Masjid al-Haram

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Al-Masjid Al-Ḥarām
The Sacred Mosque
Al-Masjid Al-Haram is located in Saudi Arabia
Al-Masjid Al-Haram
Al-Masjid Al-Haram
Location in present-day Saudi Arabia
Coordinates: 21°25′19″N 39°49′34″E / 21.422°N 39.826°E / 21.422; 39.826Coordinates: 21°25′19″N 39°49′34″E / 21.422°N 39.826°E / 21.422; 39.826
LocationMecca, present-day Saudi Arabia[1]
EstablishedAt the time of Abraham
AdministrationSaudi Arabian government
Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais
Saud Al-Shuraim
Maher Al Mueaqly
Architectural information
Capacity900,000 worshippers (increased to 4,000,000 worshippers during the Hajj period)
Minaret height89 m (292 ft)

Jump to: navigation, search
Al-Masjid Al-Ḥarām
The Sacred Mosque
Al-Masjid Al-Haram is located in Saudi Arabia
Al-Masjid Al-Haram
Al-Masjid Al-Haram
Location in present-day Saudi Arabia
Coordinates: 21°25′19″N 39°49′34″E / 21.422°N 39.826°E / 21.422; 39.826Coordinates: 21°25′19″N 39°49′34″E / 21.422°N 39.826°E / 21.422; 39.826
LocationMecca, present-day Saudi Arabia[1]
EstablishedAt the time of Abraham
AdministrationSaudi Arabian government
Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais
Saud Al-Shuraim
Maher Al Mueaqly
Architectural information
Capacity900,000 worshippers (increased to 4,000,000 worshippers during the Hajj period)
Minaret height89 m (292 ft)


Al-Masjid Al-Haram or Masjidil Haram (Arabic: المسجد الحرام‎, The Sacred Mosque or The Grand Mosque)[2] is in the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is the largest mosque in the world and surrounds one of Islam's holiest places, the Kaaba.[3][4] Muslims face in the direction of the Kaaba while performing Salat. One of the Five Pillars of Islam requires every Muslim to perform the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime if able to do so, including circumambulation of the Kaaba.

The current structure covers an area of 356,800 square metres (88.2 acres) including the outdoor and indoor praying spaces and can accommodate up to two million worshipers during the Hajj period, one of the largest annual gatherings of people in the world. Unlike many other mosques which are segregated, men and women can worship at Al-Masjid Al-Haram together.


Mecca in 1850, during the Ottoman period
Mecca in 1910


According to Islamic tradition the very first construction of the Kaaba, the heart of Al-Masjid Al-Haram, was undertaken by Abraham. The Qur'an said that this was the first house built for humanity to worship Allah.[Quran 3:96]

With the order of the God [Quran 22:26], Abraham and his son Ishmael found the original foundation and rebuilt the Kaaba [Quran 2:125] [Quran 2:127] in 2130 BCE.[citation needed] Hajar-Al-Aswad, the Black Stone situated on the lower side of the eastern corner of the Kaaba, is believed to be the only remnant of the original structure made by Abraham.

Muslim belief also places the incident of Ishmael's mother searching for water in the general vicinity of the mosque. In the story, Hagar runs between the hills of Safa and Marwah looking for water for her infant son until God eventually reveals to her the Zamzam Well.[citation needed] The "Zamzam well" and "Safa and Marwah" are structures in Al-Masjid al-Haram.

First Islamic Era[edit]

Upon Muhammad's victorious return to Mecca in 630, he and his son-in-law, Ali Ibn Abi Talib, broke the idols in and around the Kaaba and ended its pagan use. This began the Islamic rule over the Kaaba and the building of Al-Masjid Al-Haram around it.[citation needed]

The first major renovation to the mosque took place in 692. Before this renovation, which included the mosque's outer walls being raised and decoration added to the ceiling, the mosque was a small open area with the Kaaba at the center. By the end of the 8th century, the Mosque's old wooden columns had been replaced with marble columns and the wings of the prayer hall had been extended on both sides along with the addition of a minaret. The spread of Islam in the Middle East and the influx of pilgrims required an almost complete rebuilding of the site which included adding more marble and three more minarets.[citation needed]


In 1570, Sultan Selim II commissioned the chief architect Mimar Sinan to renovate the mosque. This renovation resulted in the replacement of the flat roof with domes decorated with calligraphy internally, and the placement of new support columns which are acknowledged as the earliest architectural features of the present mosque. These features are the oldest surviving parts of the building.

During the heavy rains and flash floods of 1621 and 1629, the walls of the Kaaba and the mosque suffered extensive damage.[5] In 1629, during the reign of Sultan Murad IV, the Kaaba was rebuilt with stones from Mecca and the mosque was renovated. In the renovation of the mosque, a new stone arcade was added, three more minarets (which made the total number 7) were built, and the marble flooring was retiled. This was the unaltered state of the mosque for nearly three centuries.


The first major renovation under the Saudi kings was done between 1955 and 1973. In this renovation, four more minarets were added, the ceiling was refurnished, and the floor was replaced with artificial stone and marble. The Mas'a gallery (Al-Safa and Al-Marwah) is included in the Masjid via roofing and enclosements. During this renovation many of the historical features built by the Ottomans, particularly the support columns, were demolished.

The second Saudi renovations under King Fahd, added a new wing and an outdoor prayer area to the mosque. The new wing, which is also for prayers, is accessed through the King Fahd Gate. This extension is considered to have been from 1982 to 1988.

The third Saudi extension (1988–2005) saw the building of more minarets, the erecting of a King's residence overlooking the mosque and more prayer area in and around the mosque itself. These developments have taken place simultaneously with those in Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah. This third extension has also resulted in 18 more gates, three domes corresponding in position to each gate and the installation of nearly 500 marble columns. Other modern developments include the addition of heated floors, air conditioning, escalators and a drainage system.

Current expansion project[edit]

Masjid Al Haram on the expansion project seen from Ajyad

In 2007, the mosque underwent a fourth extension project which is estimated to last until 2020. King Abdullah Ibn Abdul Azeez plans to increase the mosque's capacity to 2 million.[2][6]

Northern expansion of the mosque began in August 2011 and is expected to be completed in 1.5 years. The area of the mosque will be expanded from the current 356,000 m2 (3,830,000 sq ft) to 400,000 m2 (4,300,000 sq ft). A new gate named after King Abdullah will be built together with two new minarets, bringing their total to 11. The cost of the project is $10.6 billion and after completion the mosque will house over 2.5 million worshipers. The Mataf (the circumambulation areas around the Kaaba) will also see expansion and all closed spaces will be air conditioned.[7]

Controversies on expansion projects[edit]

There has been some controversy that the expansion projects of the mosque and Mecca itself are causing harm to early Islamic heritage. Many ancient buildings, some more than a thousand years old, have been demolished to make room not only for the expansion of Al-Masjid Al-Haram, but for new malls and hotels.[8] Some examples are:[9][10]

Religious significance[edit]

The importance of the mosque is twofold. It not only serves as the common direction towards which Muslims pray, but is also the main location for pilgrimages.


Main article: Qibla

The Qibla—the direction that Muslims turn to in their prayers (salat)—is toward the Kaaba and symbolizes unity in worshiping one Allah (God). At one point the direction of the Qibla was toward Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) (and is therefore called the First of the Two Qiblas),[citation needed] however, this only lasted for seventeen months, after which the Qibla became oriented towards the Kaaba in Mecca. According to accounts from Muhammad's companions, the change happened very suddenly during the noon prayer at Medina in the Masjid al-Qiblatain.


Main articles: Hajj and Umrah
Al-Masjid al-Haram panorama during Hajj, 2007

The Haram is the focal point of the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages[11] that occur in the month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the Islamic calendar and at any time of the year, respectively. The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the Pillars of Islam, required of all able-bodied Muslims who can afford the trip. In recent times, about 3 million Muslims perform the Hajj every year.

Some of the rituals performed by pilgrims are symbolic of historical incidents. For example, the episode of Hagar's search for water is emulated by Muslims as they run between the two hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah.

The Hajj is associated with the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Ibrahim (Abraham).

Symbolic structures[edit]


Pilgrims circumambulating the Kaaba

The Kaaba (Arabic: الكعبة‎) is a cuboid-shaped building in the center of Al-Masjid Al-Haram and is one of the most sacred sites in Islam.[12] All Muslims around the world face the Kaaba during prayers, no matter where they are. This is called facing the Qibla.

The Hajj requires pilgrims to walk seven times around the Kaaba in a counter-clockwise direction. This circumambulation, the Tawaf, is also performed by pilgrims during the Umrah (lesser pilgrimage).[12][13][14]

Black Stone[edit]

Muslim pilgrims jostle for a chance to kiss the Black Stone

The Black Stone (Arabic: الحجر الأسودal-Ḥajar al-Aswad) is the eastern cornerstone of the Kaaba.[15] It was set intact into the Kaaba 's wall by Muhammad in the year 605, five years before his first revelation. Since then it has been broken into a number of fragments and is now cemented into a silver frame in the side of the Kaaba. Its physical appearance is that of a fragmented dark rock, polished smooth by the hands of millions of pilgrims.

Many of the pilgrims, if possible, stop and kiss the Black Stone, emulating the kiss that Islamic tradition records it having received from Muhammad.[16] If they cannot reach it, they point to it on each of their seven circuits around the Kaaba .[11]

Maqām Ibrahim[edit]

The Maqām Ibrahim (Abraham's place of standing) is a rock that reportedly has an imprint of Abraham's foot, which is kept in a crystal dome next to the Kaaba. This rock was identified by most Islamic scholars as the one behind which Muhammad prayed when he circumambulated the Kaaba.[17] Several traditions existed to explain how Abraham's footprint miraculously appeared in the stone, including one suggesting it appeared when Abraham stood on the stone while building the Kaaba; when the walls became too high, Abraham stood on the maqām, which miraculously rose up to let him continue building and also miraculously went down in order to allow Ishmael to hand him stones.[17] Other traditions held that the footprint appeared when the wife of Ishmael washed Abraham's head, or alternatively when Abraham stood atop it in order to summon the people to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca.[17]

Al-Safa and Al-Marwa[edit]

Mount Al-Safa in Al-Masjid Al-Haram

Al-Safa and Al-Marwah (Arabic: الصفاAṣ-Ṣafā, المروة Al-Marwah) are two hills, now located in Al-Masjid Al-Haram. In Islamic tradition, Abraham's wife Hagar runs between the hills of Safa and Marwah looking for water for her infant son Ishmael until God eventually reveals her the Zamzam. Muslims also travel back and forth seven times during the ritual pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah as a remembrance to her.

Al-Safa – from which the ritual walking (Arabic: سعىsaʿy) begins – is located approximately half a mile from the Kaaba. Al-Marwah is located about 100 m (330 ft) from the Kaaba. The distance between Safa and Marwah is approximately 450 m (1,480 ft)

Zamzam Well[edit]

An area with taps supplying Zamzam

The Zamzam Well (Arabic: زمزم‎) is a well located 20 m (66 ft) east of the Kaaba.[18] It began circa 2150 BCE when Abraham's infant son Ishmael was thirsty and kept crying for water.


There are mainly two groups of people in terms of spiritual leadership in the masjid. These are imams and muadhins.

Imam is a clerk who lead prayer in the masjid. There are several imams and a lead imam of Al-Masjid Al-Haram. Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais is the current chief of imam of Masjid al-Haram.

Muadhin performs adhan (call to prayer) and ikamah duties in Al-Masjid Al-Haram. Several families share these duties including Mulla, Shaker, Rayes, Al-Abbas, Hadrawi, Basnawi, Khouj, Marouf and Faydah.[citation needed] Some of these families held this position for hundreds of years; for example, the al-Abbas.[citation needed] There are 16 Muadhins at the mosque, and during Ramadan an additional six are appointed.[citation needed] Apart from adhan, a Muadhin also supports Imams by repeating some of what they say in a loud voice.

Former Imams[citation needed]
  • Abdullah Al-Khulaifi (عبد الله الخليفي)
  • Ahmad Khatib Al-Minangkabawi
  • Ali Jaber (على بن عبد الله جابر)
  • Umar Al-Subayyil (عمر السبيل)
  • Muhammed Al-Subayyil (محمد السبيل)
  • Abdullah Al Humaid (عبد الله الحميد), former Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia
  • Abdullah Al-Harazi (عبدالله الحرازي), former Chairman of Saudi Majlis al Shura
  • Abdullah Khayyat (عبدالله خياط)
  • Ali Bin Abdur Rahman Al Hudhaify, now chief imam of Al-Masjid an-Nabawi
  • Salah Ibn Muhammad Al Budair, now in Al-Masjid an-Nabawi
Current Imams[citation needed]
  • Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais (عبد الرحمن السديس), Chief of imams at Al-Masjid al-Haram
  • Saud Al-Shuraim (سعود بن إبراهيم الشريم), Deputy Chief of imams at Al-Masjid al-Haram, judge at Mecca High Court
  • Abdullah Awad Al Juhany (عبدالله عواد الجهني), appointed in July 2007
  • Maher Al Mueaqly (ماهر المعيقلي), appointed in July 2007
  • Khalid Al Ghamdi (خالد الغامدي), appointed after Hajj 2008
  • Salih bin Abdullah al Humaid (صالح بن حميد), chairman of Saudi Majlis al Shura
  • Usaama bin Abdullah al Khayyat (أسامة بن عبدالله خياط)
  • Saleh Al-Talib (صالح ال طالب), appointed in 2003, judge at Mecca High Court
  • Faisal Jamil Ghazzawi
  • Bandar Baleelah- appointed 2013
Former Muadhins[citation needed]
  • Ahmad Mohammad Al al-Abbas (أحمد بن محمد بن أمين آل العباس), died 1924
  • Mohammed Hassan Al al-Abbas (محمد حسن بن أحمد آل العباس), died 1971
  • Abdulaziz Asad Reyes (عبد العزيز أسعد ريس), died 2011
  • AbdulHafith Khoj (عبد الحفيظ خوج)
  • AbdulRahman Shaker (عبد الرحمن شاكر)
  • Ahmad Shahhat (أحمد شحات)
  • Hassan Zabidi (حسان زبيدي)
Current Muadhins[citation needed]
  • Ali Ahmed Mulla (على أحمد ملا)
  • Mohammed Ali Shaker (محمد علي شاكر)
  • Mohammed Yousif Shaker (محمد يوسف شاكر)
  • Majid Ibrahim Al al-Abbas (ماجد ابراهيم آل العباس)
  • Farouk Abdulrahman Hadrawi (فاروق عبد الرحمن حضراوى)
  • Naif bin Salih Wa'dhudeen (نايف فيدة), Chief of Muadhins since October 2010
  • Ahmed Abdullah Basnawi (أحمد عبد الله بصنوي)
  • Toufiq Khouj (توفيق خوج)
  • Mohammed Siraj Marouf (محمد سراج معروف)
  • Ahmed bin Younas Khoja (أحمد يونس خوجه)
  • Umar Fallataha
  • Hamd Ad Dughreeree
  • Muhammad Maghribi

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Google maps. al-Haram&aq=&sll=24.46844,39.611807&sspn=0.011894,0.021136&vpsrc=0&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=&t=m&z=16&cid=6183997883437107077&iwloc=A "Location of Masjid al-Haram". Google maps. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Saudi Arabia starts major expansion of Grand Mosque in Mecca
  3. ^ "The 40 Steps Towards the Grave of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و آله و صحبه وسلم . The Virtues of Madinah. #1 | - The People of Madina". Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  4. ^ "". Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  5. ^ James Wynbrandt (2010). A Brief History of Saudi Arabia. Infobase Publishing. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-8160-7876-9. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Ambitious new architecture plan for Al-Masjid Al-Haram
  7. ^ "Historic Masjid Al-Haram Extension Launched". onislam. 20 August 2011. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 
  8. ^ Laessing, Ulf (18 November 2010). "Mecca goes Upmarket". Reuters. Retrieved 1 December 2010. 
  9. ^ Taylor, Jerome (24 September 2011). "Mecca for the rich: Islam's holiest site turning into Vegas". The Independent. 
  10. ^ Abou-Ragheb, Laith (12 July 2005). "Dr.Sami Angawi on Wahhabi Desecration of Makkah". Center for Islamic Pluralism. Retrieved 28 November 2010. 
  11. ^ a b Mohammed, Mamdouh N. (1996). Hajj to Umrah: From A to Z. Mamdouh Mohammed. ISBN 0-915957-54-X. 
  12. ^ a b Wensinck, A. J; Ka`ba. Encyclopaedia of Islam IV p. 317
  13. ^ "In pictures: Hajj pilgrimage". BBC News. 7 December 2008. Retrieved 8 December 2008. 
  14. ^ "As Hajj begins, more changes and challenges in store". altmuslim. 
  15. ^ Shaykh Safi-Ar-Rahman Al-Mubarkpuri (2002). Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum (The Sealed Nectar): Biography of the Prophet. Dar-As-Salam Publications. ISBN 1-59144-071-8. 
  16. ^ Elliott, Jeri (1992). Your Door to Arabia. Lower Hutt, N.Z.: R. Eberhardt. ISBN 0-473-01546-3. 
  17. ^ a b c M.J. Kister, "Maḳām Ibrāhīm," p. 105, The Encyclopaedia of Islam (new ed.), vol. VI (Mahk-Mid), eds. Bosworth et al., Brill: 1991, pp. 104-107.
  18. ^ "Zamzam Studies and Research Centre". Saudi Geological Survey. Archived from the original on 5 February 2005. Retrieved 5 June 2005. 

External links[edit]