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Offices of the Ka'bah

3493 2008/05/16 2024/07/17

ever since its establishment, the ka'bah gave rise to a number of offices such as those which were held by qusayy ibn kilab when he took over the kingship of makkah, in the middle of the fifth century c.e. his offices included hijabah, siqayah, rifadah, nadwah, liwa' and qiyadah. hijabah implied maintenance of the house and guardianship over its keys. siqayah implied the provision of fresh water-which was scarce in makkah-as well as date wine to all the pilgrims. rifadah implied the provision of food to the pilgrims. nadwah implied the chairmanship of all convocations held. qiyadah implied the leadership of the army at war. liwa was the flag which, hoisted on a spear, accompanied the army whenever it went out to meet the enemy and, hence, it meant a secondary command in times of war. all these offices were recognized as belonging to makkah, indeed to the ka'bah, to which all arabs looked when in worship. it is more likely that not all of these offices developed at the time when the house was constructed but rather that they arose one after the other independently of the ka'bah and its religious position, though some may have had to do with the ka'bah by nature.

at the building of the ka'bah, makkah could not have consisted, even at best, of more than a few tribes of `amaliq and jurhumis. a long time must have lapsed between ibrahim and isma'il's advent to makkah and their building of the ka'bah on the one hand, and the development of makkah as a town or quasi-urban center on the other. indeed, as long as any vestiges of their early nomadism lingered in the mind and customs of the makkans, we cannot speak of makkah as urban. some historians would rather agree that makkah had remained nomadic until the kingship of qusayy in the middle of the fifth century c.e. on the other hand, it is difficult to imagine a town like makkah remaining nomadic while her ancient house is venerated by the whole surrounding country. it is historically certain that the guardianship of the house remained in the hands of jurhum, isma'il's in-laws, for continuous generations. this implies continuous residence near the ka'bah-a fact not possible for nomads bent on movement from pasture to pasture. moreover, the well established fact that makkah was the rendezvous of the caravans traveling between yaman, hirah, al sham and najd, that it was connected to the red sea close by and there from to the trade routes of the world, further refutes the claim that makkah was merely a nomad's campsite. we are therefore compelled to acknowledge that makkah, which ibrahim called "a town" and which he prayed god to bless, had known the life of settlement many generations before qusayy.

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