Friday, January 06, 2006

Mentioning of Mecca in Old Testament

In Muslim calendar this is the sacred month of Pilgrimage (Hajj). Most of you have heard of the Holy City Mecca, the place where Muslims all over the world gather annually to perform Pilgrimage. Around the globe all faithful Muslims turn to Mecca everyday and direct their prayer to God. Thus it is a focul point of spiritual vibration.

More than 2 million faithful Muslims gather to Mecca to perform this life time journey. But where and how does it come into practice. Here is the short historical perspective:

The History of Kaaba As A Place Of Worship
Kaaba, also known as, Ka'bah, Kabah and Caaba is the center of the holiest place of worship in Islam (Submission in English), i.e. the Sacred Mosque of Mecca, Al Masjid Al-Haram. Its name means the cube in Arabic as it is a cube shaped stone structure built in the middle of the Sacred Mosque. The Kaaba was built by prophet Abraham as a landmark for the House of God, for the sole purpose of worshipping of God alone.

In Quran:
"The most important shrine established for the people is the one in Becca; a blessed beacon for all the people. In it are clear signs: the station of Abraham. Anyone who enters it shall be granted safe passage. The people owe it to GOD that they shall observe Hajj to this shrine, when they can afford it. As for those who disbelieve, GOD does not need anyone." [3:96-97]

We have rendered the shrine (the Ka`aba) a focal point for the people, and a safe sanctuary. You may use Abraham's shrine as a prayer house. We commissioned Abraham and Ismail: "You shall purify My house for those who visit, those who live there, and those who bow and prostrate." [2:125]

"As Abraham raised the foundations of the shrine, together with Eshmael (they prayed): "Our Lord, accept this from us. You are the Hearer, the Omniscient." [2:127]

In Old Testament:
Interestingly enough, in the Old Testament we can find the mentioning of Mecca by its ancient name, Baca (see in Quran its also mentioned by the name Bacca or Becca) in connection with the pilgrimage.

Below is the quote from Psalms 84 (NIV):
1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young-- a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
8 Hear my prayer, O LORD God Almighty; listen to me, O God of Jacob.
9 Look upon our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.
10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
12 O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.

The interpretation of the valley of Baca in the The Jewish Encylopedia is quite interesting, though it does not provide a complete evidence and leaves the reader with a suggestion. Below is the full quote.

Baca, The Valley Of: A valley mentioned in Psalms LXXXIV: Since it is there said that pilgrims transform the valley into a land of wells, an old translators gave to Baca, the meaning of a "valley of weeping"; but it signifies rather any valley lacking water. Support for this latter view is to be found in II Samuel V:23 et seq.; I Chronicles XIV:14 et seq., in which the plural form of the same word designates a tree similar to the balsam tree; and it was supposed that a dry valley could be named after this tree. Konig takes Baca from the Arabian Baka'a, and translates it "lack of streams". The Psalmist apparently has in mind a particular valley whose natural condition led him to adopt its name.

The translation of Arabian Baka'a as "lack of stream" seems to throw some light on the nature of the valley before the appearance of the stream of Zam-Zam near Ka'bah which was a dry place with no vegetation whatsoever.

The interpretations in the Bible Dictionary of Baca, viz., "lack of stream" and "the valley of weeping" appears to fit in the context of pilgrimage to Bakkah, the older name of Makkah where the Ka'bah is situated. Ka'bah has been a place of reverence by all Arabians before the Christian era as we have seen earlier.

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