Editor's Choice al-Uzzah (“The Mighty"), a goddess identified with the morning star and worshipped as a thigh-bone- shaped slab of granite between al-Taid and Mecca; Manat, the goddess of destiny, worshipped as a black stone on the road between Mecca and Medina; and the moon god, Hubal, whose worship was connected with the Black Stone of Kaaba.”

Plan of the Kaaba
The Kaaba

The Kaaba

"Three of the Arabian deities were particularly dear to the Arabs of the Hijaz: al-Lat (whose name simple meant “The Goddess") and al-Uzza (the Mighty One), who had shrines at Taif and Nakhlah respectively, to the southeast of Mecca, and Manat, the Fateful One, who had her shrine at Qudayd on the Red Sea coast. These deities were not fully personalized like Juno or Pallas Athene. They were often called the banat al-Lah, the Daughters of God, but this does not necessarily imply a fully developed pantheon. The Arabs used such kinship terms to denote an abstract relationship: thus banat al-dahr (literally, "daughters of fate") simply meant misfortunes or vicissitudes. The term banat al-Lah may simply have signified "divine beings.” These deities were not represented by realistic statutes in their shrines but by large standing stones, similar to those in use among the ancient Canaanites, which the Arabs worshipped not in any crudely simplistic ways but as a focus of divinity.”

"Before Muhammad appeared, the Kaaba was surrounded by 360 idols, and every Arab house had its god. Arabs also believed in jinn (subtle beings), and some vague divinity with many offspring. Among the major deities of the pre-Islamic era were al-Lat (“The Goddess"), worshipped in the shape of a square stone; al-Uzzah (“The Mighty"), a goddess identified with the morning star and worshipped as a thigh-bone- shaped slab of granite between al-Taid and Mecca; Manat, the goddess of destiny, worshipped as a black stone on the road between Mecca and Medina; and the moon god, Hubal, whose worship was connected with the Black Stone of Kaaba.

The stones were said to have fallen from the sun, moon, stars, and planets and to represent cosmic forces. The so-called Black Stone (actually the color of burnt amber) that Muslims revere today is the same one that their forebears had worshipped well before Muhammad and that they believed had come from the moon.”

“The Kaaba is a large masonry structure roughly the shape of a cube. (The name “Kaaba"comes from the Arabic word meaning cube). It is made of granite from the hills near Mecca. The most current dimensions for the structure are: 15 m high (49') with sides measuring 10.5 m (34') by 12 m (39'). [Petersen, Andrew. Dictionary of Islamic Architecture. London: Routledge, 1996. p.142.] It is covered by a black silk cloth decorated with gold-embroidered calligraphy. This cloth is known as the kiswah; it is replaced yearly.

The eastern cornerstone of the Kaaba contains the Black Stone or al-Hajaru l-Aswad, which is generally thought to be a meteorite remnant.

Entrance to the inside of the Kaaba is gained through a door set 2.13 meters above the ground on the north-eastern wall of the Kaaba.

Inside the Kaaba, there is a marble floor. The interior walls are clad with marble half-way to the roof; tablets with Qur'nic inscriptions are inset in the marble. The top part of the walls is covered with a green cloth decorated with gold embroidered Qur'nic verses. Lamps hang from a cross beam; there is also a small table for incense burners. The building is otherwise empty. Caretakers perfume the marble cladding with scented oil, the same oil used to anoint the Black Stone outside.

According to Islamic tradition, God ordained a place of worship on Earth to reflect the house in heaven called al-Baytu l-Ma'mur. Muslims believe that Adam was the first to build such a place of worship.

According to the Qur'n, the Kaaba was built by the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ismail (Ishmael).

At the time of Muhammad, his tribe, the Quraysh, was in charge of the Kaaba, which was at that time a shrine to numerous Arabian tribal gods. Desert tribesmen, the Bedouin, and inhabitants of other cities would join the annual pilgrimage, to worship and to trade. Caravan-raiding, common during the rest of the year, was suspended during the pilgrimage; this was a good time, then, for travel and trade.

The Qur'n describes Mecca as a barren wadi where life is tough and resources scarce. Indeed, there is no evidence that Mecca was anything but a center of local trade and worship (see Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam, Patricia Crone, Blackwell, 1987).

The prophet Muhammad, preaching the doctrine of monotheism and the promise of the Day of Judgment, faced mounting opposition in the city of Mecca. The Quraysh persecuted and harassed him continuously, and he and his followers eventually migrated to Medina in 622 CE. After this pivotal migration, or Hijra, the Muslim community became a political and military force. In 630 CE, Muhammad and his followers returned to Mecca as conquerors and the Kaaba was re-dedicated as an Islamic house of worship. Henceforth, the annual pilgrimage was to be a Muslim rite, the Hajj.”


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