When the scholar, from Makkah, enters the Grand Mosque of Makkah with a turban, named “Omama”, on his head, he walks towards the spot that is reserved for him to teach for the rest of his life. He then sits on a chair or a pulpit, called “minbar”, that stands in the center or sometimes he would sit in a “halaqa”, a ring-shaped seating where students would usually gather around in circles.
Minutes before the lesson starts, a servant or one of the scholar’s students would place a prayer rug that must face the Kabaa (the cuboid), the direction to which all Muslims around the world face while praying.
Students would usually arrive before their scholar with their prayer rugs facing him. They would sit with their paper stands, papers, ink and a knife to sharpen their pencils.
The lesson might start with an older pupil, who would stand in front of the scholar, debriefing all halaqa members about the previous lesson. In other cases, the scholar would phrase a proverb with a rhyme to emphasize the lesson of the day and then ask an older pupil to repeat it.
“Anyone who wants to take a general idea about the teachings in the Grand Mosque of Makkah needs to walk around the corridors of the mosque and its yards,” says Snouck Hurgronje in his book. These halaqas take place every day, five times a day, after every prayer.
“The oldest university in Makkah is the Grand Mosque of Makkah,” indicated by Hurgronje. The number of classes would be at its peak during Hajj season. Pupils and scholars would be coming from all over the world to exchange knowledge then share with their communities upon return.
Source: Makkah a Hundred Years Ago, Snouck Hurgronje