The City of Mecca
Mecca is the chief city of Arabia. It derives its wealth from the prodigious concourse of people who assemble there yearly as pilgrims from all parts of the world where Islam flourishes. Advantage is taken of this to hold a great fair for kind of merchandise. The possession of the temple of Kaaba gave Mecca special sanctity and predominance over all the other cities of the peninsula. The soil about Mecca is so barren that it produces nothing but what grows in the desert. Having, therefore, no corn or grain of their own growing, the Meccans are obliged to bring it from other places, and Hashim, Mohammed’s great grandfather, then prince of his tribe, in order to secure adequate supply of provisions for his tribe, appointed two caravans to set out yearly for that purpose, the one in summer and the other in winter.
These caravans of purveyors are referred to in the Koran. This Mecca from the earliest time was the center, not only of the religious associations of pagan Arabia, but also of its commercial activity.
During the period prior to the birth of Mohammed, the government of Mecca was an oligarchy composed of the leading members of the house of Kossat, the Prophet’s ancestor. The governing body consisted of ten senators who were styled Sheiefs. These decemvirs occupied the first place in the state, and their offices were hereditary in favoure of the eldest member of each family. Their functions were: (1) The guardianship of the keys of the temple of the Kaaba, (2) The administration of the water supplied by the wells in Mecca and its neighbourhood, (3) The civil and criminal magistracy, (4) The control of foreign affairs, (5) The custody of the standard under which the nation marched against its enemies, (6) The administration of the poor–tax derived from the alms of the nation and employed in providing food for the poor pilgrims, (7) The presidency of the national assembly, (8) The guardianship of the council chamber which office conferred upon its holders the right of convoking the assembly, (9) The administration of the public finances and (10) The guardianship of the divining arrows, by which the judgment of the gods and goddesses was obtained. At the same time, it was an established custom that the oldest member exercised the greatest influence, and bore the little of chief and lord par excellence. At the time of the Prophet, his uncle Abbas was the senior member of these Senators.