Mecca History, Saudi Arabia
The traditional history of Mecca goes back almost to the beginning of time. It is said that Adam and Eve were separated from one another after being cast from the Garden of Eden. After God considered their repentance complete, they were reunited on Mount Arafat which overlooks what is now Mecca.
Ibrahim (also known as Abraham) and his son Ismail (or Ishmael) built the Kaaba in Mecca in 2000 B.C. Soon after this, the inhabitants of the area turned to tribal religions and the Kaaba housed hundreds of idols belonging to many nomadic tribes in the area. The ruling tribe was Quraysh and in the fifth century A.D. they settled in Mecca and developed merchant and trading skills.
In the 500’s, they joined the spice trade and Mecca became a major trade center. It was the wealthiest settlement on the Red Sea. Mecca gained great political and economic power worldwide. Even though the area was barren, inhabitants of the city had enough water due to the Zamzam well which was on the site of the Kaaba, which is among the holiest shrines in the region. The area was very harsh and this led to constant battles and other conflicts between the tribes; however, an annual truce was declared and members of the tribes would take a pilgrimage to Mecca so that they could drink from the well and pray at the shrine.
In 570, Muhammad was born in Mecca. His revelations began in 610 A.D. and thus began Meccan monotheism in the form of Islam. Muhammad left Mecca in 622 because of great persecution. The Muslims who stayed behind were at constant conflict with the Quraysh tribe. The final battle, the Battle of the Trench, occurred in 627 and ended with the defeat of the tribe. The following year they entered into a treaty stating that Muhammad and the Muslims could return to the city in 629.
Members of the Quraysh violated the treaty but in the end, they surrendered to Muhammad. This is when Mecca, as we know it now, began to develop. The Kaaba, along with the rest of the city, was cleansed of the idols. Mecca was declared by Muhammad to be the holiest site of Islam pilgrimage. Shortly thereafter, Muhammad moved to Medina. After Muhammad’s death in 632, the city still attracted pilgrims from all over the Islamic Empire who came to perform an annual ritual known as Hajj.
Mecca fluttered out of politics and to this day, the city is devoted to religion and scholarly endeavors. However, it did have its share of problems over the centuries. In the early 10th century, the city was sacked by a change-driven Muslim sect known as the Qarmatians.
In the mid 14th century, the Black Death reached Mecca. In the early 16th century, the local government gave supremacy of the city to the Ottoman Empire. In 1802, the city was taken by the First Saudi State who held the city for approximately 11 years, after which the Ottoman Empire regained the city. After more than a century of occasional conflict and the rise and fall of different Meccan and Saudi governments, Mecca became part of Saudi Arabia where it remains to this day.
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