The centre of Islamic world and the most important piece of architecture in Islam, Kaaba is the first place of worship constructed centuries ago by Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and his son Prophet Ismael (AS). Over the ages, it has undergone several changes due to natural calamities and renovations. One of the biggest renovation happened during the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself. It is believed that this cube-shaped stone structure was built on the same foundation where Prophet Adam (AS) constructed a sanctuary to worship Allah the Almighty. Today, thousands of people circle the Kaabah while performing tawaf 24 hours a day and millions of Muslims across the globe face the direction of Kaaba while offering salah five times a day.
Here are a few facts about Kaaba that speaks about the history of Kaaba and the importance of Kaaba in Islam:
It has been reconstructed several times over the centuries. The structure of Kaaba we see today is not the same as Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and his son Prophet Ismael (AS) constructed. It has gone through several changes because of natural disasters and renovations. The major renovation of Kaabah took place during the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) before he achieved the Prophethood. The Prophet (pbuh) averted a major bloodshed because of his quick thinking and wisdom when he provided the solution about how to place the stone by using a piece of cloth so that every tribe could participate. The Quraish also agreed to use money from the pure sources only to complete the construction. However, there was not enough untainted money in this wealthy trading city so they had to settle for the smaller version of Kaabah.
Kaaba used to have two doors and a window. It is one of the things to know about the Kaaba that its original structure had a door for entrance and another for exit. It also had a window situated to one side for a considerable amount of time. The Kaaba that we see today has only one door and no window.
It was not always black. We are so used to seeing Kaaba covered in its trademark black Kiswah with gold banding that we cannot imagine it in another color. Before the time of the Abbasids whose household color was black, Kaaba was covered in multiple colors including green, red and white.
The keys of Kaaba are in the hands of one family. At the time of the Prophet (pbuh), the keys of different aspects of the rites of Hajj were in the hands of different tribes of the Quraish who eventually lost control of their guardianship except one. After conquering Makkah, the Prophet (pbuh) was given the keys to the Kaaba but he returned them back to Osman ibn Talha of the Bani Shaiba family. This family has been the traditional key keepers of the Kaaba for centuries and the Prophet (pbuh) himself confirmed that role till the end of time when he said,
“Take it, O Bani Talha, eternally up to the Day of Resurrection, and it will not be taken from you unless by an unjust, oppressive tyrant.”
Kaaba used to be open to everyone. Until recently, everyone was allowed to enter and pray inside Kaaba when it was opened twice a week. But, due to the heavy influx in the number of pilgrims, Kaaba is now opened only twice a year for dignitaries.
People used to swim around it. The Makkah valley where Kaabah is situated tends to flood during heavy rain. It was not an uncommon occurrence and caused a lot of problems before the days of flood control system and sewage drainage. Muslims would perform tawaf around the half- submerged Kaaba by swimming around it.The interior of the Kaaba contains plaques commemorating the rulers who renovated it. The upper walls of Kaabah are lined with marble and green cloth along with the plaques commemorating different rulers who renovated or repaired Kaaba.
There is another Kaaba in Paradise. This Kaaba was mentioned in the Quran and by the Prophet (pbuh) when he narrated about his journey of Isra’a -Wal-Miraj,
“Then I was shown Al-Bait-al-Ma’mur (i.e. Allah’s House). I asked Gabriel about it and he said, This is Al Bait-ul-Ma’mur where 70,000 angels perform prayers daily and when they leave they never return to it (but always a fresh batch comes into it daily).”
The Black Stone is broken. It was damaged in the middle ages by an extreme heretical Ismaili group from Bahrain called the Qarmatians who declared that the Hajj was an act of superstition. They killed thousands of hujjaj and dumped their bodies in the well of Zamzam. Qarmatians also took the Black Stone to the East of Arabia and then Kufa in Iraq but later forced to return it by the Abbasid Caliph. The stone was in pieces and the only way to keep it together was by encasing it in silver.
Kaabah was never meant to be cube-shaped. The original structure of Kaaba actually started out as rectangular-shaped and included the semi-circular area of Hijr-e-Ismael. It is one of the least-known facts about Kaabah.