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Reconstruction of the Ka`bah Over the Ages

By Shari`ah Staff
Building the Kaa`ba

This Ancient House has always been a symbol for worship and a banner for Monotheism. The process of maintaining it assumed several forms and stages, as it was demolished and then rebuilt more than once. It was also adorned with gold and silver at times. Throughout these stages, however, the Ka`bah was always held in honor and high esteem even during the Jahili (pre-Islamic) periods.

Yet, it should be noted first that the Ka`bah is totally different from Al-Masjid Al-Haram (the Sacred Masjid), since the former was first built by Ibrahim and Isma`il (peace be upon them), while Al-Masjid Al-Haram - which was first built by `Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) - is that building encompassing the Ka`bah. However, the term "Al-Masjid Al-Haram" is sometimes used in reference to the Ka`bah as it is the prostration (praying) place and the object to which people turn their faces in prayer.

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As for its structure, the Ka`bah is almost cubical in shape, and this indicates the reason for calling it Ka`bah, the Arabic term that means cubical. Besides, its four corners are set against the four cardinal directions, knowing that the Arabs call the quarters corners and affiliate them with the geographic areas towards which they are set. Thus, the northern corner is called the Iraqi Corner, the western corner is called the Levantine Corner, the southern corner is called the Yemeni (Yamani) Corner, while the eastern corner is called the Black Corner, since there lies the Black Stone.

Corners of the Ka`bah

First: The Black Corner

It is called the Black Corner because it is where the Black Stone is placed, though it is also called the Eastern Corner, and it is the point of departure for those performing Tawaf (circumambulation of the Ka`bah).

Second: The Iraqi Corner

It is called so since it lies in the direction of Iraq, though it is also called the Northern Corner, being located in the northern side. Besides, the door of the Ka`bah lies between the Iraqi Corner and the Black Corner.

Third: The Levantine Corner

This corner is called the Levantine Corner (Al-Rukn Al-Shami) because it lies in the direction of the Levant and Morocco, though it is also called the Western Corner. It is also worth noting that the Hijr of Isma`il (Enclosure of Isma`il, peace be upon him) - is located between this corner and the Iraqi Corner into which the (roof) gutter of the Ka`bah flows.

Fourth: The Yemini Corner

This corner is called the Yemini Corner since it lies in the direction of Yemen, knowing that both the Yemeni and the Black corners are sometimes called Al-Yamaniyyan (the Two Yemini Corners), the Iraqi and the Levantine corners are called Al-Shamiyyan (the Two Levantine Corners) or Al-Gharbiyyan (the Two Western Corners). Moreover, when the term "Al-Rukn" (corner) is given, it then refers to the Black Corner only.

The Names of the Ka`bah

The honorable Ka`bah has several names that are mentioned in the Glorious Qur'an including the following:

1. Al-Ka`bah: {Allah has made the Ka`bah, the sacred house, a maintenance for the people, and the sacred month and the offerings and the sacrificial animals with garlands; this is that you may know that Allah knows whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth, and that Allah is the Knower of all things.}(Al-Ma'idah, 5:97).

2. Al-Bayt (the House):

{And pilgrimage to the House is incumbent upon men for the sake of Allah, (upon) every one who is able to undertake the journey to it } (Al-`Imran 3:97).

3. Al-Bayt Al-`Atiq (The Ancient House):

{and let them go round the Ancient House.} (Al-Hajj 22:29).

4. Al-Bayt Al-Haram (The Sacred House):

{nor those going to the Sacred House seeking the grace and pleasure of their Lord} (Al-Ma'idah 5:2).

5. Al-Bayt Al-Ma`mur (The Much-Frequented Fane):

{ And by the Bait-ul-Ma`mur (the house over the heavens parable to the Ka`bah at Makkah, continuously visited by the angels}(Al-Tur 52:4).

6. Al-Bayt Al-Muharram (The Sacred House):

{O our Lord! surely I have settled a part of my offspring in a valley unproductive of fruit near Thy Sacred House} (Ibrahim 14:37).

The Basic Roles of Those Attending to the Ka`bah:

Siqayah is providing pilgrims with free water.
When the building of the Ka`bah decayed during the time of Qusay, it was rebuilt, and Qusay then assigned the functions of those attending to the Ka`bah and identified their duties. These functions were the following:

1. Siqayah (providing pilgrims with free water): Since water was rare in Makkah after the well of Zamzam was covered with earth, the one entrusted with Siqayah would bring water from distant abodes and would store it in a basin and sweeten it with some dried dates and raisins so that pilgrims could drink from it.

2. Rifadah (feeding poor pilgrims): Qusay ordained that every member of the tribe of Quraish should provide some foodstuff with which he could serve food to poor pilgrims. Regarding this issue, Qusay said, "O people of Quraish, you are the neighbors of Allah and the residents of His House, while the pilgrims are the guests and visitors of Allah. They are thus the most worthy among guests to be entertained. So, serve food and drink for them during the days of this pilgrimage". Sure enough, they complied with his call and would thus offer money to the pilgrims and make food for the needy (pilgrims).

3. Liwa' (banner of war): It means the call for war by raising the banner over a lancet to be followed by the leaders of the armies.

4. Hijabah (trusteeship over the Ka`bah): It means attending to the honorable Ka`bah, managing its affair and keeping its keys.

The Ka`bah was built for the first time by Ibrahim and Isma`il.
With Qusay growing too old to manage the affairs of the Ka`bah, trusteeship turned to his son `Abd-ul-Dar, and then Siqayah and Rifadah were assigned to the children of `Abd Manaf, while the Hijabah, Liwa' and Nadwah (the right of presidency of council) were granted to `Abd-ul-Dar.

Reconstruction and Maintenance of the Ka`bah Over the Ages

First Construction:

The Ka`bah was built for the first time by Ibrahim and Isma`il (peace be upon them) after it had crumbled and nothing was left of it but the foundations which were then covered by sand gravel. Here, Almighty Allah (Exalted be He) says,

{And when Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed): Our Lord! Accept from us (this duty). Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower.}(Al-Baqarah 2:127).

The verse thus makes it clear that Ibrahim and Isma`il did not lay the foundations of the Ka`bah which was already there, but they rather raised it.

Second Reconstruction:

When the building of the Ka`bah decayed during the age of Qusay, he rebuilt it and also built Dar Al-Nadwah (the Council Chamber) so that the Makkan elite could gather therein for council among themselves.

Third Reconstruction: The one carried out by Quraysh

Almighty Allah (Exalted be He) has safeguarded the Sacred House, guiding Quraysh to manage its maintenance and to provide Siqayah for the pilgrims. Then, new occurrences surfaced which drove Quraysh to rebuild the Ka`bah. Around thirty years after the year of Al-Fil (the Elephant), a great fire swept the Ka`bah when one of the women of Quraysh was incensing it, as the flying embers caught the Ka`bah and set it on fire. As a result, the building of the Ka`bah was debilitated. Afterwards, a torrential flood damaged large parts of the Ka`bah. Yet, the people of Quraysh remained afraid of demolishing and then rebuilding the Ka`bah until Al-Walid said to them, "What would you like to do; destroy or restore (it)?" They replied, "Indeed, (we would like to) reform (i.e. restore; it)!" Thereupon, he affirmed, "Then, surely, Allah does not ruin reformers".

Hence, Al-Walid ibn Al-Mughirah ascended the Ka`bah with an axe in his hand and said, "O Allah, we only desire reform" and went on to demolish it. When the people of Quraysh saw him start demolishing parts of the Ka`bah and no (Divine) punishment befell them, they started to demolish it themselves. Following the demolition of the Ka`bah, the people of Quraysh rebuilt it, knowing that it was eighteen cubits high while the door (gateway) was four cubits high so that they could allow or deny passage for people at (their own) will. Their pretext for increasing the height of the door was that it helps to prevent the flood from inundating the inside of the Ka`bah. They also built a wooden roof for it and buttressed it with six beams in two lines. However, they reduced its width by six cubits, which they included within the Hijr of Isma`il.

The fourth reconstruction process of the Ka`bah was carried out by `Abdullah ibn Al-Zubayr
In this context, it is reported that the architect who carried out the rebuilding process was called Baqum, of Roman origin, who had experience in reconstruction and carpentry. Besides, the Prophet (peace be upon him) participated in the building of the Ka`bah, and also settled the dispute about the Black Stone through spreading his cloak on the ground and placing the Stone amidst it, and then asking representatives of each tribe to take hold of one edge of the cloak and to lift it all of them up to its due place. Then, he picked it up with his own hands and set it in its place.

Fourth Reconstruction:

The fourth reconstruction process of the Ka`bah was carried out by `Abdullah ibn Al-Zubayr, when he claimed for himself the caliphate following the martyrdom of Imam Al-Husayn after the death of Mu`awiyah. He thus rebuilt it with pure stucco that had been imported from Yemen and applied some other changes to it. He thus added a part to its door, closing the opening at the bottom, made another door opposite to the first one so that people could exit through it, and made its height seventy two cubits. Later on, when he finished its reconstruction, he perfumed it with musk and ambergris and clad it with silk brocade. Here, it is worth noting that he completed its reconstruction in Rajab, 649 A.H.

Fifth Reconstruction:

The fifth reconstruction of the Ka`bah was carried out by Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf Al-Thaqafi, who had razed what `Abdullah ibn Al-Zubayr constructed and rebuilt it in the old shape molded by Quraysh.

Sixth Reconstruction:

It was Muhammad `Ali Pasha who rebuilt the Ka`bah for the sixth time during the time of the Ottoman Caliphate. Torrential rain fell in Makkah in 1239-1240 A.H. and it was followed by a tempestuous flood that swept the area of Makkah and even reached as high as the strap of the lamps hanging from the ceiling. Muhammad `Ali then sent a deputy and empowered him to carry out all works needed for the restoration of the sacred building. Extensive work was initiated for cleaning and removing sand and drifting debris from the flood, knowing that these debris were as huge as soaring mountains. He then sent machines and provisions that were necessary for the reformation and rebuilding process. He also sent sculptors and appointed engineers and laborers.

In Ramadan 22, 1420 A.H., he wrote a report that was sent to the governor of Egypt reporting the testimonies of the Makkan people to the magnificent, beautiful and top-level construction of the House.

Reconstruction of the Ka`bah in the modern age:

1. In 1363 A.H. and during the reign of King `Abdul-`Aziz (may Allah be merciful with him), the door of the Ka`bah was changed.

2. In 1377 A.H. and during the reign of King Sa`ud (may Allah be merciful with him), the higher ceiling of the Ka`bah was demolished and then reconstructed while the lower roof was renovated as its wood had weakened and even eroded. Besides, a support was established between the two roofs which encompassed all its walls and the basic walls were well restored. In addition, the marble surrounding the walls of the Ka'bah from the inside was restored, while the stairway in the center of the Ka`bah which leads to its roof was restored and renovated. It should be noted that the following were considered during this restoration process:

a. Nothing of the rebuilt or restored parts should be protrude in the Ka`bah, its walls and corners.

b. The ceiling of the Ka`bah should neither be gilded nor silvered.

c. All materials that are necessary for the restoration should be manufactured locally.

In 1416 A.H., King Fahd fully restored the external side of the wall of the Ka`bah .
d. All that is spent on the restoration process should be of lawfully acquired property. It should be noted that such restoration was fulfilled in Sha`ban 11, 1377 A.H.

3. During the reign of King Faysal (may Allah be merciful with him), the key chains of the door of the Ka`bah were replaced in 1391 A.H.

4. During the reign of King Khalid (may Allah be merciful with him), the old door of the Ka`bah was replaced by the present one in 1400 A.H.

5. In 1416 A.H. and during the reign of the Custodian of the Two Holy Shrines, King Fahd, the external side of the wall of the Ka`bah was fully restored. Then, in 1417 A.H., the Honorable Ka`bah was fully restored from the inside. Such restoration included the two ceilings of the Ka`bah along with the three columns, the walls (from the inside), the floor, the roof marble, the internal stairway, internal structure, the gutter and the wall of Hijr of Isma`il (peace be upon him).

It should also be noted that a major restoration work of the Ka`bah was initiated in Muharram 1st, 1417 A.H. and that was the last reconstruction process that was applied to the Honorable Ka`bah.

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