Arabia is situated in the south west of the Continent of Asia. It is the biggest peninsula in the world. In the north it has Syria, in the west is the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, in the south flow the azure blue waters of the Indian Ocean. The coastal area of the Red Sea is a barren desert. Away from the coast there are dry mountains, desert dunes and sandy stretches merging into the horizon. This desert land is called the Hedjaz. This area has no agriculture whatsoever nor are there any means of irrigation for crops to grow. If there is any rain, the water runs away into the valleys of the barren mountains or it gets accumulated in the low lying ditches. For miles and miles there will be no trace of water in the desert. In such a parched area where there are vast stretches of desert land and barren mountains, the likelihood of commercial activity and habitation are naturally sparse. However on the periphery of Kaaba the Amalaqa used to live a nomadic life. These nomads had no permanent habitation and the search for sustenance and water used to take them from place to place in the desert. Wherever they found some water and greenery, they would set their camps. When the water and the pasture for their animals were exhausted, they would move in search for new source of water.

In the Batha Valley of this vast desert habitation started with the progeny of Porphet Ibrahim (a.s.). Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) was born in Babylon 1081 years after the Deluge of Noah (a.s.). He lost his father during his early childhood and was brought up by his uncle who was known as Adaar. Adaar means the chief keeper of the temple. This word was later changed to Azar. Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) had his upbringing in an environment where idols were carved and worshipped. They also used to worship the sun, moon and the stars. The statue of the ruler of the time used to be revered and worshipped. In such depraved surroundings, Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) never had any wish for idol worship. To the contrary, he was against idol worship from his very childhood. He was very critical of the ways of his people and always invited them to worship one and only God. However, the people never paid any heed to his preaching. They continued thinking that all their affairs were controlled by their lifeless idols! When Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) felt that his people were incorrigibly adamant in their false beliefs, he thought of giving them a proof of the abject helplessness of the idols. For this he waited for an opportune moment. The opportunity came when the inhabitants assembled in the wilderness for celebration of a festival and there was not a single soul in the town. He headed for the temple and broke the biggest idol and many smaller ones. He left the hatchet used for breaking the idols near the neck of the biggest idol. When the people returned to the town, they found that the temple was in utter disarray and the pieces of the broken idols scattered all around. They looked at each other in disbelief and then said that this would be the doing of Ibrahim (a.s.) who always talked against the idols. They called Ibrahim (a.s.) aside and asked him if he had caused the damage? He replied:

of speech, This is the doing of their biggest idol. If they have the power do ask them!

When the people heard Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) say the impossible thing, they said, “O Ibrahim (a.s.)! Have the idols ever spoken?” He replied, “How could those who cannot even speak and defend themselves be of any help to anyone. You consider them your gods and bow to them!” The belief of the idolatrous people was that the idols bring the rains, they help in growing the crops, and give them the means of sustenance and protect them against calamities. Now they found the very idols helplessly shattered. They brooded over the matter and then presented Ibrahim (a.s.) at the court of Nimrod. He asked Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s),” How you dared to harm the idols? Pride has gone so much to your head that you have challenged my divine authority! “Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) replied, “What are your idols? They are the handiwork of human sculptors. They are weaker than the weakest creatures! Then how do you expect me to accept you as a god when you have no authority over your own life and death! “Nimrod was furious hearing these words from Hazrat Ibrahim ( a.s.). His own uncle threatened Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s) to crush him with the stones. Nimrod ordered Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) to be burnt on a pyre. For this purpose a big pyre was lighted. When the flames rose high, Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) was thrown into the fire. Not a single hair of his was burnt. It was as if the pyre was a blooming garden. Seeing this miracle, Nimrod was dumb-founded! But his flame of revenge was not extinguished. He ordered Hazrat Ibrahim’s assets to be confiscated and exiled him from the kingdom. When Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) heard this decree, he said, “You have no right to confiscate my animals and belongings!” Nimrod said, “You have acquired these things living in my realm!” Hazrat Ibrahim rejoined, “Then, return to me the years that I have spent living in your city and take my belongings!” Nimrod had no reply for this argument. He ordered that his belongings may not be confiscated but he must be banished forthwith.

Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) left Babylon along with his spouse Hazrat Sarah and nephew Hazrat Lot (a.s.)). Passing through Halb and Damascus this small group reached Palestine which, in those days, was called Kan-aan. In Palestine his abode was eleven miles away from Jerusalem. The locality is known as Hebron. Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) stayed here for sometime and then proceeded to Egypt to preach the people about the Unity of Allah. When the king of Egypt, Raqyoon, saw the pretty Hazrat Sarah, evil intentions passed through his mind. When he stretched his hand towards her, it instantly got paralyzed. Raqyoon repented his action and begged for Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.)’s pardon. He gave valuable gifts to the group and also presented a slave girl, Hajra, to Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.). This girl later on became the consort of Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.). The historian Tabari writes that Hazrat Hajra was the daughter of Alwan ibne Sanan, the Pharoh of Egypt. Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) returned to Hebron to make it his permanent place of residence. He prayed to Allah to give him off springs that could help him advance his Mission. His prayers were answered and, at the age of eightysix, he was blessed with his first son Ismail (a.s.) through Hazrat Hajra. After sometime Hazrat Sarah too gave birth to Hazrat Ishaq (a.s).

When Hazrat Sarah presented a son to Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) she insisted that he should move away Hajra and Ismail (a.s.) from Hebron. Hazrat

Ibrahim (a.s.) agreed and traveled with Hazrat Hajra and Hazrat Ismail (a.s.). With Divine Guidance they reached a desolate place in the wilderness of Hedjaz. Although the place was devoid of any human presence, Allah had earmarked it for the location of the Umm-al-Qura – The Fountainhood of Habitations. Therefore, with the hands of Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.), the foundation of habitation at the Holy Place was laid. He left Hazrat Ismail (a.s.) and Hazrat Hajra there. Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) had made a promise to Hazrat Sara, while departing from Hebron, that he would settle Hajra and Ismail (a.s.) at a safe place and return to her. Therefore he left them in the trust of Allah and started on his return journey with a heavy heart that he was leaving behind his beloved son and the faithful wife. When he reached the Mount Kada at some distance, he glanced back at Hajra and Ismail (a.s) and prayed to Allah:

Rabbana inni askanta man zurriati bawaad ghaira zi zara inda baitak al mahram Rabbana leyaqeemus salata faj-al afidat min al naas tahwi ilaihim warzaqhum min al qaraat la-allahum yashkuroon

O Sustainer! Near Your Holy Abode, where nothing grows, I have settled my progeny. O Our Provider! When my progeny establish Prayer, turn the hearts of people towards them and bestow them with sustenance of fruits that they are grateful to You..

Although Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) had faith in Allah’s Beneficence, this prayer gave satisfaction to his heart. He then took the way back to Hebron. Hazrat Hajra made a canopy of the sheet of cloth and sat under it with little Ismail (a.s.). Although it was quiet all around, the courageous lady was not scared at all. She had absolute trust in Allah. She had with her only one pitcher of water that was exhausted in a day or two. Now she worried about water. As the sun progressed on its journey, the intensity of thirst increased. She became restless looking at the parched face of the baby. She started searching for water in the environs. She climbed over the peaks of Safa and Marwa and made seven trips between the two peaks. When she came back totally exhausted, Hazrat Hajra noticed water oozing from the pebbles of sand. She removed the pebbles and stones from the spot and a spring of sweet and cool water spurted out. Hazrat Hajra’s happiness knew no bounds. She uttered, “Zam-Zam!” This word in the Hebrew language means, “Stay put!” This, thus has become the name of the spring. Hazrat Hajra quenched the thirst of her baby and herself with the cool water and then erected a parapet around the place with stones gathered from the surroundings so that it served as a cistern for the water. Looking at the water, birds started hovering around the place. In no time there were signs of life in the desolate wilderness.

At that time a caravan of Bani Jarham of Yemen passed that way,.going to Syria. When they noticed groups of birds in the horizon of the valley, they were surprised. They wondered what the birds had to do in the desolate, waterless desert. When the caravan descended from the heights of the mountain, they noticed a lady sitting with her bowed head and having a baby on her lap. Nearby they saw a spring of water. Finding the spring there, they asked the permission of Hazrat Hajra if they could settle down in the neighborhood. Hazrat Hajra was agreeable to their inhabiting the area,

but she told them that without the consent of Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) she had no authority to give such a permission to them. She asked them to wait till Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) came back and made a decision about their request. When Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) arrived there, as promised, Hazrat Hajra obtained his consent and allowed Bani Jarham to make a settlement there. Thus a small colony of shacks was the first community of inhabitants there.

Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.), with Allah’s Wish, commenced construction of Khana-e-Kaaba in that wilderness. Hazrat Ismail (a.s.) helped his father in this work. He carried stones on his shoulders to the site and Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.) sorted out the stones to erect the walls of the structure. Thus the team of father and son accomplished the construction of the Kaaba. It was the result of their sincerity and dedication that very soon Kaaba got the status of the most revered place of pilgrimage in the entire Arabian Peninsula. People started heading for the Kaaba from all directions. The population of the place thus increased by leaps and bounds. It became a bustling habitation in the heart of Peninsular Arabia and became known by the name of Bakka. This is its original name and Zaboor too refers to the place as Bakka. In the Holy Quran too, it is termed as Bakka when the Book mentions about the event of its construction:

Un awwal bayt waza lilnaas lil-lazi ba Bakkat mubaraka wa hudal lil aalameen

The First House that was made for the people is in Bakka which is felicitous (place) and a source of inspiration for the worlds.

The other name of Bakka which is in vogue is Makka al Mukarrama. Zohak says that the ‘baa’ of Bakka has been replaced with ‘maa’. He says that both are the names of the same place. Some traditions mention that the place where the Kaaba is located is Bakka and the habitation around it is Makka. There are several versions about the naming of the place but those that have been authenticated by the Infallible Ahl-al-Bayt are that the word Bakka has its root in the word ‘Buka’ that means lamentation. The reason for giving this name to the place is that whenever the Arabs from all over assembled there, they lamented and wailed loudly. Therefore Imam Jafar-eSadiq (a.s.) has said:

Sameet Makka Bakkat la-aan an naas kaanu yatabakoon fiha – Alal al Sharaeh

Makka has been named Bakka that people used to assemble there and do lamenting and wailing

– Mujahid too had a similar opinion. He says:

Innama samyat Bakkat la-aan an naas yatabaakoon feehal rijaal wan nisa

– —Durr e Mantoor Vol 2, Page 52

Makka was termed as Bakka because men and women used to assemble there and wail

And also Makka is derived from the word ‘Mak-aa’ that means shouting and whistling. Therefore Imam Reza (a.s.) says:

Sameet Makka Makka la an annaas kanu yamkoon beha- Amal alSharaeh

– Makka is called Makka because people there shout and cry:

This shouting and wailing too was considered as a sort of worship by the people there. Therefore Allah says in the Holy Quran:

Wa maa kana salatahum indal bayt al amkaa wa tasdeeh

Near the Kaaba their worship was whistling and clapping of hands

In the Holy Quran the city of Makka is also mentioned as Umm-al-Qura. The real meaning of the word Umm is origin or foundation. One reason for terming Makka as Umm al Qura is that a spate of human population originated from here and spread far and wide in the world. Therefore, when Hazrat Ismail (a.s.) married the daughter of Mazaz ibne Umro, the chief of the tribe of Bani Jarham, his progeny prospered and spread soon into Tihama, Najd and Hedjaz and as far as Palestine and Yemen. They also established settlements in other parts of the world. This holy land, besides being the foundation of human settlements also is the center for the Faith and Guidance of the humankind. On this very land the First House of Allah was constructed. The Message of Islam too was first given from these environs. The call for Tawheed (The Unity of Allah) was given from here and the foundation for the Last and Ultimate Faith of Allah has been laid here. The Revelation of the Holy Quran too commenced in Makka. The Prophet of Islam was born here and his radiance spread far and wide. It is here that Hazrat Ali ibne Abi Talib was born in the Holy precincts of the Kaaba. In Makka he spent his years from childhood to early youth.

It is a fact that different places in the world have effect on the life in consonance with the geographic location and the climate. Therefore, what thrives in one place, generally doesn’t in another clime. Similarly, the land in the same area has stretches that have different types of soil. Therefore, when something is grown on a fertile soil, it thrives. If the same crop is on an infertile piece of land, it will wither. The plants growing on soft soils are generally weak. The shrubs growing on rocky soils are hardy. The reason for this is that the roots of the plants growing on desert soils have to penetrate deep to draw the moisture from there. Therefore Nature has provided these plants the strength to contend with the harsh environment. Ameer-al-Momineen (a.s.) has also made an observation about such desert soils:

Alawan al shajarat al abrriaaslab awad awal rawaeh khazrat araq jalood wal nabataat al badawiah qawi wa qaud wa abta khamooda- Nahj al Balagha Remember the timber of the trees in the wilderness is strong and the bark of fresh and fleshy plants is weak and puny. The wood from the trees growing in the wild burns well and the fire lasts longer.

Similarly the soil, the climate and the environment of a place have marked effect on the mental and physical built of the people there. The place of birth influences the character and habits of the people there. When there is a change of environment from the wilderness to urban conglomerates, then they slowly mould themselves towards adoption of the new ways.

If we take stock of the inhabitants of the hot desert lands, we find that they are more frugal, chivalrous and hard working than those living in more comfortable and salubrious climes. In the deserts people have to contend with harsh situations. Therefore, they have the capability to face these difficulties.Hazrat Ameer al Momineen (a.s.) had the faculty of physical strength and equanimity of nature endowed by Allah in abundant measure. Even on human consideration too, the harsh desert environment too was responsible for his great faculty of resilience.


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