The Great Ka’bah is the direction towards which believers turn their faces during their prayers, which is commanded by Allah the Almighty saying “prostrate in adoration and bring yourself closer (to Allah).” (Alaq 96; 19) Since all believers turn towards it, the Ka’bah is the place where the heart of the Muslim world beats. Just like the heart being the place of Divine manifestations in the human body, the Ka’bah is the place of Divine manifestations in this universe. Because of this, pilgrimage is an act of worship which has to be performed in awareness of the magnificence of the Ka’bah and with a sensitive heart.
The Ka’bah, which is also called as Baitullah or the House of Allah, has been a sacred place for believers since the time of the prophet Adam (Peace Be Upon Him). In the following verses the Holy Qur’an states the obligation to visit the Ka’bah upon those who are able to do so:
“The first house (of worship) appointed for human beings was the one at Bakka [Mecca], full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings:
In it are clear signs, the standing place of Abraham, and whoever enters it shall be secure, and pilgrimage to the House is incumbent upon men for the sake of Allah, (upon) everyone who is able to undertake the journey to it; and those who disbelieve should know that surely Allah is Self-sufficient, above any need of the worlds.”(Al-i Imran 3; 96-97)
Maqam-i Ibrahim or the standing place of Abraham (Peace Be Upon Him) is in the Ka’bah. Allah the Almighty asks from the believers to walk where His friend Abraham walked and to perform the prayer of circumambulation close to place of his footprint.
Hajar al-Aswad is a blessed black stone, which is respectfully kissed by the pilgrims as a sign of paying allegiance to Allah the Almighty and promising to obey Him. Greeting it during the circumambulation means to promise to leave all of our selfish and evil desires behind.
Hajar al-Aswad is the point of beginning and finishing the circumambulation around the Ka’bah. Almost every piece of the Ka’bah has been changed since its construction except this black stone. It has been kissed by many blessed lips, including those of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). It has been touched by many blessed hands. Because of this, while it was once an ordinary stone, it has gained its effective and beloved place in the hearts of those who believe.
With these and many more qualities the Ka’bah is like the shadow of the Divine Throne on this world and a source of blessings. In other words, it is a shining mirror reflecting Allah’s attributes of mercy and benevolence. It is a sun, or a fountain of light, illuminating the soul.
According to the reports about the construction of the Ka’bah, after Adam (Peace Be Upon Him) and our mother Eve were expelled from Paradise, they reunited at Arafat and walked together towards the west. They finally came to the place of the Ka’bah. Just then, Adam (Peace Be Upon Him) wanted to pray to Allah to give thanks for bestowing their reunion. He asked Allah for the pillar of light that they used to circumambulate around in Paradise. The pillar appeared at the place where the Ka’bah is standing today; so Adam (Peace Be Upon Him) began to turn around it as an act of worship.
This pillar of light disappeared during the time of the Prophet Seth (Peace Be Upon Him) and only a black stone remained behind. Upon this Seth (Peace Be Upon Him) constructed a cubic building at the same place and placed the black stone on one of its corners. This is the stone that we know as Hajar al-Aswad today.
After the Flood, this building stayed under the sand for long time. By the order of Allah the Almighty Abraham (Peace Be Upon Him) went to the location of Ka’bah and settled there with his son Ishmael (Peace Be Upon Him) and his wife Hagar. Then together with his son, he dug at the place where the Ka’bah had been built. They discovered the foundations of the building constructed by Seth (Peace Be Upon Him) and rebuilt the Great Ka’bah upon the same foundations. When the construction was completed, Abraham (Peace Be Upon Him) prayed to Allah the Almighty saying:
“…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…”(al-Baqara 2; 126)
As a blessing of Abraham’s supplication, sweetness of faith and worldly beauties have been hand in hand in Mecca since those times.
Throughout history the Ka’bah was rebuilt eleven times. The first one was by angels; the second one was by Adam (Peace Be Upon Him); the third time was by Seth (Peace Be Upon Him); the fourth one was by Abraham (Peace Be Upon Him); the fifth time was by the people of Amaliqa; the sixth one was by the clan of Jurhum; the seventh one was by the clan of Qusai; the eighth one was by the people of Quraish; the ninth one was by Abdullah b. Zubair, one of the successors of the Companions; the tenth one was by Hajjaj b. Yusuf or the infamous Hajjaj the oppressor; and the last one was by Ottoman Sultan Murad IV.
The manifestations of the Ottomans’ special respect to the Ka’bah were observed during this last reconstruction work. Below are some of them:
During the reign of Murad IV there was a flood in Mecca and two sides of Ka’bah were collapsed. Ridvan Aga, the head architect of the palace, was immediately sent to Mecca for the reconstruction. When making his initial assessment the head architect considered it inappropriate to use words like “collapsed or destroyed” in respect to the Respected Ka’bah and instead he expressed the situation as follows:
“Such and such parts of the Ka’bah went down to the place of prostration.”
It is also remarkable that precautions were taken for the animals carrying the necessary equipment of the reconstruction not to pollute those holy places.
HILLS OF SAFA AND MARWA AND RUNNING BETWEEN THEM (SA’I)
Safa and Marwa are two blessed hills close to the zamzam well. These were the hills where Hagar (may Allah be pleased with her) worriedly ran between with the hope to find some water for her thirsty son Ishmael (Peace Be Upon Him). Therefore running between them as part of pilgrimage is a manifestation of reverence towards Allah and our confession of our weakness and nothingness before Him. This is why it is added among the requirements of pilgrimage under the name of sa’i (or exertion and endeavor). Allah the Almighty states the significance of these hills as follows:
“Behold! Safa and Marwah are among the symbols of Allah…”(al-Baqara 2; 158)
In another verse, our Lord Almighty notes how we should behave before His signs:
“…and whoever respects the signs of Allah, this surely is (the outcome) of the piety of hearts.”(al-Hajj 22; 32)