There is no place on Earth so revered, so central, or so holy to so many people as Mecca. By any objective standard, this valley in the Hejaz region of Arabia is the most famous place on earth.
IntroductionThousands of people circle the sacred Kaaba at the center of the Haram shrine 24 hours a day. Millions of homes are adorned with photos and more than a billion face them five times a day.
The Kaaba is the epicenter of Mecca.
The cube-shaped building is at the heart of the most well-known real estate in human history; it's shrouded in black and its fair share of mystery.
Here are some things most people might not know about the Kaaba:
It has been rebuilt several times.
The Kaaba that we see today is not exactly the same Kaaba that was built by Prophets Ibrahim (PBUH) and Ismail (PBUH). Occasionally it has had to be rebuilt after natural or man-made disasters.
Of course, we all know about the major reconstruction that took place during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) before he became a Prophet (PBUH). This is the occasion when the Prophet (PBUH) averted great bloodshed by thinking quickly about how to place the Black Stone using a cloth that each tribe could lift.
Since then, on average, there has been one major reconstruction every few centuries. The last renovation took place in 1996 and was extremely thorough, leading to the replacement of many stones and the strengthening of the foundations and a new roof. This will probably be the last reconstruction for centuries (Insha Allah) as modern techniques mean the building is safer and more stable than ever.
It used to have two doors and one window.
The original Kaaba had an entrance door and another for the exit. For a considerable period of time it also had a window located on one side. The current Kaaba has only one door and no windows.
It was multicolored.
We're so used to the Kaaba being covered in the brand's black Kiswah with gold stripes that we can't imagine it being any other color. However, this tradition seems to have started during the time of the Abbasids (whose household color was black) and before that the Kaaba was covered in several colors including green, red and even white.
The keys are in the hands of one family.
During the time of the Prophet (PBUH), every aspect related to the rites of Hajj was in the hands of different subgroups of the Quraysh. Each of them would eventually lose control of their guardianship of a particular rite, except one. During the conquest of Mecca, the Prophet (PBUH) was given the keys to the Kaaba and instead kept it in his own possession; he returned them to the Osman ibn Talha (RA) of the Bani Shaiba family. They had been the main traditional guardians of the Kaaba for centuries; and the Prophet (PBUH) confirmed them in this role until the end of time with these words:
"Take it, O Bani Talha, eternally until the Day of Resurrection, and it will only be taken from you by an unjust and oppressive tyrant."
Whether Caliph, Sultan or King – the most powerful men in the world all had to bow to the words of the Prophet (PBUH) and ask permission from this small Meccan family before they could enter the Kaaba.
It was open to everyone.
Until recently, the Kaaba was open twice a week for anyone to enter and pray. However, due to the rapid increase in the number of pilgrims and other factors, the Kaaba is now only open twice a year for dignitaries and exclusive guests.
You can swim around.
One of the problems with the Kaaba being located at the bottom of a valley is that when it rains, the valleys tend to flood. This was not an uncommon occurrence in Makkah and the cause of many problems before the days of flood and sewage control systems. For days the Kaaba would be half submerged in water. Did this prevent Muslims from performing Tawaf? Of course not. Muslims have just started swimming around the Kaaba.
Modern adjustments to the surrounding landscape and flood prevention techniques mean that we may never see such sites again.
The interior contains plaques commemorating the rulers who renovated it.
For years many have wondered what it looked like inside the Kaaba. Relying on the second or third hand accounts of those lucky enough to participate just wasn't satisfying enough. Then one lucky person who walked inside took their camera phone and millions of people viewed the shaky footage online.
The interior of the Kaaba is now lined with marble and a green cloth covering the upper walls. Fixed in the walls are plaques each commemorating the renovation or reconstruction of the house of Allah by the leader of the day. Watch the video below of the only place on Earth where you can pray in any direction, the House of Allah, the first place of worship for mankind – the Kaaba.
There are two Kaabas!
Directly above the Kaaba in the sky is an exact replica. This Kaaba has been mentioned in the Quran and by the Prophet (PBUH).
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said while narrating the journey of 'Isra wal Miraaj:
"Then I was shown Al-Bait-al-Ma'mur (meaning the House of Allah). I asked Gabriel about it and he said: This is Al-Bait-al-Ma'mur where 70,000 angels say prayers every day and when they leave they never come back (but always a new batch arrives there every day)."
The black stone is broken.
Have you ever wondered how the black stone came to be in the silver case that surrounds it?
It is said to have been damaged in the Middle Ages by an extreme heretical Ismaili group from Bahrain called the Qarmatians who declared Hajj to be an act of superstition. They decided to make their point by killing tens of thousands of hujjaj and throwing their bodies into the Zamzam pit.
As if this act of treachery were not enough, these demons took the black stone east to Arabia and then Kufa to Iraq where they held it for ransom until they were forced to return it. by the Abbasid Caliph. When they returned it, it was in pieces and the only way to keep them together was to encase them in a silver case. Some historians say there are still missing pieces of stone floating around.
It's not supposed to be cube-shaped.
Yes, the world's most famous cube actually started out as a rectangle.
I'll give you a moment to take your jaws off the floor.
Okay, where were we?
Oh yeah, the Kaaba was never meant to be a cube. The original dimensions of the house included the semi-circular area known as Hijr Ismail.
When the Kaaba was rebuilt just a few years before the Prophet (PBUH) received his first revelation, the Quraysh agreed to use only pure source income to complete the reconstruction. This meant that there was no money from gambling, looting, prostitution, interest, etc. form!
They settled for a smaller version of the Kaaba and put a mud brick wall (called 'Hijr Ismail' although it has no connection with Prophet Ismail (AS) himself) to indicate the original dimensions. Towards the end of his life, the Prophet (PBUH) intended to rebuild the Kaaba on its original foundations but died before he could fulfill his wish. Apart from a brief interlude of a few years during the reign of Caliph Abdallah ibn Zubair (RA), the Kaaba remained the same form in which the Prophet (PBUH) saw it.
The story of the Kaaba is not just an interesting story from our past. The Kaaba is a real and present symbol that binds all Muslims together wherever they are. It also connects us to our glorious and not-so-glorious past so that we can learn from it and feel that we are part of an eternal mission.
At a time when Muslims are increasingly disconnected from our history, as well as from each other, the Kaaba reminds us of our heritage and our common bonds. It is a symbol of unity in an Ummah that badly needs it.
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