The cave of Hira, more commonly known as Ghar-e-Hira (غَار حِرَاء), is one of the most visited places in the Muslim world. This cave is located on the Mount Al-Nour or Jabal Al-Nour (Arabic, جَبَل ٱلنُّوْر). Hira is an Arabic word which can be translated as “Jewels.”

It is situated near the Holy City of Mecca in the Hejaz area of Saudi Arabia. Jabal Al-Nour, where the Hira Cave is situated, is around 5 Kilometers away from the main city of Mecca. However, with the expansion of the city, the boundaries of Mecca now practically touch the base of this mountain.

The meaning of Jabal Al-Nour or Mount Al-Nour is “Mountain of the Light.” Sometimes, it is also translated as “Hill of Illumination.” Since the Hira Cave is situated on this mountain or hill, where the first revelation was descended to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, the mountain is referred to as the Mountain of the Light or the Hill of Illumination. The mountain and the cave got a very special and sacred status for the Muslims due to this event.

Location of Ghar-e-Hira

Jabal Al-Nour is situated around 5 Kilometers from Ka’aba. The Jabal Al-Nour Road starts from Mecca and terminates near the base of Mount Al-Nour. From there, an unpaved path leads to the mountain. The mountain is about 640 meters high, and the Hira Cave is situated at a height of 270 meters on this mountain. It takes almost 1750 steps to reach the Hira Cave. It takes 2 to 3 hours for a normal person to reach there, with quite a reasonable effort.

Ghar-e-Hira itself is a relatively small area on this mountain. The cave is around 3.7 meters (12 feet) long and 1.60 meters (5 feet 3 inches) wide. It can accommodate 5-6 people at a time.

Historical Background of Ghar-e-Hira

Ghar-e-Hira practically had no significant historical background. It was just like some other such places around the city of Mecca. However, it was different from other mountains and caves due to its peculiar appearance. The top of the Jabal Al-Nour looks like two mountains placed on top of each other. The summit of the mountain is the loneliest place in this entire area.

The Hira Cave is even more isolated. But its location is very special. It faces on the north towards Ka’aba. From there, only the surrounding rocks were visible in the old days. The isolated location of this Mountain and the cave in it got the attention of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, which turned this place into a sacred location for the entire Muslim world.

Ghar-e-Hira and the Prophet Muhammad

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ used to spend a reasonable time in meditation, for which he chose Ghar-e-Hira due to its isolated location. It is believed that the Prophet, even before his Prophet Hood used to spend quite a few days in isolation, in the cave for meditation.

When the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was in his 40th year of age, he was at this place during the month of Ramadan, as per his usual routine. On one of the last 10 days of Ramadan, the Angel Gabriel came to him with the command of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى and asked the Prophet and revealed first five verses of Surah Al-Alaq of the Quran:

ٱقْرَأْ بِٱسْمِ رَبِّكَ ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ

Read, ˹O Prophet,˺ in the Name of your Lord Who created

خَلَقَ ٱلْإِنسَـٰنَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ

created humans from a clinging clot

ٱقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ ٱلْأَكْرَمُ

Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous

ٱلَّذِى عَلَّمَ بِٱلْقَلَمِ

Who taught by the pen

عَلَّمَ ٱلْإِنسَـٰنَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ

taught humanity what they knew not

This was the first revelation from Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى on the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and was the start of his Prophet-Hood. This historic and most esteemed event in the history of Islam made this cave and the mountain a very special place for the Muslims. Since then, every Muslim has desired to visit Ghar-e-Hira at least once in his lifetime. That’s why this cave has been a site of religious tourism attraction for a long. It happens to be the most visited place amongst the religious Islamic places.

The Practice of Visiting Ghar-e-Hira

Due to its association and relevance with the Prophet-Hood of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, Ghar-e-Hira is considered to be a sacred place for Muslims. Everyone likes to visit this place. The best opportunity for them is perhaps their visit to Mecca during the Hajj days. It is believed that during the Hajj days, approximately 5000 pilgrims venture to reach this cave every day.

However, some pilgrims have developed a misconception about this. They believe that it is a part of the Hajj rituals, which is not correct. Visiting Ghar-e-Hira and offering prayer inside it is a very important and good deed, but it is not at all a part of the Hajj.

Fatwa (Religious Verdict) About Visiting Ghar-e-Hira

Due to its difficult landscape, various accidental falls often happen while pilgrims venture to climb up to the cave. Considering this, an idea was floated in the near past to construct a stairway from the base of the mountain up to the cave. The scholars of the standing committee turned the idea down by issuing their verdict (Fatwa), (Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah (11/359), which reads as under.

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Climbing up to this cave is not one of the rituals of Hajj or Sunnahs of Islam; rather, it is an innovation and is one of the things that lead to shirking or associating others with Allah. Based on that, people should be prevented from climbing up to it; no stairs should be built, and it should not be made easier to climb up to it, in accordance with the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “Whoever introduces anything into this matter of ours that is not part of it will have it rejected.” Saheeh – agreed upon. More than fourteen centuries have passed since the Revelation came down and Islam appeared, and we do not know of any of the caliphs who succeeded the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) or his companions or the imams of the Muslims who took charge of the holy sites who did that at any time during this long history. All goodness is in following them and their way in order to draw closer to Allaah and in accordance with the way of His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and so as to ward off the means that may lead to shirk.

Unquote

So, it is quite evident that visiting Ghar-e-Hira, considering it an essential part of the Hajj, is not at all correct; hence, it should not be made a regular practice. Despite that verdict of the scholars of the Standing Committee of Saudi Arabia, hundreds and thousands of Muslims visit this place every year, especially during the Hajj days. The reason behind this is the love, affection, and respect of the Muslims towards the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. They like and want to visit this place just because of its association with the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

Hence one mustn’t visit Ghar-e-Hira considering it an essential part of the Hajj rituals. In any case, the sanctity of the Cave of Hira has to be observed during the visit and no such acts be committed here that come under the definition of shirk.

Conclusion

Ghar-e-Hira, due to its association with the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, is considered a sacred place for Muslims. This is the place where the first divine revelation was revealed to the Prophet. Even before this historical event, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ used to spend quite a few days, as a routine, in this cave for meditation.

That makes this cave a unique site for Muslims. Muslims from all around the world visit this mountain and the cave every year, especially during the Hajj days, which has resulted in a misconception that visiting the Hira Cave is a part of the Hajj. But this is not correct; it is not a part of any of the Hajj rituals. However, Ghar-e-Hira is a sacred place for Muslims and is an important Islamic tourist attraction.