“As you circumambulate and move closer to Kaaba, you feel like a small stream merging with a big river. As you approach the center, the pressure of the crowd squeezes you so hard that you are given a new life. You are now a part of the people; you are now a man alive and eternal!” ― Ali Shariati
Every day, five times a day, Muslims across the world face the holy site of Mecca and pray. Mecca is believed to be the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad but when followers visit the site, it is not actually Mecca they are facing but a cube-shaped building called the Ka’aba. The Ka’aba is a mosque and on one corner of this sacred building, is a cornerstone known as the Black Stone. Its history is shrouded in mystery and there is much speculation over what the stone might be. Many Muslims believe the stone is in fact a meteorite possessing supernatural powers.
The Haj Ritual
Once a year Muslims from all over the world make a pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. This sacred act is called Hajj. Every Muslim is expected to make the journey at least once in their lifetime if they are able.
During Hajj social status is forgotten, and all pilgrims are expected to wear the same simple white clothing and perform the same acts of worship.
One of these acts of worship is particularly astonishing: thousands of people swirl counter-clockwise, seven times, around the most famous shrine in the Muslim world – the Kaaba.
The Kaaba is around 50 feet high, 40 feet long and 35 feet wide. It is covered with a black silk cloth called as the “kiswa.” Embellished with gold embroidered calligraphy, it has a golden door on the south-east side of the building. The building consists of marble and limestone flooring on the inside along with three pillars.
The Kaaba surrounds the sacred black stone which is located in the eastern corner about five feet above the ground. It is believed that Prophet Mohammad kissed the stone once. As a ritual, the pilgrims try to kiss the Black Stone at least once in their lifetime to free themselves from their sins. If the pilgrims are unable to kiss the stone, they point towards it each time they pass by it during their seven-circle around the Kaaba. While passing by the rock, the pilgrims recite a prayer from the Quran; ‘ In the name of God, and God is supreme.’
Reason Behind Kaab’s Black Stone Color
The stone is considered as a fragmented piece of dark rock, around two feet in length. The surface is black. However, there is a speculation that the color is due to the smearing of oils that happens because of constant touching.
The Muslim tradition believes that the stone was originally milk white. However, it turned black because of worldly sins. Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt visited the Mecca in 1814 and described the Black Stone in detail in his book, “Travels in Arabia”. According to Burckhardt, “It is an irregular oval, about seven inches in diameter, with an undulated surface composed of about a dozen smaller stones of different sizes and shapes, well joined together with a small quantity of cement and perfectly well smooth; it looks as if the whole had been broken into as many pieces by a violent blow and then united again.”
History of the Black Stone
Many legends surround the famous Kaaba Black Stone. The Muslims believe that the Allah ordered the construction of the Kaaba. According to the story, Prophet Abraham along with his oldest son Ishmael built the mosque just like Allah’s house in heaven. Considered as the oldest mosque on the Earth, the Kaaba is believed to have been used by the pagans before Islam came into being. As per the Islamic tradition, the stone was set into the Kaaba’s wall by Islamic Prophet Mohammad in the year 605 AD.
Muslims believe that the Kaaba stone is a part of those from the heaven. According to one legend, it is believed that Adam was banished from the Garden of Eden as he was full of sin. The Black Stone was handed over to him to get rid of his sin to lead him back into the heaven.
With time, the stone has undergone immense damage. At the time of Umayyad siege of Mecca in 683 AD, the stone is said to have been smashed to pieces by a firing from a catapult. In 930 AD, a small Shiite sect, Qarmatians, stole the stone and took it to their base in Hajar, which is now known as Bahrain. Ottoman historian Qutb-al-Din, the Qarmatian leader Abu Tahir al-Qarmati kept the rock in his mosque in an attempt to redirect the haj away from Mecca. However, he did not succeed in his motive, and the pilgrims continued to visit the spot in Mecca, and the pieces of the stone were later returned.
In fact, some stories state that people die on trying to make contact with the rock. In the 11th century, a man allegedly tried to smash it and got killed on the spot. According to the Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, in 1674, a person applied excrement on the Black Stone with a motive that those who kissed the stone retired with a sullied beard.
Till date, the stone is broken into many pieces (around seven to fifteen) which are held together by a silver frame which is fastened to the rock with the help of silver nails.
Ka’aba Black Stone a Meteorite?
No scientific research is allowed on the stone. Hence, only speculations have been made time and again regarding it. Some theories suggest the stone to be an obsidian rock, basalt, an agate or even an alien artefact.
Many people believe that the stone is a fragment of a meteorite that fell on earth some 6,000 years ago into a crate at Wabar. Those crates are considered to be rich with black silica glass, which explains the exterior of the rock.
Anthony Hampton and his team of geologists at Oxford University stated that “Part of the fog surrounding this stone is that the rock ’s caretakers haven ’t allowed any scientific tests to be performed on the stone, for obvious cultural and religious reasons. Thus, attempts have been made to find other ways to obtain information about it. Local samples of sand taken from a 2 km (1.2 miles) radius of the stone, revealed quantities of iridium, a metal found in meteorites with an abundance much higher than its average abundance in the Earth’s crust. Also found were many shatter cones, a rare geological feature, only known to form in the bedrock beneath meteorite impact craters or underground nuclear explosions.”
According to a study conducted by Robert S. Dietz and John McHone at the University of Illinois in 1974, it was revealed that the Black Stone was not a meteorite or supernatural in origin. An unknown Arab geologist examined the stone and found diffusion banding, which affirms the fact that it is an agate rock.
Although there is no absolute consensus about its formation, the Black Stone of Kaaba remains as the most famous holy rock in the world and the centerpiece of the sacred Islamic pilgrimage.