The Kabah: Its Size and History:
The small, cubed building known as the Kabah may not
rival skyscrapers in height or mansions in width, but its impact on
history and human beings is unmatched. The Kabah is the building towards
which Muslims face five times a day, everyday, in prayer. This has been
the case since the time of Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi
wassallam) over 1400 years ago.
The Size of the Kabah:
The current height of the Kabah is 39 feet, 6 inches and total size
comes to 627 square feet.
The inside room of the Kabah is 13x9 meters. The Kabah's
walls are one meter wide. The floor inside is 2.2 meters higher than the
place where people perform Tawaf.
The ceiling and roof are two levels made out of wood. They were
reconstructed with teak which is capped with stainless steel. The walls
are all made of stone. The stones inside are unpolished, while the ones
outside are polished.
This small building has been constructed and reconstructed by Prophets
Adam, Ibrahim, Ismail and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). No other
building has had this honor. Yet, not very much is known about the
details of this small but significant building.
The Other Names of the Kabah:
Literally, Kabah in Arabic means a high place with
respect and prestige. The word Kabah may also be derivative of a word
meaning a cube. Some of these other names include:
1. Bait ul Ateeq - which means, according to one
meaning, the earliest and ancient. According to the second meaning, it
means independent and liberating. Both meanings could be taken.
2. Bait ul Haram - the honorable house.
Scholars and historians say that the Kabah has been reconstructed
between 5 to 12 times. The very first construction of the Kabah was done
by Prophet Adam (peace be upon him). Allah says in the Quran that this
was the first house that was built for humanity to worship Allah. After
this, Prophet Ibrahim and Ismail (peace be upon them) rebuilt the Kabah.
The measurements of the Kabah's foundation by Ibrahim are as follows:
The eastern wall was 48 feet and 6 inches
The Hateem side wall was 33 feet
The side between the black stone and the Yemeni corner was 30 feet
The Western side was 46.5 feet
Following this, there were several constructions before the Prophet
Muhammad's (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) time.
Reconstruction of Kabah by Quraish:
Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) participated in one of
its reconstructions before he became a Prophet. After a flash flood, the
Kabah was damaged and its walls cracked. It needed rebuilding. This
responsibility was divided among the Quraish's four tribes. Prophet
Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) helped with this reconstruction.
Once the walls were erected, it was time to place the Black Stone, (the
Hajar ul Aswad) on the eastern wall of the Kabah. Arguments erupted
about who would have the honor of putting the Black Stone in its place.
A fight was about to break out over the issue, when Abu Umayyah,
Makkah's oldest man, proposed that the first man to enter the gate of
the mosque the following morning would decide the matter. That man was
the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam). The Makkans were ecstatic.
"This is the trustworthy one (Al-Ameen)" they shouted in a chorus. "This
is Muhammad." He came to them and they asked him to decide on the
matter. He agreed.
Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) proposed a solution that
all agreed to - putting the Black Stone on a cloak, the elders of each
of the clans held on to one edge of the cloak and carried the stone to
its place. The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) then picked up the
stone and placed it on the wall of the Kabah.
Since the tribe of Quraish did not have sufficient funds, this
reconstruction did not include the entire foundation of the Kabah as
built by Prophet Ibrahim. This is the first time the Kabah acquired the
cubical shape it has now, unlike the rectangle shape which it had
earlier. The portion of the Kabah left out is called Hateem now.
Construction after the Prophet's Time -
Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr:
The Syrian army destroyed the Kabah in Muharram 64 (Hijri date) and
before the next Hajj Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr, may Allah be pleased with
him, reconstructed the Kabah from the ground up.
Ibn az-Zubayr wanted to make the Kabah how the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu
alaiyhi wassallam) wanted it, on the foundation of the Prophet Ibrahim.
Ibn az-Zubayr said, "I heard Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) say,
The Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) said: "If your people had not
quite recently abandoned the Ignorance (Unbelief), and if I had
sufficient provisions to rebuild it [the Kabah], I would have added five
cubits to it from the Hijr. Also, I would make two doors; one for people
to enter therein and the other to exit." (Bukhari).
Ibn az-Zubayr said, "Today, I can afford to do it and I do not fear the
people. Ibn az-Zubayr built the Kabah on Prophet Ibrahim's foundation.
He put the roof on three pillars with the wood of Aoud (a perfumed wood
with aroma which is traditionally burned to get a good smell out of it
In his construction he put two doors, one facing the east the other
facing the west, as the Prophet (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) wanted
but did not do in his lifetime. He rebuilt the Kabah on the Prophet
Ibrahim's foundation, which meant that the Hateem area was included. The
Hateem is the area adjacent to the Kabah enclosed by a low semi-circular
Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr also made the following additions and
Put a small window close to the roof of the Kabah to
allow for light.
Moved the door of the Kabah to ground level and added a second door to
Added nine cubits to the height of the Kabah, making it twenty cubits
Iits walls were two cubits wide.
Reduced the pillars inside the House to three instead of six as were
earlier built by Quraish.
For reconstruction, ibn az-Zubayr put up four pillars around the Kabah
and hung cloth over them until the building was completed. People began
to do Tawaf around these pillars at all times, so Tawaf of the Kabah was
never abandoned, even during reconstruction.
During Abdul Malik bin Marwan's time in 74 Hijri (or 693 according to
the Gregorian calendar), Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf al-Thaqafi, the known
tyrant of that time, with the approval of Umayyad Khalifa Abdul Malik
bin Marwan, demolished what Ibn az-Zubayr had added to it from the older
foundation of Prophet Ibrahim, and restored its old structure as the
Quraish had had it.
Some of the changes he made were the following:
He rebuilt it in the smaller shape which is found today
Took out the Hateem
Walled up the western door (whose signs are still visible today) and
left the rest as it was
Pulled down the wall in the Hateem area.
Removed the wooden ladder Ibn az-Zubayr had put inside the Kabah.
Reduced the door's height by five cubits
When Abdul Malik bin Marwan came for Umra and heard the hadith that it
was the wish of the Prophet (s.a.w.) for the Kabah to be constructed the
Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr had built it, he regretted his actions.
Imam Malik's advice to the Khalifa Harun al
Khalifa Harun al Rasheed wanted to rebuild the Kabah the way Prophet
Muhammad (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) wanted and the way Abdullah ibn
az-Zubayr built it. But when he consulted Imam Malik, the Imam asked the
Khalifa to change his mind because constant demolition and rebuilding is
not respectful and would become a toy in the hands of kings. Each one
would want to demolish and rebuild the Kabah. Based on this advice,
Harun al Rasheed did not reconstruct the Kabah. The structure remained
in the same construction for 966 years, with minor repairs here and
Reconstruction during Sultan Murad Khan's time:
In the year 1039 Hijri, because of heavy rain, flood and hail, two of
the Kabah's walls fell down. The flood during which this occurred took
place on the 19th of Shaban 1039 Hijri which continued constantly, so
the water in the Kabah became almost close to half of its walls, about
10 feet from the ground level. On Thursday the 20th of Shaban 1039 Hijri,
the eastern and western walls fell down.
When flood receded on Friday the 21st of Shaban, the cleanup started.
Again, a curtain, the way Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr established on 4
pillars, was put up, and the reconstruction started on the 26th of
Ramadan. The rest of the walls except for the one near the Black Stone,
By the 2nd of Zul-Hijjah 1040 the construction was taking place under
the guidance of Sultan Murad Khan, the Ottoman Khalifa. From the point
of the Black Stone and below, the current construction is the same as
that done by Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr.
The construction which was done under the auspices of Murad Khan was
exactly the one done at the time of Abdul Malik ibn Marwan which is the
way the Quraysh had built it before Prophethood.
On Rajab 28 1377, one historian counted the total stones of the Kabah
and they were 1,614. These stones are of different shapes. But the
stones which are inside the outer wall which is visible are not counted
Reconstruction of the Kabah in 1996:
A major reconstruction of the Kabah took place between May 1996 and
October 1996. This was after a period of about 400 years (since Sultan
Murad Khan's time). During this reconstruction the only original thing
left from the Kabah are the stones. All other material has been replaced
including the ceiling and the roof and its wood.
What is inside the Kabah?
Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi is the president of the Islamic Society of North
America (ISNA). He had the opportunity to go inside the Kabah in October
He described the following features:
There are two pillars inside (others report 3 pillars)
There is a table on the side to put items like perfume
There are two lantern-type lamps hanging from the ceiling
The space can accommodate about 50 people
There are no electric lights inside
The walls and floors are of marble
There are no windows inside
There is only one door
The upper inside walls of the Kabah were covered with some kind of
curtain with the Kalima written on it.
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