Al-Maʿlāt Cemetery (Arabic: مَقبَرَة المَعلاة) is the oldest cemetery in Mecca which is also known as Al-Ḥajūn Cemetery (Arabic: مَقبَرَة الحَجون), al-Mu'alla Cemetery (Arabic: مقبرة المعلی) and Abū Ṭalib Cemetery (Persian: قبرستان ابوطالب) among Iranians. It is mostly know as Banū Hashim Cemetery (Persian: قبرستان بنی هاشم) in recent centuries.
'Abd al-Muttalib, Khadija al-Kubra (a), Yasir and Sumayya (the first martyred Muslims) were buried in this cemetery. Therefore, after al-Baqi' Cemetery, al-Ma'lat is considered as the second most important cemetery among Muslims, especially Shi'ites, who perform hajj or visit Mecca and Medina.
Names and Geography
This cemetery is known as al-Ma'lat Cemetery, Jannat al-Ma'lat and the Cemetery of Quraysh or the Cemetery of Banu Hashim. It is located on the slopes of Mount al-Hajun and today it is sited on the north-east of Mecca on the two forked roads to Masjid al-Haram and Mount al-Hajun.
In the Age of Ignorance and also early years after the emergence of Islam, this cemetery included Abi Dubb valley (right of the mountain) and Safi l-Sibbab valley (left of the mountain) which is extended to Adhakhir pass and the Khurman area. Because it was located out of Mecca, geographers including al-Maqdisi and Ibn Khurdadbih did not mention this cemetery; Yaqut al-Hamawi only discussed it in general. Therefore, specifying the exact size or borders of the cemetery would not be possible due to its neighboring al-'Ulya' Cemetery.
The oldest documents on Mount al-Hajun goes back to the poems from Banu Jurhum, however, probably after the burial of Qusayy b. Kilab, the fifth ancestor of Prophet Muhammad (s), as the first one who was buried in al-Hajun, it was called al-Hajun Cemetery. Afterwards, people of Mecca buried their dead on the left and right valleys of al-Hajun. Therefore, it became a famous cemetery at the time that Islam emerged in Mecca, especially because the ancestors of Prophet Muhammad (s) were buried there including 'Abd Manaf b. Qusay, Hashim and 'Abd al-Muttalib. Some narrations mentioned that Amina, Prophet's mother, was also buried there. Abu Talib, Prophet Muhammad's uncle, praised this cemetery in a poem.
Although notable companions of Prophet Muhammad (s) and Tabi'un were buried in this cemetery and the spiritual importance of the cemetery is mentioned, the identity and exact burial site of them are unknown. However, al-Firuz Abadi in his treatise, Itharat al-Hajun li ziyarat al-Hujun, (in the 7th/13th century), mentioned the names of 38 men and women of sahaba who are buried in al-Hajun Cemetery.
Other notable buried people are: 'Abd-Allah b. 'Umar b. al-Khattab; al-Fudayl b. 'Iyad (Muslim ascetic in 2nd/8th century); a number of Sayyids; descendants of Imam al-Hasan (a) and also al-Mansur, the Abbasid Caliph.
Ibn Fahd, an author in the 9th/15th century, dedicated a part of his book on notable men and women of Mecca (including judges, hadith narrators, Quran reciters and respected people) who are buried in al-Hajun Cemetery, mostly in family graves.
In the 11th/17th century, Awliya' Chalabi reported about 75 domed tombs in al-Hajun Cemetery including 'Abd al-Muttalib, Maymuna bt. al-Harith (Prophet Muhammad's (s) wife) and Shaykh Ala' al-Din al-Naqshbandi.
According to the reports of Husayni Farahani (in 13th/19th century) and Ibrahim Raf'at Pasha (in 14th/20th century), al-Hajun Cemetery was highly important among Muslims. The grave of Abu Talib is considered highly respected especially among Shi'a Muslims.
Burial Site of Khadija bt. al-Khuwaylid
The most important gravestone in al-Ma'lat Cemetery belongs to Khadija al-Kubra (a), which was built with a high dome in the 8th/14th century. This mausoleum was not demolished until 950/1543-1544 and then Sultan Sulayman al-Qanuni, an Ottoman Emperor, rebuilt an Egyptian style mausoleum with a high dome on it. Prior to its reconstruction, it only had a wooden box on the grave. According to its inscription, it was rebuilt in 1298/1880-1881. As Husayni Farahani said, its wooden darih was decorated and some people were taking care of the religious practices there.
After the burial of Khadija al-Kubra (a) and Abu Talib in al-Hajun Cemetery, it became highly important among Muslims. Although primitive sources clearly stated that Khadija al-Kubra (a) was buried in al-Hajun Cemetery, Al-Fasi, a historian in 9th/15th century, cast doubt on this matter. According to a narration, the tomb has been discovered and precisely pinpointed in a dream in 729/1328-1329.
Because of a narration from the Prophet Muhammad (s) on the advantages of burying the dead in al-Hajun Cemetery, the number of interments increased exceedingly, especially on its left side. The poems which praised al-Hajun Cemetery demonstrate the importance and credibility of this cemetery compared to other cemeteries. Also, some historical events around the al-Hajun area, this cemetery drew the attention of Muslims; in one case it is said that the meeting of a group of Jinns with Prophet Muhammad (s) which led to their conversion to Islam -reported in the holy Quran- was around al-Hajun Cemetery. Then after some time a mosque was built near al-Hajun Cemetery, and it was named Masjid al-Jinn (Al-Jinn Mosque) or Masjid al-Haras, which still remains there today. The Prophet Muhammad (s) resided in al-Hajun at the time of the Conquest of Mecca.
On some occasions, al-Hajun Cemetery gained a political importance as in the first year after Hijra, Abu Musa al-Asha'ri settled in al-Hajun after the incident of Tahkim (arbitration). Ibn Jubayr (in the 6th/12th century) visited the remaining structure which was built in al-Hajun in the memory of Ibn al-Zubayr and his execution there. As he said, people of Ta'if destroyed the building, because other people came to curse al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf, their fellow tribesman.
Demolition by Wahhabis
All the domes and mausoleums in al-Hajun Cemetery were demolished by Wahhabis in 1343/1925, after the demolition of Al-Baqi' Cemetery. This act irritated all Muslims. Although Wahhabis tried to justify it with religious reasons and even rejecting the burial of the relatives of the Prophet Muhammad (s) in the cemetery, however, it did not calm Muslims' anger.
Al-Hajun Cemetery is surrounded by walls which extended to the slopes of Mount al-Hajun, but the northern part of the cemetery is not enclosed by walls. In addition, the cemetery is divided into two parts: the northern, which includes the graves of Banu Hashim and ancestors of Prophet Muhammad (s), and the southern.
According to the stone inscription on the entrance of the cemetery, it was rebuilt in 1383/1963-1964. Today Mount al-Hajun is getting bulldozed for expansion of the cemetery.
- The material for writing this article has been mainly taken from قبرستان معلاة in Farsi WikiShia.