The Kaaba is a cubical structure made of stones that was constructed and reconstructed by the Islamic prophets as a center of worship. The Kaaba is found inside the sacred mosque known as Al-Masjid located at the city of Makkah in Saudi Arabia. In Islam, the Kaaba is the most holy place. It is a requirement that muslims face the Kaaba during prayers, especially when they are outside the city of Makkah. The muslims facing the Kaaba during prayers is a sign of respect to Allah. According to the Islamic pillar, all muslims are required to honor the Kaaba by going round it in an anticlockwise direction seven times at least once in an individual’s lifetime. Those people who are suffering from chronic diseases or are physically challenged are exempted from participating in the walk round the Kaaba. In order to know more about the Kaaba, this paper presents its history and description.
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The Kaaba has been constructed and reconstructed approximately twelve times. The initial construction was by the prophet Adam (McCrudden, 2010). Adam was the first human being to be created by Allah and he was instructed to prepare a place of worship (Wynbrandt, 2010). Adam built a shrine known as the “Kaaba”, meaning the holy place of Allah. According to the Quran, the Kaaba was the primary building that was constructed for people to worship. Thereafter, the Kaaba was reconstructed by the prophet Abraham and the prophet Ishmael (Campo, 2012). In the reign of the prophet Muhammad, the Kaaba was damaged by floods and the prophet helped in the rebuilding. According to Wynbrandt (2010), prophet Muhammad was helped to reconstruct the Kaaba by the four tribes of Quraish.
The Era Before Islamic
The worshiping in the Kaaba
The Kaaba was bestowed to a god known as Hubal and it had three hundred and sixty idols representing each day in a year (Doak, 2011). Wynbrandt (2010) adds that during that time, the Kaaba was addressed like a woman. The men moved round the Kaaba completely naked while the women were partially naked. The movement was a fertility rite. The fertility rite was believed to increase the fertility rate of the community. Once in a year, the Kaaba was used as a shrine of the Allah and people from different parts of the world whether muslims or not gathered to worship as they moved round the Kaaba. The worship at the Kaaba by different people signified that Allah was the God of all people.
The Colored Stones
McCrudden (2010) contends that there were many “kaabas” in Saudi Arabia but this particular Kaaba in Al-Masjid was made of stones. The other “Kaabas” were made of stone complements. One of the “Kaabas” was made of red stones and it was where the god of South Arabia resided and another one located at Tabala was made of white stones (Campo, 2012). The “red stones” Kaaba was found at the city of Ghaiman. During the pre-Islamic era, divinity was linked with mountains, trees, and stones. Doak (2011) reports that special rocks and trees with strange growths were linked with divinity. Since the Kaaba was made of stones, it was the most holy place. Many people believed that it was the center of the universe and the gate of heaven was directly on its top (Wynbrandt, 2010). The black stones that were embedded on the walls of the Kaaba symbolized a linkage between the heaven and the earth.
Doak (2011) asserts that approximately 400 years before Muhammad was born, Amr bin Lahyo placed an idol on the Kaaba’s roof. The idol was the fundamental god in the reign of Quraysh. The idol had a human shape and its body except the right hand which was made of gold was constructed using the red agate (Campo, 2012). Later, the idol was taken into the Kaaba. In order for peace to prevail, Amr bin Lahyo declared that the Kaaba at Makkah was a sanctuary (McCrudden, 2010). This means that people were not allowed to fight within thirty kilometers of the Kaaba in order to maintain holiness. Wynbrandt (2010) affirms that the area around the Kaaba was not only used for prayers but also for trading. Many people came from different parts of the universe to exchange goods such as clothes and animals. Kaaba was a famous trading center at Makkah in Saudi Arabia.
According to McCrudden (2010), the Kaaba existed before the era of christianity. Many people stress on the significance of the Kaaba during the era before Islamic. Makkah was labeled as a city that was rich in spice trade. On the other hand, some people did not believe in the riches associated with Makkah and claimed that Makkah was an outpost center for trade. The minority believed that Makkah was a place where some traders stopped to rest as they moved to trade in other parts of Saudi Arabia (Campo, 2012). During the resting period, the traders exchanged cloths, grains, camels, and any other good that they had with the natives of Makkah. McCrudden (2010) adds that If Makkah was a famous trading center then it ought to have been mentioned by famous authors such as the Nonnosus.
The Building by the prophet Abraham and the prophet Ishmael
Around 2100 BC, Allah directed Abraham on where to construct the Kaaba (Doak, 2011). The directed place was at the bank of river zamzam. Soon after the construction of the Kaaba, an angel of Allah gave the prophet Abraham a black stone collected from the Qubays (Wynbrandt, 2010). People believed that the original color of the stone was white but it became black due to contamination with the sins of Adam (McCrudden, 2010). Currently, the only part of the original Kaaba that still exists is the black stone. The black stone in the Kaaba represent holiness, meaning that the Kaaba is a sanctuary.
After the black stone was placed in one of the corners in the Kaaba, the prophet Abraham was told by Allah to go to different parts of the world and proclaim the word of God (Campo, 2012). The prophet Abraham informed the other older prophets about the revelation. Thereafter, the prophet Abraham moved with the camel to different parts of the world urging people to visit the Kaaba and worship Allah. Many people traveled from different parts of the world on donkeys, on camels, and on foot to Kaaba to worship Allah. The muslims believe that the Kaaba is more than 1000 years older than the Jerusalem temple, hence, the oldest place of worship (McCrudden, 2010).
The Era of the Prophet Muhammad
Around 600 AD during the reign of the prophet Muhammad, the tribe of Quraysh was responsible for cleaning and maintaining the Kaaba (Campo, 2012). During that time, the Kaaba contained many idols that represented the gods of the Saudi Arabia. The gods were religious figures, meaning that people worshiped the gods instead of Allah. This created hostility between some people and the prophet Muhammad because the prophet Abraham dedicated the Kaaba to Allah. The Kaaba was a sanctuary and as a result, the people commanded the prophet Muhammad to either remove the idols or leave. The prophet Muhammad was harassed by the people and in 622 AD he moved to Medina (McCrudden, 2010). The prophet Muhammad was accompanied by his followers.
The Kaaba was rebuilt at around 600 AD (Doak, 2011). According to Wynbrandt (2010), there was a fight between the tribes of Makkah regarding the construction of the foundation and the placement of the black stone. The prophet Muhammad settled the dispute by having the elders of the different tribes reconstruct the Kaaba and erect the cornerstone where the black stone was to be placed. Thereafter, the prophet Muhammad placed the black stone on the erected cornerstone. The timber that was used for the rebuilding of the Kaaba was shipped from the Red Sea (McCrudden, 2010). The timber emanated from the demolished Greek ship that had been seized in the Red Sea. The carpentry works was by a carpenter known as Baqum (Campo, 2012). Due to the limited resources, the whole foundation laid by the prophet Abraham was not included in the rebuilding. As a result, the Kaaba became cubic in shape instead of the original rectangle. The area that was not included in the reconstruction was named Hateem.
The Fight and the Rededication of the Kaaba
After the construction of the Kaaba, there were continuous fights where the muslims were attempting to resist the Meccan attackers. In 628 AD, a treaty was signed but two years later it was broken by the tribe of Quraysh who attacked the tribe of Bedouin Khuza’a (McCrudden, 2010). The muslims won the fight which was accompanied by massive destruction of the city of Makkah. After the war, the prophet Muhammad with his followers led a procession to Kaaba (Campo, 2012). The prophet Muhammad did not go inside the Kaaba claiming that there were idols inside. Doak (2011) reports that Abu Sufyan and Mughira were sent inside the Kaaba to remove the idols.
Among the idols were the images of the prophet Abraham and the prophet Ishmael holding arrows (Wynbrandt, 2010). These idols were removed from the Kaaaba and the prophet Muhammad declared that Allah will ruin the prophet Abraham and the prophet Ismail because they were non believers. Thereafter, the prophet Muhammad went inside the Kaaba and moved round saying “Allahu Akbar” then came out without reciting any prayer (Doak, 2011). It was during that time that the rededication of the Kaaba took place and it became a center of worship. People started holding the annual pilgrimage at the Kaaba. After sometime, the annual pilgrimage became the rite of the muslims (Campo, 2012). It became a requirement that a muslim had either to visit the Kaaba once a year or any other sacred place in Makkah.
The Era after the Prophet Muhammad
The Reign of Abbdullah Ibn Az-Zubayr
In the year 64 Hijri, the Kaaba was destroyed by the army from Syria and it was rebuilt by Abbdullah ibn az-Zubayr (McCrudden, 2010). Abbdullah ibn az-Zubayr reconstructed the Kaaba and he used three pillars made of wood from the Auod tree to put the roof (Campo, 2012). Since the prophet Muhammad wanted a Kaaba with two doors, the reconstructed Kaaba had two doors. The fact that the Kaaba was rebuilt on the foundation laid by the prophet Abraham and the prophet Ishmael meant that Hateem area was incorporated (Doak, 2011). Hateem is an area with semi circular walls and is near the Kaaba.
Abbdullah ibn az-Zubayr made several adjustments on the Kaaba. He constructed a window near the roof for the purposes of illumination (Wynbrandt, 2010). Abbdullah ibn az-Zubayr increased the height of the Kaaba by nine cubits (Doak, 2011). Abbdullah ibn az-Zubayr demolished three pillars that were erected inside the Kaaba and left three (Campo, 2012). Four pillars were erected around the Kaaba and the muslims started doing the Tawaf around them.
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The Reign of Abdul Malik
Around 74 Hijir, Abdul Malik instructed Al.Hajjaj to destroy the additional features on the Kaaba and restore the original building that was constructed by the Quraysh (Campo, 2012). The Hateem was removed and the Kaaba reconstructed and became a small cubical structure that currently exists. The door facing the west was walled up but the other two doors remained as they were. The ladder which was inside the Kaaba was destroyed and the heights of the remaining doors were reduced by approximately four cubits (McCrudden, 2010).
Abbassi Khalifa volunteered to destroy the Kaaba and to reconstruct it according to the wish of the prophet Muhammad (Wynbrandt, 2010). Unfortunately, the wish of Abbassi Khalifa was not granted by the Imam Malik. The Imam Malik argued that continuous destruction of the Kaaba was a sign of disrespect to Allah since the Kaaba is a sanctuary. As a result, the Kaaba remained unchanged for approximately 900 years (Doak, 2011). During the 100 years, the only activities that were permitted were the repairs.
The Reign of Sultan Murad
In 1039 Hijri, the walls of the Kaaba fell down due to flooding (McCrudden, 2010). It was raining heavily and Kaaba was filled with water. Consequently, the wall on the east and the west fell down. After the floods, all the walls apart from the one close to the black stone were destroyed. The construction of the Kaaba started under the instruction of Sultan Murad (Campo, 2012). Doak (2011) contended that the Kaaba was constructed with approximately two thousand stones of different sizes and shapes.
The Final Reconstruction
The final reconstruction of the Kaaba was in 1996 (Wynbrandt, 2010). It is believed that the final reconstruction was after approximately 400 years after the rebuilding during the reign of Sultan Murad. During the final rebuilding, all the building materials except the stones were replaced.
The Architecture of the Kaaba
The Kaaba is cubical in shape and is made of granite bricks that were quarried from the surrounding hills (Campo, 2012). Kaaba has a foundation that is made of the marble stones. The floor of the Kaaba is attractive and is composed of limestone (McCrudden, 2010). The floors are tiled with white marbles. A green cloth that has gold embroidery covers the walls. There are three pillars in the Kaaba and between them is an altar (Doak, 2011). Lamps are hanging from the ceiling. The door is made of gold. The Kaaba is large enough and around fifty people can stay inside at a time (McCrudden, 2010).
The Features of the Kaaba
The Kaaba has the black stone that is found at the corner on the east (Wynbrandt, 2010). The northern, the eastern, the western, and the southern corners of the Kaaba point towards the compass direction. The foundation is raised from the ground meaning that the doors are higher compared to the other buildings. The stair case is wooden. The Kaaba has a spout for rain water that is made of gold. The spout is known as Meezab and was constructed in 1962 after the destruction of the walls of the Kaaba by floods (McCrudden, 2010). In order to protect the foundation of the Kaaba from the effects of ground waters, a gutter was constructed around it.
The Kaaba has a Hateem with walls that are lower and thicker than the rest of the walls (McCrudden, 2010). The Hateem is semi circular and the walls are approximately one hundred centimeters in heights with widths of around one meter (Doak, 2011). The Hateem is made of marble. It is believed that the grave of the prophet Ismail is within the Hateem. Al-Multazam of the Kaaba is the wall close to entrance (Campo, 2012). It is the area where dua is performed. Sometimes the muslims especially the hajji like touching the Al-Multazam during prayers.
The Maintenance of the Kaaba
The Kaaba is opened two times in a year for the “cleaning” ceremony (McCrudden, 2010). The initial cleaning is done approximately thirty days before the beginning of the Ramadan. The subsequent cleaning is in preparation for Hajj. This means that the Kaaba is usually closed and the keys kept safely by the Bani tribe (Doak, 2011). The Kaaba is cleaned with rose water, and in the event that the rose water is unavailable, water is fetched from river zamzam (Campo, 2012). This is because the muslims believe that river zamzam has holy water since the river is close to the Kaaba (Wynbrandt, 2010).
The Religious Importance of the Kaaba
The Kaaba is a sanctuary in Islam and it has many names such as the holy place or house of Allah. The Kaaba signifies the Qibla (Wynbrandt, 2010). This means that the Kaaba is a center of worship and that the muslims should face it every time they pray. The Kaaba is associated with the pilgrimage (Campo, 2012).
It is evident that the Kaaba was constructed by the prophet Abraham who laid the initial foundation as instructed by Allah. The purpose of the construction of the Kaaba was to be a center for worshiping and praising Allah. During the reign of the prophet Muhammad, the pagan Arabs used the Kaaba as a center for worshiping Idols. The pagan Arabs placed many idols that symbolized the different gods inside the Kaaba. At around 600 AD, the prophet Muhammad became the leader of Makkah after several years of persecution by the pagans. The Kaaba was then rededicated as a place of worshiping Allah. Currently, the Kaaba is a holy place and people should know that the muslims do not worship it. The Kaaba is a center for uniting many muslims.
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Doak, R. (2011). Empire of the Islamic World. Dubai: Infobase Publishing.
McCrudden, J. (2010). Islam FAQ. New York: Islam FAQ.
Wynbrandt, J. (2010). A Brief History of Saudi Arabia. Dubai: Infobase Publishing.