“Allah has made the Ka’bah, the Sacred House, standing for the people and [has sanctified] the sacred months and the sacrificial animals and the garlands [by which they are identified]. That is so you may know that Allah knows what is in the heavens and what is in the earth and that Allah is Knowing of all things” (Quran 5:97).
There is no doubt that the Holy Ka’bah is of great importance to Islam: it was the first place where Allah Almighty was worshipped and it was first built by the Abraham who is a great ancestor of the one true religion. The building itself may not be monumental but its historical and cultural significance is unparalleled by any other place of worship – even today Muslims all over the world pray in the direction of the Holy Ka’bah.
We may be well aware of the aforementioned details, however, there are many facts about the Ka’bah that are lesser known to us even today. Following are the 10 things about the Ka’bah that we need to know about:
1. Two Doors and a window
The Ka’bah used to have a pair of doors: one for entry and the other for exit. In addition, it also used to have a window – signs of which are no longer visible. The Ka’bah currently has only one door.
2. Built and rebuilt
The Ka’bah is not an invincible piece of work and over the years it has required a lot of rebuilding owing to natural and man-made disasters. The first reconstruction took place during the Prophet’s (PBUH) lifetime, before prophethood. Since then there has been a reconstruction every few centuries: the last renovation took place in 1996 where many stones were replaced and foundations were made stronger. It may be many hundreds of years until there is a need to repair the Ka’bah again!
3. Multicolored Ka’bah
Kiswah – the commonly known black cloth around the Ka’bah has changed color over time. The Kiswah turned black during the time of the Abbasids - whose household color was black - but before this, the Kiswah had many colors such as green, white and even red!
4. Keys of Glory
The keys of this holy building have long stayed in the same family and have never changed hands. Many rites and responsibilities of the Ka’bah were divided amongst the many families of Quraish at the time but the keys of the Ka’bah have always belonged to the Bani Shaiba clan. The Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have given the keys to Usman Ibn Talha and 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.”
Since the day, the keys have remained in this family and whoever wants to enter the Ka’bah has to ask permission from the Shaiba Clan.
5. Come one, come All
The Ka’bah was not always exclusive: until recently, the Ka’bah was opened twice a week for anyone and everyone to enter and pray. However, now the Ka’bah is only open twice a year for special guests and dignitaries, all because of the expanding number of pilgrims.
6. Swim around the Ka’bah
Since the Ka’bah is situated at the bottom of a valley, it used to flood in the rainfall season. The believers never let the rain and the flooding hinder them from performing Tawaf around the Ka’bah: if they couldn’t walk around it, they simply swam. Now isn’t that incredible?
However, today the flooding problem has been curbed and taken care of which means a sight like this is rare to find.
7. Plaques to commemorate those who refurbish the Ka’bah
The interior of the Ka’bah was a mystery for a long time but today we know that it is lined with marble and a green cloth covers the upper walls. In these walls, there are fixed plaques which commemorate those who have refurbished and rebuilt the House of Allah Almighty over the years.
8. Two Ka’bah
There is an exact replica of the Ka’bah directly above in the heavens known as Bait-ul Ma’mur. The evidence for which has been narrated by the Prophet (PBUH) in his journey of Miraaj:
“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)”.
9. Broken Black Stone
The precious black stone is now in a silver casing because it was broken. There are two stories about how the stone broke. Some people say that the Umayyad Army broke it whereas many others agree that is was damaged in the middle-ages by Qarmatians who labeled the Hajj a superstition and took the Black Stone for ransom. When the Abbasid Caliph managed to get the stone back, it was broken into many pieces – it is possible that some broken pieces were never found.
10. Not meant to be a Cube
The Ka’bah was not initially intentioned to be cube shaped – according to the foundations laid by the Ibrahim (RA) the Ka’bah was supposed to be d-shaped. The cubical shape was attained when the Quraish rebuilt it before Islam. Today, the space left is marked by a wall and is known as Hatim.
The Ka’bah is a symbol of unity and will always hold a special place in Muslim history. May Allah give us all a chance to visit this holy place.