History and Archaeology of Mecca



By the Editors of the Madain Project

Mecca also spelled Makkah (مكة المكرمة), is a city in the Hejazi region of Saudi Arabia. As the birthplace of prophet Muḥammad and the site of first revelation of the Quran, Mecca is regarded as the holiest city in Islam. According to Islamic tradition, the history of Mecca goes back to prophet Abraham (Ibrahim), who built the Kaaba with the help of his elder son Ishmael in around 2000 BCE, when the inhabitants of the site then known as Bakkah had fallen away from the original monotheism of Abraham through the influence of the Amalekites.

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Brief History of Mecca

According to Islamic tradition, the origins of Mecca can be traced back to figures from the Bible, namely Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael. They were eventually joined by some members of the Yemeni tribe of Jurhum and the settlement began to grow. It is recounted that a member of the Jurhum tribe assisted Ishmael and his father in constructing the Ka'bah. This act held profound social, religious, political, and historical significance for the site and the broader region. With time, the city of Makkah, nestled amidst the desolate landscapes of the Arabian Peninsula, was inhabited by various Arabian tribes and developed in to a significant center for trade and commerce due to its strategic location along important caravan routes.

In the pre-Islamic era, Mecca was already a bustling hub of commerce and spirituality. The city served as a prominent center of Arabian paganism, with the Ka'bah housing numerous idols revered by various tribes across the Arabian Peninsula. Mecca's status as a pilgrimage site attracted pilgrims from far and wide, contributing to its economic significance. However, Mecca's history during this period is marked by tribal rivalries, nomadic lifestyles, and a diverse tapestry of cultural and religious beliefs, all of which would undergo a profound transformation with the advent of Islam in the seventh century CE.

History of Mecca

Archaeology of Mecca

Recommended Readings

Makkah: At the Time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

Makkah At the Time of Prophet Muhammad

Binimad Al-Ateeqi

In this groundbreaking research, Lt. Col. Abdulaziz (Binimad) Al-Ateeqi unveils Makkah at c. 600 AD in greater detail than ever before. Relying on the oldest existing texts from authentic sources and relevant maps to resurrect the layout and geography of Makkah as it was during the lifetime of Prophet Muḥammad (PBUH) (570–632 AD).
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Thousand Roads to Mecca (Michael Wolfe and Reza Aslan)

Thousand Roads to Mecca Ten Centuries of Travelers Writing About the Muslim Pilgrimage

Michael Wolfe and Reza Aslan

The journey that all Muslims are enjoined to make once in their lifetime, the pilgrimage to Mecca and Islam itself, is discussed and debated in a collection of writings from both the East and West, by authors including Ibn Battuta, Sir Richard Burton, and Malcolm X.
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A Season in Mecca

Abdellah Hammoudi

In this book Hammoudi describes not just the adventure, the human pressures, and the social tumult - everything from the early preparations to the last climactic scenes in the holy shrines of Medina and Mecca - but also the intricate politics and amazing complexity of the entire pilgrimage experience.
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Thousand Roads to Mecca (Michael Wolfe and Reza Aslan)

A History of the Muslim World to 1750 The Making of a Civilization

Michael Wolfe and Reza Aslan

Encompassing a wide range of significant events within the period, its coverage includes the creation of the Dar al-Islam, the fragmentation of society into various religious and political groups including the Shi'ites and Sunnis, and the rise of the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires.
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