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A Short History of the Kabah

A Short History of the Kabah

It is definitely known that it was Ibrahim al-Khalil (peace and blessings be upon him) who built the Kabah. The residents around it at that time were his son, Ismail, and the tribe of Jurhum (originally from Yemen ). It is an almost square building whose sides face the cardinal points of the compass; the winds, no matter how strong, lose their force when they strike it – without doing it any harm.

The construction of Ibrahim stood intact, until it was rebuilt by al-‘Amaliqah, and later by the tribe of Jurhum (or vice versa).

When the management of the Kabah came into the hands of Qusayy Ibn Kilab – an ancestor of the Prophet – in the second century before Hijrah, he demolished and rebuilt it on firm foundation, putting a roof of doom palm timber and date-palm trunk on it. He also built ‘Dar al-Nadwah’ (Council House) on one side. It was the place from where he ruled and where he held counsel with his colleagues. Then he divided various sides of the Kabah. Among different clans of the Quraysh and each clan built their houses at the side allotted to them; and they opened their doors towards the Kabah.

Five years before the start of the Prophet’s mission, there came a flood which destroyed the Kabah’s building. The Quraysh divided among themselves the various responsibilities connected with its reconstruction. They hired a Roman builder to build it and an Egyptian carpenter to help him with the woodwork. When the time came to fix the Black Stone, a dispute erupted as to which clan should be accorded the honor of putting the Black Stone in its place. Then they agreed to leave the decision to Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) who at that time was thirty-five years old, because they had full faith in his deep wisdom and sound judgment. He got his robe, and putting the Stone on it, told all the clans to hold the sides of the robe and raise it together. When the Stone reached the required height (on the eastern corner), he took it in his hands and fixed it in its proper place.

But the Quraysh found their funds exhausted. So they reduced the size on one side – as it is today; thus a part of the original foundation was left out, and that is the portion known as ‘Hijr Ismail’ (the Enclosure of Ismail).

The building remained in that condition until Abdullah Ibn Az-Zubair established his rule over Hijaz during the reign of Yazid Ibn Muawiyah. Husain Ibn Numair, the commander of Yazid’s army, besieged him at Makkah and struck the Kabah with catapult. The Kabah was demolished, the ‘Al-Kiswah’ (covering of the Kabah) and some roof timbers were burnt down. The siege was lifted when news came of Yazid’s death. Ibn Az-Zubair decided to demolish the Kabah completely and rebuild it on its original foundation. He got good mortar from Yemen and constructed the new building. Hijr Ismail was re-included in the Kabah; the door was fixed at the level of the ground; another door was fixed on the opposite side, so that people might enter from one door and go out from the other. He fixed the height of the House at twenty-seven arms. When the building was ready, he covered the whole building with musk and perfume inside out, and put silken Kiswah on it. The construction was completed on 17th Rajab, 64 A.H.

When Abdul-Malik Ibn Marwan came to power in Damascus, he sent his commander, Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf, who defeated Ibn Az-Zubair and killed him. Entering the Sacred Mosque, he saw what Ibn Az-Zubair had done regarding the Kabah. He wrote to Abdul-Malik about it who ordered him to return it to its previous shape. Hajjaj, therefore, demolished six and a half arms from the northern side and rebuilt it according to the plan of the Quraysh; he raised the eastern door and closed the western one; he also filled the inside with the stones that could not be re-used (thus raising the inside floor to the new level of the door).

When the Ottoman Sultan Sulaiman ascended the throne in 960 A.H., he changed the roof of the Kabah. Sultan Ahmad (who came to power in 1021 A.H.) made some other repairs and alterations. Then came the great flood of 1039 A.H. which demolished parts of its northern, eastern and western walls. Therefore, the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV got it repaired. And the same building continues till this day.

The Shape of the Kabah
The Kabah is nearly square in shape, built with hard dark bluish-grey stones. It now rises to sixteen meters; but was much lower at the time of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) as may be inferred from the fact that, on the day of conquest of Makkah, the Prophet raised Ali Ibn Abu Talib on his shoulders so that Ali could remove and break the idols that were placed on the roof of the Kabah.

The wall [the northern one that faces the Enclosure of Ismail] over which is placed the water trough and the one on its opposite side [the southern one] are ten meters and ten centimeters long; while the [eastern] wall which has the door and the one opposite to it are twelve meters long. The door is placed at a height of two meters from the ground level.

The Black Stone is fixed in the [east-south] corner, so that if one wants to enter the door, the Stone would be on his left. This Stone is one and a half meters above the ground level, that is, above the level of the circumambulation area. The Black Stone is a hard rock of irregular oval shape, black with some reddish tint; it has red dots and yellow wavy lines which appeared when some broken pieces were soldered and joined. It has a diameter of about thirty centimeters.

The Kabah’s corners, since ancient days, are called “Al-Arkan (pl. of “Ar-Rukn” pillar); the northern one is called, the Iraqi Rukn; the western, the Syrian; the southern, the Yemenite; and the eastern (wherein the Black Stone is fixed), is named the Black. The area between the door and the Black Stone is called “al-Multazam” (lit.: the place where one clings to) because when one circumambulates one adheres to it for invocation and prayer.

The trough fixed over the northern wall, which is called the Trough of Mercy, was an innovation of Al-Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf; in 954 A.H. Sultan Sulaiman changed that with a silver one; that too was replaced by Sultan Ahmad in 1021 A.H. with another one of enameled silver with golden designs. In 1273 A.H. Sultan Abdul-Majid replaced it with another one made of gold, and it is the present one.

Facing the northern wall is a wall-half circle in shape. It is called, Al-Hatim. It is like a bow whose two ends face the northern [Iraqi] and the western [Syrian] Rukns; there is a gap of two meters and three centimeters between the ends of the bow and the said Rukns. The wall, Al-Hatim, is one meter high and one and a half meters wide. It is paneled with carved marble. The distance between the center of Al-Hatim and the center of the northern wall of the Kabah is eight meters and forty-four centimeters. The area covered by al-Hatim and the northern wall is known as Hijr Ismail [Enclosure of Ismail]. About three meters of this space was included in the Kabah built by Ibrahim (peace and blessings be upon him).

The changes and alterations that were done inside the Kabah, and the rituals and Sunnah rites connected with the House are not so necessary to be described here.

The Covering of the Kabah
As for the covering of the House itself, it is said that the first to cover it was the Tubba [Tubba’ – was the title of the Kings of Yemen.] Abu Bakr As’ad, who hang on it the sheets embroidered with silver threads. His successors followed this custom. Then people started covering it with sheets of various kinds – putting one upon the other. Whenever a covering looked old, a new one was put over it. This continued until Qusayy came on the scene. He imposed a tax on the Arabs for putting a new covering every year. This system continued in his descendants. Abu Rabiah Ibn Al-Mughirah used to put a covering one year and all the clans of Quraysh did so the next year.

The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) covered the House with Yemenite sheets. This custom continued. When the Abbaside caliph Al-Mahi went for pilgrimage, the attendants of the House complained to him about the coverings that had accumulated on the roof of the Ka?bah. They said there was a danger of the roof collapsing down because of that load. The King ordered that all the old coverings should be removed and that every year a new covering should replace the old one – and that custom is followed up till now.

The Kabah is draped from inside too. The first to do so was the mother of Abbas, son of Abdul-Muttalib – she had done so because of a vow she had taken regarding her son- Abbas.

Prestige of the Kabah
The Kabah was held in high esteem by various nations. The Hindus respected it, believing that the spirit of Siva, the third person of their Trimurty, entered into the Black Stone, when he was accompanied by his wife visiting Hijaz.

The Sabaeans of Persia and Chaledonia counted it as one of their seven holy sanctuaries [The seven sanctuaries were: (1) The Kabah; (2) Mars – on the summit of a mountain in Isfahan; (3) “Mandusan” in India; (4) Naw Bahar in Balkh; (5) House of Ghamdan in Sana; (6) Kawsan in Farghana, Khurasan; and (7) a House in Upper China. Many of them said that it was the House of the Saturn – because it was the most ancient, and the longest in existence.

The Persians too respected the Kabah, believing that the spirit of Hormoz was present therein; they sometimes went for its pilgrimage.

The Jews honored it and worshipped God there according to the religion of Ibrahim. There were many pictures and images in the Kabah, including those of Ibrahim and Ismail which had divining arrows in their hands. Also there were pictures of the virgin Mary and Christ – which indicates that the Christians too respected the Kabah like the Jews.

The Arabs held it in the highest esteem; they believed that it was the House of Allah, and came to its pilgrimage from every place. They believed the Kabah to be built by Ibrahim and the hail to be a part of his religion which had come to them as his legacy.

Trusteeship of the Kabah
The trusteeship was in the hands of Ismail; and after him it remained in his descendants. Then the Jurhumites became more powerful and took over the trusteeship. They in their turn were vanquished – after several wars – by the Amaliqah, who were a part of Banu Karkar. The Amaliqah resided at the lower section of Makkah while the Jurhumites had settled in its upper section. They had their own kings.

Later on, the Jurhumites defeated the Amaliqah and regained the trusteeship, which remained with them for about three hundred years. They extended the area of the House and increased its height.

Gradually the Ismailites grew in number and gained power and they found the place too congested and over-populated. Then they fought the Jurhumites, defeated and expelled them from Makkah. The leader of the Ismailites at that time was Amr Ibn Lahiyy, the chief of the clan of Khuzaah. He became over-lord of Makkah and took over the trusteeship of the Ka?bah. It was he who put idols in the Ka?bah and called people to worship them. The first idol he put there was Hubal which he had brought from Syria ; then he brought others. Gradually there were a lot of idols, and idol-worship spread among the Arabs; the upright religion of Ibrahim was discarded.

Shahnah Ibn Khalaf Al-Jurhumi refers to this episode, when he addresses Amr Ibn Lahiyy in the following order:

O Amr! You have invented various gods; At Makkah – idols around the House.

And there was for the House One Lord from ever; But you have made for it several lords (which are now worshipped) by the people.

Surely you should know that soon He will choose for (His) House stewards other than you.

The trusteeship remained in the clan of Khuzaah up to the time of Halil Al-Khuzai. He nominated his daughter (who was married to Qusayy Ibn Kilab) to succeed him, and gave the right of opening and closing the door to a man from his clan, Abu Ghabshan Al-Khuzai by name. Abu Ghabshan sold his right to Qusayy Ibn Kilab for a camel and a skinful of liquor. The proverb, “More loss incurring than the deal of Abu Ghabshan”, alludes to this sale.

The trusteeship was thus transferred to the Quraysh. Qusayy rebuilt the House, as we have mentioned above. The things continued as they were, until the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, conquered Makkah, and entering the Ka?bah ordered the pictures to be effaced, and the idols to be thrown down and broken.

The Standing Place of Ibrahim – the stone with the imprints of Ibrahim’s feet – was at first put in a kneading trough near the Kabah; then it was buried in the place where it is at present. It has a dome on four pillars where the people offer their prayers after the circumambulation.

There are a lot of details of various aspects of the Ka?bah and other religious buildings attached to it. We have described here only the things which are necessary for understanding the verses of Hajj and the Ka?bah.

One of the specialties of this House – which Allah has blessed and made a guidance – is that no Muslim group has ever disagreed about it or its prestige, honor and respect.

The Kaaba – History and re-construction

The small, cubed building known as the Kaaba may not rival sky- scrapers in height or mansions in width, but its impact on history and human beings is unmatched. The Kaaba is the building towards which Muslims face five times a day, everyday, in prayer. This has been the case since the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) over 1400 years ago.

The size of Kaaba:
The current height of the Kaaba is 39 feet, 6 inches and total size comes to 627 square feet. The inside room of the Kaaba is 13X9 meters. The Kaaba’s walls are one meter wide. The floor inside is 2.2 meters higher than the place where people perform Tawaf. The ceiling and roof are two levels made out of wood. They were reconstructed with teak which is capped with stainless steel. The walls are all made of stone. The stones inside are unpolished, while the ones outside are polished. This small building has been constructed and reconstructed by Prophets Adam, Ibrahim, Ismail and Mohammad (PEACE BE UPON THEM ALL). No other building has had this honor. Yet, not very much is known about the details of this small but significant building.

The other names of the Kaaba Literally, Kaaba in Arabic means a high place with respect and prestige. The word Kaaba may also be derivative of a word meaning a cube. Some of these other names 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
Bayt ul Haram – the honorable house

The Kaaba has been reconstructed up to 12 times Scholars and historians say that the Kaaba has been reconstructed between five to 12 times. The very first construction of the Kaaba was done by Prophet Adam. Allah says in the Quran that this was the first house that was built for humanity to worship Allah. After this, Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail rebuilt the Kaaba. The measurements of the Kaaba’s Ibrahimic foundation are as follows: The eastern wall was 48 feet and 6 inches the Hatim side wall was 33 feet the side between the black stone and the Yemeni corner was 30 feet the Western side was 46.5 feet. Following this, there were several constructions before the Prophet Mohammad’s time. Reconstruction of Kaba by Quraish Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) participated in one of its reconstructions before he became a Prophet. Since the tribe of Quraish did not have sufficient funds, this reconstruction did not include the entire foundation of the Kaba as built by Prophet Ibrahim. This is the first time the Kaaba acquired the cubical shape it has now unlike the rectangle shape which it had earlier. The portion of the Kaaba left out is called Hateem now.

Construction after the Prophet’s Time:
Abdullah Ibn az-Zubayr The Syrian army destroyed the Kaaba in Muharram 64 (Hijri date) and before the next Hajj Abdullah Ibn az-Zubayr, may Allah be pleased with him, reconstructed the Kaaba from the ground up. Ibn az-Zubayr wanted to make the Kaaba how the Prophet Mohammad wanted it, on the foundation of the Prophet Ibrahim. Ibn az-Zubayr said, “I heard Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) say, ‘The Prophet said: “If your people had not quite recently abandoned the Ignorance (Unbelief), and if I had sufficient provisions to rebuild it [the Kaaba], I would have added five cubits to it from the Hijr. Also, I would make two doors; one for people to enter therein and the other to exit” (Bukhari).

Ibn az-Zubayr said, “Today, I can afford to do it and I do not fear the people.”
Ibn az-Zubayr built the Kaba on Prophet Ibrahim’s foundation. He put the roof on three pillars with the wood of Aoud (a perfumed wood with aroma which is traditionally burned to get a good smell out of it in Arabia). In his construction he put two doors, one facing the east the other facing the west, as the Prophet wanted but did not do in his lifetime. He rebuilt the Kaaba on the Prophet Ibrahim’s foundation, which meant that the Hateem area was included. The Hateem is the area adjacent to the Kaaba enclosed by a low semi-circular wall.

Abdullah Ibn az-Zubayr also made the following additions and modifications:-
– Put a small window close to the roof of the Kaba to allow for light.
– Moved the door of the Kaaba to ground level and added a second door to the Kaaba.
– Added nine cubits to the height of the Kaaba, making it twenty cubits high. Its walls were two cubits wide.
– Reduced the pillars inside the House to three instead of six as were earlier built by Quraish.

For reconstruction, Ibn az-Zubayr put up four pillars around Kaaba and hung cloth over them until the building was completed. People began to do Tawaf around these pillars at all times, so Tawaf of the Kaaba was never abandoned, even during reconstruction.

During Abdul Malik bin Marwan’s time In 74 Hijri (or 693 according to the Gregorian calendar), Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf Al-Thaqafi, the known tyrant of that time, with the approval of Umayyad Khalifa Abdul Malik bin Marwan, demolished what Ibn az-Zubayr had added to it from the older foundation of Prophet Ibrahim, restore its old structure as the Quraish had it.

Some of the changes he made were the following:
– He rebuilt it in the smaller shape which is found today took out the Hateem
– Walled up the western door (whose signs are still visible today) and left the rest as it was -pulled down the wall in the Hateem area.
– Removed the wooden ladder Ibn az-Zubayr had put inside the Kaba.
– Reduced the door’s height by five cubits

When Abdul Malik bin Marwan came for Umra and heard the Hadith that it was wish of Prophet(sallallahu alaiyhi wasallam) for the Kaaba to be constructed the way Abdullah Ibn az-Zubayr had built it, he regretted his actions. Imam Malik’s advice to the Khalifa Harun al Rasheed.

Abbasi Khalifa Harun al Rasheed wanted to rebuild the Kaaba the way the Prophet Muhammad wanted and the way Abdullah Ibn az-Zubayr built it. But when he consulted Imam Malik, the Imam asked the Khalifa to change his mind because constant demolition and rebuilding is not respectful and would become a toy in the hands of kings. Each one would want to demolish and rebuild the Kaaba.
Based on this advice, Harun al Rasheed did not reconstruct the Kaaba. The structure remained in the same construction for 966 years, with minor repairs here and there.

Reconstruction during Sultan Murad Khan’s time in the year 1039 Hijri, because of heavy rain, flood and hail, two of the Kaaba’s walls fell down. The flood during which this occurred took place on the 19th of Shaban 1039 Hijri which continued constantly, so the water in the Kaaba became almost close to half of its walls, about 10 feet from the ground level.

On Thursday the 20th of Shaban 1039 Hijri, the eastern and western walls fell down.
When flood receded on Friday the 21st of Shaban, the cleanup started. Again, a curtain, the way Abdullah Ibn az-Zubayr established on 4 pillars, was put up, and the reconstruction started on the 26th of Ramadan. The rest of the walls except for the one near the Black Stone, were demolished. By the 2nd of Zul-Hijjah 1040 the construction was taking place under the guidance of Sultan Murad Khan, the Ottoman Khalifa. From the point of the Black stone and below, the current construction is the same as that done by Abdullah Ibn az-Zubayr.The construction which was done under the auspices of Murad Khan was exactly the one done at the time of Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan which is the way the Quraish had built it before Prophethood.

On Rajab 28, 1377, one historian counted the total stones of the Kaaba and they were 1,614. These stones are of different shapes. But the stones which are inside the outer wall which is visible are not counted in there.

Reconstruction of the Kaaba In 1996:
A major reconstruction of the Kaaba took place between May 1996 and October 1996. This was after a period of about 400 years (since Sultan Murad Khan’s time).
During this reconstruction the only original thing left from the Kaaba are the stones. All other material has been replaced including the ceiling and the roof and its wood.

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