"..The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka (Makkah): Full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings"
[ali Imran; 3: 90]
The city of Makkah is unequalled in the world, and stands as the most beloved place of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala. It is the city in which the masjid al Haram stands, where Muhammad was born, and where he spend the early part of his blessed life.
Makkah was a central point on the caravan routes running over the Arabian peninsula at the time of Prophet Muhammad. It was revered as a holy city even before the first revelations came to him.
Makkah is enclosed by the Valley of Ibrahim, which is surrounded by two nearby mountain ranges to the east, west and south. The northern range comprises the Al-Falaq and Qu'aqi'an mountains, while the southern range consists of Abu Hudaidah mountain to the west, Kuday to the south and Abu Qubais and Khindimah to the south-east.
The Qur'an talks about Bakkah (the older name of Makkah) being the first house of worship appointed for mankind. It also addresses this place as Umm ul-Qura' (Mother of the Settlements):
"The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka: Full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings. In it are clear signs: the station of Ibrahim. Anyone who enters it shall be granted safe passage. The people owe it to God that they shall observe Hajj to this shrine, when they can afford it. As for those who disbelieve, God does not need anyone."
[ali Imran; 3: 96-97]
The city of Makkah contains the most revered masjid in Islam - the Masjid al Haram (The Grand masjid).
The Masjid al Haram is the mosque surrounding the Ka'bah. It is the place of journey (hajj) for the worship of Allah subhanahu wa Ta'ala that is renewing and filled with rewards. The Ka'bah itself is the qibla (direction) for the whole Muslim world.
At the advent of Islam the believers lived close to the masjid. For that matter, the courtyard of the house of Prophet Muhammad is believed to have been the first gathering place for the early reverts (converts). It should be pointed out that also, at that time, the Ka'bah was being maintained by pagans; it housed pagan idols for which were celebrated pagan rituals and ceremonies, and the inhabitants of Makkah would circumambulate the Ka'bah naked. Many idols were worshipped, the most notable of which were called al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat.
Much like the protest of Prophet Ibrahim (alayhis salam) who pointed out to his people that the idols were not gods; the early Muslims protested these corrupted and false acts and were persecuted culminating in their eventual hijrah from Makkah to Madinah. When they returned to Makkah in 8 A.H. they purified the Ka'bah and re-established the worship of Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala, alone, the one true God.
The actual structure of the Ka'bah has been demolished and rebuilt several times in the course of its history. Around the Ka'bah is a restricted area, the haram, sextend in some directions as far as 12 miles, into which only Muslims may enter.
In 709, extensions of the Haram in Makkah were made by Umayyad Caliph Al Walid ibn Abd al-Malik. Over the years, the Haram has undergone numberous other extentions and renovations, being built and rebuilt, the most recent renovation being in 1996.
To show significant this masjid is, one can just look at the number of rewards gained in one prayer offered in it; worth one hundred thousand prayers than any other prayers offered elsewhere.
Literally, 'Ka'bah' in Arabic means a high place with respect and prestige. The word Ka'bah may also be a derivative of a word meaning cube.
Some other names of the Ka'bah include: Bait ul Ateeq which means, according to one meaning, the earliest and ancient. According to the second meaning, it means independent and liberating. Both meanings could be taken.
The Ka'bah is the qibla (direction) for salah/namaz.
The base of the Ka'bah is 10.5 x 12 meters, and it's 15 meters high, and is standing on a marble base which is 25 cm high. It is built of grey stones from the hills around the city of Makkah. The door of the Ka'bah is in the northeastern wall, and is 2 meters above the ground. Inside the Ka'bah, three wooden pillars hold the roof up. The roof can be accessed by a ladder. The floor is covered by marble, and there are no furnitures, except gold and silver lamps.
The Ka'bah is covered by the kiswa, a black curtain produced in Egypt, and changed annually at the time of hajj. In an interim period, lasting a little bit more than two weeks, the Ka'bah is covered by a white covering, and it is at the end of hajj that the new kiswa is presented. Traditionally, the kiswa cam in different colours, including; yellow, green, and black and white. Though today the kiswa remains black.
The doorkeepers of the Ka'bah are still the family Banu Shayba, which were appointed by Muhammad
Characteristic Marks in the Holy Mosque
Many characteristic marks at the Holy Mosque in Makkah have great historical as well as spiritual value to Muslims, as they are related to the holiness of Islamic religion and strong commitment in following the guidelines set down by the Prophet and messenger of Allah. The marks date back to the original building of the holy Kabah as translated from the Quran:
“ Behold! We gave the site, To Abraham, of the (Sacred) House”, Al Hajj, 26
The Holy Kabah
The Qaran refers to Makkah and the Holy Mosque in the translation:
“The first sanctuary appointed for mankind was that at Bakka a blessed place, a guidance to the peoples” Ali’Imran, 96
Accordingly, Abraham and his son Ishmael built the Kabah. Later through the decades the Kabah was rebuilt various times through history but always by maintaining the original stonework and dimensions. The Kabah has a great role in Islam, being the vocal point of all prayers as well as a destination for worship and devotion. As translated from the Quran:
“Allah hath appointed the Kabah, the Sacred House, a standard for mankind” Al maidah, 97
The Kabah is nearly in the middle of the Holy Mosque as it was built through the centuries around this most holy of sites, in the shape of a big, high square room with a height of 15 meters. The door is at its eastern wall, two meters above the ground is made of solid gold but has changed throughout history. The four corners of Kabah are the black corner, the Shami corner (referring to the most northeastern corner), the Yamani corner (the southwestern corner) and the Iraqi corner. At the top of the northern wall, there is the Mizab, A water drain element which is made of pure gold, dominating the stone of Ishmael.
ocated at the southeastern part of Kabah, a sign of divine grace. It is a heavy oval stone, of black reddish color. Its diameter is 30 cm, surrounded with a silver frame. The circler is required to kiss the black stone if possible. It is told that Messenger (peace of Allah be upon him) said, "the stone and the station of Abraham are two bequeathed from paradise, but Allah obliterated their light, otherwise they would have lit between east and west". He also said, "when the black stone was lowered from paradise, it was whiter than milk, but the sins of humans made it black".
Station of Abraham (Maqam lbraheem)
It is the stone upon which Abraham (may Allah be please with him) was standing while he was building the Kabah. It is circled with silver. the trace of footprints is clear in the stone. The late King Faisal Bin Abd AI-Aziz ordered to make a crystal glass cover, surpassed by an iron framework, with a marble foundation around the Maqam. Allah says in the Quran (translated):
“And take ye the Station Of Abraham as a place Of prayer” Albaqarah
Stone of Ishmael
It is the space to the north of Kabah under the Mizab. It is paved in marble as well as being enclosed by a marble parapet. The stone was originally a portion of the Kabah when Abraham originaly built it, but when Quraish (the historic tribe rulers of Makkah rebuilt it during their era they left the stone out, accordingly, it is a part of the Holy Kabah.
It is between the black stone and the door of Kabah. AI Multzem, the Arabic word, means the thing at which people attach and supplicate. Ibn Abbas told that he heard Messenger (peace of Allah be up upon him) saying, "Any, who ask Allah at AI Multazem, Allah would reward him".
Historically Abraham was ordered to leave his wife Hajer and child Ishmael in a valley without any vegetation or water at the site of his sacred house before the building of the Kabah promising to provide for them. As Ishmael cried in thirst Hajer ran from a small rise to another (safa and marwah) in the hope that a mirage of water was real. Allah then broke forth a spring at the feet of the crying baby now know as the well of Zamzam. ZamZam well is located under the Tawaf area. Many prophetic traditions (Hadeeths) referred to the superiority of Zamzam water, such as:
" The best water on the earth is Zamzam".
" It is blessed, for drinking and for curing".
"It is a cure for what it is drunk for".
It is told that Abdulallah Bin Abbas, when drinking from Zamzam, used to say,
"O Allah, I ask you a useful knowledge, a Luxurious living, and a cure for all diseases".
Safa, Marwah and saiy
As stated in the former section the origin of this Muslim ritual called “Saiy” was based on Ishmael’s mothers search for water for her son. Safa is the rocky hill from which “Saiy” starts, and Marwah is the rocky hill at which “Saiy” ends. It is mentioned in Holy Quran that they are of Allah's rituals; accordingly, they have a great importance to Muslims. It is translated that Allah, says in the Quran:
“Lo! (the mountains) As-Safa and Al-Marwah are among the indications of Allah. It is therefore no sin for him who is on pilgrimage to the House (of God) or visiteth it, to go around them” Al Baqarah, 158
Previously, Safa and Marwah were out of the Holy Mosque, when the Saudi expansion began, the path of saiy was entered within the Holy Mosque. It is 395 meters long and 20 meters wide with a number of doors opening on to it. The original shape of the Safa and Marwah was maintained as it was.
Yemeni Corner (AI Rukn AI Yamani)
It is one of the Holy Kabah's corners, towards southwest direction. It is the corner that is parallel the eastern corner, in which the black stone is located. The Yemeni corner is touched but not kissed. It called by this name because it's faces towards the south towards Yemen.
A Historical Look at the Kiswah (the Kabah Drapes or covering)
The Kiswah has a interesting history through different eras. Some scholars argue that the first Kiswa was made by the Prophet Ishmael. It is mentioned by others that the first Kiswa was made by Adnan bin Ad, a great great- grandfather of the Prophet Mohamed (peace be upon him). But, most sources agree that Tub'a. King of Humayyur in Yemen was the first to start this tradition. After that, many others draped the Kabah during the pre-Islam period.
It is told, in the pre-Islam period, that Abu Rabia'h Bin Amro AI Makhzoumi was a very rich man, and he said to Quraish (the ruling tribe of Makkah) that he would drape the Kabah one year, and Quraish would drape it in the next year. Quraish agreed, and the story says that he continued to drape the Kabah until his death.
Kiswah in the reign of Messenger (peace of Allah be upon him) and orthodox caliphs
The Messenger (peace of Allah be upon him) and Muslims did not participate in draping the Kabah before taking of Makkah, as Quraish did not allow them to do so. When Makkah was taken, The Messenger (Peace of Allah be upon him) left the Kiswa as it is, until it was burned accidentally when a women was fumigating the Kabah. Messenger then draped the Kabah with Yemeni cloth. After him, the orthodox caliphs draped it
Kiswah after the Orthodox caliphs until the Saudi reign
Caliph Muawiyah used to dress the Kabah twice a year, then Yazid Bin Muawiyah, Ibn AI Zubair, and Abd AI Malik Bin Murwan all dressed is with silk covering. At one time, it had become a custom that the old Kiswah was not removed, the new one being put on top of the old. This continued until the reign of Mahdi, the Abbasid Caliph. When he performed Hajj in 160 AH, he saw that the accumulated Kiswah could cause damage to Kabah itself. He therefore decreed that only one Kiswah should drape the Kabah at any one time, and this had been observed ever since.
The Caliph AI Mamoon, dressed the Kabah three times a year, with a red braced Kiswah on the eighth of Zu AI Hijjah, with white gabati on the first of Rajab, and with red brocade Kiswah on the twenty-ninth of Ramadan. After that, AI Nasir the Abbaside, dressed the Kabah in green. Caliph AI Nasir decided after that to change the color into black, and black it remains to this day
The variegated drape (sitarah), which is hanged on the front side of the kaabah, was introduced in 810 AH. Between 816 and 818, this hanging drape was stopped, then it began again in 819 AH, and it is still being hanged until now.
Kiswah in the Saudi Reign
His highness, King Abd AI Aziz Bin Saud, with concern for the custody of the two holy Mosques, ordered the building of a special factoy for manufacturing the Kiswah, and in the same year, the Holy Kabah Kiswah factory was founded, and the first Kiswah was produced.
The Kiswah continued to be made in Makkah for the next ten years. In order to make this work better, King Faisal ordered in the year 1382 AH the renewal of the Kiswah factory, and in the year 1397 AH, the new building was opened at Um AI Joud.
Description of the Kiswah of the Holy Kabah
The Kiswah is woven from pure natural silk, which is dyed black. The sentences "La Ilah Ila Allah , Mohamed Rasoul Allah". "Allah Jala Jalal'h", "Subhan Allah wa bihamdih", "Subhan Allah A1 Azeem", "Ya hanan", "Ya Manan" are improdered on the black silk in thread of gold. The Kiswah is made up of 41 pieces. Each piece is 14 meters long and 95 cm wide. The wide belt, 45 meters long and 95 cm wide, comprises 16 parts.
The "Ikhlas Sura" from the Holy Quran is embroidered in gold as circles on the four corners.
These circles are surrounded with squares of Islamic decorations. Under the belt, there are also 6 verses of Holy Quran, each of them inside a separated form.
The drapes (Sitara) of the Kaabah door, which is called the Burqu'a, is made of the same black silk material, and it is 6.5 meter in height and 3.5 meters in width. The border and drapes are embroidered with silver threads covered with gold. The whole Kiswah is lined with a thick material of cotton.