Do Muslims Worship the Kaaba?

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asked May 19, 2015 by admin (4,350 points)

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Summary

In Islam, every single act of worship must be directed to God alone, and the greatest sin in Islam is to direct even the tiniest part of worship to other than God. It is not allowed for a Muslim to have any kind of intermediary with God in worship, whether a living being, or an inanimate object. Muslims pray to Allah – Almighty God – alone, and they do not take things either as direct objects of worship, or indirect objects of worship through which God’s help is sought.

The Ka’bah (also spelt Kaaba) is a mosque – a Muslim place of worship, built by the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), and before him by Adam, the Father of Mankind. It serves as a place of prayer, and the direction which every single Muslim around the world faces to pray. It also plays a critical role in the greater and lesser pilgrimages of Hajj and ‘Umrah, as the structure which Muslims circle around. Allah informs us about the Ka’bah in the Qur’an, saying:

“And [mention, O Muhammad], when We showed Abraham the site of the House (i.e., the Ka’bah), [saying], “Do not associate anything with Me and purify My House for those who circumambulate it, and those who stand [in prayer], and those who bow and prostrate.” [The Qur’an: al-Hajj 22:26]

In all of these roles, the Ka’bah is simply a place for worshipping God, and a focal point of that worship, and it does not represent an object of worship itself or an intermediary through which God’s help is sought. This is clearly illustrated by the action of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab, the second most senior and learned of the companions of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), when he approached the Black Stone, mounted in the eastern corner of the Ka’bah, saying:

“No doubt, I know that you are only a stone and can neither benefit nor harm anyone. If I had not seen Allah’s Messenger kissing you I would not have kissed you.” Saheeh al-Bukhari

Full Answer

One of the iconic images of Islam and the Muslims is the image of hundreds of thousands of Muslims prostrating as one before the Ka’bah; a cuboid structure, draped in black cloth, found in the centre of the city of Makkah, in what is now Saudi Arabia. Many non-Muslims mistakenly assume that the Ka’bah is a kind of idol which Muslims use in their worship and rituals, when nothing could be further from the truth.

The essence of Islam is that all worship is directed to God alone, and that nobody deserves any share in those things that are part of His exclusive rights. In Islam, every single act of worship must be directed to God alone, and the greatest sin in Islam is to direct even the tiniest part of worship to other than God. It is not allowed for a Muslim to have any kind of intermediary with God in worship, whether a living being, or an inanimate object. Muslims pray to Allah – Almighty God – alone, and they do not take things either as direct objects of worship, or indirect objects of worship through which God’s help is sought.

The Ka’bah (also spelt Kaaba) is actually a mosque – a Muslim place of worship, much like Christians have churches and Jews have synagogues. It was the first building on earth dedicated to the worship of the One True God alone. Some reports from the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) suggest that it was first built by Adam, the Father of Mankind. However, the history of the Ka’bah, as related in the Qur’an, begins with Ibrahim (Abraham):

“And [mention, O Muhammad], when We showed Abraham the site of the House (i.e., the Ka’bah), [saying], “Do not associate anything with Me and purify My House for those who circumambulate it, and those who stand [in prayer], and those who bow and prostrate.” [The Qur’an: al-Hajj 22:26]

In other passages, the Qur’an tells us of how Ibrahim (Abraham) built the Ka’bah, with his son Ismaa’eel (Ishmael):

“And [mention] when We made the House a place of return for the people and [a place of] security. And take, [O believers], from the standing place of Abraham a place of prayer. And We charged Abraham and Ishmael, [saying], ‘Purify My House for those who circumambulate it, and those who are staying [there] for worship, and those who bow and prostrate [in prayer].’” [The Qur’an: al-Baqarah 2:125]

“And [mention] when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and [with him] Ishmael, [saying], ‘Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing. Our Lord, and make us Muslims [in submission] to You and from our descendants a [Muslim] nation in submission to You. And show us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You are the Accepting of Repentance, Most Merciful. Our Lord, send among them a messenger from themselves who will recite to them Your verses and teach them the Book and wisdom and purify them. Indeed, You are the Exalted in Might, the Wise.’” [The Qur’an: al-Baqarah 2:127-129]

When the Ka’bah was first built, it was built with two doors at ground level, through which people could pass and offer prayers inside. In the pre-Islamic period, when the Ka’bah was in the custody of the Quraysh tribe of Makkah, changes were made, in order to restrict people from being able to worship there freely. Aa’ishah, the wife of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) reported that the she once asked the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) what reason the tribe of Quraysh had for raising the door above ground level. He replied to her:

“Your people did it so that they could permit into the Ka’bah only those people of whom they approved and so that they could prevent those whom they pleased. Had your people not been recently removed from ignorance and had I not feared that they would be averse to change, I would have included the [semi circular walled area] within the Ka’bah and brought the door level with the ground.”

As is mentioned in this narration, the Ka’bah was not originally the same shape as it is today. It had a semi-circular area at one end, which is now marked by a wall built to chest height, called the Hijr. The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also told Aa’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) the story of this wall, saying:

“O Aa’ishah, if it were not that your people had been recently removed from polytheism, I would have demolished the Ka’bah, lowered it to ground level, and made two doors, one on the east and one on the west, and I would have added to it the six cubits of the Hijr, because Quraysh reduced its area when they rebuilt the Ka’bah” Saheeh Muslim

Other narrations mention that the reason that they reduced its area was because they did not have enough money earned from permissible means to rebuild it exactly as it was.

Both prior to the prophethood of Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and after, the Ka’bah has been rebuilt several times, due to both natural and man-made disasters. While small changes have been made throughout the centuries, the Ka’bah has never been permanently rebuilt in the form that the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) considered, due to the same fear which prevented him from doing so; namely the fear that the change might be too much for people to bear. In later years, there was also the fear that rebuilding the Ka’bah would become a status symbol for every king and ruler and that they would try to compete in bettering the work of the previous ruler, and that the purpose of the Ka’bah as a place of worship to the One True God alone would be lost.

Apart from its role as a mosque, the Ka’bah fulfils two vital functions for Muslims: -

1. It serves as a unifying direction for prayer. When the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was sent, he was sent with a continuation of the message of the previous prophets, and revelation was staged over a period of twenty-three years. In the early years, the Muslims faced the direction of Jerusalem, following the example of the prophets sent to the Children of Israel. This was the same direction that the Jews of the city of Madeenah used to face in prayer. This troubled the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and during the second year of the Prophet’s stay in Madeenah, Allah revealed in the Qur’an:

“…And We did not make the prayer direction which you used to face except that We might make evident the one who would follow the Messenger from the one who would turn back on his heels. And indeed, it is difficult except for those whom Allah has guided. And never would Allah have caused you to lose your faith. Indeed Allah is, to the people, Most Kind and Most Merciful.

We have certainly seen the turning of your face, [O Muhammad], toward the heaven, and We will surely turn you to a prayer direction with which you will be pleased. So turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haraam (i.e., the Ka’bah in Makkah). And wherever you [believers] are, turn your faces toward it [in prayer]. Indeed, those who have been given the Scripture well know that it is the truth from their Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what they do.” [The Qur’an: al-Baqarah 2:143-144]

Upon the revelation of this passage of the Qur’an, the Muslims turned from facing Jerusalem in the prayers, and ever since, billions of Muslims around the world turn to face the Ka’bah in prayer, at least five times every day.

2. The Ka’bah plays a critical role in the rites of the Muslim pilgrimage to Makkah. In both the greater pilgrimage, Hajj, which takes place once a year, and the lesser pilgrimage, ‘Umrah, which takes place throughout the year, the Ka’bah is a focal point, with Muslims commanded to circle around it in an anti-clockwise direction, as part of an act of worship known as tawaaf, which is also performed throughout the year as an alternative to a unit of voluntary prayer. Again, it should be clear that tawaaf is an act of worship directed towards Allah, and it is not an act of worship directed towards the Ka’bah. The Ka’bah merely serves as the place of this particular act of worship, just as it serves as the direction of worship for the prayer. Allah tells us in the Qur’an, referring to the greater pilgrimage, Hajj:

“Then let them end their untidiness, and fulfill their vows, and perform tawaaf around the Ancient House.” [The Qur’an: al-Hajj 22:29]

In this passage, the Ancient House is one of the names given to the Ka’bah. It is also referred to as the Sacred House, or simply The House, and is occasionally referred to by the name of the larger mosque which surrounds the Ka’bah, al-Masjid al-Haraam, the Sacred Mosque. It is also referred to in Islamic scriptures as the House of Allah, not in the sense that Almighty God is dwelling within it, but in the sense that it is the most prominent structure which is dedicated to the worship of Allah alone.

The Ka’bah also houses the Black Stone on its eastern corner. This is an important Islamic relic which Muslims attempt to prostrate upon, kiss, or touch during their walking around the Ka’bah. Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him), the cousin of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), said about it:

“The Black Stone came down from heaven, and it was whiter than milk. It was blackened by the sins of the children of Adam” [Jaami’ at-Tirmidhi and others]

However, even this stone is not allowed to be taken as an object of worship. In a famous narration, the second most senior and learned of the companions of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

“No doubt, I know that you are only a stone and can neither benefit nor harm anyone. If I had not seen Allah’s Messenger kissing you I would not have kissed you.” Saheeh al-Bukhari

In summary, every single act of worship in Islam must be directed to God alone, and the greatest sin in Islam is to direct even the tiniest part of worship to other than God. It is not allowed for a Muslim to have any kind of intermediary with God in worship, whether a living being, or an inanimate object. Muslims pray to Allah – Almighty God – alone, and they do not take things either as direct objects of worship, or indirect objects of worship through which God’s help is sought.

The Ka’bah is a mosque – a Muslim place of worship, built by the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), and before him by Adam, the Father of Mankind. It serves as a place of prayer, and the direction which every single Muslim around the world faces to pray. It also plays a critical role in the greater and lesser pilgrimages of Hajj and ‘Umrah, as the structure which Muslims circle around. Allah informs us about the Ka’bah in the Qur’an, saying:

“And [mention, O Muhammad], when We showed Abraham the site of the House (i.e., the Ka’bah), [saying], “Do not associate anything with Me and purify My House for those who circumambulate it, and those who stand [in prayer], and those who bow and prostrate.” [The Qur’an: al-Hajj 22:26]

In all of these roles, the Ka’bah is simply a place for worshipping God, and a focal point of that worship, and it does not represent an object of worship itself or an intermediary through which God’s help is sought. This is clearly illustrated by the action of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab, the second most senior and learned of the companions of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), when he approached the Black Stone, mounted in the eastern corner of the Ka’bah, saying:

“No doubt, I know that you are only a stone and can neither benefit nor harm anyone. If I had not seen Allah’s Messenger kissing you I would not have kissed you.” Saheeh al-Bukhari

answered May 19, 2015 by admin (4,350 points)
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