History of Kaaba Muhammad’s era and After
An illustration from the early 14th-century Persian Jami al-Tawarikh, inspired by the story of Muhammad and the Meccan clan elders lifting the Black Stone into place when the Kaaba was rebuilt in the early 600s
During Muhammad’s time (570–632 CE), the Kaaba was considered a holy and sacred site by the local Arabs and later Islam recognized it. Muhammad took part in the reconstruction of the Kaaba after its structure was damaged due to floods around 600 CE. Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasūl Allāh, one of the biographies of Muhammad (as reconstructed and translated by Guillaume), describes Muhammad settling a quarrel between Meccan clans as to which clan should set the Black Stone cornerstone in place.
According to Ishaq’s biography, Muhammad’s solution was to have all the clan elders raise the cornerstone on a cloak, after which Muhammad set the stone into its final place with his own hands. Ibn Ishaq says that the timber for the reconstruction of the Kaaba came from a Greek ship that had been wrecked on the Red Sea coast at Shu’ayba and that the work was undertaken by a Coptic carpenter called Baqum. Muhammad’s night journey is said to have taken him from the Kaaba to the Temple Mount and heavenwards from there.
Muslims initially considered Jerusalem as their qibla and faced that direction while offering prayers; however, pilgrimage to the Kaaba was considered a religious duty though its rites were not yet finalized. During the first half of Muhammad’s time as a prophet while he was at Mecca, he and his followers were severely persecuted which eventually led to their migration to Yathrib in 622 CE. In 624 CE the direction of the Qiblah (Prayer Direction) was changed from Jerusalem to the Kaabah in Mecca. In 628CE Muhammad led a group of Muslims towards Mecca with the intention of performing the minor pilgrimage (Umrah) at the Kaaba, though he wasn’t allowed by the people of Mecca to do so, he secured a peace treaty with them called the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, which allowed the Muslims to freely perform pilgrimage at the Kaaba from the following year.
At the culmination of his mission, in 629 CE, Muhammad conquered Mecca with a Muslim army. His first action was to remove statues and images from the Kaaba. According to reports collected by Ibn Ishaq and al-Azraqi, Muhammad spared a painting of Mary and Jesus, and a fresco of Abraham; but according to Ibn Hisham all pictures were erased.
- When the Prophet entered Mecca on the day of the Conquest, there were 360 idols around the Ka’bah. The Prophet started striking them with a stick he had in his hand and was saying, “Truth has come and Falsehood has Vanished.. (Qur’an 17:81)” — Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book 59, Hadith 583
- After the conquest Muhammad restated the sanctity and holiness of Mecca and the Masjid ul Haram in Islam. He performed a lesser Pilgrimage (Umrah) in 629 CE, followed by the Greater Pilgrimage(Hajj) in 632 CE called the Farewell Pilgrimage since Muhammad prophesied his impending death on this event.
- The Kaaba has been repaired and reconstructed many times since Muhammad’s day. The structure was severely damaged by fire on 3 Rabi I (Sunday, 31 October 683 CE), during the first siege of Mecca in the war between the Umayyads and Abd-Allah ibn al-Zubayr, an early Muslim who ruled Mecca for many years between the death of ʿAli and the consolidation of Umayyad power. Ibn al-Zubayr rebuilt it to include the hatīm. He did so on the basis of a tradition (found in several hadith collections) that the hatīm was a remnant of the foundations of the Abrahamic Kaaba, and that Muhammad himself had wished to rebuild so as to include it.
- The Kaaba was bombarded with stones in the second siege of Mecca in 692, in which the Umayyad army was led by al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. The fall of the city and the death of Ibn al-Zubayr allowed the Umayyads under ʿAbdu l-Malik ibn Marwan to finally reunite all the Islamic possessions and end the long civil war. In 693 CE, ʿAbdu l-Malik had the remnants of al-Zubayr’s Kaaba razed, and rebuilt on the foundations set by the Quraysh. The Kaaba returned to the cube shape it had taken during Muhammad’s time.
- During the Hajj of 930 CE, the Qarmatians attacked Mecca, defiled the Zamzam Well with the bodies of pilgrims and stole the Black Stone, taking it to the oasis region of Eastern Arabia known as al-Aḥsāʾ, where it remained until the Abbasids ransomed it in 952 C. The basic shape and structure of the Kaaba have not changed since then.
- After heavy rains and flooding in 1629, the walls of the Kaaba collapsed and the Masjid was damaged. The same year, during the reign of Ottoman Emperor Murad IV, the Kaaba was rebuilt with granite stones from Mecca and the Masjid was renovated. The Kaaba’s appearance has not changed since then. The Kaaba is depicted on the reverse of 500 Saudi Riyal, and the 2000 Iranian rial banknotes.