perhaps 50 miles. Main roads converge to Mecca from the three points of the Wády just named, the distance of the city from the last two being about 20 miles. From this side the most prominent of the Mecca hills is the northern "Mountain of Light" (J. Núr). The other pass, which affords a shorter mule road to Táif and the southern highlands, but is not practicable for ordinary baggage camels, descends from the summit of J. Kara, and leads through the great W. Na’mán, the Wády of the Hodheil, to the plain beneath ‘Arafa, the most easterly of the holy sites connected with Mecca. From this point a tolerably level route skirts the Mecca hills on the south, passing very close to Mecca under the opposite aide of J. el-Thaur, is joined or crossed by several roads from the south, including the great lowland Yemen road, and ultimately falls into the road from Mecca to Hadda, a little beyond the pillars that define the Haram. The broad valleys through which this southern road leads are not so well watered as W. Marr, but have several fertile spots and a good deal of land cultivable after rain.[670-1] From this description the importance of the situation of Mecca will be easily understood. It commands both the great routes connecting the lowlands with central Arabia, and thus has the advantage over Táif, its former commercial rival, which lies indeed on the inland mountain road from Yemen to Nejd behind Mount Kara, but has no ready connexion with the Tiháma. Mecca, on the contrary, though apparently secluded in its hills from the main valleys—it is in fact not visible from any point till one is quite close to the town—lies in the focus of all the great roads from north to south or from the coast inland, with the single exception of the mountain road behind Kara; and the low passes that intersect the Mecca hills form a series of practicable short cuts connecting all the chief points of the circle of valleys already described.[670-2]

Holding this position, and situated in a narrow and barren valley quite incapable of supporting an urban population, Mecca must have been from the first a commercial town.[670-3] In the palmy days of South Arabia it was probably a station on the great incense route, and thus Ptolemy may have learned the name, which he writes Makoraba. At all events, long before Mohammed we find Mecca established in the twofold quality of a commercial centre and a privileged holy place, surrounded by an inviolable territory (the Haram), which was not the sanctuary of a single tribe but a place of pilgrimage, where religions observances were associated with a series of annual fairs at different points in the vicinity.[670-4] The combination of commerce with religion was no unusual thing in Arabia. Of old the incense trade had its religious features, and indeed in the unsettled state of the country commerce was possible only under the sanctions of religion, and through the provisions of the sacred truce which prohibited war for four months of the year, three of these being the month of pilgrimage, with those immediately preceding and following. The first of the series of fairs in which the Meccans had an interest was at ‘Okáz on the easier road between Mecca and Táif, where there was also a sanctuary, and from it the visitors, drawn from tribes far and near, moved on to points still nearer Mecca (Majanna, and finally Dhu’l-Majáz, on the flank of J. Kabkab behind ‘Arafa) where further fairs were held,[670-5] culminating in the special religious ceremonies of the great feast at ‘Arafa, Kuzah (Mozdalifa), and Mecca itself. The system of intercalation in the lunar calendar of the heathen Arabs was designed to secure that the feast should always fall at the time when the hides, fruits, and other merchandise were ready for market,[670-6] and the Meccans, who knew how to attract the Bedouins by profuse and systematic hospitality, bought up these wares in exchange for imported goods, and so became the leaders of the international trade of Arabia. Their caravans traversed the length and breadth of the peninsula. Syria, and especially Gaza, was their chief goal, and we read that the Syrian caravan intercepted, on its return, at Bedr represented capital to the value of £20,000 an enormous sum for those days.[670-7]

The victory of Mohammedanism made a vast change in the position of Mecca. The merchant aristocracy became satraps or pensioners of a great empire; but the seat of dominion was removed beyond the desert, and though Mecca and the Hijáz strove for a time to maintain political as well as religious predominance, as will be related under MOHAMMEDAN EMPIRE, the struggle was vain, and terminated on the death of Ibn Zubeyr, the Meccan pretendant to the caliphate, when the city was taken by Hajjáj (692 A.D.). On the other hand, the sanctuary and feast of Mecca received a new prestige from the victory of Islam. Purged of elements obviously heathenish, the Ka’ba (Caaba) became the holiest site, and the pilgrimage the most sacred ritual observance of Mohammedanism, drawing worshippers from so wide a circle that the confluence of the petty traders of the desert was no longer the main feature of the holy season. The pilgrimage retained its importance for the commercial wellbeing of Mecca; to this day the Meccans live by the Hajj—letting rooms, acting as guides and directors in the sacred ceremonies, as contractors and touts for land and sea transport, as well as exploiting for their own advantage the many benefactions that flow to the holy city ; while the surrounding Bedouins derive a chief part of their support from the camel-transport it demands and from the subsidies and gilts by which they are engaged to protect or abstain from molesting the pilgrim caravans. But the ancient "fairs of heathenism" were given up, and the traffic of the pilgrim season, sanctioned by the Prophet in sur. ii. 194, was concentrated at Miná and Mecca, where most of the pilgrims still have something to buy or sell, so that Miná, after the sacrifice of the feast day, presents the aspect of a huge international fancy fair.[670-8] In the Middle Ages this trade was much more important than it is now. Ibn Jubair in the 12th century describes the mart of Mecca in the eight days following the feast as full of gems, unguents, precious drugs, and all rare merchandise from India, ‘Irák, Khorásán, and every part of the Moslem world.[670-9]

Mecca, as has been already indicated, lies in a narrow sandy valley running approximately from north to south between the Red Mountain on the west and the loftier chain of J. Abu Kobeys on the east. These ranges, which are partly built on and rise several hundred feet above the valley, so enclose the city that the ancient walls only barred the valley at three points, where three gates led into the town. In the time of Ibn Jubair the gates still stood though the walls were ruined, but now the gates have only left their names to quarters of the town. At the northern or upper end was the Báb el Ma’lá, or gate of the upper quarter, whence the road continues up the valley towards Miná and ‘Arafa as well as towards Zeima and the Nejd. Beyond the gate, in a place called the Hajún, is the chief cemetery, said to be the resting-place of many of the companions of Mohammed. Here a cross-road, running over the hill to join the main Medina road from the western gate, turns off to the west by the pass of Kadá, the point from which the troops of the Prophet stormed the city (A.H. 8).[671-1] Here too the body of Ibn Zubeyr was hung on a cross by Hajjáj. The lower or southern gate, at the Masfala quarter, opened on the Yemen road, where the rain-water from Mecca flows off into an open valley. Beyond, there are mountains on both sides; on that to the east, commanding the town, is the great castle, a fortress of considerable strength. The third or western gate, Báb el-‘Omra (formerly also Báb el-Záhir, from a village of that name), lay almost opposite the great mosque, and opened on a road leading westwards round the southern spurs of the Red Mountain. This is the way to Wády Fátima and Medína, the Jidda [Jeddah] road branching off from it to the left. Considerable suburbs now lie outside the quarter named after this gate; in the Middle Ages a pleasant country road led for some miles through partly cultivated land with good wells, as far as the boundary of the sacred territory and gathering place of the pilgrims at Tau’ím, near the mosque of ‘Áísha. This is the spot on the Medína road now called the ‘Omra, from a ceremonial connected with it which will be mentioned below.

The length of the sinuous main axis of the city from the furthest suburbs on the Medina road to the suburbs in the extreme north, now frequented by Bedouins, is, according to Burckhardt, 3500 paces.[671-2] About the middle of this line the longitudinal thoroughfares are pushed aside by the vast courtyard and colonnades composing the great mosque, which, with its spacious arcades surrounding the Ka’ba and other holy places, and its seven minarets, forms the only prominent architectural feature of the city. The mosque is enclosed by houses with windows opening on the arcades and commanding a view of the Ka’ba. Immediately beyond these, on the side facing J. Abu Kobeys, a broad street runs south-east and north-west across the valley. This is the Mas’á or sacred course between the eminences of Safá and Merwa, and has been from very early times one of the most lively bazaars and the centre of Meccan life. The other chief bazaars are also near the mosque in smaller streets. The rest of the town presents no points of individual interest, but its general aspect is picturesque; the streets are fairly spacious, though ill-kept and filthy; the houses are all of stone, many of them well-built and four or five stories high, with terraced roofs and large projecting windows as in Jidda [Jeddah]—a style of building which has not varied materially since the 10th century (Mokaddasí, p. 71), and gains in effect from the way in which the dwellings run up the sides and spurs of the mountains. Of public institutions there are baths, ribáts or hospices for pour pilgrims from India, Java, &c., a hospital with fifty beds, a public kitchen for the poor, badly administered by the Turkish authorities. A settler from India has recently set up a theological school; but the old colleges around the mosque have long since been converted into lodgings.[671-3] The minor places of visitation for pilgrims, such as the birth places of the Prophet and his chief followers, are not notable.[671-4] Both these and the court of the great mosque are observed to lie beneath the general level of the city, so that it is evident that the site of the town has been gradually raised by accumulated rubbish. The town in fact has little air of antiquity; genuine Arab buildings do not last long, especially in a valley periodically ravaged by tremendous floods when the tropical rains burst on the surrounding hills. The history of Mecca is full of the record of these inundations, unsuccessfully combated by the great dam drawn across the valley by the caliph ‘Omar (Kutb el-Dín, p. 76), and later works of El-Mahdí.[671-5]

The fixed population of Mecca in 1878 was estimated by Assistant-Surgeon ‘Abd el-Razzák at 50,000 to 60,000; but the materials for an estimate are very inadequate where there is so large a floating population—and that not merely at the proper season of pilgrimage, the pilgrims of one season often beginning to arrive before those of the former season have all dispersed. At the height of the season the town is much overcrowded, and the entire want of a drainage system is severely felt. Fortunately good water is tolerably plentiful; for, though the wells are mostly undrinkable, and even the famous Zamzam water very unwholesome and tainted with sewage, the underground conduit from beyond ‘Arafa, completed by Sultan Selim II. in 1571, supplies to the public fountains a sweet and light water, containing, according to ‘Abd el-Razzák, a large amount of chlorides. The water is said to be free to townsmen, but is sold to the pilgrims at a rather high rate.[671-5]

Mediaeval writers celebrate the copious supplies, especially of fine fruits, brought to the city from Táif and other fertile parts of Arabia. These fruits are still famous; rice and other foreign products are brought by sea to Jidda; mutton is plentifully supplied from the desert.[671-7] The industries of Mecca all centre in the pilgrimage; the chief object of every Meccan—from the notables and sheikhs, who use their influence to gain custom for the Jidda speculators in the pilgrim traffic, down to the cicerones, pilgrim brokers, lodging house keepers, and semi-mendicant hangers on at the holy places—being to pillage the visitor in every possible way. Thus the fanaticism of the Meccan is an affair of the purse; the mongrel population (for the town is by no means purely Arab) has exchanged the virtues of the Bedouin fur the worst corruptions of Eastern town life, without casting off the ferocity of the desert, and it is hardly possible to find a worse certificate of character than the three parallel gashes on each cheek, called Tashrít, which are the customary mark of birth in the holy city. The unspeakable vices of Mecca are a scandal to all Islám, and constant source of wonder to pious pilgrims.[671-8] The slave trade, which still subsists and is very dear to the Arab heart, has connexions with the pilgrimage which are not yet thoroughly cleared up ; but there is no doubt that under cover of the pilgrimage a great deal of kidnapping and importation of slaves goes on.

Since the fall of Ibn Zubeyr the political position of Mecca his always been dependent on the movements of the greater Mohammedan world. In the splendid times of the caliphs immense sums were lavished upon the pilgrimage and the holy city; and conversely the decay of the central authority of Islám brought with it a long period of faction, wars, and misery, in which the most notable episode was the sack of Mecca, with circumstances of great barbarity, by the Carmathians at the pilgrimage season of 930 A.D. The victors carried off the "black stone," which was not restored for twenty-two years, and then only for a great ransom, when it was plain that even the loss of the palladium could not destroy the sacred character of the city. Under the Fatimites Egyptian influence began to be strong in Mecca; it was opposed by the sultans of Yemen, while native princes claiming descent from the Prophet—the Háshimite emírs of Mecca, and after them the emírs of the house of Katáda (since 1202)—attained to great authority and aimed at independence ; but soon after the final fall of the Abbasids the Egyptian overlordship was definitively established by Sultan Bíbars (1269 A.D ). The Turkish conquest of Egypt transferred the supremacy to the Ottoman sultans (1517), who treated Mecca with much favour, and during the 16th century executed great works in the sanctuary and temple. The Ottoman power, however, became gradually almost nominal, and that of the emírs or sherífs increased in proportion, culminating under Ghálib, wluse accession dates from 1786. Then followed the wars of the Wahhábís (see ARABIA, vol. ii. p. 260) and the restoration of Turkish rule by the troops of Mohammed ‘Alí. By him the dignity of sheríf was deprived of much of its weight, and in 1827 a change of dynasty was effected by the appointment of Ibn ‘Aun. Since that time the Turkish authority has again decayed, though Mecca is still nominally the capital of a Turkish province, and has a governor-general and a Turkish garrison, while Mohammedan law is administered by a judge sent from Constantinople. But, except within the larger towns, at which troops are stationed, the Turks are practically powerless, and the real sovereign of Mecca and the Hijáz is the sheríf, who, as head of a princely family claiming descent from the Prophet, holds a sort of feudal position in the country. The dignity of sheríf (or grand sheríf, as Europeans usually say for the sake of distinction, since all the kin of the princely houses reckoning descent from the Prophet are also named sherífs), is often conceived as a religious pontificate, and anti-Turkish Arabs contend that if the sultan and the sheríf were together in a mosque the latter would lead the prayers as imám; but it is more correct to regard the sheríf as the modern counterpart of the ancient emirs of Mecca already referred to, who were named in the public prayers immediately after the reigning caliph. This dignity long ran in the family of Hasan, son of the caliph ‘Alí, with which the present sherífs, in spite of changes of dynasty, still count kindred. The influence of the princes of Mecca has varied from time to time according to the strength of the foreign protectorate in the Hijáz or in consequence of feuds among the branches of the house; at present it is for most purposes much greater than that of the Turks. The latter are strong enough to hold the garrisoned towns, and thus the sultan is able within certain limits—playing off one against the other the two rival branches of the aristocracy, viz., the kin of Ghálib and the house of Ibn ‘Aun—to assert the right of designating or removing the sheríf, to whom in turn he owes the possibility of maintaining, with the aid of considerable pensions, the semblance of his much-prized lordship over the holy cities. The grand sheríf can muster a considerable force of freedmen and clients, and his kin holding wells and lands in various places through the Hijáz, act as his deputies and administer the old Arabic customary law to the Bedouins. To this influence the Hijáz owes what little of law and order it enjoys. After the sherífs the principal family of Mecca is the house of Sheyb, which holds the hereditary custodianship of the Ka’ba.





The Great Mosque and the Ka’ba.—Long before Mohammed the chief sanctuary of Mecca was the Ka’ba, a rude stone building, so named from its resemblance to a monstrous astragalus or die, of about 40 feet cube, though the shapeless mass is not really an exact cube or even exactly rectangular.[672-1] The Ka’ba has been rebuilt more than once since Mohammed purged it of idols and adopted it as the chief sanctuary of Islám, but the old form has been preserved except in secondary details;[672-2] so that the "Ancient House," as it is titled, is still essentially a heathen temple, adapted to the worship of Islám by the clumsy fiction that it was built by Abraham and Ishmael by divine revelation as a temple of pure monotheism, and that it was only temporarily perverted to idol worship from the time when ‘Amr ibn Lohay introduced the statue of Hobal from Syria[672-3] till the victory of Islám. This fiction has involved the superinduction of a new mythology about Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael over the old heathen ritual, which remains practically unchanged. Thus the chief object of veneration is the ancient fetish of the black stone, which is fixed in the external angle facing Safá. The building is not exactly oriented, but this may for convenience be called the south-east corner. Its technical name is the black corner, the others being named the Yemen (south-west), Syrian (north-west), and ‘Irák (north-east) corners, from the lands to which they approximately point. The black stone is a small dark mass a span long, with an aspect suggesting volcanic or meteoric origin, fixed at such a height that it can be conveniently kissed by a person of middle size. It was broken by fire in the siege of 683 A.D. (not as many authors relate, by the Carmathians), and the pieces are kept together by a silver setting. The history of this heavenly stone, given by Gabriel to Abraham, does not conceal the fact that it was originally a fetish, the most venerated of a multitude of idols and sacred stones which stood all round the sanctuary in the time of Mohammed. The Prophet destroyed the idols, but he left the characteristic form of worship—the tawáf, or sevenfold circuit of the sanctuary, the worshipper kissing or touching the objects of his veneration—and besides the black stone he recognized the so-called "southern" stone, the same presumably with that which is still touched in the tawáf at the Yemen comer (Muh. in Med., pp. 336, 425). The ceremony of the tawáf and the worship of stone fetishes was common to Mecca with other ancient Arabian sanctuaries.[673-1] It was, as it still is, a frequent religious exercise of the Meccans, and the first duty of one who returned to the city or arrived there under a vow of pilgrimage; and thus the outside of the Ka’ba was and is more important than the inside. Islám did away with the worship of idols; what was lost in interest by their suppression has been supplied by the invention of spots consecrated by recollections of Abraham, Ishmael, and Hagar, or held to be acceptable places of prayer. Thus the space of ten spans between the black stone and the door, which is on the east side, between the black and ‘Irák corners, and a man’s height from the ground, is called the Multazam, and here prayer should be offered after the tawáf with outstretched arms and breast pressed against the house. On the other side of the door, against the same wall, is a shallow trough which is said to mark the original site of the stone on which Abraham stood to build the Ka’ba. Here the growth of the legend can be traced, for the place is now called the "kneading-place" (Ma’jan) where the cement for the Ka’ba was prepared. This name and story do not appear in the older accounts. Once more, on the north side of the Ka’ba, there projects a low semicircular wall of marble with an opening at each end between it and the walls of the house. The space within is paved with mosaic, and is called the Hijr. It is included in the tawáf, and two slabs of verde antico within it are called the graves of Ishmael and Hagar, and are places of acceptable prayer. Even the golden or. gilded mízáb (water-spout) that projects into the Hijr marks a place where prayer is heard, and another such place is the part of the west wall close to the Yemen corner.

The feeling of religious conservatism which has preserved the structural rudeness of the Ka’ba through so many centuries did not interfere with the adoption of costly surface decoration. In Mohammed’s time the outer walls were covered by a vail (or kiswa) of striped Yemen cloth. The magnificence of the caliphs substituted a covering of figured brocade, and the sultan still sends with each pilgrim caravan from Cairo a new kiswa of black brocade, adorned with a broad band embroidered with golden inscriptions from the Koran, as well as a richer curtain for the door. The aspect thus given to the Ka’ba is seen in the woodcut; there are openings to show the two sacred stones.[673-2] The door of two leaves, with its posts and lintel, is of silver gilt.

The interior of the Ka’ba is now opened but a few times every year, there is a great scramble for admission—the portable staircase being seldom brought forward—and a great clamour for backshish ; thus the modern descriptions, from observations made under difficulties, are not very complete. Little change, however, seems to have been made since the time of Ibn Jubair, who describes the floor and walls as overlaid with richly variegated marbles, and the upper half of the walls as plated with silver thickly gilt, while the roof was vailed with coloured silk. Modern writers describe the place as windowless, but Ibn Jubair mentions five windows of rich stained glass from ‘Irák. Between the three pillars of teak hung thirteen silver lamps. A chest in the corner to the left of one entering contained Korans, and at the ‘Irák corner a space was cut off enclosing the stair that leads to the roof. The door to this stair (called the door of mercy—Báb el-Rahma) was plated with silver by the caliph Mutawakkil. Here, in the time of Ibn Jubair, the Makám or standing-stone of Abraham was usually placed for better security, but brought out on great occasions (pp. 131, 161).[673-3]

The houses of ancient Mecca pressed close upon the Ka’ba, the noblest families, who traced their descent from Kosay, the reputed founder of the city, having their dwellings immediately round the sanctuary. To the north of the Ka’ba was the Dár el-Nadwa, or place of assembly of the Koreysh, where all matters of public interest were discussed. The multiplication of pilgrims after Islám soon made it necessary to clear away the nearest dwellings and enlarge the place of prayer around the Ancient House. ‘Omar, ‘Othmán, and Ibn Zubeyr had all a share in this work, but the great founder of the mosque in its present form, with its spacious area and deep colonnades, was the caliph El-Mahdí, who spent enormous sums in bringing costly pillars from Egypt and Syria. The work was still incomplete at his death in 785 A.D., and was finished in less sumptuous style by his successor. Subsequent repairs and additions, extending down to Turkish times, have left little of El-Mahdí’s work untouched, though a few of the pillars probably date from his days. There are more than five hundred pillars in all, of very various style and workmanship, and the enclosure—250 paces in length and 200 in breadth, according to Burckhardt’s measurement—is entered by nineteen archways irregularly disposed.

After the Ka’ba the principal points of interest in the mosque are the well Zamzam and the Makám Ibráhím. The former is a. deep shaft enclosed in a massive vaulted building paved with marble, and, according to Mohammedan tradition, is the source (corresponding to the Beer-lahai-roi of Gen. xvi. 14) from which Hagar drew water for her son Ishmael. This of course is pure invention, and indeed the legend tells that the well was long covered up and. rediscovered by ‘Abd el-Muttalib, the grandfather of the Prophet. Sacred wells are familiar features of Semitic sanctuaries, and Islám, retaining the well, made a quasi-Biblical story for it, and endowed its tepid waters with miraculous curative virtues. They are eagerly drunk by the pilgrims, or when poured over the body are held to give a miraculous refreshment after the fatigues of religious exercise, and the manufacture of bottles or jars for carrying the water to distant countries is quite a trade. Ibn Jubair (p. 139) mentions a curious superstition of the Meccans, who believed that the water rose in the shaft at the full moon of the month Sha’bán. On this occasion a great, crowd, especially of young people, thronged round the well with shouts of religious enthusiasm, while the servants of the well dashed buckets of water over their heads. The Makám or standing place of Abraham is also connected with a relic of heathenism, the ancient holy stone which once stood on the Ma’jan, and is said to bear the prints of the patriarch’s feet. The whole legend of this stone, which is full of miraculous incidents, seems to have arisen from a misconception, the Makám Ibráhím in the Korán meaning the sanctuary itself; but the stone, which is a block about 3 spans in height and 2 in breadth, and in shape "like a potter’s furnace" (Ibn Jubair), is certainly very ancient. It is now covered up, and no one is allowed to see it, though the box in which it lies can be seen or touched through a grating in the little chapel that surrounds it. In the Middle Ages it was sometimes shown, and Ibn Jubair describes the pious enthusiasm with which he drank Zamzarn water poured on the footprints. It was covered with inscriptions in an unknown character, one of which was copied by Fákíhí in his history of Mecca. To judge by the facsimile in Dozy’s Israeliten te Mekka, the character is probably essentially one with that of the Syrian Safá inscriptions, which we now know to have extended through the Nejd and into the Hijáz.[674-1]

The general aspect of the great mosque will be best understood, by reference to the woodcut, which is taken from a photograph. The photographer has taken his stand, on a lofty building facing the black stone corner of the Ka’ba, so that house tops, with high parapets serving to protect the privacy of the women, who spend much of their time on these terraces, form too prominent a feature in the foreground, and obstruct the view of part of the cloistered area. The background is the Red Mountain; the fort which is seen above the town is not the great castle but a building of the sheríf Ghálib, dating from about the beginning of this century. It will be observed that at two places there are smaller cloistered courts annexed to the main colonnade. That to the right, with a polygonal minaret, corresponds to the ancient Dár el-Nadwá, which was included in the mosque by the caliph Mo’tadid. The other minor court is at the Báb Ibráhím. Of the two walls of the Ka’ba concealed from view, that to the right is the one adjoining the Hijr. The two-storied pagoda-like building facing this wall is the Makám or station for prayer of orthodox Moslems of the Hanafí. rite, to which the Turks belong. The similar stations of the other orthodox sects have but one story; that of the Málíkí rite is seen to the left of the Ka’ba; the roof of the Hanbalí station is just visible in the foreground a little to the left of the "black" corner; the Sháfí’í station, which stands on the roof of the Zamzam building, is more prominent a little to the right. Between this and the Makám Hanafí rises the slender gilt spire of the white marble pulpit from which sermons are preached on Fridays and high days. Between the pulpit and the Zamzam is the small chapel of Abraham’s stone. It does not rise high enough to be seen in the cut. The two small and ugly domes to the right of the Zamzam are the dome of ‘Abbás and the dome of the Jewess. They are used as storerooms, but the former, which has its name from the uncle of the Prophet, was formerly the drinking-place of the pilgrims. In the time of Ibn Jubair it was still used for cooling the Zamzam water. The oval part of the court next to the Ka’ba within the railing is paved with marble ; parts of the area beyond are also paved, part being strewn with gravel. Around the railing a number of glass lamps are lighted at night.

Safá and Merwa.—In religious importance these two points or "hills," connected, as we have seen, by the Mas’á, stand second only to the Ka’ba. Safá is an elevated platform surmounted by a triple arch, and approached by a flight of steps.[674-2] It lies south-east of the Ka’ba, facing the black corner, and 76 paces from the "Gate of Safá," which is architecturally the chief gate of the mosque. Merwa is a similar platform, formerly covered with a single arch, on the opposite side of the valley. It stands on a spur of the Red Mountain called J. Ku’ayki’án. The course between these two sacred points is 493 paces long, and the religious ceremony called the "sa’y" consists in traversing it seven times, beginning and ending at Safá, The lowest part of the course, between the so-called green milestones, is done at a run. This ceremony, which, as we shall presently see, is part of the ‘omra, is generally said to be performed in memory of Hagar, who ran to and fro between the two eminences vainly seeking water for her son. The observance, however, is certainly of pagan origin ; and at one time there were idols on both the so-called hills (see especially Azrakí, pp. 74, 78).

The Ceremonies and the Pilgrimage.—Before Islám the Ka’ba was the local sanctuary of the Meccans, where they prayed and did sacrifice, where oaths were administered and hard cases submitted to divine sentence according to the immemorial custom of Semitic shrines. Bat besides this, as we have seen, Mecca was already a place of pilgrimage. Pilgrimage with the ancient Arabs was the fulfilment of a vow, which appears to have generally terminated— at least on the part of the well-to-do—in a sacrificial feast. A vow of pilgrimage might be directed to other sanctuaries than Mecca,—the technical word for it (ihlál) is applied for example to the pilgrimage to Manát (Bekrí, p. 519). He who was under such a vow was bound by ceremonial observances of abstinence from certain acts (e.g., hunting) and sensual pleasures, and in particular was forbidden to shear or comb his hair till the fulfilment of the vow. This old Semitic usage has its close parallel in the vow of the Nazarite. It was not peculiarly connected with Mecca; at Táif, for example, it was customary on return to the city after an absence to present oneself at the sanctuary, and there shear the hair (Muh. in Med., p. 381). Pilgrimages to Mecca were not tied to a single time, but they were naturally associated with festive occasions, and especially with the great annual feast and market already spoken of, when by extensive hospitality the citizens did all in their power to attract the worshippers who were at the same time their customers. The pilgrimage was so intimately connected with the wellbeing of Mecca, and had already such a hold on the Arabs round about, that the politic Mohammed could not afford to sacrifice it to an abstract purity of religion, and thus the old usages were transplanted into Islám in the double form of the ‘omra or vow of pilgrimage to Mecca, which can be discharged at any time, and the hajj or pilgrimage at the great annual feast. The latter closes with a visit to the Ka’ba, but its essential ceremonies lie outside Mecca, at the neighbouring shrines where the old Arabs gathered before the Meccan fair.

The ‘omra begins at some point outside the Haram or holy territory, generally at Tan’ím described above, both for convenience sake and because ‘Aisha began the ‘omra there in the year 10 of the Flight. The pilgrim enters the Haram in the antique and scanty pilgrimage dress (ihrám), consisting of two cloths wound round his person in a way prescribed by ritual. His devotion is expressed in shouts of Labbeyka (a word of obscure origin and meaning) ; he enters the great mosque, performs the tawáf and the sa’y[675-1] with circumstances and prayers which it is unnecessary to detail, and then has his head shaved and resumes his common dress. This ceremony is now generally combined with the hajj, or is performed by every stranger or traveller when he enters Mecca, and the ihrám (which involves the acts of abstinence already referred to) is assumed at a considerable distance from the city. But it is also proper during one’s residence in the holy city to perform at least one ‘omra from Tan’ím in connexion with a visit to the mosque of ‘Aisha there. The absurd triviality of these rites is ill concealed by the legends of the sa’y of Hagar and of the tawáf being first performed by Adam in imitation of the circuit of the angels about the throne of God; but in truth the meaning of their ceremonies seems to have been almost a blank to the Arabs before Islám, whose religion had become a mere formal tradition. We do not even know to what deity the worship expressed in the tawáf was properly addressed. There is a tradition that the Ka’ba was a temple of Saturn (Shahrastání, p. 431); perhaps the most distinctive feature of the shrine may be sought in the sacred doves which still enjoy the protection of the sanctuary. These recall the sacred doves of Ascalon (Philo, vi. 200 of Richter’s ed.), and suggest Venus-worship as at least one element (comp. Herod., i. 131 ; iii. 8; Ephr. Syr., Op. Syr., ii, 457).





To the ordinary pilgrim the ‘omra has become so much an episode of the hajj that it is often described as a mere visit to the mosque of ‘Aisha ; a better conception of its original significance is got from the Meccan feast of the seventh month (Rajab) graphically described by Ibn Jubair from his observations in 1184 A.D. Rajab was one of the ancient sacred months, and the feast, which extended through the whole month, and was a joyful season of hospitality and thanksgiving, no doubt represents the ancient feasts of Mecca, more exactly than the ceremonies of the hajj, in which old usage has been overlaid by traditions and glosses of Islám. The ‘omra was performed by crowds from day to day, especially at new and full moon.[675-2] The new moon celebration was nocturnal; the road to Tan’ím, the Mas’á, and the mosque wore brilliantly illuminated ; and the appearing of the moon was greeted with noisy music. A genuine old Arab market was held, for the wild Bedouins of the Yemen mountains came in thousands to barter their cattle and fruits for clothing, and deemed that to absent themselves would bring drought and cattle plague in their homes. Though ignorant of the legal ritual and prayers, they performed the tawáf with enthusiasm, throwing themselves against the Ka’ba and clinging to its curtains as a child clings to its mother. They also made a point of entering the Ka’ba. The 29th of the month was the feast day of the Meccan women, when they and their little ones had the Ka’ba to themselves without the presence even of the Sheybís.

The central and essential ceremonies of the hajj or greater pilgrimage are those of the day of ‘Arafa, the 9th of the "pilgrimage month" (Dhu’l Hijja), the last of the Arab years; and every Moslem who is his own master, and can command the necessary means is bound to join in these once in his life. By them the pilgrim becomes as pure from sin as when he was born, and gains for the rest of his life the honourable title of hajj. Neglect of other parts of the pilgrim ceremonial may be compensated by offerings, but to miss the "stand" (wokúf) at ‘Arafa is to miss the pilgrimage. ‘Arafa or ‘Arafát is a space artificially limited, round a small isolated hill called the Hill of Mercy, a little way outside the holy territory, on the road from Mecca to Táíf. One leaving Mecca after midday can easily reach the place on foot the same evening. The road is first northwards along the Mecca valley and then turns eastward. It leads through the straggling village of Miná, occupying a long narrow valley (W. Miná), two to three hours from Mecca, and thence by the mosque of Muzdalifa over a narrow pass opening out into the plain of ‘Arafa, which is an expansion of the great W. Na’mán, through which the Táíf road descends from Mount Kara. The lofty and rugged mountains of the Hodheyl tower over the plain on the north side and overshadow the little Hill of Mercy, which is one of those bosses of weathered granite so common in the Hijáz. ‘Arafa, as we have already seen, lay quite near Dhu’l-Majáz, where, according to Arabian tradition, a great fair was held from the 1st to the 8th of the pilgrimage month; and the ceremonies from which the hajj was derived were originally an appendix to this fair. Now on the contrary the pilgrim is expected to follow as closely as may be the movements of the Prophet at his "farewell pilgrimage" in the year 10 of the Flight (632 A.D.). He therefore leaves Mecca in pilgrim garb on the 8th of Dhú’l Hijja, called the day of tarwíya (an obscure and pre-Islamic name), and strictly speaking should spend the night at Miná. It is now, however, customary to go right on and encamp at once at ‘Arafa. The night should be spent in devotion, but the coffee booths so a lively trade, and songs are as common as prayers. Next forenoon the pilgrim is free to move about, and towards midday he may if he please hear a sermon. In the afternoon the essential ceremony begins; it consists simply in "standing" on Arafa shouting Labbeyka and reciting prayers and texts till sunset. After the sun is down the vast assemblage breaks up, and a rush (technically ifáda, daf’, nafr) is made in the utmost confusion to Muzdalifa, where the night prayer is said and the night spent. Before sunrise next morning (the 10th) a second "stand" like that on ‘Arafa is made for a short time by torchlight round the mosque of Muzdalifa, but before the sun is fairly up all must be in motion in the second ifáda towards Miná. The day thus commenced is the "day of sacrifice," and has four ceremonies—(1) to pelt with seven stones a cairn (jamrat el ‘akaba) at the eastern end of W. Miná, (2) to slay a victim at Miná and hold a sacrificial meal, part of the flesh being also dried and so preserved, or given to the poor, [675-3] (3) to be shaved and so terminate the ihram, (4) to make the third ifáda, i.e., go to Mecca and perform the tawáf and sa’y (‘omrat el-ifáda), returning thereafter to Miná. The sacrifice and visit to Mecca may, however, be delayed till the 11th, 12th, or 13th. These are the days of Miná, a fair and a joyous feast, with no special ceremony except that each the pilgrim is expected to throw seven stones at the jamrat el’akaba, and also at each of two similar cairns in the valley. The stones are thrown in the name of Alláh, and are generally thought to be directed at the devil. This is, however, a custom older than Islám, and a tradition in Azrakí, p. 412, represents it as an act of worship to idols at Miná. As the stones are thrown on the days of the fair, it is not unlikely that they have something to do with the old Arab mode of closing a sale by the purchaser throwing a stone (Bírúní, p. 328).[675-4] The pilgrims leave Miná on the 12th or 13th, and the hajj is then over.

The colourless character of these ceremonies is plainly due to the fact that they are nothing more than expurgated heathen rites. In Islám proper they have no raison d’être; the legends about Adam and Eve on ‘Arafa, about Abraham’s sacrifice of the ram at Thabír by Miná, imitated in the sacrifices of the pilgrimage, are more clumsy afterthoughts, as appears from their variations and only partial acceptance. It is not so easy to get at the nature of the original rites, which Islám was careful to suppress. But old usages were not quickly eradicated, and we find mention of practices condemned by the orthodox, or forming no part of the Moslem ritual, which may be regarded as traces of an older ceremonial. Such are nocturnal illuminations at Miná (Ibn Batúta, i. 396), ‘Arafa, and Muzdalifa (Ibn Jubair, p. 179), and tawáfs performed by the ignorant at holy spots at ‘Arafa not recognized by law (Snouck-Hurgronje, p. 149 sq.). We know that the rites at Muzdalifa were originally connected with a holy hill bearing the name of the god Kuzah (the Edomite Kozé) whose bow is the rainbow, and there is reason to think that the ifádas from ‘Arafa and Kuzah, which were not made as now after sunset and before sunrise, but when the sun rested on the tops of the mountains, were ceremonies of farewell and salutation to the sun-god.

The statistics of the pilgrimage cannot be given with certainty and vary much from year to year. The quarantine office keeps a record of arrivals by sea at Jiddah [Jeddah] (30,271 for the year 1878 A.D., or 1295 A.H.); but to these must be added the great overland caravans from Cairo, Damascus, and 'Irak, the pilgrims who reach Medina from Yanbu’ and go on to Mecca, and those from all parts of the peninsula. Burckhardt in 1814 estimated the crowd at ‘Arafa at 70,000, Burton in 1853 at 50,000, ‘Abd el-Razzák, in 1858 at 60,000. This great assemblage is always a dangerous centre of infection, and the days of Miná especially, spent under circumstances originally adapted only fro a Bebouin fair, with no provisions for proper cleanliness, and with the air full of the smell of putrefying offal and flesh drying in the sun, produce much sickness.

Literature.—Besides the Arabic geographers and cosmographers, many of whom have been already cited, we have Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih’s description of the mosque, early in the 10th century (‘Ikd Farid, Cairo edition, iii. 362 sq.), but above all the admirable record of Ibn Jubair (1184 A.D.), by far the best account extent of Mecca and the pilgrimage. It has been much pillaged by Ibn Batúta. The Arabic historians are largely occupied with fabulous matter as to Mecca before Islám; for these legends the reader may refer to C. de Perceval’s Essai. How little confidence can be placed in the pre-Islamic history appears very clearly from the distorted accounts of Abraha’s excursion against the Hijáz, which fell but a few years before the birth of the prophet, and is the first event in Meccan history which has confirmation from other sources. See Nöldeke’s version of Tabarí, p. 204 sq. For the period of the prophet Ibn Hishám and Wákídí are valuable sources in topography as well as history. Of the special histories and descriptions of Mecca published by Wüstenfeld (Chroniken der Staat Mekka, 3 vols., 1857-59, with an abstract in German 1861), the most valuable is that of Azvakí. It has passed through the hands of several editors, but the oldest part goes back to the beginning of the 9th Christian century. Kutb el-Dín’s history (vol. iii. of the Chroniken) goes down with the additions of his nephew to 1592 A.D.

Of European descriptions of Mecca from personal observation the best is Burckhardt’s Travels in Arabia (cited above from the 8vo ed., 1829). The Travels of Aly Bey (Badia), London, 1816, describe a visit in 1807; Burton’s Pilgrimage (3d ed., 1879) often supplements Burckhardt; Von Maltzan’s Wallfahrt nach Mekka, 1865, is lively but very slight. ‘Abd el-Razzák’s report to the Government of India on the pilgrimage of 1858 is specially directed to sanitary questions. For the pilgrimage see particularly Snouck-Hurgronje, Het Mekkaansche Feest, Leyden, 1880. (W. R. S.)


Footnotes

669-1 Hijáz is here taken in the usual political sense of the word. The Turkish Wály of the Hijáz has his winter residence at Mecca and his summer quarters at Táif. In a narrower sense the Hijáz is the lofty mountainous country between the central plateau ol Nejd (or Negd, as it is called by the natives) and the lowlands of the coast (Tiháma). In this sense El-Asma’í reckons Mecca to the Tiháma, and well-informed Arabs still follow him.

669-2 A variant of the name Makka is Bakka (sur. iii. 90 ; Bekrí, 155 sq.). For other names and honorific epithets of the city see Bekrí, ut supra, Azrakí, p. 197, Yákút, iv. 617 sq. The lists are in part corrupt, and some of the names (Kúthá and ‘Arsh or ‘Ursh, "the huts") are not properly names of the town as a whole.

669-3 The upper part of this wády has two branches, W. Leimún and W. Nakhla. In the latter lie the gardens of Sóla and the village of Zeima with its great hot spring (comp. Yákút, iii. 197). Above Zeima the path is desert.

670-1 To this description of the valleys surrounding the Mecca group on three sides, which is mainly drawn from personal observation in 1880, it may be added that there is a direct and easy camel route from Zeima to ‘Arafa between the Mecca hills and the mountains of the Hodheil. Taking this fact with the statement of Wákídí (Wellhausen’s Muh. in. Med., p. 341) that every wády in the sacred territory flows outwards into common ground except that at Tan’im (near the Hudúd on the Medina road, Yákút, i. 879 ; Ibn Jubair, p. 110) we see that Mecca lies in an isolated group of hills—a sort of outpost of the great mountain wall.

670-2 The inland road in ancient times was not; so valuable as the coast road to Syria, on account of the scarcity of water (Muh. in Med., p. 100).

670-3 Mecca, says one of its citizens, ap. Wákídí (Kremer’s ed., p. 196, or Muh. in Med., p. 100), is a settlement formed for trade with Syria in summer and Abyssinia in winter, and cannot continue to exist if the trade is interrupted.

670-4 Details as to the inhabitants and constitution of Mecca before Islám will be given under MOHAMMED.

670-5 The details are variously related. See Bírúní, p. 328 (E. T., p. 324); Asma’í in Yákút, iii, 705, iv. 416, 421; Azrakí, p. 129 sq. ; Bekrí, p. 661. Jebel Kebkab is a great mountain occupying the angle between W. Na’mán and the plain of ‘Arafa. The peak is due north of Sheddád, the hamlet which Burchardt (i. 115) calls Shedad. According to Azrakí, p. 80, the last shrine visited was that of the three trees of ‘Uzzá in W. Nakhla.

670-6 So we are told by Bírúní, p. 62 (E. T p 73).

670-7 Wákídí, ed. Kremer, pp. 20, 21 , Muh. in Med., p. 39.

670-8 The older fairs were not entirely deserted till the troubles of the last days of the Omayyads (Azrakí, p. 131).

670-9 Ibn Jubair, ed. Wright, p. 118 sq.

671-1 This is the cross-road traversed by Burckhardt (i 109), and described by him as cut through the rocks with much labour.

671-2 Istrakhrí gives the length of the city proper from north to south as 2 miles, and the greatest breadth from the Jiyád quarter east of the great mosque across the valley and up the western slopes as two-thirds of the length.

671-3 The pious foundations of Mecca have been robbed by their guardians from very early times. See already Ibn Haukal, p. 25.

671-4 for details as to the ancient quarters of Mecca, where the several families or septs lived apart from generation to generation, see Azrakí, p. 445 sq., and compare Ya’kubí, ed. Juynboll, p. 100. The modern town is best described by Burckhardt, who gives a plan of the city. The minor sacred places are described at length by Azrakí and Ibn Jubair. They are cither connected with genuine memories of the Prophet and his times, or have spurious legends to conceal the fact that they were originally holy stones, wells, or the like, of heathen sanctity.

671-5 Beládhorí, in his chapter on the floods of Mecca (p. 53 sq.), says that ‘Omar built two dams.

671-6 The aqueduct is the successor of an older one associated with the names of Zobeyda, wife of Harún el-Rashíd, and other benefactors. But the old aqueduct was frequently out of repair, and seems to have played but a secondary part in the mediaeval water supply. Even the new aqueduct gave no adequate supply in Burckhardt’s time.

671-7 In Ibn Jubair’s time (p. 132) large supplies were brought from the Yemen mountains. The revenues of Yemen are still mainly expended on the distribution of grain by the sultan in the Hijáz.

671-8 The corruption of manners in Mecca is no new thing. See the letter of the caliph Mahdi on the subject; Wüstenfeld, Chron. Mek., iv. 168.

672-1 The following measurements may be cited :—Ibn ‘Abd Rabbih (10th century), south side 20 cubits, north 21, east and west 25 each (so Azrakí) ; Ibn Jubair (12th century), sides 54 and 48 spans, height 29 cubits at the highest or south wall, with a slight fall to the north side where the mízáb or water-spout discharges (Azrakí, 27 cubits); Burckhardt, sides 18 paces by 14, height 35 to 40 feet. Other modern measures vary considerably. The height was raised by Ibn Zubeyr from 18 to 27 cubits. Compare Muh. in Med., p. 426.

672-2 The Ka’ba of Mohammed’s time was itself the successor of an older building said to have been destroyed by fire. It was constructed in the still usual rude style of Arabic masonry, with string courses of timber between the stones (like Solomon’s temple). The roof rested on six pillars; the door was raised above the ground and approached by a stair (probably on account of the floods which often swept the valley); and worshippers left their slices under the stair before entering. During the first siege of Mecca (683 A.D.) the building was burned down, and Ibn Zubeyr reconstructed it on an enlarged scale and in better style of solid ashlar work. After his death his most glaring innovations (the introduction of two doors on a level with the ground, and the extension of the building lengthwise to include the Hijr) were corrected by Hajjáj under orders from the caliph, but the building retained its more solid structure. The roof now rested on three pillars, and the height was raised one-half. The Ka’ba was again entirely rebuilt after the flood of 1626 A.D., but since Hajjáj there seem to have been no structural changes.

672-3 Hobal was set up within the temple over the pit that contained the sacred treasurers. His chief function was connected with the sacred lot which the Meccans were accustomed to betake themselves in all matters of difficulty.

673-1 See Ibn Hishám, i. 54; Azrakí, p. 80 (‘Uzzá in Batn Marr); Yákút, iii. 705 (Otheydá) ; Bar Hebraeus, on Psalm xii. 9. Stones worshipped by circling round them bore the name dawár or duwár (Krehl, Rel. d. Araber, p. 69). The later Arabs not unnaturally viewed such cultus as imitated from that of Mecca (Yákút, iv. 622 ; comp. Dozy, Israeliten te Mekka, p. 125, who draws very perverse inferences).

673-2 The old kiswa is removed on the 25th day of the month before the pilgrimage, and fragments of it are bought by the pilgrims as charms. Till the 10th day of the pilgrimage month the Ka’ba is bare.

673-3 Before Islám the Kaba was opened every Monday and Thursday; in the time of Ibn Juhair it was opened with considerable ceremony every Monday and Friday, and daily in the month Rajab. But, though prayer within the building is favoured by the example of the Prophet, it is not compulsory on the Moslem, and even in the time of Ibn Batúta the opportunities of entrance were reduced to Friday and the birthday of the Prophet.

674-1 See De Vogué, Syrie, Centrale: Inscr. Sem.; Lady Anne Blunt, Pilgrimage to Nejd, vol. ii.; and W. R. Smith, in the Athenaeum, March 20, 1880.

674-2 Ibn Jubair speaks of fourteen steps, Aly Bey of four, Burckhardt of three. The surrounding ground no doubt has risen so that the old name "hill of Safá" is now inapplicable,

675-1 The latter perhaps was no part of the ancient ‘omra; see Snouck-Hurgronje, Het Mekkaansche Feest, 1880, p. 115 sq.

675-2 The 27th was also a great day, but this day was in commemoration of the rebuilding of the Ka’ba by Ibn Zubeyr.

675-3 The sacrifice is not indispensable except for those who can afford it and are combining the hajj with the ‘omra.

675-4 On the similar pelting of the supposed graves of Abú Lahab and his wife (Ibn Jubair, p. 110) and of Abú Righál at Mughammas, see Nöldeke’s translation of Tabarí, p. 208.



The above article was written by: William Robertson Smith.



Search the Encyclopedia:



About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Sitemaps
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us



© 2005-16 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries