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Issue 16 view printable version

Islamic Tourism Prospects

View World Tourism Exhibitions

 

In the holy places

This year I was able to make the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, several years after my first pilgrimage. During this time I meditated on the name, history and rituals of holy Mecca - particularly the Holy Kaaba.

 

The Kaaba is referred to in the Koran by different names : the Ancient House, Al-Bayt Al-Haram (holy house), the Inhabited House, the House and the Kaaba. Indeed, verse 29 of sourate Al-Hajj, says: "and (again) circumambulate the Ancient House"; as well as in verse 97 of sourate Al-Maida: "Allah made the Ka'ba, the Sacred House, an asylum of security for men" and in verse 1-4 of Attour sourate "By the Mount (of Revelation); By a Decree Inscribed ; In a Scroll unfolded; By the much-frequented Fane"; as well as in verse 97 of sourate Al-Imran "pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah, those who can afford the journey".

 

The Kaaba is the center towards which all Muslims around the world direct their prayers. It is also the place of pilgrimage : one of the five pillars of Islam.

 

One may ask : which is the oldest - Mecca or Kaaba? The conclusive answer is given to us by Koranic verses, as well as by historical works. Kaaba is the oldest; it goes back to the beginning of human history. God said: "The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka; full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings" (Al-Imrane / 96). Historians indicate that Al-Bayt Al-Haram existed before Adam's arrival on earth. When Adam came to earth, God ordered him to go on pilgrimage to this place so that the relationship between the Creator and his creatures was not severed.

 

When Abraham came to the Arabian Peninsula, he made Mecca a home for his wife Hajar and his son Ismail. He asked God to make this land secure and wealthy: "O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Thy Sacred House; in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular prayer" (Abraham/37).

 

The history of the thirst of the young Ismail, his mother's quest to find water for him and the miraculous spur of the water of Zemzem to quinch their thirst and benefit Mecca and the surrounding area, is very well recounted in history.

 

Water of Zemzem

The first people who came to Mecca are descendents of the Yemeni tribe of Jorhom. They asked permission from Hajar to settle close to her and to use the water. She accepted, with some conditions.

 

Then, came the Yemeni tribe Al-Amalek (the giants), who also asked for permission to use the water of Zemzem and settled on the summits of the mountains surrounding Mecca. The two tribes lived in peace for a long time. The young Ismail grew up in this region, married into the Jorhom tribe and busied himself with the domestication of wild horses. Nowadays, one finds an area close to Mecca called Al-Ajyad (the horses).

 

Abraham Al-Khalil returned to see his son Ismail and start new chapters in the history of the faith and civilization in this holy land. Thus, Abraham and Ismail finished the construction of the House "And remember Abraham and Isma'il raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): "Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: for Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing" (Al Baqara / 127).

 

When they finished constructing the House, they called upon all the people to go on pilgrimage and pray there: "Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): "and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer) ". [27] "And proclaim the pilgrimage among men; they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways; " (Al Hajj/26).

 

Thus, God proclaimed that this House is his and made it a symbol of the faith, a holy place of prayer, pilgrimage and the house of his welcome. The pilgrim who arrives there is a guest of God. The one who makes the tour of the Kaaba is as the one who turns around the throne repeating the traditional incantation: "labbayka Allahumma labbayk, labbayka la charika laka labbayk, inna al hamda wa ni'mata laka wa al molk, la charika laka, labbayk." (I wait for Your Orders, Lord, You That don't have a partner, I wait for Your Orders".

 

 

Architecture Of The Saintly Kaaba

The available documents indicate that the Holy Kaaba has been constructed five times:

 

1 - It was first constructed by the angels just before the arrival of humans (Al-Imrane / 96).

 

2 – It was constructed by Adam and God ordered him to make the pilgrimage there.

 

3 - It was constructed by Abraham and Ismail, after its walls collapsed and only the foundations remained. It is clear according to sourate Al-Baqara/127 that Abraham didn't establish the foundations of the Kaaba and that he only constructed its walls.

 

4 - It was constructed By Quoresh in pre-Islamic times, just before the Prophecy of Prophet Mohamed, following its devastation by a fire. Quoreshes hesitated to demolish it until the arrival of Al-Walid Ibn Al-Moghira, who removed the first stone, The Prophet, who was young at the time, participated with Banou Hashim in carrying the stones, and had the privilege of placing the black stone (Al-Hajar Al-aswad) in its place, after the tribes disagreed about where to put it. They agreed to refer the matter to the one who first appeared in front of the Kaaba - and it was the Prophet. The Prophet’s biographies tell us they accepted his arbitration.

 

5 - It was constructed by Ibn Azzoubeir, when Abdallah Ibn Azzoubeir refused to give his allegiance to Yazid Ibn Mouawiya and took refuge in the Kaaba. Yazid sent his army to arrest Ibn Azzoubeir, who gathered his followers around the Kaaba. One of the tents surrounding it caught fire and a violent wind spread the flames to the Kaaba, which burned down (Saturday 3 Rabia Al-Awal 64 A. H.). The inhabitants of Mecca and Bilad Al-Cham were frightened. Yazid died 27 days after this incident and Ibn Azzoubeir sent some people of Quoresh to tell Al Hasaine that Yazid was dead - so why continue fighting? Al Hasaine returned with his army to Bilad Al-Cham and Ibnou Azzoubeir consulted the notables of Mecca about the demolition of the Kaaba. A minority agreed, whereas the majority was against it. Ibn Azzoubeir asked them: "Who among you would not replaster his father's or his mother's house? How can I not replaster God's house when it is in such a damaged state that it would collapse if a dove landed on it? Ibn Azzoubeir spent several days in consultation and managed to get the unanimous decision he needed to demolish the Kaaba, in accordance with the wishes of Prophet Mohamed, and rebuilt it according to the design of Abraham and Ismail. He put the black stone inside and endowed it with two doors, one to the east and the other to the west.

 

The Holy cover

Some historic sources indicate that Ismail Ibn Abraham was the first to cover the Kaaba, whereas others say it was Adnane the Prophet's grandfather. It has been historically verified that Tubaa Abi Karab Assaad, the King of Houmair, was the first to have it covered on his return from the battle of Yathrib in 220 B. H. Afterwards, different kings and emirs presented their gifts to the Kaaba and covered it with different materials, such as wool and silk.

 

From where does the Kaaba get its name?

The Kaaba has a cubic shape, from which the name Al-Kaaba is derived. The Arabs gave a name to every angle of the Kaaba: the Iraqi angle, Bilad Cham, and Yemeni. The black angle refers to the place where the black stone is deposited.

 

This brief summary has been collected from Koranic verses and history books. God honored this holy place with Prophet Abraham and his descendants and Prophet Mohamed and his descendants. The following Muslim call echoes throughout the world: "O God pray on Mohamed and his descendants as you did on Abraham and his descendants".

 

Abraham Al-Khalil came to guide humanity to worship the one and only God. Prophet Mohamed was the last of the Prophets. He embarked on a global mission thousands of years before the term 'globalisation' was coined. God made the Holy Kaaba the center of the earth, towards which the Muslim community direct themselves five times a day. There is one prayer, one language and one ritual throughout the Muslim world. What an excellent example of internationalization!

 

During Hajj, one can see the magnificence of this religion. Muslims from all over the world stand equal through the same practices and rituals ; praying to God for forgiveness and mercy : "O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full Knowledge and is well-acquainted (with all things)" (Al Hujurate / 13).

 

This year, there were more than two million pilgrims on Mount Arafat. Saudi Arabia imposed limited visas; one thousand people per one million for every country. If all those who wanted to make the pilgrimage, had received their visas, the number would increase considerably (perhaps to more than 100 million). However, the available facilities in the holy places cannot accommodate such numbers. What other form of tourism can compete with this religious tourism?

 

We pray to God to guide humanity towards the righteous path.

 

May Allah guide us to success.


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