Maqamat of the Four Imams

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Maqamat of the Four Imams (مقامات الأئمة الأربعة) in the Masjid al-Haram (Great Mosque of Mecca) refer to the four historic stations for leading the daily prayers that once stood in the Mataf area. These maqams were used by the Imams to lead prayers for the four leading schools (Madh'habs) of Islamic jurisprudence.

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These Maqamat (identify), also called the Maqsurat (المقصورات) were a group of four small structures located on all four sides of the Kaaba, within the old Mataf area. These structures stood until 1925 CE, when they were removed to unify the Salah times and make more space available for the Hujjaj. The spots or locations of the imams or prayer leaders were marked either by pavilions which had four columns of stone supporting a dome, and a mihrab (praying niche) built between two columns that faced the congregation, or just by a mihrab flanked by two columns of stone, or posts.

Although the tradition seems to have originated most probably between the 4th and 5th Hijri/ 10th and 11th centuries CE first verifiable mention is by Ibn Jubayr, the Spanish traveler, reported that when he was in Makkah in the month of Ramadan in 579 Hijri / 1184 CE, there were five simultaneous Tarawih congregations inside al-Masjid al-Haram: the Shafi’i, which had precedence over the others, Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki and even the Zaydi congregation. The last was a Shi’ah branch and followed the Zaydi Islamic jurisprudence. Ibn Jubayr refers to the parts of the Mosque that belonged to those congregations, the mihrabs (praying niches) and candles used for lighting and adornment at those specific locations.

This tradition of multiple prayer-congregations lasted well into the 14th Hijri/ 20th century CE.

List of the Four Maqams


Maqam Imam Malik
The Maqam Imam Malik, or the Maqam Maliki was a small free standing roofed structure, raised on four columns. It was situated to the west of the Kaaba, between the Maghrabi and Yemenite corners, in the direction of Bab al-Umrah. The area of the maqam was outside the paved circular Mataf area, as was covered with fine gravel.


Maqam Hanafi
The maqam hanafi, also called the Maqam Imam Abu Hanifa, it was located north of the Kaaba, outside the paved area of the Mataf at the time. It is located directly opposite the Hijr Ismael (Hateem) close to the border of the old courtyard of the Mataf. The Hanafi maqam is distinguished by the large area it occupies compared to the Shafi’i maqam. It is the only free standing maqam inside the Mataf, which had two stories.


Maqam Imam Shaf'i
The Maqam Shafa'i, also known as the Maqam Shaf'i was located atop the Ottoman era Zamzam well building, some 15 meters to the east of the Kaaba. It was part of the largest structure inside the Mataf area at the time. This maqam occupied an area of some 4x6 meters, accessible by only a stairway by ascending some 11 steps, and could accommodate some fifty people at a time. Covered by a make-shift roof and a small dome, painted green, it was located directly adjacent to the Zamzam well building. At the time, this maqam was also used as a Mukabbariyya, from where the cheif muezzin raised the adhan (call to prayer).


Maqam Hanbali
The earliest mention of the Hanbali Maqam dates back to the year 1134 CE (529 Hj.). Located on the south side of the kaaba inside the Grand Mosque (it was in the Makbariya district, on the side of the gate of King Abdul Aziz al-Saud). It was removed in 1800 CE (1300 Hj.) and rebuilt from one floor based on four columns, and its side was modified so that it is opposite the Black Stone, on the surface of the Mataf courtyard, and adjacent to the edge of the courtyard, and around it is covered with gravel.


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