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HISTORY OF THE KA'BA/HAJJ
For fourteen centuries, Muslims have been assembling in Mecca and following the example of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in performing the pilgrimage. But the Ka'ba was long time before the last Prophet, already a place of worship.
The Ka'ba was the first house of worship built by the first man on earth. God commanded Adam (AS) to make a journey. He walked umpteen months until he arrived guided by God to Mecca. Here, he was instructed to build Him a House, that would become the House of worship to the only One. This is where we first learned to mourn our separation from our Beloved. This is where Adam (AS) shed countless tears to lament loss of paradisiacal glory. This house will become a place where Muslims seek the nearness of God, and try to experience His intimacy.
"My Lord! Grant me (offspring) from the righteous". So We gave him the glad tidings of a forbearing boy. And, when he (his son) was old enough to walk with him, he said: "O my son! I have seen in a dream that I am slaughtering you (offer you in sacrifice to Allah), so look what you think!" He said: "O my father! Do that which you are commanded, Inshâ' Allâh (if Allah wills), you shall find me of As-Sâbirûn (the patient)." Then, when they had both submitted themselves (to the Will of Allâh), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (or on the side of his forehead for slaughtering); And We called out to him: "O Ibrahim! You have fulfilled the dream (vision)!" Verily! Thus do We reward the good doers. Verily, that indeed was a manifest trial. And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice; And We left for him (a goodly remembrance) among the later generations. Salâmun (peace) be upon Ibrâhim!"<Qur'an As-saffat 37:100;109>
Muslims commemorate Ibrahim (AS) and his son's faith and surrender. Ibrahim
(AS) who was called the Friend of God, loved the Only one above all.
Ibrahim (AS) was instructed to bring Hajar and her son Ismael (AS) near the
mound that was once the Ka'ba. In this desolate place with no people around
and no water source, he left them with a leather bag containing some dates,
and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. Ismael's
mother followed him saying, "O Ibrahim (AS)! Where are you going, leaving
us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is
there anything (to enjoy)?" She repeated that to him many times, but he
did not look back at her. Then she asked him, "Has Allah ordered you to
do so?" He said, "Yes." She said, "Then He will not neglect
us." She really believed in God and trusted in him! They knew that God,
the provider will provide to them. Hajar went on suckling Ismael (AS) and drinking
from the water (she had). When all water ran out, she became thirsty and her
child also became thirsty. She started looking at Ismael (AS) tossing in agony;
she left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain
of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started
looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not
see anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she
ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, until she crossed the
valley and reached the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting
to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between
Safa and Marwa) seven times. That is how today every pilgrim must run seven
times between the Twin Peaks of Safa and Marwa. When she reached the Marwa (for
the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened
attentively. She heard the voice again and said, 'O, (whoever you may be)! You
have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?" And behold!
She saw an angel at the place of Zam-Zam, digging the earth with his heel till
water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around
it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water
with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of
it. This source is still nowadays flowing.
By the time of Ibrahim (AS), the House of Ka'ba has been destroyed. God gave the task to Ibrahim (AS) to rebuild it. The Prophet Ibrahim (AS), who is also known as Khalilu Allah (friend of God) recruited his son Ismael (AS) for the task. For months at end, the two Prophets toiled under the searing desert sun sustained only by their burning love for God. Every year, when pilgrims come to the Ka'ba, they were to come on 10th of the month of Zilhijj. This auspicious day God asked Ibrahim (AS) to sacrifice his son Ismael.
"Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): "Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). And proclaim the Pilgrimage (Hajj) among men: they will come to you on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways; That they may witness the benefits (provided) for them, and celebrate the name of Allah, through the Days appointed, over the cattle which He has provided for them (for sacrifice): then eat ye thereof and feed the distressed ones in want. Then let them complete the rites prescribed for them, perform their vows, and (again) circumambulate the Ancient House." <Qur'an Al-Hajj 22-26;29>
When Muhammad (pbuh) appeared, Ka’ba was already there and was considered a religious, political and commercial center. Prior to Islam, some 360 idols surrounded it and Allah was their chief god. Interestingly, during Muhammad’s early adulthood (before his "prophethood"), Ka’ba had to be renovated and, it was he who re-installed the black stone as the corner stone for the new building.
When Muhammad (pbuh) received his prophethood from Allah, he urged his followers to perform the Hajj, even during the time of his escape to, and exile in, Medina. When he defeated the Meccans and seized their city and shrine, he decreed the Hajj and made it a pillar of Islam. He also instituted the rituals relative to it and the times to perform them. Those rituals are the same ones that Muslims perform to this day. However, there are two kinds of Hajj. There is a regular, ‘small’ one called "Umra", and then the ‘great’ Hajj, which is officially called "Hajj". Umra can be performed at any time of the year and takes only one day, but Hajj is to be performed only once a year and takes several successive days.
Muhammad (pbuh) himself instructed the believers in the rituals of the Hajj in two ways: by his own practice, or by approving the practices of his companions. This added some complexity to the rituals, but also provided increased flexibility in carrying them out, much to the benefit of pilgrims ever since. It is lawful, for instance, to have some variation in the order in which the several rites are carried out, because the Prophet (pbuh) himself is recorded as having approved such actions.