Southern Gates of Masjid Haram Before the Saudi Expansions

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Masjid al-Haram, also known as the Great Mosque of Mecca, had seven gates on the southern side before it was extensively reconstructed and expanded during the Saudi period. These gates allowed direct access to the inner complex of the Masjid Haram.

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Most of the gates of Masjid Haram that remained in use until the early to mid twentieth century CE, dated back to various periods of Isalmic history starting with caliph al-Mahdi's reign (circa 780 CE). During this expansion and reconstruction the mosque was built on a rectangular grid plan, with marble columns from Egypt and Syria, decorated with gilt teak wooden inlay. This construction of the Great Mosque of Mecca is the one that survived well in the twentieth century CE, without any major change in the floor plan. So, the most of the gates listed on this page are the ones that were originally installed during the caliphate-reign of al-Mahdi and were demolished during the first Saudi expansion and reconstruction of the Haram. Although these gates did not survive in to the modern times, their names however were carried by newer gates installed elsewhere in the mosque complex.

List of the Gates

circa 1900 CE

Bazan Gate
The Bazan Gate (باب بازان) was situated on the far side of the southern flank of the Grand Mosque of Mecca. The historian Taqi al-Din Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Fasi called it the Bab Bazan in reference to (Bazan Ain Hunayn) and its location where the old al-Safa police station was located. Historian Abdullah al-Ghazi said that the name of the spring was (Ain Souq al-Layl), which exists until now (in the time of the historian) and is known as the Seven Wells, and its work was carried out by Zubaida bint Jaafar al-Mansur.

This door was first built by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdi in the year 164 Hijri, and reconstructed by Sultan Murad Khan in the year 984 Hijri. The description of the door contains two panels, each of which has a door with two leaves, and is eleven steps above the ground of the portico. Among the other names of the door are, Bab Bani Aidh as related by al-Azraqi, Bab al-Qarrah Qul, and Bab al-Naoush because the coffins used to go out of it to al-Qashashiya and from there to al-Mu’alla.

circa 1900 CE

al-Baghla Gate
The al-Baghla gate (باب البغلة) built at the time of Mosque's reconstruction during the caliphate period of al-Mahdi’s year 164 Hijri. The reason for this name is not known, which was mentioned by al-Fasi, and al-Azraqi called it the Bani Sufyan Gate since the tribe lived in the surrounding area. It was rebuilt by Sultan Murad Khan in the year 984 Hijri. Before it was demolished during the first expansion of the Grand Mosque of Mecca, it had six steps above the floor of the Grand Mosque and has two portals, each side having two doors.

circa 1900 CE

Bab Safa
The Safa Gate (باب الصفا) was named after al-Safa, one of the two hills of the al-Masa'a. At the time it formed part of the mosque's main complex and directly faced the hill al-Safa. It was established by Caliph al-Mahdi in the year 164 Hijri and renovated by Sultan Murad Khan in the year 984 Hijri. At the time it had five niched entrance, and above them are the five distinct arches with the central and the largest adorned with Muqarnas of Bab al-Safa. Under each arch was a double-leafed door, and it was the only door among the doors of the Holy Mosque that exceeds the number of its niches. Monday, and is ten steps above the floor of the mosque’s portico.

Above the two right smaller portals of the Bab Safa, verse 158 of Surah al-Baqarah was written. Above the two portals on the left side the verse 133 from Surah al-Imran was written.

The other names of the gate include gate of Addi bin Ka'ab, since the tribe of Banu 'Addi dwelled in the area between the Masjid Haram and the hill of al-Safa. al-Azraqi also calls the gate as Bab Bani Makhzum.

circa 1900 CE

Smaller Ajyad Gate
The smaller Ajyad gate (باب أجياد الصغير) was named as such because it directly led the visitors of the Grand Mosque out of it to Ajyad street, and Ibn Dhahira (ابن ظهيرة) and Qutb al-Din, both of whom lived in the ninth century Hijri also knew it by this name. It was built by Caliph al-Mahdi in the year 164 Hijri, the year he expanded the Haram, and subsequently it was renovated in the year 984 Hijri by order of Ottoman Sultan Murad Khan. It is nine steps above the floor of the portico, has two outlets, and has a strong wooden door with two leaves.

circa 1900 CE

Ajyad Gate or the Rehmah Gate
The reason for the name Bab al-Rahamah is not known, but historically it was also known as the Ajyad gate or the great gate of Ajyad because it directly connected to the historic Ajyad Street. It was first built by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mahdi in the year 164 Hijri, and was reconstructed during the reign of Sultan Murad Khan in the year 984 Hijri. It used to have two arches, each of which had a strong wooden door with two leaves and provided direct access to the Ottoman period portico the ran around the perimeter of the inner courtyard.

It was also called the Gate of Mujahideen, as al-Taqi al-Fasi, Ibn Dhahira, and Qutb Al-Din identified it, as it was adjacent to the school of King Mujahid, the Ameer of Yemen, and al-Azraqi mentioned that it is one of the Gates of Banu Makhzum.

circa 1900 CE

Gate of the Egyptian Hospice
The gate of the Egyptian Hospice or simply the gate of Hospice, Bab al-Takkiya in Arabic (باب التكية), was named after an Egyptian hospice that was situated directly across the street. It was first installed by the Caliph Muhammad al-Mahdi in the year 164 Hijri, and was renovated during the reign of Sultan Murad Khan in the year 984 Hijri for the last time and before the Saudi expansions of the Great Mosque of Mecca. It had two outlets, each with a double-leaf door and is raised ten steps above the floor of the hallway.

Above the historic gate of Masjid Haram, a verse (50) from Surah ar-Rum was inscribed.

al-Azraqi mentions that this gate was also known as the gate of Banu Taim at the time. Taqi al-Fasi relates that historically it was also called the gate of Sharif Ajlan School since it was situated adjacent to the it.

circa 1900 CE

Umm Hani Gate
The Bab Umm Hani (باب أم هانئ) was named after Umm Hani bint Abi Talib, sister of the Commander of the Faithful Ali bin Abi Talib, as her house was located direclty in front of this gate. As al-Azraqi notes the it was one of the most famous gates (by this name) in to his day. It was first built by the Caliph Muhammad al-Mahdi in the year 164 Hijri, and, during the Ottoman period, rebuilt by Sultan Murad Khan in the year 984 Hijri. The gate was reaised some ten steps from the floor of the sanctuary (Masjid Haram) and had two wooden panels, like the rest of the doors of the mosque at the time. The gate was adorned by first three verses from Surah al-Fath from the holy Quran.


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