The Andalusian traveler Ibn Jubayr, born in 539 AH/1145 AD, is one of the most famous Muslim travelers who were interested in writing about Ramadan in their books. Since his early childhood, he received religious education by studying the Quran and its sciences. When he was forty years old, he decided to visit the sacred places of Mecca. He traveled by sea from Andalusia to North Africa and then to Alexandria and Cairo. The procession traveled from Cairo to the city of Qoos in Upper Egypt by boat in the River Nile. Then he moved overland to ‘Aydhab, a port city along the western shores of the Red Sea. There, he boarded a ship to the port of Jeddah. In his book, he severely criticized the people of Jeddah for exploiting and mistreating the pilgrims and forcing them to pay protection money. He then described the process of recording the names of pilgrims by the ruler of Jeddah before moving to Mecca on the night of the 13th of Rabee‘ Al-Aakhir, 578 AH.
Upon entering the sacred City of Mecca, he recorded that tongues started to clamor with supplication and praise of Allah. Sometimes they engaged in repeating talbiyah, and at other times they kept supplicating and invoking Allah Almighty. That was before performing the arrival tawaf (circumambulating the Ka‘bah), then praying, hanging to the covers of the Ka‘bah and performing sa‘y (going back and forth) between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah.
At the Sacred Mosque:
Ibn Jubayr described the Sacred Mosque as well as the holy and blessed places in Mecca. He decided to stay in Medina until he would perform the Hajj. Meanwhile, he performed the ‘Umrah during the month of Rajab, describing the crowdedness of the performers of the ‘Umrah thus: "A scene of resurrection on the Day of Judgment, due to the huge number of people."
He attended the night of the 15th of Sha‘baan in Mecca, and he described the recitation of the Quran and performing prayers in the Sacred Mosque during that night.
On his journey, Ibn Jubayr recorded the beginning of the month of Ramadan in the sacred places. He mentioned that it was on a Sunday. He did not forget to mention that the people of Mecca started to fast though they were not certain of sighting the new crescent. Nevertheless, the ruler of Mecca ordered the beginning of the fast by beating special instruments with loud sounds for this purpose. He considered it obligatory to fast the day of doubt.
Ibn Jubayr noted that once the month of Ramadan started, the mats of the Sacred Mosque were renewed and a lot of candles and lanterns were lit until the Mosque was totally brightened and shone with lights.
He also described the taraaweeh (Ramadan's voluntary night prayers) in the Sacred Mosque and mentioned that many people were lined up behind the Imams who belonged to the four schools of Fiqh. Since he was a follower of the Maliki school of Fiqh, Ibn Jubayr wrote at length about the Maliki Imams and reciters as well as the contributions of the Maliki merchants of providing tall candles to be lit before the Mihrab (the front part of a mosque, where the Imam stands).
The Mosque lamps marked the time of the suhoor:
Ibn Jubayr mentioned the manner of taking suhoor (the pre-dawn meal) during the nights of Ramadan in Mecca. He mentioned that a muezzin was assigned to inform the people about the time of the suhoor through a hermitage in the eastern corner of the Sacred Mosque, near the house of the ruler of Mecca. When it was the time of the suhoor, the muezzin would start to supplicate, reminding the people and urging them to have this meal. At the top of the hermitage, a long piece of wood was installed, and it had a stick at the top like an arm with two small rollers at the ends. These two rollers had two big glass lamps that were lit during the time of the suhoor. When that time was about to end, the muezzin would bring down the two lamps from the top of the piece of wood and then start to the call the azan.
The area of Mecca was very wide, and many houses were far from the place where the two lamps of Suhoor were installed. Ibn Jubayr mentioned that because the houses in Mecca were elevated, the inhabitants who were unable to hear the call for the suhoor would look out for the two lamps at the top of the hermitage. If they could not see them, then they knew that the time of the suhoor had ended.
On his journey, Ibn Jubayr recorded the arrival of Emir Sayful-Islam ibn Ayyoob, the brother of Salah Ad-Deen Al-Ayyoobi (Saladin), to Mecca on first day after Ramadan, 578 AD, coming from Egypt after passing by Medina to visit the grave of the Prophet . Then he visited Mecca for sometime, along with a delegation of Egyptian pilgrims who accompanied him seeking security and safety in his company. Then the Emir continued his journey to Yemen in order to quell an incident of sedition that occurred there. Ibn Jubayr also recorded the supplication of the people of Mecca in favor of Emir Sayful-Islam ibn Ayyoob and his brother Salahud-Deen Al-Ayyoobi due to their concern for the sacred city. Emir Sayful-Islam and his followers performed tawaf and shed tears in humbleness and submission to Allah before walking between Mount Safa and Mount Marwah. The Ka‘bah was opened especially for him.
Completing the recitation of the Quran by the neighbors of the Mosque:
Ibn Jubayr highlighted the diligence of the worshippers permanently staying at the Sacred Mosque in performing the taraaweeh prayers and completing the recitation of the Quran. He mentioned that the recitation of the Quran was concluded every night of the last ten nights of Ramadan. He stated that on the night of the 21st of Ramadan, a child of the residents of Mecca concluded the Quran before the city's judge and some of its shaykhs. The child's father celebrated the occasion by inviting them to a feast in his house.
Another 15-year-old boy of the residents of Mecca also concluded the recitation of the Quran on the night of the 23rd day of Ramadan. His father also celebrated this occasion. As that man was rich, Ibn Jubayr observed that he had brought a chandelier made of wax, different types of fruits, fresh and dry, and many lamps and torches.
On the night of the 25th, the son of the Hanafi Imam of the Sacred Mosque also concluded the recitation of the Quran. He called on his father to celebrate the occasion as well.
Ibn Jubayr then talked about concluding the recitation of the Quran in the Sacred Mosque on the night of the 27th, describing it as an exceptional and blessed night. He said:
There is nothing better than witnessing the conclusion of the recitation of the Quran on the night of the 27th day of Ramadan behind the noble maqaam (standing place of Ibrahim (Abraham) and facing the Great House (the Ka‘bah). It is a favor greater than other favors just as the Sacred Mosque is nobler than any other place on earth.
Then Ibn Jubayr concluded his talk about the nights of Ramadan in Mecca by asking Allah to bless his fasting next to the Ka‘bah and the Sacred Mosque.
He described the night of the blessed Eid Al-Fitr in Mecca as a night of celebration. At night, all the lamps, torches and lights were lit in the four sides of the Sacred Mosque. The roof of the mosque at the top of Mount Abu Qubays was also lit. On this night, the muezzin stood at the top of the dome of Zamzam repeating tahleel (saying 'La Ilaaha Illa Allah' [there is no god but Allah]), takbeer (saying 'Allah-u-Akbar' [Allah is the Greatest]), tasbeeh (saying 'subhaanallaah' [Glorified is Allah]) and tahmeed (saying 'alhamdu lillaah' [praise be to Allah]). Meanwhile, all those who were in Mecca spent the night performing prayers and tawaaf and repeating tahleel and takbeer.
Eid Al-Fitr in Mecca:
Once the residents of Mecca concluded the Fajr (dawn) prayer, they hastened to wear the new clothes of eid and they returned to the Sacred Mosque in order to perform the eid prayer. After performing the prayer and listening to the Khutbah, they started to shake hands with each other and supplicate and congratulate each other for the favors of Allah on them. Finally, they performed tawaaf. After performing the prayer and tawaaf, they went to visit the graves of the Companions in the cemetery of Al-Mu‘alla. They supplicated Allah in favor of the all the righteous people buried there.
Ibn Jubayr remained in Mecca during the two months of Shawwaal and Thul-Qa‘dah, waiting to perform the obligation of Hajj. He learnt how to perform the rituals of the Hajj and visited the house in which the Prophet was born, which was turned into a mosque called 'Mawlid An-Nabi Mosque'. He also visited the house of Khadeejah, may Allah be pleased with him, the wife of the Prophet .
Rolling up of the covers of the Ka‘bah:
He also described rolling up the covers of Ka‘bah from the four corners, known as 'Ihraam Al-Ka‘bah'. On the 27th of Thul-Qa‘dah, the covers were rolled up, and the Ka‘bah was not opened again until after the standing at ‘Arafah.
He relates an amusing incident that took place in Mecca on the night of the 29th of Thul-Qa‘dah, when they were sighting the crescent of Thul-Hijjah. He mentioned that a group of the Moroccan and Egyptian pilgrims wanted the standing at ‘Arafah to be on a Friday, seeking the great blessings of this day, and thus they claimed that they had sighted the crescent of Thul-Hijjah on the 29th of Thul-Qa‘dah. Nevertheless, the judge of Mecca rejected their claim, saying: "How strange! If someone gave testimony of sighting the sun under the heavy clouds, I would not accept his testimony. Then what about sighting a crescent that is 29 nights old!"
Mecca is like a womb that widens for its baby:
Ibn Jubayr noted the arrival of countless numbers of pilgrims to Mecca and considered it a clear miracle to have this huge number of pilgrims in that small city. He said: "If such a great number of people gathered in large towns, they would not be large enough to include them." He agreed with the scholars who said that Mecca is like a womb that widens for its baby.
He noted that since the 1st of Thul-Hijjah, the sounds of special instruments called dabaadib were heard in Mecca at the prayer times in order to remind people and gather them for the congregational prayer in the Sacred Mosque. This continued until the day of ‘Arafah.
Ibn Jubayr mentioned the rituals of Hajj and gave an elaborate description of the scene of standing at ‘Arafah. He mentioned that it is recommended to spend the night there but that the pilgrims were forced to depart out of fear of the tribe of Banu Shu‘bah, which was infamous for attacking the pilgrims and stealing from them. However, he mentioned that, at that time, the pilgrims were protected by the Ruler of Aden, Emir ‘Uthmaan ibn ‘Ali, who had fled from Aden upon the arrival of Emir Sayful-Islam ibn Ayyoob, the brother Salahud-Deen Al-Ayyoobi. Although Ibn Jubayr at first described how ‘Uthmaan was oppressive to his people as he appropriated a lot of their property and shops and called upon the Ayyoobi rulers to attack and isolate him, he praised his stance in protecting the pilgrims from the attacks of the tribe of Banu Shu‘bah in the strait between Muzdalifah and ‘Arafaat. He considered the action of ‘Uthmaan a form of jihad and hoped for the forgiveness of Allah for all his misdeeds by virtue of this action.
He described the crowdedness of the people on Mount ‘Arafah and likened it to the Day of Resurrection. He talked in detail about all the rituals of the Hajj as well as the journey of the pilgrims and their positions. He also mentioned the most important figures that performed Hajj during that year, including the ruler of Iraq, who arrived there in a great procession accompanied by the rulers of Persia as well as many ladies.
He also mentioned the skirmishes and quarrels that occurred between the people of Mecca and the Iraqi and Turkish pilgrims. Some of them were injured, and the belongings of some merchants were plundered before that trial quickly ended.
Ibn Jubayr did not forget to mention the markets that were prepared to fulfill the pilgrims' needs, including the market of Mina. This market lasted for three days, and it was one of the large markets. There was also the great market, known as the market of the Sacred Mosque, which included countless goods and commodities. He said: "It was a great market where everything was sold, from flour to agate, and from wheat to pearls."
Ibn Jubayr then left Mecca on the 20th of Thul-Hijjah, 578 AH, after staying there more than eight months and achieving the main goal of his journey to the East, which was performing the Hajj to the Sacred House of Allah.