Islam Sacred Mosque of Mecca al Masjid al-HaramQuran 2:125 - We have rendered the shrine (the Kaaba) a focal point for the people, and a safe sanctuary. You may use Abraham's shrine as a prayer house. We commissioned Abraham and Ishmael: "You shall purify My house for those who visit, those who live there, and those who bow and prostrate." Click for more info on Islam, the Prophet & Mecca 's Kaaba Stone
Now's the moment to say special prayers, for your family or anyone else you want to pray for, said my Lebanese companion Ahmed. As he spoke, we caught a first glimpse of the black cloth cover of the Kaaba through the arches of the King Abdul Aziz Gate into the Grand Mosque in Mecca. I tried to remember all the people who had asked for prayers and mentally checked off their names, just in case. We picked our way through the crowds, some in the plain white cloth worn by pilgrims, others in ordinary street wear, according to their status under the complicated rules of the haj pilgrimage.
The overwhelming impression was of dazzling white marble and of arches with white plaster crenellations receding into the distance. The Saudi government has spared no expense in making this mosque, built around the focal point of daily worship for hundreds of millions of Muslims, into a monument inspiring awe and wonder among the millions who visit every year — especially those here for the first time. But the austere simplicity of the Kaaba itself, a plain stone cubic building covered in black cloth and wrapped in Arabic writing in golden silk, makes an even greater impression on visitors. Many raise their arms as it looms into sight from the edge of the inner courtyard, as if to protect themselves from some mysterious power, or perhaps to absorb some of the blessings they think it radiates.
Muslim pilgrims wait for a bus outside the Grand Mosque in Mecca, 14 Dec. 2007We skipped down the marble steps into the courtyard and made our way towards the Kaaba, joining a crowd of several thousand performing the tawaf ritual – the counter-clockwise circumambulation of the Kaaba, the first part of the umra ceremony which pilgrims usually perform on arrival in Mecca. The tawaf ritual predates Islam, possibly by many hundreds of years, and its origins may be lost in the mists of time. Muslims associate the Kaaba with the prophet Ibrahim, the biblical Abraham, seen as the founder of a pure monotheism which slowly declined until revived in the 7th century by the prophet of Islam. from On the haj: circling the Kaaba in Mecca
Al-Hajarul-Aswad - The Black Stone
from Answering Islam .com
In our study of the early period of Muhammad's life we noted an incident which occurred some five years prior to the beginning of his mission, namely the occasion when he was requested to place the Black Stone (al-hajarul-aswad) in the Ka'aba. When all the idols of the building were destroyed at the conquest of Mecca, this stone was preserved and every pilgrim to Mecca endeavours to kiss it in emulation of his prophet's practice. Why do they do this? One Muslim writer says of this rite:
Moslems do not worship the Black Stone, but only show special reverence and veneration for its dignity and they kiss it only after the example of the Prophet and to keep their Covenant with God to obey His Will and avoid His disobedience. (Tabbarah, The Spirit of Islam, p. 173).It is believed that the stone was sent down from heaven and that it was originally crystal-clear. "Moslems agree that it was originally white, and became black by reason of men's sins. It appeared to me a common aerolite covered with a thick slaggy coating, glossy and pitch-like, worn and polished" (Burton, Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to AI-Madinah and Meccah, Vol. 2, p.300). The Qur'an teaches that the Ka'aba was originally built by Abraham and Ishmael (Surah 2.125) and it is said that the stone, once embedded in the shrine, became black as it took the sins of those who kissed it. One writer says:
There is not the least indication to show where this stone came from and when it was placed there, but as it was there before the advent of Islam and was even kissed, it must have been there at least from the time of Abraham, as the main features of the hajj are traceable to that patriarch. (Ali, The Religion of Islam, p.440).There is no evidence of an historical nature in pre-Islamic records to back up the suggestion in the Qur'an that the Ka'aba was built by Abraham or that he practiced its pilgrimage rites. Historically the shrine and its ceremonies can only be traced to the pagan worship of the pre-Islamic Arabs. One can only express extreme scepticism at the hypothesis that the stone "must have been there" in Abraham's time.
As the Arab idols were generally made of stone - some fashioned into various forms, others unshapen - is it not probable that the Black Stone itself was an idol worshipped by the pagan Arabs? As the custom of kissing it has been retained in Islam the suggestion naturally appalls Muslims.
The Black Stone was never regarded as an idol by the pre-Islamic Arabs, nor was it ever worshipped by them like the idols of the Ka'bah . . . It, no doubt, contained idols, yet it was the idols that were worshipped, not the Ka'bah; and the same is true of the Black Stone. It was kissed but never taken for a god, though the Arabs worshipped even unhewn stones, trees and heaps of sand. (Ali, The Religion of Islam, p.440, 441).Why, then, did the pagan Arabs make a special point of kissing it as Ali himself admits? What significance did it have for them if it was not an idol? It is, perhaps, too remarkable to believe that it was not worshipped as an idol. After all, stone gods were the very thing the Arabs reverenced, whether shapen into some form or not. Another Muslim writer says:
Is it not unfortunate that so many Orientalists have misinterpreted the Muslim's veneration of the Ka'bah, the Black Stone and the pilgrimage rites as a whole, imagining them as some kind of idol worship, or dismissing the rites as silly, ridiculous or merely the relics of idolatrous superstition? Another faulty assumption is that the rites of pilgrimage were remnants of a pre-Islamic cult included by the Prophet in an attempt to reconcile the idolatrous Meccans with the faith. (Khalifa, The Sublime Qur'an and Orientalism, p. 140).One understands the Muslim determination to absolve Islam of a relic of idol-worship in its pilgrimage rites but it does seem most improbable that this stone, one of the sacred stones built into the Ka'aba by the pre-Islamic Arabs, just somehow happened to be exempted from the adoration and worship afforded to the others. This seems even more improbable when we remember that it was over this stone that they argued even before Muhammad's mission when rebuilding the Ka'aba, finally requesting Muhammad himself to replace it. This clearly shows that they regarded it more highly than all the other idols in the shrine and it is most unlikely that it escaped the worship paid to them. It seems far more probable that it was a "fetish pure and simple" (Gairdner, The Reproach of Islam, p.156) and that it was, if anything, the chief idol in the shrine, a stone worshipped like all the others. At least one Muslim writer has admitted as much:
In fact, the Arabs venerated these stones so much that not only did they worship the black stone in the Ka'bah, but they would take one of the stones of the Ka'bah as a holy object in their travels, praying to it and asking it to bless every move they made. (Haykal, The Life of Muhammad, p. 30)As the Arabs worshipped all the stone idols of the Ka'aba it seems historically more probably that this worship has a legacy in the reverence paid today to the Black Stone rather than the Arab worship of stones arose out of the sanctity of the Black Stone which somehow escaped this worship and adoration.
The most singular feature in this worship was the adoration paid to unshapen stones. Mussulmans hold that this practice arose out of the Kaaba rites . . . The tendency to stone-worship was undoubtedly prevalent throughout Arabia; but it is more probable that it gave rise to the superstition of the Kaaba with its Black stone, than took its rise therefrom. (Muir, The Life of Mahomet, p. xci)Another writer is probably close to the mark when he says that the Black Stone was "the great fetish, the principal though not the only divinity of the Quraish clan" (Lammens, Islam: Beliefs and Institutions, p. 17). In any event, there appears to be no point in kissing the stone and Muslims will be hard-pressed to find a really sound reason for the perpetuation of a practice more suited to primitive pagan idolatry than the true spirit of monotheistic worship.
The kiss which the pious Muhammadan pilgrim bestows on it is a survival of the old practice, which was a form of worship in Arabia as in many other lands. (Tisdall, The Original Sources of the Qur'an, p. 43).Even one of Muhammad's closest companions, the second caliph Umar, had his own doubts about the wisdom of this ceremony and had some interesting things to say to the Stone. It is recorded in many works of Hadith literature and reads:
The tradition that the stone originally came down from heaven seems to account for its origin and eminence. Burton believed it to be an aerolite and it is highly probable that it was quite simply a meteorite which, because it had fallen out of the sky, was treated with awe by the primitive Arabs. One is reminded of the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus which was highly esteemed because it contained, "the sacred stone that fell from the sky" (Acts 19.35). The Black Stone, in all probability, was simply a meteorite reverenced as a god in the same way by the Arabs. Its retention in Islam, especially the primitive custom of kissing it, speaks volumes for the pagan character of the Hajj Pilgrimage as a whole.
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