Millions of Muslims head to Mecca every year for Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.

by: TN Media News:
Every year, millions of Muslim pilgrims head to Mecca to perform Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, between the eighth and the 12th days of Dhu Al Hijja, the last month of the Islamic calendar. Hajj, which is compulsory only for those physically and financially capable, should be performed at least once in a lifetime. It cleanses the pilgrim spiritually. Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said whoever performs Hajj for the sake of Allah will be free of sin as the day he was born. Gulf News takes you on a journey of the ritual.

History of Kaaba and Hajj: Esmail, son of Ebrahim, and Hajjar, Ebrahim’s wife, were standing in the desert when Esmail was close to death from thirst. Hajjar ran back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa looking for water. Angel Jibril came down to earth and created a spring of water for baby Esmail, today known as the Well of Zamzam.

Following God’s order, Ebrahim was said to have built a monument at the site of the spring known as the Kaaba. Hajj and its rites were first ordained by Allah in the time of the Prophet Ebrahim, who was entrusted by Allah to build the Kaaba – known as the House of Allah – along with his son Esmail at Mecca. Allah described the Kaaba and its building as follows: “And remember when We showed Ebrahim the site of the [Sacred] House (saying: Associate not anything in worship with Me and purify My House for those who circumambulate it (perform towaf) and those who stand up for prayer and those who bow down and make prostration in prayer.” [Sura Al-Hajj 22:26]

AD630 (8 Hijri): Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) led a group of Muslim worshippers back to Mecca to destroy the idols placed there by polytheistic worshippers to re-dedicate the site in the name of Allah.

Historians have said 360 idols belonging to polytheists and pagans in Mecca were destroyed. Part of the Hajj ritual is retracing the path that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his followers travelled, which also include marking Hajjar’s walk between the hills of Safa and Marwa.

Among the other rituals performed during Hajj are the stoning of the wall of Satan, the slaughter of an animal in honour of the sacrifice that Ebrahim made, and climbing Mount of Arafat from where Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) made his last sermon.

AD632 (10 Hijri): Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) performed his first and last Hajj ritual, also known as Hajjat Al Wadaa (The Farewell Pilgrimage). Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) told his close followers to invite people from various places to join him in his final pilgrimage to Mecca. This was also the first occasion when a large number of Muslims gathered in one place in the presence of their leader.

AD632 (10 Hijri) Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) performed his first Hajj. AD632 (10 Hijri) Shortly after returning to Madinah from his pilgrimage to Mecca, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) fell ill and died.

8th and 12th days of the month Dhu Al Hijja:
Muslims perform Hajj in the final month of the lunar Islamic calendar.

Umrahs: Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) performed three Umrahs in his lifetime. The first in the 6th year Hijri (AD628), the second in the 7th year Hijri (AD 629) and the third in the 8th year Hijri (AD 630) after the Hunain battle when re-entering Mecca.

Hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Islam, is a five-day ritual that occurs between the eighth and the 12th days of Dhu Al Hijja, the last month in the Islamic calendar.

Shortly after re-dedicating the Kaaba to Allah, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) carried out the ritual of Hajj, known as Hajjat Al Wadaa.

Kaaba key keepers: Ever wondered who holds the key of the sacred Kaaba, which is considered the house of God by around 1.6 billion Muslims around the world? The Al Shaibi family from Saudi Arabia have been the key keepers of the Kaaba for more than 16 centuries – before Islam and until this day.

The title of Sadin (the key keeper of the Kaaba) is inherited by the eldest member of the Al Shaibi family (not from father to son), who is usually referred to as First Sadin.

In 2015, the first Sadin is Shaikh Abdul Qader Al Shaibi. He is the 109th Sadin from the Al Shaibi family. The First Sadin is in charge of opening and closing the Kaaba twice a year to clean the Kaaba using Zamzam water mixed with rose water and perfumed with oud.

Sadins are the descendants of Kabaa key keeper Qusai Bin Kilab Bin Murrah, who lived before Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). After Prophet Ebrahim built the Kaaba, his son prophet Esmail was the key keeper of the Kaaba but it was taken from him by the Jorhom tribe and the Khuza’a tribe after that.

Qusai, who is said to be one of Prophet Esmail’s sons and a kin of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), however, retrieved the key, which was then inherited by his eldest son, Abdul Daar. After Abdul Daar died, the key was inherited by the eldest successors until it got to Othman Bin Talhah, who lived at the time of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

In an interview with a local Arabic publication, the 108th Sadin, Shaikh Abdul Qadir Al Shaibi, who passed away in 2014, said when Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) successfully reclaimed and gained control over Mecca in the 8th year of Hijri, the key was taken from Bin Talha (who was not Muslim at the time).

The Prophet then entered the Kaaba, destroyed all the idols and prayed inside it. Abbas Bin Abd Al Muttalib (the uncle of the Prophet) requested to keep the key, but Jibril (the Angel) came down to the Prophet with the verse: “Verily Allah commands you to fulfil your trust to those whom it is due….” [Al- Nisa’ verse 58]

Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) gave back the key to Bin Talha and said: “Take it, O Bani Talha, eternally up to the Day of Resurrection, and it will not be taken from you unless by an unjust, oppressive tyrant.”

Ever since that day until now, the key has not left the Al Shaibi family. The 108th Sadin said the shape of the key changes from time to time, as there are currently 48 keys in the Islamic museum in Turkey that go back to the time of the Ottoman Empire and two in the Riyadh museum in Saudi Arabia.

Sadins also have the job of changing the Kaaba’s Kiswa (the black cloth used to cover the Kaaba). In the interview Shaikh Abdul Qader said the Kiswa is changed before the first day of Eid Al Adha on Arafat Day.

He said today, it takes one day to change the Kiswa using the latest technology and electronic stairs. However, earlier it used to take around a month to change with the help of pilgrims. The Kiswa was made of straw, from striped Yemeni cloth, silk, Iraqi pads, Yemeni shawls or Coptic Egyptian cloth.In pre-historic times, the Kiswas were put on top of each other and, when they became heavy or started to wear out, they were removed and divided among the people or buried. This continued until it was taken over by Qusai Bin Kelab, the fourth forefather of the Prophet who regulated the issue.

He grouped all his tribes under one flag and suggested the tribes cooperate with each other according to their capabilities in providing the Kiswa.

This stopped when Abu Rabea Abdullah Bin Amr Al Makhzoumi, who was a very wealthy man, offered to take turns with the Quraish tribes in providing the Kiswa – he would provide the Kiswa on his own for one year while all other tribes of Quarish would provide the covering for the next year.

Matters continued in this manner until his death. After his death, Quarish called him “the equivalent” because his generosity equalled the generosity of the whole Quraish tribe. Among those who have provided a covering for the Kaaba on their own was a woman called Natela Bint Janab who was the wife of Abdul Muttalib.

After she lost her son, Al Abass, she vowed to God to provide the Kiswa on her own if her lost son was found. Fortunately, her lost son returned and she kept her promise and became the first woman in history to provide the covering for the Kaaba on her own.

Time of the Prophet and the righteous Caliphs: Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) did not participate in the covering of the Kaaba before the conquering of Mecca as the polytheists would not allow him to enter Mecca.

Once the Prophet captured Mecca, he did not replace the Kiswa but kept it until it was burnt by mistake when a woman was perfuming it with incense. At that time, the Prophet covered the Kaaba with Yemeni cloth; then it was covered by the Caliphs Abu Bakr and Omar who used Coptic cloth.

Othman Bin Afan, on the other hand, used both Coptic cloth and Yemeni cloth that he ordered his governor in Yemen (Yala Bin Munbih) to make. Othman put both the cloth on top of each other, making him the first Muslim man to do so. From that time until now, only Muslims have had the honour of covering the Kaaba.

After the reign of the righteous Caliphs until the Saudi reign: It has been confirmed that Muawiyah Bin Abi Sufyan used to cover the Kaaba with silk brocade on the occasion of Ashura and with Coptic cloth at the end of Ramadan.

Then it was covered with the same material by Yazid Bin Muawya, Bin Al Zubair, and Abdul Malek Bin Marwan. The coverings accumulated on top of the Kaaba, one layer above the other, until it was feared that the Kaaba would collapse.

When the Abbasid caliph Al Mandi performed Hajj in 160H (AD776), he ordered that only one covering should remain and all the others should be removed. This became the normal practice adopted until now.

The Caliph Mamuun used to cover the Kaaba three times a year: with red silk brocade on the eighth of Dhu Al Hijja, with white Coptic cloth on the first of Rajab and with silk brocade on the 29th of Ramadan.

The caliph An Nasir (an Abbasid) covered it with green cloth and with black cloth. From then onwards, the black cloth prevailed and became the accepted cloth for covering the Kaaba. In 810H (AD1407), the embellished curtain put on the door of Kaaba was introduced.

It is called ‘Al Burqa’ (the veil). The Kiswa of the Kaaba during the Saudi Reign Since King Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman was greatly concerned about taking care of the Kaaba, he ordered that a special factory for the Kiswa be constructed in Mecca in Muharram 1346H (AD1927).

Everything concerning this project was made available. The factory was opened in the middle of that year. It was the first Kiswa for the Kaaba to be produced in Mecca and the factory was a source of great pride and honour for Saudi Arabia.

King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz decreed in 1362H (AD1943) that the factory be renewed in 1397H (AD1974). The new building was inaugurated in Umm Al Jude in Mecca. It was supplied with modern machines to prepare the textile.

A new automated department was introduced while keeping the manual department because of its high artistic value. The factory, while keeping pace with the most modern developments, still preserves the artistic manual tradition so that the Kiswa can be produced in the most elegant design.

According to an Arab news agency, the Kiswa costs around Dh19.6 million to Dh21.5 million. The cover is 658 square metres in size and is made of 670kg of silk. The embroidery contains 15kg of gold threads. It consists of 47 pieces of cloth and each piece is 14 metres long and 101cm wide.

The Kiswa is wrapped around the Kaaba and fixed to its base with copper rings. The manually designed embroidery of the Quranic verses are slowly making way for those designed by computers, thus increasing the speed of production. Source: Information about the Kiswa was compiled from the official government website of Saudi Arabia’s Kiswa factory.

The Expansion of the Grand Mosque of Mecca:
The Grand Mosque of Mecca has undergone a number of expansions since the days of King Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman to cope with the increasing number of pilgrims.

In the year 1344H (1925) he started the restoration and repair of the walls, columns, and the grounds of the Grand Mosque.In 1354H (1935), he ordered the restoration of the whole mosque. Expansion of the mosque started in the era of King Saud Bin Abdul Aziz, in 1375H (1955) and took around 10 years.

This was the first expansion in 1,096 years. It was earlier increased in size by the Abbasid Caliph Al Muqtader Billah in 279H (892). Before the first Saudi expansion works, the area of the Grand Mosque was around 28,000 square metres, and could only accommodate 50,000 worshippers.

In 1409H (1988), Saudi Arabia announced one of the biggest expansion plans for the Grand Mosque of Mecca in 14 centuries. The project included building an addition to the mosque from the western side, and making use of the mosque’s roof, which was 61,000 square metres.

After the construction work was completed, the Grand Mosque was able to accommodate 1.5 million worshippers during Hajj, Umrah and Ramadan. Additionally, two new minarets were built, bringing the total to nine minarets. Each minaret is 89 metres long.

In the past few years, the Saudi Government has spent billions of riyals on expansion and renovation in both the Grand Mosque of Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Al Madinah.

Kaaba: Reportedly constructed out of layers of gray blue stone, sourced mainly from the hills around Mecca.

Al Hajjar Al Aswad (The Black Stone): From this corner worshippers commence all the religious duties involved when visiting the Kaaba. There is great emphasis on touching and kissing the stone. 14m, 13.16m, 11.28m

The Kiswah: The cloth draped on the Kaaba. A new kiswah is made every year in a Saudi Arabian government factory, located in Mecca, it is made of 2,500 feet of cloth and weighs more than two tonnes. Pure silk is used to make the kiswah.


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