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Reconstruction of the Ka'bah

Under category : From Marriage to Prophethood
2727 2008/05/30 2022/07/01

we have said that muhammad did not withdraw from the people of makkah or from participating in the public life of the city. at the time, the makkans were preoccupied with the rebuilding of the ka'bah after a sudden flood had shaken its foundation and cracked its walls. the ka'bah had for some time been the concern of the quraysh. it had no ceiling and the treasures it housed were exposed to robbery. the makkans were afraid, however, that a rebuilding of the ka'bah with doors and ceilings might bring upon them a curse. the ka'bah was girded by a series of superstitions designed to frighten the people from ever altering anything that pertained to it. any such change would have been regarded as forbidden innovation and anathema. when the floods cracked its walls, it was imperative to do something about it despite fear and hesitancy. coincidentally, a ship coming from egypt belonging to a byzantine trader called pachomius was washed ashore. pachomius was a builder by trade and knew something of carpentry. when quraysh heard of him, al walid ibn al mughirah headed a delegation of makkans to juddah to negotiate with him. they bought from him the ship and commissioned him to come with them to makkah and help them in the building of the ka'bah. pachomius accepted. in makkah, there resided another coptic man who knew something of carpentry. they asked him to assist pachomius and the work began.


wrecking and rebuilding the ka'bah

to every one of the four clans of makkah fell the duty of wrecking and rebuilding one of the four walls of the ka'bah. no one, however, volunteered to begin the work of wrecking for fear of punishment by its gods. al walid ibn al mughirah, approaching his task with strong premonitions, prayed to the gods before pulling down part of the yamani wall assigned to his tribe. the rest waited in order to see what would befall al walid as a result of his deed. when the morning came and nothing had happened to him, they took courage and began their work. like the rest, muhammad carried stones back and forth, and the wrecking continued until the ka'bah was leveled. below the walls green stones were found which the makkans were unable to shake loose. they decided to use them as foundation on which to build the new walls. from the neighboring mountains, they carried stones of blue granite. as the walls rose from the ground and the time came to place the sacred black stone in its place in the east wall, they differed as to who would have the honor of laying it in place. competition was so keen that it almost led to a new civil war. the descendents of `abd al dar and of `adiyy allied themselves together and swore that none would rob them of this honor. they were so serious in their resolution that members of the clan of banu `abd al dar brought a bowl full of blood in which they dipped their hands in confirmation of their solemn oath. for this act they were later called "the blood mongers". when abu umayyah, son of mughirah al makhzumi saw what happened, he took advantage of his power and prestige and said to the makkans, "while we are all standing here, let the first one to pass through the gate of al suffah be our arbitrator in this dispute." the first one to pass through the gate was muhammad. when they beheld him they said, "there goes al amin. we shall agree with his verdict." realizing, as he listened to them, that the contenders had worked themselves up into a passion, muhammad thought for a moment and said, "bring me a robe." he took the robe they brought, spread it on the ground, and placed the black stone on it and then said, "let the elders of each clan hold onto one edge of the robe." they all complied and together carried the stone to the site of construction. there, muhammad picked up the stone and laid it in its place by himself. bloodshed was thus averted and the dispute was solved. the quraysh completed the building of the ka'bah, raising its walls to a height of eighteen cubits. in order to make it more defensible, they raised its entrance above ground level. inside the ka'bah, they erected two parallel rows of three pillars each to support the ceiling and built a stairway on its north side leading to the roof. hubal, the idol, was placed inside the ka'bah together with all the treasures whose security concerned the makkans.

there is disagreement about the age of muhammad at the time of the rebuilding of the ka'bah and of his arbitration between the quraysh clans concerning the black stone. while some claimed that he was twenty-five years old, ibn ishaq reported him to be thirty-five. regardless which of the two claims is true, the acceptance by the quraysh of his arbitration and verdict as well as his taking over the stone with his own hands and laying it down first on the robe and then in its place in the wall all this proves the very high prestige muhammad enjoyed among all makkans as well as appreciation by his fellow countrymen for his objectivity and candidness of purpose.


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