The construction of the Ka’aba

According to a narration in religious books, Adam –Aleyhisselâm– and Eve were separated from each other after the fall but later met at Arafât and walked together towards the west. Adam –Aleyhisselâm– prayed to Allah that he would give him back the pillar of light that he was worshipping Allah around in paradise. Upon this prayer, the pillar of light appeared and Adam –Aleyhisselâm– worshiped Allah by circumambulating around it.This pillar of light disappeared in the time of the Prophet Seth –Aleyhisselâm-, leaving only a black stone behind. However, he built the Ka’aba in the  form of a pillar of light and placed this Black Stone next to it. Today what we call the Hajar al-Aswad is this stone. After the flood of Noah –Aleyhisselâm-, this building was left under the sands for a long time.

Later, Prophet Abraham –Aleyhisselâm– by the command of Allah traveled to the surroundings of the Ka’aba and left his wife Hagar and son Ishmael –Aleyhisselâm– to settle there. With his son, he located the foundations of the Ka’aba that had been built by Seth (Sheed) –Aleyhisselâm– and rebuilt it. When he completed the construction of Ka’aba he praged to Allah:

“And when Abraham prayed: My Lord! Make this a region of security and bestow upon its people fruits, such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day”(Baqara, 2:126)

As a result of this prayer, we can say that in Mecca, most people enjoy the sweetness of faith as well as the good taste of the foods and fruits.

The Ka’aba has been rebuilt 11 times. The first time it was built by the Angels. The second time it was built by Adam –Aleyhisselâm-, the third by Seth –Aleyhisselâm-, the fourth by Abraham –Aleyhisselâm-, the fifth by the tribe of Amâlika, the sixth by Jurhumî tribe, the seventh by the Qusai, the leader of the Meccans, the eighth by the tribe of Quraish, the ninth by Abdullah b. Zubair who lived in the first generation named as (tâbiûn), after the death of the Prophet (pbuh). It was rebuilt the tenth time by Hajjâj the tyrant and the eleventh time by the Ottoman Sultan, Murat IV.

The Ottomans showed great respect for the Holy Lands. The refined good manners which were a manifestation of this respect were beautifully exemplified during the reign of Murad IV. The Ka’aba was flooded and the walls were damaged. For repair, the chief architect, Ridvan Agha, was sent to Mecca. Having done the necessary research on the structure of the Ka’aba, he reported his findings. Due to his full respect for the Ka’aba, the House of Allah, he could not say that some of the walls were destroyed, saying instead, “Some of the walls of the Ka’aba have gone to prostration.”

They also took precaution in order to prevent the beasts of labor from passing water over these sacred places. All these reveal the great respect that the Ottomans showed to these places. This high esteem started from the capital itself. At that time, when they crossed the Bosphorous, that first spot Muslims landed at was called Haram, since this land would connect them to the Ka’aba. Hence, they started to behave, as they are required to behave in the Haram. They did not approve of any disrespectful behavior on their way to Ka’aba. The memory of Nâbi the Poet is a very striking example of the Ottoman attitude towards these holy lands:

In the year 1678, he set out for pilgrimage accompanied by many statesmen. When they had a rest break, he saw that one of the high-ranking soldiers in the group had extended his legs towards the city of the Prophet (pbuh), Madinah al-Munawwara. (In Ottoman culture extending the legs towards a person is considered rude). Nâbi felt very sorry for this heedless behavior of the general and composed the following poem:

Beware of the heedlessness, this is the place where the Beloved of Allah (lived)

 This place is the loci of Divine glances, the post of Mustafa (Prophet Muhamad).

O Nâbi! Enter this place with full respect

This place is circumambulated by the angels and kissed by the prophets.

When the caravan approached to Madinah just before the sunrise prayer, Nâbi heard his poem recited by the muezzins of the Madinah. Nâbi was very exited to hear this and he rushed to learn how this happened, since he wrote the poem the night before and no one had learned it.

Nâbi found the Muezzin and asked him: “How did you learn this na’at.”

The muezzin answered: “Last night in my sleep the Prophet (pbuh) told me in a vision:

‘From my community, a poet called Nâbi is coming to visit me and he is full of my love to the extreme. For his love for me, meet him with his own poem when he enters the city. Hence we learned the poem from him, and obeyed his command’.”

Nâbi was sobbing and shedding tears like rain saying: “It means that the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) included me among his nation, the sun of the two worlds accepted me as a member of his community.”

As we have seen in the example of Nâbi, the important thing in the pilgrimage rites is to behave with the highest esteem towards the Prophet(pbuh) and the House of Allah.

The Ka’aba, which is also called the House of Allah, has been a sacred place from the time of the first human being Adam –Aleyhisselâm-. The Qur’an commands visiting these places with special rituals:

“Lo! the first Sanctuary appointed for mankind was that at Becca, a blessed place, a guidance to the peoples; : Wherein are plain memorials (of Allah’s guidance); the place where Abraham stood up to pray; and whosoever entereth it is safe. And pilgrimage to the House is a duty unto Allah for mankind, for him who can find a way thither. As for him who disbelieveth, (let him know that) lo! Allah is Independent of (all) creatures. (Âl-i Imrân, 3:96-97)

As a manifestation of the Islamic spirit, everyone is equal in the lines of congregational prayers. If the head of government comes late to the mosque he prays at the back. If a poor Muslim comes early he prays in the first line. People are required to pray wherever there is an empty place. Uniforms and epaulets are useless in the mosque. This concept of equality was manifested in the pilgrimage on even a fuller scale. As everyone is buried with a white shroud, all the pilgrims wear the same clothes and the difference of qualities in garments completely disappears. Pilgrimage represents a level of equality that is only repeated after death. As a head of state is buried in a white shroud, even the poorest is buried with the very same shroud. Pilgrims covering their chests with a large towel and their waists with a large towel reflect the state of the dead in their graves.

We should know that death is the inescapable law that Allah has enforced for all transient beings. The length of life is counted with complete precision so that even the number of breaths is counted and recorded. There is an appointed time of death (ajal) for every person and this may never change. We have never heard of anyone who escaped death. Since the time of our death is unknown to us we should not neglect to perform the duty of pilgrimage. Otherwise, the following bad news from the Prophet (pbuh) will be valid for us:

“If someone dies without going for pilgrimage even though he had the requirements of food, drink and transportation, there is no nothing that will prevent this person to die as a Jew or Christian.” (Tirmidhi, Haj, 3)

This clear warning of the Prophet (pbuh) reminds those heedless Muslims who do not perform this commandment even though they have the necessary means that they will be punished in the Hereafter. The negligence of this commandment means to despise the commandment itself.

Pilgrimage is commanded to be performed at least once in a lifetime; therefore it is a great mistake for able Muslims to delay it. The Prophet (pbuh) states that those who are required to perform pilgrimage should rush to do it. (Jâmu’l-fawâid, II, 77)

The House of Allah is full of the reminders of Abraham –Aleyhisselâm– and his family’s trust and submission to Allah. When we mention the words trust, submission and pilgrimage immediately the names Abraham –Aleyhisselâm– and Ishmael –Aleyhisselâm– come to our minds. Due to their sincerity, pilgrimage was made an obligatory act of worship that will continue until the last day of the world.

Trust in Allah means to depend on, to have full confidence in, and to appoint someone as a representative. In Sufism, it signifies one whose heart is filled with Allah, only trusting in Him and seeking refuge only in Him. When Allah the Almighty asked Moses –Aleyhisselâm– about his rod he answered: “ It is my rod, I lean on it…” Allah the Almighty said: “throw it down”, since this dependence on the rod shadowed his full dependence on Allah.

Concerning to whom we should trust, Allah the Almighty, states in the Qur’an:

“In Allah let believers put their trust!” (Tawba, 9:51, Ibrahim, 14:11)

“So put your trust (in Allah) if ye are indeed believers.” (Mâidah, 5:23)

“And whoever trusts in Allah, He is sufficient for him.”(Talaq, 65:3)

The Prophet (pbuh) states that if we trust in Allah fully, He will sustain us as he sustains the birds that leave their nests hungry in the morning and return to them with a full stomach in the evening.

Trust in Allah does not signify giving up all kinds of necessary steps, and to ignore the laws of nature. It means to put full trust in Allah after fulfilling the necessary conditions to reach a result and not to trust in the means itself, ignoring Allah’s will. Rather the slave should seek refuge in the power of Allah.

Allah the Almighty states:

“And take counsel with them in the affair; so when you have decided, then place your trust in Allah; surely Allah loves those who trust.” (Al-i Imrân, 3:159)

Allah is the helper of the believer in both worlds. Whoever puts full trust in Him, He suffices for the needs of the slave. Real happiness and bliss lie in returning to Him both on the personal and social level by asking his help and putting our trust in Him.

In Arabic, the word salema signifying submission and connotes the meaning of yielding (the will), and accepting the acts of Allah with pleasure.

The Prophet Abraham –Aleyhisselâm– had filled his heart with the love of Allah. When the angels asked Allah: How can Abraham –Aleyhisselâm– be your friend who has his life, possessions and family (that will keep him engaged from You). Then, Allah the Almighty showed the angels his submission to the Divine will in three different tests.

The first test was about his life, that when he was about to be catapulted into the fire the angels rushed to help him, but he refused their offer and said:

“I do not need your help. Who gave the power of burning to the fire? Allah is the best of helpers.” In that way he took refuge only in Allah. As a reward of this sincere submission to Allah’s power Allah the Almighty commanded the fire:

“We said: O fire, be coolness and peace for Abraham –Aleyhisselâm-,”(Anbiyâ, 21:69)

In the second test, he was tested about his wealth. Gabriel had gone to Abraham –Aleyhisselâm– and begged for some of his flock. When he praised Allah he said: Take this flock and they are yours.”

In that way, he also successfully achieved the test of sacrificing wealth for the love of Allah.

The real servanthood to Allah is nothing but submission to Him. However, submission is based on love and obedience. We have seen the best example of this submission based on love in Abraham –Aleyhisselâm-. His own life, family and wealth did not prevent him in fulfilling the Divine commands due to his full devotion and submission to Allah. In order to reward his sincerity, the rites of pilgrimage will be performed up until Judgment Day to symbolize his submission and trust in Allah.

His tongue reflecting the situation in his heart continuously would say:

“I submit myself to the Lord of the worlds.”(Baqara, 2:131)

In addition to the examples of Abraham –Aleyhisselâm– and Ishmael –Aleyhisselâm– who showed unequalled levels of sacrifice and submission to Allah, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) showed the rituals and essentials of pilgrimage in his farewell pilgrimage. In particular, his farewell speech that was made on this occasion is the best guidance for pilgrims until Judgment Day. In this speech he designated the basic rights and responsibilities of Muslims and strengthened the lines of Muslims with love and mercy.

Those who intend to go on pilgrimage should prepare themselves both spiritually and materially. Trust in Allah does not mean to ignore making provisions for the journey of pilgrimage. Some of the Yemenites would go to pilgrimage without taking any essentials such as food and drink saying: “We trust in Allah!” When they reached Mecca they would beg due to hunger. In order to warn about this kind of wrong conception of trust in Allah, the Qur’an states:

“And make provision, for surely the provision is the guarding of oneself, and be careful (of your duty) to Me, O men of understanding. (Baqara, 2:197)

As understood from the verse, a Muslim needs both kinds of provisions in the Holy Lands. He needs material provisions like enough food, and spiritual food like submission, patience and so on. Only the Muslim who has purified his heart from spiritual diseases can achieve this. Only through possessing such a heart can we understand the reality of the acts of worship, in particular the pilgrimage, as indicated by Rumi in the following story:

“Bâyazîd, the Shaykh of the community, was hurrying to Mecca for the Hajj (the greater pilgrimage) and Umra (the lesser one). In every city to which he went he would first search out the venerable (saints). He would roam about, asking, ‘Who is there in this city that is relying on (spiritual insight)’? He did this since he believed that wherever he went in his travels he should search for a holy person.

Allah the Almighty, said in the Qur’an: ‘Ask the followers of the Remembrance (zikr) if ye know not?’(Anbiyâ, 21:7)

Therefore Moses –Aleyhisselâm– was commanded to visit Khidr who had spiritual knowledge. Bâyezîd was looking for the Khidr of the time and he suddenly saw an old man with a stature resembling the new moon. He saw in him the majesty and the speech of holy men. His eyes were sightless and his heart was as illumined as the sun. Bâyazîd sat down before him and asked him about his condition. He found him to be a dervish and also a family man. The old man asked: ‘Whither art thou bound, O Bâyazîd? To what place wouldst thou bear the baggage of travel in a strange land’? Bâyezîd answered: ’I start for the Ka’aba and have two hundred silver dirhams as provision for the road’. The old man told him: ‘Place some of those dirhams before me and the other needy. First enter their hearts in order to open the eyes of your soul. Get an endless life. First fulfill the pilgrimage with your soul, and then continue the trip with a refined heart. Although the Ka’aba is the House of His religious service, my form is the house of His innermost secrets. The Ka’aba is the house built by Abraha the son of Âzar, my heart is the loci of Allah’s majesty’.

If you have spiritual insight, circumambulate the Ka’aba of the heart. The heart is the Ka’aba of the body, made out of earth. Allah commanded us to visit the visible Ka’aba in order that we might attain to a Ka’aba of the heart that has been purified from impurities.

Know that if you hurt a heart which is the loci of Divine glances, even if you go to pilgrimage on foot the rewards you attain will not cover the sin of breaking someone’s heart. A perfect man is a treasure that contains Divine secrets. If you want to see the manifestations of Divine light do not escape from the trials and difficulties.” (see Mesa. II, 2218-2251)

Bâyezîd gave heed to these mystical sayings, and put them in his ear as a golden ring. Through the conversation of this sheikh, his heart received a share of mercy. He then continued his trip with a peaceful mind and heart.

Through these kind of beautiful examples, Rumi guides the hearts to the truth of the pilgrimage and adrises the believers who intend to go on pilgrimage:

“When the time of pilgrimage arrives, go there with the intention of visiting and circumambulating the Ka’ba. If you go with this intention you will see the reality of Mecca”.

The reason why Rumi gives the example of pilgrimage is that it is a very delicate act of worship. Many legal things that are allowed in other times of the year are forbidden in this time. Therefore, the pilgrim first should prepare his heart to be able to perform this difficult duty. From the first moment the pilgrim intends to go on pilgrimage, Satan tries his best to corrupt its quality. The pilgrimage journey seems very easy and enjoyable but it is full of difficulties. This is also true for the rites of pilgrimage hence the pilgrim needs to adorn himself with Patience and forbearance. Hence the pilgrim should pray: O my Allah! Please make it easy for me!

We should not forget when we chant at the pilgrimage time: “Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk Lâ Sharîka laka Labbayk, Innal Hamda wan-ni’mata laka wal mulk lâ Sharîka laka”.

“Here I am at your service O Allah, Here I am at your service (I respond to Your call, and I am obedient to Your orders) You have no partner, Here I am. Surely, all the praise and blessing and sovereignty are for You.You have no partner.”

As a matter of fact, we confirm that we are answering his invitation. We are admitting that in the kingdom of heavens and earth there is no partner with Allah. Hence, we are promising to Him that we shall not obey the temptations of Satan and the ego.

Otherwise, if we perform the pilgrimage heedlessly, without obeying the principles we have recounted so far, it will not benefit us. In particular, those who go to the holy lands with illegal earnings and savings that are in conflict with the most essential principle of Islam, that is, no act of worship can be performed with religiously illegal earnings. Hence, their words “we are at your service” will signify that “we are not at your service” since we broke the most significant rule of the pilgrimage.

Hence we can say that the most important rule of the pilgrimage is halâl (religiously legal) earnings, then secondly a sincere heart. Every time the pilgrim says “labbayk” these words should light a fire in his heart. Only in that way can a believer can approach Allah. Otherwise mere words without really meaning it have no benefit. Hadrat Husain’s face, the grandson of the Prophet (pbuh), would turn pale whenever he said “Labbayk” fearing that the answer from Allah would be “lâ labbayk.” May Allah enable us to perform the pilgrimage with both our bodies and souls.

The principles of pilgrimage guide man to mercy and a more spiritual life. When he wears the special white seamless garment (called ihram) he leaves all sorts of rough and unkind behavior. It makes man kinder and nicer since hunting animals, plucking the plants, breaking the green branches of trees and hurting creatures are forbidden during the days of pilgrimage.

Allah the Almighty, states in the Qur’an:

“So whoever determines the performance of the pilgrimage therein, there shall be no intercourse nor fornication nor quarrelling amongst one another; and whatever good you do, Allah knows it; and make provision, for surely the best provision is the guarding of oneself, and be careful (of your duty) to Me, O men of understanding. (Baqara, 2:197)

The pilgrims will not fight and hurt others, they will behave nicely and kindly to others for the sake of their Creator. In particular, hurting the hearts of the believers is considered a big sin. Therefore Hadrat Omar would not kiss the Black Stone in order not to hurt other pilgrims due to the crowding.

In Islam, every kind of worship begins with an intention. The intention for pilgrimage begins with wearing ihrâm. Having put on this special garment, the pilgrim is transformed into a spiritual state, leaving his ordinary conduct. The white garment reminds him of death and the shroud. Hence he spends his time in contemplating death and how to make preparations for it. With all its eloquent principles, pilgrimage makes man attain the highest state as informed by the Qur’an:

“Surely We created man of the best stature.”(Tîn, 95:4)

The Prophet (pbuh) gives the following good news for the pilgrims: The greater pilgrimage and the lesser pilgrimage cleanse the pilgrim’s sins as the nitric acid of the goldsmith cleans gold and silver. (Nesâî, Tirmizî)

The following hadith also gives good news for the pilgrims: The Prophet (pbuh) said, “Whoever performs Hajj for Allah’s pleasure and does not have sexual relations with his wife and does not do evil or sins, then he will return as if he were born anew (without any sins remaining).” (Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 26, Number 596)

This good news is valid for those who have performed the Hajj in an acceptable way, which is called al-Hajj al-Mabrûr. Those who have achieved this level of pilgrimage also attain the following virtues:

1- Sense of responsibility,

2-Pardoning nature,

3-Keeping the body and actions pure,

4-Islamic brotherhood,

5-Concsciousness that superiority is only on the basis of taqwâ i.e. awe of Allah,

6-Legal earning

7-Sincerity

Hence, pilgrimage is not just an act of worship performed for Allah. It also develops man’s capabilities. It develops the social, moral and political condition of the Ummah. It teaches the universal aspects of Islam more than any other act of worship.

On the personal level, pilgrimage gives man a chance to evaluate his actions and behaviors and to correct his mistakes for the future life.

Pilgrimage is obligatory once in a lifetime. However, as in the daily prayers and fasting, a believer can perform supererogatory pilgrimages as well. Some Muslims consider going on pilgrimage more than once as a waste of money. This kind of heedless remark borders on disbelief and only those who do not understand the purpose and the transformative power of Hajj can utter such a remark.

From the Time of Happiness (the time of the Prophet), Muslims have always practiced the supererogatory acts of worship with devotion and love. These willingly performed acts of worship bring the servant closer to Allah as stated in the well-known hadith. They give depth and insight to the soul. They render the Muslim more generous and merciful. Allah becomes their eyes by which they see, the ears by which to hear. In short, their acts such as hearing, thinking become guided by the Divine Light.

This spiritual development can be realized through supererogatory acts of worship and showing mercy to the creation. The great Imam Abu Hanifah, went on pilgrimage 55 times. I think this shows the significance of the pilgrimage and there is no need for extra words.