Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Where it Began

[NOTE: In light of the Pilgrimage season, I'd like to post something I wrote some years ago as an introduction to a book on the life of Prophet Muhammad aimed at young adults. This photo is old, as is the cave on a mountain near Makkah where the Prophet first receieved revelation.]

In the far western part of the Arabian Peninsula, there is Mecca, the most visited city on earth. Tens of millions of people each year travel to the ancient city to carry out rites of worship that date back to Abraham.

Less than fifty miles from the Red Sea, Mecca sits in an extremely hot and barren valley surrounded by rows of brown rocky mountain ranges that are harsh and terribly rugged. Nestled among the ranges, there is a plain mountain that the Arabs have come to call Nur, on top of which is a small shallow cave called Hira.

Fourteen centuries ago, a slender forty-year-old man with dark hair and a black beard climbed the crags of this mountain to take refuge in the cave, as he had done many times before in his life. There, he had elevation; he was alone; and he had plenty of time to reflect on matters that concerned him most, especially the condition of his people below and the awful chaos in which they lived.

Mecca’s folk were called the Quraysh, a large Arab clan that descended from the prophet Ishmael, the son of Abraham. Both Abraham and Ishmael once made Mecca their home thousands of years before. In the seventh century, however, the Quraysh were the official caretakers of Mecca and had been for some time. The clan was composed of several families that often fought bitterly with one another, raiding and running off with goods, herds of camels, and captives.

By all calculations, Mecca was a tough town to live in at the time. It was not unusual to hear, for example, the terrible cries of a newborn baby instantly muffled by a pile of gravel thrown upon her face and body--buried alive for nothing more than being a female infant. Drunkenness and gambling were popular sports. The men and women of Quraysh bowed before stones and lumber, calling them gods and the daughters of god. There were more than 360 idols strewn throughout Mecca—the once noble town of Abraham and Ishmael. How this sacred land was transformed into a parlor of idolatry and lawlessness was a question the man in the cave asked himself.

You may read the rest here. Thanks


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