Monday, 8 September 2008

The Ka'aba

The Ka’aba

It is said the Prophet Adam (Alaysalam) was the first to erect a Masjid on Earth with the assistance of the angels, and under the direction of Allah in Makkah. Known more popularly as Baitullah (House of Allah) and the Ka’aba or Qiblah (meaning cube), the Masjid is directly under the Divine Throne above the Heavens.

Narrated Abbas Ibn Abdul Muttalib (RA) ‘The Messenger of Allah said, ‘Do you realise what is the distance between the Heavens and the Earth?’ We said, ‘Allah and His Messenger know best.’ He said, ‘Between the two of them is the journeying of five hundred years. And from Heaven to Heaven there is the journeying of five hundred years. The thickness of each Heaven is the journeying of five hundred years. Between the Seventh Heaven and the throne there is an ocean. The distance between its deepest point and its uppermost is the same as that between the Heaven and the Earth.”
(Abu Dawud and others)

This means that the total distance between the Seventh Heaven and the Earth is five hundred years and four thousand years between the Seventh Heaven and the highest point of the ocean. In addition it is then four thousand five hundred years from the Earth to the upmost part of the ocean.

Allah’s Supreme Throne, the Baitul Ma’mur, is above the ocean and is always full of pilgrims from amongst the angels performing Ta’waf. All angels at the time of their formation (70, 000 are created every day) start their ministries with Ta’waf around it before being enjoined and allocated other responsibilities later.

The Angel Jibreel, Mikail, Israfil, the Angel of Death (Alaysalam) and all other special ‘archangels’ began this way. Once an angel has done his Ta’waf once he will not do so again until the Day of Decision.

As human beings, we cannot visit the Baitul-Ma’mur, the Divine House in the Heavens, a smaller Masjid had to be built on Earth. It is said the Earth was made starting from Makkah (known originally as the Valley of Bakkah) and was also once called Umm Al Qura (Mother of all villages) Allah says-,

‘Verily the first House of Worship appointed for mankind was that at Bakkah (Makkah), full of blessings and a guidance for Al-Alameen (human beings and the jinn combined) (3: 96)

The Mosque, which surrounds the Ka’aba, is called Masjid Al-Haram and derives its title from making certain actions that are otherwise permissible or not specifically prohibited as such, forbidden when pilgrims are within the precincts of the vicinity. Arguing, spitting and fighting are just some examples.

As a token of its special significance, performing one’s prayers in Masjid A-Haram, is 100, 000 times greater and carries more reward than praying in any other mosque across the World.

“Allah has made the Ka’aba, the Sacred House, a sanctuary of security and benefits for mankind.” (5: 97)

History of the Ka’aba

When Adam (Alaysalam) constructed the Ka’aba in Makkah, the area around it was plain and the whole region may have been no more than a desert or dry valley as no one lived there, no plants or living things were resident there and water was scarce.

Forty years later, Adam (Alaysalam) was asked to build another Masjid in what is now Jerusalem, Israel. Because it was so far away from the Ka’aba it was given the name, ‘Masjid Aqsa’, (the ‘Farthest Mosque’) and is described under this name in the Qur’an.

The flood of Nuh (Alaysalam) devastated the Ka’aba and Allah ordered the Prophet Ibraheem (Alaysalam) along with his son, Ismail (Alaysalam) to redesign it on the same spot where the remains of the original Ka’aba were.

Allah selected Ibraheem (Alaysalam) for this noble purpose after earlier testing His Prophet through the things he loved most, his family. Ibraheem’s memorable sacrifice of the ram is commemorated annually during Hajj. The well of Zamzam still flows abundantly in the same site where his then baby son, Ismail, was placed by his mother, and the passage between the hills Safa and Marwa she ran to and fro seven times to look for help, form a necessary part of the Hajj experience.

Whilst building the top part of the Ka’aba, Ibraheem (Alaysalam) stood on a solid rock; it later became smooth and carries his visible footprints to this day in an enclosed space called Maqam-e-Ibraheem (the place where Ibraheem [Alaysalam] stood).

Ibraheem (Alaysalam) was also instructed to place a black stone at the southeastern corner of the Ka’aba, known as the Yemeni corner, to show pilgrims where to start Ta’waf when going around the Ka’aba. Al Hajarul Aswad, the black stone, was initially white but due to the sins of human beings it turned black.

“You are a stone and you cannot help or harm. If I had not seen the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, kissing you, I would not kiss you.”

These were the words of Umar Al Khattab (RA) towards the black stone in the Ka’aba. Although we must show respect and accord due sanctity to the stone, our objective is not to worship it.

Indeed, earlier generations had revered both the Ka’aba and the black stone just as much, and refrained from fighting and other ills when in the area since the time of Ibraheem (Alaysalam).

Ismail (Alaysalam) who lived to the age of 137 years succeeded his father as guardian to the Sacred House and as a Messenger of Allah. After his death, the keys to the Ka’aba and custodianship passed through his sons and descendants.

The Ka’aba and Makkah’s popularity among Arabs generated a flourishing economy and produced an enormous source of wealth. This is despite the fact only two other things existed there for food; water and meat, which the Arabs called ‘Al-Aswadayn’, ‘two black things’.

Pilgrims as well as passing merchants could buy, sell and exchange trade and stock with several nations, even Chinese silk goods found their way to the Arabian Peninsula through this route. In this way the Arabs could easily buy the necessities of life as well as a few luxuries without needing to travel too far outside their localities.

According to Islamic Scholars the Bible asserts to this (in its own way), under the City’s old name of Bakkah, travellers would still choose to deliberately pass by and come through here, as demonstrated in the following passage-,

“How happy are those whose strength comes from you, who are eager to make the pilgrimage to Zion. As they pass through the dry valley of Baca, it becomes a place of springs (Zamzam); the autumn rain fills it with pools. They grow stronger as they go.”
(Psalms 84: 5-7)

Unfortunately by the time of the Prophet Muhammad, two thousand seven hundred years later, 360 idols as well as several images and paintings of the Prophets Ibraheem, Ismail, Jesus and his mother, Maryam, (Alaysalam) were also to be found in the Ka’aba.

Every tribe and village added their deities to the volume of idols already stockpiled there since idol worship appeared only a few centuries earlier. One of the Arabs had visited Yemen and was impressed by the worship of stones and man made objects and brought some back with him. Until then the Arabs had followed the teachings of Ismail (Alaysalam) passed down through the ages.

Later when the shift to Shirk (Associating partners with Allah) became fashioned into an organised religion, carved images or representations of earlier idols of accursed nations including Ya’uq, Nasr and Yaguth from the period of Prophet Nuh (Alaysalam) were brought to the Ka’aba and worshipped as well. In this respect the Arabs had become like the pre-Christian Roman Empire; incorporating the deities of others and embracing them as one of their own.

After the Prophet’s successful entry into Makkah, all images, carvings and other statues were removed or destroyed, and all Non Muslims were forbidden to use the Ka’aba for worship and later to live in the City as well.

Earlier, a few months after the Prophet had first arrived in Medina Allah ordered the believers to alter the direction of prayer and now face the Ka’aba. Prior to this for sixteen to seventeen months all Muslims prayed towards Baitul Muqadis in Jerusalem.

Fittingly for the Prophet (SAW) and many of the believers, the order had come whilst the Messenger was leading congregants in Salah and changed direction without hesitating or suspending the prayer.

The Ka’aba and Makkah Today

In our own time the Ka’aba is enshrouded with the familiar black kiswah (covering) and golden inscribed Arabic calligraphy adorning it, we have never known it to be otherwise but this has not always been so.

For hundreds of years the Ka’aba looked very much like a simple stone building or cubical wall, and may not have even had a roof over it to prevent rain from pouring in and flooding it.

The Prophet Muhammad was the first to put something over and across it and originally white, green and yellow colours were used in the first kiswah. Now it is replaced annually with the same design.

With the exception of the day spent in Arafat during the Hajj season, the Ka’aba and its immediate vicinity is always swarming with pilgrims from across the globe. During Hajj itself it’s estimated approximately four million people arrive every year to glorify their Creator.

Every able-bodied adult Muslim is required to make the journey at least once in their lifetime if they have the financial means and ability to do so. Those whose Hajj are accepted by Allah are like new born babies with no sins to their name.

“From wheresoever you start forth (for Salah) turn your face in the direction of Masjid Al-Haram (in Makkah) that is indeed the truth from your Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what you do.” (2: 149)

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