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The History of Makkah Mukarramah / The History of Madīnah Munawwarah
Book Review
Sameen Ahmad Khan


Book Names: The History of Makkah Mukarramah / The History of Madīnah Munawwarah

Author: Dr. Muhammad Ilyās ‘Abd al-Ghanī

Year: 2004

ISBN: 9960-44-929-7/9960-43-442-7


The religious and historical significance of Makkah Mukarramah can be judged from the fact that the Creator of the universe, Allah Almighty has selected it to be the location of His most sacred house, the Ka‘bah.  This blessed city was home to Ishmael (sws) and his mother Hājirah. Countless pious servants of Allah have undertaken journeys to visit the House of Allah. The city houses the Masjid-i Harām in which the rewards of a single salāh is multiplied by a hundred thousand. The Qiblah is in this city, which is a direction towards which every person offering salāh must face. The city also has the privilege of being the birthplace of Muhammad (sws), the final rasūl and guide of the worlds.  It is in Makkah where the well of zamzam is located, whose water is better and more blessed than waters of the universe.  Besides, there is a long history predating Abraham (sws). It is this city that Allah has made obligatory to travel to and fulfill the rites of hajj. Makkah has a very long history and numerous religious places in it.

Madīnah Munawwarah is the city to which Allah’s Messenger emigrated and it gave him refuge, embraced his preaching and supported his religion, and its people defended him with their lives, their wealth and their sons until Allah made him victorious.  Madīnah possesses virtues which are well known and an influence which none can dispute.  It is the city where the Holy Prophet (sws) made the first mosque (Masjid-i Qubā’).  It contains the Prophet’s mosque, where the rewards of each prayer are multiplied by a thousand.  Masjid-i Nabawi hosts the sacred chamber where the Prophet (sws) and the first two caliphs are buried.

Dr Muhammad Ilyās ‘Abd al-Ghanī has very successfully undertaken the task of presenting a concise history of the sacred cities of Makkah Mukarramah and Madīnah Munawwarah, tracking their histories from the earliest times in the light of authentic narration and books. Both books have several maps, and numerous pictures. He describes in very intricate detail the extensions since the time of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) to the large-scale construction activities in the recent decades. Both books are not purely historical (as their names may suggest). The books shed light on the various aspects of the two holy cities, with references to the Qur’ān and Hadīth literature. It is essential for everyone to know the important historical events that have direct effect on the establishment and sacredness of Makkah and Madīnah, as well as their religious importance. The books provide an excellent starting point in this direction, enabling us to grasp an integrated picture of each holy city. The books give various years both in the hijra and the Christian calendars. Both books have been translated into several languages including Urdu. May Allah Almighty increase His Grace upon the author, publisher and readers of these books; may Allah enable us to make journeys to the sacred cities and guide us to conduct ourselves in a manner which pleases Him, Amen. Following is the outline of each book.

The History of Makkah Mukarramah

Chapter 1: Location and Virtues of Makkah

The book begins with the location of the city of Makkah in terms of the latitude and the longitude along with the sea-level.  There is a complete section describing the superiority of Makkah and its virtues in the light of Hadīth literature. The author describes the prayers of Abraham (sws) and the saying of the Holy Prophet (sws) at the time of hijra when the inhabitants of Makkah had forced him to leave the sacred city. The author then describes the different names of Makkah and their significance. The various boundaries of the Haram are described, which enclose an area of approximately 550 km2. The chapter has a brief but very informative coverage to the period prior and after the conquest of Makkah. In the process, there is a brief description of the Pledge of Ridwān (Treaty of Hudaybiyyah) and demolition of the idol ‘Uzzā.

Chapter 2: Mīqāt

When any person sets out to do hajj or ‘umrah, he/she has to put on the ihrām at the prescribed boundaries. These boundaries are described by several location points known as mīqāt. They cover all possible directions from which a person can reach Makkah. For the residents of Makkah their home is to be treated as mīqāt. This chapter gives a detailed list of the various mīqāt in terms of the latitudes and longitudes. Some of the mīqāt have additional names. The distances from the mīqāt to the Ka‘bah are neatly presented in a table. The mosques at each mīqāt are described in some detail paying attention to the historical aspects and the architectural details such as the size of minarets/domes and their current capacities. This is relevant as the travelers use these mosque complexes for changing into the two unstitched sheets of ihrām. The mīqāt for the residents of Madīnah is Dhū al-Hulayfah (about ten kilometers from Masjid-i Nabawi), which is probably the most used (due to the large number of pilgrims visiting Madīnah just before hajj). The mosque at this mīqāt is known by several names including, Masjid Dhū al-Hulayfah, Masjid-i Mīqāt and as Masjid-i Shajarah.  The Holy Prophet (sws) used to perform salāh at the location of Masjid-i Shajarah. Now, there is a very large mosque complex with facilities for bath etc for thousands.

Chapter 3: Names of the Ka‘bah and the Builders of Ka‘bah

This chapter begins with the names of the Ka‘bah as they appear in the Qur’ān. They are al-Ka‘bah, Bayt al-Harām, Baytullāh, al-Bayt al-Atīq and Qiblah.  The corresponding verses are explicitly given with some commentary. In verse 2:125, Allah Almighty addresses the Ka‘bah as “My House”. The commentators have emphatically pointed to the grammatical first person “My House” in the above verse. As expected, an entire chapter of the book is devoted to the Ka‘bah and discusses its origins and period of construction and reconstruction, tracing the list of the custodians throughout the ages. The Ka‘bah was rebuilt twelve times, starting with the angels and followed by Adam (sws), Shīth (son of Adam (sws)), Abraham (sws) and his son Ishmael (sws), the ‘Amāliqah tribe, the Jurhum Tribe, Qusayy Ibn Kilāb, the Quraysh tribe, ‘Abdullāh Ibn Zubayr (65 AH) and Hajjāj Ibn Yūsuf (74 AH). The Ka‘bah existed prior to Abraham (sws). The author points out that when floods came during the time of Noah, the House was raised to the heavens. Allah identified the location of the Ka‘bah to Abraham (sws), who then with his son Ishmael (sws) raised its foundations (2:127). They used rocks from five mountains to raise the foundations. After that, all the rebuilding has been done only on the parts above the original foundations laid by Abraham (sws).

The changes in the design of the Ka‘bah by the Quraysh are described in detail. These include the Hatīm, the raising of the Ka‘bah door, roof and ceiling, the second door in the opposite wall, raising the walls of the Ka‘bah to put a roof on the Ka‘bah and the water outlet. The eleventh and twelfth are the Turkish Sultan Murād (1040 AH) and King Fahad Ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz (1417 AH). The reader should not be surprised with the above names in the list of builders of the Ka‘bah. The most recent renovation included strengthening the foundation, reconstruction of the three pillars (inside the Ka‘bah) with new wood, and reconstruction of the roof and ceiling. Besides, the door was changed with the lock.

In this chapter, the author has given the dimensions of the Ka‘bah in great detail. The four sides of the Ka‘bah are unequal requiring different figures for each side. There are figures for the bottom of the Ka‘bah wall that juts out from the rest of the wall, the roof and the three wooden pillars inside the Ka‘bah. All these are described with historical and architectural details. The history of the door, lock and the key of the Ka‘bah are described in detail with the inscriptions on each.  The details presented are beyond the scope of this review. These are sure to satisfy even the very curious reader, ever craving for the minutest of details.

Chapter4: Hajar-i Aswad, Multazam and Hatīm

There are complete sections describing the Hajar-i Aswad (black stone), the Multazam (portion of the Ka‘bah between the Hajar-i Aswad and the door of Ka‘bah); and the Hatīm. The Hajar-i Aswad was brought from Paradise and presented to Abraham (sws) to be placed on the corner of the Ka‘bah. When the Quraysh reconstructed the Ka‘bah, it was replaced by the blessed hands of the Holy Prophet (sws). By facing or kissing this sacred stone, the tawāf begins and ends. Over centuries, the colour of the Hajar-i Aswad changed to black from white and it broke into eight pieces. The largest of these pieces is the size of a date fruit. These eight pieces are attached to a single flat stone which is encased in a silver frame. The chapter further discusses the virtues and etiquette of kissing the Hajar-i Aswad. A section describes the acceptance of the prayers at the Multazam.

Hatīm is the crescent-shaped area adjacent to the Ka‘bah. It is also known as the Hujurah-i Ishmael, because that was the place where Abraham (sws) had constructed a small shade for Ishmael (sws) and his mother Hājirah. Some portion (about three metres) of the Hatīm definitely belongs to the Ka‘bah, since it was separated from the Ka‘bah during the time of the Quraysh. The Quraysh were short of righteously earned funds. For this reason, an area of approximately three metres could not be included in the walls. They demarcated this area by building the low wall called Hatīm. The Quraysh, even in the period of ignorance, were very particular to use only the righteously earned money to build the beloved House of Allah.

Chapter 5: Ghilāf-i Ka‘bah

The history of the ghilāf goes back to Ishmael (sws) who was first to enshroud the Ka‘bah in a ghilāf. It was also the practice of the Holy Prophet (sws) and the rightly guided caliphs. After the Abbasid rule came to an end in 656 AH, the ghilāf came either from Egypt or Yemen. At some stage around 900 AH it started coming only from Egypt and the tradition continued till as recently as 1342 AH. Then King ‘Abd al-‘Azīz established a factory in Makkah to manufacture the ghilāf. The production was stopped in this factory and the ghilāf supply from Egypt was resumed from 1355 AH to 1381 AH. A new factory was established in 1392 AH. Since then to the present. all the ghilāf are made there. The sixteen pages are filled with the various verses inscribed on the ghilāf. There are also pictures of the Ka‘bah without the ghilāf.

Chapter 6: Maqām-i Ibrāhīm

The Maqām-i Ibrāhīm refers to the blessed stone which was brought by Ishmael (sws) for his father Abraham (sws) to stand on, while building the wall of the Ka‘bah. The greatest virtue of the Maqām-i Ibrāhīm is that Allah has instructed Muslims to perform the salāh near it. Following the Qur’ānic injunction (2:125) one offers two rak‘āh of the salāh behind the Maqām-i Ibrāhīm after the tawāf. Over the centuries, the Maqām-i Ibrāhīm was preserved in a sliver box, which was housed in a huge domed hall. The hall occupied a lot of space in the matāf, and hence it was demolished in the year 1387 AH. The Maqām-i Ibrāhīm was fixed in exquisite crystal and encased in a sturdy steel cage. The casing was then mounted on a marble platform and a dome was used to cover it. The imprints of Abraham (sws) can be clearly seen in this way. The chapter continues the tradition, and there are figures for the size of the dome, and the distances of the Maqām-i Ibrāhīm from the Hajar-i Aswad, and various parts of the Ka‘bah.

In the periods of ignorance, the Arabs worshipped the stones; but no one ever worshipped the Hajar-i Aswad or the Maqām-i Ibrāhīm even though the Arabs revered it.

Chapter 7: Well of Zamzam, Mount Safā and Mount Marwah

About twenty-one metres away from the Ka‘bah and seven metres away from the Maqām-i Ibrāhīm is the oldest well and the most celebrated source of water. This chapter focuses on the well of zamzam whose water is the best of the waters in the universe. The well originated as a miracle to quench the thirst of Ishmael (sws) when he was a baby and that of his mother Hājirah. This chapter describes the virtues of zamzam in detail along with the etiquette of drinking it. There is coverage to the recent research on how the water gushes from the springs within the well. Interestingly, the water from these springs gushes in the direction of the Hajar-i Aswad, the Safā and the Marwah respectively. The well had dried up during the times of ignorance and even its location had been lost. ‘Abd al-Muttalib, the grandfather of the Holy Prophet (sws) received guidance in his dream to locate the well. Since then it has been in regular use. Water was first drawn from it using electric pumps in 1373 AH. With numerous extensions, the well is now below the matāf. A few kilometers away from the Masjid-i Harām, there is a tank with a capacity of 150 million litres. Water is distributed by tankers to various places including the Masjid-i Nabawī.

Mount Safā is a little hill from which one of the important rites of hajj and ‘umrah is begun. It is located south-east of the Ka‘bah at a distance of 130m and is now covered by a domed roof. Marwah is another hill located about 300m from the Rukn-i Shāmī. The path connecting the Safā and the Marwah is called masa‘. It measures about 394.5m in length and 20m in breadth. The Safa and Marwah and its origin to Hājirah are described in detail along with the incidents at the time of the Holy Prophet (sws). The book also describes the renovations of the masa‘. Now, it is fully enclosed with a high ceiling with provisions to do the sa‘ī on the two upper floors.

Chapter 8: Masjid-i Harām

This chapter begins with the definition of the Masjid-i Harām: it refers to the Ka‘bah, matāf and all the extensions which have taken place since the time of the second caliph, ‘Umar (rta). This chapter is by and large a narration of the expansions which have been going on since the time of ‘Umar (rta). This narration is elegantly interwoven with historical details and the Hadīth literature. The author goes into the substantial architectural details including the courtyards, doors, size of domes, minarets, type of stones used in flooring and so on. The extensions of the recent decades embedded with technology (escalators, air-conditioning etc) and the related issues of drainage, roads and tunnels are also described elaborately with numerous photographs. 

There is a complete section on the history of the tarāwīh salāh. The author points to the documented record of the tarāwīh in the last fourteen centuries. In the time of Abū Bakr (rta), the tarāwīh was offered individually or in small congregations. ‘Umar (rta) had combined the small congregations into one. Interestingly, all along there have been twenty rak‘āh, followed by three rak‘āh of witr (also in congregation) in both the Masjid-i Harām and the Masjid-i Nabawī.

Chapters 9, 10 and 11: Minā, ‘Arafāt and Muzdalifah

The author takes the reader through the sequence of detailed sections on Minā, ‘Arafāt and Muzdalifah in the process describing the rites of hajj and some incidents from the hajj of the Holy Prophet (sws). Then the book touches the conquest of Makkah and its far-reaching effects on the history of Makkah, and how the House was cleansed of shirk and the polytheists.

The chapter provides a geographic picture (with maps and figures) of the three sites in close proximity. At the same time, the chapter has an ample coverage of the sites with the ever-increasing facilities being made available to the pilgrims at these sites. For instance, hills have been leveled to provide more space for tents; tunnels have been made to reduce the distance to Masjid-i Harām. Besides, the author describes the extensions of the mosques at the three sites. There is a complete section on the jamarāt, where there used to be stampedes. This has been curbed through renovations by the crown management. 

Chapter 12: Important Notes Concerning the Visits to Historical Sites

The last chapter describes the numerous sites in and around Makkah, including the cave of Hira, the house of Khadījah, and the Ma‘lā graveyard. And, of course, several mosques are described which include Masjid-i Bayyah, Masjid-i Jinn, Masjid-i Shajarah, Masjid-i Rayah, and Masjid-i Fath.

The History of Madīnah Munawwarah

Chapter 1: Virtues of Madīnah

The book begins with the virtues of Madīnah Munawwarah and the prayers which Prophet Muhammad (sws) made for this city. The geographic aspect is given from the hadīth literature: Madīnah is a sanctuary from Mount Ayr to Mount Thawr. These two mountains constitute the northern and southern boundaries of Madīnah corresponding to a distance of 15 kilometres. This section gives further details of the mountains forming the boundaries in the other directions as well. There is an entire section describing the virtues of Madīnah for instance, the virtue of dying in Madīnah; and that the Dajjāl shall not be able to enter Madīnah.

Chapter 2: Virtues of the Prophet’s Mosque

The city of Madīnah is synonymous with the Prophet’s Mosque or Masjid-i Nabawī. This chapter focuses on the Masjid-i Nabawī. The foundation of the Prophet’s mosque was laid on piety. The reward of offering one salāh in the Prophet’s mosque is multiplied by a thousand. There are also virtues for doing learning and teaching activities in the Masjid-i Nabawī. There is a consensus among the scholars that the extensions of the original mosque too have the same merit of virtues. The various parts of the original mosque (the sacred garden, the pulpit, the columns, the mihrāb and the suffah) are described with intricate detail. The area between the sacred chamber and the pulpit is called the Sacred Garden or Riyād al-Jannah. This area has its own virtues. The chapter has sections on the reverence for the Prophet’s mosque and the etiquette for visiting it. The chapter serves as an excellent guide for all those planning a visit to the Prophet’s mosque.

Chapter 3: History of the Sacred Chamber

The unique feature of the Masjid-i Nabawī is that it has the sacred chamber where the Holy Prophet (sws) and the first two caliphs are buried. This chapter describes the history of the sacred chamber with a lot of historical details enlightening the reader with the life of the Holy Prophet (sws), the rightly guided caliphs and the companions.

When the Masjid-i Nabawī was being constructed, chambers were made for the wives of the Holy Prophet (sws). He died in the chamber of ‘Ā’ishah (rta) and was buried there. The first two caliphs, Abū Bakr (rta) and ‘Umar (rta) had made a wish to be buried in the same chamber. So, they were also buried there. This chamber is referred as the sacred chamber. The author has gone into the details of the times around the time when these deaths took place. The author further discusses the relative positions of the graves pointing that there is a place for the fourth grave. This is for Jesus (sws) in his second coming.

Contrary to the common belief, the graves cannot be seen. The original chamber of ‘Ā’ishah (rta) was made from the branches of pal tree. ‘Umar (rta) replaced these with brick walls during his caliphate. Later, these walls were raised and the chamber was sealed completely and covered with a cloth. In 91 AH the original four walled chamber was surrounded by a five cornered structure to avoid any possible resemblance to the Ka‘bah. These days it is this outer structure which is called as the sacred chamber. In 881 AH, the walls of the five cornered structure were found to be cracking so they were removed for reconstruction. The walls of the inner chamber were also found to have cracks and were also opened. This is the last time the sacred chamber became open and visible.

The chapter has a complete section on the treacherous plots to steal the bodies of the Holy Prophet (sws) and his companions during the fifth and sixth centuries AH. Of course all of them failed.

Chapter 4: Construction and History of the Prophet’s Mosque

The chapter begins with the narration of the original construction done by the blessed hands of the Holy Prophet (sws). The first extension took place in the year 7 AH by the Prophet (sws) himself, followed by extensions by ‘Umar (rta) and ‘Uthmān (rta) respectively. The chapter is very educational as it is interwoven with the history of the early years of Islam. Then the author traces the long chain of extensions up to the current times. The author has taken pains to describe the pillars and doors during the time of the Holy Prophet (sws) and many incidents related to each one of them. The chapter also describes the hujurāt (huts) of the wives of the Holy Prophet (sws) with their locations. The author further describes with all the architectural details, the introduction of the dome and minarets. A detailed description of the extensions is beyond the scope of this review.

Chapter 5: Houses of Companions around the Prophet’s Mosque

The original Masjid-i Nabawī was surrounded by the houses of the companions of the Holy Prophet (sws). The author has described many of these with remarkable detail along with some very interesting incidents. Each extension resulted in the demolition of the hujurāt of the Mothers of Believers and the humble dwellings of the companions. Consequently, an entire chapter devoted to the hujurāt and the houses of the companions is fully justified. This chapter is very informative on the life of the Prophet (sws), mothers of the believers and numerous companions. There is a complete section on the graveyard of baqī‘ and its expansion since the earliest times.

Chapter 6: Holy Mosques in and around Madīnah

The last chapter describes the twenty-six mosques (in and around Madīnah) where the Messenger of Allah and his companions offered prayers. Masjid-i Qubā’ was the first mosque in Madīnah. The Masjid-i Qiblatayn has a very unique status, as the instruction to change the direction of qiblah from the Bayt al-Maqdis to the Ka‘bah was revealed in it while the Holy Prophet (sws) was offering salāh in it.  This chapter has a detailed description of twenty-six mosques along with their distances from Masjid-i Nabawī. There are also beautiful photographs of the above mosques. This chapter also gives a good coverage to some of the historic wells, valleys, mountains and sites of battles. There is a brief mention of a few Islamic institutes in Madīnah Munawwarah and development schemes.


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