Where is Mecca Located? - Definition, Pilgrimage & History

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  • 0:05 Mecca Overview and Location
  • 1:17 Ancient History &…
  • 4:20 Mecca & the Hajj in…
  • 5:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Benjamin Olson
This lesson will describe the location of Mecca and the important role it plays in the Islamic religion. We will explore what is known of its history and its importance to Muslims today.

Mecca Overview and Location

A painting of Mecca in 1897

Mecca is the holiest place in the Islamic religion because it's the hometown of Islam's Prophet Muhammad and the place where he states that Allah revealed their holy book, the Koran, to him. Mecca has been the most important religious site for Muslims for 1,400 years. It's the destination of Muslim pilgrims from all over the world during the annual pilgrimage known as Hajj. Today, no non-Muslims are permitted to enter Mecca.

Mecca is a city located in southwestern Saudi Arabia in the region of Hejaz. The Red Sea coastline and the city of Jeddah are just to the west of Mecca. The capitol of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, is located 550 miles northeast of Mecca. Medina, the second most important place in Islam, due to the Prophet Muhammad's temporary exile there, is located 280 miles to the north of Mecca.

Mecca is located within a valley, surrounded by the vast Arabian Desert. Saudi Arabia is bordered by Yemen and Oman to the south, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain to the east, and Jordan, Iraq, and Kuwait to the north.

Ancient History & Birth of Islam

Like a great deal of the ancient and early medieval world, the culture, religion, and history of Mecca prior to the birth of Islam are not thoroughly understood. Mecca was clearly an important city for trade and commerce during the pre-Islamic period. The area was populated by numerous semi-nomadic Kuraish, Bedouin, and other tribes. In addition to local polytheistic, animistic, and other ancient indigenous religions, Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians would likely have passed through Mecca in the years surrounding the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Kabba in 1880.
Kaba 1880

It's widely believed by scholars that the Black Stone venerated by Muslims was also venerated by pagans in the pre-Islamic period. The Kaaba is a cube-shaped building that houses the Black Stone. Muslims believe that the Black Stone was sent down from heaven by Allah to indicate to Adam and Eve where to build a temple. Although what functions the Black Stone may have played in pre-Islamic religion is a matter of speculation, it almost certainly predates the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.

Muhammad was born in Mecca around 570 CE. He was born into a reasonably well-off, but not wealthy, family. His father apparently died before he was born, and his mother died while he was still a child. Muhammad was raised primarily in the household of his grandfather. As a young man, Muhammad began working for a wealthy widow named Khadijah. After proving himself to be a useful employee, Muhammad married Khadijah.

It isn't known what religious influences impacted Muhammad during his early years, but it's clear that monotheistic traditions, like Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, were known to him to some extent. Islamic texts tell us that Muhammad began spending time each year praying and fasting in a cave near Mecca. There, the archangel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad and began to dictate to him what would become the Koran, the holy book of Islam. Muhammad, according to the Islamic lore, was deeply disturbed by this turn of events at first, but eventually came to accept his role as the prophet of Allah.

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