ka’bah: The First House Of Worship
The Ka’bah is the first and the most ancient house of worship ever built for all mankind and it was dedicated solely to the worship of Allah. So by facing toward the Ka’bah in our prayers, we are stressing the unity of mankind under the Lordship of the One and Only God. Moreover, by facing toward the Ka’bah, we are stressing the concept of Allah the Almighty being the center of our lives.
Allah says in the Qur’an: “Verily, the first House (of worship) appointed for mankind was that at Bakkah (Makkah) full of blessing, and a guidance for Al-‘Alamin (mankind and jinn).” (3:96)
Thus, by ordering us to face toward the Ka’bah, we are taken back to our Adamic roots. One of the most essential messages of Islam is to break the barriers such as race, language ethnicity, etc. that separate human beings from one another by stressing their common origin in Adam and Eve. We need not emphasize the fact that racism has been and continues to be the scourge of humanity. Thus, through its entire teachings, Islam cuts at the roots of this menace. It is no wonder then that all of the Islamic rituals of worship stress equality and egalitarianism rather than division and distinction based on caste, clan, or status. One of the last messages delivered by the Prophet (peace be upon him) during his farewell pilgrimage was, “O people, (through Islam) Allah has abolished from your hearts your boasting about your ancestors. Remember all of you descended from Adam and Adam was created from the dust of the ground.”
Islam teaches us to worship One and Only God. Unlike all other religions, which tend to revere their founders excessively often to the point of worshiping them, Allah asks Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to declare: “I am only a human being like you.”
Therefore, nothing is farther from the truth than stating that Muslims undertake the pilgrimage (Haj) to revere the Black Stone or the Ka’bah. While it is true that while going around the Ka’bah, some pilgrims may touch the Black Stone, doing so is not an integral rite of Hajj. It is, therefore, totally absurd and incorrect to say that Muslims go to Makkah to worship the Stone.
Touching the Stone is a mere symbolic act; it is merely intended to symbolize the beginning of the ritual of circumambulation around the Sacred House.
In this context, it is worth remembering what Caliph Umar said while touching the Black Stone: “I know for a certain fact that you are simply a stone; you have no power to benefit or harm anyone; if I hadn’t seen the Prophet (peace be upon him) touching you I wouldn’t have even bothered to touch you.”
We do not attach any importance to this Stone other than the fact that it was placed there by Prophet Ibrahim by the order of Allah. So we are merely renewing our memory of the great Prophet, whose faith and sacrifice is celebrated in the rituals of Hajj.
If anyone thinks otherwise, he is distorting Islam. The source for Islam is the Qur’an and the Sunnah and those who are well versed in these sources.
It is also not true to think that Muslims always turn to the East; rather they always turn toward the Ka’bah while performing their prayers, and its precise direction may be different, depending on where we are located in the world.