Historical photographs of the Kaʿba and the Hajj season


The India Office Records comprise some fascinating visible supplies, primarily images capturing the Kaʿba and the Hajj Season (pilgrimage) within the late Nineteenth century and early twentieth century. These visible supplies are supplied with quick descriptions with none additional elaboration on the historical past of the locations or individuals captured.

Displaying various these images together with some exterior supplies, this weblog presents a historic narrative of the Kaʿba, its bodily options, and the event of its spiritual standing earlier than changing into the positioning of the Muslim pilgrimage.

The Kaʿba is the holiest website in Islam. It is named al-Bayt al-Haram (the Sacred House) and the second qibla (route). It is situated on the centre of the Great Mosque in Mecca.

Although different Kaʿbas existed within the pre-Islamic interval, such because the Kaʿba of Petra and the Kaʿba of Najran, the Kaʿba of Mecca was the preferred, therefore taking up the identify with out the necessity to specify its location (Hebbo, Tarikh al-ʿArab, 380).

The metropolis of Mecca (circa 1907). Photo credit score: HA Mirza & Sons/ British Library

Muslims typically consider that the Kaʿba was the primary construction on earth. Behind its majestic cubic form hides an fascinating story of its building. Its basis is believed to return to the Day of Creation when Prophet Adam constructed it as a home of worship.

“The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka [Mecca] full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings.”

— Qurʼan 3:96

It was, nevertheless, through the time of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) that the Kaʿba acquired its present form and traits. Following God’s directions, Ibrahim and his son Ismaʿil (Ishmael) raised the partitions of the constructing on the foundations that have been already in place since Adam’s time. The first Kaʿba was with out a roof and there are totally different traditions in regards to the variety of its doorways.

“And bear in mind Abraham and Ismail raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): ‘Our Lord! accept (this service) from us for thou art the All-Hearing and the All-Knowing’

— Qurʼan 2:127

The significance of Ibrahim’s Kaʿba is in establishing of many of the options current in as we speak’s Kaʿba. These are, al-Hajar al-Aswad (the Black Stone), Maqam Ibrahim (the Station of Ibrahim), Hijr Ismaʿil (the Lap of Ismaʿil), Biʾr Zamzam (the Well of Zamzam) and al-Mataf (the round house across the Kaʿba).

Situated within the japanese nook of the Kaʿba, al-Hajar al-Aswad is believed to have descended to Ibrahim from heaven. He then set the stone as the start line of tawaf (circumambulation) across the Kaʿba.

When pilgrims cross by the stone, they know they’ve accomplished one spherical. Maqam Ibrahim alternatively is called after the place that’s believed to have “miraculously” preserved the marks of Ibrahim’s ft when standing on the spot to construct the Kaʿba. Today, the Maqam is in a multilateral construction product of glass and brass bars.



{A photograph} exhibiting the principle options of the Kaʿba. Photo credit score: British Library

Hijr Ismaʿil refers back to the place the place Ibrahim left his spouse and son in Mecca. The Hijr is located on the north-western facet of the Kaʿba, and is marked by a wall surrounding it. Biʾr Zamzam, alternatively, is believed to have sprung within the place the place Ismaʿil stood, thirsty, whereas his mom engaged to find water for him.

Although it was topic to durations of dryness, the properly continues to supply pilgrims with water till as we speak. Al-Mataf refers back to the courtyard across the Kaʿba and begins from a set level: al-Hajar al-Aswad.



Kaʿba through the Hajj season (circa 1907). Photographer: HA Mirza & Son/ British Library

Announcing the Kaʿba because the House of One God, Ibrahim is taken into account the founding father of tawhid (monotheism) in Mecca, and the one who arrange the pilgrimage ritual. It is believed that, pilgrimage carried out by Muslims as we speak is similar to the one practised throughout Ibrahim’s time.

The Kaʿba continued its standing as a spot of monotheistic faith underneath its new guardians, the Yemenite tribe of Jurhum. The Jurhum claimed “they were related to Ismaʿil by intermarriage, hence their right to the guardianship” (Hebbo, Tarikh al-ʿArab, 100 and 222).

They have been highly effective within the area and enormously contributed to the prosperity of Mecca. Pilgrims introduced costly presents to current to the Kaʿba, which ultimately turned filled with treasure.



Pilgrims tenting close to Mecca within the Eighties. Photo credit score: Al-Sayyid ʻAbd al-Ghaffar/ British Library

The main change to the Kaʿba occurred when the top of the Khuzaʿa tribe, ʿAmr bin Luhayy al-Khuzaʿi, took over the guardianship from the Jurhum. During his buying and selling expeditions, al-Khuzaʿi got here throughout quite a few idols (assnam) worshipped by the locals.

He introduced a few of these with him to Mecca and positioned them inside and across the Kaʿba. Al-Khuzaʻi was thus the primary to introduce paganism to the area (Ibn al-Kalbi, Kitab al-Assnam, 8-9). Eventually, every of the area’s tribes started to put in its personal idol within the courtyard of the Kaʿba, which housed over 300 of them (Hebbo, Tarikh al-ʿArab, 366). The hottest of those have been Hubal, Manat, Allat, and al-ʿUzza.



Manat, Allat and al-ʿUzza, from the fifth temple at Hatra, Ninawa Governorate, Iraq. Parthian interval, 1st century CE to third century CE. Photo credit score: Iraq Museum, Baghdad/ Wikimedia Commons

Another exterior addition to the Kaʿba underneath the Khuzaʿa was the custom of hanging poems on its partitions. These have been chosen throughout literary ceremonies normally carried out through the pilgrimage seasons. One of those poems was the muʿallaqa of Zuhair bin Abi Sulma, which has a reference to the Quraysh and the Jurhum tribes performing pilgrimage: “And I swore by the House, men of Quraysh and Jurhum built it and performed circumambulation around it.”

Later on, a brand new custom was instituted, specifically, the masking of the Kaʿba known as Kiswa (additionally Kuswa). There are totally different accounts concerning the first one who put the Kiswa on the Kaʿba, nearly all of which agree on the identify of the King of Himyar, Tubbaʿ al-Himyari. During his pilgrimage, al-Himyari introduced the primary Kiswa product of the best of cloths from Yemen as a present to the Kaʿba. This influenced many tribes to observe his instance up till the time of Qussay bin Kilab of the Quraysh tribe.



Kiswa fragment (1888). Photo credit score: Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje/ British Library

When Qussay bin Kilab, the Prophet Muhammad’s fourth grandfather, got here to energy he introduced himself the brand new guardian of the Kaʿba and established the Quraysh energy in Mecca. Qussay rebuilt the Kaʿba with stronger partitions and for the primary time in its historical past, the Kaʿba was roofed.

He allowed the Kiswa to be positioned over the Kaʿba solely by the top of a tribe, and every year by a special tribe. The masking of the Kaʿba with a Kiswa continues to be a major customized as we speak.



Drawing of a Nineteenth-century ceremonial mahmal carrying the Kiswa to Mecca, 1888. Photo credit score: British Library

Qussay was additionally the holder of the important thing to the Kaʿba, which was transferred to his descendants till it reached its closing vacation spot within the arms of a Meccan household known as, the Banu Shayba who’re nonetheless the important thing holders as we speak.



Sons of Banu Shayba (1888). Photo credit score: Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje/ British Library

Just a few years earlier than the arrival of Islam, between 600 AD and 607 AD, Quraysh determined to rebuild the Kaʿba, including extra amenities to the constructing. According to the Sira (Prophet’s biography), when the Quraysh tribes rebuilt the Kaʿba, there was a debate on who would exchange the Black Stone again on its wall.

Muhammad bin ʿAbd Allah (later Prophet Muhammad) was chosen to take action. He positioned the stone in the course of a gown and requested for one man from every tribe to carry onto the gown whereas he positioned the stone to the wall. This approach all of the tribes participated in putting it into the wall (Mukhtassar Sirat Ibn Hisham, 33-35).

During the ascent of Islam, Prophet Muhammad and his followers conquered Mecca and captured the Kaʿba within the eighth 12 months of the Hijra (629 AD-630 AD). The Prophet’s first mission was to revive the operate Ibrahim constructed the Kaʿba for. He himself broke the idols inside and round it (Mukhtassar Sirat Ibn Hisham, 234-235 and Kitab al-Assnam, 31). As the Kaʿba was lately constructed, the Prophet determined to maintain the outdated constructing, saying the Kaʿba because the House of the One God, the place Muslims are to carry out their annual pilgrimage.

One of the Prophet’s companions, Bilal bin Rabah, was the primary to boost the adhan (the decision for prayer) from the roof of the Kaʿba.

From that day on, the Kaʿba continues to be Islam’s holiest place of worship. Today, over two million Muslim worshippers from all around the world, collect across the Kaʿba to carry out their annual ritual of Hajj through the month of Dhul-Hijja of the Islamic Hijri calendar.



Pilgrims from Morocco, Malaysia, Java, Sumbawa, Baghdad and Zanzibar (1888). From ‘Bilder-Atlas zu Mekka.’ Photo credit score: Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje/ British Library

To mark the conclusion of the ritual, pilgrims sacrifice animals within the identify of God and begin their celebration of ʿEid al-Adha (the Festival of Sacrifice), which this 12 months falls on Saturday, July 9.



Day of ʿArafa adopted by animal sacrific and ʿEid celebration. Photo credit score: British Library

This article first appeared on British Library’s Asian and African studies weblog.



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