The Kaaba (Arabic: الكعبة al-Kaʿbah IPA: "The Cube"), also known as the Sacred House (بيت الحرام Baytu l-Ḥarām) and the Ancient House (بيت العتيق Baytu l-'Atīq), is a cuboid building in
. It is the most sacred site in Islam. Mecca, Saudi
Al-Masjid al-Haram, the most sacred mosque in Islam, is built around the Kaaba.Muslims are expected to face the Kaaba during prayers, no matter where they are. From any given point in the world, the direction facing the Kaaba is called the Qibla.
One of the Five Pillars of Islam requires every Muslim to perform the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime if able to do so. Multiple parts of the Hajj require pilgrims to make Tawaf, the circumambulation seven times around the Kaaba in a counter-clockwise direction. This circumambulation is also performed by pilgrims during the Umrah (lesser pilgrimage). However, the most dramatic times are during the Hajj, when millions of pilgrims gather to circle the building on the same day. In 2013, the number of pilgrims coming from outside the
to perform Hajj was officially reported as 1,100,544. kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The Kaaba is a cuboid-shape structure which is made of granite quarried from nearby hills. Standing upon a 250 cm (98 in) marble base that projects outwards about 35 cm (14 in). It is approximately 13.1 m (43 ft) high, with sides measuring 11.03 m (36.2 ft) by 12.86 m (42.2 ft). Inside the Kaaba, the floor is made of marble and limestone. The interior walls are clad with marble halfway to the roof. The marble is inset with Qur'anic inscriptions.
The wall directly adjacent to the entrance of the Kaaba has six tablets inlaid with inscriptions. The top part of the walls are covered with a green cloth embroidered with gold Qur'anic verses. Caretakers anoint the marble cladding with scented oil used on the Black Stone outside. Three pillars stand inside the Kaaba, with a small altar set between one and the other two. Lamp-like objects (possible crucible censers) hang by a rope above the platform. An enclosed staircase leads to the roof.
Each numbered item in the following list corresponds to features called out in the diagram image, on right.
1 Al-Ħajaru l-Aswad, "the Black Stone", is located in the Kaaba's eastern corner. Its northern corner is known as the Ruknu l-ˤĪrāqī, "the Iraqi corner", its western as the Ruknu sh-Shāmī, "the Levantine corner", and its southern as Ruknu l-Yamanī "the Yemeni corner". The four corners of the Kaaba roughly point toward the four cardinal directions of the compass. Its major (long) axis is aligned with the rising of the star Canopus toward which its southern wall is directed, while its minor axis (its east-west facades) roughly align with the sunrise of summer solstice and the sunset of winter solstice.
2 The entrance is a door set 2.13 m (7 ft) above the ground on the north-eastern wall of the Kaaba, which acts as the façade. In 1979 the 300 kg gold doors made by chief artist Ahmad bin Ibrahim Badr, replaced the old silver doors made by his father, Ibrahim Badr in 1942.There is a wooden staircase on wheels, usually stored in the mosque between the arch-shaped gate of Banū Shaybah and the Zamzam Well.
3 Meezab-i Rahmat, rainwater spout made of gold. Added in the rebuilding of 1627 after the previous year's rain caused three of the four walls to collapse.
4 Gutter, added in 1627 to protect the foundation from groundwater.
5 Hatim, a low wall originally part of the Kaaba. It is a semi-circular wall opposite, but not connected to, the north-west wall of the Kaaba known as the hatīm. This is 90 cm (35 in) in height and 1.5 m (4.9 ft) in width, and is composed of white marble. At one time the space lying between the hatīm and the Kaaba belonged to the Kaaba itself, and for this reason it is not entered during the tawaf. Some believe that the graves of Ismail and his mother Hagar are located in this space.
6 Al-Multazam, the part of the wall between the Black Stone and the entry door.
7 The Station of Abraham, a glass and metal enclosure with what is said to be an imprint of Abraham's foot. Abraham is said to have stood on this stone during the construction of the upper parts of the Kaaba, raising Ismail on his shoulders for the uppermost parts.
8 Corner of the Black Stone (East).
9 Corner of
traditionally acknowledge a large vertical stone that forms this corner. Yemen
10 Corner of
11 Corner of
(North-East). This inside
corner, behind a curtain, contains the Babut Taubah, Door of Repentance, which
leads to a staircase to the roof. Iraq
12 Kiswa, the embroidered covering. Kiswa is a black silk and gold curtain which is replaced annually during the Hajj pilgrimage. Two-thirds of the way up is a band of gold-embroidered Quranic text, including the Shahada, the Islamic declaration of faith.
13 Marble stripe marking the beginning and end of each circumperambulation.
14 The station of Gabriel.
The Kaaba is the holiest site in Islam, and similar to the
for Jewish people, where they also turn to pray Temple Mount
The Qibla is the Muslims name for the direction faced during prayer.Quran 2:143–144 It is the focal point for prayer. The direction faced during prayer is the direction of where the Kaaba is.
The Haram is the focal point of the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages that occur in the month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the Islamic calendar and at any time of the year, respectively. The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the Pillars of Islam, required of all able-bodied Muslims who can afford the trip. In recent times, about 6 million Muslims perform the Hajj every year.
Some of the rituals performed by pilgrims are symbolic of historical incidents. For example, the episode of Hagar's search for water is emulated by Muslims as they run between the two hills of Safa and Marwah whenever they visit
The Hajj is associated with the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to
is considered by
Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Sayyidna Ibrahim
According to Quran and Islamic tradition the Kaaba was rebuild by Ibrahim (Abraham). It is stated in the Qur'an that this was the first house that was built for humanity to worship Allah.
Writing in the Encyclopedia of Islam, Wensinck identifies
Mecca with a place called Macoraba mentioned by Ptolemy
and found in a 3rd-century BC map which suggests that Macoraba was . Mecca
In her book, Islam: A Short History, Karen Armstrong asserts that the Kaaba was at some point dedicated to Hubal, a Nabatean deity, and contained 360 idols that probably represented the days of the year. But by Muhammad's day, the Kaaba was venerated as the shrine of Allah, the High God. Once a year, tribes from all around the Arabian peninsula, whether Christian or pagan, would converge on
to perform the Hajj, marking the widespread conviction that Allah was the same
deity worshiped by monotheists. Mecca
Imoti contends that there were numerous such "Kaaba" sanctuaries in
Arabia at one
time, but this was the only one built of stone. The others also allegedly had
counterparts of the Black Stone. There was a "red stone", the deity
of the south Arabian city of Ghaiman, and the
"white stone" in the Kaaba of al-Abalat (near the city of Tabala, south of ).
Grunebaum in Classical Islam points out that the experience of divinity of that
period was often associated with stone fetishes, mountains, special rock
formations, or "trees of strange growth." Mecca
The Kaaba was thought to be at the center of the world, with the Gate of Heaven directly above it. The Kaaba marked the location where the sacred world intersected with the profane; the embedded Black Stone was a further symbol of this as a meteorite that had fallen from the sky and linked heaven and earth.
According to Sarwar, about 400 years before the birth of Muhammad, a man named "Amr bin Lahyo bin Harath bin Amr ul-Qais bin Thalaba bin Azd bin Khalan bin Babalyun bin Saba", who was descended from Qahtan and was the king of Hijaz (the northwestern section of Saudi Arabia, which encompassed the cities of Mecca and Medina), had placed a Hubal idol onto the roof of the Kaaba. This idol was one of the chief deities of the ruling Quraysh. The idol was made of red agate and shaped like a human, but with the right hand broken off and replaced with a golden hand. When the idol was moved inside the Kaaba, it had seven arrows in front of it, which were used for divination.
To maintain peace among the perpetually warring tribes,
was declared a
sanctuary where no violence was allowed within 20 miles (32 km) of the Kaaba.
This combat-free zone allowed Mecca
to thrive not only as a place of pilgrimage, but also as a trading center. Mecca
Edward Gibbon suggested that the Kaaba was mentioned by ancient Greek writer, Diodorus Siculus, before the Christian era:
The genuine antiquity of Caaba ascends beyond the Christian era: in describing the coast of the Red sea the Greek historian Diodorus has remarked, between the Thamudites and the Sabeans, a famous temple, whose superior sanctity was revered by all the Arabians; the linen of silken veil, which is annually renewed by the Turkish emperor, was first offered by the Homerites, who reigned seven hundred years before the time of Mohammad.
—Edward Gibbon, Decline And Fall Of The
Volume V, pp. 223–224
In Makkan Trade and the Rise of Islam, Patricia Crone argues that the identification of Macoraba with
is false and that Macoraba was a town in southern Arabia
in what was then known as Arabia Felix
Crone was responded to by Amaal Muhammad Al-Roubi in "A Response to Patrica Crone's book".
G. E. von Grunebaum says,
—G. E. Von Grunebaum, Classical Islam: A History 600–1258, p. 19
Many Muslim and academic historians stress the power and importance of the pre-Islamic
They depict it as a city grown rich on the proceeds of the spice trade. Crone
believes that this is an exaggeration and that Mecca may only have been an outpost trading
with nomads for leather, cloth, and camel butter. Crone argues that if Mecca had been a
well-known center of trade, it would have been mentioned by later authors such
as Procopius, Nonnosus, or the Syrian church chroniclers writing in Syriac. The
town is absent, however, from any geographies or histories written in the three
centuries before the rise of Islam. Mecca
According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "before the rise of Islam it was revered as a sacred sanctuary and was a site of pilgrimage." According to German historian Eduard Glaser, the name "Kaaba" may have been related to the southern Arabian or Ethiopian word "mikrab", signifying a temple. Again, Crone disputes this etymology.
At the time of Muhammad (570–632 AD), his tribe, the Quraysh, was in charge of the Kaaba, which was at that time a shrine containing hundreds of idols representing Arabian tribal gods and other religious figures. Muhammad earned the enmity of his tribe by claiming the Kaaba to be dedicated to the worship of Allah alone and by having all the other idols evicted. The Quraysh persecuted and harassed him continuously, so he and his followers eventually migrated to
in 622. Medina
Islamic histories also mention a reconstruction of the Kaaba around 600 AD. A story found in Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasūl Allāh, one of the biographies of Muhammad (as reconstructed and translated by Guillaume), describes Muhammad settling a quarrel between Meccan clans as to which clan should set the Black Stone cornerstone in place. According to Ishaq's biography, Muhammad's solution was to have all the clan elders raise the cornerstone on a cloak, after which Muhammad set the stone into its final place with his own hands. Ibn Ishaq says that the timber for the reconstruction of the Kaaba came from a Greek ship that had been wrecked on the Red Sea coast at Shu'ayba and that the work was undertaken by a Coptic carpenter called Baqum.
After this migration, or Hijra, the Muslim community became a political and military force, continuously repelling Meccan attacks. In 630 AD, two years after signing the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, the Meccan Quraysh attacked the Bedouin Khuza'a, thereby breaking the peace treaty. The Muslims emerged as victors in the battle that followed this incident and Muhammad entered
with his followers; they proceeded to the Kaaba. He refused, however, to enter
the Kaaba while there were idols in it and so sent Abu Sufyan ibn Harb and
Mughira ibn Shu'ba to remove them. Mecca
Narrated Ibn Abbas: When Allah's Apostle arrived in
he refused to enter the Ka'ba while there were idols in it. So he ordered that
they be taken out. The pictures of the (Prophets) Ibrahim and Ishmael, holding arrows
of divination in their hands, were carried out. The Prophet said, "May
Allah ruin them (i.e. the infidels) for they knew very well that they (i.e.
Ibrahim and Ishmael) never drew lots by these (divination arrows). Then the
Prophet entered the Ka'ba and said. "Allahu Akbar" in all its
directions and came out and not offer any prayer therein. Mecca
—Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book 59, Hadith 584
The Kaaba was re-dedicated as an Islamic house of worship and henceforth the annual pilgrimage was to be a Muslim rite, the Hajj, with visits to the Kaaba and other sacred around
The Kaaba has been repaired and reconstructed many times since Muhammad's day. The structure was severely damaged by fire on 3 Rabi I (Sunday, 31 October 683), during the first siege of
in the war between the Umayyads and Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr, an early Muslim
for many years between the death of ʿAli and the consolidation of Umayyad
power. Ibn al-Zubayr rebuilt it to include the hatīm. He did so on the basis of
a tradition (found in several hadith collections) that the hatīm was a remnant
of the foundations of the Abrahamic Kaaba, and that Muhammad himself had wished
to rebuild so as to include it. Mecca
The Kaaba was bombarded with stones in the second siege of
in 692, in which
the Umayyad army was led by al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. The fall of the city and the
death of Ibn al-Zubayr allowed the Umayyads under ʿAbdu l-Malik ibn Marwan to
finally reunite all the Islamic possessions and end the long civil war. In 693
AD, ʿAbdu l-Malik had the remnants of al-Zubayr's Kaaba razed, and rebuilt on
the foundations set by the Quraysh. The Kaaba returned to the cube shape it had
taken during Muhammad's time. Mecca
During the Hajj of 930 AD, the Qarmatians attacked
Mecca, defiled the Zamzam Well with the bodies of pilgrims
and stole the Black Stone, taking it to the oasis region of Eastern
Arabia known as al-Aḥsāʾ, where it remained until the Abbasids
ransomed it in 952 AD. The basic shape and structure of the Kaaba have not
changed since then.
After heavy rains and flooding in 1629, the walls of the Kaaba collapsed and the Masjid was damaged. The same year, during the reign of Murad IV, the Kaaba was rebuilt with granite stones from
and the Masjid was renovated. The
Kaaba's appearance has not changed since then. Mecca
The Kaaba is depicted on the reverse of 500 Saudi Riyal, and the 2000 Iranian rial banknotes.