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Bakkah (Arabic: بكة) is a place mentioned in surah 3:96 of the Qur'an. It is said to be the site of the first mosque, and therefore it is identified by some Muslims with the city of Mecca. Others also identify it with the Biblical "valley of Baca" from Psalm 84 (Hebrew: בך).
Bakkah and Mecca
- Surah 3:96-97
The first Sanctuary established for the people is the one in Bakkah, blessed, and a guidance for the worlds., In it are clear signs: the place of Abraham. And whoever enters it will be secure. And God is owed from the people to make Pilgrimage to the Sanctuary, whoever can make a path to it. And whoever rejects, then God has no need of the worlds.
Arguments for the identification of Bakkah with Mecca
Bakkah is thought to be an older name for Mecca, as it is described as the location of the first mosque, which Islam teaches to be the Kaaba, and a home to Abraham, who, according to the Qur'an, built the Kabba with his son Ishmael. Many translations simply render Bakkah as Mecca, and the passage is cryptic if they are not the same city.
Arguments against the identification of Bakkah with Mecca
As the alternative name is not used anywhere else, there is some doubt that Bakkah and Mecca are the same city.
Some say that because "Bakkah" is a word often found in names related to rivers and wadis, such as Wadi al-Bakkah in the Sinai, and Bakkah on the wadi in the central Galilee area, west of Meroth, the use of "Bakkah" could mean any similar area. This does little, however, to explain the use of the Bakkah when the verse is in context.
Writer Christoph Luxenberg, in his work Die syro-aramäische Lesart des Koran: Ein Beitrag zur Entschlüsselung der Koransprache ("The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Qur'an: A Contribution to Deciphering the Language of the Qur'an"), looks for a Text-critical explanation for the name discrepancy.
He notes that the change from initial B to initial M which should have produced Makkah (Mecca) from Bakkah is not standard in Arabic, so the change is not explained. It may because the widely accepted reading of Surah 3:96, "Inna awwala baytin wudi'a li-n-nâsi lalladhî bibakkata mubârakan wa-hudan li-l-'alamîna," is inaccurate. Since no other explanation for "bibakkata" in the verse seemed possible, it understood as "bi-Bakkata", with Bakkah apparently being another name for Mecca (Arabic "Makkah"), and that the passage therefore reads "the first house established for the people was that at Mecca [bibakkata], a place holy, and a guidance to all beings."
Luxemberg's version of the text could with little extrapolation be interpreted to mean that the first House of God is a sacred place, segregated (fenced in) from the profane, and does not refer to the literal city of Mecca at all. This fits the passage well in context: Sura 3:96 preaches to Jews, saying that God has revealed to Muhammad the true religion of Abraham, according to the Torah was the a person to believe and worship One God, like Moses and Noah before him. According to the Muslims Adam was the first prophet and the first Muslim (First person to believe and worship One God alone without any partners). Abraham for the Muslims is a prophet, a messenger, and a Muslim not a Jew (For him to be a Jew, he would have to have come after the tribe of Judah). Under Luxemberg's interpretation, the passage may be emphasizing the similarities of the religions and their abstract concepts of God and holiness (Something they did not share with religions that accepted idols and personal or local gods).
This does not show that Bakkah CANNOT be Mecca. The city is restricted to Non-Muslims, which could explain why "The segregated" is used instead of directly referring to it as Mecca. It is also possible that the word intentionally has a double-meaning (Mecca/Holiness), and the possible double pronunciation (Bakkah/Tayyakahu), both referring to the literal city of Mecca, and the abstract realm of Godliness separated for the profane world. This would make more sense than either single interpretation as the passage is meant for proselytizing.
A hadith attributed to Imam Jafar ibn Muhammad al-Sadiq (sixth Imam of the Shi'a) states that Bakkah is the name of the land where the Kaaba was built, while Mecca is the name of the city that grew around it.
Baca and Bakkah
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
Arguments for the identification of Baca with Bakkah or Mecca
The names "Baca" and "Bakkah" are almost identical. If Bakkah is Mecca, then in accordance with Muslim beliefs that Mecca is God's select city. Also, in the Biblical Book of Isaiah, several passages provide descriptions of Zion, several of which, notably Isaiah 35:8-10, which states that the "unclean" will not enter the city, and 60:16-18, which describes its prosperity, bear striking resemblance to Mecca in Muslim eyes. Jews and Christians, who do not equate holiness with Islam, do not agree with this interpretation.
Arguments against the identification of Baca with Mecca
Baca and Mecca are two different places. Biblical Baca is located by the Mediterranean sea in ancient Israel while Mecca is located in Saudi Arabia by Red sea. They are two different places, thousand miles apart. Despite the similarity of the names, there is no Biblical reason to believe Mecca is the same as Zion for Non-Muslims. Also, Zion is identified as Jerusalem many times in the Bible.
These verses seems to refer to a journey, from place to place until they reach Zion
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you,“ “who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.“
Makkah is a place of Pilgrimage, thousands make it every year-- Ar. hajj, Heb. mes-il-law'
“As they pass through the Valley of Baca,“
Some Bible versions say “Valley of Tears/ Weeping”, this would make more sense since Ishmael and Hagar cried (baka’) to God for aid in the wilderness after Abraham left them in a deserted area. In Hebrew ‘tears’ is Baka’ and in Arabic Baka’ means to cry.
Another worthy note to look into is that many places named in the Bible are not necessarily found/ match or proven historically.
“they make it a place of springs;“ “the autumn rains also cover it with pools.“
The great well Zamzam it’s actually a spring that sprang at the time of Ishmael and Hagar by an Angel after Hagar had ‘cried’ to God for aid.
“The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.—Genesis 16:7“
“They go from strength to strength,“ “till each appears before God in Zion.“
They have gone from place to place until they appear to God in Zion…after a long travel in the desert.
Bakkah and Jerusalem
Arguments for the identification of Bakkah with Jerusalem
For a more detailed argument in favour of Bakkah being in Jerusalem, see | Where Was Mohammed?
This theory is gaining wide popularity amongst the Qur'an Alone movement.
- Early Muslims, according to neutral (non-Islamic) historical evidence, conducted Salat (contact prayer) towards Jerusalem as opposed to Mecca.
- There is a contradiction in the Sunni/Shia traditions whereby they claim that Mohammed only faced Jerusalem for about 18 months after arriving to Medina (i.e. until 624 CE which corresponds to his 2nd year of the Hijra), yet they neglect to mention what Qibla he faced for the 12 previous years since he apparently declared his messengership in 610 CE.
- Islamic tradition holds that the Prophet journeyed to Jerusalem before his ascension to heaven during the 'night journey'.
- According to Islamic tradition, Abraham (and Ismail) raised the foundations of the Kaaba in Mecca. However, the faiths after Abraham (Jewish & Christian) do not acknowledge that Abraham traveled as far south as Mecca or that their pilgrimage was to that area.
- There is physical evidence that the Arabic language as revealed in the Scripture is a product of the Nabataens who were dominant in the Jordan/Palestine area.
- Mecca (in Saudi Arabia) cannot be found on any ancient trade map, or recorded as a center for pilgrimage or major religious activity before the 7th Century CE.
- Jews and Christians claim that the remains of Lot's town are nearer to the town of Jerusalem than Mecca. This also supports 15:76-77 in the Qur'an which state that Lot's town was on an established part. Archaeologists have not found any major roads (paths) near Mecca which date before the 7th Century CE.
- The outcropping rock (which is attributed as "Maqam Ibrahim") located inside the Dome of the Rock at Jerusalem fits the Qur'an's description in 3:98 while the "Maqam Ibrahim" in Mecca is located outside the shrine/temple conflicting with the description given in the Scripture? Also, the "Maqam Ibrahim" in Mecca has been given no religious significance in any of the Jewish and Christian scriptures whereas the "Maqam Ibrahim" in Jerusalem fits with the story in all of the Abrahamic scriptures of Abraham almost sacrificing one of his sons.
- Mohammed was adamant on facing the mighty Roman (Byzantium) army to the North. This could indicate that the Roman's held something exteremely valuable to him which was worth taking such a risk.
- Abdel Malik constructed a magnificent Dome around the rock outcropping in Jerusalem as a 'Temple/Shrine' with no mihrab facing Mecca and no features of a typical mosque.
- Abdel Malik called people to pilgrim to Jerusalem and away from Mecca according to the Islamic historians of that period
- Caliph Suleyman, as late as 717 CE, showed confusion in whether it was Mecca or Jerusalem that the pilgrimage should be conducted to.
- The prophecy associated with Israel's 2nd rising speak of their defeat by the retaking of the 'Temple'. Does this mean that Israel planning to occupy Mecca any time in the future? Or, is God speaking of His Temple in Jerusalem which has been under Israeli control since the 1967 Israeli-Arab war.
- The 'Kaaba' of Mecca located at the base of a valley where it is prone to flash floods. This is not in-line with the purpose (defined in the Qur'an) of providing a sanctuary for the pilgrims. However, this practice is found in pagan sites such as in Negev.
- Pilgrims in Mecca circle around the cube 7 times, as well as run between two hills 7 times. These acts do not have any clear reasoning behind them and is almost identical to the pagan rituals of the Prophet Muhammad's time.
- Early Mosques with two Mihrabs (niches which show the direction of prayer) show one facing Jerusalem and the other facing in the (almost exact) opposite direction, not Mecca.
- The Dome of the Rock is built on the site of Herod's Temple (which served as the main temple for the Jews). Herod's Temple is allegedly built on the same site as Solomon's Temple (according to Jewish and Christian tradition) which is allegedly built on Abraham's first house of worship (also according to Jewish and Christian tradition). The Qur'an states that Abraham's first house of worship was built in Bakkah (3:96).
- The Qur'an states that Abraham asked for Bakkah to become a city of peace. Yerushalim (Hebrew for Jerusalem) literally means 'City of Peace'.
 Michael Avi-Yonah, A History of Israel and the Holy Land (2005)