Architectural and artistic monuments are valued for their beauty, their grandeur and their ability to pass on the history and culture of their ancestors to their descendants.
But there are also such creations whose heritage is priceless, whose role and importance is infinite, and whose beauty lies not in the brilliance of their façades but in what the whole world cannot see. One of these extraordinary cultural sites is the stone Kaaba, the main Muslim shrine in Mecca.
The Kabba is a cube located in the courtyard of al-Mesjed al-Haram. The mosque has a total area of 193,000 square metres. Muslims call this sacred space the ‘holy house’, and it is here, hidden from view, that the Kaaba is located. Its name comes from the word cube, which is logical, since the structure is actually a cube, although immediately after its construction, its shape did not exactly resemble this figure. The word Kaaba in ancient Arabic meant a high place of veneration. This, of course, also fits the description of the shrine, but there is another suggestion. In Arabic, the word Kaaba means ‘foothold’ or ‘foundation’. Perhaps the shrine is so named so that its name betrays the true hopes of those who pray for help and support.
The history of the Kaaba
There are many legends and stories surrounding theKaaba and everything connected with it. According to one version, the black cube is the stone that God gave Adam after he sinned. According to this theory, the Kaaba is considered a symbol of mankind’s weakness and repentance.
Another legend says that the Kaaba is a heavenly temple sent to earth for Adam, who longed to pray there. This story also explains the black colour of the shrine. It is said that when he came down to earth, the temple was completely white, but because of the constant contact of sinners, its surface gradually turned black.
There is also a legend that the Kaaba was built by the first man, Adam.
It is not known when and by whom the stone was actually erected. But, not far from the shrine is a flat rock known as Makam Ibrahim. Legend has it that the shrine was built by Ibrahim, but it is also said that he did so with the help of a stone that gave him the ability to fly and thus aided in the construction. It is also said that the archangel Gabriel helped him in his work and told everyone that the Kaaba was a copy of the temple where Adam prayed. Since then, the people of the Arabian Peninsula began to consider this place as the house of God. This predates the rise of Islam. Pilgrims from all over the world came to worship at the Kaaba and this made the city of Mecca very popular. The development of transport routes attracted people from different lands and faiths to the shrine. It was worshipped by Hindus, Sabeans, Persians, Jews and even Christians.
Eventually, the Kaaba was worshipped exclusively by Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad contributed to this by attaching his staff to its surface. In 623 he made it a rule to have people pray facing the shrine and not Jerusalem, as was previously the case.
The subsequent history of the black stone has been subjected to many trials. In 930 it was stolen by Shi’ite sectarians. They recovered the shrine, but only after 20 years. Many doubted that it was the same cube and threw it into the water. Convinced that the stone did not sink before, the faithful put it back in place. But for some reason, the shrine has been a nuisance to many. Detractors tried to destroy the stone and even burn it, and as a result, the integrity of the Kaaba was broken, splitting it into 15 pieces.
But despite all this, the Kaaba has been rebuilt and is still worshipped by millions of Muslims today.
It is likely that past attacks and arson attacks on the Kaaba may have prompted the faithful to take better care of it and protect it from all sorts of evils. This desire led to the direct covering of the cube with a cloth. For the first time, it was covered by the king of Yemen. It took 875 metres of silver-embroidered cloth to cover the shrine. This tradition has survived to this day. The cloth is changed regularly after ablutions. It is at this time that access to the Kaaba is granted to the faithful.
The directions of the Kaaba
The mysterious black stone of the Kaaba is 15 metres high. The cube is 10 metres wide and 12 metres long. Each corner of the shrine faces the directions of the world and is individually named. The northern corner is called Iraqi, the western corner Levantine, the eastern corner stony, and the southern corner Yemeni.
The building is made of granite and covered with fabric. A striking feature of the building is the door leading into the interior. It is made of solid gold and weighs about 300 kg. Of course, it is only a decoration, but this does not detract from its title as the most expensive door in the world.
The Kaaba: what’s inside
Many wonder what lies behind the luxurious golden door. In the past, the stone was accessible to the wealthy pilgrim. Today, only the faithful are allowed to approach the shrine, slipping through the crowd. It is not possible for anyone to enter the cube. Those are the rules. This makes the interest in the inner workings of the Kaaba even greater. Only faith is invisible and weightless, it has no material certainty. Nothing should distract one from prayer, which is why there is a void inside the Kaaba. Paradoxically, the black shrine hides nothing behind the golden door, at least nothing material.
The interior of the shrine is decorated with marble slabs. The slab in front of the entrance is of a different colour. According to tradition, the Prophet Muhammad prayed here. On the walls are texts mentioning those who have cared for the House of God at different times.
The ornamental ceiling is decorated with silk fabrics and is supported by three rounded columns with crossbeams for censers. The only furniture is a small table. It is located in front of the entrance, between the columns. The exact purpose of this piece is unknown.
The sacred Kaaba
For the worshippers, the most valuable thing is not inside but outside. On the eastern side of the shrine is a small black stone with a red tinge. Muslims believe that Allah sent it to earth.
The real importance of the Kaaba lies in its religious significance. Believers from all over the world come here to perform the ritual of Tawaf, circumambulating the structure seven times, kissing it and praying.
The nature of the black stone Kaaba
What is the black cube placed in the courtyard of the Meccan temple according to scholars? Researchers speculate that the nature of the stone is very similar to the cosmic one. This version is refuted by opponents, as the Kaaba cannot be a stone meteorite because it does not sink in water. Nor can it be an iron meteorite, as the cracks show.
Other scholars believe that the Kaaba is of volcanic origin, as Arabia is famous for its many extinct volcanoes.
It is not yet known which version is true. But those who travel to Mecca to pray and perform rituals don’t really care. All they know is that the stone has a powerful energy and is able to charge the petitioner with it. That is why the cloth-covered stone attracts pilgrims from all over the world who want to circle the shrine in ritual and touch the sacred walls.
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