The Holy Mosque or Al-Masjid al-Haram

Al-Masjid al-Haram ("The Holy Mosque"; also known as al-Haram Mosque, Haram al-Sharif, Masjid al-Sharif and the Haram) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is the holiest mosque in the world and the primary destination of the Hajj pilgrimage. One of the Five Pillars of Islam requires every Muslim to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, at least once in his or her lifetime if able to do so, including circumambulation of Kaaba.

The mosque complex covers an area of 356,800 square meters and can accommodate up to four million worshipers during the Hajj period, one of the largest annual gatherings of people in the world. The Holy Mosque is the only mosque that has no qibla direction, since Muslims pray facing the Kaaba in the central courtyard.

History

Pre-Muhammad (s.a.a.s)

According to Islamic tradition the very first construction of the Kaaba, the heart of the Masjid al-Haram, was done by Adam. Allah says in the Qur'?n that this was the first house that was built for humanity to worship Allah. As time continued the Kaaba was demolished completely and forgotten.

With the order of the God [Quran 22:26], Ibrahim and his son Ishmail found the original foundation and rebuilt the Kaaba [Quran 2:125] [Quran 2:127] in 2130 b.c. Hajar-ul-Aswad ,the Black Stone situated on the lower side of the eastern corner of the Kaaba, is believed to be the only remnant of the original structure made by Ibrahim.

Muslim belief also places the story of Ishmael's mother Hagar searching for water in the general vicinity of the mosque. In the story, Hagar runs between the hills of Safa and Marwah looking for water for her infant son until Allah eventually reveals her the Zamzam. The "Zamzam well" and "Safa and Marwah" are the structures in the Masjid al-Haram.

First Islamic Era

After the Hijra, upon Muhammad's (s.a.a.s.) victorious return to Mecca, Muhammad (s.a.a.s.) 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 under Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattab in 692. The caliph ordered the demolition of houses surrounding the Kaaba in order to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims, then built a 1.5-meter high wall to form an outdoor prayer area around the shrine. During the reign of Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan (644-656), the prayer area was enlarged and covered with a simple roof supported by wooden columns and arches.

In 692, after Caliph Abdul Malik bin Marwan conquered Mecca from Ibn Zubayr, the building was enlarged and embellished: the outer walls were raised, the ceiling was covered with teak and the capitals were painted in gold. The caliph's son al-Walid (705-715) replaced the wooden columns with marble ones and decorated its arches with mosaics. Abbasid Caliph Abu Ja'far al-Mansur (754-775) added mosaics to the columns, doubled the size of the northern and western wings of the prayer hall and erected the minaret of Bab al-Umra on the northwest corner.

In 777, a major rebuild took place under Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdi (775-785) to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims. The existing mosque was demolished along with more houses in the area and a new mosque was constructed in its place. Measuring 196 by 142 meters, it was built on a grid plan with marble columns from Egypt and Syria decorated with gilt teak wooden inlay. Al-Mahdi's mosque also included three minarets, placed above Bab al-Salam, Bab Ali and Bab al-Wadi.

In 1399, the northern part of the mosque was severely damaged by fire and the remaining sections suffered from water damage. The mosque was subsequently rebuilt by Mamluk Sultan Nasir Faraj bin Barquq (1399-1405). The damaged marble columns were replaced with stone columns quarried from the nearby Hijaz region and the roof was patched with local wood from the Ta'if Mountains.

Ottomans

 

In 1570, Sultan Selim II commissioned the chief architect Mimar Sinan to renovate the Masjid. This renovation resulted in the replacement of the flat roof with domes decorated with calligraphy internally and the placement of new support columns which are acknowledged as the earliest architectural features of the present Mosque. These features are the oldest surviving parts of the building.

Due to damaging rains in 1611, the mosque was once again restored under Sultan Murad IV (1623-1640) in 1629. It received a new stone arcade with slender columns and inscriptive medallions between the arches. The floor tiles around the Kaaba were replaced with new colored marble tiles and the mosque was given seven minarets.

Saudis

The first major renovation under the Saudi kings was done between 1955 and 1973. In this renovation, four more minarets were added and the ceiling was refurnished and the floor was replaced with artificial stone and marble. The Mas'a gallery (Al-Safa and Al-Marwah) is included in the Masjid via roofing and enclosements. During this renovations many of the historical features built by Ottomans, particularly the support columns, were demolished.

The second Saudi renovations under King Fahd, added a new wing and an outdoor prayer area to the Masjid. The new wing which is also for prayers is accessed through the King Fahd Gate. This extension is considered to have been from 1982-1988.

The monumental King Fahd Gate consists of three arches with black and white voussoirs and carved white marble decoration, flanked by two new minarets matching the older ones. The windows are covered with brass mashrabiyya and framed with carved bands of white marble. The minor gates have green-tiled sloped canopies.

The third Saudi extension (1988–2005) saw the building of more minarets, the erecting of a King's residence overlooking the Masjid and more prayer area in and around the Masjid itself. These developments have taken place simultaneously with those in Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah. This third extension has also resulted in 18 more gates, three domes corresponding in position to each gate and the installation of nearly 500 marble columns. Other modern developments include the addition of heated floors, air conditioning, escalators and a drainage system.

Nowadays

In 2007, the Masjid went under a fourth extension project which is estimated to last until 2020. King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz plans to increase the Masjid's capacity to 2 million.

Northern expansion of the mosque began in August 2011 and is expected to be completed in 1.5 years. The area of the mosque will be expanded from the current 356,000 m2 (3,830,000 sq ft) to 400,000 m2 (4,300,000 sq ft). A new gate named after King Abdullah will be built together with two new minarets, bringing their total to 11. The cost of the project is $10.6-billion and after completion the mosque will house over 2.5 million worshipers. The mataf (the circumambulation areas around the Kaaba) will also see expansion and all closed spaces will be airconditioned.