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Known as the mother of towns, Mecca is also called “Becca” and “the safe town”. Both Mecca and Becca mean a house in Babylonian. The greater area of Mecca is surrounded by Yemen in the south, the Mediterranean Sea in the north, the Persian Gulf in the east and the Read Sea in the west. It is at the crossroads of intercontinental routes, in particular Africa, where Jeddah in particular as a harbor by the Red Sea, played an important role in connecting Mecca to the sea routes. In Mecca, the area where the Kaabah was situated was called al-Batha, and the city center was called Batnu Mecca.


Mecca was established by a great Prophet of Allah, glory unto Him. Ibrahim, the father of Prophets had a wife called Sarah who had not borne him any child. Sarah gave her slave girl Hagar to Ibrahim and they married after her emancipation. From this marriage Ismail was born, to whom the Muhammedan light was transmitted, much to the disappointment of Sarah who had expected the light to be passed on through her. Seeing the light passed onto Ismail instead from the former slave girl Hagar, she became very sad. She asked Ibrahim to take Hagar and Ismail to a remote place. This was of course only the visible reason behind the greater Divine will. So with the command of Allah, glory unto Him, Ibrahim took them to Mecca, guided on the way through by the Archangel Jibrîl. Upon reaching Mecca the angel told Ibrahim to house his family over there.

But Ibrahim protested, saying:

“This place is neither fit for agriculture nor for animal husbandry.”

Jibril however calmed him:

“Indeed…But from the offspring of your sons the illiterate Prophet will emerge. And with him will be completed the Divine Word, the words of unity (tawhid).” (Ibn-i Sa’d, I, 164)

Abdullah b. Abbâs[1] (may Allah be happy with him) narrates:

“The Prophet Ibrahim took our mother Hagar and his son, still an infant, to Mecca. He left them behind a tree which near the fount of Zamzam awaiing to be digged. He also gave them a basket of dates and a jug of water. When he was about to go back, Hagar asked:

“Did Allah command you to leave us here in this barren land?”

“Yes”, Ibrahim answered.

Hagar then said in great submission and trust to Allah:

“In that case our Lord will protect us. We will not be forsaken.”

Then she returned to her son Ismail. Once walking out of sight of both Ismail and Hagar, Ibrahim opened his hands towards the skies and supplicated:

‘O our Lord! Surely I have settled a part of my offspring in a valley unproductive of fruit, near Your Sacred House, our Lord, that they may keep up prayer. Therefore make the hearts of some people yearn towards them and provide them with fruits, haply they may be grateful’” (Ibrâhîm, 37)” (Bukhari, Anbiya, 9)

Leaving his only son and wife back in this barren land, Ibrahim supplicated Allah in the following way:

“My Lord, make this a Land of Safety, and feed its people with fruits, such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day.” (al-Baqara, 126)

The Almighty accepted his prayers, exempting the unbelievers from His mercy and threatening them in the following words:

“…He said: “(Yea), and such as reject Faith,-for a while will I grant them their pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of Fire,- an evil destination (indeed)! (al-Baqara, 126)

Even today, due to the prayers of Ibrahim, the Almighty fills the hearts of pilgrims with love and respect towards the Holy Kaabah. Souls find unparalled peace and tranquility in those holy lands.

The little water left by Ibrahim for Hagar was consumed in no time. Hoping to find some water Hagar rushed between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times. The distance between these two hills is about four hundred meters. When she was running between the hills, she was also watching her baby with the corners of her eyes. But there was no trace of life around; no human beings, not even birds. When she yet again reached the Hill of Marwa she heard a voice command:

“Be silent and listen!”

“Yes, I can hear you…Please help us if you can!” she answered.

She then saw an angel digging with either its wings or heels the fount of Zamzam. Water gushed forth. Hagar became very happy. She first filled her water-skin. Yet the more she took with her hands from the water, the more it sprang. She immediately started making a little well around the spring to collect the gushing water, saying ‘zam zam’ at the same time for the water to stop. (Zam zam means ‘stop, stop’).

The Messenger of Allah (upon him blessings and peace) said, “May Allah bestow His Mercy upon the mother of Ismail! Had she not hastened to fill her water-skin with water from the Zamzam well, Zamzam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth.” Ibn Abbas further added, “The Prophet Ibrahim brought Ismail and his mother to Mecca and she was suckling Ismail and she had a water-skin with her.” (Bukhârî, Enbiyâ, 9)

The mother and son were continuing to live by only on the water from Zamzam. After a while, passing by the spring of Zamzam the tribe of Jurhum saw a bird fly down and up from a certain place. Guessing there to be a trace of life, they sent two people to check it. Once they found out about the spring, they asked permission to settle near it.  Hagar allowed them on the condition they do not claim ownership of the spring. The Jurhumites agreed, making them the first tribe to settle in Mecca.

In time Mecca developed into a city state. The tribe of Huza’a took Mecca by force in 207 when they were not allowed to settle by the Jurhumites. The sons of Ismail remained neutral in this battle and hence they were left unharmed by the new occupying force. They ruled the city for long years, during which they deviated from the right path of Ibrahim. They supported polytheistic worship, spreading the worship of idols. They set up an idol named Hubal. When the offspring of Ismail offspring became more powerful, under the leadership of Qusayy, they drove the tribe of Huzaa out of Mecca in 440.

Qusayy established the Dar’un-Nadwa which functioned like the parliament of the city-state of Mecca along with the other institutions he founded to organize the social and religious life. Duties like the commandership of the battles and the protection of the flag (kıyâdah), the service of the Kaabah (sidânah, hijâbah), watering of the pilgrims (sikâyah) and feeding of the pilgrims out of the taxes collected (ridânah) were under the responsibility of Qusayy. Before his death he requested in his will that these duties be passed onto his sons Abd’ud-Dâr and Abd Menaf, initiating the beginning of the passage of these duties from father to the son thereafter.[2]

All the inhabitants of Mecca could join in the sessions of parliament once they reached their fortieth year. However, the tradition was that only the family or clan chiefs would participate in these meetings. Interestingly, it was also this assembly that was used to oppose the mission of the Prophet (upon him blessings and peace).

Other local assemblies, or nadi, like these were also used for social gatherings and other activities in addition to their main purpose as places to make military and political decisions.

As the soil of Mecca was unfit for agriculture, the locals earned their living primarily through trade. Mecca thus occupied a pivotal place in the commercial life of the Arabian Peninsula. Commerce in the town was continuously lively through summer and winter. The destination of trade was Syria in winter and Yemen in summer. Camels were chiefly used to carry commercial goods, and at times the number of camels in a single caravan would reach upto two thousand five hundred. The prosperity Meccan lives received through trade were of such immensity that the Almighty reminded them of this exclusive favor when inviting them to Islam:

“For the protection of the Quraysh; their protection during their trading caravans in the winter and the summer. So let them serve the Lord of this House, Who feeds them against hunger and gives them security against fear.” (Quraysh, 1-4)

Caravan trade was not easy in the Arabian Peninsula due to anarchy and a lack of political power. Only during the forbidden months in which it was forbidden to engage in any kind of battle and highway robbery was there full safety for a trader. Even in this respect Mecca had superiority over other places. While the general ban for violence and transgression covered only the month of Rajab, Mecca enjoyed an extended period of non-violence that extended over four months called al-Ashuru’l-Hurum. As for the remaining eight months, the Basl institution protected the wealth of many families from pillage.[3]

Mecca held three trade fairs in its vicinity called Ukâz, Majannah and Dhu’l-Majâz. Organized in times of pilgrimage according to the Jahiliyya schedule, the fairs would attract a significant crowd, endowing Meccan traders with handsome revenue.

Being the all important precinct for the House of God, Mecca always attracted the attention of neighboring powers. In spite of numerous attempts of invasion throughout history, however, Mecca was able to retain its independence. Even the Byzantines, keen to extend their influence over the peninsula, were ultimately unsuccessful.

Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, The Prophet Muhammed Mustafa the Elect, Erkam Publications

[1] Abdulllah ibn Abbas –Allah be well-pleased with him- is the son of Abbas –radiyallhu anh- and thus the cousin of the Noble Prophet (upon him blessings and peace). His mother is Umm’ul-Fadl Lubaba, the woman who accepted Islam immediately after Khadijah –Allah be well-pleased with her-. Moments after his birth, three years prior to the Hegira, he was taken to the Noble Prophet (upon him blessings and peace), who took the toddler in his arms, rubbing in the child’s palate a date he had chewed in his blessed mouth. Due to this incident, known as tahniq, Ibn Abbas was to later stand out among the Companions. Afterward, the Messenger of Allah (upon him blessings and peace) personally prayed for him on two occasions, in one of these with the words, “Allah, grant him a depth of knowledge in religion and teach him the Quran!” He thus became the Companion with the greatest insight into the Quran, earning him the appellation at-Tarjuman, the Interpreter. He was also known as Hibr’ul-Ummah, meaning the most knowledgeable of the Believers. Including repetitions, he narrated a total of 1660 hadiths. Spending the last few years of his life sightless, he passed away in Ta’if, in 687 (H. 68), at the age of 71.

[2] See Ibn Hisham, I, 135-142.

[3] See Hamidullâh, I, 24-25.