Kaaba in the Quran has been named as the first house that was built for people, as something to remind them of God and toward which they must prostrate and bow down in prayer. Of course, this does not mean the Kaaba (کَعبَة) itself must be worshipped, it is merely a sacred and blessed house that belongs to God and the direction of worship.
In this article on Islam4u, we will take a look at:
Who built the Kaaba?
Although the Quran does not explicitly state who was the first person to build the Kaaba, Islamic narrations mostly have stated that Prophet Adam (peace be upon him) was the first human being to build the Kaaba, the house of God. Allah says in the Quran:
إِنَّ أَوَّلَ بَيْتٍ وُضِعَ لِلنَّاسِ لَلَّذِي بِبَكَّةَ مُبَارَكًا وَهُدًى لِّلْعَالَمِينَ ﴿96﴾
Indeed the first house to be set up for mankind is the one at Bakkah, blessed and a guidance for all nations. 1
First of all, the word Bakkah is just another name for the city of Mecca. Second, the verse clearly indicates that it was the very first house to be built for mankind. Therefore, Adam, the very first human being was the one who first built the Kaaba. However, during the great flood at the time of Prophet Noah, it was damaged. Therefore, it must have been repaired and rebuilt.
Kaaba in the Quran: Prophet Ibrahim Rebuilds the Kaaba
Prophet Ibrahim was a great prophet of God Almighty who came a while after Prophet Noah. In fact, the next great prophet that we recognize after Noah is Ibrahim. One of the great tasks that God assigned to this noble prophet was rebuilding the Kaaba together with the help of his elder son Prophet Ismail. God says the following in the Quran:
وَإِذْ بَوَّأْنَا لِإِبْرَاهِيمَ مَكَانَ الْبَيْتِ أَن لَّا تُشْرِكْ بِي شَيْئًا وَطَهِّرْ بَيْتِيَ لِلطَّائِفِينَ وَالْقَائِمِينَ وَالرُّكَّعِ السُّجُودِ ﴿26﴾
When We settled for Abraham the site of the House [saying], Do not ascribe any partners to Me, and purify My House for those who circle around it, and those who stand [in it for prayer], and those who bow and prostrate themselves. 2
In fact, God showed the site of the Kaaba to Prophet Ibrahim as the flood had destroyed it and perhaps only some of it remained. In another verse, the God says in the Quran:
وَإِذْ يَرْفَعُ إِبْرَاهِيمُ الْقَوَاعِدَ مِنَ الْبَيْتِ وَإِسْمَاعِيلُ رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ ﴿127﴾
As Abraham raised the foundations of the House with Ishmael, [they prayed]: ‘Our Lord, accept it from us! Indeed You are the All-hearing, the All-knowing.
رَبَّنَا وَاجْعَلْنَا مُسْلِمَيْنِ لَكَ وَمِن ذُرِّيَّتِنَا أُمَّةً مُّسْلِمَةً لَّكَ وَأَرِنَا مَنَاسِكَنَا وَتُبْ عَلَيْنَا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ ﴿128﴾
‘Our Lord, make us submissive to You, and [raise] from our progeny a nation submissive to You, and show us our rites [of worship], and turn to us clemently. Indeed You are the All-clement, the All-merciful.’ 3
Kaaba in the Quran: Hajj Rites
From the above verse, we understand that the hajj ceremony was performed even before Prophet Ibrahim. However, Prophet Ibrahim asked God to inform him of the hajj rites and perhaps new things must have been done (especially the sa‘y (سَعی) of Ṣafā and Marwah). Therefore, God showed Ibrahim such hajj rites as the circumambulation (طواف) around the Kaaba seven times and other obligatory rites of hajj that were later included in all Abrahamic religions. However, Islam became the only religion that really practiced it while it was forgotten in the other religions for various reasons.
The Kaaba at the Time of the Prophet
Gradually, the people of Mecca and Arabia were influenced by other pagan religions and forgot the true hajj rites. They filled the Kaaba with all kinds of big and small idols which they used to worship. Even their prayer had transformed into a silly act. The Quran says in this regard:
وَمَا كَانَ صَلَاتُهُمْ عِندَ الْبَيْتِ إِلَّا مُكَاءً وَتَصْدِيَةً ۚ فَذُوقُوا الْعَذَابَ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْفُرُونَ ﴿35﴾
Their prayer at the House is nothing but whistling and clapping. So taste the punishment because of what you used to defy. 4
Indeed, did Prophet Ibrahim pray to the Kaaba by whistling and clapping? Furthermore, they would circumambulate around the Kaaba while being fully naked. There is a reason that age is known as the age of Arab pagan ignorance (جاهلیة). This was when the need for a new prophet, the seal of prophets, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) arose, to guide, purify, educate, and take these ignorant people from darkness into light.
Kaaba in the Quran: The One who Was Born in the Kaaba
It is a well-known fact that Ali ibn Abi Talib (علی ابن ابی طالب) was born inside the Kaaba as written in many sources. 5 The story goes that Fatimah Bint Assad was doing tawaf around the Kaaba when she felt the pains of labor and was about to give birth.
However, she did not have the strength to go back home or anywhere else. Therefore, she turned to the Kaaba and prayed to God to ease the pain of labor whereat the wall of the Kaaba split open in front of her, and so she entered the Kaaba.
So she gave birth to Ali inside the Kaaba and came out. The wall of the Kaaba was miraculously sealed again. The Prophet took Ali to his own house to raise him. This was because Abu Talib had many children and could not take care of all of them. Imam Ali’s birth in the Kaaba is a clear sign of his high spiritual station and virtue.
The Word Kaaba in the Quran
God has mentioned the word Kaaba twice in the Quran in the two following verses:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَقْتُلُوا الصَّيْدَ وَأَنتُمْ حُرُمٌ ۚ وَمَن قَتَلَهُ مِنكُم مُّتَعَمِّدًا فَجَزَاءٌ مِّثْلُ مَا قَتَلَ مِنَ النَّعَمِ يَحْكُمُ بِهِ ذَوَا عَدْلٍ مِّنكُمْ هَدْيًا بَالِغَ الْكَعْبَةِ أَوْ كَفَّارَةٌ طَعَامُ مَسَاكِينَ أَوْ عَدْلُ ذَٰلِكَ صِيَامًا لِّيَذُوقَ وَبَالَ أَمْرِهِ ۗ عَفَا اللَّـهُ عَمَّا سَلَفَ ۚ وَمَنْ عَادَ فَيَنتَقِمُ اللَّـهُ مِنْهُ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ عَزِيزٌ ذُو انتِقَامٍ ﴿95﴾
O you who have faith! Do not kill any game when you are in pilgrim sanctity. Should any of you kill it intentionally, its atonement, the counterpart from cattle of what he has killed, as judged by two fair men among you, will be an offering brought to the Ka‘bah, or an atonement by feeding needy persons, or its equivalent in fasting, that he may taste the untoward consequences of his conduct. Allah has excused what is already past; but should anyone resume, Allah shall take vengeance on him, for Allah is all-mighty, avenger. 6
In this verse, God explains one of the rulings of hajj. In hajj, you are not allowed to hunt any animal and doing so has a kaffārah (atonement) of either making an offering (i.e. sacrificing an animal) to the Kaaba, feeding the needy, or fasting.
The second verse that mentions the Kaaba is the following verse:
جَعَلَ اللَّـهُ الْكَعْبَةَ الْبَيْتَ الْحَرَامَ قِيَامًا لِّلنَّاسِ وَالشَّهْرَ الْحَرَامَ وَالْهَدْيَ وَالْقَلَائِدَ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ لِتَعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ يَعْلَمُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَأَنَّ اللَّـهَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ ﴿97﴾
Allah has made the Ka‘bah, the Sacred House, a [means of] sustentation for mankind, and [also] the sacred month, the offering and the garlands, so that you may know that Allah knows whatever there is in the heavens and whatever there is in the earth, and that Allah has knowledge of all things. 7
Indeed, our narrations state that the earth was one piece of land and the Kaaba was built on it. Then the earth spread from the Kaaba and all the different continents and lands were made. That is why the city of Mecca in which the Kaaba is located is called the mother of cities (امّ القری). The event of the spreading of the earth took place on Dhul Qa‘dah 25 and in Arabic it is known as Daḥw al-Arḍ (دحو الارض).
Kaaba in the Quran: Hajar al-Aswad
In one of the corners of the Kaaba, there is a sacred stone that has a hole in it known as Hajar al-Aswad meaning the black stone. It is said that originally this stone was white, but with the passage of time and as people kept touching it and kissing it, this holy stone which the angel Gabriel had brought from heaven gradually turned black.
Kaaba in the Quran: The Qiblah of Muslims
At first, during the time of the Prophet, the qiblah or direction of worship of Muslims was not the Kaaba, but rather Masjid al-Aqsa (the farther mosque). However, God changed the direction of worship while the Prophet was praying in a mosque in Medina that later became known as the mosque of two qiblahs (Masjid Dhū Qiblatayn [مسجد ذو قبلتین]).
Nevertheless, historians say that the Prophet used to pray in a direction that would include both the Kaaba and Masjid al-Aqsa when he could. Therefore, the Kaaba became the qiblah of all Muslims and during the conquest of Mecca, the Prophet and Imam Ali went inside the Kaaba and shattered all the idols inside it.
The Kaaba is a very holy and sacred house that is attributed to God Himself and is the qiblah or direction of prayer of all Muslims. Muslims must make the hajj pilgrimage during the hajj season at least once in their lives if they can afford it to perform certain rituals including circumambulation of the Kaaba. All in all, the Kaaba is on object of veneration by all Muslims.
- Quran 3:96 (Qara’i).
- Quran 22:26 (Qara’i).
- Quran 2:127-128 (Qara’i).
- Quran 8:35 (Qara’i).
- Al-Mustadrak ‘ala al-Sahihayn, 1422 AH, vol. 3, p. 483.
- Quran 5:95 (Qara’i).
- Quran 5:97 (Qara’i).