18
May
07

Ka’bah As A Place Of Worship

M S M Saifullah

 


Assalamu-alaikum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:I was prompted to write something on this issue when
someone argued me about the historicity of Ka’bah and Makkah. This led me to get
back on my favourite past-time of browsing through the references. One of the brothers
in Cambridge, UK, supplied me with some of the information on this issue and I worked
on them.

Location Of Makkah

Makkah is at the intersection of latitude 21 to 25
degree north and longitude 39 to 49 degree east. It is set in a rugged landscape
consisting mostly of solid granite, with rocks sometimes reaching 300 meters (1,000
feet) above see level.

Makkah is enclosed by the Valley of Abraham, which
is surrounded by two nearby mountain ranges to the east, west and south. The northern
range comprises the Al-Falaq and Qu’aqi’an mountains, while the southern range consists
of Abu Hudaidah mountain to the west, Kuday to the south and Abu Qubais and Khindimah
to the south-east.

There are three main entrances to Makkah: Al-Mu’allat
(also known as Al-Huj
ûIt is generally agreed that Al-Mu’allat includes
all areas which are higher than the Haram and Al-Musfalah covers all areas that are
lowers.

Ka’bah & Makkah In History

Edward Gibbon writes about the Ka’bah and its existence
before the Christian era in his book:

….. of blind mythology of barbarians
 – of the local deities, of the stars, the air, and the earth, of their sex or titles,
 their attributes or subordination. Each tribe, each family, each independent warrier,
 created and changed the rites and the object of this fantastic worship; but the nation,
 in every age, has bowed to the religion as well as to the language of Mecca. The
 genuine antiquity of Caaba ascends beyond the Christian era: in describing
 the coast of the Red sea the Greek historian Diodorus has remarked, between the Thamudites
 and the Sabeans, a famous temple, whose superior sanctity was revered by all
 the Arabians; the linen of silken veil, which is annually renewed by the Turkish
 emperor, was first offered by the Homerites, who reigned seven hundred years before
 the time of Mohammad.

Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian of 1st century
BC who wrote
Bibliotheca Historica

And a temple has been set-up there, which
 is very holy and exceedingly revered by all Arabians.

It is interesting to know that Claudius Ptolemy of
Alexandria, mathematician and astronomer, flourishing about a century after Pliny,
undertook to make an atlas of the habitable world. He was not a descriptive geographer,
and his book was intended to be no more than a commentary on his maps. He enumerated
some hundred and fourteen cities or villages in Arabia Felix.

For example, Dumaetha, placed
 by Ptolemy just outside the northern boundary of Arabia Felix, must be the mediaeval
 Arabian Daumet, which is today the chief village of the great oasis of Jauf.
 Hejr, famous in the “times of ignorance” as the seat of a kingdom,
 and now Medayin Salih, is Ptolemy’s Egra. His Thaim is Teima,
 now known for its inscriptions to have had temples and some sort of civilization
 as far back as 500 BC. It is the Tema of Job. In Lathrippa, placed
 inland from Iambia (Yambo), we recognize the Iathrippa of Stephan of Byzantium,
 the Yathrib of the early Arab traditions, now honoured as El Medina,
 the City of Cities.

Apart from this a place called Macoraba is
also shown which is identified as Mecca (please refer to the map facing page
17 of reference [3]). G E von Grunebaum says:

Mecca is mentioned by Ptolemy,
 and the name he gives it allows us to identify it as a South Arabian foundation created
 around a sanctuary.

Makkah In The Scriptures

The Qur’ân talks about Bakkah (the older
name of Makkah) being the first house of worship appointed for mankind. It also addresses
this place as Umm ul-Qur
â

Verily, the first House (of worship)
 appointed for mankind was that at Bakkah (Makkah), full of blessing, and a
 guidance for Al-‘Alamin (the mankind and jinns). In it are manifest signs (for example),
 the Maqam (place) of Ibrahim (Abraham); whosoever enters it, he attains security.
 And Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) to the House (Ka’bah) is a duty that mankind
 owes to Allah, those who can afford the expenses (for one’s conveyance, provision
 and residence); and whoever disbelieves [i.e. denies Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah),
 then he is a disbeliever of Allah], then Allah stands not in need of any of the ‘Alamin
 (mankind and jinns).
[Qur’ân
 3:96-97]

The Bible also mentions about the valley of Baca
in connection with the pilgrimage. Below is the quote from Psalms 84 (NIV):

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
 O LORD Almighty!
 2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh
 cry out for the living God.
 3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where
 she may have her young– a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my
 God.
 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. 5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
 

 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the
 autumn rains also cover it with pools.

 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

 8 Hear my prayer, O LORD God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob.

 9 Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.

 10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be
 a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good
 thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

 12 O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.

The interpretation of the valley of Baca in
the
The Jewish EncylopediaBaca, The Valley Of: A valley
 mentioned in Psalms LXXXIV:7. Since it is there said that pilgrims transform the
 valley into a land of wells, an old translators gave to Baca, the meaning
 of a “valley of weeping”; but it signifies rather any valley lacking water.
 Support for this latter view is to be found in II Samuel V:23 et seq.; I Chronicles
 XIV:14 et seq., in which the plural form of the same word designates a tree
 similar to the balsam tree; and it was supposed that a dry valley could be named
 after this tree. Konig takes Baca from the Arabian Baka’a, and translates
 it “lack of streams”. The Psalmist apparently has in mind a particular
 valley whose natural condition led him to adopt its name.
  

The translation of Arabian Baka’a as “lack
of stream” seems to throw some light on the nature of the valley before the
appearance of the stream of Zam-Zam near Ka’bah which was a dry place
with no vegetation whatsoever.

The Anchor Bible DictionaryThe Jewish
Encylopedia
. Below is the full quote.

Baca, The Valley Of (PLACE): [Hebrew
 ’emeq habakka’], The valley of Baca (Psalms 84:1) is either a historical
 place name or a symbolical expression for “deep sorrow”. The first part
 of Psalms 84:6 seems to mean that by “passing through the experience of deep
 sorrow, righteous ones can make it the source of life.” The Septuagint translated
 the phrase into Greek as “the valley of weeping”. The word ’emeq
 “valley” has the root meaning of “deep”, so the expression may
 mean “deep sorrow”.

However, some have considered it as the
 “valley of the balsam tree” from the same word in plural form found in
 2 Samuel 5:24. This is based on the assumption that baka may be a “gum-exuding
 [weeping] tree”. Another possibility is that the word beka’im (plural
 of baka) may mean “weeping wall-rocks” in the valley of Rephaim
 on whose tops David and his troops were waiting for the coming of the Philistine
 army passing through the valley below (2 Samuel 5:24). It seems safe to seek the
 meaning of baka in relation to the dripping water, since we often find this
 word in the names related to rivers and wadis, such as Wadi al-Baka in the Sinaitic
 district and Baca on the wadi in the central Galilee area, W of Meroth. It is also
 possible to understand beka’im as the place of “weepings” of the
 Philistine army for their defeat by David. After all these considerations, the expression
 of “valley of baka” can best be taken as a symbolic expression “weeping”
 or “deep sorrow” which fits well in the context of Psalms 84:6


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