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    Ka`aba  Yousef Meri Introduction  A cubical structure located in the Sacred Mosque (Masjid al-Haram) in Mecca which Muslimsvenerate as the srcinal sanctuary established by the patriarch Abraham. Metaphorically referred to as the “navel of theearth,” the Kaʿaba is the focal point of the qiblah , the direction of prayer for Muslims. Mentioned by name in the Qurʾan inSurah al-Maʾida (5:95, 96) and also referred to as al-Bayt al-Haram (the Inviolable Sanctuary) and al-Bayt al-ʿAtiq (the Ancient House), the Kaʿaba's cornerstone is known as the Black Stone ( al-hajar al-aswad  ). Although the Kaʿaba has beendamaged and repaired throughout history, Muslims believe the Black Stone is the srcinal cornerstone. According to tradition Adam built the first Kaʿaba, and it was subsequently rebuilt by Abraham. In pre-Islamic times the Kaʿaba was a center for theveneration of idols until the Prophet Muhammad destroyed them after the conquest of Mecca in 630. Muslimscircumambulate the Kaʿaba seven times and kiss the Black Stone as part of the rites of the Hajj and ʿUmra. General Overviews General discussions of the Kaʿaba and its significance in Islam have been written by historians, scholars of comparativereligion and art historians. Hawting 2003 gives a detailed historical overview, while Newby 2005 approaches the Kaʿabafrom a religious-studies perspective. Hawting, Gerald R. “Kaʿba.” In Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān , Vol. 3. Edited by Jane Dammen McAuliffe, 75–80. Leiden,the Netherlands: Brill, 2003. Balanced historical discussion of the Kaʿaba and its Qurʾanic context. Nanji, Azim. “Kaʿba, or Kaaba.” In  Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia , Vol. 1. Edited by Josef W. Meri, 429–431. New York and London: Routledge, 2005. Succinct overview of the Kaʿaba and its history. Available online. Newby, Gordon D. “Kaʿbah.” In Encyclopedia of Relig ion , Vol. 8. 2d ed. Edited by Lindsay Jones, 5049–5050. Detroit, MI:MacMillan Reference USA, 2005. Excellent overview of the Kaʿaba and its history. Historical Studies Themes range from the pre-Islamic pagan and Jewish srcins of the traditions surrounding the Kaʿaba and its role andfunction in pre-Islamic and Islamic societies (Hawting 1982, Nevo and Koren 1990, Rubin 1986) to discussions of the pre-Islamic monotheistic devotional practices surrounding the Kaʿaba (Rubin 1990) to anthologies of travel accounts in  translation in which the Kaʿaba and the Haram are described (Wolfe 1999). Hawting, Gerald R. “The Origins of the Muslim Sanctuary in Mecca.” In Studies on the First Century of Islamic Society  .Edited by G. H. A. Juynboll, 23–47. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982. Hawting explores the Midrashic parallels to the description of the Kaʿaba and its construction in pre-Islamic times.Controversially argues that the Kaʿaba became an Islamic sanctuary in order to counter Judaic influences. Hawting, G. R. “‘We Were Not Ordered with Entering It but Only with Circumambulating It.’ Ḥadīth and fiqh  on Enteringthe Kaʿba.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies  47 (1984): 228–242. Detailed historical analysis of the traditions concerning the permissibility of making prayer ( Salat  ) inside the Kaʿaba basedon Hadith and fiqh  (Islamic jurisprudence). Controversially argues for Jewish influence on the traditions concerning theperformance of prayer and other rituals at the Kaʿaba. Nevo, Yehuda D., and Judith Koren. “The Origins of the Muslim Descriptions of the Jāhilī Meccan Sanctuary.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies  49 (1990): 23–44. Examines the literary and archaeological evidence for the construction of the Kaʿaba in pre-Islamic times in light of archaeological remains of pagan shrines in the Negev. Rubin, Uri. “The Kaʿba: Aspects of Its Ritual Functions and Position in Pre-Islamic and Early Islamic Times.” JerusalemStudies in Arabic and Islam  8 (1986): 97–131. Meticulous treatment of the pre-Islamic srcins of the Kaʿaba and the rituals associated with it and the Prophet Muhammad'sincorporation into Islam of certain hajj rites. Rubin, Uri. “Ḥanīfiyya and Kaʿba: An Inquiry into the Arabian Pre-Islamic Background of Dīn Ibrāhīm .” JerusalemStudies in Arabic and Islam  13 (1990): 85–112. Explores the Hanifiyya—pre-Islamic monotheists—and their devotional practices, which centered on the prophet Abrahamand the Kaʿaba. Wolfe, Michael, ed. One Thousand Roads to Mecca: Ten Centuries of Travelers   Writing about the Muslim Pilgrimage.  2drev. ed. New York: Grove, 1999. Contains descriptions of the Kaʿaba and the Haram in various premodern and modern pilgrimage and travel accounts. ART-HISTORICAL DISCUSSIONS OF THE KAʿABA  ArchNet and Parker and Neal 2009 offer pictorial depictions of the Kaʿaba. Creswell 1951 and Khoury 1993 look at the art-historical and architectural aspects of the construction of the Kaʿaba. ArchNet. “Kaʿba.” Online Archive of Images. Brief overview of the development of the Kaʿaba from pre-Islamic times until the present.  Creswell, K. A. C..”The Kaʿba in AD  608.”  Archaeologia  94 (1951): 97–102.  Art-historical study of the construction and interior design of the Kaʿaba in pre-Islamic times in which Creswell concludes thatan Abyssinian craftsman built the Kaʿaba. Khoury, Nuha N. N. “The Dome of the Rock, the Kaʿba, and Ghumdan: Arab Myths and Umayyad Monuments.” Muqarnas  10 (1993): 57–66. Demonstrates that the Ghumdan Palace in Sanʿaʾ, Yemen, served as the archetype of buildings embodying knowledge andpower in ancient Arabia, a category to which the Kaʿaba and the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem belonged and which wasgiven expression in the architectural features of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem by the Umayyads. Available online. Parker, Ann, and Avon Neal. Hajj Paintings: Folk Art of the Great Pilgrimage . 2d rev. ed. Cairo: American University inCairo Press, 2009. Pictorial depictions of the Kaʿaba on Hajj wall art in Egypt. Also includes pictorial depictions of the Kaʿaba and the Haramfrom Ottoman manuscripts. Comparative Studies Firestone 1990 explores the early Islamic and Jewish traditions of the construction of the Kaʿaba, while Moreen 2000explores the interconnectedness of medieval Muslim and Jewish Persian epic traditions. Firestone, Reuven. Journeys in Holy Lands : The Evolution of the Abraham-Ishmael Legends in Islamic Exegesis .Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990. Chapter 11 is a detailed discussion of Abraham's building of the Kaʿaba as reflected in various historical accounts. Moreen, Vera B. “ Is[h]maʿiliyat  : A Judeo-Persian Account of the Building of the Ka‘ba.” In Judaism and Islam:Boundaries, Communications, and Interaction: Essays in Honor of William M. Brinner  . Edited by Benjamin H. Hary,John L. Hayes, and Fred Astren, 185–199. Leiden, the Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2000. Explores a Judeo-Persian epic of the 14th century written in the style of the Iranian epic poem Shahnama  and incorporatingBiblical and Islamic themes, in which the Kaʿaba is a potent symbol of monotheism. Mysticism There are various symbolic interpretations of the Kaʿaba in Islamic mystical thought. Corbin 1966 is the classical study of theKaʿaba in Shiʿi thought, while Gril 1995 explores the symbolic epistles of the Sufi Ibn ʿArabi addressed to the Kaʿaba. Corbin, Henri. Temple and Contemplation . Translated by Philip Sherrard and Liadain Sherrard. London: Kegan PaulInternational, in association with Islamic Publications, 1986. Phenomenological approach to the study of the Kaʿaba in the Illuminationist thought of the Shiʿi Safavid Qadi Saʿid al-Qummi (d. 1691).  Gril, Denis. “Love Letters to the Kaʿba: A Presentation of Ibn ʿArabi’s Tâj al-Rasâʾil  .” Journal of the Muhyiddin IbnʿArabi Society   17 (1995) 40–54. Study and translation of Ibn ʿArabi’s Taj al-Rasaʾil   in which the Andalusian mystic addresses eight epistles to the Kaʿaba. Available online. Lings, Martin. Mecca: From before Genesis until Now  . Cambridge, UK: Archetype, 2004.  A brief discussion of Mecca, including the Kaʿaba and the hajj by the late English scholar and Sufi master. LAST MODIFIED: 12/14/2009DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195390155-0046BACK TO TOP Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.
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