[Allah has made the Ka`bah, the sacred house, a maintenance for the people] (Al-Ma’idah 5:97)

[Most surely the first house appointed for men is the one at Bakka, blessed and guidance for the nations] (Al `Imran 3: 96)

[And when Ibrahim and Isma`il raised the foundations of the house: Our Lord, accept from us: Thou art the Hearing, the Knowing] (Al-Baqarah 2: 127)

There was a disagreement on the reason for calling the Glorious House the Ka`bah.

Some said that it was called the Kabah because it was square. The Arabs would call every square house kabah. Some said that the Kabah was unique in its building. Some even said that it was named Kabah because of its height from the ground.

Ibn Al-Athir said in Al-Nihayah: “Everything that goes high is kabah, thus the Inviolable House (Al-Bayt Al-Haram) was called the Kabah. Some said that it was named so because of its cubic shape, that is quadrate.”

Who Was the Builder of the Ka`bah?

Historians, narrators, and others differed on who was the builder of the Ka`bah. Some said the angels were the first builders. Others said the first builder was Adam. Still others said that he was Sheeth (Seth). Others said it was Ibrahim, known as Khaleel Allah (the intimate friend of Allah).

The most authentic version is that the Prophet Ibrahim (may peace be upon him) built it. However, narrators differ on this also. Originally, was there a house before Ibrahim went to Makkah? When Ibrahim went there, he constructed the Ka`bah on its foundations. Was Ibrahim the founder and builder of the place as it is now?

Some modern historians believe that Ibrahim (may peace be upon him) was a renovator of the ancient house. There were traces of the original one, regardless of whether the first builder was Adam or others. These scholars support this argument with verses from the Glorious Qur’an. It is taken for granted that Ibrahim was behind raising the foundations of the house along with his son Ismail. Ibn Abbas said concerning this, “Ibrahim was building while Ismail was helping him.” Other exponents said that both Ibrahim and Ismail were involved in raising the foundations, as, according to the Glorious Qur’an: [Ibrahim was raising the foundations of the House, with [his son] Ismail. They were saying, “Our Lord, accept from us: Thou art the Hearing, the Knowing.”] (Al-Baqarah 2: 127) Some, depending on this verse, maintain that Ibrahim raised the foundations after they had been covered and scattered by floods and other natural factors. They also maintain that what Ibrahim was raising with Ismail’s help was for worship rather than for living, for in their duaa’ (supplication) Ibrahim and Ismail said, “Our Lord, accept from us.”

Ibrahim (May Peace Be upon Him) and Raising the Foundations

There are several versions of the story of Ibrahim and how he arrived in Makkah and how he raised the foundations of the Ka`bah. We mention here what Al-Qummi mentioned in his explanation quoted from the truthful Prophet (may the peace be upon him) which contains the following stories:

Ibrahim and his wife Hajar and his son Isma`il left for Makkah. At the time, Ibrahim pledged to his wife Sarah, whom he left behind in Ash-Sham, that he would not live in Makkah until he returned to her. When they arrived, they found trees. Hajar threw clothing onto a tree to take shade under it. Then Ibrahim decided to leave them to go back to Sarah. Hajar said to him, “How come you want to leave us alone without anyone with us and with no water and food?” Ibrahim replied, “Allah ordered me to put you in this place. He will suffice.” And he left them. When he arrived at a place called Keda’, a mountain with pasture, he turned around and said, “Our Lord, I have settled some of my children in an uncultivable valley near Thy Sacred House, our Lord, that they may observe Prayer. So makes men’s hearts incline towards them and provide them with fruits that they may be thankful.” Then he left and Hajar remained.

At midday, Ismail grew thirsty. Hajar walked and ascended As-Safa. She saw a mirage in the valley and thought it was water. She went to it, and when she got to Al-Marwah, Ismail could not be seen. She returned back to As-Safa and looked around and did the same seven times. In the seventh round, at Al-Marwah, she looked at Ismail and saw water running under his feet. She returned and gathered sand around it. It was liquid. She rolled (zammat) it, thus the place was named Zamzam. The Jurhum tribe was the first to live in Makkah after water became abundant. When the water appeared, it attracted the birds and other beasts. The Jurhum looked at the birds and other beasts drinking from there. The tribe followed the birds and the beasts and there they found a woman and a child living in the place, under the shade of a tree, with water around them. They said to her, “Who are you? Who is this boy?” She said, “I am the mother of Ibrahim’s son. This is his son. Allah asked him to leave us here.” They said, “Would you allow us to live near you?” She said. “Until Ibrahim comes back.”

When Ibrahim visited them on the third day, Hajar told him, “O Khaleel Allah, there are people from Jurhum who would like to ask you whether you would allow them to live nearby.” He replied in the affirmative and then Hajar allowed them. They erected their tents and thus Hajar and her son became more secure. In the second visit, Ibrahim saw many people around them. He was so pleased. Each of the Jurhum gave Ismail one or two sheep. Hajar and Ismail were living by them.

When Ismail grew up, Allah ordered Ibrahim to build the House. But Ibrahim did not know on which site to build it. Then Allah sent Jibreel (Angel Gabriel), and he showed Ibrahim the site. Ibrahim built the House, with Ismail helping him with stones from a place called Dhu Tawa, and he raised the place nine arm lengths in the sky. Jibreel also directed him to the place of the Black Stone. He placed it in its position. When he built the House, he made two doors for it: one east, one west. The western one was called Al-Mustajar. Hajar threw clothing over its door. When they completed the building, both Ibrahim and Ismail performed Hajj. Jibreel descended to them on the Day of Tarwiyah, the 8th day of Dhul-Hijjah, and said, “O Ibrahim, stand up and drink from the water.” Then he took him to Mina and there he slept in it. After completion of the building, Ibrahim called, “O Lord, make this place live in security, provide its people with fruit, those who believe in You.”

In the history, it was said that the date of building the House included some supernatural things.

In some of these stories, it was told that the House, when first built, was a dome of light that descended on Adam and settled in the place where Ibrahim was to build the House. It remained until the flood of Noah. When the earth was flooded, Allah the Almighty raised it, so that place never became flooded. That was the reason behind the name the Ancient House.

The Attempt to Demolish the Ka`bah

The People of the Elephant: Abrahah and the Swarm of Birds

Abraha built Al-Qullies in Sana’. He built a church the like of which had never been seen on earth before. Then he wrote to Al-Najashi (the Emperor) of Abyssinia telling him that he had built for him, as a king, a church the like of which had never been built for a king on earth before and that he would seek to make the Arabs make pilgrimage to it.

Then he set out in his endeavour to demolish the Kabah. Abraha sent Al-Aswad ibn Maqsood on horses to Makkah. He confiscated property belonging to the Tuhama clan of the Quraysh and he also confiscated 200 camels belonging toAbdul-Muttalib ibn Hashim, who, at the time, was master of the Quraysh. The Quraysh, Kinanah and Huthayl decided to fight Al-Aswad. Then they learned that they would not be able to defeat him, so they turned away from him.

After that, Abraha sent Hanatta Al-Himiyari to Makkah. He said to him, “Ask for its master and then tell him that the king will come to demolish the House (Kabah), and if you do not oppose him, he will not shed your blood.” When Al-Himiyari entered Makkah, he asked about the Quraysh’s master. He was told that he wasAbdul-Muttalib ibn Hashim. He went to him and informed him of Abraha’s message. `Abdul-Muttalib said to him, “We don’t seek to fight him. We are helpless. This is the House of Allah and the House of Ibrahim.” Al-Himiyari said, “Come with me. He asked me to take you with me.” They both went with a few of his children and arrived at the camp.

Then Anis said to Abraha, “O King, this is the Quraysh’s master at the door. He wants to see you.” He was permitted. `Abdul-Muttalib was the most handsome of all people. When Abraha saw him, he honored him and respected him, but hated to seat him beneath him. He also hated to allow the people of Abyssinia to see him sitting next to him. Abraha got off his bed and sat on a mattress and made him sit beside him. Then he asked if he needed something.

`Abdul-Muttalib said, “My need is that the king should return to me the 200 camels taken from me.”

Abraha told his interpreter, “Tell him that when I saw him, I admired him, but now I don’t because he is asking for the 200 camels. How come you do not talk to me about your House, home of your religion and your ancestors that I have come to demolish?”

`Abdul-Muttalib said, “I am the lord of the camels. The House has a Lord Who will protect it.”

Abraha said, “He wouldn’t prevent me from destroying it.”

`Abdul-Muttalib said, “You and Him.”

When they left him, Abdul-Muttalib went back to the Quraysh and told them the story. He asked them to leave Makkah and go to the mountains for fear of Abraha’s army.Abdul-Muttalib took the Kabah door ring. A group of the Quraysh went with him and they started beseeching Allah to defeat Abraha and his soldiers.Abdul-Muttalib, while holding the Ka`bah door ring, said, “O Allah, don’t allow their cross to be victorious.”

Then Abdul-Muttalib sent back the ring of the Kabah’s door. He and others from Quraysh set out to the mountains, waiting to see what Abraha would do with Makkah if he entered it. Abraha, sitting on his elephant Mahmoud, was preparing himself to enter Makkah with his elephants and soldiers. He directed the elephants towards Makkah. One Qurayshi, called Nufayl ibn Habib Al-Juthu’mi, came close to Abraha’s elephant and told it, “Sit down, Mahmoud, or go back to where you came from because you are inside the House of Allah.” After he finished talking into the elephant’s ear, the elephant sat down and no one was able to send it towards Makkah. Then Allah the Almighty sent small flying birds from the seaside carrying three stones each, the size of peas or beans or lentils. The birds dropped the stones on the army and each one on whom a stone was dropped was killed. Some were hit while others fled back home. Abraha was also hit in his body. His people took him to Sana’ and there he died a miserable death.

When Allah sent the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to the Quraysh, he was a blessing to them from Allah as well as a favor. In the Glorious Qur’an, Allah reminds the people of the Quraysh how he protected them and the Holy Ka`bah from Abraha. Allah says: [Hast thou not seen how thy Lord dealt with the People of the Elephant? Did He not cause their plan to miscarry? And He sent against them swarm of birds which ate their carrion, striking them against stones of clay. And thus made them like broken straw, eaten up.] (Al-Fil 105:1-5) He also said, [Because of the attachment of the Quraysh-His making them attached to their journey in winter and summer- They should worship the Lord of this House, Who has fed them against hunger, and has given them security against fear.] (Quraysh 106: 1-4)

Merit of Makkah Over Other Areas

In his book Shafa’ Al-Gharam, Al-Fasi Al-Makki quoted narrators such as Ash-Shami, At-Tarmathi, and Ibn Majah as saying that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) sitting on his camel said of Makkah, “By Allah, you are the best and the dearest to me of all Allah’s lands, and had I not been banished I would never have left you.”

Makkah is also home to the House of Allah and the qiblah of all Muslims, dead or alive. In Makkah, the Prophet was born. There were also so many statements as to the merits of Makkah and its status. Some of what has been said about its merits are:

At-Tirmidhi said: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to Makkah, “I do know that you are the dearest to me of all lands, and the dearest to Allah of all His lands, and had the polytheists not banished me, I would never have left you.” Said ibnAbdullah Al-Araj said, quoting AbuAbdullah as saying, “The dearest land to Allah is Makkah, and no soil is dearer to Allah than its soil, and no stone dearer to Allah than its stones, and no tree dearer to Allah than its trees, and no mountain dearer to Allah than its mountains, and no water dearer to Allah than its water.”

He also said in another quote: “Allah the Almighty never created a piece of land dearer to Him than (and here he pointed to Makkah).”

Merit of Prayer in Makkah

Prayer in the Makkah Mosque is better than praying in other mosques. There are several references to this. Ibn `Amr reported that the Prophet was reported to have said, “Prayers in my mosque are better than 1,000 times of Prayer at other mosques, except at Al-Masjid Al-Haram.” (Reported by Ahmad, Muslim, and An-Nisai’)

Jubayr ibn Mutam reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Prayers in my mosque are better than 1,000 Prayers at other mosques except at Al-Masjid Al-Haram.” (Reported by Ahmad, At-Tayalisi, and At-Tabrani, as was mentioned by As-Suyuti in Al-Jami Al-Kabeer)

It was also mentioned that Abul-Hassan (may Allah be pleased with him) quoted his father as saying, “Praying in Al-Haram Mosque equals 100,000 Prayers.”

Also, Abul-Hassan (may Allah be pleased with him) said: I asked him, “Is it better that a man prays in a group at his house or alone in Al-Masjid Al-Haram?” He replied, “Alone.”

As-Sadik (may Allah be pleased with him) quoted his father as saying: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “A Prayer in my mosque equals 10,000 of praying in another mosque, except in Al-Masjid Al-Haram, where the Prayer in it equals 100,000 Prayers.”

Demolition of the Ka`bah and Its Reconstruction

The Ka`bah has undoubtedly been built several times, but there are disagreements on the how many times. Many events have taken place, both natural disasters and man-made catastrophes.

Al-Fasi, in Shafa’ Al-Gharam, has this to say: “Undoubtedly the Kabah was built several times. There has been disagreement about the number of these reconstructions. Some said it was constructed ten times: by the angels, Adam, Sheeth (Seth), Khaleel Allah (Ibrahim), Amaliqa, the Jurhum, the Qusai ibn Kilab, the Quraysh,Abdullah ibn Az-Zubayr, and by Al-Hajjaj, as explained earlier. Those of the angels, Adam, and his son were not mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an. Ibrahim Al-Khaleel’s building of the Ka`bah was mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an.”

The Kabah is still the building of Ibrahim until it was built by Jurhum, as was mentioned by Al-Azraqi quotingAli (may Allah be pleased with him) and Abdullah ibnAbbas.

When the House was taken over by Qusai ibn Kilab in the second century before Hijrah, he demolished it and rebuilt it strongly and roofed it with pieces of wood and palm tree branches. He also built next to it Dar An-Nadwah, the first public building after the Ka`bah in Makkah. There he had his government, a home for consultation with his followers, and all their political and social issues were discussed inside it.

The sides of the glorious House were divided among the people of the Quraysh. They built their houses along the surrounding area and opened their doors to it.

Five years before Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) became a prophet, a flood demolished the Kabah. The Quraysh met to discuss the problem and agreed to divide its reconstruction among the tribes. The builder was the Roman Baqoom, with the assistance of an Egyptian carpenter. When they came to the Black Stone, they all differed on which tribe should have the honor of putting it in its original place. They were all about to fight over that issue. At that time, Muhammad, who was 35 years old, was working with them. He was very much respected for his good conduct and perfect morals. They used to call him “The Honest” or Al-Ameen. They agreed to allow the first person to enter the mosque to make the decision for them. He was the first and they accepted him as an arbitrator. He asked for a garment and put the stone on it and asked the tribesmen to hold it from its edges. They lifted the stone and placed it in the eastern side of the building and then he lifted it and put it in its place. In so doing, with this lofty idea and sound policy, he ended the tension among the tribes. They did not have enough money, so they built the Kabah as it is now. Previously Al-Hijr (the Chamber) was inside of it.

When Abdullah ibn Az-Zubayr became governor of Makkah, Yazeed ibn Mu’awiyah sent Al-Hussayn ibn Numayr with a large attacking army. Ibn Az-Zubayr resorted to Al-Masjid Al-Haram. Ibn Numayr struck the mosque with his weapons, thus destroying the Kabah and burning its kiswah and its wood. When Yazeed died, Ibn Numayr retreated with his army from Makkah.

Then Ibn Az-Zubayr thought of demolishing it and rebuilding it on Ibrahim’s foundations. He brought gypsum from Yemen and used it for construction. He included the Hijr inside the Kabah and made its door down to the ground. Opposite the door, to the west, he opened another door for people’s exit. He made the height of the Kabah 27 cubits.

When he completed the reconstruction, he perfumed it with amber and musk fragrance on the inside and outside, and he also dressed it with brocade.

The building was completed on 17 Rajab 64 a.h. When `Abdul Malik ibn Marwan became a caliph, he sent an army, led by Al-Hajjaj, to Ibn Az-Zubayr. Al-Hajjaj besieged Makkah and fought and killed Ibn Az-Zubayr in 73 a.h.

Al-Hajjaj entered Makkah and wrote to Abdul Malik informing him of Ibn Az-Zubayr’s changes to the Kabah. `Abdul Malik put him in charge of it and ordered him to bring it back to its original state as it was during the Prophet’s time. Al-Hajjaj tore down its northern side (Ash-Shami) about six cubits and one fist, raised the eastern door, and closed the western one that had been added by Az-Zubayr. He did not make any other changes. Then he compacted its ground with stones taken from its rubble.

Therefore, the Ka`bah now goes back to Ibn Az-Zubayr in its eastern, southern and western sides, and the northern side was built by Al-Hajjaj. No other changes have been made since then except the construction of its roof during Sultan Sulayman’s time in the year 960 and the renovation made during Sultan Ahmad’s rule in 1021. This was followed by the reconstruction made by Sultan Murad IV in the wake of a huge flood that took place in 1039, in which water rose to a depth of two meters. The flood destroyed its northern, western, and eastern walls. There were also a few minor constructions afterwards.

By Sheikh Yousuf Raghad Al-A`mili