Makkah holds great significance for Muslims worldwide with both pilgrims and visitors to the holy city eager to see Islamic artifacts and historical landmarks after performing their religious rites.
Historian Fawaz Al-Dahas said most visitors are knowledgeable about the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) life and his journeys but when they come to the holy capital they wish to witness Islamic history with their own eyes.
In light of all of this, it is the Kingdom’s duty to preserve these historical artifacts in order to maintain the authenticity of Makkah as the cradle of Islam. As people of the land, Saudis must be aware of the history behind these artifacts, including their correct historical names.
Wadi Ibrahim (Ibrahim’s Valley)
Wadi Ibrahim lies at the base of Makkah. It is stated in the Holy Qur’an that Prophet Ibrahim (pbuh) entrusted his family in a dry valley, which is Ibrahim’s Valley today. The valley extends from the northern tip of Makkah to the southern-most tip. The naming of the valley differs depending on the direction of the destination. If the direction is toward Al-Shara’i then people call it King Faisal Road but if the direction is toward Al-Muabadah, then people call it Masjid Al-Haram (Holy Mosque) Road. Despite the different names, it is in fact one road and should be called IbrahimValley Road.
Al-Shara’i is a district expanding from Al-Lihyaniyah beyond the the sanctified Haram area. The name of the district varies based on historical events related to the location. Some call it Hunain in reflection of the famous Islamic battle with the same name. Hunain is a luscious land abundant with water and it gained great significance during the Abbasid period as the Lake of Zubaidah, the wife of Caliph Haroon Al-Rasheed. The lake with a string of wells and reservoirs was used to provide water to pilgrims. Therefore, it is more appropriate to call the area Hunain rather than Al-Shara’i, as the former is supported by historical evidence.
Jabal Al-Nour (Al-Nour Mountain)
Jabal Al-Nour is the mountain on which Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) descended from the heavens and recited the Qur’an to the Prophet (pbuh). The historical name of the mountain is the Cave of Hira and it was where Muhammad (pbuh) would go to meditate before his Prophethood. It has then been colloquially named Jabal Al-Nour to represent the event of the Qur’an being recited to the Prophet as a moment of enlightenment. However, to be geographically and historically correct, the mountain should be called Cave of Hira.
Originally, it was named Athakhir plateau but people later called it Athakhir Apex. Historically, it was the plateau through which the Prophet (pbuh) entered Makkah when he conquered the city. The correct term is Athakhir Plateau.
It was the plateau through which Muslim troops under the companion Al-Zubair Bin Al-Awam entered Makkah during the conquest. It is historically known as Kida’ Plateau and it is its rightful name as opposed to Al-Hujoun.
This area is located in the renowned valley of Al-Laqeet and named as such after a tree of the same name prevalent in the area. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Subai said Al-Tandbawi is a foreign word coined by African immigrants who later on settled in the area and regarded it as their home.
In this area, there was a dune named Al-Makasah (tariff) and it was the only entrance to Makkah from the north. The then princes of Makkah used to charge merchants as they entered the city. This is why the area was named Al-Makasah dune, which later became Al-Nakasah.
Makkah is in constant change
According to Makkah expert Khudran Al-Thubaity, the city has undergone constant changes and development throughout history. This is strongly reflected in many aspects of the city, especially the architectural aspect. Makkah underwent many transformations from the Umayyad Caliphate to the Abbasid Caliphate and to modern times. With these transformations, the names of a few landmarks also changed. “If we wish to rectify the naming of these historical landmarks, then we must back track through history to make sure that we have the correct names. Moreover, names cannot be randomly assigned to areas and must be studied and reviewed by a specialized committee,” he said.
Osama Zaitouni, Makkah Municipality spokesman, said a specialized committee called the Naming and Numbering Committee has been formed and it consists of historians and other experts.The head of the committee is the city’s Mayor Osama Al Bar. The committee receives requests from the general public and works on sustaining the history in development.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Aug.14, 2014.