Masjid al-Haram

Islam's holiest mosque located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

21°25′21″N 39°49′34″E / 21.42250°N 39.82611°E / 21.42250; 39.82611Coordinates: 21°25′21″N 39°49′34″E / 21.42250°N 39.82611°E / 21.42250; 39.82611ArchitectureTypemosqueSpecificationsCapacity2.5 million[2]Minaret(s)9Minaret height89 m (292 ft)Site area356,000 square metres (88 acres) [3]
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Masjid al-Haram (Arabic: ٱَلْمَسْجِدُ ٱلْحَرَامُ, romanizedal-Masjid al-Ḥarām, lit.'The Inviolable Mosque'),[4] also known as the Great Mosque of Mecca,[5] is a mosque that surrounds the Kaaba in Mecca, in the Mecca Province of Saudi Arabia. It is a site of pilgrimage in the Hajj, which every Muslim must do at least once in their lives if able, and is also the main phase for the ʿUmrah, the lesser pilgrimage that can be undertaken any time of the year. The rites of both pilgrimages include circumambulating the Kaaba within the mosque. The Great Mosque includes other important significant sites, including the Black Stone, the Zamzam Well, Maqam Ibrahim, and the hills of Safa and Marwa.[6]

As of August 2020,[update] the Great Mosque is the largest mosque in the world. It has undergone major renovations and expansions through the years.[7] It has passed through the control of various caliphs, sultans and kings, and is now under the control of the King of Saudi Arabia who is titled the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.[8]


The Great Mosque contends with the Mosque of the Companions in the Eritrean city of Massawa[9] and Quba Mosque in Medina as the oldest mosque.[10] According to Islamic tradition, Islam as a religion precedes Muhammad,[11][12][13] representing previous prophets such as Abraham.[14] Abraham is credited by Muslims with having built the Kaaba in Mecca, and consequently its sanctuary, which according to the Muslim view is seen as the first mosque[15] that ever existed.[16][17][18] According to other scholars, Islam started during the lifetime of Muhammad in the 7th century CE,[19] and so did architectural components such as the mosque. In that case, either the Mosque of the Companions[20] or Quba Mosque would be the first mosque that was built in the history of Islam.[15]

Era of Abraham and Ishmael

According to Islamic doctrine in the Quran, Abraham together with his son Ishmael raised the foundations of a house,[21] which has been identified by commentators[by whom?] as the Kaaba. God showed Abraham the exact site which was previously built by Adam, very near to what is now the Well of Zamzam, where Abraham and Ishmael began work on the construction of the Kaaba.[citation needed] After Abraham had built the Kaaba, an angel brought to him the Black Stone, a celestial stone that, according to tradition, had fallen from Heaven on the nearby hill Abu Qubays.[citation needed] The Black Stone is believed by Islamic scholars to be the only remnant of the original structure made by Abraham.[citation needed]

After placing the Black Stone in the Eastern corner of the Kaaba, Abraham received a revelation, in which God told the aged prophet that he should now go and proclaim the pilgrimage to mankind, so that men may come both from Arabia and from lands far away, on camel and on foot.[22]

Era of Muhammad

Upon Muhammad's victorious return to Mecca in 630 CE, he broke the idols in and around the Kaaba,[23] similar to what, according to the Quran, Abraham did in his homeland.[citation needed] Thus ended polytheistic use of the Kaaba, and began monotheistic rule over it and its sanctuary.[24][25][26][27]

Umayyad era

The first major renovation to the mosque took place in 692 on the orders of Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan.[28] Before this renovation, which included the mosque's outer walls being raised and decoration added to the ceiling, the mosque was a small open area with the Kaaba at the center. By the end of the 8th century, the mosque's old wooden columns had been replaced with marble columns and the wings of the prayer hall had been extended on both sides along with the addition of a minaret on the orders of Al-Walid I.[29][30] The spread of Islam in the Middle East and the influx of pilgrims required an almost complete rebuilding of the site which included adding more marble and three more minarets.[citation needed]

Ottoman era

In 1570, Sultan Selim II commissioned the chief architect Mimar Sinan to renovate the mosque. This renovation resulted in the replacement of the flat roof with domes decorated with calligraphy internally, and the placement of new support columns which are acknowledged as the earliest architectural features of the present mosque. These features are the oldest surviving parts of the building.

During heavy rains and flash floods in 1621 and 1629, the walls of the Kaaba and the mosque suffered extensive damage.[31] In 1629, during the reign of Sultan Murad IV, the mosque was renovated. In the renovation of the mosque, a new stone arcade was added, three more minarets (bringing the total to seven) were built, and the marble flooring was retiled. This was the unaltered state of the mosque for nearly three centuries.

The Great Mosque in an illustration of the Dala'il al-Khayrat of Mustafa Halim, 1750
The Great Mosque in an illustration of the Futuh al-Haramayn of Muhi Al-Din Lari, 1582
The mosque in 1850, during the Ottoman period
The mosque in 1910, during the Ottoman period

Saudi era

First Saudi expansion

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 (As-Safa and Al-Marwah) is included in the Mosque, via roofing and enclosures. During this renovation many of the historical features built by the Ottomans, particularly the support columns, were demolished.

On 20 November 1979, the Great Mosque was seized by extremist insurgents who called for the overthrow of the Saudi dynasty. They took hostages and in the ensuing siege hundreds were killed. These events came as a shock to the Islamic world, as violence is strictly forbidden within the mosque.[citation needed]

Second Saudi expansion

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 reached through the King Fahd Gate. This extension was performed between 1982 and 1988.[32]

1988 to 2005 saw the building of more minarets, the erecting of a King's residence overlooking the mosque and more prayer area in and around the mosque itself. These developments took place simultaneously with those in Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah. This extension also added 18 more gates, three domes corresponding in position to each gate and the installation of nearly 500 marble columns. Other modern developments added heated floors, air conditioning, escalators and a drainage system.[citation needed]

Third Saudi expansion

In 2008, the Saudi government under King Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz announced an expansion[33] of the mosque, involving the expropriation of land to the north and northwest of the mosque covering 300,000 m2 (3,200,000 sq ft). At that time, the mosque covered an area of 356,800 m2 (3,841,000 sq ft) including indoor and outdoor praying spaces. 40 billion riyals (US$10.6 billion) was allocated for the expansion project.[34]

In August 2011, the government under King Abdullah announced further details of the expansion. It would cover an area of 400,000 m2 (4,300,000 sq ft) and accommodate 1.2 million worshippers, including a multi-level extension on the north side of the complex, new stairways and tunnels, a gate named after King Abdullah, and two minarets, bringing the total number of minarets to eleven. The circumambulation areas (Mataf) around the Kaaba would be expanded and all closed spaces receive air conditioning. After completion, it would raise the mosque's capacity from 770,000 to over 2.5 million worshippers.[35][36] His successor, King Salman launched five megaprojects as part of the overall King Abdullah Expansion Project in July 2015, covering an area of 456,000 m2 (4,910,000 sq ft). The project was carried out by the Saudi Binladin Group.[37] In 2012, the Abraj Al Bait complex was completed along with the 601 meter tall Makkah Royal Clock Tower.

On 11 September 2015, at least 111 people died and 394 were injured when a crane collapsed onto the mosque.[38][39][40][41][42] Construction work was suspended after the incident, and remained on hold due to financial issues during the 2010s oil glut. Development was eventually restarted two years later in September 2017.[43]

On 5 March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the mosque began to be closed at night and the Umrah pilgrimage was suspended to limit attendance.[44] The resumption of Umrah service began on 4 October 2020 with the first phase of a gradual resumption that was limited to Saudi citizens and expatriates from within the Kingdom at a rate of 30 per cent.[45]

Ongoing construction in the mataaf and the temporary structure for tawaf surrounding the Kaabah in August 2014
King Abdul Aziz Gate, one of the entrances of the Great Mosque, under construction as of January 2018
King Abdul Aziz Gate as it stood after second Saudi expansion as of February 2019

List of former and current Imams and Muezzins

Former Imams


  • Abdullah Al-Khulaifi (Arabic: عَبْد ٱلله ٱلْخُلَيْفِي), appointed Imam and Khateeb from 1953 till his death in 1993.
  • Ahmad Khatib (Arabic: أَحْمَد خَطِيْب), Islamic Scholar from Indonesia
  • Ali bin Abdullah Jaber (Arabic: عَلِى بِن عَبْدُ ٱلله جَابِر), Imam from 1981 to 1983, guest Imam for Ramadhan 1986-1989
  • Umar Al-Subayyil (Arabic: عُمَر ٱلسُّبَيِّل), Imam and Khateeb from 1993 until 2002, died in 2002
  • Muhammad Al-Subayyil (Arabic: مُحَمَّد ٱلسُّبَيِّل), died in 2013
  • Abdullah Al-Harazi (Arabic: عَبْد ٱلله الْحَرَازِي), former Chairman of Saudi Majlis al-Shura
  • Ali bin Abdur-Rahman Al-Huthaify (Arabic: عَلِي بِن عَبْدُ ٱلرَّحۡمٰن ٱلْحُذَيْفِي), guest Imam for Ramadhan 1981, 1985–1986, 1988–1991, now Chief Imam of The Prophet's Mosque,
  • Salah ibn Muhammad Al-Budair (Arabic: صَلَاح ابْن مُحَمَّد ٱلْبُدَيْر), led Taraweeh in Ramadan 1426 (2005) and 1427 (2006), now Deputy Chief Imam of the Prophet's Mosque
  • Adil al-Kalbani[47] (Arabic: عَادِل ٱلْكَلْبَانِي)
  • Saleh Al-Talib (suspended)
  • Khalid al Ghamdi (suspended)

Current Imams

  • Abdur-Rahman As-Sudais, appointed as Imam and Khateeb in 1404 (1984).
  • Saud Al-Shuraim, appointed as Imam and Khateeb in 1412 (1992).
  • Salih bin Abdullah al Humaid, appointed as Imam and Khateeb in 1404 (1984).
  • Usama Abdul Aziz Al-Khayyat, appointed as Imam and Khateeb in 1418 (1998).
  • Abdullah Awad Al Juhany, appointed as Imam in 1428 (2007) and Khateeb in 1441 (2019).
  • Mahir Al-Muayqali, appointed as Imam in 1428 (2007), and Khateeb in 1437 (2016).
  • Yasser Al-Dosari, appointed as Imam in 1441.
  • Bandar Baleelah, appointed as Imam in 1434 (2013), and Khateeb in 1441 (2019).[48]
  • Faisal Jameel Ghazzawi, appointed as Imam and Khateeb in 1429 (2008).[49]

Former Muezzins

  • Sheikh Abdullah Asad Al-Rayes
  • Sheikh Idris Kanu
  • Sheikh Muhammad Khalil Ramal
  • Sheikh Saleh Fayda
  • Sheikh Ibrahim Abbas
  • Sheikh Abdullah Sabaak
  • Sheikh Abdullah Basnawi
  • Sheikh Hassan Rashad Zabeedi

Current Muezzins

  • Sheikh Ali Ahmed Mulla (Chief Muezzin and longest-serving)
  • Sheikh Farooq Hadrawi
  • Sheikh Naif Saleh Faidah
  • Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf Mudhin
  • Sheikh Muhammad Shakir
  • Sheikh Ahmed Basnawi
  • Sheikh Tawfiq Khoj
  • Sheikh Majid Abbas
  • Sheikh Ahmed Yunus Khoja
  • Sheikh Ahmed Nuhaas
  • Sheikh Esam Khan
  • Sheikh Saaed Falatta
  • Sheikh Hameed Dhaghreree
  • Sheikh Muhammad Magrabi
  • Sheikh Emad Baqree
  • Sheikh Hashim Saqqaf
  • Sheikh Hussain Hassan Shahat
  • Sheikh Muhammad Basad
  • Sheikh Samee Raees
  • Sheikh Suhail AbdulHafiz
  • Sheikh Ibrahim Madani
  • Sheikh Abdullah Bafeef
  • Sheikh Muhammad Amry
  • Sheikh Turki Hassani
  • Sheikh Atef bin Ali Ahmed Mulla


The Great Mosque is the main setting for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages[51] 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, over 5 million Muslims perform the Hajj every year.[52]


  • The Ka'bah is a cuboid-shaped building in the center of the Great Mosque and the most sacred site in Islam.[53] It is the focal point for Islamic rituals like prayer and pilgrimage.[53][54][55]
  • The Black Stone is the eastern cornerstone of the Kaaba and plays a role in the pilgrimage.[56][57]
  • The Station of Abraham is a rock that reportedly has an imprint of Abraham's foot and is kept in a crystal dome next to the Kaaba.[58]
  • Safa and Marwah are two hills between which Abraham's wife Hagar ran, looking for water for her infant son Ishmael, an event which is commemorated in the saʿy ritual of the pilgrimage.[citation needed]
  • The Zamzam Well is the water source which, according to tradition, sprang miraculously after Hagar was unable to find water between Safa and Marwah.[citation needed]
  • Nearby is Makkah Al Mukarramah Library[59] (21°25′30″N 39°49′48″E / 21.42500°N 39.83000°E / 21.42500; 39.83000 (Bayt al-Mawlid / Makkah Al Mukarramah Library)). Since it is believed to stand on the spot where Muhammad was born, it is also known as Bayt al-Mawlid.[60][61]
  • The Kaaba

    The Kaaba

  • The Black Stone

    The Black Stone

  • Maqam Ibrahim's crystal dome

    Maqam Ibrahim's crystal dome

  • Mount Marwah within the mosque

    Mount Marwah within the mosque

  • Mount Safa

    Mount Safa

  • The well of Zamzam located beneath the floor (entrance now covered)

    The well of Zamzam located beneath the floor (entrance now covered)

Destruction of heritage sites

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 for the expansion. Some examples are:[62][63]

  • Dār Al-Arqam, the Islamic school where Muhammad first taught, was flattened to lay marble tiles.[citation needed]
  • The house of Abu Jahal has been demolished and replaced by public washrooms.[citation needed]
  • A dome that served as a canopy over the Well of Zamzam was demolished.[citation needed]
  • Some Uthmani porticos at the Mosque were demolished.[64]

See also

  • Islam portal
  • flagSaudi Arabia portal

Further reading

  • Great Mosque of Mecca: mosque, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in Encyclopædia Britannica Online, by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Surabhi Sinha, Noah Tesch, Amy Tikkanen, Grace Young and Adam Zeidan


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    • Al-Bukrah ('The Morning')
    • Aṣ-Ṣabāḥ ('The Morning')
  • Al-Layl ('The Night')
  • Aẓ-Ẓuhr ('The Noon')
  • Dulūk ash-Shams ('Decline of the Sun')
    • Al-Masāʾ ('The Evening')
    • Qabl al-Ghurūb ('Before the Setting (of the Sun)')
      • Al-Aṣīl ('The Afternoon')
      • Al-ʿAṣr ('The Afternoon')
  • Qabl ṭulūʿ ash-Shams ('Before the rising of the Sun')
    • Al-Fajr ('The Dawn')
Holy books
of people
or beings
Mentioned idols
(cult images)
Of Israelites
Of Noah's people
Of Quraysh
Maṣābīḥ (literally 'lamps'):
  • Al-Qamar (The Moon)
  • Kawākib (Planets)
    • Al-Arḍ (The Earth)
  • Nujūm (Stars)
    • Ash-Shams (The Sun)
Plant matter
  • Baṣal (Onion)
  • Fūm (Garlic or wheat)
  • Shaṭʾ (Shoot)
  • Sūq (Plant stem)
  • Zarʿ (Seed)
  • Fruits
    Bushes, trees
    or plants
    • Māʾ (Water or fluid)
      • Nahr (River)
      • Yamm (River or sea)
    • Sharāb (Drink)
    Note: Names are sorted alphabetically. Standard form: Islamic name / Biblical name (title or relationship)
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    Saudi Arabia
    Kaaba in macca.jpg MasjidNabawi.jpg
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    • Faceted Application of Subject Terminology
    • İslâm Ansiklopedisi