The current structure covers an area of including the outdoor and indoor praying spaces and can accommodate up to two million worshipers during the Hajj period, one of the largest annual gatherings+ of people in the world. Unlike many other mosques which are segregated, men and women can worship at Al-Masjid Al-Haram together.
According to Islamic tradition the very first construction of the Kaaba+, the heart of Al-Masjid Al-Haram, was undertaken by Abraham+. The Qur'an said that this was the first house built for humanity to worship Allah+.
With the order of the God , Ibrahim+ and his son Ismael+ found the original foundation and rebuilt the Kaaba In 1629, during the reign of Sultan Murad IV+, the Kaaba was rebuilt with stones from Mecca and the mosque was renovated. In the renovation of the mosque, a new stone arcade was added, three more minarets (which made the total number 7) were built, and the marble flooring was retiled. This was the unaltered state of the mosque for nearly three centuries.
The first major renovation under the Saudi kings was done between 1955 and 1973. In this renovation, four more minarets were added, the ceiling was refurnished, and the floor was replaced with artificial stone and marble. The Mas'a gallery (Al-Safa and Al-Marwah+) is included in the Masjid via roofing and enclosements. During this renovation many of the historical features built by the Ottomans, particularly the support columns, were demolished+.
The second Saudi renovations under King Fahd+, added a new wing and an outdoor prayer area to the mosque. The new wing, which is also for prayers, is accessed through the King Fahd Gate. This extension is considered to have been from 1982–1988.
The third Saudi extension (1988–2005) saw the building of more minarets, the erecting of a King's+ residence overlooking the Masjid and more prayer area in and around the mosque itself. These developments have taken place simultaneously with those in Arafat+, Mina+ and Muzdalifah+. This third extension has also resulted in 18 more gates, three domes corresponding in position to each gate and the installation of nearly 500 marble columns. Other modern developments include the addition of heated floors, air conditioning, escalators and a drainage system.
In 2007, the mosque underwent a fourth extension project which is estimated to last until 2020. King Abdullah Ibn Abdul Azeez+ plans to increase the mosque's capacity to 2 million.
Northern expansion of the mosque began in August 2011 and is expected to be completed in 1.5 years. The area of the mosque will be expanded from the current to . A new gate named after King Abdullah will be built together with two new minaret+s, bringing their total to 11. The cost of the project is $10.6 billion and after completion the mosque will house over 2.5 million worshipers. The Mataf (the circumambulation areas around the Kaaba+) will also see expansion and all closed spaces will be air conditioned.
There has been some controversy that the expansion projects of the mosque and Mecca itself are causing harm to early Islamic heritage. Many ancient buildings, some more than a thousand years old, have been demolished to make room not only for the expansion of Al-Masjid Al-Haram, but for new malls and hotels. Some examples are:
* Bayt Al-Mawlid, the house where Muhammad was born demolished and rebuilt as a library.
* Dar Al-Arqam, the first Islamic school where Muhammad taught flattened to lay marble tiles.
* The house of Abu Jahal+ has been demolished and replaced by public washrooms.
* Dome which served as a canopy over the Well of Zamzam+ demolished.
* Some Ottoman+portico+s at Al-Masjid Al-Haram demolished and the remaining under threat.
* House of Muhammed in Medina where he lived after the migration from Mecca.
The importance of the mosque is twofold. It not only serves as the common direction towards which Muslims pray, but is also the main location for pilgrimages.
The Qibla—the direction that Muslims turn to in their prayers (salat+)—is toward the Kaaba and symbolizes unity in worshiping one Allah (God). At one point the direction of the Qibla was toward Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem+) (and is therefore called the ''First of the Two Qiblas''), however, this only lasted for seventeen months, after which the Qibla became oriented towards the Kaaba in Mecca. According to accounts from Muhammad+'s companions, the change happened very suddenly during the noon prayer at Medina in the Masjid al-Qiblatain+.
The Haram is the focal point of the Hajj and Umrah+ pilgrimages that occur in the month of Dhu al-Hijjah+ in the Islamic calendar+ and at any time of the year, respectively. The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the Pillars of Islam, required of all able-bodied Muslims who can afford the trip. In recent times, about 3 million Muslims perform the Hajj every year.
Some of the rituals performed by pilgrims are symbolic of historical incidents. For example, the episode of Hagar's search for water is emulated by Muslims as they run between the two hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah.
The Hajj is associated with the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad+ from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Ibrahim (Abraham).
The Hajj requires pilgrims to walk seven times around the Kaaba in a counter-clockwise direction. This circumambulation+, the Tawaf+, is also performed by pilgrims during the Umrah (lesser pilgrimage).
The Black Stone+ ('') is the eastern cornerstone of the Kaaba. It was set intact into the Kaaba 's wall by Muhammad+ in the year 605, five years before his first revelation+. Since then it has been broken into a number of fragments and is now cemented into a silver frame in the side of the Kaaba . Its physical appearance is that of a fragmented dark rock, polished smooth by the hands of millions of pilgrims.
Many of the pilgrims, if possible, stop and kiss the Black Stone, emulating the kiss that Islamic tradition records it having received from Muhammad. If they cannot reach it, they point to it on each of their seven circuits around the Kaaba .
The ''Maqām Ibrahim'' (Ibrahim+'s place of standing) is a rock that reportedly has an imprint of Abraham's foot, which is kept in a crystal dome next to the Kaaba. This rock was identified by most Islamic scholars as the one behind which Muhammad prayed when he circumambulated the Kaaba.M.J. Kister, "Maḳām Ibrāhīm," p. 105, ''The Encyclopaedia of Islam'' (new ed.), vol. VI (Mahk-Mid), eds. Bosworth et al., Brill: 1991, pp. 104-107. Several traditions existed to explain how Abraham's footprint miraculously appeared in the stone, including one suggesting it appeared when Abraham stood on the stone while building the Kaaba; when the walls became too high, Abraham stood on the ''maqām'', which miraculously rose up to let him continue building and also miraculously went down in order to allow Ishmail+ to hand him stones. Other traditions held that the footprint appeared when the wife of Ishmail+ washed Abraham's head, or alternatively when Abraham stood atop it in order to summon the people to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Al-Safa and Al-Marwah+ ('', '''') are two hills, now located in Al-Masjid Al-Haram. In Islam+ic tradition, Ibrahim+'s wife Hagar+ runs between the hills of Safa and Marwah looking for water for her infant son Ishmael+ until God eventually reveals her the Zamzam+. Muslim+s also travel back and forth seven times during the ritual pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah as a remembrance to her.
Al-Safa – from which the ritual walking ('') begins – is located approximately half a mile from the Kaaba. Al-Marwah is located about from the Kaaba . The distance between Safa and Marwah is approximately
Masjid al-Haram+ Al-Masjid Al-Haram (, The Sacred Mosque or The Grand Mosque) is in the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is the largest and oldest mosque in the world and surrounds one of Islam's holiest places, the Kaaba.