The Kaaba surrounded by pilgrims
|Leadership||President of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques: Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais|
Mecca, Hejaz, Saudi Arabia
|Administration||The Agency of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques|
|Length||12.86 m (42 ft 2 in)|
|Width||11.03 m (36 ft 2 in)|
|Height (max)||13.1 m (43 ft 0 in)|
|Materials||Stone, Marble, Limestone|
The Kaaba (Arabic: ?, romanized: al-Ka?bah, lit. 'The Cube', Arabic pronunciation: [ka?.bah]), also spelled Ka'bah or Kabah, sometimes referred to as al-Ka?bah al-Musharrafah (Arabic: ? ?, romanized: al-Ka?bah al-Musharrafah, lit. 'Honored Ka'bah'), is a building at the center of Islam's most important mosque, the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is the most sacred site in Islam. It is considered by Muslims to be the Bayt Allah (Arabic: ?, lit. 'House of God') and is the qibla (Arabic: ?, direction of prayer) for Muslims around the world when performing salah.
The Kaaba is believed by Muslims to have been rebuilt several times throughout history, most famously by Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ismail (Ishmael), when he returned to the valley of Mecca several years after leaving his wife Hajar (Hagar) and Ismail there upon Allah's command. Circling the Kaaba seven times counterclockwise, known as Tawaf (Arabic: ?, romanized: tawaaf), is an obligatory rite for the completion of the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. The area around the Kaaba on which pilgrims circumambulate is called the Mataaf.
The Kaaba and the Mataaf are surrounded by pilgrims every day of the Islamic year, except the 9th of Dhu al-Hijjah, known as the Day of Arafah, on which the cloth covering the structure, known as the Kiswah (Arabic: ?, romanized: Kiswah, lit. 'Cloth') is changed. However, the most significant increase in their numbers is during Ramadan and the hajj, when millions of pilgrims gather for tawaf. According to the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, 6,791,100 pilgrims arrived for the Umrah pilgrimage in the Islamic year 1439 AH,[a] a 3.6% increase from the previous year, with 2,489,406 others arriving for the 1440 AH Hajj.
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In the Qur'an, the Ka'bah is also mentioned by the following names:
The mosque surrounding the Kaaba is called al-Masjid al-Haram ("The Sacred Mosque").
Prior to Islam throughout the Arabian Peninsula, the Kaaba was a holy site for the various Bedouin tribes of the area. Once every lunar year, the Bedouin tribes would make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Setting aside any tribal feuds, they would worship their gods in the Kaaba and trade with each other in the city. Various sculptures and paintings were held inside the Kaaba. A statue of Hubal (the principal idol of Mecca) and statues of other pagan deities are known to have been placed in or around the Kaaba. There were paintings of idols decorating the walls. A picture of 'Isa and his mother Maryam was situated inside the Kaaba and later found by Muhammad after his conquest of Mecca. The iconography portrayed a seated Maryam with her child on her lap. The iconography in the Kaaba also included paintings of other prophets and angels. Undefined decorations, money and a pair of ram's horns were recorded to be inside the Kaaba,. The pair of ram's horns were said to have belonged to the ram sacrificed by Ibrahim in place of his son Ishmael as held by Islamic tradition.
I have heard that there was set up in al-Bayt (referring to the Kaaba) a picture (Arabic: , romanized: Timthal, lit. 'Depiction') of Maryam and 'Isa. ['Ata'] said: "Yes, there was set in it a picture of Maryam adorned (muzawwaqan); in her lap, her son Isa sat adorned."-- al-Azraqi, Akhbar Mecca: History of Mecca
In her book Islam: A Short History, Karen Armstrong asserts that the Kaaba was officially dedicated to Hubal, a Nabatean deity, and contained 360 idols which probably represented the days of the year. However, by the time of Muhammad's era, it seems that the Kaaba was venerated as the shrine of Allah, the High God. Once a year, tribes from all around the Arabian Peninsula, whether Christian or pagan, would converge on Mecca to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, marking the widespread conviction that Allah was the same deity worshipped by monotheists.Alfred Guillaume, in his translation of the Ibn Ishaq's seerah, says that the Kaaba itself might be referred to in the feminine form.Circumambulation was often performed naked by men and almost naked by women. It is disputed whether Allah and Hubal were the same deity or different. Per a hypothesis by Uri Rubin and Christian Robin, Hubal was only venerated by Quraysh and the Kaaba was first dedicated to Allah, a supreme god of individuals belonging to different tribes, while the pantheon of the gods of Quraysh was installed in Kaaba after they conquered Mecca a century before Muhammad's time.
Imoti contends that there were numerous such Kaaba sanctuaries in Arabia at one time, but this was the only one built of stone. The others also allegedly had counterparts of the Black Stone. There was a "Red Stone", in the Kaaba of the South Arabian city of Ghaiman; and the "White Stone" in the Kaaba of al-Abalat (near modern-day Tabala). Grunebaum in Classical Islam points out that the experience of divinity of that period was often associated with the fetishism of stones, mountains, special rock formations, or "trees of strange growth." Armstrong further says that the Kaaba was thought to be at the center of the world, with the Gate of Heaven directly above it. The Kaaba marked the location where the sacred world intersected with the profane; the embedded Black Stone was a further symbol of this as a meteorite that had fallen from the sky and linked heaven and earth.
According to Sarwar, about 400 years before the birth of Muhammad, a man named 'Amr bin Luhayy, who descended from Qahtan and was the king of Hijaz placed an idol of Hubal on the roof of the Kaaba. This idol was one of the chief deities of the ruling Quraysh tribe. The idol was made of red agate and shaped like a human, but with the right hand broken off and replaced with a golden hand. When the idol was moved inside the Kaaba, it had seven arrows in front of it, which were used for divination. To maintain peace among the perpetually warring tribes, Mecca was declared a sanctuary where no violence was allowed within 30 kilometres (20 mi) of the Kaaba. This combat-free zone allowed Mecca to thrive not only as a place of pilgrimage, but also as a trading center.
Many Muslim and academic historians stress the power and importance of the pre-Islamic Mecca. They depict it as a city grown rich on the proceeds of the spice trade. Crone believes that this is an exaggeration and that Mecca may only have been an outpost for trading with nomads for leather, cloth, and camel butter. Crone argues that if Mecca had been a well-known center of trade, it would have been mentioned by later authors such as Procopius, Nonnosus, or the Syrian church chroniclers writing in Syriac. The town is absent, however, from any known geographies or histories written in the three centuries before the rise of Islam. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "before the rise of Islam, it was revered as a sacred sanctuary and was a site of pilgrimage." According to historian Eduard Glaser, the name "Kaaba" may have been related to the southern Arabian or Ethiopian word "mikrab", signifying a temple. Again, Crone disputes this etymology.
In Samaritan literature, the Samaritan Book of the Secrets of Moses (Asatir) claims that Ishmael and his eldest son Nebaioth built the Kaaba as well as the city of Mecca." The Asatir book was likely compiled in the 10th century CE, though Moses Gaster suggested in 1927 that it was written no later than the second half of the 3rd century BCE.
The Qur'an contains several verses regarding the origin of the Kaaba. It states that the Kaaba was the first House of Worship for mankind, and that it was built by Ibrahim and Ismail on Allah's instructions.
Verily, the first House (of worship) appointed for mankind was that at Bakkah (Makkah), full of blessing, and a guidance for mankind.
Behold! We gave the site, to Ibrahim, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): "Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer)."
And remember Ibrahim and Ismail raised the foundations of the House (With this prayer): "Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing."
Ibn Kathir, in his famous exegesis (tafsir) of the Quran, mentions two interpretations among the Muslims on the origin of the Kaaba. One is that the shrine was a place of worship for angels (mala'ikah) before the creation of man. Later, a house of worship was built on the location and was lost during the flood in Noah's time and was finally rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael as mentioned later in the Quran. Ibn Kathir regarded this tradition as weak and preferred instead the narration by Ali ibn Abi Talib that although several other temples might have preceded the Kaaba, it was the first Bayt Allah ("House of God"), dedicated solely to Him, built by His instruction, and sanctified and blessed by Him, as stated in Quran 22:26-29. A hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari states that the Kaaba was the first masjid on Earth, and the second was the Temple in Jerusalem.
While Abraham was building the Kaaba, an angel brought to him the Black Stone which he placed in the eastern corner of the structure. Another stone was the Maqam Ibrahim, the Station of Abraham, where Abraham stood for elevation while building the structure. The Black Stone and the Maqam Ibrahim are believed by Muslims to be the only remnant of the original structure made by Abraham as the remaining structure had to be demolished and rebuilt several times over history for its maintenance. After the construction was complete, God enjoined the descendants of Ishmael to perform an annual pilgrimage: the Hajj and the Korban, sacrifice of cattle. The vicinity of the shrine was also made a sanctuary where bloodshed and war were forbidden.[Quran 22:26-33]
According to Islamic tradition, over the millennia after Ishmael's death, his progeny and the local tribes who settled around the Zamzam well gradually turned to polytheism and idolatry. Several idols were placed within the Kaaba representing deities of different aspects of nature and different tribes. Several rituals were adopted in the pilgrimage including doing naked circumambulation. A king named Tubba' is considered the first one to have a door be built for the Kaaba according to sayings recorded in Al-Azraqi's Akhbar Makka.
Writing in the Encyclopedia of Islam, Wensinck identifies Mecca with a place called Macoraba mentioned by Ptolemy.G. E. von Grunebaum states: "Mecca is mentioned by Ptolemy. The name he gives it allows us to identify it as a South Arabian foundation created around a sanctuary." In Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam, Patricia Crone argues that the identification of Macoraba with Mecca is false and that Macoraba was a town in southern Arabia in what was then known as Arabia Felix. A recent study has revisited the arguments for Macoraba and found them unsatisfactory.
Based on an earlier report by Agatharchides of Cnidus, Diodorus Siculus mentions a temple along the Red Sea coast, "which is very holy and exceedingly revered by all Arabians".Edward Gibbon believed that this was the Kaaba. However, Ian D. Morris argues that Gibbon had misread the source: Diodorus puts the temple too far north for it to have been Mecca.
This short Nestorian (Christian origin) chronicle written no later than the 660s CE covers the history up to the Arab conquest and also gives an interesting note on Arabian geography. The section covering the geography starts with a speculation about the origin of the Muslim sanctuary in Arabia:
"Regarding the K'bta (Kaaba) of Abraham, we have been unable to discover what it is except that, because the blessed Abraham grew rich in property and wanted to get away from the envy of the Canaanites, he chose to live in the distant and spacious parts of the desert. Since he lived in tents, he built that place for the worship of God and for the offering of sacrifices. It took its present name from what it had been, since the memory of the place was preserved with the generations of their race. Indeed, it was no new thing for the Arabs to worship there, but goes back to antiquity, to their early days, in that they show honor to the father of the head of their people."
This is an early record from the Rashidun caliphate, of a Christian origin that explicitly mentions the Kaaba, and confirms the idea that not just the Arabs but certain Christians as well, associated the site with Abraham in the seventh century. This is the second dateable text mentioning the Kaaba, first being some verses from the Quran.
Saudi archeologist Mohammed Almaghthawi discovered some rock inscriptions mentioning the Masjid al-Haram and the Kaaba, dating back to the first and second centuries of Islam. One of them reads as follows:
"God suffices and wrote Maysara bin Ibrahim Servant of the Kaaba (Khadim al-Kaaba)."
Professor Juan Cole is of the opinion that the inscription is likely from the second century A.H. (c. 718 - 815 AD).
During Muhammad's lifetime (570-632 CE), the Kaaba was considered a holy site by the local Arabs. Muhammad took part in the reconstruction of the Kaaba after its structure was damaged due to floods around 600 CE. Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Ras?l All?h, one of the biographies of Muhammad (as reconstructed and translated by Guillaume), describes Muhammad settling a quarrel between the Meccan clans as to which clan should set the Black Stone in its place. According to Ishaq's biography, Muhammad's solution was to have all the clan elders raise the cornerstone on a cloak, after which Muhammad set the stone into its final place with his own hands. Ibn Ishaq says that the timber for the reconstruction of the Kaaba came from a Greek ship that had been wrecked on the Red Sea coast at Shu'aybah and that the work was undertaken by a Coptic carpenter called Baqum. Muhammad's Isra' is said to have taken him from the Kaaba to the Masjid al-Aqsa and heavenwards from there.
Muslims initially considered Jerusalem as their qibla, or prayer direction, and faced toward it while offering prayers; however, pilgrimage to the Kaaba was considered a religious duty though its rites were not yet finalized. During the first half of Muhammad's time as a prophet while he was at Mecca, he and his followers were severely persecuted which eventually led to their migration to Medina in 622 CE. In 624 CE, Muslims believe the direction of the qibla was changed from the Masjid al-Aqsa to the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, with the revelation of Surah 2, verse 144.[Quran 2:144] In 628 CE, Muhammad led a group of Muslims towards Mecca with the intention of performing the Umrah, but was prevented from doing so by the Quraysh. He secured a peace treaty with them, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, which allowed the Muslims to freely perform pilgrimage at the Kaaba from the following year.
At the culmination of his mission, in 630 CE, after the allies of the Quraysh, the Banu Bakr, violated the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, Muhammad conquered Mecca. His first action was to remove statues and images from the Kaaba. According to reports collected by Ibn Ishaq and al-Azraqi, Muhammad spared a painting of Mary and Jesus, and a fresco of Abraham.
Narrated Abdullah: When the Prophet entered Mecca on the day of the conquest, there were 360 idols around the Kaaba. The Prophet started striking them with a stick he had in his hand and was saying, "Truth has come and Falsehood has vanished..." (Qur'an 17:81)"
Al-Azraqi further conveys how Muhammad, after he entered the Kaaba on the day on the conquest, ordered all the pictures erased except that of Maryam
Shihab (said) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) entered the Kaaba on the day of the conquest, and in it was a picture of the angels (mala'ika), among others, and he saw a picture of Ibrahim and he said: "May Allah kill those representing him as a venerable old man casting arrows in divination (shaykhan yastaqsim bil-azlam)." Then he saw the picture of Maryam, so he put his hands on it and he said: "Erase what is in it [the Kaaba] in the way of pictures except the picture of Maryam."-- al-Azraqi, Akhbar Mecca: History of Mecca
After the conquest, Muhammad restated the sanctity and holiness of Mecca, including its Masjid al-Haram, in Islam. He performed the Hajj in 632 CE called the Hujjat ul-Wada' ("Farewell Pilgrimage") since Muhammad prophesied his impending death on this event.
The Kaaba has been repaired and reconstructed many times. The structure was severely damaged by a fire on 3 Rabi' I 64 AH or Sunday, 31 October 683 CE, during the first siege of Mecca in the war between the Umayyads and 'Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr, an early Muslim who ruled Mecca for many years between the death of ?Ali and the consolidation of power by the Umayyads. 'Abdullah rebuilt it to include the hat?m. He did so on the basis of a tradition (found in several hadith collections) that the hat?m was a remnant of the foundations of the Abrahamic Kaaba, and that Muhammad himself had wished to rebuild it so as to include it.
The Kaaba was bombarded with stones in the second siege of Mecca in 692, in which the Umayyad army was led by al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. The fall of the city and the death of 'Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr allowed the Umayyads under 'Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan to finally reunite all the Islamic possessions and end the long civil war. In 693 CE, 'Abd al-Malik had the remnants of al-Zubayr's Kaaba razed, and rebuilt it on the foundations set by the Quraysh. The Kaaba returned to the cube shape it had taken during Muhammad's time.
During the Hajj of 930 CE, the Shi'ite Qarmatians attacked Mecca under Abu Tahir al-Jannabi, defiled the Zamzam Well with the bodies of pilgrims and stole the Black Stone, taking it to the oasis in Eastern Arabia known as al-A?s, where it remained until the Abbasids ransomed it in 952 CE. The basic shape and structure of the Kaaba have not changed since then.
After heavy rains and flooding in 1626, the walls of the Kaaba collapsed and the Mosque was damaged. The same year, during the reign of Ottoman Emperor Murad IV, the Kaaba was rebuilt with granite stones from Mecca, and the Mosque was renovated. The Kaaba's appearance has not changed since then.
The Kaaba is a cuboid-shaped structure made of stones. It is approximately 13.1 m (43 ft 0 in) tall (some claim 12.03 m or 39 ft in), with sides measuring 11.03 m × 12.86 m (36 ft in × 42 ft in). Inside the Kaaba, the floor is made of marble and limestone. The interior walls, measuring 13 m × 9 m (43 ft × 30 ft), are clad with tiled, white marble halfway to the roof, with darker trimmings along the floor. The floor of the interior stands about 2.2 m (7 ft 3 in) above the ground area where tawaf is performed.
The wall directly adjacent to the entrance of the Kaaba has six tablets inlaid with inscriptions, and there are several more tablets along the other walls. Along the top corners of the walls runs a Black cloth embroidered with gold Qur'anic verses. Caretakers anoint the marble cladding with the same scented oil used to anoint the Black Stone outside. Three pillars (some erroneously report two) stand inside the Kaaba, with a small altar or table set between one and the other two. Lamp-like objects (possible lanterns or crucible censers) hang from the ceiling. The ceiling itself is of a darker colour, similar in hue to the lower trimming. The B?b ut-Tawbah--on the right wall (right of the entrance) opens to an enclosed staircase that leads to a hatch, which itself opens to the roof. Both the roof and ceiling (collectively dual-layered) are made of stainless steel-capped teak wood.
Each numbered item in the following list corresponds to features noted in the diagram image.
Note: The major (long) axis of the Kaaba has been observed to align with the rising of the star Canopus toward which its southern wall is directed, while its minor axis (its east-west facades) roughly align with the sunrise of summer solstice and the sunset of winter solstice.
The Kaaba is the holiest site in Islam, and is often called by names such as the Bayt Allah (Arabic: ?, romanized: Bayt Allah, lit. 'House of Allah'). and Bayt Allah al-Haram (Arabic: ? , romanized: Bayt Allah il-Haram, lit. 'The Sacred House of Allah').
Tawaf (Arabic: , lit. 'going about') is one of the Islamic rituals of pilgrimage and is compulsory during both the Hajj and Umrah. Pilgrims go around the Kaaba (the most sacred site in Islam) seven times in a counterclockwise direction; the first three at a hurried pace on the outer part of the Mataaf and the latter four times closer to the Kaaba at a leisurely pace. The circling is believed to demonstrate the unity of the believers in the worship of the One God, as they move in harmony together around the Kaaba, while supplicating to God. To be in a state of Wudu (ablution) is mandatory while performing tawaf as it is considered to be a form of worship ('ibadah).
Tawaf begins from the corner of the Kaaba with the Black Stone. If possible, Muslims are to kiss or touch it, but this is often not possible because of the large crowds. They are also to chant the Basmala and Takbir each time they complete one revolution. Hajj pilgrims are generally advised to "make ?aw?f" at least twice - once as part of the Hajj, and again before leaving Mecca.
The five types of ?aw?f are:
The Qibla is the direction faced during prayer.[Quran 2:143-144] The direction faced during prayer is the direction of where the Kaaba is, relative to the person praying. Apart from praying, Muslims generally consider facing the Qibla while reciting the Quran to be a part of good etiquette.
The building is opened biannually for the ceremony of "The Cleaning of the Sacred Kaaba" (Arabic: ?, romanized: Tanzif al-Ka'bat al-Musharrafah, lit. 'Cleaning of the Sacred Cube'). The ceremony takes place on the 1st of Sha'baan, the eighth month of the Islamic calendar, approximately thirty days before the start of the month of Ramadan and on the 15th of Muharram, the first month. The keys to the Kaaba are held by the Ban? Shaybah (Arabic: ?) tribe, an honor bestowed upon them by Muhammad. Members of the tribe greet visitors to the inside of the Kaaba on the occasion of the cleaning ceremony.
The Governor of the Makkah Province and accompanying dignitaries clean the interior of the Kaaba using cloths dipped in Zamzam water scented with Oud perfume. Preparations for the washing start a day before the agreed date, with the mixing of Zamzam water with several luxurious perfumes including Tayef rose, 'oud and musk. Zamzam water mixed with rose perfume is splashed on the floor and is wiped with palm leaves. Usually, the entire process is completed in two hours.
The text reads 'O God, do not be afraid', the second footnote reads 'The feminine form indicates the Ka'ba itself is addressed'
Ishmaelites built Mecca (Baka, Bakh)
Lo! the first Sanctuary appointed for mankind was that at Becca, a blessed place, a guidance to the peoples;
Most surely the first house appointed for men is the one at Bekka, blessed and a guidance for the nations.
And (remember) when We prepared for Abraham the place of the (holy) House, saying: Ascribe thou no thing as partner unto Me, and purify My House for those who make the round (thereof) and those who stand and those who bow and make prostration.
And when We assigned to Ibrahim the place of the House, saying: Do not associate with Me aught, and purify My House for those who make the circuit and stand to pray and bow and prostrate themselves.
And when Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed): Our Lord! Accept from us (this duty). Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower.
And when Ibrahim and Ismail raised the foundations of the House: Our Lord! accept from us; surely Thou art the Hearing, the Knowing:
When Muhammad ordered his men to cleanse the Kaaba of the statues and pictures displayed there, he spared the paintings of the Virgin and Child and of Abraham.
Quraysh had put pictures in the Ka'ba including two of Jesus son of Mary and Mary (on both of whom be peace!). ... The apostle ordered that the pictures should be erased except those of Jesus and Mary.
Muhammad raised his hand to protect an icon of the Virgin and Child and a painting of Abraham, but otherwise his companions cleared the interior of its clutter of votive treasures, cult implements, statuettes and hanging charms.