(Allentown, PA, United States)
Quran 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.”
Millions of Muslims will congregated once again in the holy city of Mecca during this holiday season to perform the Hajj. It is the duty of all Muslims, to make the Hajj at least once in a lifetime. The Hajj is one of the five essential pillars of Islam along with the acceptance of belief in one God and the prophet hood of Muhammad. The other three pillars for Muslims are the daily prayers (Salaat) five times a day, the paying of a tax (Charity) and fasting (Saum) during the month of Ramadan.
The holiest place of worship and safest sanctuary for Muslims is the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Mecca is some seventy miles east of the Red Sea. It is sandy valley surrounded by rocky hills devoid of any vegetation. All Muslims, wherever they are in the world, pray five times a day in the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca. The direction of prayer is known as the Qibla. Although Kaaba has no direction (because of its cubic shape), by facing Kaaba when performing the prayers, you choose Allah’s direction and face Him. In addition, pilgrims walk around the Kaaba as part of the pilgrimage rituals. Such walk is known as Tawaf (circumambulating). Tawaf is like a roaring river circling around a Black stone. It is like a sun in the center while the people are like stars traveling in their orbit of the solar system. However, researchers have noted that the Ka’bah is accurately aligned on two heavenly phenomena – the cycles of the moon and the rising of Canopus, the brightest star after Sirius.
The Kaaba (ka’bah) the focal point of Mecca and a cubic stone structure 33 feet by 50 feet by 45 feet which stands in the center court of the Grand Mosque, Masjid-ul- Haram believed by Muslims to have been built by Adam, the descendants of Noah and rebuilt by Abraham and his son Ishmael. Kaaba is empty cube – nothing else, but center of our faith, prayers, love, life and death? Kaaba reflects no architectural skill, beauty and art. The building is very simple. Black rocks of “Ajoon” are laid on top of each other. There is no design or decoration involved. Its name, Kaaba, means a “cube” in terms of architectural design. The exterior of the Kaaba is usually covered with a large black cloth called the kiswah (“robe”) that has Quranic verses embroidered with gold thread on it. Each year a new one is created. Pre-Islamic Meccans used as a shrine for pagans idols, most notable of which were al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat. At the time before Islam, the Kaaba was used to house about 360 idols for the various tribes of Arabia. The Prophet Muhammad was against idol worship and preached that there was one God (Allah). And when he entered Mecca triumphantly, went inside the Kaaba and, with the help of his cousin and son in law Ali Ibne Abi Talib, destroyed all the idols of Kaaba. At one stage of this destruction of idols, the tallest of the idol Hubbol was brought down after Imam Ali had to stand on the shoulders of the Prophet to carry out God’s orders. The Prophet of Islam was reciting the Verse from the Qur’an “Truth hath come and falsehood hath vanished.” This was done in the 8th year of Hijra, 630 AD after the bloodless victory at Mecca by the Prophet of Islam.
Mecca is called “Baite-Atiq”. Atiq represents being free! Mecca belongs to nobody. It is free from the reign of rulers and oppressors; therefore, no one controls it. Allah is the owner of Mecca while the people are its residents. Under the provisions of Islam, the Muslim is allowed to shorten his prayers if traveling at least forty miles away from his home. But at Mecca, regardless of where you are from or how far you have traveled, your prayer is complete. It is your land; your community and you are safe. You are not a visitor, but you are at home. The Saudis are mere custodians of the Kaaba. What gives them the right to destroy and bulldozed 1000-year-old historical sites of Mecca with hotels and concrete jungles. Soon after 9/11, photos circulated on the net, depicting a plane going through the Kaaba, with Wahabis demolishing the historical sites of Mecca Ton Tancredo and Zionist need not worry.
A most poetic description of the intense feeling during the hajj comes from Ali Shariati, the late Iranian philosopher, “As you circumambulate and move closer to the Kaaba, you feel like a small stream merging with a big river. Carried by a wave you lose touch with the ground. Suddenly, you are floating, carried on by the flood. As you approach the center, the pressure of the crowd squeezes you so hard that you are given a new life. The Kaaba is the worlds sun whose face attracts you into its orbit. You have become part of this universal system. Circumambulating around Allah you will soon forget yourself. You have been transformed into a particle that is gradually melting and disappearing. This is absolute love at its peak”.