Islam / Mecca /
The most holy structure in Islam situated in Mecca, and is according to Islam the centre of the world.
The Black Stone.
Inside the Ka'ba.
The Ka'ba is the qibla, the direction Muslims perform the salat, the prayer, in. The area around the Ka'ba is considered sacred, and inside the area the truce of God reigns. Man and animals are all safe here, and shall not be forced away. In the Koran, it is written:
Koran sura 3: Imran's house
90 ...the first house built for mankind, was in Mecca, to bless and guide all worlds
The base of the Ka'ba is 10.5 x 12 meters, and it's 15 meters high, and is standing on a marble base which is 25 cm high. Each of the corners are pointing in the four directions of the compass. It is built of grey stones from the hills around Mecca.
The door of the Ka'ba is in the northeastern wall, and is 2 meters above the ground. Inside the Ka'ba, three wooden pillars hold the roof up. The roof can be accessed by a ladder. The floor is covered by marble, and there are no furnitures, except gold and silver lamps.
On the outside, in the corner east of the door and 1.5 meters above the ground, the Black Stone is found. This Black Stone is now in pieces, three large parts, and smaller fragments, which are tied together with a silver band. There are several theories on the origin of the Black Stone: a meteor; lava; or basalt. Its colour is reddish black, with some red and yellow particles. Its original diameter is estimated to have been 30 cm. There is another stone, too, built into the Ka'ba, in the western corner, the Stone of Good Fortune, which is far less sacred than the Black Stone. The wall between the door and the Black Stone, is very sacred, and has a lot of baraka.
The Ka'ba is covered by the kiswa, a black curtain produced in Egypt, and changed annually at the time of hajj. In an interim period, lasting a little bit more than two weeks, the Ka'ba is covered by a white covering, and it is at the end of hajj that the new kiswa is presented. The tradition of the kiswa has seen many changes. Several kiswas could earlier be put over the Ka'ba, kiswas coming from anywhere, and in all possible colours.
There is sparse information on the Ka'ba before the time of Muhammad, but it is clear that it had for centuries been used as an important religious centre, by one or more polytheistic religion(s), which all are now disappeared.
There are no traditional sources telling anything about its age, but according to Islam it is the first construction ever put up on earth, as it is seen out of the Koran- excerpt above. But another excerpt (2, 121) says that it was Ibrahim and Isma'il who raised the foundations of it. This can be understood as the two renovating the Ka'ba.
A fire in the Ka'ba at the time of Muhammad destroyed it partly, and the renovation resulted in major alterations. The size was increased, the door was put up high to prevent unwanted visitors. Rebel activities in 683 CE (64 H) destroyed the Ka'ba over again, and a fire made the Black Stone split. The second renovation began after the removal of the old ruins. Two new doors at ground level were added. In 693 (74 H) the new doors were removed, and the Ka'ba have had more or less the same shape and size up until now. Only small alterations and renovations have been made. Most of the stones are original from the 683 structure. The Black Stone was removed from the Ka'ba for more than 20 years in 10th century, but was eventually returned to its original place.
The doorkeepers of the Ka'ba are still the family Banu Shayba, which were appointed by Muhammad.
In addition to being the centre of hajj and umra, the Ka'ba is the centre for some other and smaller ceremonies. One of these ceremonies involve the actual opening of the Ka'ba, where people, men first, then women, can enter.