Until the Egyptian invasion in 1814 the Sharifs of Mecca were the recognized rulers of Hejaz, and though the Turks have attempted to suppress their importance, the Sharif still executes justice according to the Mahommedan law in the holy cities, though, nominally, as a Turkish official.
The large purplish Mecca or Bussorah galls, 14 produced on a species of oak by Cynips insana, Westw., have been regarded by many writers as the Dead Sea fruit, mad-apples (mala insana), or apples of Sodom (poma sodomitica), alluded to by Josephus and others, which, however, are stated by E.
The plan is of the normal type, with a great court in the centre, a prayer chamber four aisles deep on the Mecca side (south-east), and a double aisle on the other three sides.
But it was found politic to continue the office of the grand sherif of Mecca in the sherifian family.
At all events, long before Mahomet we find Mecca established in the twofold quality of a commercial centre and a privileged holy place, surrounded by an inviolable territory (the Haram), which was not the sanctuary of a single tribe but a place of pilgrimage, where religious observances were associated with a series of annual fairs at different points in the vicinity.
Beyond the Mecca wall is the tomb of the founder, covered with an immense dome.
About this time, inspired by a heavenly voice (which he pretends to have heard in a dream), he abjured all the luxuries of life, and resolved upon a pilgrimage to the holy shrines of Mecca and Medina, hoping to find there the solution of all his religious doubts.
Medina was besieged and sacked by the troops of Yazid (682) and Mecca was besieged the following year.
Among the revelations put forth in Mecca there is a considerable number of (for the most part) short suras, which strike every attentive reader as being the oldest.
In the splendid times of the caliphs immense sums were lavished upon the pilgrimage and the holy city; and conversely the decay of the central authority of Islam brought with it a long period of faction, wars and misery, in which the most notable episode was the sack of Mecca by the Carmathians at the pilgrimage season of A.D.