In the province of Hijaz in the western part of Saudi Arabia, not far from the Red Sea, there lies the town of Makkah. In the center of this town there is a small square building made of stones. The small, cubed building may not rival skyscrapers in height or mansions in width, but its impact on history and human beings is unmatched. Since time immemorial world travelers have known this town and this stone built house. This is Baytullah, the House of Allah. Its sanctity and antiquity is older than history itself.
The Baytullah\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 & his family) over 1400 years ago. 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.
The other names of the Kaaba, are 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. Bait ul Haram - the honorable house. Scholars and historians say that the Kaaba has been reconstructed between five to 12 times.
Tradition goes that the Kaaba was ordained by Allah to be built in the shape of the House in Heaven called Baitul Ma'amoor. Allah in his infinite Mercy ordained a similar place on earth and Prophet Adam (p.b.u.h.) was the first to build this place. The Bible, in the chapter of Genesis describes its building when God ordained Abraham (p.b.u.h.) to erect a Shrine for worship when Abraham (p.b.u.h.) was ordered to go to the southern desert with his wife Hager (p.b.u.h.) and infant son Ishmael (p.b.u.h.). The Old Testament describes this building as the Shrine of God at several places, but the one built at Ma'amoor is very much similar to the one at Makkah. There is no doubt that it was referring to the stone built house at Makkah.
Holy Qur'an brought this story into the full light of history. Say: "Allah spoken the Truth: follow the religion of Abraham, the sane in faith; he was not of the Pagans." The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka: Full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings. (Holy Qur'an 3:95-96)
From the above verses Holy Qur'an firmly establishes the fact that Abraham (p.b.u.h.) was the real founder of the Holy Shrine.
When Prophet Abraham (p.b.u.h.) built the Holy Shrine in Makka, his prayers were that this place should remain a center of worship for all good and pious people; that Allah should keep his family the custodians of the Holy place. Ever since, Ishmael (p.b.u.h.) the son of Abraham (p.b.u.h.) who helped his father to build this place and his descendants remained the custodians of the Holy Shrine. History tells us that centuries passed and the guardianship of the Kaaba remained in the family of Ishmael (p.b.u.h.) until the name of Abde Manaf came into the limelight. He inherited this service and made it much more prominent. His son Hashim took this leadership and extended it to many other towns of Hijaz so much so that many pilgrims flocked annually to this place and enjoyed Hashim's hospitality. A feast was given in honor of the pilgrims, the family of Hashim served food and water to all guests. This prominence created jealousies and his brother Abdusham's adopted son Omayya tried to create trouble. There was a dispute in which Omayya failed and left Makka to settle down in the Northern provinces of Syria (Sham). After Hashim his brother Muttalib and after him Hashim's son Shyba who became known as Abdul Muttalib assumed the leadership of the family. He organized feasts and supplies of water to the pilgrims during the annual festival of pilgrimage to the Holy Shrine.
Prophet Abraham (p.b.u.h.) built this House for devout worship to the only God. But within his lifetime people disobeyed his orders and began to put idols inside the Kaaba. Abraham (p.b.u.h.) had to clean the House of these idols and of idle worshippers. He told the people that this was a symbolic house of God. God does not live there; He is everywhere. People did not understand this logic and after the death of Abraham (p.b.u.h.), the people, out of reverence, filled the place with idols again. They thronged to this place annually and worshipped their personal gods, It was over Four Thousand years later that the last of the line of prophets Muhammad Ibne Abdullah (p.b.u.h.) entered Makka triumphantly, went inside the Kaaba and, with the help of his cousin and son-in-law Ali Ibne Abi Talib (p.b.u.h.) destroyed all the idols of Kaaba with their own hands. At one stage of this destruction of idols, the tallest of the idol Hubbol was brought down after Ali had to stand on the shoulders of the Prophet to carry out God's orders. The Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.) was reciting the verse from the Holy Qur'an "Truth hath come and falsehood hath vanished". This was done in the 8th year of Hijra, January 630 AD after the bloodless victory at Makka by the Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.).
Historically when Abraham (p.b.u.h.) was ordered by Allah to build the Shrine for worship, he uncovered the original foundations of the Kaaba built by Adam (p.b.u.h.). Abraham (p.b.u.h.) with the help of his son Ishmael (p.b.u.h.) erected the new shrine on the same foundations. Originally it contained only four walls without a roof. Centuries later during the time of Khusayi who was the leader of the Tribe of Quraish in Makka a taller building was completed with a roof and a quadrangle wall around it to give it the shape of a sanctuary and doors all around the sanctuary walls. People entered through these doors to come to the Kaaba for worship. It is now about 60 feet high, 60 feet wide from east to west and 60 feet from north to south. A door is fixed about 7 feet above ground level facing Northeast. A Black stone (Hajar al-Aswad) was fixed into its eastern corner. In front of the building was Maqam-e-Ibrahim, the arch shape gate known as that of Banu Shayba and the Zamzam Well. Just outside are the Hills called Safa and Merwa and the distance between the hills is about 500 yards. These days both of the hills are enclosed into the sanctuary walls with a roof over it.
The whole building is built of the layers of gray blue stone from the hills surrounding Makka. The four corners roughly face the four points of the compass. At the East is the Rukn-e-Aswad (The Black stone), at the North is the Rukn-e-Iraqi, at the west Rukn-e-Shami and at the south Rukn-e-Yamani. The four walls are covered with a curtain (Kiswa). The kiswa is usually of black brocade with the Shahada outlined in the weave of the fabric. About 2/3rd of the way up runs a gold embroidered band covered with Qur'anic text.
In the Eastern corner about 5 feet above ground the Hajar al-Aswad (The Black stone) is fixed into the wall. Its real nature is difficult to determine, its visible shape is worn smooth by hand touching and kissing. Its diameter is around 12 inches. Opposite the Northwest wall but not connected with it, is a semi circular wall of white marble. It is 3 feet high and about 5 feet thick. This semi circular space enjoys an especial consideration and pilgrims wait in queue to find a place to pray there. The graves of Ishmael (p.b.u.h.) and his mother Hager (p.b.u.h.) are within this semi circular wall (Hateem). Between the archway and the facade (N.E.) is a little building with a small dome, the Maqam-e-Ibrahim. Inside it is kept a stone bearing the prints of two human feet. Prophet Abraham (p.b.u.h.) is said to have stood on this stone when building the Kaaba and marks of his feet are miraculously preserved. On the outskirts of the building to the Northeast is the 'Zamzam Well' (this is now put under ground).
History of the building of the Kaaba
And when We made the House a pilgrimage for men and a (place of) security, and: Appoint for yourselves a place of prayer on the standing-place of Abraham. And We enjoined Abraham and Ishmael saying: Purify My House for those who visit (it) and those who abide (in it) for devotion and those who bow down (and) those who prostrate themselves. And when Abraham said: My Lord, make it a secure town and provide its people with fruits, such of them as believe in Allah and the last day. He said: And whoever disbelieves, I will grant him enjoyment for a short while, then I will drive him to the chastisement of the fire; and it is an evil destination. And when Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House: Our Lord! Accept from us; surely Thou art the Hearing, the Knowing: Our Lord! And make us both submissive to Thee and (raise) from our offspring a nation submitting to Thee, and show us our ways of devotion and turn to us (mercifully), surely Thou art the Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful. Our Lord! And raise up in them a Messenger from among them who shall recite to them Thy communications and teach them the Book and the wisdom, and purify them; surely Thou art the Mighty, the Wise. (Holy Qur'an 2:125-129)
Holy Qur'an in the above verses described it clearly that Allah had ordained his servant Abraham (p.b.u.h.) to build the Shrine there for worship of One God. During Khusayi's time it was rebuilt and fortified. During the early years of Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) before he announced his ministry, floods damaged the Kaaba and it was rebuilt again. When the Black stone was to be put in its place the Makkans quarreled among themselves as to who should have the honor to place it there. Abu Omayyah, Makkah's oldest man, proposed that the first man to enter the gate of the mosque the following morning would decide the matter. That man was the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). The Makkans were ecstatic. "This is the trustworthy one (Al-Ameen)," they shouted in a chorus. "This is Muhammad". He came to them and they asked him to decide on the matter. He (p.b.u.h.) agreed. Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) proposed a solution that all agreed to putting the Black Stone on a cloak, the elders of each of the clans held on to one edge of the cloak and carried the stone to its place. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) himself then picked up the stone and placed it on the wall of the Kaaba. It has been fixed there ever since.
After the martyrdom of the family of the Prophet at Karbala in 61 Hijri (681 AD), the Omayyad Caliph Yazid Ibne Moawiya did not stop there in the pursuit of his destruction. He sent a large contingent under the command of Haseen Ibne Namir to Madina to destroy the Mosque of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). They did not stop there but proceeded to Makka and demolished the four walls of the Kaaba and killed thousands of Muslims who protested. Yazid died and Ibne Namir returned to Damascus, Abdullah Ibne Zubayr and his associates rebuilt the Kaaba. Umawi forces came back to Makka and killed Abdullah Ibne Zubayr, hung his body on the gates of the Kaaba for three months for all to see the Umawi power. But eventually this arrogance of power brought its own consequences and Mukhtar became the ruler in Iraq. Under his guidance the Kaaba was refurbished and pilgrims began to arrive in safety to perform Hajj.
The Kaaba successfully withstood the Cremation invasion of 317/929, only the Blackstone was carried away which was returned some twenty years later. In the year 1981 the Wahabis brought tanks inside the Kaaba to crush the kahtani revolution against the Saudi regime and almost demolished the South Eastern Wall. This was later restored with the help of the Makkan people.
Every man living in Makka in the 6th and 7th century must out of necessity have had some relationship with the Kaaba. On the Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), the Prophet of Islam, the Qur'an is silent during the Makkans period in this respect. All that is known is that the Muslim community of the period turned towards Jerusalem in prayers. Subsequently about a year and a half after the Hijra the Muslims were ordered during prayers, which were lead, by the Prophet of Islam himself to turn towards Makka. The particular mosque in Madina where this happened is called Masjid-e-Qiblatain, meaning the mosque with two Qiblas. The Qur'an tells the Muslims, "Indeed We see the turning of your face to heaven, so We shall surely turn you to a qiblah which you shall like; turn then your face towards the Sacred Mosque, and wherever you are, turn your face towards it." (Holy Qur'an 2:144)
At this same period the Qur'an began to lay stress on the religion of Abraham (p.b.u.h.), presenting Islam as a return to the purity of the religion of Abraham (p.b.u.h.) Which, obscured by Judaism and Christianity, shone forth in its original brightness in the Holy Qur'an. The pilgrimage to the Kaaba and ritual progressions around the building were continued, but were now for the glorification of One God. The Abrahamic vision of the Kaaba created a means of discerning an orthodox origin buried in the midst of pagan malpractices to which the first Muslims pointed the way.
Every year after the Hajj ceremony the place is closed for one month and on the day of Ashura the Kaaba is washed from inside by the Water from the well of Zamzam and a new Kiswa is brought to cover the Kaaba for the next year.
This is the story of the Kaaba and the persons who protected it and remained its custodians and protectors from the satanic and evil forces throughout history. Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) and the people of his household (Ahlul Bayt) were the protectors of the Kaaba, and currently the 12th Imam Muhammad Al-Mahdi (p.b.u.h.) from the direct descent of the Prophet of Islam is the real protector, its custodian and guardian and shall remain as such while in concealment.