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The Black Stone, Lost for 22 Years in the 4th Century A.H - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The Black Stone

The Black Stone

A group of female Egyptian pilgrims stood before “Bab Al-Salam” door way. The oldest of them pointed to the mosque’s courtyard and echoed in a voice interrupted by tears “ I do not believe my eyes …this is the Ka’bah .. Take me to the Black Stone.” The rest of the women were exhilarated and their eyes over flew with tears while they were kneeling onto the floor kissing it thankfully, their prayers mixing with cries of joy that resonated through the corners of the place celebrating the peaceful arrival to the noble house of God.

Elsewhere in the circumambulation venue, worshipers moved jamming shoulder to shoulder reaching out with their arms around a heavily polished silver oval frame that is elevated approximately a meter and half in the east southern corner of the mighty Ka’bah. Muslims regard this dignified stone as God’s right hand on earth with which He shakes the hands of his believers much the same way a human being shakes the hand of a fellow human being. They also believe that the stone has a mouth and a pair of eyes that will act as witnesses for those who have paid homage stone’s in the Day of Judgment. Entering the world of the Black Stone is like entering through a forgotten gateway in the spiritual history of humanity.

The oldest history books narrate that at the beginning of time Adam P.B.U.H complained to his Lord about his loneliness on earth after descending to it as a result of the sin he committed in paradise. Allah then ordered the angel Gabriel to deliver the Black Stone from heaven to Adam on earth so that it could help alleviating his mood. The Muslim scholar Imam Fakhr Al-Din Al Razi (d. 606 A.H) says in his interpretation of the Holy Qur’an “When Adam was sent to earth he complained of loneliness so Allah ordered him to build the Ka’bah and he circumvented around it.”

Abu Al-Walid Al Azraqi (d. 223 A.H) narrated in his book titled: – Akhbar Mecca, (News of Mecca)- from a chain of narrators reaching Wahb Bin Munbih-who was a Jewish Rabbi who converted to Islam-the following narration “ When Allah accepted the repentance of Adam he ordered him to walk to Mecca and he unfolded the ground beneath him so he could reach there quickly. Adam’s crying and sadness because of loneliness had been so violent to the extent that the angels were weeping for him. God consoled him by offering him a tent from paradise and placed it in Mecca in the same spot of the Ka’bah. The tent is a red ruby from paradise with three candelabrums made of paradise’s gold. Inside it there is light from paradise. The tent descended with a large white conundrum from the nature of paradise’s soil, which was used as a chair by Adam.“

According to sheikh ‘Attia Bin Mohamed Salem former educationalist at the Prophet’s Holy Mosque of Medina” The Black Stone is considerably the oldest of the heavenly bodies. As narrated, nothing on this earth belongs to paradise except the Black Stone and Ibrahim’s standpoint. The Black Stone was descended by the Angel Gabriel.” In a press interview before his death he added, “ The stories narrated about the Black Stone are long and varied. From a historical point of view there should be a revaluation. There are many holy narrations of its characters even though the series of narrators are weak. What we should be concerned about here is the practical aspect which is the virtuous value of the stone ands its position in legislation. As for its virtuous value it is mentioned that it symbolizes the right hand of God and that for whoever missed the pact with Prophet Mohamed touching it makes them as if they had entered the pact. It is also reported that the Prophet said ‘ The stone descended possessing light and if it were not touched by the hands of the idolaters it would have cured every sick person who sought it to be cured’. It was also reported that when Allah extracted the offspring of Adam from their backs and made them bear witness ‘Am I not your Lord’ and then they replied ‘yes’, that God wrote their reply in a book and confined it the Black Stone.”

Orientalists, assert that the Black Stone is a meteor that landed and settled on earth. Others imply that there is a contradiction between Islam’s destruction of the Idols at Mecca and the glorification of the Black Stone thereafter. Sheikh ‘Ubayd Allah Mohamed Amin Kurdi refuted these claims in his historical work, Al Ka’bah A; Muathamah wa al-Harman al-Shareefan ‘Emaratan wa Tareekhan (The Magnificent Ka’bah and the Two Holy Mosques The History and Architecture) He is quoted in this book as saying “ the statements and ideas of orientalists are based on intuition and guessing. What the Muslims know about the stone on the other hand is based on certainty and the rule says what is based on certainty could not be eliminated by doubt.” The calligrapher/Historian Mohamed Taher Al Kurdi said in his book, Maqam Ibrahim (the standpoint of Ibrahim): “ It is noteworthy and worth considering that even though the pre-Islamic Arabs worshipped stones and especially stones of Mecca and Medina, no one ever heard that they worshipped the Black Stone and Ibrahim’s standpoint notwithstanding the fact they greatly respected and maintained them”. Sheikh Mohamed Al Kurdi added “ we have contemplated in this issue the secret and causes of this and we came to the conclusion that this is related to the infallibility bestowed by God because if they –the stone and the standpoint –were worshipped before Islam and then Islam came and glorified them by touching the stone and praying behind the standpoint, the hypocrite enemies of Islam would have said that Islam is not totally free from idolatry and also those who had worshipped them before would have held on worshipping them after they became Muslims”.

The major books of Hadith verify that the black stone is a ruby from paradise that has descended to earth in a color whiter than ice and milk. It was also narrated that the Prophet said, “ By Allah it (The Black Stone) will be resurrected with eyes to see and a tongue to be a witness in favor of those truly touched it.” The stone is cornered by the command of Allah to his Prophet in one of the corners of the holy Ka’bah, which is why it has been named “the corner” in the Hadith. The stone is deeply entrenched into the Ka’bah with only the black head-which became black due to the sins of the idolaters- appearing, while the rest of it is white in color. Abdullah Bin ‘ Amr Bin Al’aas once said, “ the Black stone was whiter than milk and it was as long as an arm’s bone.”

The prominent historian Ibn Ishaq (d 151 A.H) stated in his work on the Prophet Mohamed the story of Ibrahim’s construction of the Ka’bah; “ when the structure was elevated Ishmael his son brought closer to Ibrahim the standpoint over which he stood and started building. When Ibrahim came to the spot where the Black Stone was to be located he asked Ishmael to fetch him a stone by which he could mark the start of the circumvention. While Ishmael was gone Gabriel brought the Black stone to Ibrahim, from the Abu Qubays mountain which was a nearby mountain. God had placed the stone in that mountain during Noah’s deluge and told Gabriel ‘ If you see my companion (Ibrahim) building a housie for me take it out and give it to him’. When Ishmael came back he asked his father ‘o father where did you get this from’? Ibrahim replied ‘ It was brought over to me by Gabriel’ When Gabriel placed the stone in its present corner it was glowing to the extent that its lights spread east and west to the borders of Holy Mosque of Mecca.”

When a sweeping flood destroyed the Holy Ka’bah in 1039 A.H, the Ottoman sultan Murad ordered the re-construction of it. The re-construction was attended by Imam Ibn ‘Alaan Al Maki who recorded the process in details. Ibn ‘Alaan said, “ what is entrenched inside the K’abah of stone is very white and it is about half an arm in length. It is also about third of an arm in width minus few carats in some areas. It is laced with silver rings and it has about thirteen pebbles of splinters glued together to the main body of the stone”.

The calligrapher and historian Mohasmed Taher Al Kurdi (d. 1400 A.H) shed light on the stone’s recent history particularly the last 50 years: “ what appears now in our age from the Black stone –the middle of the 4th century of Hijrah-and what we touch and kiss are eight small pieces that vary in size, the biggest of which is the size of a date fruit. The pieces were more than eight but because of the aggression by some ignorant people over the ages their number dropped. The apparent pieces were 15 in the beginning of the 14th century but they decreased because of the modifications that were carried out on the stone. The small and soft pieces of the stone were mixed with wax, musk and amber and put back on the stone”. The author of the book (the holy Ka’bah and the two holy mosques) Ubayd Allah Al Kurdi the historian who recorded the expansion of the Meccan Holy mosque and the Medinian holy mosque as well as the restoration of the K’abah- supported Mohamed Taher Al Kurdi in his description of the Black Stone. He emphasized in his aforementioned book issued in 1419 A.H (1999 C.E) that it is impossible to describe the Black Stone because we only see eight small pieces of it; he then quoted the narration of Taher Al Kurdi. The addition in the book of Ubayd Allah Al Kurdi is that it contains a drawing illustrating the places of the eight pieces in the façade of the stone. The drawing was sketched by Mohamed Taher Al Kurdi himself in the beginning of 1376 A.H who placed a light piece of paper over the stone and drew over it piece by piece. Ubayd Allah Al Kurdi added “ whatever is seen from the stone is integrated into the structure of the Ka’bah as for the length of the stone it was observed by Mohamed Bin Nafe’ AL Khuza’ei in the 4th century of Hijrah who reaffirmed that its length as that of an average arm.

The Carmatians have a dark history with the noble stone which Ibn ‘Abbas described the stone’s healing powers in the following account “ The stone and the standpoint of Ibrahim are two rubies from paradise and to paradise they will return .If the stone had not been touched by some of the begrimed it would have been able to heal the blind and the leper.” About 1107 years ago the Carmatians inflicted on the stone the most morbid event throughout Muslim history.

In 317 H Abu Taher the Carmatian, Sulayman Ibn Abi Sai’d led an unjust aggression on the honorable Mosque of Mecca. The Carmatians are followers of an esoteric creed that is attributed to one of the commoners in Al Kufah by the name of Carmat who has called for clear heresy and was consequently executed by the Abbasid Caliph Al Muktafi Bi Allah in 293A.H. The famous story of Carmatians is included in Sheikh Mohamed Bekdash’s book, Fadl Al- Hajar Al Aswad (the Virtue of the Black Stone). Bekdash who is a contemporary historian living in Medina says in his book “ On Monday the 8th of Zhu Al Hijah people were taken by surprise by the attack of the enemy of God Abu Taher the Carmatian leading 900 of his men. They broke into the Holy mosque of Mecca and went as far as slaughtering pilgrims and using their bodies to block the Zamzam well. Thirty thousand people more were killed around the suburbs and in the streets of Mecca. Then Abu Taher came to the Black stone and hit it with a hammer and took it out of the Ka’bah on the 14th of Zu Al Hijah and carried it back to his town Hajar in Bahrain and contemporary Saudi Eastern province. He was aiming at establishing his hometown as a center for pilgrimage replacing Mecca. He has failed and lost as did Abraha before him.”

The Carmatians kept the black stone for 22 years after they constructed a new ka’bah and they refused adamantly to return it to Mecca. The Caliph offered them 50,000 Dinars for its return but the Carmatians Refused. For those 22 years the pilgrims visiting Mecca used to touch the space created by the removal of the stone and weep praying to God that He brings them back the stone to its rightful home. After Abu Taher’s death in 322AH the Muslims were delightfully surprised during the greater Eid (the festival of sacrifice) of the year 339AH by the sight of the Caamatian leader Sunber Bin Al -Hasan Al Carmati entering Mecca carrying back the stone. The Carmatian leader displayed the stone in the courtyard of the holy mosque in the presence of the ruler of Mecca and then it was placed in its original spot. On the surface of the stone there were some ruptures caused by its extraction, silver latches circling its length and width covered them. Sunber then said “ we have taken it by the help of God and we put it back by the will of God” After looking at the stone and recognizing it people started kissing it and Thanking God. It is said in some narrations that the Carmatians tried to cheat the Muslims by bringing a fake stone. However, it is known that the ruler of Mecca put the stone to a test by submerging it in water; the real stone is supposed to float which is what happened.

The incident of the Carmatians was no the only one where the stone was violated, for many incidents both pre and after Islam happened which led to some ruptures and breaks on its surface. The Holy Mosque was caught on fire twice. The first incident was before Islam where the stone was burned and its blackness intensified. The second fire was when Al Hassien Bin Numayer Al Kindi besieged the holy mosque of Mecca during the age of Adullah Bin Al Zubayer. Then the stone was split into three; Ibn Al Zubayer molded three pieces together with strings of silver. Later in the reign of the Abbasid Caliph Haroun Al Rasheed the silver started melting and moving so he ordered it to be re-wielded.

In 363A.H Ibn Fahad Al Makii mentioned in his book Ithaf Al Wwara Bi Akhbar Um Al Kora (the Amusement of People with the News of the Mother of All Villages), a story of Roman man who came from the land of the Romans and was paid abundantly to destroy the stone. He stood before it and hit it with an ax and when he was about to attempt a second hit, a pilgrim from Yemen stabbed him with a dagger killing him. And in 413 A.H the same author mentions another aggression by ten knights ordered by the Fatimid ruler in Egypt. A well-built man who approached the stone carrying in one hand a sword and a hammer in the other led the knights. After the imam finished the Friday prayer in one of the Hajj days the leader of the Knights stood up and approached the stone as if he wanted to touch it then he hit the face of the stone three strikes shouting “till when will the Black Stone be worshipped? Neither the Prophet Mohamed nor Ali Bin Abi Taleb will prevent me for I want today to destroy this house and re-erect it” A man managed to get through to him breaking through the ten knights and stabbed him with a knife. Soon after, the people gathered around the well-built man killed him, tore him up and burnt him. The stone stayed thereafter for two days with a lot of ruptures on the right and the left with some parts pealing off. Some of Banu Shaibah finally gathered what had fallen from it and mixed with Musk and red paint. The ruptures were filled”

Ibn ‘Aalan in his book (the Value of the Black Stone) says that in 990 A.H “ a mentally disturbed man from Iraq came over and hit the stone with a hammer. Prince Nasser Jawesh who was present immediately stabbed the Iraqi with a dagger and killed him”. The last incident of aggression on the stone took place in 1351 A.H and was included in Sheikh Hussein Basalamah book, Tarikh Al Ka’bah Al Musharafaah (History of the Dignified K’abah) he says: “ by the end of Muharam of 1351 a Persian from Afghanistan came and extracted a part of the stone and stole a piece of the Material covering the K’abah in addition to a piece of silver from the stairs of the Ka’bah. He was caught and sent to death”. Baslamah also mentions in his book that “ on the 28 of Rabie II of the same year King Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman Bin Saud came from his summer rest in Taif and in the presence of few notables and the maintainers of the K’abah witnessed the gluing back of the piece that has been stolen by using a chemical substance to which was added some Musk and Amber were”.

Sa’id Bekdash mentioned that several frames were designed for the black stone. The last was done during the reign of King Saud Bin Abdel Aziz Al Saud. On the in 22nd of Shaban in 1375 A.H before Maghreb prayers the king placed the frame made of pure silver around the stone. Sheikh Mohamed Taher Al Kurdi was beside the king holding the new frame after r the old one, which was placed by Sultan Mohamned Rashad Khan in 1331A.H, was removed.

The belongings of the honorable Ka’bah and the holy mosque of Mecca are kept in the museum of “the Architecture of the Two Holy Mosques” which is close to the factory that makes the cover of the Ka’bah along old Jeddah road. The older generation of Meccans call the Black stone by the name of “Al Hajar Al As’ad” or the happiest stone. They hate to describe the source of their pride as black. In the traditional culture of the Meccans you find a strong desire to always spread perfume and good-smell ointments over the stone in a bid to get closer to God by honoring his right hand on earth. The elder grandmothers and grandfathers always advise their grandchildren to take a fast lick of the taste of the stone while kissing it seeking its blessing, its well tried ability to cure memory and its powers of expanding it. We often see circumventers making way for elderly people, women and children in order to give them a chance to touch and kiss the holy stone.

It has been narrated in the holy Hadith that tears are shed, remorse disappears and supplications are answered when someone is close to the stone. Ibn ‘Umar narrated that the “Prophet approached the stone then put his lips on it and cried for a long period of time. He then turned around to find ‘Umar Bin Al Khattab crying too The Prophet told him O ‘Umar here tears are shed”

It is a place where supplication is answered. Ibn ‘Abbas once said, “ The stone is the right hand of God on earth by which He greets his creatures. By the one who owns Ibn ‘Abass’s soul, whenever a Muslim close to the stone asks anything from Allah, surely Allah will give him what he asked.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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