The House of Allaah Alone
By now, it should be abundantly clear that the Ka'bah is a concrete symbol of Islamic Monotheism, and that our relationship to it as Muslims is practical, sentimental and spiritual.
Although we refer to the Ka'bah as “The House of Allaah," we do not actually believe that Allaah is contained inside the Ka'bah, nor is the Ka'bah itself an object of worship. Allaah tells us in the Quran (what means): “And to Allaah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you [might] turn, there is the Face of Allaah. Indeed, Allaah is All-Encompassing and Knowing.” [Quran 2: 115]
Due to sheer ignorance or malice, some people misconstrue the significance of the Ka'bah and wrongly interpret our methods of prayer (Salaah) and Hajj (pilgrimage) as being remnants of the pagan rites practiced by the pre-Islamic Arabs. In particular, they point to the ritual of kissing the Black Stone during Hajj and wonder if this is not a form of idol-worship.
It is a fundamental part of our Islamic creed that we do not associate partners with the Almighty Allaah; therefore it is unthinkable to the believing Muslim that he or she is worshipping other than Allaah during prayer or any other act of worship. In his book ‘Ashraful-Jawaab’, Ashraf Ali Thaanvi may Allaah have mercy upon him says, “...No worshipper (in his right frame of mind) can deny the thing he or she worships... Muslims deny worshipping the Ka'bah, and it is not a symbol of worship. The Ka'bah is only a direction of worship.”
Exploring this topic further in a sermon on the subject of Tawaaf, Shaykh A. Muhammad Saleem said, “If the Ka'bah was completely destroyed, we would still face the same Qiblah. The sanctity is in the symbolism of the events that happened there. The sanctity is in the lessons we take from these for the purpose of internalizing them to save our Nafs (self) and externalizing them in action to save our fellow man. The sanctity is in the path of guidance these sites symbolize: the path that allows human beings to cultivate a spirit that makes us closer to Allaah.”
In other words, it is not the physical structure of the Ka'bah that is of concern to Muslims, but what it represents, similar to the emotional and spiritual attachments we have to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Al-Quds (Jerusalem), and to the city of Jerusalem itself.
There were, in fact, times in the history of the Ka'bah when it was in a dark state of disrepair or destroyed, and there was even a point when the Karamathians (a deviant sect) stole the Black Stone for a period of twenty years in the tenth century CE. None of this had an effect on the function of the Ka'bah in Islam, or on how Muslims performed the Hajj. It is not necessary in the first place for one to kiss the Black Stone in order for his Hajj to be valid; one can simply touch or point to it with his right hand upon beginning each circuit of the Tawaaf.
However one begins his Tawaaf, the act is performed in the name of Allaah, by saying: "Bismillaahi wa Allaahu Akbar. Allaahumma eemanan bika wa tasdeeqan bi kitaabika wa wafaa'an bi `ahdika wa ittibaa'an li sunnati nabbiyyika ( sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ))." (In the Name of Allaah. Allaah is the Greatest. O Allaah! [I begin this Tawaaf] believing in You, affirming the truth of Your Book, fulfilling my covenant with You, and following the example of the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention )).
‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattaab, may Allaah be pleased him, approached the Black Stone and kissed it. Then he, may Allaah be pleased him, said: "I know that you are a mere stone that can neither harm nor do any good. If I had not seen the Prophet sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam ( may Allaah exalt his mention ) kissing you, I would have never kissed you."[Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]
Doubts about the nature of Hajj are often raised by people who are not familiar with the origins of the Ka'bah or with the overall message of Islam, which clearly stresses belief in One God only. Pilgrimage to Allaah's House was established long before idols were placed there by ‘Amr Ibn Luhaiy. If we understand what Ibraaheem may Allaah exalt his mention stood for and what he may Allaah exalt his mention was trying to achieve, then there is no room whatsoever to call the Hajj a pagan rite.
Allaah Amighty Says (what means): “Say (O Muhammad), ‘Indeed, my Lord has guided me to a straight path – a correct religion – the way of Ibraaheem (Abraham), inclining toward truth. And he was not among those who associated others with Allaah.’”[Quran 6: 161]
The heart of Islam
Makkah is at the heart of Islam and the spiritual capital of the Muslim world. At the center of it all is the Ka'bah, similar to the nucleus of a cell, which is the basic unit of life. In physical terms, the whole of Islam can be mapped out with this understanding. Not only do we face the Ka'bah while in prayer and make Tawaaf around it during Hajj as expressions of worship and unity, but we also bury our dead facing the same direction, making the Ka'bah the only physical thing that we identify with continuously, even after death.
By staying in perpetual contact with the Ka'bah, we also stay connected to the core of our heritage and the message of Islam, both of which make up the substance of our faith. By making Hajj in response to the invitation of our Lord and Creator, we get the opportunity to see for ourselves what it is all about.