A Brief History of Masjid Al-Haraam and It’s Expansion – by Amir Al-Athari

A brief history of al-Masjid al-Haraam and it’s expansion, Hajr Al-Aswad and How many time Hajj was Suspended?

Praise be to Allaah.

Al-Masjid al-Haraam (the Sacred Mosque) is situated in Makkah, a city in the Arabian Peninsula 330 meters above sea-level. The history of the mosque goes back to its founding at the time of Ibraaheem (Abraham) and his son Ismaa’eel (Ishmael), peace be upon them both. Makkah is the place where the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was born and where the Revelation began, and from which the light of Islam spread. Al-Masjid al-Haraam is located here. This is the first mosque that was built for people on earth, as Allaah says in the Qur’aan (interpretation of the meaning):

“Verily, the first House (of worship) appointed for mankind was that at Bakkah (Makkah), full of blessing, and a guidance for al-‘aalameen (mankind and jinns).” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:96].

It was reported in Saheeh Muslim that Abu Dharr said:
“I asked the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) about the first mosque to be built for people on earth. He said, ‘Al-Masjid al-Haraam.’ I asked, ‘Then which?’ He said, ‘Al-Masjid al-Aqsaa [The Furthest Mosque, in Jerusalem].’ I asked, ‘How long between them?’ He said, ‘Forty years.’”

The Ka’bah – which is the direction of prayer for all Muslims throughout the world – is situated roughly in the middle of al-Masjid al-Haraam. It is a 15-meter high stone structure more or less in the shape of a cube. It was built by Ibraaheem (peace be upon him) on the command of Allaah. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And (remember) when We showed Ibraaheem the site of the (Sacred) House (the Ka’bah at Makkah) (saying): ‘Associate not anything (in worship) with Me, and sanctify My House for those who circumambulate it, and those who bow and make prostration.” [al-Hajj 22:26]

The word “bawwa’naa” [translated here as “We showed”] means “He guided him and gave him permission to build it.”

(Tafseer Ibn Katheer).
Allaah also says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And (remember) when Ibraaheem and (his son) Ismaa’eel were raising the foundations of the House (the Ka’bah at Makkah)…” [al-Baqarah 2:127]

Wahb ibn Munbih said:
“… It was built by Ibraaheem, then [rebuilt] by the Amalekites, then by Jurham, then by Qusayy ibn Kilaab. Its rebuilding by Quraysh is well known… They began to rebuild it with the stones of the valley, which Quraysh carried on their shoulders, and they built it up, 20 cubits high… Between the rebuilding of the Ka’bah and the beginning of the Revelation there were five years, and between the rebuilding and the Hijrah there were fifteen years. ‘Abd al-Razzaaq reported from Mu’ammar from ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Uthmaan from Abu’l-Tufayl, and from Mu’ammar from al-Zuhri: ‘They were building it and when they reached al-Rukn, Quraysh argued about which tribe should lift it up. Then they said, “Let us ask the first person who comes from this direction to judge between us.” They agreed on that, then the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came to them, and he was a young man wearing a spotted sash. They asked him to judge between them, and he told them to place al-Rukn on a piece of cloth, then he told the chief of every tribe to hold the edge of the cloth, then he climbed up and they lifted al-Rukn up to him, and he himself (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) put it into its place.”

(Taareekh Makkah by al-Azraqi, 1/161-164)

Muslim (2374) reported that ‘Aa’ishah said:
“I asked the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) about al-Jadr [the wall] and whether it was part of the House [the Ka’bah]. He said, ‘Yes.’ I asked, ‘So why is it not incorporated into the House?’ He said, ‘Your people ran out of money.’ I asked, ‘What about the door? Why is it high up?’ He said, ‘Your people did that so they could let in whomever they wanted and keep out whomever they wanted. If it were not for the fact that your people are still new [in Islam] and too close to their Jaahiliyyah, and I am afraid that they would resent it, I would think of incorporating al-Jadr into the House and bringing the door down to ground level.’”

Before Islam (in the year in which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was born), the Ka’bah was subjected to an attack by the Ethiopian Abrahah, who had built al-Qulays, a church to which he wanted the Arabs to make their pilgrimage. He set out with his army, with whom was the elephant, and when they reached Makkah, Allaah sent flocks of birds against them; each bird was carrying three stones like chickpeas or lentils, one in its beak and two in its claws. Every man who was struck by a stone was killed, so the army was destroyed, by the command of Allaah.

Allaah has mentioned this incident in His Book, where He says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the Owners of the Elephant? Did He not make their plot go astray?

And sent against them birds, in flocks,

Striking them with stones of Sijjeel,

And made them like an empty field of slaks (in which the corn has been eaten up by cattle).” [al-Feel 105:1-5]

(See al-Seerah al-Nabawiyyah by Ibn Hishaam, 1/44-58).

There was no fence or wall around the Ka’bah until it became necessary. Yaaqoot al-Hamawi said in Mu’jam al-Buldaan (5/146): “The first one to build a wall around the Ka’bah was ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him); there was no wall around it during the time of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) or Abu Bakr. [The wall was built] because people were building their houses too close to the Ka’bah and making the space around it too small for people. ‘Umar said: ‘The Ka’bah is the House of Allaah, and a house needs a courtyard. You have encroached on its space, it has not encroached on yours.’ So he bought those houses, demolished them and added that space to the space around the Ka’bah. He also destroyed the houses of people in the vicinity of the Ka’bah who had refused to sell, and kept the money aside for them until they came and took it later on. He built a wall around the mosque, lower than the height of a man, and lamps were placed on it. When ‘Uthmaan was khaleefah, he bought more houses that were more expensive… It was said that ‘Uthmaan was the first one to build porticos around it … When Ibn al-Zubayr was in power, he improved its appearance, although he did not increase its size, by adding marble pillars, extra doors and other improvements. When ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwaan was khaleefah, he added to the wall of the mosque, and brought columns from Egypt by sea to Jeddah, which were carried from Jeddah to Makkah on wheels. Al-Hajjaaj ibn Yoosuf commanded that the Ka’bah should be covered in drapes (al-kiswah) and when al-Waleed ibn ‘Abd al-Malik was khaleefah, he added to the adornment of the kiswah and spent money on improvements to the drainage spout and roof… When al-Mansoor and his son al-Mahdi were khaleefahs, they added more adornments to the mosque and improved its appearance.”

There are also other religious monuments in the Mosque, such as Maqaam Ibraaheem (the Station of Ibraaheem), which is the rock on which Ibraaheem (peace be upon him) stood whilst he was building the Ka’bah. There is also the Well of Zamzam, which is a spring of water brought forth by Allaah for Haajar and her child Ismaa’eel (peace be upon him) when he got thirsty. We should not forget either the Black Stone and al-Rukn al-Yamaani, which are two of the precious stones of Paradise. Al-Tirmidhi and Ahmad reported that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr said: “I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) saying that the Rukn and the Maqaam are two of the precious stones of Paradise, whose light has been extinguished by Allaah. If He had not extinguished their light, it would illuminate everything between the East and the West.”

(Sunan al-Tirmidhi, 804).
Near the Mosque are the two hills of al-Safa and al-Marwah. One of the unique features of the Mosque is that it is the only mosque in the world to which people come on pilgrimage (Hajj). Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Verily! Al-Safa and al-Marwah are of the Symbols of Allaah. So it is not a sin on him who performs Hajj or ‘Umrah (pilgrimage) of the House to perform the going (tawaaf) between them. And whoever does good voluntarily, then verily, Allaah is All-Recognizer, All-Knower.” [al-Baqarah 2:158]

Another of its unique features is that Allaah has made it safe, and one prayer in it is equal to a hundred thousand prayers elsewhere. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And (remember) when We made the House a place of resort for mankind and a place of safety. And take you (people) the Maqaam (place) of Ibraaheem as a place of prayer, and We commanded Ibraaheem and Ismaa’eel that they should purify My House for those who are circumabulating it, or staying (I’tikaaf), or bowing or prostrating themselves.” [al-Baqarah 2:125]

“In it are manifest signs (for example); the maqaam (place) of Ibraaheem; whoever enters it, he attains security. And Hajj to the House is a duty that mankind owes to Allaah, those who can afford the expenses (for one’s conveyance, provision and residence); and whoever disbelieves [i.e., denies Hajj, then he is a disbeliever of Allaah], then Allaah stands not in need of any of the ‘aalameen (mankind and jinns).” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:97]

First Major Expansion happened During the Sa’ūdi Rule.

The first major renovation under #Imam ibn Sa’ūd 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 (As-Safa and Al-Marwah) is included in the Mosque, via roofing and enclosures. During this renovation many of the historical features particularly the support columns, were demolished.

Second Saudi expansion .

The second Saudi renovations Started under Khadim_al_ Harāmayn Shah Fahd bin Abd al Aziz Aal Sa’ūd ,he added a new wing and an outdoor prayer area to the mosque. The new wing, which is also for prayers, is reached through the King Fahd Gate. This extension was performed between 1982 and 1988.

1988 to 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 took place simultaneously with those in Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah. This extension also added 18 more gates, three domes corresponding in position to each gate and the installation of nearly 500 marble columns. Other modern developments added heated floors, air conditioning, escalators and a drainage systems.

Third Saudi expansion

In 2008, the Saudi government under King Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz announced an expansion of the mosque, involving the expropriation of land to the north and northwest of the mosque covering 300,000 square metres (3,200,000 sq ft) . At that time, the mosque covered an area of 356,800 square metres (3,841,000 sq ft) including indoor and outdoor praying spaces. 40 billion riyals (US$10.6 billion) was allocated for the expansion project.

In August 2011, the government under King Abdullah announced further details of the expansion. It would cover an area of 400,000 m2 (4,300,000 sq ft) and accommodate 1.2 million worshippers, including a multi-level extension on the north side of the complex, new stairways and tunnels, a gate named after King Abdullah, and two minarets, bringing the total number of minarets to eleven. The circumambulation areas (Mataf) around the Kaaba would be expanded and all closed spaces receive air conditioning. After completion, it would raise the mosque’s capacity from 770,000 to over 2.5 million worshippers. His successor King Salman launched five megaprojects as part of the overall King Abdullah Expansion Project in July 2015, covering an area of 456,000 square metres (4,910,000 sq ft). The project was carried out by the Saudi Bin Laden Group.

Some historical facts about the Ḥajr Aswad (Black Stone) in the Ka’bah

Theologically, from the ḥadith we learn that Jibrīl brought this stone to Ibrahīm from Jannah, and that it was originally white Hajr Al Abyadh.When the ancient tribe of Jurham was expelled from Makkah (before the time of Jesus, some millennia before Islam), they took the Ḥajr and hid it; however Allah willed that a lady from the tribe of Khuzā`ah saw this from afar and told her tribe where it was hidden. Hence they dug it back and replaced it. It is possible it was first broken during this time – sources are vague.

During the time of Abdullah b. Zubayr’s rule over Makkah, the city was attacked twice by the Umayyads. In the first attack, in 64 AH, the Ka`bah caught fire and was severely damaged. Ibn al-Zubayr was the first to order that the broken stones of the Ḥajr be placed in a case of silver ore to protect it, as it was damaged in this attack (again, sources are unclear but it is highly likely that the Ḥajr was broken again after Jurham’s incident; it is also possible that it was broken for the first time). In the second attack in 73 AH some walls of the Ka’bah were destroyed but the Ḥajr was untouched. More than a century later, the Caliph Ḥarun al-Rashīd saw the pitiful state of the Ḥajr’s silver case, and ordered a new one built in around 170 AH. This was an extremely fancy case, encrusted with diamonds and silver and other jewels.

The worst incident to ever occur to the Ḥajr was during the infamous raid of the Qarāmitta, a break-away sect of the Isma`īlis, who attacked the Ka’bah in 317 AH (this is one of the most bizarre incidents in Islamic history – the well of Zamzam was filled with the dead bodies of the pilgrims and Ḥajj was stopped for a few years). The leader of them, a certain Abu Ṭāhir al-Jannābī Koofi , climbed the Ka’ba, shouted out blasphemies, and broke the Ḥajr with an axe. This group hijacked the Ḥajr and installed it inside Masjid Jawatha in their province of al-Aḥṣā, where the Ḥajr remained for 22 years! Finally, after a hefty ransom payment by the Abbasids empire, the Ḥajr was returned, cracked and broken, to Makkah.(Yes, for 22 years there was no Black Stone in the Ka’bah!) During this phase, the Ḥajr was completely shattered into bits and what was returned was various pebbles of the original, in a sack.

It is now that the modern structure recognizable to us was born. A large ingot of silver and other precious metals was made, and around 15 remaining pieces of the Ḥajr, none of which was larger than two centimeters (0.7 inches), placed in the metal ingot. Some of these pieces – perhaps around 8 – simple melded in and could not be seen anymore. Only around 7 of the larger pieces of the original remain, as seen in a hand-drawn diagram traced directly on top of the Ḥajr (below) in the year 1957 CE.

However, over the course of the last few decades, and in order to protect the Ḥajr, an extremely expensive mixture of frankincense, ambergris and other compounds is poured as an outer layer over the stone, so that the continual rubbing and kissing of the Ḥajr doesn’t wear it out and so that it is protected with a layer. Hence, if you were to stand in front of the Ḥajr and had time to examine it (theoretically!), you would not actually be able to see the original stones of the Ḥajr; only the shapes are vaguely discernible.

During the time of King Abd al-Azīz bin Abd al Rehman( Imam ibn Sa’ūd) in the 1950s, he ordered that a small sample be taken for a chemical examination; after the analysis, he himself placed it back into the ingot that it currently stands in. While the silver ingot is updated and cleansed and taken care of, the ingot itself has not been broken apart to expose the original pieces of the Ḥajr for many, many centuries.

Did you know that the Haram was closed more than 40 times in history?
This is not the first_time in history. Out of the 40 times it happened, here are some of the most significant closures of the Haram:

865 AD: It was first closed in 251 AH. Ismail Ibn Yusuf_al_Alawi ( إسماعيل السفاك بن يوسف الأخيضر هو إسماعيل بن يوسف بن إبراهيم بن موسى بن عبدالله ) a Zaydi Imam carried out a massacre in Makkah killing hundreds of Hujjaj.

930 AD: This was one of the most disastrous events. The Qaramita lead by their leader Abū Tāhir Sulaymān al-Jannābī (ibn Abe Sayeedh) , who are an extremist sub group of the Ismaili attacked Makkah. They called tawaf around the Kabah as idol worship. They tried to destroy the Kabah and stole the Black Stone. Umrah was stopped in that year. They took the Black Stone with them to their capital Hajar( modern day Hof’ouf city ) and placed in Jawatha mosque. They tried to invent their alternate version of Hajj instead. For 22 years it remained in their possession until it was bought back . While they were stealing it, the black stone broke into 7 pieces as it is seen today. According to the historian Al-Juwayni, the stone was returned in around 952 CE and restored to its original location during Calipha Motilillha Aal Abbasi.

1258 AD: The Mongolians attacked Baghdad with the help of Twelve’r Scholars, Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Tūsī and Muḥammad b. Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib b. al-ʿAlqamī They massacred over 2 million people and threw 500,000 books from the House of Wisdom into the river. They also assassinated the Khalifah and his family. Out of fear for their lives and safety concerns amidst this chaos, the people didn’t come for Umrah.

1814 AD: This is the historic plague the Prophet peace be upon him spoke about. More than 8,000 people died.

1831 AD: There was an outbreak of a contagious disease from India. It claimed the lives of over 3 quarters of the Hujjaj present in Makkah at the time.

1892 AD: There was an outbreak of severe cholera. The bodies of the Hujjaj were piled up like mountains around the Haram, till they were able to be buried. What’s worse is that this happened on the Day of Arafat.

1979 AD: Juhaiman Al Otaibi claimed to be Al mahdi and with 500 followers, he took an armed siege of the Haram for 2 weeks until a coalition of commandos were able to defeat them and reopen the Haram.

1987 AD: Around 10000 people around the Haram were affected by meningitis which is an inflammatory disease impacting the brain and spinal cord.

Even in Time of Sharifian rule (Bani Qatadah bin Idris)- Ottoman protractorates, they had built places around the Harām for quarantine, so that people coming to Hajj would be placed and treated there in case of any issues.

Facts about the Maqām Ibrahīm (The Station of Abraham)

The Maqām is mentioned twice in the Quran [2:125 and 3:97]; we are told to take it as a place of prayer, and that it is a ‘clear sign’.

Historically, it is considered to be the rock that Ibrahīm (as) stood on while building the Ka’bah, then to announce the pilgrimage, and perhaps later to pray on as well. He would always stand on it barefoot, and eventually his lengthy standing left clear imprints of his feet on the rock. Abu Talib, the uncle of the Prophet (عليه سلام) has poetry that mentions the imprint.

However, the constant touching and rubbing of it over five thousand years caused the imprint to fade away. Anas b. Mālik said, “I saw the imprint of Ibrahim’s feet – I could make out the toes and the sole, but the people’s constant touching of it erased most of it” [Muwatta – v. of Ibn Wahb]. During the next few centuries, as more and more Muslims came, the tracings of the feet continued to erode.

In the year 161 AH, the Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdī placed the Maqām on a beautiful granite base and decorated it. This practice of having a decorated base remained.

The original rock used to be displayed publicly for many millennia, until the infamous attack of the Qarāmiṭa Isma’ili Shia in 317 AH. They attempted to dislodge it and take it with them (like they did with the Black Stone), but weren’t able to pull it out from the base it was on. From then onwards, the authorities decided to place a protected shield/box around the Maqām, and for the last thousand years, it was not visible to the public except on rare occasions. Eventually the Maqām was enclosed in a grail-metal lattice-room with shaded rooftops that people could pray behind. Anyone who did Ḥajj/Umrah in the early 1960s would remember this.

The last time the actual Maqām was examined was around 1960, by Sh. Muḥammad Ṭahir al-Kurdī (who also sketched the Black Stone – He said that he could not see ANY traces of the feet except for a slight imprint where the soles would have been – and even that was difficult to make out. He said that it was an average size stone, roughly cubed shape, around 20 cm in height (7.8 inches), and 36 cm average width (14 inches), reddish in color but closer to white.

In 1964, the Sa’ūdi authorities sought religious permission from the Rābiṭa al-Islami to demolish the lattice room and to then showcase the Maqām in a strongly reinforced glass receptacle (which all of you are familiar with). That is what we see today (although the glass receptacle has been updated a few times).

However: the actual rock itself is completely covered by a silver alloy case, and the authorities have decided to show a deep imprint of two feet on that silver case. Sadly, neither does that outer imprint show the current imprint, nor even does it represent the original as it used to be!


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