(Umrah Memories 3/3)
The Epicenter of Blessing
The Sacred Landmarks of
Makkah And Around
(M. Javed Naseem)
“The first House (of worship) appointed for
men was that at Bakka (Makkah), full of blessing
and of guidance for all kinds of beings.”
Makkah is called the City of God because it accommodates the House of Allah (Kaabah) or the Bait-Ullah. For Muslims of the world, this is the holiest place on earth. Even Allah, the Almighty, has declared in the Holy Quran that this place is full of blessings and of guidance for all kinds of creatures including humans. This is a very special and unique place in the entire universe – a place where humans keep glorifying the Lord Creator’s name 24 house a day, seven days a week, summer or winter, rain or shine. Muslims are always found circling around (performing Tawaf) the House of God.
This holy place (Kaabah) is full of blessings, guidance and cure for many physical and spiritual ailments. Offering a prayer is a great privilege and honor. According to a narration, a prayer (Salaat) offered in the Bait-Ullah (House of God) brings you 100,000 times more rewards than a prayer (Salaat) offered in any other mosque. In other words, a Salaat offered in the Bait-Ullah is equal to 100,000 Salaats offered in another mosque. What a blessing! Here’s the Hadith:
It is narrated by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad and also by Ibn Maajah and others on the authority of Jaabir that the Prophet (s.a.w.) said: “The prayer in my mosque (Masjid Nabawi, Madinah) is better than 1,000 prayers in any other mosque with the exception of Masjid al-Haraam (Kaabah at Makkah); and a prayer in Masjid al-Haraam (Makkah) is better than 100,000 prayers in other mosques.” There is no difference of opinion in this regard between an obligatory prayer and other (optional) prayers as the statement of the Prophet (s.a.w.) was general.
Makkah is like a history book of Islam. It has witnessed the historical events of the dawn of Islam, the birth of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) and the spread of Islam from here to all corners of the world. The city of Makkah and its surroundings contain many landmarks. Some of them have become the part of Hajj and Umrah rites. Umrah is normally done within the complex of Haram Sharif (Bait-Ullah) and can be completed within an hour or hour-and-half. But Hajj requires going to the surrounding areas and spending time there. Therefore, it is completed in about 5 days (starting on the 8th of Dhul-Hijjah and finishing on the 12th) with Tawaf-ul Widaa. The festival of Eid-ul-Adha falls on the 3rd day, i.e., 10th of Dhul-Hijjah when all the pilgrims are gathered in the ‘tent city’ of Mina. Mina is about 3km away. Pilgrims spend their first night there.
The second day of Hajj is very important and it is called ‘Arafah Day’ (Yaum-al Arafah). Pilgrims go from Mina to the plains of Arafat at the foot of Jabal-ar Rahmah. There is a spot on the top of Jabal-ar Rahmah (Mountain of Mercy) which is marked by a small piller. It was here that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) delivered his famous “Last Sermon” or “Khutbah Hajjat-ul Widaa” which is called the ‘First Charter of Human Rights’.
Muzdalifah, Masjid Namrah,
Arafat & Mina:
It is in this city of Mina near Mecca that the Hajj pilgrims perform the ritual stoning of the Devil (Ramy al-Jamarat) on the last day of the Hajj. In the low lying Mina valley is the Jamarat Valley. Three pillars (now three black walls) stand here, representing Satan or the Devil, the perpetrator of all evil. The pilgrims denounce sin and stone these pillars, pledging allegiance to God and virtue. Mina is best known for the role it plays during the annual Hajj pilgrimage when its tent-cities provided by the Saudi government give temporary accommodation to millions of visiting pilgrims.
Mount Arafat (place of Prophet’s last Khutbah) : Mount Arafat or Mount Arafah is a plain about 20km (12 miles) southeast of Makkah. Mount Arafat is about 70m (230 ft) in height and is also known as the Mount of Mercy (Jabal ar-Rahmah).
On the 9th of the month of Dhul Hijjah, pilgrims go to Arafat from Mina, for the most important part of the Hajj. The sermon (Khutbah) of Hajj is narrated and combined prayers of Zuhr and Asr are offered. The pilgrims spend the whole day on the mountain to supplicate to Allah for forgiveness and to pray for personal strength in the future.
Arafah rituals end at sunset and pilgrims then move to Muzdalifah for a shortened and combined prayer of Maghrib and Isha, and for a short rest.The plain area surrounding the hill is called the Plain of Arafat. The term Mount Arafah is sometimes applied to this entire area. It has an important place in Islam because during the Hajj, it is obligatory for pilgrims to spend the afternoon there on the ninth day of Dhul Hijjah. Since late 2010, this place is served by Makkah Metro. On a normal Hajj, it would be around 20km of walking.
Arafat (the tent city):
Jabal al-Rahmah : The Hill of Arafat is also known as Jabal ar-Rahmah, meaning Mountain of Mercy. It is narrated that this was the place where Adam met Hawwa (Eve) on earth. On the ninth day of Hajj, pilgrims leave Mina for Mount Arafat where they stand in contemplative vigil and pray and recite the Quran.
It is here that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) gave his last sermon (Khutba Hajjat-ul Widaa) to the Muslims who had accompanied him for the Hajj towards the end of his life. Spending the afternoon on Mount Arafat is an obligatory ritual for pilgrims.
Masjid Namrah is located in the plains of Arafat and pilgrims offer here combined Salaats of Duhr and Asr. Namrah is a huge mosque and the expansion has brought one portion of it into the boundaries of Muzdalifah. At sunset, the pilgrims leave for Muzdalifah. In this valley, they offer combined Salaats of Maghrib and Isha. The pilgrims spend the night at Muzdalifah.
|(Rami at Jamaraat)|
Next morning, the third day (this day is the Eid-ul Adha day), before sunrise they collect pebbles (stones to perform Rami). The pebbles are collected at Muzdalifah and then pilgrims leave for Mina where Rami (stoning of Devils) is performed.
Actually, this whole complex is one huge area, divided by marked signs for Mina, Muzdalifah, Arafat, etc. Third day is assigned for offering the animals for sacrifice; and the first Rami at Mina. Tawaf-e-Ziarat is performed and pilgrims spend the 3rd night in Mina tents.
If somebody is unable to perform both rituals (sacrifice and Ramy) on the third day, they can also perform them the next day (the 4th day) before the Duhr Salaat. At this stage, pilgrims can get the haircut and change the Ihram to the normal clothing. The 4th day is also assigned for Rami at three different spots, all marked by black walls now, with lots of pedestrian walk-ways to facilitate the rituals. The 4th night is also spent in the ‘tent city’ of Mina.
The 5th day is the last day of Hajj rituals. Any due Ramy or other ritual should be performed today. Pilgrims leave Mina after Asr prayer (before Maghrib prayer) for Makkah. And that marks the end of the Hajj rituals (except one – Tawaf Widaa). When back in Makkah, pilgrims can perform Tawaf Widaa any time before leaving for their own countries/cities.
Jabal Thawr (or Sawr):
This mountain is located in the lower part of Makkah to the south of the district of Misfalah. It’s about 1,405 meters high. On the summit of it, there is an historic place called the “Cave of Thawr” (or Ghaar-e-Thawr).
Ghar al-Thawr (Cave of the Bull) was the place where Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) and his companion Abu Bakr (r.a.a.) took refuge from the Quraish. They stayed in this cave for three days before migrating from Makkah to Madinah. As a matter fact, the migration (Hijrah) started from this cave. Abu Bakr’s family took care of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and brought them food and water. For most Muslims, the cave is of religious significance, and is thus visited by many pilgrims and the tourists.
It takes about 2 hours on foot to climb up the mountain of Thawr to reach the Cave. On return, it takes about one hour to come down. It is very strenuous and hard walk, particularly during hot summer days.
Jabal al-Nour (Hira Mountain):
Jabal al-Nour (Jabal Nur) or the Mountain of Light is a mountain near Makkah and is famous for its cave “Hira”. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Makkah.
The cave (Ghaar Hira) is actually quite a small corner. It is long about four-arms’ length and wide about 1.75 arms’ length. The mountain is barely 640 meter tall. But it does take two hours to make it to the cave and is extremely strenuous on the individual. However, the mount and the cave hold tremendous significance for Muslims throughout the world. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) is said to have spent a great deal of time in this cave meditating. It is believed that he had received his first revelation from God through the archangel Gabriel inside this cave.
Safa & Marwah
Haram Sharif is a complex and it includes the Masjid al-Haram, the Kaabah, the focal point of prayer for all Muslims; Maqam-e-Ibrahim (Abraham’s place), Zam Zam well, the hills of Safa – from which the ritual walking (Sa’ee) begins – and Marwah.
Safa is located about 100 meters from the Kaabah while Marwah is about 350 meters away. The distance between the two hills of Safa and Marwah is approximately 450 meters, so that seven trips amount to roughly 3.1km. The two points and the path between them are now inside a long gallery that forms part of the Masjid. It’s the coldest area in the complex as it is fully covered and air-conditioning runs at full swing.
The hill of Marwah has almost disappeared as constant lifting of floors and never-ending construction projects or improvements have raised the ground-floor to the level of Marwah hill. It has become a part of the floor now.
On the contrary, the hill of Safa, where the ritual of Sa’ee starts, has been preserved in a glass frame (enclave) and it is still above the ground level.
The Sa’ee track of Safa & Marwah has now three levels and separate tracks/paths for electric and manual wheelchairs, pushcarts and pedestrians. The area where men are supposed to run, is marked with green lights. It’s about 100 meters. For the rest of the area, you walk briskly.
Walking (Sa’ee) between Safa and Marwah commemorates the ritual Hajar (Hagar) performed while looking for water and food for her son Ishmael. This ritual is an essential part of Hajj and Umrah rites.
Like Madinah, the city of Makkah is also full of Pakistani and Bengali shops, restaurants and small hotels. Most of the Saudis now speak Urdu. There is also a sugar-cane juice shop near the Haram Sharif. We enjoyed the freshly squeezed ice-cold sugar-cane juice when the outside temperature near Haram Sharif was around 45c degrees. A big glass of refreshing juice costs only 3SR.
Alhamdo-lillah, we enjoyed our Umrah trip and hope that the pics/information I shared with you were also useful and interesting for you. God bless!