The Quran commands the Muslims to face the sacred precincts in Makkah during prayer which is a fundamental tenet in slam. The legend of this purely Islamic development of a sacred stone structure dates back to the fall of Hadhrat Adam (alayhis salaam) from Paradise onto earth at Makkah. It has been reported by Al-tabari that Hadhrat Jibraeel (alayhis salaam) flapped his wings to uncover a foundation laid in the seventh fold of the earth. Angels paved this foundation with stones and Hazrat Adam went round this structure following the example of the Angels. Therefore it stands to reason that Allah Ta'ala contemplated and designated the Ka'aba before the creation of the earth. It is said that the Kaaba is a prototype of Baitul Mamoor, a house in the seventh Heaven situated immediately over the Kaaba.
The Kaaba with respect to the inhabited parts of the world is like the centre of a circle with respect to the circle itself. All regions face the Kaaba, surrounding it as a circle surrounds its centre; and each region faces a particular part of the Kaaba. Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) adopted the Kaaba as a physical focus in prayer as well for other acts of worship such as burial of the dead, recitation of the Qur'an, announcing the call of prayer, the ritual slaughter of animals, etc. Thus, Muslims have been spiritually and physically oriented towards the Kaaba and the holy city of Makkah in their daily lives.
Circumbulation of The Kaaba
'Tawaf' or cicumbulation (the ritual encircling of the Kaaba) starts from the Hajar Aswad - the Black Stone. The circumambulator, if possible, may kiss the stone or may direct his hand towards it saying, "In the name of Allah, Allah is great." He must circle the Kaaba seven times with the Kaaba to his left (in anti-clockwise direction).
On examination, it will be found that the entire universe which is in constant circular or elliptical rotation, is in actual fact moving in the pattern as the Tawaf. The electrons of an atom revolve around its nucleus in the same manner as making Tawaf, in an anti-clockwise direction. The ovum, prior to fertilisation actually taking place, surrounded by sperms, turns remarkably in anti-clockwise direction, thereby resembling the Tawaf. Considering the globe as a whole, it could be found that the earth has two movements. It rotates on its own axis in 24 hours causing day and night. The various seasons of the year are due to the earth's simultaneous revolution around the sun in 365 days. It is really astonishing to note that the earth, in both these movements, rotates anti-clockwise. The entire universe from the atom to the galaxies is in constant circular rotation like a circumambulator who encircles the Kaaba in the anti-clockwise direction. All objects in the universe, atoms, moon, stars, electrical current, galaxies, etc. are rotating in the same way. Moreover, the angles encircle the heavenly Baitul Ma'mur in an ever-lasting Tawaf. In the same way, the Kaaba in Makkah is never free from circumbulators. "Know that the world has come to an end when no soul will circlembulate the holy Kaaba."
"Do Muslims Really Worship the Kaaba?"
This was one question, among others, propounded by certain non-Muslim student groups at a university rally not very long ago. This kind of obnoxious thinking and behaviour is the direct result of villifying and being abusive towards other religions. Islam, known by many a western thinker as the 'champion religion' condemns the idea of disgracing and mocking any religion, but rather promotes the idea of showing respect. How else would the world see good in a religion so perfect as Islam. Our aim in this world should be to convey the magnificent teachings of Islam with love and honour, so that the word of Allah Ta'ala reaches the four corners of the world.
Do Muslims worship the Kaaba by merely prostrating towards it?
Hadhrat Moulana Ashraf Ali Thaanvi (rahmatullah alayhi), in his book 'Ashraful-Jawaab', carefully probes the matter by providing logical and simple facts.
1. It is a known fact to Muslims that we don't worship the Kaaba but only worship Allah Ta'ala and Him alone. There is sufficient evidence to substantiate our stand and belief. Categorically, we explicitly deny worshipping the Kaaba nor the structure of the Kaaba. Hence, no worshipper (in his right frame of mind) can deny the thing he or she worships. In other words, Muslims deny worshipping the Kaaba and it is not a symbol of worship. The Kaaba is only a direction of worship.
2. When performing Salaat, even if the thought of facing towards the Kaaba is absent from the mind too, the salaat is valid. However, many Musallies that enter the masjid and begin performing salaat without having the faintest idea that they are facing the direction of the Kaaba, still have their salaat intact. Had we been worshipping the Kaaba, then it would have been a prerequisite condition to first intend facing the Kaaba before beginning any salaat.
3. If at anytime the structure of the Kaaba is destroyed then too, it will be compulsory to perform salaat facing the direction of the Kaaba . Therefore, we can say without a shadow of doubt that Muslims do not worship its stone structure, otherwise by its destruction Salaat would immediately come to a temporary stop.
4. If a person decides to perform salaat on the roof of the Kaaba, the Salaat will be valid. Therefore had we worshipped the Kaaba then Salaat performed above it would be incorrect; because firstly, the thing worshipped must appear in front and secondly, it is utterly disrespectful and disgraceful to the thing worshipped by standing on top of it. Imagine anyone standing above their Creator and Maker of this universe.
In addition, Moulana Thaanvi (rahmatullah alay) further discusses other related matters on the same subject - the Kaaba. Did you ask yourself at any time, 'Why do we face one direction, and not many directions?'
Imagine if there was no one direction to face then everyone would have faced all directions which may have caused dissent and disunity in the heart of the Muslims. Therefore it was essential to provide a common direction for the Muslims throughout the world.
Why do we face toward the Kaaba in particular and not any other selected direction?
No one has the right to ask such a question. However, Allah Ta'ala is omniscient and He alone knows toward which direction His Noor (light) descends. Whichever direction this light is greatest, we are directed to face.
How do we know the Noor of Allah descends toward the direction of the Kaaba? Only those who possess eyes may be able to get a glimpse of that Noor descending onto the Kaaba. Therefore, Salaat may be read above the Kaaba structure, because in actual fact, it is the Noor of Allah Ta'ala that we face in prayers and definitely not any object or likewise.
The Jurist have commented that the Kaaba, although seen to a certain height, reaches upto the heavens and right down to the earth's bottom.
Furthermore, the secret in facing toward the direction of the Kaaba is the spirit of worship (Ibaadat), and contentment and serenity of the heart. Without this contentment there exist no spirit (rooh), which is the reason we are instructed to focus our sight on the place of prostration in Salaat so that we may be able to concentrate with heart and soul entirely.
Talk delivered by
Moulana A Kathrada in Durban (1995)