Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Title is written in Arabic and means "The Kaaba". Arabic is read from right to left

I made this drawing for the Kaaba so I decided to write a post about it as well .This post is not a detailed reference, It's a brief introduction to the Kaaba, its significance to Muslims, its history and interesting facts about it. I have also added a list of references and related pages for more information. Note : post is not finished yet :D

Never heard of it ?
The Kaa'ba is an ancient cube shaped sanctuary in the city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia. For Muslims, it's the most sacred place on earth. The Kaaba existed before Islam however, and was revered by Arabian tribes allover the Arabian peninsula; even Christians and pagans would come every year to Makkah to perform an annual pilgrimage to the Kaaba. The Kaaba was named so for its cube shape. It also has other names like"البيت العتيق" The ancient house, "البيت الحرام" the sacred house or simply "البيت" The house.

Significance to Muslims
Muslims have to stand facing the direction of the Kaaba when they pray (five times aday). This leads some people into a misconception that Muslims worship the Kaaba which is absolutely not true.

Also every Muslim is required to perform pilgrimage to Makkah at least once in their lifetime provided that they are capable of it (in terms of financial cost of the trip and being physically able to perform the rituals).

One of the basic rituals of Hajj is "Tawaf" which is to move in a counter-clockwise direction around the Kaaba while praying and asking forgiveness.

How does it look like?
Although named the Kaaba, it's not a perfect cube. Its base is 11.03 by 12.86 meters and it's 13.1 meters high (15 meters according to other sources!! I couldn't figure out which is correct).

The four corners of the kaaba roughly face the four directions of the compass. Its base is made of marble and the walls from granite.
The eastern corner has great significance since it marks the beginning and end of Tawaf and contains the "black stone" which Muslims believe to have come from heaven. Pilgrims kiss the black stone or, usually because of congestion, just raise their hands pointing to it.

the cover
The Kaaba is covered with a cloth of black silk embroidered with verses from the Qur'an using silver and gold threads and written in beautiful Arabic calligraphy. The cover is renewed annually; it's manufactured in Saudi Arabia and costs about 20 million Saudi Riyals (approximately US $5,365,000 )

The door
The door to the Kaa'ba is on the north-eastern wall and its bottom is raised 2 meters above the ground.The Kaa'ba is opened twice a year for cleaning. It's cleaned then washed with oils whose smell lasts for the whole year.
"The keys to the Kaaba are held by the Bani Shaybah (بني شيبة) tribe since the time of Muhammad. Members of the tribe greet visitors to the inside of the Kaaba on the occasion of the cleaning ceremony. A small number of dignitaries and foreign diplomats are invited to participate in the ceremony.
The governor of Makkah leads the honored guests who ritually clean the structure, using simple brooms. Washing of the Kaaba is done with a mixture of Zamzam water and Persian rosewater." Wikipedia

What's inside ?

This video shows the inside of the Kaaba using a 3D model

History and remarkable events
Throughout its amazing history, the Kaaba has witnessed a lot of events, and was destroyed and rebuilt several times!

The first House of worship
According to the Quran, the Kaa'ba was built by Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic) and his eldest son Ishmael (or Ismael). Abraham is the ancestor of Arab people through Ishmael, as well as Jewish people through his other son Isaac, and both Abraham, Ismael and Isaac are revered in both religions.

But according to Islamic tradition ,the Kaaba was built long before that by the angels, and then by Adam the first man but it was destroyed and nothing remained of it until god commanded Abraham to rebuild it on the same old foundations.
Quran supports this too since it describes the Kaaba as "The first House appointed for men" which means its foundations were laid before Abraham.

"The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka (another name for Makkah); full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings" Quran [3:96]

Quran also describes the process of building the Kaa'ba by Abraham:

"And (remember) when Ibrahim (Abraham) and (his son) Ismael(Ishmael) were raising the foundations of the House (the Kaa'ba ), (saying), 'Our Lord! Accept (this duty) from us. Verily! You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.(127) Our Lord! Make of us Muslims (submissive to your will) and of our progeny a people Muslim (bowing to Thy Will) and show us our ways of worship, and relent toward us. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Relenting, the Merciful. (128) " Quran[2:127-128]

The Kaaba that Ibrahim built was different from the structure we see today. It was a roofless rectangular building with a semicircular back wall. It had two doors at the ground level. this figure shows the Kaaba built by Ibrahim compared to the recent Kaaba today.

Abraham prayed to god to make Makkah a city of peace and security and provide its people with fruits and all kinds of goods; a prayer that any visitor to Makkah today can tell that it was answered.

And (remember) when Ibrahim (Abraham) said, "My Lord, make this city (Makkah) a place of security and provide its people with fruits, such of them as believe in Allâh and the Last Day." He (Allâh) answered: "As for him who disbelieves, I shall leave him in contentment for a while, then I shall compel him to the torment of the Fire, and worst indeed is that destination!" Quran [2:126]

After that god tells Ibrahim to call people from all around the world to perform Hajj (pilgrimage). Ibrahim exclaims: "but how far can my voice reach ?" but he eventually submits to god's command. He calls people for pilgrimage ,and people are answering the call every year till today from all around the world.

"And proclaim the Pilgrimage among men: they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways" Quran [22:27]

Around the year AD 500, the tribe of Quraysh (Into which Muhammad was later born) took control of the Kaaba making an agreement with the local Bedouins. The early Arabian population consisted of warring nomadic tribes.but since the Kaaba was revered by Arabian tribes, no violence was allowed in its vicinity. This allowed Makkah to become a trading center as well as a place of pilgrimage.
The early Arabian people worshiped many other deities besides Allah. At that time, the Kaaba had 360 idols representing those gods placed around and inside it, in addition to other religious figures including Jesus and Mary.

One of the significant events in the Kaaba's history is the attempt to destroy it by Abraha-al-Ashram. Abraha was an army commander for king Kaleb of Axum, but he later seized control of Saba' (Yemen) and became its king. In Islamic tradition, Abraha is very well known for his expedition to destroy the Kaaba. He is said to have built another sanctuary, a church named "al Qullays" to rival the Kaaba and wanted to attract pilgrims to it diverting them away from the Kaaba. He marched to Makkah with 40,000 men with a giant elephant named Mahmoud in the lead.

Abraha sent a man to warn the people of Makkah that his sole purpose was to demolish the Kaaba and that he will not harm anyone who doesn't stand in his way. The people of Makkah took refuge in the hills surrounding the city. When the army arrived at the borders of Makkah the elephant stopped . when he was turned to the direction of Yemen or Syria, he would move, but when turned to Makkah, he would kneel down and refuse to go forward. Shortly a dark cloud of flocks of birds appeared, holding stones in their beaks and started to bombard the invading army which ran in panic and Abraha was wounded and carried back to Yemen but died in the way.

The incident was a sign of the holiness of the Kaaba, and that year became known as "year of the elephant" and was used by Quraysh to relate events (like a calendar) and it's in this same year that Muhammad was born, which corresponds to 570 AD. The Quran mentions the story in its 105th Sura (chapter)

"Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the Owners of the Elephant?(1) Did He not make their treacherous plan go astray? (2) And He sent against them birds, in flocks, (3) Which pelted them with stones of baked clay, (4) And made them like green crops devoured (by cattle)? (5)" Quran [105:1-5]

around the year AD 600, the Kaaba structure had been weakened by periodic floods and on one occasion, partially destroyed by fire. Quraysh decided to rebuild the Kaaba. Their funds however did not suffice so they decided to exclude the semi circular wall from the building and to make it roughly a cube. Theyalso added a roof, raised the building higher and made only one door and raised it above the ground so that no one could enter without their permission. At that time the prophet was 25 (35 in some accounts) and he participated with his people in moving the stone blocks as reported. That was before Muhammad claimed to be a messenger of god.

The Kaaba that Quraysh built looked almost the same as the building of today. and a low semicircular wall exists but not connected to the building of the Kaaba, and people performing Tawaf have to go around it since the area inside the semicircle is still considered part of the Kaaba.

Once Mohammad started preaching the message of Islam, declaring that he is a messenger from god ,and calling his people to worship only one god and abandon all other false deities, he gained enmity and hostility of his people. and after 12 painful years of persecution, torture, and economical boycott, Mohammad and his followers migrated to Madina, where they were welcomed and the first Islamic state was established. This event "Hijra" or migration marks the beginning of Islamic calendar.

Eight years later, in 630, and after many battles and efforts to spread the message, and after Mohammad's followers grew to thousands, the prophet marched to Makkah with an enormous army of 10,000 of his followers as the Makkans had violated a peace treaty with him. The Makkans surrendered with almost no fighting, and were granted clemency by the prophet and most of them converted to Islam.

The Kaaba was then rededicated to the worship of only one god, and reconstituted as the central pilgrimage shrine of Islam. Thus the sole worship of Allah was instituted in Makkah, and Mohammad destroyed all the idols around and inside the Kaaba by himself and removed the paintings and all other pagan decorations from the inner walls .As he did that, he recited "Truth has arrived and falsehood has perished for falsehood is by its nature bound to perish." Quran[17:81]

And in one of the most glorious moments in Islamic history, Bilal climbed on top of the Kaaba and cried out the call to prayer. But first we should know who is Bilal ?
was a black Ethiopian slave and one of the very first followers of Mohammad, and one of the most people to suffer torture from his master.His slavemaster Umayyah placed heavy rocks on his chest in the blazing desert sun and over the burning sand. He remained in this suffering untill he was bought by Abou-Bakr who then set him free. Bilal migrated to Madinah among those who migrated, and was appointed by the prophet as the first "Moa'then". a Moathen means a caller or crier who calls Muslims for prayer, He was chosen for his beautiful penetrating voice.

For the first time the Islamic call to prayer was heard within Islam's holiest city by the slave who was being tortured on its sand eight years ago.

1 comment:

diaprincesa said...

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