Grand Mosque

views updated


The most important mosque in Islam and destination for Muslim pilgrims from around the world.

The Grand Mosque is located in Mecca and known in Arabic as al-Masjid al-Haram (the Mosque of the Holy Sanctuary). Around the year 622 (the year 8 hijri in the Muslim calendar) the prophet Muhammad made into a mosque the sacred precinct around the Kaʿba, the well of Zamzam, and the Maqam of Abraham. In keeping with the needs of the growing community of worshipers, the mosque was enlarged and embellished with collonades and minarets. In its large courtyard with the Kaʿba in the center were constructed four shelters (maqams), to be used during prayer times by the prayer leader (imam) for each of the main schools in Sunni Islam (Hanbali, Maliki, Shafiʿi, and Hanafi). It was probably the first monumental mosque in Islam, constructed before the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Major modifications were made from 1572 to 1577, including the construction of a series of small domes to replace the flat roof covering the mosque's interior spaces. The most recent extensions and improvements were begun in 1991. The Grand Mosque is the devotional focal point for Muslims around the world, who face in its direction whenever they pray. Historically a center for intellectual life, the mosque is still used for teaching and research.

See also kaʿba; utaybi, juhayman al-.


Rutter, Eldon. The Holy Cities of Arabia. New York; London: Putnam, 1928.

Wensinck, A. J. "Al-Masjid Al-Haram." Encyclopedia of Islam, New Edition, vol. 6, edited by C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and C. Pellat. Leiden: Brill, 1989.

malcolm c. peck
updated by anthony b. toth

About this article

Grand Mosque

Updated About content Print Article