In the district of Hejaz,western part of Arabia, there lies the town of Mecca where the Islam first launched. In the center of this town there is a small cube building made of stones. This is called Ka’aba which is believed Baitullah, the House of Allah. Thus all Muslims have to show respect to it. However it does not mean the Allah does not live there since in Islam we believe Allah is everywhere.
Ka’aba’s sanctity and antiquity is older than history itself. It is believed that Ka’aba was first built by Prophet Adam. Originally it contained only four walls without a roof. When Prophet Ibrahim (peace and blessings be upon him) was ordered by Allah to build the sanctuary, Ibrahim with the help of his son Ismael substituted the new sanctuary on the same foundation.
Prophet Ibrahim built Ka’aba as a house of worship to One God, Allah (the Glorified and Exalted). Allah says in the Qur’an that this was the first sanctuary that was built for humankind to worship Allah. Soon after Prophet Ibrahim (peace and blessings be upon him) died, people started filling the Ka’aba with idols. It was not until Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) defeated the idol-worshippers that the idols inside the Kaaba were destroyed.
Ka’aba plays utmost importance for Muslims since two significant pillars of Islam including salats (prayers) and pilgrimage (hajj) relates Ka’aba. As one of the five pillars of Islam every Muslim is required to perform daily salats. Muslims around the world face the Ka’aba during salats no matter where they are. This is a prayer condition called facing the Qiblah.
As mentioned in this verse in the Quran, “Verily, We have seen the turning of your (Muhammad’s) face towards the heaven. Surely, We shall turn you to a Qiblah (prayer direction) that shall please you, so turn your face in the direction of Masjid al-Haram. And wheresoever you people are, turn your faces (in prayer) in that direction.” [2:144 ]
Every year millions of Muslims travel to Mecca for the pilgrimage (hajj). Muslims travel to Islam’s most holy mosque, Masjid al-Haram, during the six-day pilgrimage. Mecca is thought to be the place where Ismael and his mother Hagar were provided with a spring of water in the desert. As it is the most sacred place in Islam, non-Muslims are forbidden from entering.
One of the five pillars of Islam requires every Muslim to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his or her lifetime if they are able to do so. Many parts of the pilgrimage require pilgrims to walk seven times around the Ka’aba in a counter-clockwise direction. This circumambulation (Tawaf) is performed by pilgrims during Umrah, as well.