Significance of the Kaaba in Islam

Muslims all around the globe face the Kaaba when praying. It is the Qibla. Does this mean they worship the Kaaba? Does Allah live there? What’s the deal with the black stone Muslims kiss when they go for pilgrimage? This article hopes to clarify these misconceptions.

Description
The Kaaba is the holiest site of the Muslims and is located in Mecca, the city of Saudi Arabia. It is as old as history. The Kaaba has a unique structure. It is cubical in shape, about 60 ft. high and 60 ft. wide and surrounded by the largest mosque in the world (Al-Masjid Al-Haram). There is nothing on the inside, while the outside is covered with a Silk cloth with quranic verses embroidered in gold. The Well of Zam Zam and the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwa are also important sites near the Kaaba, while the Blackstone is found on the southeast corner of the Kaaba.

Building and Rebuilding the Kaaba
According to the Islamic faith, the Kaaba is the first house on earth built for the worship of Allah. Some scholars say that Adam was the first to build the Kaaba and that Ibrahim (Abraham pbuh) rebuilt it. Others claim that Ibrahim was the first to build it. Whatever the case, all the scholars agree that Ibrahim built/rebuilt the Kaaba, with his son Ishmael.
“And (remember) when Abraham and (his son) Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House (the Kaba at Mecca), (saying), ‘Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us. Verily, You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knower’” (Quran 2:127)

Lo! the first Sanctuary (bayt) appointed for mankind was that at Becca, a blessed place, a guidance for mankind; wherein are plain memorials (of God’s guidance); the place where Abraham stood up to pray; and whosoever enters it is safe. And pilgrimage to the House is a duty unto God for mankind, for him who can find a way there. As for him who disbelieves, (let him know that) lo! God is Independent of (all) creatures. (3:96-97)

Although Ibrahim (pbuh) built this house for the worship of the one true God, the people at that time and after used it as a place for worshipping their idols. This practice continued until the time of prophet Muhammed (pbuh). During the conquest of Mecca in the 8th year of Hijrah, Muhammed (pbuh) cleansed the Kaaba and removed all the false idols. He (pbuh) was reciting a verse of the Quran: “Truth hath come and falsehood hath vanished.” (17:81) . This marked the victory of the Muslims at Mecca.

Although it has been torn down on numerous occasions (due to war, flooding or other natural disasters) , this blessed monument has always been rebuilt. The structure has also been modified over the years to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims.

The Black Stone
It is believed that the black stone is from paradise. Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, said: “The black stone came down from paradise and it was whiter than milk, but the sins of the sons of Adam turned it black”
Shortly before the prophet hood of Muhammed (pbuh), the Kaaba was rebuilt by the Meccans. As a tradition, the placing of the Blackstone was of great importance and whoever did it would be honoured. Because of this, the tribes’ elders couldn’t decide as to who would place it. They then decided that whosoever walked through the gate first, would decide the issue. The first, was Muhammed (pbuh), and at the time, he was called al amin (the trustworthy one). Rasul proposed that the black stone be place on a cloak so that everyone can share in the glory. When they reached the Kaaba, the Prophet (pbuh) placed the stone in its right location.
Qibla
About a year and half after Hijrah, Allah revealed to the Prophet (pbuh) that the Muslims should face the Kaaba when praying. This is how it became the Qibla of the Muslims.The holy Quran narrates this:
“The foolish of the people will say: What has turned them from the qiblah which they formerly observed? Say: Unto God belong the East and the West. He guides whom He wills unto a straight path. Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that you may be witnesses against mankind, and that the Messenger may be a witness against you. And We appointed the qiblah which you formerly observed only that We might know him who follows the Messenger, from him who turns on his heels. In truth it was a hard (test) save for those whom God guided. But it was not God’s purpose that your faith should be in vain, for God is Full of Pity, Merciful toward mankind. We have seen the turning of your face to heaven (for guidance, O Muhammad). And now verily We shall make you turn (in prayer) toward a qiblah which is dear to you. So turn your face toward the Inviolable Place of Worship, and you (O Muslims), wheresoever you may be, turn your faces (when you pray) toward it. Lo! Those who have received the Scripture know that (this revelation) is the Truth from their Lord. And God is not unaware of what they do. And even if you brought unto those who have received the Scripture all kinds of portents, they would not follow your qiblah, nor can you be a follower of their qiblah; nor are some of them followers of the qiblah of others. And if you should follow their desires after the knowledge which has come unto you, then surely you would be among the evil-doers. Those unto whom We gave the Scripture recognize (this revelation) as they recognize their sons. But lo! a party of them knowingly conceal the truth…. And each one has a goal toward which he turns; so vie with one another in good works. Wheresoever you may be, God will bring you all together. Lo! God is Able to do all things. “(Quran 2:142-146, 148)
It is very important to understand that Muslims neither worship the Kaaba nor the Blackstone. They signify the unification of all Muslims and a safe house as well. The Kaaba was built on monotheism (absolute believe in one God only), and Muslims worship God.

“God has appointed the Ka’bah, the Sacred House, a support for mankind, and the Sacred Month and the offerings and the garlands. That is so that you may know that God knows whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth, and that God is Knower of all things.” (Q5:97)
Lo! the first Sanctuary (bayt) appointed for mankind was that at Becca, a blessed place, a guidance for mankind; wherein are plain memorials (of God’s guidance); the place where Abraham stood up to pray; and whosoever enters it is safe. And pilgrimage to the House is a duty unto God for mankind, for him who can find a way there. As for him who disbelieves, (let him know that) lo! God is Independent of (all) creatures. (3:96-97)

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