Kaaba is a cuboid building in the heart of Masjid al-Haram, a familiar visual to Muslims and their Salah’s Qibla (direction). The foundations of the holy Kaaba have survived millenniums and its building is now clad in black cloth adorned with gold-embossed calligraphies attracting the hearts of believers. Located in Mecca, it serves as the primary site for Muslims worldwide praying for an opportunity to journey to “Baitullah” (House of Allah). It is a sacred structure in the Islamic creed, and its significance is celebrated frequently through Islamic art and poetry.

Kaaba is a central focal element in the Hajj (Islamic pilgrimage) according to the guidance and teachings of the Quran and the Last Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). The cube-shaped is believed to have been built by the Prophet Ibrahim (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and his son Ismail (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) as the house of worship dedicated to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى). Hajj is the annual pilgrimage made in the 12th and final month of the Islamic Calendar, around which Tawaf and several other principal rites of the pilgrimage are performed. Considered the most religious site in Islam, the Kaaba continues to witness millions of pilgrims on Hajj and Umrah. It stands as a symbol of unity and continuity for the Muslim ummah (community).

Kaaba: Its Historical and Spiritual Chronicles

Since its foundations were laid, the Kaaba has become the center of spiritual pilgrimage for people from all over the Arabian Peninsula. Its fantastic history goes back centuries before the advent of Islam. Although its monotheistic foundations were tarnished and maimed over time, despite attempts to destroy its existence, such as in Surah al-Feel, the sacred site of the Kaaba has continued to survive millennia.

The Foundation of Monotheism

According to Islamic cosmology, the Zurah pilgrimage site was a precursor to the Kaaba, which was built by Prophet Adam (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and lifted to the heavens in the great floods at the time of Prophet Noah (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ). Historical roots of the subsequent Kaaba date back to the times of Prophet Ibrahim (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and his son Ismail (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), who constructed it as per the divine orders of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) as stated in the Quran (Surah Baqarah: 127129). Muslims believe that these foundations were originally constructed thousands of years ago, while its current structure was rebuilt in 683 AD after fire damage. Although exact historical details have not been recorded especially from before the advent of Islam, the teachings of the Quran and Hadith have given immense sanctity to this cuboid site.

The story of its origin provides insight into the establishment of the Kaaba as a center for monotheistic worship and not merely as a building but as a symbol of the unyielding faith and surrender to Allah’s will as manifested by Ibrahim and Ismail. The sincere obedience to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى) of Ibrahim (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) with the selfless sacrifice of his son and their construction of the sacred Kaaba are celebrated as a legacy of selfless faith by the Muslims.

Kaaba in the Quran

The Quran mentions the Kaaba as a sacred site, and the following verses exhibit its significance in Islam:

  • “And when Abraham was raising the plinth of the House with Ishmael, (he prayed): “Accept this from us, O Lord, for You hear and know everything;” Surah Baqarah (2:127)
  • “Remember, We made the House (of Ka’bah) a place of congregation and safe retreat and said: “Make the spot where Abraham stood the place of worship;” and enjoined upon Abraham and Ishmael to keep Our House immaculate for those who shall walk around it and stay in it for contemplation and prayer, and for bowing in adoration.” Surah Al-Baqarah (2:125)
  • “The first House of God to be set up for men was at Bakkah the blessed, a guidance for the people of the world.” Surah Al-Imran (3:96)
  • “When We chose the site of the House for Abraham (We said:) “Associate no one with Me, and clean My House for those who will circumambulate it, stand (in reverence), and bow in homage.” Surah Al-Hajj (22:26)

Shifting Qibla from Bait-ul Maqdis to Kaaba for Muslims

The shifting of the Qibla for Salah was a monumental event in Islam, and the place where the Qiblah changed became Masjid al-Qiblatayn (“The Mosque of the Two Qiblas”). The change of Qibla towards the Kaabah is based on the Quranic verses  144, 149, and 150 of Surah al-Baqarah in all of which is a command to “Turn your face toward the Sacred Mosque” (transliterated: “fawalli wajhaka shatra almasjidi alharami”).

As narrated in hadiths such as Sahih Muslim 525, during the congregational prayers led by Prophet Mohammed (ﷺ) one night, Allah (سبحانة و تعالى) sent Angel Jibraeel (عليه السلام) and ordered Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) to change his Qibla for Salah from Baitul-Maqdis to the Holy Kaabah at Makkah. Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) immediately turned and changed his direction while in Ruku during the prayer, and the companions and followers imitated him in this action.

Central to the Hajj Pilgrimage

The Hajj pilgrimage further emphasizes the spiritual significance of the Kaaba, an essential pillar of Islam that every able-bodied and financially capable Muslim must undertake at least once in their lifetime. The sacred structure of the Kaaba is profoundly central to Al-Manasik Wa’l-Hajj, the Rites of Hajj that must be fulfilled to ensure its culmination.

● Tawaf

Tawaf is an act of circumambulation, walking seven times counterclockwise around the Kaaba mindfully with sincere reverence and devotion to Allah. Haji (pilgrims) begin their Tawaf by kissing, touching, or gesturing towards the Hajar al-Aswad (the black stone from Jannah) embedded in the eastern corner of the Kaaba and similarly end it as well. This circumambulation of the Kaaba is considered a visual manifestation of Tawhid, the Oneness of Allah (سبحانة و تعالى), who alone is deserving of all worship.

The pilgrims put their heart and soul into circling the Kaaba, the House of Allah (سبحانة و تعالى), forsaking all worldly distractions in their path and reorienting the direction of all their worship and reliance towards Allah (سبحانة و تعالى). Chanting Talbiyah loudly and collectively, the believers unite in worshiping the One God deserving of worship and belonging to one Ummah under the banner of Islam.

● Sa’i

During Hajj, another rite significantly tied to Kaaba is the Sa’i, commemorating Hajerah’s (the wife of Prophet Ibrahim عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) desperate search for water for her son Ismail (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ), as well as her faith and perseverance. Sa’i involves walking seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwah, located near the Kaaba. The miraculous well of Zamzam, which sprang forth at Ismail’s feet, is also situated near Kaaba and is a source of relief with its blessed properties to the pilgrims.

● Tawaf al-Ifadah

The journey from Arafat to Muzdalifah and Mina, where other important rites also occur, culminates with the Tawaf al-Ifadah. It is another circumambulation or circling of the Kaaba, marking the completion of all the necessary rites and rituals of Hajj.

Conclusion

The Kaaba is not just a building to the Muslims; it is a Qibla and the center for worship and pilgrimage. It is the symbol of continuity for the Muslim Ummah since the prophethood of Adam (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and their collective submission to Allah. Hajj and Umrah (minor pilgrimage) bring the Kaaba alive, with millions of pilgrims from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds collectively performing the rites and rituals in harmony. All the obligatory rites and rituals of Hajj focused around the Kaaba, such as Tawaf, add to its immense relevance in Islam.

Muslims in simple white garments collectively circling a simple structure covered in black cloth in their masses is a humbling view. With Hajj, they bring the central values of humility and brotherhood in Islam into practice. The physical structure of the Kaaba is a testament to Prophet Ibrahim’s (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) and his son Ismail’s (عَلَيْهِ ٱلسَّلَامُ) faith. The pilgrimage of Hajj, on the other hand, reminds the Muslims of the legacy of the Prophets and their connection with Allah (سبحانة و تعالى).