The First House of Worship of One God:
Makka is the ancient centre of Islam, because it has the honour to house Ka’ba, the first house of worship of Allah, it is also the City of Peace. Its historical and religious significance is central to the origin of Islam and religious practices, from the days of Prophet Adam, Abraham, through to Muhammad (peace be upon them all) till eternity. The Jerusalem, generally known as the symbol of Jewish unity in the form of ‘The Temple of Solomon’ (Al-Aqsa Mosque) is important to all followers of Abrahamic faith i.e. Jews, Christians as well as Muslims. Some time after the shifting of the responsibility of the leadership of humanity from the Children of Israel to Children of Isma’il, the symbol of unity of Muslims, the true followers of Abraham (peace be upon him) also passed from Jerusalem to Makka, thereby the old and original “City of Peace” was restored and made universal. Makka is located in Southern Arabiaat the old trade route from Yemento Syria. Ka’ba, the House of God is the first House (of worship) chosen for men. It was first built by Prophet Adam (peace be upon him) at place, now called Makka also referred as Bakka in Qur’an. “Verily, the first house (of worship) appointed for mankind was that in Bakka (Mecca), full of blessing, and guidance for all people.”(Qur’an;3:96). This word Bakka is also mentioned in the Bible: “Who passing through the valley of Bakka makes it a well; the rain also fills the pools”(Psalm;84:6).
Abraham and Ishmael Rebuilt Ka’ba:
Abraham Leaves Ishmael:
Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) on divine instructions, had to leave his eldest son Ishmael (then an infant) along with his mother Hajira (Hagar) at Makka (Arabia), an uninhabited desert at that time, the place where the first House of Worship of Allah was built by Adam. She could have died of thirst in the desert around Makka along with her young son; but they were miraculously saved by the water which came out of earth, the spring is called Zamzam, which still exists in the form of a well. The place was inhabited due to water and its location on the trade route, it became to be known as Makka. Years later Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) revisited them, the event of offering his son for sacrifice for the pleasure of God took place here. Allah saved the son (Isma’il) and accepted the supreme gesture of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). The rites are part of annual pilgrimage (Hajj) since then.
Universal House of Worship for All Believers:
The site of Makka was granted to Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) (and his son Isma’il) for building a place of worship that was to be pure (without idols, the worship to Allah, the One True God) and universal for the humanity, without being reserved (like Solomon’s Temple of later times) to any one People or Race. Once Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) came, there was no sign of original house of Allah, through the guidance of Allah he found the original foundations and made a roofless structure, it is narrated in Qur’an:” And Remember when We showed Abraham the site of the Holy House (the Ka’bah) at Makka saying: Associate not anything in worship with Me, and sanctify My House for those who circumambulate it, and those who stand up for prayer, and those who bow and submit themselves with humility and obedience to Allah, and make prostration in prayer.”(Qur’an;22:26). “Abraham said: “My Lord make this (Makka) a city of peace and provide its people with plenty of food from fruits, those of them who believe in Allah and the Last Day.” He answered, “As for those who do not, I shall also provide for them in this life, though in the Hereafter I shall drag them to the torture of Hellfire and it is an evil destination indeed! And (remember) when Abraham and (his son) Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House (the Ka’bah) at Makka, (saying), ‘Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us. Verily! You are the All-Hearer, all Knower.”(Qur’an;2:126-127).
When raised to a certain height, Prophet Abraham (Peace be upon him) ordered his son to choose a piece of stone to mark the main corner point. While he was searching for it, the Archangel Gabriel appeared with the stone from Heaven. Prophet Abraham (Peace be upon him) fixed at the eastern corner. Narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “The black stone descended from Paradisewhiter than milk, but the sins of the descendants of Adam made it black. “:Ahmad and Tirmidhi transmitted it, the latter saying that his is a hasan sahih tradition. (Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 2577,). Prophet Isma’il (peace be upon him) become the founder of the new Arab nation and Makka developed as a centre of Islamic faith and trade.
Abraham Revived Original Islam:
Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) thus revived the original Islam (which is as old as mankind) inArabia. While building the sacred mosque, Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) dedicated the work to God in humble supplication, addressing Him as the All-Hearing and the All-Knowing. He then asked for a blessing on himself and his progeny generally, both the children of his eldest-born Isma’il (Arabs) and his younger son Isaac (Jews), peace be upon them.
Abraham Prayed for City ofPeace& Unity:
It is narrated in Qur’an: “Remember Abraham said: “O my Lord! make this city one of peace and security: and preserve me and my sons from worshipping idols. O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation by thy Sacred House; in order O our Lord that they may establish regular prayer: so fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them and feed them with Fruits: so that they may give thanks. “O our Lord! truly Thou dost know what we conceal and what we reveal: for nothing whatever is hidden from Allah whether on earth or in heaven. “Praise be to Allah who hath granted unto me in old age Isma’il and Isaac: for truly my Lord is He the Hearer of Prayer!”(Qur’an;14:35-39). In Abraham’s prophetic mind was the secret and open enmity or contempt which the Children of Israel were to have for the Children of Isma’il (Arabs). He prays to Allah that they may be united in Islam, as indeed they were, except a small remnant.
According to Bible, Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born (Genesis;21: 5); and as Isma’il was 13 years old when Abraham was 99. (Genesis;27:24-25), Isma’il was also a son of his father’s old age, having been born when Abraham was 86 years old. The younger son’s progeny developed the Faith of Israel and that of Christ; the elder son’s progeny perfected the more universal Faith of Islam, the Faith of Abraham the Truthful. Abraham prayed for both branches of his family, having a wider vision than some of the later Children of Israel. With prophetic vision he foresaw that there will be corruption and backsliding in both branches of his family: Makka will house idols, andJerusalemwill become a harlot city (Ezekiel;16:15), a city of abomination. But the light of Islam will shine, and reclaim the lost people in both branches and indeed in all the world.
Corruption of Faith of Abraham:
Over the centuries the descendents of Prophet a Ishmael (peace be upon him) corrupted the faith of their forefathers and started associating partners with Him and worshiping many gods. The pagans Arabs believed Allah as the Supreme Lord but considered the idols as smaller gods or His partners, totally against the strict monotheism preached by Prophet Abraham and Isma’il (peace be upon them). By the sixth century C.E, Ka’bah was filled with 360 idols, in the interior of Ka’ba they placed statue of Prophet Isma’il and Abraham (peace be upon them) with the ram beside him ready for sacrifice.
Destruction of Abraha’s Army of Elephants:
In the known history Ka’ba has remained a safe and peaceful House of worship of Allah, with no threat form any one. However in 571 C.E just before the birth of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Abraha (The Greek historians write him as Abrames and the Syriac historians as Abraham, Abrahah perhaps is an Abyssinian variant of Abraham, for its Arabic version is Ibrahim) the Christian Abyssinian ruler of Yemen invaded Makka with a large army, which also included some elephants, a strange beast for Arabs. The pagan Arabs abandoned the city, took to hills for safety. Allah sent swarms of birds carrying stones in their beaks and claws, showered on the invading troops, which miraculously destroyed them. Whoever was hit would start disintegrating. According to Muhammad bin Ishaq and Ikrimah, this was smallpox, which was seen inArabia for the first time in that year. Ibn Abbas says that whoever was struck by a pebble, would start scratching his body resulting in breaking of the skin and falling off of the flesh. In another tradition Ibn Abbas says that the flesh and blood flowed like water and bones in the body became visible. The same thing happened with Abrahah too. His flesh fell in pieces and there arose bores on his body emitting pus and blood.
In confusion they withdrew and fled towards Yemen. This is known as The Year of Elephants (A’am ul Feel) inArabia. This is how miraculously Allah saved His House. The incidence been referred in Qur’an: “Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with the Army of the Elephant? Did He not make their treacherous plan a flop? And send against them flocks of birds, which pelted them with stones of baked clay, thus rendered them like the chewed-up chaff”(Qur’an;105:1-5).
Reconstruction of Ka’ba after Abraham:
The structure constructed by Abraham (peace be upon him) also got buried in the sand with the passage of time. Later it was reconstructed by the tribe of Amalqa and later by Jerhem. Once this structure got damaged the Quraysh (the tribe of Prophet, peace be upon him) reconstructed it. Ka’bah as appears now is a cubed shaped structure having a black stone (Hajr-e-aswad) fixed in its eastern corner. Literally, Ka’bah (Ka’ba) in Arabic means a high place with respect and prestige, four cornered structure, the word may also have some semblance with English ‘cube’, Latin ‘cubus’ or Greek ‘kubos’. Ka’bah is also called ‘Bait-ul-Ateeq’ which means, the earliest, ancient, independent and liberating.
Ka’ba –The Direction of Worship, Qibla:
The Muslims all over the world face towards Ka’bah during their prayers: Hence Ka’bah is called the Qibla (direction of prayer) for Muslims. It is important to note that though Muslims face the Ka’bah during prayers, but they do not worship the Ka’bah. Muslims worship and bow to none but Allah. It is mentioned in Qur’an: “To Allah belong the East and the West; whithersoever ye turn there is the (Wajh-“face”) presence of Allah. For Allah is All-Pervading All-Knowing.’(Qur’an;2:115). “We see the turning of thy face (for guidance) to the heavens; now shall We turn thee to a Qibla that shall please thee. Turn then thy face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque; wherever ye are turn your faces in that direction. The people of the book know well that that is the truth from their Lord nor is Allah unmindful of what they do.”(Qur’an;2:144).
The Jews and Christians looked upon Jerusalemas a sacred city. But there was no universal Qibla among them. Some Jews turned towardsJerusalem, especially during the Captivity. At the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him),Jerusalem was under Christian Byzantine Empire. But the Christians oriented their churches to the East (hence the word “orientation”) which is a point of the compass, and not the direction of any sacred place. The fact of the altar being in the East does not mean that every worshipper has his face to the east; for, according at least to modern practice, the seats in a church are so placed that different worshippers may face in different directions.
Initially the Muslims were required to face Jerusalemduring their prayers. The Preacher of Unity, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) naturally wanted, in this as in other matters, a symbol of complete unity, and his heart was naturally delighted when Ka’bah was made the Qiblah (direction of Salah, prayer). Its connection with Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) gave it great antiquity; its character of being an Arab centre made it appropriate when the Message (Qur’an) came in Arabic, and was preached through the union of the Arabs. At that time the little Muslim community was cutoff form Ka’ba, being exiles in Medina, however Ka’ba became a permanent source of hope, which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) lived to see the fulfillment; and it also became the centre and gathering ground of all Muslims in the universal pilgrimage (Hajj), which was instituted with it.
Forbidden Cityfor Non Muslims:
After conquest of Makka by Muslims, Ka’ba was reserved for Muslims only. Allah says: “O believers! Know that polytheist are unclean; therefore, do not let them come near the Masjid-al-Haram after this year’s pilgrimage. If you fear poverty, soon Allah – if He so wills – enrich you out of His bounty. Allah is All-Knowledgeable, All-Wise.”(Qur’an;9:128). Any apprehensions abut loss of revenue due to this restriction Allah, promised to enrich them, as proved in history later.
Site of Annual Pilgrimage Hajj:
Hajj means effort, the obligatory pilgrimage to Makka for every Muslim if he is healthy and can financially afford. It is one of the five pillars of Islam and takes place during the Islamic month of Zhul al-Hijjah. As mentioned above Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), had initiated and established the holy Pilgrimage. The degenerated descendants of Abraham and Isma’il (Peace be upon them), defiled Allah’s Holy Ka’bah into a huge pantheon. They injected pagan rites into the purely Islamic Pilgrimage laid down by Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), cleansed the Holy Ka’bah from its heathen idols and again restored the original pilgrimage to its pristine purity.
Reconstruction of Ka’ba-Historic Perspective:
After Adam and Abraham, Ka’ba has been rebuilt many times, when ever the building got damaged due to floods or calamities. Years before the declaration of Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him), Ka’ba got damaged due to flash floods. Quraysh, the custodian tribes did not have sufficient funds so, the reconstruction did not include the entire foundation of the Ka’ba as built by Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). This was the first time that Ka’ba acquired the cubical shape it has now unlike its earlier rectangular shape. The portion of the Ka’ba left out is called Hateem, it is adjacent to the Ka’ba, enclosed by a low semi-circular wall.
In the lifetime of the Prophet there was no wall around the Ka’ba and the people used to pray around the Ka’ba till ‘Omar became the Caliph and he built the wall around it. ‘Ubaidullah further said, “Its wall was low, so Ibn Az-Zubair built it.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith: 5.171, Narrated by Amr bin Dinar and Ubaidullah bin Abi Yazid). ‘Aysha said that the Prophet said to her, “O Aysha! Were your nation not close to the pre-Islamic period of Ignorance, I would have had the Ka’ba demolished and would have included in it the portion which had been left, and would have made it at a level with the ground and would have made two doors for it, one towards the east and the other towards the west, and then by doing this it would have been built on the foundations laid by Abraham.” That was what urged Ibn-Az-Zubair to demolish the Ka’ba. Jazz said, “I saw Ibn-Az-Zubair when he demolished and rebuilt the Ka’ba (64-65 Hijrah) and included in it a portion of Al-Hijr (the unroofed portion of Ka’ba which is at present in the form of a compound towards the northwest of the Ka’ba). I saw the original foundations of Abraham which were of stones resembling the humps of camels.” So Jarir asked Yazid, “Where was the place of those stones?” Jazz said, “I will just now show it to you.” So Jarir accompanied Yazid and entered Al-Hijr, and Jazz pointed to a place and said, “Here it is.” Jarir said, “It appeared to me about six cubits from Al-Hijr or so.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith: 2.656, Narrated by Yazid bin Ruman from Urwa).
In 74 Hijra (693 C.E) Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf al-Thaqafi, the known tyrant of that time, with the approval of Umayyad Caliph Abdul Malik bin Marwan, demolished what Ibn az-Zubayr had added and restored the old structure of the Quraysh. When Abdul Malik bin Marwan came for Umra and heard the Hadith that it was wish of Prophet for the Ka’ba to be constructed the way Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr had built it, he regretted his actions. Abbasi Caliph Harun al Rasheed wanted to rebuild the Ka’ba the way the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) wanted and the way Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr built it. Imam Malik advised that frequent demolition and rebuilding of Ka’ba is against its sanctity because it may become a practice by the Caliphs and Kings to demolish and rebuild it. The Caliph refrained, thus the structure remains the same with minor repairs here and there.
After damage by the floods in 1040 Hijrah (1596 C.E) the reconstruction took place under the guidance of the Ottoman Caliph Sultan Murad. The latest major reconstruction of Ka’ba took place in 1996. The original stones including black stone are part of the new construction, while other material has been replaced including the ceiling , roof and its wood.
The ritual of circumambulation of Ka’bah (twaf) is part of Umrah and Hajj. Kissing of the Black Stone (Hajr-e-aswad) or from distance pointing by hand marks the start of each circumambulation of Ka’bah to count seven circumambulations. The Black Stone thus, serves to mark the start of each round. Bukhari, Muslim and Abu Dawud reported, narrated by Abis bin Rabia that, Umar, the second Caliph approached the Black Stone and kissed it. Then he said: “I know that you are a mere stone that can neither harm nor do any good. If I had not seen the Prophet (peace be upon him) kissing you, I would have never kissed you.”(Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith,2.667). Kissing of Black Stone is a sign of respect like people kiss their holy scriptures (Bible, Geeta) or children. In 929 C.E, the Qarmatians (the most un-Islamic sect in Islam) sacked Makka and carried away the Black Stone to Bahrain, it was restored back to Ka’bah after 20 years. During this period all rituals and circumambulation (Twaf) of Ka’bah continued as usual. This stone is revered by Muslims nothing more. Muslims only worship Allah and pray to Him alone.