Is Kaaba an idol? Do Muslims worship Kaaba or the ‘black stone’? If not then, why do they pray or prostrate in the direction of Ka’aba in Makkah or Mecca (Saudi Arabia)? What is significance of Kaaba in Islam? Why do some Muslims touch or kiss the black stone in the Kaa’ba when they perform the pilgrimage? These are the questions raised by most of the non-Muslims. There is a misunderstanding among the majority of the non-Muslims that Holy Kaaba was built after the death of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him). In order to understand the answers to these questions one must take a look at the history of the Holy Kaaba, its references in the Holy Quran as well as the books of different other religions and the reasons behind the prayers, by the Muslims, in the direction of the Holy Kaaba.
KA’ABA; THE FIRST EVER BUILDING BUILT FOR WORSHIP:
Since the unknown times travelers and traders have been aware of the Holy city of Makkah and the sacred stone building of the Holy Kaaba lying in the center of Makkah. It is believed that Allah; the Almighty, ordered the Prophet Adam (Peace Be upon Him) to build the place of worship on the world. This stone building; called Baitullaah (the House of Allah), is similar to the House in the Heaven; called Baitul Ma’moor. History itself is unable to determine the sanctity and antiquity of this sacred stone building. It is no doubt believed to be the first ever building built for worship.
Later on, on the foundations laid by the Prophet Adam (Peace Be upon Him), Prophet Ibrahim (Peace Be upon Him) rebuilt this house on Allah; the Almighty’s orders. He took his wife Hajra (Peace Be upon Her) and his infant son Ismael (Peace Be upon Him) in the Southern Deserts of Faaraan and rebuilt the House of Allah, the Holy Kaaba. This stone building of Kaaba was built by Prophet Ibrahim (Peace Be upon Him) for the devout worship of One Allah but the local people filled it with idols and started idol worshiping. He broke all the idols inside the Kaaba. Prophet Ibrahim (Peace Be upon Him) explained them that this stone building; Baitullaah (the Holy Kaaba) is only the symbolic “House of God (Allah the Almighty)” and God doesn’t live there. The people didn’t get his point and shortly after his death, people again filled the Holy Kaaba with idols and again started idol worship. It became their custom that people from far off places used to swarm to the Kaaba annually for idol worshiping. This custom continued till the time of the last prophet; Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him).
Before the prophet-hood of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him), the boundary walls of the Holy Kaaba was damaged due to flood and was repaired by the four tribes of Quraysh. At the honourable moment of placing the sacred Black Stone “Hajr-e-Aswad” on the eastern wall of Kaaba, the tribal leaders started arguing. A fight was about to start when the issue was resolved by the Holy Prophet’s (Peace Be upon Him) intelligence and wisdom. He put the sacred stone on a broad piece of cloth, asked the tribal leaders to lift and take that cloth-piece together to the eastern wall of the Holy Kaaba. Afterwards, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him) himself located the sacred Black Stone at its original place.
After the bloodless conquest of Makkah, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be upon Him) broke all the idols placed inside the Holy Kaaba by the Arabian idol-worshipers. While breaking those idols the Prophet of Islam (Peace Be upon Him) was reciting the following Ayahs (lines) of the Holy Quran:
Truth has come, and falsehood has departed. Indeed is falsehood, [by nature], ever bound to depart.
After the Muslims’ Hijrah (migration) from Makkah to Madinah, they used to come to Makkah to offer Hajj (Islamic pilgrimage) in Zil-Hajj, the last month of the Islamic year. After the bloodless victory of Makkah, Muslims have the control of the Holy Kaaba. Till that time, only Muslims from all over the world visit the Holy Kaaba annually to offer Hajj.
THE HOLY KAABA BEING MADE THE QIBLA
It is also a fact that the Muslims didn’t faced Kaaba in the beginning. They used to pray in the direction of Baitul-Muqaddas (Masjid-e-Aqsa) in Jerusalem. About sixteen months after the Muslims’ migration to Madinah, Allah; the Almighty, changed the qibla (direction) to the Holy Kaaba. Since that time all the Muslims arounf the world face the Holy Kaaba while offering prayers.
It is stated in The Holy Quran:
And thus we have made you a just community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you. And We did not make the qiblah which you used to face except that We might make evident who would follow the Messenger from who would turn back on his heels. And indeed, it is difficult except for those whom Allah has guided. And never would Allah have caused you to lose your faith. Indeed Allah is, to the people, Kind and Merciful. We have certainly seen the turning of your face, [O Muhammad], toward the heaven, and We will surely turn you to a qiblah with which you will be pleased. So turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haram. And wherever you [believers] are, turn your faces toward it [in prayer]. Indeed, those who have been given the Scripture well know that it is the truth from their Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what they do.
Thus, the Holy Kaaba is actually a direction provided to the Muslims all over the world for worshiping Allah; the Almighty in order to provoke unity among the Muslims.
THE HOLY KAABA; THE DIRECTION OF MUSLIMS’ PRAYERS
According to the Quran and the Bible, the Holy Kaaba is just a focal point for the Muslims all over the world. It is actually the direction given to the Muslims for offering prayers. Muslims from all over the world face to the direction of Kaaba in Makkah five times a day.
It is stated in The Holy Quran:
For each [religious following] is a direction toward which it faces. So race to [all that is] good. Wherever you may be, Allah will bring you forth [for judgement] all together. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent. So from wherever you go out [for prayer, O Muhammad] turn your face toward al- Masjid al-Haram, and indeed, it is the truth from your Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what you do.
In the Bible, it is stated:
I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
[From the NIV Bible, Psalm 138:2]
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE HOLY KAABA AND HINDU OR BUDDHIST IDOLS
Islam denies the idol-worship. On the other hand, it believes in the Oneness of God. It is a fact that the Muslims all over the world only face the Holy Kaaba during prayers, they do not worship it (God forbids) or regard it to be their God. They only believe it to be the symbolic House of Allah on earth similar to Bait-ul-Ma’amoor (Allah’s house in the Heaven straight above the Holy Kaaba).
Allah says in The Holy Quran:
You only worship, besides Allah, idols, and you produce a falsehood. Indeed, those you worship besides Allah do not possess for you [the power of] provision. So seek from Allah provision and worship Him and be grateful to Him. To Him you will be returned.”
On the other hand, the idol worshipers regard the sculptures made by them to be their gods. They place the idols in front of them and start worshiping them and prostrate in front of them. Moreover, people also make the idols of sun, moon or birds etc and worship those. Islam discourages this idol worship.
Allah says in The Holy Quran:
And of His signs are the night and day and the sun and moon. Do not prostrate to the sun or to the moon, but prostate to Allah, who created them, if it should be Him that you worship.
They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the new moons. Say, “They are measurements of time for the people and for Hajj.” And it is not righteousness to enter houses from the back, but righteousness is [in] one who fears Allah. And enter houses from their doors. And fear Allah that you may succeed.
ONE DIRECTION ENCOURAGES MUSLIM UNITY
Islam believes in the Unity of the Muslims all over the world. That is why, the Muslims worship one God facing one direction using one language. One direction allotted to the Muslims by Allah; the Almighty, encourages Muslim Unity throughout the world. It is actually a message that the Muslims are united, they are one. It is actually to show the unity of Muslims to the non-Muslims.
To conclude, it is clear that Muslims are ordered to face Kaaba or Kaaba is made their Qibla (the direction) of prayers, only to unite them. Baitullaah, the Holy Kaaba is not an idol but is in fact, the symbolic House of Allah and is the only center point of prayers for approximately 1.5 billion Muslims all over the world.