What is the cultural significance of Mecca in Islam?
Saudi Arabia became a new kingdom in 1932, following which it turned into a poor country, dependant on little agriculture and pilgrimage revenues. Before that, the Middle Eastern country was invaded and ruled by the Ottoman Empire, numerous tribal rulers and a revolt resulted the granting of a desire to see a much more together Arab nation.
But then oil was found in the Al-Ahsa region meaning the coast of the Persian Gulf and large developmental efforts of the oil fields started in 1941 because of Saudi Aramco (previously, California-Arabian Standard Oil Co.) that added economic benefits and pushed the country’s status to a newfound (for them) global stage.
When the Ottoman Empire ruled over Saudi Arabia, it lost control of Mecca during the military/political campaigning stages of the unification process. As a Holy City, it is known around the globe as both the birthplace of Muhammad and the place where he first revealed the Quran.
It is also home to Kaaba, the holiest site for Muslims. The city has been home to Muhammad’s descendants, or the sharifs, for a while, and they would preside over the city as rulers. The city has had connections to Islam because of Muhammad’s birth there in 570AD.
Born to an Arabic tribal family, Muhammad started to receive divine revelations from God through the Archangel Gabriel in 610 AD. As one of the Prophets in Islam, from then onwards he dedicated his life to fighting the existence of paganism in Mecca. This wasn’t an easy fight by any means because he would routinely be abused and tormented for 13 long years, before his emigration, “Hejira” to Medina in 622AD.
Large-scale efforts by pagan worshipers, or the Quraysh, ended very badly despite it continuing for a very long time. Following their defeat, Muhammad entered into a ceasefire treaty that was supposed to last ten years but it’s sudden violation, led Muhammad to capture the city of Mecca and have his followers spread Islamic values, far and wide.
Most of the Muslims in the world are Sunni, accounting to a 90percent of the religious population. But there are two other factions, one of which was a direct result of the Battle of Karbala, where Muhammad’s grandson, Hussein ibn Ali, and his supporters were mercilessly killed.
Hussein’s infant son also died in the war and the rest of the children and women were taken as prisoners. This tragic event is marked by both groups of Muslims (the other one being Sunni) but the event for the other faction of Muslims, despite their status as minorities in the world, is quite distinct: through public processions, mourning and striking the chest and self-flagellation – where these Islamic followers hit themselves with a whip, Shias hold a 10 day event to “remember the episode” in Islamic history.