contributed by Mustafa Mawjee (London, United Kingdom)
Allah Almighty says: “And He it is Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon, each in an orbit floating.” (Al-Anbiya, 21: 33)
This glorious verse refers to a scientific fact concerning the system of the universe. Scientific discoveries have proved that we live in a huge universe that depends on revolution. The earth revolves round the sun once a year, the moon revolves around the earth once per lunar month, and the other planets of the solar system also revolve round the sun, each in its own orbit. Besides, most of these planets have moons that revolve around them, each, also in its own orbit. Astronomers have discovered more than 60 of these moons so far.
The solar system, likewise, orbits a centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way. This galaxy consists of more than 130 billion stars. Galaxies, in turn, revolve round a centre that only Almighty Allah knows.
The law of revolution applies also to atoms, the smallest units of elements that cannot be seen even by microscopes. An atom is composed of a nucleus whose diameter is less than a millionth of a millimeter. An atom is surrounded by electrons that move round the atom in an orbit. Since all matter in the universe-whether solid, liquid, or gaseous consists of atoms, this means that the law of revolution applies to everything: stars, planets, moons, animals, plants, sand, seas, air, and so on. This includes cells as well. The cytoplasm in the cell moves around the nucleus.
There is a common factor between the orbital movements of all the objects referred to above, this is, and their revolution is anti-clockwise. Contemplating the above lines, we come to realize that revolution is a cosmic law.
With a believer’s meditation upon such a scientific fact, another image of revolution is brought to one s mind: the pilgrim’s circumambulation of the Kaaba, which is a basic ritual of Hajj in Islam. Circumambulating the Kaaba is a symbolic act of worship, whose wisdom may be hidden from some. It indicates the believer’s utter submission to Almighty Allah alone. The pilgrims go to Hajj in response to the divine order that Prophet Ibrahim or Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) conveyed to people.
Allah Almighty says: “And (remember) when We showed Ibrahim the site of the (Sacred) House (the Kaaba at Makkah), saying: Ascribe not anything (in worship) with Me, and sanctify My House for those who circumambulate it, and those who stand up (for prayer), and those who bow (submit themselves with humility and obedience to Allah), and make prostration (in prayer). And proclaim to mankind the Hajj (pilgrimage). They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant (wide) mountain highway (to perform Hajj).” (Al-Hajj, 22:26-27).
This signifies that the Kaaba is the spiritual centre of the believers. It refers to the close bond that should be between a believer and his Lord. A believer turns toward the Kaaba five times a day during the prescribed ritual Prayers.
A pilgrim circumambulates the Kaaba as if he or she is a celestial body orbiting another greater body. Circumambulation of the Kaaba is to be performed anti-clockwise. This indicates that there is a joint factor between a pilgrim’s expressing his ultimate faith in Almighty Allah by circumambulating the Kaaba in that way and between the cosmic laws of revolution discussed above.
This indicates that there is consistency between the obligations of worship in Islam and the natural laws that govern the universe, which indicates that they all belong to only one source, that is, Almighty Allah. This proves the truthfulness of the call of Islam that there is no god but Almighty Allah. Thus, Islam is the true religion that provides humankind with a comprehensive view in conformity with the divine truth that is apparent in the natural laws of the universe.
Ta’waf: Utmost degree of love
Circumambulation means to go round something. This act shows the utmost degree of love to the extent that a lover wishes to sacrifice himself for the beloved. A real pilgrim who has thirst for meeting his Beloved has been detached from everything. By going round the House of the Beloved, he wishes to prove that he desires nothing but God.
The planets circumambulator the sun, for they take everything from it. Inside an atom, the electrons circumambulate the protons. The whole universe ranging from the invisible particles to the planets and galaxies circumambulate. Man, being a part of the universe, should circumambulate, too, with the difference that the planets circumambulate in a compulsory way according to the laws of nature, but man, the rational being and possessor of free will, circumambulates with his logic and will a House God has appointed to honour human beings. Hence, it is natural for Muslims to offer their prayers, to sit, to stand, to recite the Holy Quran, to sleep, to lie down at the moment of death, to be put in grave, and finally to be in that direction during their lifetimes and death.
“Say: Surely my prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.” (Al-Anaam, 6:162)
Survival of the Kaaba, a wonder
It is a wonder that all the royal palaces built throughout history have been demolished but the Kaaba, a house built of mud and stone about four thousand years ago by Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and his son Prophet Ismail (AS) in a parched land is still upright and will continue to be loved by human beings until the Day of Judgment.
What is more wonderful is the attraction of this House. So many glorious and majestic buildings in the world are found in areas of good climate, but the Kaaba attracts people to itself without having means of entertainment or being satisfying people’s pleasure. The reason however is natural. It is God Himself Who has created this attraction in people’s hearts through Prophet Ibrahim’s supplication:
“And proclaim among men the pilgrimage: they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, coming from every remote path.” (The Holy Quran, 22:27)
Kaaba Size and History
The small, cubed building known as the kaaba may not rival skyscrapers in height or mansions in width, but its impact on history and human beings is unmatched. The kaaba is the building towards which Muslims face five times a day, everyday, in prayer. This has been the case since the time of Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) over 1400 years ago.
The Size of Kaaba
The current height of the kaaba is 39 feet, 6 inches and total size comes to 627 square feet. The inside room of the kaaba is 13×9 meters. The kaaba’s walls are one meter wide. The floor inside is 2.2 meters higher than the place where people perform Tawaf.
The ceiling and roof are two levels made out of wood. They were reconstructed with teak which is capped with stainless steel. The walls are all made of stone. The stones inside are unpolished, while the ones outside are polished.
This small building has been constructed and reconstructed by Prophets Adam, Ibrahim, Ismail and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). No other building has had this honour. Yet, not very much is known about the details of this small but significant building.
The Other Names of Kaaba
Literally, kaaba in Arabic means a high place with respect and prestige. The word kaaba may also be derivative of a word meaning a cube. Some of these other names include:
- Baitul Ateeq – which means, according to one meaning, the earliest and ancient. According to the second meaning, it means independent and liberating. Both meanings could be taken.
- Baitul Haram – the honourable house.
Scholars and historians say that kaaba has been reconstructed between 5 to 12 times. The very first construction of the kaaba was done by Prophet Adam (peace be upon him). Allah says in Holy Quran that this was the first house that was built for humanity to worship Allah. After this, Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail (peace be upon them) rebuilt kaaba.
The measurements of the kaaba’s foundation by Prophet Ibrahim are as follows:
Eastern wall was 48 feet and 6 inches
Hateem side wall was 33 feet
Side between the black stone and the Yemeni corner was 30 feet
Western side was 46.5 feet
Following this, there were several constructions before the Prophet Muhammad’s (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) time.
Reconstruction of Kaaba by Quraysh
Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) participated in one of its reconstructions before he announced a Prophet. After a flash flood, the kaaba was damaged and its walls cracked. It needed rebuilding. This responsibility was divided among the Quraish’s four tribes. Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) helped with this reconstruction.
Once the walls were erected, it was time to place the Black Stone, (Hajar al-Aswad) on the eastern wall of the kaaba. Arguments erupted about who would have the honour of putting the Black Stone in its place. A fight was about to break out over the issue, when Abu Umayyah, Makkah’s oldest man, proposed that the first man to enter the gate of the mosque the following morning would decide the matter. That man was the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam). The Makkans were ecstatic. “This is the trustworthy one (Al-Ameen)” they shouted in a chorus. “This is Muhammad.” He came to them and they asked him to decide on the matter. He agreed.
Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) proposed a solution that all agreed to – putting the Black Stone on a cloak, the elders of each of the clans held on to one edge of the cloak and carried the stone to its place. The Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) then picked up the stone and placed it on the wall of kaaba.
Since the tribe of Quraish did not have sufficient funds, this reconstruction did not include the entire foundation of kaaba as built by Prophet Ibrahim. This is the first time kaaba acquired the cubical shape it has now, unlike the rectangle shape which it had earlier. The portion of the kaaba left out is called Hateem now.