The Ka'aba: Focal Point of Islamic Worship

The Kaaba
Zakaryaamr/Wikimedia Commons/GNU Free Documentation License

The Ka'aba (literally "the cube" in Arabic) is an ancient stone structure that was built and re-built by prophets as a house of monotheistic worship. It is located inside the Grand Mosque in Makkah (Mecca) Saudi Arabia. The Ka'aba is considered the center of the Muslim world, and is a unifying focal point for Islamic worship. When Muslims complete the Hajj pilgrimage to Makkah (Mecca), the ritual includes circling the Ka'aba.

 

Description

The Ka'aba is a semi-cubic building that stands about 15 meters (49 feet) high and 10-12 meters (33 to 39 feet) wide. It is an ancient, simple structure made of granite. The inside floor is clad with marble and limestone, and the inside walls are tiles with white marble up to the halfway point. In the southeast corner, a black meteorite (the "Black Stone") is embedded in a silver frame. Stairs on the north side lead to a door that allows entry to the interior, which is hollow and empty. The Ka'aba is covered with a kiswah, a black silk cloth which is embroidered in gold with verses from the Quran. The kiswah is restored and replaced once each year

History

According to the Quran, the Ka'aba was built by the prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael as a house of monotheistic worship. However, by the time of Muhammad, the Ka'aba had been taken over by pagan Arabs to house their numerous tribal gods.

In 630 A.D., Muhammad and his followers took over leadership of Mecca after years of persecution. Muhammad destroyed the idols inside the Ka'aba and re-dedicated it as a house of monotheistic worship.

The Ka'aba was damaged several times after Mohammad's death, and with each repair, it took on an altered appearance.

In 1629, for example, heavy flooding caused the foundations to collapse, necessitating a complete reconstruction. The Ka'aba has not changed since then, but historical records are vague and it is impossible to know if the current structure closely resembles the Ka'aba of Mohammad's time. 

Role in Muslim Worship

It should be noted that Muslims do not actually worship the Ka'aba and its environs, as some people believe.  Rather, it serves as a focal and unifying point among the Muslim people. During daily prayers, Muslims face toward the Ka'aba from wherever they are in the world (this is known as "facing the qiblah"). During the annual pilgrimage (Hajj), Muslims walk around the Ka'aba in a counter-clockwise direction (a ritual known as tawaf). Each year, upwards of two million Muslims may circle the Ka'ba during five days during the Hajj. 

Until recently, the Ka'aba was open twice a week, and any Muslim visiting Makka (Mecca) could enter it. Now, however, the Ka'aba is open only twice a year for cleaning, at which time only invited dignitaries can enter it. 

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Huda. "The Ka'aba: Focal Point of Islamic Worship." ThoughtCo, Oct. 3, 2017, thoughtco.com/the-kaaba-2004450. Huda. (2017, October 3). The Ka'aba: Focal Point of Islamic Worship. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-kaaba-2004450 Huda. "The Ka'aba: Focal Point of Islamic Worship." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-kaaba-2004450 (accessed November 23, 2017).