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Copyright © 2009 Joseph A Islam: Article last modified 29th May 2012





Muslims believe that the Kaaba was the original sanctuary of Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and was built at Makkah (aka Mecca). The Quran declares however, that the first house of worship that Prophet Abraham (pbuh) built with his son Ishmael (pbuh) was that at a place called 'Bakkah' (Baca).



"The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bibakkata (Bakkah): Blessed and a guidance for all kinds of beings"



Illustration - Joseph Islam






It is asserted by the majority of Muslims that both Bakkah and Makkah are a reference to the same place. This argument is difficult to accept as there is no proof that this is the case from a Quranic scrutiny. The Quran is fully conversant with the term 'Makkah' as a place and refers to it. There is no support for the claim in the Quran that 'Bakkah' is an old name for 'Makkah' or another name for it.



"And He it is Who has withheld men's hands from you, and has withheld your hands from them, in the valley of Makkah (Arabic: Makkata), after He had made you victors over them. God is seer of what you do"



Illustration - Joseph Islam


A very significant question is quite apt here:


The Quran makes use of the word 'Makkah'. So why did not it use it in verse 3.96?






It is important to note that the mention of 'Bakkah' as the original sanctuary is being confirmed during a dialogue with the People of the Book who would have had recourse to their own scriptures. Let us note the dialogue.



All food was lawful to the Children of Israel, except what Israel Made unlawful for itself, before the Law (of Moses) was revealed. Say: "Bring ye the Law and study it, if ye be men of truth." If any, after this, invent a lie and attribute it to God, they are indeed unjust wrong-doers. Say: "God speaks the Truth: follow the religion of Abraham, the upright in faith; he was not of the polytheists." The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakkah: Full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings: In it are Signs Manifest; (for example), the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security; Pilgrimage to is a duty men owe to God,- those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, God stands not in need of any of His creatures. Say: "O People of the Book! Why do you reject the Signs of God, when God is Himself witness to all you do?" Say: "O ye People of the Book! Why do you obstruct those who believe from the path of God seeking to make it crooked, while you were yourselves witnesses (to God's Covenant)? but God is not unmindful of all that you do." O ye who believe! If you listen to a faction among the People of the Book, they would (indeed) render you disbelievers after ye have believed!"



'Bakkah' (or Baca) was a place known to the People of the Book as is evidenced from their scriptures and in the dialogue captured above. What is meant by 'Baca' in the Hebrew text (i.e. weeping etc) does not deter from the point that this valley (Hebrew: emeq {ay-mek} valley / lowland / open country or vale) within Palestine was known to the People of the Book at the time of Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) preaching.



Psalm 84

84.1        How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!
84.2        My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.
84.3        Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.
84.4        Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.
84.5        Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.

84.6        Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.

84.7        They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.
84.8        O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.
84.9        Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.
84.10      For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
84.11      For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
84.12      O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.    [1]



Note the underlined words which read in Hebrew:

Numbered Illustration : Joseph Islam


1    'abar' -        which means to pass through or go over, to carry, take away, alienate

2    'emeq' -     which means a valley, or an open country or lowland

3    'Baka' -       this is a place known to be in Palestine. Also known to mean 'weep'






If, as the Quranic verse states, Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) first house was a blessing for all 'Mankind' (Arabic: Alameen) (3:96) and that pilgrimage was 'proclaimed' to all mankind (22:27 below), then a very valid question arises.


Why did no Hebrew prophet after Prophet Abraham (pbuh) (of which there were many) ever travel to Makkah to perform the pilgrimage?


There is no documented proof or support that Prophets Lot, Moses, Aaron, Jacob, Joseph, David, Solomon, John and even Jesus (pbut) ever travelled to a sanctuary in the Arabian Hijaz at Makkah to perform pilgrimage, nor did their followers. 


This is a very sound question as the place of worship had already been proclaimed (2:128) and the Pilgrimage had already been declared (22.27) before the births of all of these messengers of God. Why is it then that none of the followers of these messengers were ever known to travel to Makkah in Arabia to fulfil their rites first instituted by their father of faith, Prophet Abraham? (pbuh)



"And proclaim to mankind the pilgrimage. They will come to thee on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine"


·                     Note the proclamation to 'An Naas' (mankind).




Illustration - Joseph Islam


It remains difficult to accept the proposition that all the Prophets that came after Prophet Abraham (pbuh) (Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus (pbut) and all the others (pbut)) would perform their rites at a place other than the location that is being mentioned above. We know that these rites were prescribed from the previous scriptures. It is also clear that these rites were being performed in localities around the Holy Lands not Makkah. There is no mention of Makkah as a sacred place in any historic document for the followers of the previous scriptures.


On the contrary, there is strong support that the Hebrew Prophets held the area of Jerusalem and the Temple within its environs as the Lords place of worship.






The old sanctuary that Prophet Abraham (pbuh) constructed has been described as a ‘mubaraka’ (blessing) and a ‘huda’ (guidance) for all ‘alameen’ (creation) in the Quran. Here an apt question arises. How can the Kaaba sanctuary today at Makkah serve the conditions of a blessing and guidance to all mankind, if true worshipping Jews and Christians are forbidden from its precincts?


Certainly in Jerusalem, Muslims, Christians and Jews are all allowed within its environs. This lends support to the notion that the Kaaba sanctuary was made sacred only for those believers (mu'mins) after the advent of Islam in Arabia.



“The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakkah: Blessed (Arabic: Mubarakan) and a guidance for all kinds of beings” 


The Quranic use of the term 'Blessed' to signify a land that is blessed has always been reserved for localities around the holy land;


For example, some terms used in the Quran.


(1)   Barakna hawlahu


017.001 - Masjid Aqsa


(2)   Barakna fiha


007.137 - Blessed lands for the Children of Israel

021.071 - Prophets Abraham and Lot (pbut) delivered to the blessed lands

021.081 - Wind flowed for Solomon on the blessed lands

034.018 - Saba and cities in-between


(3)   Mubarakan


003:096 - The first house that Prophet Abraham (pbuh) built


The Quran never makes use of the term 'barakna' to describe the sanctuary at Makkah, which is normally referred to as 'Masjid Haram' (Prohibited / inviolable mosque / sacred mosque) or the Kaaba which is present within its bounds.






The Quran makes it clear that sacrifices took place inside the ancient house or at its location.  This is extremely difficult to reconcile with the location of the Kaaba as even today, no sacrifices take place at or around the Kaaba or anywhere within the precincts of the haram. Let us note the verse:



You have advantages in them till a fixed time, then their place of sacrifice (Arabic: Mahilluha) is at (Arabic: ila) the Ancient House (Arabic: Baitul-ateeq).


The above verse clearly informs the reader that the place of sacrifice (mahiloha) is at (ila) the house (Bait) ancient (Ateeq). Sacrifice has never been performed at or inside the Kaaba or the Masjid Haram premises. It is performed at Mina.


However, the Bible speaks of altars erected for sacrifice by Prophets Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses (pbut). The temple built by 'King Solomon' (Approx 957 BC) was a sole place for Jewish sacrifice and after its destruction in 586 BC was rebuilt between 538-515 BC. Herod's temple also had sacrifices performed inside the temple. So the Jewish temples in Jerusalem always had sacrifice performed inside it.


Some 'popular' commentaries introduce the word 'near' into their translations when it does not exist in the Arabic. Yusuf Ali's translation of this particular verse is an example. (Please note that this is not a criticism of Yusuf Ali's great endeavour with the English translation of the Quran. Rather, this remains a mere observation of his rendering of this particular verse).


YUSUFALI: "In them ye have benefits for a term appointed: in the end their place of sacrifice is near the Ancient House" 




(6)    IN IT ARE ‘SIGNS’


Verse 3:97 connects with 17:1. Note both verses make mention of ‘sign’s (ayatina) existing at these locations



“ In it are Signs (Arabic: Ayatun) manifest; (for example), the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security; Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to God,- those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, God stands not in need of any of His creatures”



“ Glory be to Him Who made His servant to go on a night from the Sacred Mosque to the remote mosque (Arabic: Masjid Aqsa (in Jerusalem)) of which We have blessed the precincts, so that We may show to him some of Our signs (Arabic: Ayatina); surely He is the Hearing, the Seeing”


If one is to compare these two verses then the ‘signs’ are at Jerusalem where one would also find the station of Prophet Abraham. (pbuh)


Maqaam-e-Ibraham at Makkah claims to bear the 'foot imprints' of Prophet Abraham (pbuh) from nearly 4000 years ago. This is quite an interesting claim but not without some academic incredulity.


Have these footprints actually been preserved for nearly 4 millennia without the knowledge of anyone from the previous readers of the scriptures? Or are they a later institution to give the site validity as the original sanctuary of Prophet Abraham? (pbuh)


It is important to remember, adherents of the previous scriptures were present in the localities of the Hijaz at the time of revelation. However, no such claim seems to have found currency with either the Jews or the Christians.


However, an older Jewish tradition claims the Foundation stone (Hebrew: Even haShetiya) at the site of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem to be the location where Prophet Abraham (pbuh) nearly sacrificed his son Isaac. (pbuh) (Please see related article [3] below). This still remains one of the holiest sites in Judaism.






Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) first house that he built with Prophet Ishmael (pbuh) has never been described as the 'Masjid Haram', the 'Kaaba' or indeed the 'Haram' in the Quran. (The latter 'haram' (forbidden) being the key epithet for the site at Makkah).


The term 'haram' means to forbid, prevent, to make unlawful, deprive, inviolable, to be refused something or to involve some contention or wrangling. This definition is certainly consistent with many Quranic narratives where the sanctuary at Makkah became a contention between the disbelievers and the Muslims, the latter at times being forbidden from its environs. 


The original sanctuary built by Prophets Abraham and Ishmael (pbut) however has been described with the key epithet 'Bayt' (house) and usually with a prefix or a suffix but without the use of term 'haram' (forbidden / inviolable). Whether this is the first house (Awwala Bayt) or the Ancient House (Bayt al-ateeq) or simply 'the house' (al-bayt), there appears to be consistent use of the term 'Bayt' without the use of 'haram'. Where Bayt and haram appear combined, the Arabian sanctuary is indicated as in 5:2 and 5:97.


Furthermore, 'al-bayt' simply means 'the house', a particular structure (definite noun) for habitation or a place of worship. This can be a reference for the Kaaba or any other well known site of worship such as an ancient house.


To describe the sanctuary at Makkah (Saudi Arabia) 


Masjid Al Haram (Sacred Mosque) - 2:144, 2:217, 5:2, 8:34, 9:7, 9:19, 9:28, 17:1, 22:25, 48:25; 48:27
Kaaba - 5:95; 5:97
Bayt Al Haram (Sacred House) - 5:2, 5:97
Bayt (House) - 8:35, 2:158

Note that the understanding that the 'sacred mosque' is a reference to the grounds within a certain perimeter, in which the Kaaba (or sacred house) resides is not incompatible with any of the Quranic verses. This may certainly be the case.


To describe the place of worship that Prophet Abraham (pbuh) built with his son.


Baitika Muharimi (Your Sacred House) - 14:37 (See section below for an elaboration)

Bayt al Ateeq (Ancient House) - 22:29, 22:33
Awwala Bayt (First House) - 3:96
Bayt Al Ma'amur (Frequented House)- 52:4

Bayt (House) - 22:26, 2:125, 2:127








"Surely (as for) those who disbelieve, and hinder (men) from God's way and from the Inviolable Mosque (Arabic: Masjid Haram) which We have made equally for all men, (for) the dweller therein and (for) the visitor, and whoever shall incline therein to wrong unjustly, We will make him taste of a painful chastisement"


In the above verse, it is clear to note that the disbelievers from the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) are being addressed. Please note the use of the word inviolable / prohibited mosque (masjid haram) as the place of worship at Makkah.


From the next verse and onwards, the ancient rites of Prophet Abraham (pbuh) are clearly mentioned and how they were made incumbent on Prophet Abraham, (pbuh) his followers and those who followed his footsteps in faith.


There is no mention henceforth of the 'Masjid Haram'. The mention is only of the sanctuary at 'Baca', not at Makkah. These are the ancient rituals that are being narrated to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) with a particular purpose so that they may be reinstituted at the Kaaba.



"Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, the site of the House (Arabic: Makaana-lbayti), (saying): "Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer)"


·                     No 'Masjid Haram' is mentioned. Only the 'House ' situated at a particular site.





Illustration - Joseph Islam 



"And proclaim to mankind the pilgrimage. They will come to thee on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine"





Illustration - Joseph Islam




"That they may witness the benefits (provided) for them, and celebrate the name of God, through the days appointed, over the cattle which He has provided for them (for sacrifice): then eat from them and feed the distressed ones in want"



"Then let them complete the rites prescribed for them, perform their vows, and circumambulate the Ancient House (Arabic: bil'bait-il-ateeq)."



Illustration - Joseph Islam



·                     Ancient House is mentioned - No Masjid Haram



"Such (is the Pilgrimage): whoever honours the sacred rites of God, for him it is good in the Sight of his Lord. Lawful to you (for food in Pilgrimage) are cattle, except those mentioned to you (as exception): but shun the abomination of idols, and shun the word that is false"



"Turning unto God (only), not ascribing partners unto Him; for whoso ascribes partners to God, it is as if he had fallen from the sky and the birds had snatched him or the wind had blown him to a far-off place"



"That (is the command). And whoever magnifies the offerings consecrated to God, it surely is from devotion of the hearts"



"Therein are benefits for you for an appointed term; and afterward they are brought for sacrifice to the Ancient House (Arabic: bait-il-ateeq)"





Illustration - Joseph Islam


It is well known that no sacrifice is performed in the Holy precinct of the Masjid Haram. This was a practice performed by the previous prophets in the ancient temples. Ancient Jews have been known to sacrifice in the temple.


The very next verse, 22:34 informs the reader of the connection with these ancient rites by faith and dedication to God. Each nation was given such rites as a devotion to God. Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and his people were no different. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his followers were also to be no different if they were to follow in their footsteps. The connection being amongst all of them, the dedication and devotion to God.



"To every people did We appoint rites (of sacrifice), that they might celebrate the name of God over the sustenance He gave them from animals (fit for food). But your god is One God: submit then your wills to Him (in Islam): and give thou the good news to those who humble themselves"







"Indeed, We see the turning of your face (for guidance) to the heavens. So We shall surely turn you to a direction of devotion / prayer (Arabic: Qiblatan) that you will be pleased with. So turn your face in the direction (Arabic: shatra) of the sacred Mosque and wherever you are, turn your faces in that direction (Arabic: shatrahu)..."


The term ‘qiblah’ not only carries the nuance of a direction of devotion / prayer but more importantly, a place of worship. The term ‘shatr’ (2:144) would have sufficed if the only intended meaning was ‘direction’. Clearly with the usage of both ‘shatr’ and ‘qiblah’ in the same verse (2:144), the term 'qiblah' carries a wider meaning which is beyond mere ‘direction’ and which verse 10:87 elucidates as also a place of worship. This is often not appreciated.


And We inspired Moses and his brother that: "Provide dwellings for your people in Egypt, and make your dwellings as places of worship (Arabic: qiblatan) and establish regular prayers: and give glad tidings to those who believe!" 




Source: A Dictionary and Glossary of the Koran by John Penrice   [2]



Therefore, the Quran makes it clear that the Sacred Mosque was to become not only the new direction of devotion / prayer but also the new establishment for believers as a place of worship.







God has made the Kaaba, the  inviolable house, an establishment for mankind (Arabic: qiyamal-ilnassi), and the sacred month and the offerings and the sacrificial animals with garlands; this is that you may know that God knows whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth, and that God is the Knower of all things.






It is useful to note that verse 2:125 confirms that the original standing place / station (maqam)  of Prophet Abraham (pbuh) was to be taken as a place for prayer.  


002.125 (part)

"And when We made the House a place of return for mankind and a place of safety / security; and (said) take (from) the standing place / station of Abraham as a place of prayer (Arabic: wa-ittakhidu min maqami ibrahima musallan)..."


It has been argued above that the ancient Abrahamic rites were reinstituted at the Kaaba (Makkah) during the Prophetic ministry. In light of verse 5:97, the Kaaba was afforded inviolability and made an establishment for mankind (Arabic: qiyamal-ilnassi). Therefore, there is an extremely strong case to argue for the site at present day Makkah to best capture the practice of ritual prayer en masse from the time of the Prophetic ministry.


005.097 (part)

"God has made the Kaaba, the  inviolable house, an establishment for mankind (Arabic: qiyamal-ilnassi)..."






The following is a common counter argument:





The hills of Safa and Marwah mentioned in the Quran are located in Makkah, not in the Holy Lands. Therefore, the original sanctuary was in Makkah.





The conclusion drawn from the premise is non-sequitur. Whether the 'hills' are located in Makkah or otherwise, this has no bearing on whether the original sanctuary was in the Holy Lands or at Makkah.


 Safa and Marwah are never mentioned as an 'ancient Abrahamic rite' within any Quranic context. Therefore, it is extremely plausible that this site existed at Makkah and as a site in which certain pre-Islamic rites were conducted by the Arabs unconnected to the Biblical Abraham-Hagar narrative.


Furthermore, despite the popular Muslim belief, there is also no evidence in the Quran that Safa and Marwah refer to hills, which once again only seems to provide a possible conduit to support the Biblical Abraham-Hagar narrative. There is no support for this narrative in the Quran.


Please see related article (6) below.


Safa and Marwah have only been mentioned in the Quran as a place where there were 'symbols' (sha'airi) of God (Not necessarily connected with Prophet Abraham). (pbuh) These were sites that the Pre-Islamic Arab community were familiar with and circumambulation of them was allowable if desired.


This was not a prescriptive 'action' but rather an 'optional action' given that the place already had some significance with the ancient Arabs, details of which were not elaborated by the Quran.



"Indeed! Safa and Marwa are among the Symbols of God. So whoever performs Hajj of the house or performs Umrah it is no blame on him that he circumambulates (Arabic: Tawaafa) both of them (Arabic: Bihima). And whoever performs his own impulse to good, then indeed God is He Who is All-Appreciative and All-Knowing"






Given the verses and the analysis above, there is a strong case to suspect that the original and ancient site of Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) house of worship was not located at Makkah. Rather, Baca seems to be a site located somewhere in the blessed plains of the holy lands possibly near or at the location where subsequent temples were built and maintained by Hebrew Prophets.


It was further posited given the Quranic verses, that Abrahamic rites were reinstituted at the Kaaba for the followers of the final revelation. The connection between them and the ancients was one of faith rather than that of geographical locale.


The Kaaba was a site for Pagan worship. A messenger amongst the community was raised to rehearse to them God's verses, to sanctify them and to teach them scripture and wisdom (62:2). Practices that were incongruent with Islam were challenged and subsequently removed. Those commensurate with the teachings of Islam were allowed to remain (2:158). This was the perfection that was completed (5:3).


No doubt, Prophet Muhammad's  (pbuh) affiliation with the site at Makkah was historic, possibly since childhood (2:144 -  "...So We shall surely turn you to a direction of devotion / prayer (Arabic: Qiblatan) that you will be pleased with..."). This site was chosen to become the direction and Holy sanctuary for the new Muslims. It was here that the practices of old were reinstituted by Divine decree.


In the end, only God knows best.



Related Articles:

(1)    The Qibla Change

(2)    Understanding the Quranic term 'Alameen'

(3)    Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) Sacrificial Son - Ishmael or Isaac? (pbut)

(4)    Was the 'Favour' Only Completed for Muslims?

(5)    Is Makkah the Original Location for the Masjid al-Haram?

(6)    Did Prophet Abraham (pbuh) Really Send His Wife Hagar and Son Ishmael (pbuh) Away Alone to a Barren Land?

(7)    Is Makkah the Original Location for the Masjid al-Haram?





[1] King James Authorised Version

[2] PENRICE, J, A Dictionary and Glossary of the Koran 1873; Reprint 1991 Adam Publishers & Distributors, Delhi, Page 114




Joseph Islam

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