10 facts about the 1979 Attack on Kaaba – the siege of Makkah

Before the attack on the Holy Kaaba in Makkah in 1979, Saudi Arabia was following moderate Islamic policies. However, this attack changed everything in Saudi Arabia for a period of 4 decades. Here is a detailed overview of the 1979 attack and its aftermaths on the Saudi policies:

  1. The Date and Month

The first attack on the Holy Kaaba in Makkah was on 20th November 1979.  The attack took place in the Holy city of Makkah and was directed towards the Holy Kaaba. According to the lunar calendar, an extremist group rose up to attack the Holy City on the first of Muharram, year 1, 1400.

  1. 100 Muslims were killed during the Grand Mosque Seizure

It took 2 weeks to clear out the city form the extremist group while about one hundred Muslims got killed. The innocents, the civilians, the helpers, the crew and guards were killed brutally at the Grand Mosque.

  1. How did the attack take place?

It was a usual day as about 100 Muslims had gathered at the Holy Kaaba to perform their Fajr prayers. On the 20th of Nov 1979 at about 5:25 a.m. the worshippers started to hear gunshots for the attack on the Holy Kaaba in Makkah. It was the time when the peaceful and peace-promoting city turned into a war zone.

This alarmed the Saudi government, the army and all the people around the world. It was time to take action before things would get worse. Thereby the Saudi authorities first took a stance to handle the matter peacefully as they did not want to make the worship area a mess and a battlefield.

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  1. Saudi Government tried to persuade them

Megaphones were used to educate the extremist group that what they were practicing was against the Islamic teachings. They were made to listen to the Quranic verses which said that whosoever intends to initiate a different act in the Holy mosque which is against the Islamic rules, religion and rightful doings shall face a painful punishment.

These warnings and verses were sent by the late King Khalid and his government. Nevertheless, it was of no use to educate the extremist group. They had completely diverted from the beliefs of Islam. None of the warnings could let them surrender.

To resolve the matter on pure Islamic grounds, King Khalid thereby called upon the renowned Islamic scholars from all around the country. They were asked to give a decision. They all were of the view that they had diverted from the teachings of Islam and thereby conducting a massacre.

  1. They had captured the minarets

The attackers started to shoot the people outside the Grand Mosque. The used the minarets as their attacking area. No Muslim shall kill or harm his Muslim brother, also making Holy Kaaba its hostage is an extreme act that shall be punished.

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  1. Fatwa issued against the Attackers

In 1979, a collective Fatwa was issued by Islamic scholars which briefed that the people who attacked the Holy Kaaba and Makkah shall be killed according to Islamic law. The king thereby asked the armed forces to attack the attackers yet the lives of innocents shall be the first priority.

It was ordered that it would be better if the attackers were captured alive and that the soldiers and Holy Kaaba remain safe and protected.

  1. Finally, the Saudi Government had to use the Power

Eventually, the well-trained soldiers of the Special Forces were able to rescue the Holy Kaaba and the innocent people. The attackers were killed, and many were captured.

Maj. Gen. Mohammed Al-Nufaie, who was the former head of the Special Security Forces said that he told that the attackers were dealt with in a humane manner. He explained that when the leader of the deviant group, Juhayman Al-Otaibi, was caught he was being pulled through his beard.

When the royals saw this, they got angry and asked the soldier not to do so. Recommended: The son of a terrorist who attacked Makkah becomes a colonel in the Saudi Army

  1. What happened at the Safa and Marwa mountains?

Hizam Al-Mastouri, who was a soldier at that time and provided his service to clear the Grand Mosque told that when they reached the Al-Marwa Mountain to lead the soldiers inside the Mosque, gunshots approached us from almost everywhere.

He also told that the attackers were hiding in the Masa’a region and they could see us, but we were not able to locate them initially. Later with changes in the plan, things turned out in our favor.

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  1. The interrogation was very polite

The former head also said that the interrogation was kept very polite. When Juhayman was interrogated, he told that the Devil has made him do so. Prince Saud Al-Faisal was among those who interrogated the attacker’s leader. The attacker was also facilitated with water upon his request.

  1. The heart of every Muslim was bleeding

Al-Nufaie said that the liberation of the Grand Mosque was something that gave inner joy. When the Holy Kaaba and Makkah were under attack in 1979 and the peaceful place was turned into a war zone, the heart of every Muslim was bleeding.

Even though it took 2 weeks to clear the Mosque from the attackers, yet it was a successful operation with the most positive outcomes.

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  1. The son of the leader of the attackers

Hathal bin Juhayman Al-Otaibi, who is the son of the attacking group leader, did not follow his father’s footsteps rather learned a lesson from him. He was 1-year-old when his father attacked the Grand Mosque.

The faithful son now serves Saudi Arabia’s National Guards at the colonel post. People are pleased that the Hathal was not looked up as the son of an attacker rather was studied at individual grounds.

  1. 117 attackers were killed and 69 captured

During the great operation, 100 innocent Muslims were martyred inside the Masjid-al-Haram, 117 attackers were killed, 69 were captured and were given a death sentence. Only 19 were the ones who received a jail term.

It was this attack that led Saudi Arabia to pursue Islamic extremist policies. Yet now King Salam is looking to head towards the moderate past policies. He says that we are returning towards the moderate Islamic policies of the past so that Saudi Arabia would become open towards all religions.

Source: Arab News

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Steve has been living in Saudi Arabia since 2013 and writing about Saudi rules, regulations, guides, and procedures since then.