The Kaabah, mentioned twice in the Quran, literally means a cubic object. Notwithstanding its other famous synonyms referred to in the Quran like al-Bayt, Baytullâh, al-Baytu’l-Atîq, al-Baytu’l- Harâm, al-Baytu’l-Muharram, al-Masjidu’l-Harâm, it is often called the Kaabah-i Muazzama, the highly respected Kaabah.
[The Kaabah was erected upon approximately 1.5 meter-wide columns. Its walls contain a total of 1614 basalt stones of various dimensions brought from around Mecca. On the east corner is the Hajar’ul-Aswad, the Black Stone. It is kept in a silver casing and marks the beginning and ending point of circumambulation. The Kaabah’s east corner is called Rukn’ul-Hajar’ul-Aswad or Rukn’us-Sharqi, its north corner Rukn’ul-Iraqi, its west corner Rukn’us-Shami, while its south corner Rukn’ul-Yamani. The drain channeling the rainwater from the roof of the Kaabah (Mizab’ul-The Kaabah) is known as the Golden Drain. Starting from the Kaabah, the first three meters of the area enclosed by a semicircular wall, standing at a height of 1.32 meters and width of 1.55 meters, that rises opposite the northwest corner of the Sacred House between Rukn’ul-Iraqi and Rukn’us-Shami, is known as Hatim. This section was included in the main building of the Kaabah put up by Ibrahim u. Restricted by a lack of material, however, Quraysh, during their restoration, had no other choice but to leave it outside. The remaining 5.56 meter area known either as Hijrul-the Kaabah, Hijru Ismail or Hatira, is the exact spot where Ibrahim u had made a shade for Hajar and his son Ismail from an arak tree. According to tradition, both Hajar and Ismail –upon whom be peace- are buried in the area of Hijr. It has thus been decreed obligatory to perform circumambulation from the outside of the Hijr. The door of the Kaabah, on the northeast of the House, stands at height of 2,25 meters from the ground. The section of the wall located between the door and the Hajar’ul-Aswad is known as Multazam. The exact height of the Kaabah is 14 meters. The length of Multazam is 12.84 meters, while that of Hatim 11.28 meters. Hatim and Rukn’ul-Yamani is separated by a distance of 11.52 meters. Holding the roof inside the Sacred House are three pillars, lined in the middle, from the south wall to Hatim. A ladder to the roof is found on the right hand side of the entrance, which also has a door of its own, called Bab’ut-Tawbah, the Door of Repentance. The inner walls of the Kaabah and its roof are covered with a green fabric made of silk. (Muhammad Ilyâs Abdulghanî, p. 33-66; Kâmil Mîrâs, Tecrid Tercemesi, VI, 17-20)]
The story of the Kaabah begins with Prophet Adam (Alaihi Salaam), the first human being. Upon descending to the world, he was given the duty of building a place of worship on the grounds where the Kaabah stands today (See Tabarî, Târih, I, 124). This is mentioned in the Quran in the following verse:
“Most surely the first house appointed for men is the one at Bekka, blessed and a guidance for the nations.” (Âl-i İmrân, 96)
In response to a question posed by Abu Dharr (May Allah be pleased with him) (*), the Messenger of Allah ﷺ reveals the first building constructed on the face of Earth as the Kaabah, and the second as Masjid’ul-Aqsâ, the holy mosque of Jerusalem (See Bukhari, Anbiyâ, 10). The valley of Mecca was hence chosen as a holy place since the very beginning of human history.
After the Deluge of Nuh (Alaihi Salaam), the Kaabah remained for a long time under sand. It was rebuilt by Hazrat Ibrahim (Alaihi Salaam) many years after he left his son and wife in the land. Revisiting his family in Mecca years after, and seeing that his son was now a young man, Ibrahim (Alaihi Salaam) told him:
“Our Lord commands us to build a house for him…and you will help me!”
The young Ismail (Alaihi Salaam) carried stones while Ibrahim (Alaihi Salaam) erected the walls of the Kaabah. The piece of marble carrying the footprints of Ibrahim (Alaihi Salaam) was used as a stepping stone to help him reach the higher places of the wall (**). The Holy Quran narrates the event in the following words:
“And when Ibrahim and Ismail raised the foundations of the House: Our Lord! accept from us; surely You are the Hearing, the Knowing” (al-Baqara, 127) (For the details of the incident, see Bukhari, Anbiya, 9).
The Kaabah is the House of the Almighty only symbolically; that is to say, God does not live in it. Muslims pray to Allah (swt), by circumambulating it seven times, starting from the Black Stone placed by Ibrahim (Alaihi Salaam) near one of the corners of the Kaabah. The Black Stone descended from Paradise, and as reported by the Blessed Prophet ﷺ, it was whiter than milk and snow at the time of its descent, darkened in time by the sins of human beings. (Tirmidhî, Hajj, 49/877; Ahmad, I, 307).(***)
It has also been reported that fires before and after Islam had a part to do with the darkening of the Stone. But there are accounts that the side of the Stone facing the wall of the Kaabah still remained very white.
Mujahid narrates that when Abdullah ibn Zubayr (May Allah be pleased with him) demolished the walls of the Kaabah in order to renovate it, he saw that the inner side of the Black Stone was white.
Present during the reinstatement of the Stone in the 339th year of Hegira after having been taken away by the heretic Qarmatîs was Muhammad ibn Nâfî el-Huzâî, who later gave the following testimony:
“I was there to inspect the Black Stone when it was removed from its case and I saw that only one side, the visible side of the Stone was black, while the other three sides were white.”
In the 1039th year of Hegira, the Kaabah was ruined by a strong flood that swept across Mecca. During the rebuilding, Imâm Ibn Allân al-Makkî inspected the Black Stone, commenting that “the parts of the Black Stone installed facing the walls of the Kaabah are as white as the marble where Ibrahim u prayed (Maqâmu Ibrâhim)”(See Said Bektash, p. 36-38; Dr. Muhammad Ilyâs Abdulghanî, p. 43.)
The Quran narrates that once the building of the Kaabah was completed, Prophet Ibrahim (Alaihi Salaam) and his son Ismail (Alaihi Salaam) prayed to Allah (swt), in the following manner:
“Our Lord! Make of us Muslims, bowing to Your (Will), and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to Your (will); and show us our place for the celebration of rites; and turn unto us in Mercy; for You art the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.
Our Lord! Send among them a Messenger of their own, who shall rehearse Your Signs to them and instruct them in scripture and wisdom, and sanctify them: For You are the Exalted in Might, the Wise.” (al-Baqara, 128-129)
Upon the completion of the Kaabah, the Almighty commanded Ibrahim to invite people for pilgrimage:
“And proclaim among men the Pilgrimage: they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, from every remote path.”(al-Hajj, 27)
Heeding to this Divine commandment, Ibrahim u climbed the nearby Abu Qubays Mountain, and called out to all four directions with an audible voice, informing people of their obligation to visit the Kaabah.(See Kâmil Mîrâs, Tecrid Tercemesi, VI, 20-21; Said Bektash, p. 111.)
After this declaration the Archangel Jibril (Alaihi Salaam) came and showed Ibrahim (Alaihi Salaam) the borders of the Holy Mosque and the distances of Safâ and Marwâ, telling him to erect stones to mark these borders. The Archangel afterward taught him all the rituals and procedures of the pilgrimage. Thereafter, people from far away lands began visiting the Kaabah for pilgrimage, making Mecca the center for the religion of the Almighty, granting the town an important place in the hearts of people.
Worshipping in the House of Allah (swt), continued the way Prophet Ibrahim (Alaihi Salaam) had taught up until the spread of idolatry. When idol worshipping became widespread in Mecca, the idolaters filled inside and around the Kaabah with idols. But even then the Kaabah was not renamed after a certain idol, continuing to be called Baytullah, the House of Allah (swt).
When Mecca was taken and opened to Islam by the Noble Prophet ﷺ all the idols were demolished, and under the inspection of the Prophet ﷺ, the Kaabah, from both the inside and outside, was cleansed with Zamzam water. This initiated a custom of washing the Kaabah with Zamzam and rosewater every year, perfuming it with musk and amber, and renewing its cover.
Any service made to the Kaabah and its visitors was thus held in great esteem. First fulfilled by Ismail (Alaihi Salaam), these noble duties passed on to his sons, then to the Jurhumites and finally to the tribe of Quraysh. Simultaneous to the establishment of the Meccan city- state we see the founding of the following duties:
1. Sidânah or Hijâbah: The duty of covering the Kaabah and safeguarding its keys.(****)
2. Siqâyah: Providing the pilgrims with water and beverages, and the maintenance of the Zamzam well.
3. Ridânah: Feeding and hosting poor pilgrims.
Becoming entrusted with these duties was considered a great honor and privilege among Arabs. In the time of the Noble Prophet ﷺ these duties were shared among the leading families of the Mecca. Omar (may Allah be pleased with him), the second Caliph, allocated allowances for these purposes, which during the time of Muawiyah (may Allah be pleased with him) became more organized. The Ottomans similarly considered the upkeeping of the Kaabah as being of great significance, providing sizeable allowances for tending to the Sacred House.
(*) Abu Dharr’s (may Allah be pleased with him) real name is Jundab ibn Junada. He was known as Ghifari in reference to the tribe of Ghifar from where he originally sprung. As the fifth Muslim, he was a man of piety, contentedness and abstinence, which lead the Blessed Prophet ﷺ to call him the Masih’ul-Islam, i.e. the Isa (Alaihi Salaam) of Islam. Constantly by the side of the Noble Prophet ﷺ, he would look to reap the greatest benefit from his presence, asking what he knew not to the Prophet ﷺ for clarification; accumulating so deep a knowledge in the end that Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) is known to have called him ‘the repertoire of knowledge’. The total amount of his hadith narrations is 281. Breathing his last in Rabaza near Mecca in the 31st year of Hegira, his funeral last was conducted by a small group who laid him to rest.
(**) Said Bektash, Fadlu’l-Hajari’l-Aswad wa Maqâmi Ibrâhîm (upon him peace), p. 108; Muhammad Ilyâs Abdulghanî, p. 71-73. According to one source, Ibrâhîm –u later stood up on the marble, the Maqamu Ibrahim and invited people to hajj. (Said Bektash, p. 111) In reference to the Maqamu Ibrahim, Allah Y, says: “And when We made the House a resort for mankind and sanctuary, (saying): Take as your place of worship the place where Ibrahim stood (to pray).” (al- Baqara, 125)
(***) Scholars have commented that if sins can have so great an effect on even a stone so as to leave it black, who knows the intensity of the tarnish they can leave on the heart. Abstaining from sins with utmost effort is therefore a must.
(****) Ismail u is recognized as the first person to drape the Kaabah. (Abdurrazzaq, V, 154) Throughout Islamic history, the preparation of the cover of the Kaabah would be seen to by the Caliph, a sultan or the incumbent governor of Mecca. After the passage of the Caliphate to the Ottomans in 1517, the cover of the Sacred House continued to be woven in Egypt for a little while longer. During the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent, Istanbul became the center for weaving its inner cover, added to which was the outer cover, come the time of Sultan Ahmed III. The last cover woven in Ottoman hands to be sent was in 1916, with the rebellion of Sharif Hussain preventing further attempts. Prepared for a period of time once again in Egypt thereafter, the cover is today is made in a factory in Mecca set up specifically for that purpose.