Sunday, January 15, 2012

What Does Bakkah Mean in the Quran?

Here is an article by Zeshan Zaveri (zzaveri from shiachat)

I have always asked myself why did Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى) use the word “Bakkah” in reference to the city of Makkah in Chapter 3 (Ali Imrān) verse 96 when Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى) states the following:

«إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِى بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكاً وَ هُدًى لِّلْعَالَمِينَ»
“Most sure the first house appointed for mankind is the one at Bakkah, blessed and a guided for the nations” (3:96)

Why does he selectively choose this word “Bakkah” even knowing that we Muslims will always refer to the Holy City as Makkah.

First of all what does the word “Bakkah” mean?

Here is a Hasan (Good) narration from the Imām al-Sādiq (عليه السلام) which gives the meaning of the word Bakkah.

عَلِيُّ بْنُ إِبْرَاهِيمَ عَنْ أَبِيهِ عَنِ ابْنِ أَبِي عُمَيْرٍ عَنْ مُعَاوِيَةَ بْنِ عَمَّارٍ قَالَ قُلْتُ لِأَبِي عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ع أَقُومُ أُصَلِّي بِمَكَّةَ وَ الْمَرْأَةُ بَيْنَ يَدَيَّ جَالِسَةٌ أَوْ مَارَّةٌ فَقَالَ لَا بَأْسَ إِنَّمَا سُمِّيَتْ بَكَّةَ لِأَنَّهَا تَبُكُّ فِيهَا الرِّجَالُ وَ النِّسَاءُ

From Mu`āwiyah bin `Ammār said,
I said to Abī `Abd Allāh (عليه السلام) ‘I stand to pray in Makkah and a woman is sitting in front of me or she passes by.’  He (عليه السلام) said: ‘There is no problem.  It is called Bakkah because men and women weep (cry) there.’
1.     Al-Kulaynī, Al-Kāfī, ed. `Alī Akbar al-Ghaffārī, 8 vols., (Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmiyyah, 3rd Edition, 1388 AH), vol. 4, pg. 526, hadeeth # 7
2.     Al-Tūsī, Tahdhīb al-Aḥkām, 10 vols., (Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmiyyah, 4th Edition, 1407 AH), vol. 5, pg. 451, hadeeth # 220
1.     Al-Majlisī said this hadeeth is Hasan (Good)
à Mir’āt Al-`Uqūl, 26 vols., (Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmiyyah, 1410 AH), vol. 18, pg. 222

Now in hindsight after the Imām has already explained it to us what Bakkah means it makes even more sense because the word “bukaa” or “bakaaبكي in the Arabic language means to “cry” and “weep”.  What is even more amazing is how the Imām (عليه السلام) was not asked directly about the meaning of the word “Bakkah”.  He is being asked if it is ok to have a woman sitting or passing by him when he is praying in Makkah.  The Imām (عليه السلام) has provided a treasure trove of knowledge with this response.

The word “Bakkah” can be found in the Old Testament in Book of Psalms Chapter 84 verse 6 it says:

King James Version:  Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.

In most translations of the Old Testament, the word is usually left untranslated as Baca, but in some translations they have actually translated the word.  Subhan Allāh, they have translated the word “Baca” as “weeping”.  See the translations below.

American Standard Version - Passing through the valley of Weeping they make it a place of springs; Yea, the early rain covereth it with blessings.

New Living Translation -
When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.

Aramaic Bible in Plain English -
They passed by the valley of weeping and they have made it a dwelling place, also blessings will cover The Lawgiver.

English Revised Version -
Passing through the valley of Weeping they make it a place of springs; yea, the early rain covereth it with blessings.

World English Bible -
Passing through the valley of Weeping, they make it a place of springs. Yes, the autumn rain covers it with blessings.

Young’s Literal Translation -
Those passing through a valley of weeping, A fountain do make it, Blessings also cover the director.

Douay-Rheims Bible - In the vale of tears, in the place which be hath set.

Glory to Allah! Even with all the Tahreef (distortion) done by the Jews and Christians to their books (Torah/Bible) the truth can never be completely removed.   Futhermore,  in the Quran Makkah is referred to as a valley as well.

 If you take a look at Chapter 48 (FatH) verse 24 Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى) states the following.

«وَهُوَ الَّذِي كَفَّ أَيْدِيَهُمْ عَنكُمْ وَأَيْدِيَكُمْ عَنْهُم بِبَطْنِ مَكَّةَ مِن بَعْدِ أَنْ أَظْفَرَكُمْ عَلَيْهِمْ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرًا»
“And He it is Who held back their hands from you and your hands from them in the valley of Mecca after He had given you victory over them; and Allah is Seeing what you do” (48:24)

Most translators of the Qur’ān have translated بِبَطْنِ مَكَّةَ as the “valley of Mecca”. (Click for More Translations)

So the Imām’s (عليه السلام) simple reply ended up tying in the actual meaning of the word “Bakkah” to its original roots when mentioned in the Book of Psalms (Zaboor) of Prophet Dāwud (عليه السلام).  This is a perfect example of how Qur’ān and adīth work together in a very harmonious manner in explaining each other.


  1. Salam Aleykum,

    Excellent post.
    Thank you brother Zeshan.

  2. similar topic:

    علي بن إبراهيم، عن أبيه، عن ابن أبي عمير، عن جميل قال: كان الطيار يقول لي: إبليس ليس من الملائكة وإنما امرت الملائكة بالسجود لآدم (عليه السلام) فقال إبليس: لااسجد، فما لابليس يعصي حين لم يسجد وليس هو من الملائكة؟، قال (1)
    فدخلت أنا وهو على أبي عبدالله (عليه السلام) قال: فأحسن والله في المسألة، فقال: جعلت فداك أرأيت ماندب الله عزوجل إليه المؤمنين من قوله: " يا أيها الذين آمنوا " أدخل في ذلك المنافقون معهم؟ قال: نعم والضلال وكل من أقر بالدعوة الظاهرة وكان إبليس ممن أقر بالدعوة الظاهرة معهم

    "al-Kaafi", 2/412, hadeeth # 1

    isnaad sahih inshaAllah.

  3. It's funny when you say "Glory to Allah! Even with all the Tahreef (distortion) done by the Jews and Christians to their books (Torah/Bible) the truth can never be completely removed."

    Your critical analysis didn't permit you to see beyond what Imam Jafar supposedly said about the word Bakkah. At the time of Imam Jafar and maybe before, the content of Jewish and Christian books were already known by the Muslims.

    It's just a copy/past from Jewish and Christian scriptures. Not something prodigious, miraculous or extraordinary.

  4. Are you normal? The Koran writes Bakkah and because the Christians/Jews have falsified their texts to mean weeping you now say the Koran also means weeping and that leads to valley which means Bakkah is another way of saying Makkah?

    So M=B, which is why Muhammad is also known as Buhammad?

  5. "" Its another name for mecca you douche, thanks but no thanks for your expertise in arabic linguistics, we're talking about two different labels here not corruptions of a pre-existing name.

  6. I am muslim but i am 100% sure Bakkah definitely is not Makkah bcoz God is not running out of words.

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