The Kaaba is a quadrilateral building which is 13 m high, 12 m long and 11 m wide in the middle of Masjid al-Haram in the city of Makkah. The Kaaba, which is the reason for hajj and the qiblah of Muslims, is the first holy temple built on the earth. It is also called Baytullah (House of Allah) and Baytul-atiq (Old House). The following is stated in the Quran: “The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka: full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings.” (Aal-i Imran, 3/96)
Answering the questions of Abu Dharr, one of the Companions, Hz. Prophet (pbuh) stated that the first mosque built on the Earth was “Masjid al-Haram” and the second one was “Masjid al-Aqsa”; he also said that there was a period of forty years between their constructions. (Bukhari, Anbiya. 10).
The verse and hadith above state clearly that the first mosque built on the earth is the Kaaba.
It is stated in the Quran the people that built the Kaaba were Hz. Ibrahim and his son Ismail.
These two prophets went to the region of Hejaz as follows: While Hz. Ibrahim was fulfilling the duty of prophethood in Palestine, he had to move her second wife Hz. Hagar to another place and settle her there due to the emotional competition and jealousy between her and his first wife. Hz. Ibrahim (pbuh) took his wife, Hagar, and his son, Ismail, who was a baby sucking his mother’s milk, to the place where the Zamzam Well is located now. The city of Makkah had not been built then; there was nobody around. When he wanted to return to Palestine by leaving a leather bottle of water and some dates with them, Hagar asked him whether this migration was an order of Allah. When Hz. Ibrahim (pbuh) said he would leave them acting upon the revelation of Allah,” Hagar said, “Allah will protect us; you can leave.” Thus, this woman and the baby who was still being breastfed were left alone in the middle of the desert where nobody lived.
Water started to spring from the place where Ismail was as a grace of Allah while Hz. Hagar was going between Safa and Marwa hills. Hz. Hagar tried to form a pond so that the water would not flow out and shouted at the water as “zam, zam (stop, stop)”. After a while, the tribe of Jurhumis understood from the flying of the birds that there was water there and changed their route. They arrived there and Hz. Hagar gave them permission to obtain water from there; in return for it, Jurhumis undertook the duty of supplying food for Hagar and her son. Jurhumis became the founders and first people of Makkah. (see az-Zabidi, Tajrid-i Sarih, Trnslt Kamil Miras, Ankara 1984, VI, 13, ff)
Hz. Ibrahim went to Hejaz from time to time and he built the Kaaba with his son when he grew up. This event is narrated as follows in the Quran:
“Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House (saying): “Associate not any thing (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).” (al-Hajj, 22/26)
While the Kaaba was being built, Hz. Ismail carried stones to the Kaaba and Hz. Ibrahim put up walls. When the walls became too high to reach from the ground, Hz. Ismail brought the big stone known as “Maqam Ibrahim” today. Hz. Ibrahim used this stone as a platform. Hajar al-Aswad (the black stone) brought from Mount Abu Qubays, was put in its current place to indicate the place of starting circumambulation. When the walls of the Kaaba became high enough, Hz. Ibrahim and Ismail prayed as follows:
“Our Lord! accept (this service) from us; for thou art the All-Hearing the All-Knowing. Our Lord! Make of us Muslims bowing to Thy (Will) and of our progeny a people Muslim bowing to Thy (Will) and show us our places for the celebration of (due) rites; and turn unto us (in Mercy); for Thou art the Oft-Returning Most-Merciful. Our Lord! Send amongst them a Messenger of their own who shall rehearse Thy Signs to them and instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom, and purify them; for Thou art the Exalted in Might the Wise.” (al-Baqara, 2/127-129)
The prayer of Hz. Ibrahim was accepted and Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) was sent as a prophet from his lineage. It is reported that the Prophet stated the following indicating that dream: “I am honored by my father, Ibrahim’s prayer, my brother Isa’s glad tiding and my mother’s dream.” (Ahmad b. Hanbal, Musnad, IV, 127, 128, V, 262)
On the other hand, it is stated in a hadith reported by Ibn Ujra that the ummah of Islam read the prayers of “tahiyyat” and “Allahumma salli-barik” in all prayers and prayed for Hz. Ibrahim and his lineage as a kind of thanking for this old prayer of Hz. Ibrahim. (az-Zabidi, ibid, VI, 18, 19).
It is also reported that the first person to build the Kaaba was Hz. Adam (pbuh) and that Hz. Ibrahim and his son, Ismail built it on the same foundations after the Great Flood at the time of Noah. (az-Zabidi, ibid, VI, 13)
After the construction of the Kaaba ended, Allah ordered Hz. Ibrahim to call all people to the Kaaba for hajj: “And proclaim the Pilgrimage among men: they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways ” (al-Hajj, 22/27).
Hz. Ibrahim climbed on Abu Qubays Mount and called out to four directions, telling the people that Allah made it fard (obligatory) for them to visit the Kaaba for hajj. (az-Zabidi, ibid, VI, 20, 21).
After making this announcement, Jibril arrived and showed him “Safa” and “Marwa” and the boundaries of Masjid al-Haram; he also advised him to put up stones as signs. Then, he taught Hz. Ibrahim the necessary information about hajj; they arrived at Mina wearing ihrams and to Arafat by uttering “La ilaha illallah” and “Labbayk” on the way. After staying (waqfa) in Arafat, they went to Muzdalifa and then to Mina; Jibril made him slaughter an animal and showed him how to stone Satan. In short, he taught Hz. Ibrahim all of the rituals of hajj. These rituals of hajj were taught to the ummah by Hz. Ismail who was sent to the people of Hejaz as a prophet. Then, Ishaq arrived in Makkah and performed hajj with his older brother Ismail
After that, visitors from near and distant places started to go to Hejaz and visit the Kaaba. It is reported that Yemenis and some Persian kings visited the Kaaba before Islam and that the two golden deer statues removed while cleaning the Zamzam Well by Abdulmuttalib, the Prophet’s father, were religious offerings of the Persians. (az-Zabidi, ibid, VI, 21)
The Kaaba has been repaired several times so far. As a matter of fact, the Kaaba was repaired by Qusay, the Prophet’s great-grandfather and it was also repaired by Qurayshis during the youth of the Prophet (pbuh). Meanwhile, when there was a disagreement about who will place Hajar al-Aswad, Hz. Prophet was given the honor of placing it.
The Kaaba was also repaired during the era of Abdullah b. Zubayr, the Umayyad caliph Abdulmalik, the Ottoman sultans Ahmed I and Murad IV. After the Ottoman sultans, the Saudi government has taken care of the maintenance and repairs of the Kaaba.
During the first years, the duties related to the Kaaba were carried out by Hz. Ismail. After him, they were transferred to his son, then to Jurhumis; after them, they were transferred to many other tribes and finally Qurayshis undertook these duties. Before Qurayshis, it was regarded as disrespect to build houses around the Kaaba. However, after Qurayshis undertook these duties, they started to build houses around the Kaaba at the time of Qusay, who divided the land into plots.
Thus, during the period of Qusay, one of the ancestors of Hz. Prophet, Makka assumed a civilized state as a city for the first time. There were people around the Kaaba beforehand too but the division of the land into plots and formation of streets took place during the time of Qusay.
We can list the duties related to the Kaaba in the city state of Makka before Islam as follows:
1. Sidanah: It was the duty of door-keeping, and holding the key of the Kaaba. This duty was regarded as the greatest honor.
2. Siqayah: It was the duty of providing fresh water to hajjis that came to Makkah and taking care of the Zamzam Well.
3. Ridanah: It was the duty of treating meals to the poor hajjis coming to Makkah, to entertain and to accommodate them.
There were also some duties of the emirate of Makkah that were regarded to be connected with the duties related to the Kaaba. They can be listed as follows:
1. Uqab (Qiyada): It was the duty of carrying the banner during wars; the banner was carried by the person who was appointed to carry it or who was in charge of it.
2. Nadwa: It was a kind of meeting place; important events like wars, peace, wedding ceremonies were negotiated and settled there. Not everybody was allowed to join these meetings. Only the leaders of family groups older than forty were allowed to join. This meeting place was first built by Qusay, who was a Qurayshi. Some part of his house was near the place of circumambulation and was called Dar an-Nadwa. Dar an-Nadwa was the parliament of Makkah.
3. Safarah: the duty of embassy.
4. The duty of allowing the goods to be carried.
5. The duty of protecting war equipment.
6. The duty of drawing lots with arrows in front of the idols.
7. Cleaning the Zamzam Well and offering it for usage again.
The corner of the Kaaba in the east is called “Rukn Hajar al-Aswad” or “Rukn ash-Sharq”; the corner in the west is called “Rukn ash-Sham, the one in the south “Rukn al-Yaman” and the one in the north “Rukn al-Iraq.
The 1.5 m thick wall, which is 1 m above the ground opposite the northwest wall (the wall between Rukn al-Iraq and Rukn ash-Sham) in the form of a semicircle, is called “Hatim”. The area between this wall and the Kaaba is called “Hijr al-Kaaba, Hijr Ismail or Hatira”.
This part was also included in the building of the Kaaba constructed by Hz. Ibrahim.
While the Kaaba was being repaired by the tribe of Quraysh five years before Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) was sent as a prophet, this part was left out of the Kaaba because there were not enough materials. Since Hatim is part of the Kaaba, it is regarded wajib to circumambulate the Kaaba outside this wall. It is reported that Hz. Hagar and her son Hz. Ismail were buried in “Hijr”. (see az-Zabidi, ibid, VI, 17-20)
The water spout through which rainwater flows on top of the Kaaba is called “Golden Water Spout” (Mi’zab al-Kaaba).
The door of the Kaaba is two meters higher than the ground in the part between Rukn Hajar al-Aswad and Rukn Iraqi in the north east. The part of the wall between the door and Hajar al-Aswad is called Multazam. The part that surrounds the Kaaba and where prayers are performed is called Masjid al-Haram. The most virtuous mosque in the world is Masjid al-Haram.