Ka'aba Location Mecca, Saudi Arabia Branch/tradition Islam Architectural information
The Kaaba (Arabic: الكعبة al-Kaʿbah IPA: [ʔælˈkæʕbɐ], English: The Cube) is a cuboid-shaped building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and is the most sacred site in Islam. The Qur'an states that the Kaaba was constructed by Abraham and his son Ishmael, after Ishmael had settled in Arabia. The building has a mosque built around it, the Masjid al-Haram. All Muslims around the world face the Kaaba during prayers, no matter where they are.
One of the Five Pillars of Islam requires every Muslim to perform the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime if able to do so. Multiple parts of the Hajj require pilgrims to walk seven times around the Kaaba in a counter-clockwise direction (as viewed from above). This circumambulation, the Tawaf, is also performed by pilgrims during the Umrah (lesser pilgrimage). However, the most dramatic times are during the Hajj, when, officially, about 6 million pilgrims gather to circle the building on the same day.
Location and physical attributes
The Kaaba is located at Coordinates: inside the Masjid al-Ḥarām ("The Sacred Mosque") in the center of Mecca. A large masonry structure in the shape of a cuboid, it is made of granite quarried from nearby hills. Standing upon a 25 cm (10 in) marble base that projects outwards about 35 cm (14 in), it is approximately 13.1 m (43 ft) high, with sides measuring 11.03 m (36.2 ft) by 12.86 m (42.2 ft).
Al-Ħajaru l-Aswad, "the Black Stone", is located in the Kaaba's eastern corner. Its northern corner is known as the Ruknu l-ˤĪrāqī, "the Iraqi corner", its western as the Ruknu sh-Shāmī, "the Levantine corner", and its southern as Ruknu l-Yamanī "the Yemeni corner". The four corners of the Kaaba roughly point toward the four cardinal directions of the compass. Its major (long) axis is aligned 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 covered by a black silk and gold curtain known as the kiswah, which is replaced annually during the hajj. Two-thirds of the way up is a band of gold embroidered Qur'anic text, including the Shahada, the Islamic declaration of faith.
In modern times, entry to the Kaaba's interior is only permitted on rare occasions for a small number of guests. The entrance is a door set 2 m (7 ft) above the ground on the north-eastern wall of the Kaaba, which acts as the façade. In 1979 the 300 kg gold doors made by chief artist Ahmad bin Ibrahim Badr, replaced the old silver doors made by his father, Ibrahim Badr in 1942. There is a wooden staircase on wheels, usually stored in the mosque between the arch-shaped gate of Banū Shaybah and the Zamzam Well. Inside the Kaaba, the floor is made of marble and limestone. The interior walls are clad with marble halfway to the roof; The marble is inset with Qur'anic inscriptions. The wall directly adjacent to the entrance of the Kaaba has 5 tablets inlaid with inscriptions. The top part of the walls are covered with a green cloth embroidered with gold Qur'anic verses. Caretakers anoint the marble cladding with scented oil used on the Black Stone outside.
There is also a semi-circular wall opposite, but not connected to, the north-west wall of the Kaaba known as the hatīm. This is 90 cm (35 in) in height and 1.5 m (4.9 ft) in width, and is composed of white marble. At one time the space lying between the hatīm and the Kaaba belonged to the Kaaba itself, and for this reason it is not entered during the tawaf. Some believe that the graves of prophet Ismail and his mother Hajar are located in this space.
Muslims throughout the world face the Kaaba during prayers, which they perform five times a day. For most places around the world, coordinates for Mecca suffice. Worshippers in the Masjid al-Haram pray in Concentric circles around the Kaaba.
- Black Stone on the south-east corner.
- Entry door, on the East wall 2.13 metres above ground level. It is accessed using a set of portable steps.
- Rainwater spout made of gold. This was added in the rebuilding of 1627 after the previous year's rain caused three of the four walls to collapse.
- Gutter, also added in 1627 to protect the foundation from groundwater.
- Hatim, a low wall originally part of the Kaaba. Pilgrims do not walk in the area between this wall and the Kaaba. Some believe this area contains the graves of Hajar and Ismail.
- Al-Multazam, the part of the wall between the Black Stone and the entry door.
- Post of Abraham. Abraham is said to have stood on this stone during the construction of the upper parts of the Kaaba, raising Ismail on his shoulders for the uppermost parts.
- Corner of the Black Stone (South-East).
- Corner of Yemen (South-West). Pilgrims traditionally acknowledge a large vertical stone that forms this corner.
- Corner of Syria (North-West).
- Corner of Iraq (North-East).
- Kiswa, the embroidered covering, replaced annually.
- Marble stripe marking the beginning and end of each circumperambulation.
- Post of Mohammed Azzaam Ekkeri.
The Black Stone is a significant feature of the Kaaba, stated by Muslims to have been placed there by Ibrahim (Abraham) and Ismail (Ishmael), a stone from paradise sent by the angels to Ibrahim. Located at the eastern corner of the Kaaba, it is about 30 cm (12 in) in diameter and surrounded by a silver frame. Although not strictly obligatory, pilgrims can kiss the Stone, as Muhammad is said to have done. Islamic sources do not consider kissing the black stone to be idolatry.
The following passage gives an insight into the significance of the Black Stone in Islam:Narrated 'Abis bin Rabia: Umar came near the Black Stone and kissed it and said, "No doubt, I know that you are a stone and can neither benefit anyone nor harm anyone. Had I not seen God's Apostle kissing you, I would not have kissed you."
Large crowds can make kissing the Stone impossible, so as pilgrims walk round the Kaaba they point to the Stone on each pass.
In the Qur'an
The Qur'an states that Abraham, together with Ishmael, raised the foundations of the holy house. God had shown Abraham the exact site, very near to the Well of Zamzam, where Abraham and Ishmael began work on the Kaaba's construction or, according to tradition, reconstruction as Muslims generally believe that Adam had made it first and that it had been rebuilt by Noah after the Deluge. After Abraham had built the Kaaba, an angel brought to him the Black Stone, a celestial stone that, according to tradition, had fallen from Heaven on the nearby hill Abu Qubays. According to a saying attributed to Muhammad, the Black Stone had "descended from Paradise whiter than milk but the sins of the sons of Adam had made it black".
After the placing of the Black Stone in the Eastern corner of the Kaaba, Abraham received a revelation, in which God told the aged prophet that he should now go and proclaim the pilgrimage to mankind, so that men may come both from Arabia and from lands far away, on camel and on foot. Going by the dates attributed to the patriarchs, Abraham is believed to have been born in roughly 2150 BCE, with Isaac being born a hundred years later. Therefore, Islamic scholars have generally assumed that the Kaaba was constructed by Abraham around 2130 BCE. The Kaaba is, therefore, believed by Muslims to be more than a millennium older than Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, which is believed to have been finished in 1007 BCE. These dates remain consistent with the Muslim belief that the Kaaba is the oldest mosque in history. 
After Abraham and Ishmael
The pilgrimage, as established by Abraham, is believed to have been uncorrupted in its early years. Then the faith of Abraham failed to grip too many devoted followers. It was because "it presupposed too much initial spirituality in its adherents to grip a large community". Although there were always a few people who continued to maintain Abraham's teachings, this minority gradually came to have less power in Mecca, and soon the Kaaba became a shrine devoted to idols.
Qibla and prayer
The early Arabian population consisted primarily of warring nomadic tribes. When they did converge peacefully, it was usually under the protection of religious practices. Writing in the Encyclopedia of Islam, Wensinck identifies Mecca with a place called Macoraba mentioned by Ptolemy. His text is believed to date from the second century AD, about 500 years before the coming of Muhammad, and described it as a foundation in southern Arabia, built around a sanctuary. It probably did not become an area of religious pilgrimage until around 500 A.D. It was then that the Quraysh tribe (into which Muhammad was later born) took control of Macoraba, and made an agreement with the local Kinana Bedouins for possession. The sanctuary itself, located in a barren valley surrounded by mountains, was probably built at the location of the water source today known as the Zamzam Well, an area of considerable religious significance.
In her book, Islam: A Short History, Karen Armstrong asserts that the Kaaba was dedicated to Hubal, a Nabatean deity, and contained 360 idols that either represented the days of the year, or were effigies of the Arabian pantheon. Once a year, tribes from all around the Arabian peninsula, whether Christian or pagan, would converge on Mecca to perform the Hajj.
Imoti contends that there were multiple 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", the deity of the south Arabian city of Ghaiman, and the "white stone" in the Kaaba of al-Abalat (near the city of Tabala, south of Mecca). Grunebaum in Classical Islam points out that the experience of divinity of that period was often associated with stone fetishes, mountains, special rock formations, or "trees of strange growth." 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, and 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 Lahyo bin Harath bin Amr ul-Qais bin Thalaba bin Azd bin Khalan bin Babalyun bin Saba", who was descended from Qahtan and king of Hijaz (the northwestern section of Saudi Arabia, which encompassed the cities of Mecca and Medina), had placed a Hubal idol onto the roof of the Kaaba, and this idol was one of the chief deities of the ruling Quraysh. 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 20 miles (32 km) of the Kaaba. This combat-free zone allowed Mecca to thrive not only as a place of pilgrimage, but also as a trading center.The genuine antiquity of Caaba ascends beyond the Christian era: in describing the coast of the Red sea the Greek historian Diodorus has remarked, between the Thamudites and the Sabeans, a famous temple, whose superior sanctity was revered by all the Arabians; the linen of silken veil, which is annually renewed by the Turkish emperor, was first offered by the Homerites, who reigned seven hundred years before the time of Mohammad.—Edward Gibbon, Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, Volume V, pp. 223–224
However, Gibbon had misinterpreted Siculus's text. Siculus described the location of this temple to be on a bay that extends deep in land to a distance of about 500 stades (about 80 km) and that the entrance of this bay is obstructed by a rock extending into the sea. Here is the description from Diodorus Siculus:Next after these plains as one skirts the coast comes a gulf of extraordinary nature. It runs, namely, to a point deep into the land, extends in length a distance of some five hundred stades, and shut in as it is by crags which are of wondrous size, its mouth is winding and hard to get out of; for a rock which extends into the sea obstructs its entrance and so it is impossible for a ship either to sail into or out of the gulf. Furthermore, at times when the current rushes in and there are frequent shiftings of the winds, the surf, beating upon the rocky beach, roars and rages all about the projecting rock. The inhabitants of the land about the gulf, who are known as Banizomenes, find their food by hunting the land animals and eating their meat. And a temple has been set up there, which is very holy and exceedingly revered by all Arabians.—Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica volume iii.44, p. 217
There is no bay that matches this description along the coast near Mecca. Furthermore, Siculus describes this area as lying between the Thamudites and the Nabataeans, not the Thamudites and the Sabeans as Gibbon erroneously stated, which would put it much farther to the north, around the area of Tabuk. It is widely believed that this bay and temple described by Diodorus is in fact the bay adjacent to Ash-Sharmah in Tabuk Province.
In Makkan 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.
G. E. von Grunebaum says,Mecca is mentioned by Ptolemy, and the name he gives it allows us to identify it as a South Arabian foundation created around a sanctuary.—G. E. Von Grunebaum, Classical Islam: A History 600-1258, p. 19
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 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, and the Syrian church chroniclers writing in Syriac. However, the town is absent from any 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 German 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.
At the time of Muhammad (CE 570–632 A.D), his tribe, the Quraysh, was in charge of the Kaaba, which was at that time a shrine containing hundreds of idols representing Arabian tribal gods and other religious figures. Muhammad earned the enmity of his tribe by claiming the Kaaba to be dedicated to the worship of the one God alone, and all the idols evicted. The Quraysh persecuted and harassed him continuously, and he and his followers eventually migrated to Medina in 622.
Islamic histories also mention a reconstruction of the Kaaba around 600 A.D. A story found in Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasūl Allāh, one of the biographies of Muhammad (as reconstructed and translated by Guillaume), describes Muhammad settling a quarrel between Meccan clans as to which clan should set the Black Stone cornerstone in place. According to Ishaq's biography, Muhammad's solution was to have all the clan elders raise the cornerstone on a cloak, and then 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'ayba, and the work was undertaken by a Coptic carpenter called Baqum.
After this migration, or Hijra, the Muslim community became a political and military force, continuously repelling Meccan attacks. In 630 A.D, two years after signing the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, the Meccan Quraysh attacked the Bedouin Khuza'a, thereby breaking the peace treaty. The Muslims emerged as victors in the battle that followed this incident and Muhammad entered Mecca with his followers; they proceeded to the Kaaba. However, he refused to enter the Kaaba while there were idols in it, and sent Abu Sufyan ibn Harb and Mughira ibn Shu'ba to remove them.Narrated Ibn Abbas: When Allah's Apostle arrived in Mecca, he refused to enter the Ka'ba while there were idols in it. So he ordered that they be taken out. The pictures of the (Prophets) Abraham and Ishmael, holding arrows of divination in their hands, were carried out. The Prophet said, "May Allah ruin them (i.e. the infidels) for they knew very well that they (i.e. Abraham and Ishmael) never drew lots by these (divination arrows). Then the Prophet entered the Ka'ba and said. "Allahu Akbar" in all its directions and came out and not offer any prayer therein.—Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book 59, Hadith 584
In Islamic history
The Kaaba has been repaired and reconstructed many times since Muhammad's day. Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr, an early Muslim who ruled Mecca for many years between the death of ʿAli and the consolidation of Ummayad power, is said to have demolished the old Kaaba and rebuilt it to include the hatīm. He did so on the basis of a tradition (found in several hadith collections) that the hatīm was a remnant of the foundations of the Abrahamic Kaaba, and that Muhammad himself had wished to rebuild so as to include it.
This structure was destroyed (or partially destroyed) in 683 A.D, during the war between Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr and Umayyad forces commanded by Al-Hajjaj bin Yousef. Al-Hajjaj used stone-throwing catapults against the Meccans.
The Ummayads under ʿAbdu l-Malik ibn Marwan finally reunited all the former Islamic possessions and ended the long civil war. In 693 A.D he had the remnants of al-Zubayr's Kaaba razed, and rebuilt 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 A.D, the Qarmatians attacked Mecca, defiled the Zamzam Well with the bodies of pilgrims and stole the Black Stone, taking it to the oasis region of Eastern Arabia known as al-Aḥsāʾ, where it remained until the Abbasids ransomed it in 952 A.D.
Apart from repair work, the basic shape and structure of the Kaaba have not changed since then.
The building is opened twice a year for a ceremony known as "the cleaning of the Ka'ba." This ceremony takes place roughly thirty days before the start of the month of Ramadan and thirty days before the start of Hajj.
The keys to the Ka'ba are held by the Banī Shayba (بني شيبة) tribe. Members of the tribe greet visitors to the inside of the Kaaba on the occasion of the cleaning ceremony. A small number of dignitaries and foreign diplomats are invited to participate in the ceremony. The governor of Mecca leads the honoured guests who ritually clean the structure, using simple brooms. Washing of the Ka'ba is done with a mixture of water from the Zamzam Well and Persian rosewater.
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Kaaba — [kä′bə, kä′ə bə] n. 〚Ar kaʿ ba, lit., square building < kaʿ b, a cube〛 the sacred Muslim shrine at Mecca, toward which believers turn when praying: it contains a black stone venerated as holy * * * Kaa·ba (käʹbə) n. A Muslim shrine in Mecca… … Universalium
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Kaaba — [kä′bə, kä′ə bə] n. [Ar kaʿ ba, lit., square building < kaʿ b, a cube] the sacred Muslim shrine at Mecca, toward which believers turn when praying: it contains a black stone venerated as holy … English World dictionary