Masjid-Al-Haram – Mecca – Saudi Arabia
After the Hijra, upon Muhammad’s victorious return to Mecca, Muhammad and his son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib, broke all the idols in and around the Kaaba and cleansed it. This began the Islamic rule over the Kaaba and the building of the Masjid al-Haram around it.
The first major renovation to the Mosque took place in 692. Before this renovation, which included the mosque’s outer walls being raised and decoration added to the ceiling, the Mosque was a small open area with the Kaaba at the centre. By the end of the 8th century, the Mosque’s old wooden columns had been replaced with marble columns and the wings of the prayer hall had been extended on both sides along with the addition of a minaret. The spread of Islam in the Middle East and the influx of pilgrims required an almost complete rebuilding of the site which included adding more marble and three more minarets.
The Kaaba (Arabic: الكعبة) is a cuboid-shaped building in the center of the Masjid al-Haram and is the most sacred site in Islam. All Muslims around the world face the Kaaba during prayers, no matter where they are. This is called facing the Qiblah.
The Hajj require pilgrims to walk seven times around the Kaaba in a counter-clockwise direction (as viewed from above). This circumambulation, the Tawaf, is also performed by pilgrims during the Umrah (lesser pilgrimage).
The Haram is the focal point of the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages that occur in the month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the Islamic calendar and at any time of the year, respectively. The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the Pillars of Islam, required of all able-bodied Muslims who can afford the trip. In recent times, about 3 million Muslims perform the Hajj every year.
Some of the rituals performed by pilgrims are symbolic of historical incidents. For example, the episode of Hagar’s search for water is emulated by Muslims as they run between the two hills of Safa and Marwah whenever they visit Mecca.
The Hajj is associated with the life of the Islamic prophet Mohammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Makkah is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Ibrahim (Abraham).
Black Stone –
The Black Stone (Arabic: الحجر الأسود al-Hajar al-Aswad) is the eastern cornerstone of the Kaaba. It was set intact into the Kaaba’s wall by Muhammad in the year 605 A.D., five years before his first revelation. Since then it has been broken into a number of fragments and is now cemented into a silver frame in the side of the Kaaba. Its physical appearance is that of a fragmented dark rock, polished smooth by the hands of millions of pilgrims.
Many of the pilgrims, if possible, to stop and kiss the Black Stone, emulating the kiss that Islamic tradition records that it received from Muhammad. If they cannot reach it, they point to it on each of their seven circuits around the Kaaba.
Maqam-i Ibrahim –
The Maqām Ibrahim (Ibrahim’s place of standing) is a rock that has an imprint of Ibraham’s foot which is kept in a crystal dome next to the Kaaba. Ibraham is said to have stood on this stone during the construction of the upper parts of the Kaaba, raising Ishmail on his shoulders for the uppermost parts
Zamzam Well –
The Zamzam Well (Arabic: زمزم) is a well located 20 m (66 ft) east of the Kaaba. It began circa 2150 BCE when Abraham’s (Ibrāhīm) infant son Ishmael (ʼIsmāʻīl) was thirsty and kept crying for water. The well never having gone dry despite the millions of liters of water attributed to the well consumed every year. It had been deepened several times in history during periods of severe droughts.