SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Mekka, Makkah, ancient Bakkah, Macoraba CATEGORY: site DEFINITION: A caravan town on the route from southern Arabia to Palestine, the most holy city of Islam; it was the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, and is a religious center to which Muslims attempt a pilgrimage, or hajj, during their lifetime. Located in the Sirat Mountains in western Saudi Arabia, the focal point of the pilgrimage is the sanctuary which contains the Ka'bah which, according to Islamic tradition, Abraham and Ishmael built as the house of God. The Ka'bah was built before the advent of Islam in the 7th century and has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Now entirely of stone, it was embellished (according to Mas'udi) with mosaic brought from a church at San'a in Yemen. The town was located about midway between Ma'rib in the south and Petra in the north, and it gradually developed by Roman and Byzantine times into an important trade and religious center. The holy book of Islam, the Qur'an, was revealed to the Prophet partly on Mount Arafat, just outside Mecca.
CATEGORY: site DEFINITION: A landlocked country in western Africa, one of the early African Sudanic states which rose to prominence in the 12th-13th centuries. It effectively took over control of the Bambuk goldfields from ancient Ghana -- as well as their links with the trans-Saharan trade. By the 14th century its rulers controlled an extensive stretch of territory, including the Songhai country of the middle Niger, and Mali's ruler made the pilgrimage to Mecca. The empire declined in the late 15th century after its overthrow by Songhay. Mali was occupied in the Paleolithic and Neolithic, with remains including Asselar man, a human skeleton found north of Timbuktu in 1927, and rock paintings and carvings.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: ancient Yathrib CATEGORY: site DEFINITION: An oasis town in western Saudi Arabia, 447 km (278 miles) from Mecca, known as Yathrib before Muhammad's residence there. Medina is second only to Mecca as the holiest place of Muslim pilgrimage. It is venerated by all Muslims as the place to which the Prophet Muhammad fled from Mecca in 622. This event (the Hijrah / Hegira / higira) marks the beginning of the Islamic era and Muslim calendar. Muhammad built himself a house consisting of a walled compound containing a courtyard, living quarters, and a double portico. The Prophet and his followers worshipped here and the building, with its large courtyard and covered hall, became the prototype of congregational mosques, such as those at Samar-Ra. Soon afterward Muhammad drove out the Jews who had controlled the oasis. Thereafter known as Medina, the city prospered as the administrative capital of the steadily expanding Islamic state, a position it maintained until 661, when it was superseded in that role by Damascus. The House of the Prophet was rebuilt in 707-709 by the caliph al-Walid, who inserted a niche (the mihab) in the end wall of the portico to indicate the direction one must face while praying.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Arabic: masjid CATEGORY: structure DEFINITION: Any house or open area of prayer in Islam. The earliest mosques were simple enclosures, imitating the courtyard of the Prophet Muhammad's house at Medina of the 7th century AD. Most mosques have large areas, partly covered and partly open, where the community meets for prayer. Mosques usually, but not always, faceMecca, the direction of which (qibla) is indicated by a niche (mihrab) at the center of the end wall. To the right, there is a stepped pulpit (minbar). Outside the mosque, the most prominent feature is the minaret(s) (manar), usually towers, from which the muezzin gives the call to prayer. Schools and libraries are frequently attached to mosques. In some cases a maktab (elementary school) is attached to a mosque, mainly for the teaching of the Qur'an, and informal classes in law and doctrine are given for people of the surrounding neighborhood.
SYNONYMS OR RELATED TERMS: Omayyad CATEGORY: culture DEFINITION: The first great Muslim dynasty of Arab leaders (caliphs) to rule the Empire of the Caliphate, 661-750 AD, descended from a Meccan merchant who became a prominent administrator under the Prophet Muhammad. Headed by Abu Sufyan, the Umayyads were a tribe centered in Mecca who initially resisted Islam but finally converted in 627. In the first Muslim civil war (656-661) Abu Sufyan's son Mu'awiyah emerged victorious over 'Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law and fourth caliph; Mu'awiyah then established himself as the first Umayyadcaliph. The Umayyads were supplanted by the Abbasids in 750.