Who built the Kaaba? The complete history of the Kaaba.
What is the Kaaba?
The Kaaba, also known as the Holy House, is a cubic building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the holiest sites in Islam. Al-Masjid al-Haram, the holiest mosque in Islam, is built around the Kaaba and is located in Makkah. Muslims are expected to face the Kaaba during prayers, no matter where they are. From any point in the world, the direction facing the Kaaba is called the Qiblah.
One of the five pillars of Islam requires every Muslim to perform the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime if he or she is able. Several parts of the Hajj require pilgrims to walk around the Kaaba seven times in a counter-clockwise direction. This circumambulation, the Tawaf, is also performed by pilgrims during Umrah. However, the most important times are during the Hajj, when about 6 million pilgrims gather to walk around the building on the same day.
The Kaaba, a place of prayer and pilgrimage
Pilgrimage to a holy place is a fundamental tenet of almost every faith. The Kaaba, which means cube in Arabic, is a square building, elegantly draped with a silk and cotton veil. Located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, it is the holiest shrine in Islam.
In Islam, Muslims pray five times a day and since 624 CE, these prayers were directed to Mecca and the Kaaba rather than to Jerusalem. This direction (or qibla in Arabic), is marked in all mosques and allows the faithful to know in which direction they should pray. The Qur'an has established the direction of prayer.
All Muslims aspire to undertake the hajj, or annual pilgrimage, to the Kaaba once in their lifetime if they can. Five times a day prayer and hajj are two of the five pillars of Islam, the most fundamental tenets of the faith.
Upon arriving in Makkah, pilgrims gather in the courtyard of the Masjid al-Haram around the Kaaba. They then circumambulate (tawaf in Arabic) or walk around the Kaaba, during which they hope to kiss and touch the Black Stone (al-Hajar al-Aswad), embedded in the eastern corner of the Kaaba.
The origin and construction of the Kaaba
The Kaaba was a shrine in pre-Islamic times. According to the Holy Quran, the Kaaba was built by the Prophet Abraham and his son, Ismail. Tradition has it that it was originally a simple rectangular structure without a roof. The Quraysh tribe, which ruled Mecca, rebuilt the pre-Islamic Kaaba in c. 608 CE with alternating layers of masonry and wood. A gate was raised above ground level to protect the shrine from intruders and flood waters.
Muhammad ﷺ was driven from Mecca in 620 CE to Yathrib, which is now known as Medina. Upon his return to Mecca in 629/30 CE, the shrine became the focal point of Muslim worship and pilgrimage. The pre-Islamic Kaaba housed the black stone and statues of pagan gods. Muhammad ﷺ is said to have cleansed the Kaaba of idols upon his victorious return to Mecca, returning the shrine to the monotheism of Ibrahim. The black stone is said to have been given to Ibrahim by the angel Gabriel and is revered by Muslims. Muhammad made a final pilgrimage in 632 CE, the year of his death, and thus established the pilgrimage rites.
The Qur'an in verses 121-127 of Sura Baqara clearly described that Allah had ordered his servant Ibrahim to build the shrine there for the worship of one God. At the time of Kusayi, it was rebuilt and fortified. During the early years of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ before he announced his ministry, the Kaaba was damaged by floods and it was rebuilt again.
When the black stone was to be placed in its place, the Meccans argued among themselves as to who would have the honor of placing it there. They had just decided that whoever came first to the quadrangle would be responsible for deciding who would have the honor. Muhammad ﷺ came in and was given that task.
He advised them to place the stone in a cloak and ordered the chiefs of each tribe to finish it and bring the cloak closer to the corner on the eastern side. He himself took out the stone and placed it in its place. It has since been corrected.
After the martyrdom of the Prophet's family in Karbala in 61 Hijri (681 A.D.), the Umayyad Caliph Yazid Ibne Moawiya did not stop there in the pursuit of its destruction. He sent a large contingent under the command of Haseen Ibne Namir to Medina who destroyed the Prophet's mosque.
They did not stop there but went to Makkah and demolished the four walls of the Kaaba and killed thousands of protesting Muslims. Yazid died and Ibne Namir returned to Damascus, Ka'aba was rebuilt by Abdullah Ibne Zubayr and his associates.
The Umawi forces returned to Makkah and killed Abdullah Ibne Zubayr, hung his body at the gates of the Ka'aba for three months for all to see the Umawi power. But eventually, this arrogance of power had its own consequences and Mukhtar became the ruler in Iraq. Under his leadership, the Kaaba was renovated and pilgrims began to arrive safely to perform Hajj.
The Kaaba successfully resisted the Karamat invasion of 317/929, only the Blackstone was taken away which was returned some twenty years later. In 1981, the Wahhabis brought tanks inside the Kaaba to crush the Kahtani revolution against the Saudi regime and almost demolished the southeast wall. This was then restored with the help of the Makkah people.
Any man living in Mecca in the sixth and seventh centuries must necessarily have had some dealings with the Kaaba. About Muhammad ﷺ, the Prophet of Islam, the Qur'an is silent during the Meccan period in this regard. All that is known is that the Muslim community at that time turned to Jerusalem in prayer.
Later, about a year and a half after the Hegira, the Muslims were ordered in prayers led by the Prophet of Islam himself to turn towards Mecca. The particular mosque in Medina where this happened is called Masjid al-Qiblatain, which means the mosque with two Qiblas. The Qur'an tells the Muslims.
The Qur'anic verse 144 of Sura 2 Al Baqara tells us: "Turn your faces to the Holy Mosque and wherever you are, turn your faces to that part" (2:144)
At the same time, the Qur'an began to emphasize the religion of Ibrahim, presenting Islam as a return to the purity of Ibrahim's religion which, obscured by Judaism and Christianity, shines forth in its original glory in the Qur'an.
Pilgrimages to the Ka'aba and ritual progressions around the building continued, but were now intended for the glorification of one God. The Abrahamic vision of the Ka'aba created a means of discerning an orthodox origin buried amidst the pagan malpractices to which the early Muslims led the way.
Each year after the Hajj ceremony, the place is closed for a month and on the day of Ashura, the Ka'aba is washed from within with Water from the Well of Zamzam and a new Kiswa is brought to cover the Ka'aba for the next year.
This is the story of the Ka'aba and the people who protected it and remained its guardians and protectors from Satanic and evil forces throughout history. Muhammad ﷺ and the people of his house (Ahlul Bayt) were the protectors of the Ka'aba, and currently the 12th Imam of the direct descent of the Prophet of Islam is the true protector, its guardian and custodian and will remain as such during the cover-up. In the following pages, we will reveal the life and times of these 14 Ma'sumeen Alaihimussalam.
The modifications made to the Kaaba
The Kaaba has been considerably modified throughout its history. The area around the Kaaba was expanded to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims by the second caliph, 'Umar (ruled 634-44). Caliph 'Uthman (ruled 644-56) built the colonnades around the open square where the Kaaba stands and incorporated other important monuments into the sanctuary.
During the civil war between Caliph Abd al-Malik and Ibn Zubayr who controlled Mecca, the Kaaba was burned down in 683 CE. The Black Stone broke into three pieces and Ibn Zubayr put it back together with silver. He rebuilt the Kaaba out of wood and stone, following Ibrahim's original dimensions and also paved the space around the Kaaba.
After regaining control of Makkah, Abd al-Malik restored the part of the building that Muhammad ﷺ would have designed. None of these renovations can be confirmed by study of the building or archaeological evidence; these changes are described only in later literary sources.
Supposedly under the Umayyad caliph al-Walid (reign 705-15), the mosque surrounding the Kaaba was decorated with mosaics like those in the Dome of the Rock and the Great Mosque in Damascus. In the seventh century, the Kaaba was covered with kiswa, a black cloth that is replaced every year during the hajj.
Under the early Abbasid caliphs (750-1250), the mosque around the Kaaba was expanded and modified several times. According to travel writers, such as Ibn Jubayr, who saw the Kaaba in 1183, it retained the eighth-century Abbasid form for several centuries. From 1269 to 1517, the Mamluks of Egypt controlled the Hijaz, the western Arabian highlands where Mecca is located. Sultan Qaitbay (ruled from 1468 to 1496) built a madrasa (a religious school) against one side of the mosque. Under the Ottoman sultans, Suleiman I (ruled 1520-1566) and Selim II (ruled 1566-74), the complex was heavily renovated.
In 1631, the Kaaba and the surrounding mosque were completely rebuilt after floods had demolished them the previous year. This mosque, which exists today, consists of a large open space with colonnades on four sides and with seven minarets, the largest number of mosques in the world. In the center of this large square is the Kaaba, as well as many other sacred buildings and monuments.
The last major modifications were made in the 1950s by the Saudi Arabian government to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims coming to perform the hajj. Today, the mosque covers nearly forty acres.
The Kaaba today
Today, the Kaaba is a cubic structure, unlike almost all other religious structures. It is fifteen meters high and ten and a half meters square; its corners align roughly with the cardinal directions. The door of the Kaaba is now solid gold; it was added in 1982.
The kiswa, a large cloth that covers the Kaaba, which was once sent from Egypt with the hajj caravan, is now made in Saudi Arabia. Until the advent of modern transportation, all pilgrims undertook the hajj, or pilgrimage, often dangerous, to Mecca in a large caravan across the desert from Damascus, Cairo or other major cities in Arabia, Yemen or Iraq.
Discover our beautiful poster of the Kaaba available in several formats.
The many changes to the Kaaba and its associated mosque are a reminder of how often even sacred buildings have been renovated and remodeled, either because of damage or because of the changing needs of the community.
Only Muslims can visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina today. For more information on preparing for the hajj, visit the official website of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah of Saudi Arabia.