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The Kaabah, a great idol?

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Missionary Sam Shamoun has written an article attacking the Kaabah as some supposed ‘Great Idol' of Islam. His article can be found here:

http://answering-islam.org/authors/shamoun/kabah_idol1.html

Since it’s quite apparent that Shamoun has a lack of understanding when it comes to Islam and the specific topic of the Kaabah, it would be beneficial to write an article concerning this issue as to educate Shamoun and his followers, and to also help the Muslims incase they aren't fully aware on this topic.

With that said the best place to proceed for this topic would be to see what the Quran has to say about the Kaabah:

Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Isma'il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). And remember Abraham said: "My Lord, make this a City of Peace, and feed its people with fruits,-such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day." He said: "(Yea), and such as reject Faith,-for a while will I grant them their pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of Fire,- an evil destination (indeed)!" And remember Abraham and Isma'il raised the foundations of the House (With this prayer): "Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing. (2:125-127)

The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka: Full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings: In it are Signs Manifest; (for example), the Station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security; Pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to Allah,- those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures. (3:96-97)

According to the Quran the Kaabah was the first place of worship, a point that is also made in the authentic Hadiths by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):

Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 585:

Narrated Abu Dhar:

I said, "O Allah's Apostle! Which mosque was first built on the surface of the earth?" He said, "Al-Masjid-ul-,Haram (in Mecca)." I said, "Which was built next?" He replied "The mosque of Al-Aqsa ( in Jerusalem) ." I said, "What was the period of construction between the two?" He said, "Forty years." He added, "Wherever (you may be, and) the prayer time becomes due, perform the prayer there, for the best thing is to do so (i.e. to offer the prayers in time)."

The Kaabah was the first Mosque and place of worship for the Muslims, and yes I repeat, it was a place of worship. A place to worship the one true God, not a place to commit idolatry, as the Quran mentions:

Behold! We gave the site, to Abraham, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): "Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). And proclaim the Pilgrimage among men: they will come to thee on foot and (mounted) on every kind of camel, lean on account of journeys through deep and distant mountain highways; (26:22-23)

In fact when the Kaabah came back into the hands of the Muslims, the Muslims made sure to get rid of all the idols and idolatry that had been imposed on it by the pagans:

Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 571:

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

When the Prophet saw pictures in the Ka'ba, he did not enter it till he ordered them to be erased. When he saw (the pictures of Abraham and Ishmael carrying the arrows of divination, he said, "May Allah curse them (i.e. the Quraish)! By Allah, neither Abraham nor Ishmael practiced divination by arrows."

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) destroyed the 360 idols at the site of the Kaabah:

The triumph of the Muslims was the triumph of Allah and the defeat of the idols. The Holy Prophet visited the Kaaba along with his companions. The Holy Prophet with the stroke of the stick held in his hand broke the idols that lay in the lower cavities of the walls. As the stones were destroyed one by one, the Quraish looked on aghast at the massacre of their gods, while the Holy Prophet recited the verse from the Quran: "Say, the Truth has come and falsehood gone. Verily, falsehood is ever vanishing."

The more important idols, including that of Hubal, the god of war were placed higher up in the cavities of the walls beyond the reach of the hand or stick. The Holy Prophet asked Ali to ascend on his shoulders, and destroy the idols which were placed higher up. Ali hesitated to ascend the shoulders of the Holy Prophet, but when the Holy Prophet repeated the command, Ali complied and destroyed all idols. According to legend, Ali is reported to have said that while standing on the shoulders of the Holy Prophet he felt that his hand could reach to the heights of the Heaven. (http://www.witness-pioneer.org/vil/Articles/companion/21_ali_bin_talib.htm)

So let us summarize what we have so far:

. The Kaabah was the first place of worship

. The Kaabah was built by the Prophets Abraham and Ishmael (peace be upon them both)

. The Kaabah was a place meant to worship the one true God in Monotheism

. Once the Muslims re-took the Kaabah they got rid of all the paganism that had been imposed on it by the pagans

And this is what this missionary Sam Shamoun calls the big idol.

In fact notice the irony, the pagans had drawn pictures of the Prophets Abraham and Ishmael, now which modern day religious group happens to draw pictures of their God in a similar fashion? You guessed it; it's the religion Shamoun belongs to.

Now as mentioned, the Kaabah was originally built by Abraham and Ishmael as a place of pure monotheistic worship, however after many generations had passed the people of Makkah started moving away from monotheism and started moving into polytheism and Paganism, and they began to indulge in their own innovations. They began to mix the original rites and practices of worship at Kaabah, installed by Abraham and Ishmael with paganism. They essentially corrupted the pure monotheism with their own form paganism; they  forgot the original purpose of the Kaabah, and the original message of monotheism, which is precisely why the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was sent to them and to remind them of the truth:

On their account no responsibility falls on the righteous, but (their duty) is to remind them, that they may (learn to) fear Allah. (6:69)

So Islam came to remind these people about the original message, the message they forgot about:

They will say: "Glory to Thee! not meet was it for us that we should take for protectors others besides Thee: But Thou didst bestow, on them and their fathers, good things (in life), until they forgot the Message: for they were a people (worthless and) lost." (25:18)

And here is the authentic Hadith concerning the building of the Kaabah by Abraham and Ishmael:

Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583:

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

The first lady to use a girdle was the mother of Ishmael. She used a girdle so that she might hide her tracks from Sarah. Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka'ba under a tree on the spot of Zam-zam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water So he made them sit over there and placed near them a leather bag containing some dates, and a small water-skin containing some water, and set out homeward. Ishmael's mother followed him saying, "O Abraham! Where are you going, leaving us in this valley where there is no person whose company we may enjoy, nor is there anything (to enjoy)?" She repeated that to him many times, but he did not look back at her Then she asked him, "Has Allah ordered you to do so?" He said, "Yes." She said, "Then He will not neglect us," and returned while Abraham proceeded onwards, and on reaching the Thaniya where they could not see him, he faced the Ka'ba, and raising both hands, invoked Allah saying the following prayers:

'O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley without cultivation, by Your Sacred House (Kaba at Mecca) in order, O our Lord, that they may offer prayer perfectly. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.' (14.37) Ishmael's mother went on suckling Ishmael and drinking from the water (she had).

When the water in the water-skin had all been used up, she became thirsty and her child also became thirsty. She started looking at him (i.e. Ishmael) tossing in agony; She left him, for she could not endure looking at him, and found that the mountain of Safa was the nearest mountain to her on that land. She stood on it and started looking at the valley keenly so that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. Then she descended from Safa and when she reached the valley, she tucked up her robe and ran in the valley like a person in distress and trouble, till she crossed the valley and reached the Marwa mountain where she stood and started looking, expecting to see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She repeated that (running between Safa and Marwa) seven times."

The Prophet said, "This is the source of the tradition of the walking of people between them (i.e. Safa and Marwa). When she reached the Marwa (for the last time) she heard a voice and she asked herself to be quiet and listened attentively. She heard the voice again and said, 'O, (whoever you may be)! You have made me hear your voice; have you got something to help me?" And behold! She saw an angel at the place of Zam-zam, digging the earth with his heel (or his wing), till water flowed from that place. She started to make something like a basin around it, using her hand in this way, and started filling her water-skin with water with her hands, and the water was flowing out after she had scooped some of it."

The Prophet added, "May Allah bestow Mercy on Ishmael's mother! Had she let the Zam-zam (flow without trying to control it) (or had she not scooped from that water) (to fill her water-skin), Zam-zam would have been a stream flowing on the surface of the earth." The Prophet further added, "Then she drank (water) and suckled her child. The angel said to her, 'Don't be afraid of being neglected, for this is the House of Allah which will be built by this boy and his father, and Allah never neglects His people.' The House (i.e. Kaba) at that time was on a high place resembling a hillock, and when torrents came, they flowed to its right and left. She lived in that way till some people from the tribe of Jurhum or a family from Jurhum passed by her and her child, as they (i.e. the Jurhum people) were coming through the way of Kada'. They landed in the lower part of Mecca where they saw a bird that had the habit of flying around water and not leaving it. They said, 'This bird must be flying around water, though we know that there is no water in this valley.' They sent one or two messengers who discovered the source of water, and returned to inform them of the water. So, they all came (towards the water)." The Prophet added, "Ishmael's mother was sitting near the water. They asked her, 'Do you allow us to stay with you?" She replied, 'Yes, but you will have no right to possess the water.' They agreed to that." The Prophet further said, "Ishmael's mother was pleased with the whole situation as she used to love to enjoy the company of the people. So, they settled there, and later on they sent for their families who came and settled with them so that some families became permanent residents there. The child (i.e. Ishmael) grew up and learnt Arabic from them and (his virtues) caused them to love and admire him as he grew up, and when he reached the age of puberty they made him marry a woman from amongst them.

After Ishmael's mother had died, Abraham came after Ishmael's marriage in order to see his family that he had left before, but he did not find Ishmael there. When he asked Ishmael's wife about him, she replied, 'He has gone in search of our livelihood.' Then he asked her about their way of living and their condition, and she replied, 'We are living in misery; we are living in hardship and destitution,' complaining to him. He said, 'When your husband returns, convey my salutation to him and tell him to change the threshold of the gate (of his house).' When Ishmael came, he seemed to have felt something unusual, so he asked his wife, 'Has anyone visited you?' She replied, 'Yes, an old man of so-and-so description came and asked me about you and I informed him, and he asked about our state of living, and I told him that we were living in a hardship and poverty.' On that Ishmael said, 'Did he advise you anything?' She replied, 'Yes, he told me to convey his salutation to you and to tell you to change the threshold of your gate.' Ishmael said, 'It was my father, and he has ordered me to divorce you. Go back to your family.' So, Ishmael divorced her and married another woman from amongst them (i.e. Jurhum).

Then Abraham stayed away from them for a period as long as Allah wished and called on them again but did not find Ishmael. So he came to Ishmael's wife and asked her about Ishmael. She said, 'He has gone in search of our livelihood.' Abraham asked her, 'How are you getting on?' asking her about their sustenance and living. She replied, 'We are prosperous and well-off (i.e. we have everything in abundance).' Then she thanked Allah' Abraham said, 'What kind of food do you eat?' She said. 'Meat.' He said, 'What do you drink?' She said, 'Water." He said, "O Allah! Bless their meat and water." The Prophet added, "At that time they did not have grain, and if they had grain, he would have also invoked Allah to bless it." The Prophet added, "If somebody has only these two things as his sustenance, his health and disposition will be badly affected, unless he lives in Mecca." The Prophet added," Then Abraham said Ishmael's wife, "When your husband comes, give my regards to him and tell him that he should keep firm the threshold of his gate.' When Ishmael came back, he asked his wife, 'Did anyone call on you?' She replied, 'Yes, a good-looking old man came to me,' so she praised him and added. 'He asked about you, and I informed him, and he asked about our livelihood and I told him that we were in a good condition.' Ishmael asked her, 'Did he give you any piece of advice?' She said, 'Yes, he told me to give his regards to you and ordered that you should keep firm the threshold of your gate.' On that Ishmael said, 'It was my father, and you are the threshold (of the gate). He has ordered me to keep you with me.'

Then Abraham stayed away from them for a period as long as Allah wished, and called on them afterwards. He saw Ishmael under a tree near Zamzam, sharpening his arrows. When he saw Abraham, he rose up to welcome him (and they greeted each other as a father does with his son or a son does with his father). Abraham said, 'O Ishmael! Allah has given me an order.' Ishmael said, 'Do what your Lord has ordered you to do.' Abraham asked, 'Will you help me?' Ishmael said, 'I will help you.' Abraham said, Allah has ordered me to build a house here,' pointing to a hillock higher than the land surrounding it." The Prophet added, "Then they raised the foundations of the House (i.e. the Ka'ba). Ishmael brought the stones and Abraham was building, and when the walls became high, Ishmael brought this stone and put it for Abraham who stood over it and carried on building, while Ishmael was handing him the stones, and both of them were saying, 'O our Lord! Accept (this service) from us, Verily, You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.' The Prophet added, "Then both of them went on building and going round the Ka'ba saying: O our Lord ! Accept (this service) from us, Verily, You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing." (2.127)

A final point to be made about the origins of the Kaabah and its building is that Muslims believe that it was firstly originally built by the first man Adam, and that Abraham and Ishmael had the honor of rebuilding and restoring it.

Now not only is the Kaabah a holy place where Muslims make their pilgrimage to, it is also the Qibla of the Muslim, meaning the direction of prayer. Whenever Muslims pray they pray facing towards the Kaabah, to the east. However so by facing towards the Kaaba this does not mean that we are worshipping the Kaabah, it’s just a prayer direction, and even if the Kaabah building was to be destroyed Muslims would still face that direction.

There are a number of reasons as to why we the Muslims pray towards the direction of the Kaaba, one of the main reasons is because God commanded us to, and hence Muslims obviously follow his command and face that direction. Also by obeying this command Muslims are also being tested as to whether they shall obey his commands or disobey him. Furthermore by having one focal direction of prayer it also forges a spiritual unity and bond between the Muslim nation, all Muslims are united in one praying direction, and they pray towards the holy site of the Kaabah, the first place of worship for Muslims, the place of pure monotheistic worship.

So essentially it is a full-united spiritual prayer of monotheism, and Islam is all about brotherhood and unity, the Quran and hadiths are filled with teachings that tells the Muslims to be united as one, and to not fall into disputes and divisions.

Last but not least the Muslims used to pray towards Jerusalem, and when the Muslims used to pray towards Jerusalem the Jews used to like that, and had no problem with it. It never became an issue UNTIL AFTER the Muslims started facing the Kaaba, now surely if there was something paganistic or bad about having a prayer direction then you would have expected the Jews of the time to attack and criticize the Muslims for praying towards Jerusalem.

Here are accounts of the changing of prayer direction from Jerusalem to Mecca:

Imam Al-Bukhari reported that Al-Bara' bin `Azib narrated: "Allah's Messenger offered his prayers facing Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) for sixteen or seventeen months, but he wished that he could pray facing the Ka`bah (at Makkah). The first prayer which he offered (facing the Ka`bah) was the `Asr (Afternoon) prayer in the company of some people. Then one of those who had offered that prayer with him, went out and passed by some people in a mosque who were in the bowing position (in Ruku`) during their prayers (facing Jerusalem). He addressed them saying, `By Allah, I bear witness that I have offered prayer with the Prophet facing Makkah (Ka`bah).' Hearing that, those people immediately changed their direction towards the House (Ka`bah) while still as they were (i.e., in the same bowing position). Some Muslims who offered prayer towards the previous Qiblah (Jerusalem) before it was changed towards the House (the Ka`bah in Makkah) had died or had been martyred, and we did not know what to say about them (regarding their prayers towards Jerusalem). Allah then revealed:

(And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost (i.e., the prayers of those Muslims were valid)) (2:143).''

Al-Bukhari collected this narration, while Muslim collected it using another chain of narrators. Muhammad bin Ishaq reported that Al-Bara' narrated: Allah's Messenger used to offer prayers towards Bayt Al-Maqdis (in Jerusalem), but would keep looking at the sky awaiting Allah's command (to change the Qiblah). Then Allah revealed:

(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 Al-Masjid Al-Haram (at Makkah).) (2:144)

A man from among the Muslims then said, "We wish we could know about those among us who died before the Qiblah was changed (i.e., towards Makkah) and also about our own prayers, that we had performed towards Bayt Al-Maqdis.'' Allah then revealed:

 (And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost.) (2:143)

The fools among the people, meaning the People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), said, "What made them change the former Qiblah that they used to face'' Allah then revealed

 (The fools (idolators, hypocrites, and Jews) among the people will say...)

until the end of the Ayah.

`Ali bin Abu Talhah related that Ibn `Abbas said: When Allah's Messenger migrated to Al-Madinah, Allah commanded him to face Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem). The Jews were delighted then. Allah's Messenger faced Jerusalem for over ten months. However, he liked (to offer prayer in the direction of) Prophet Ibrahim's Qiblah (the Ka`bah in Makkah) and used to supplicate to Allah and kept looking up to the sky (awaiting Allah's command in this regard). Allah then revealed: ‫[‬

‪(turn your faces (in prayer) in that direction.) meaning, its direction. The Jews did not like this change and said, "What made them change the Qiblah that they used to face (meaning Jerusalem)'' Allah revealed:‬

 

(Say (O Muhammad ): "To Allah belong both, east and the west. He guides whom He wills to the straight way.'')

There are several other Ahadith on this subject. In summary, Allah's Messenger was commanded to face Bayt Al-Maqdis (during the prayer) and he used to offer prayer towards it in Makkah between the two corners (of Ka`bah), so that the Ka`bah would be between him and Bayt Al-Maqdis8. When the Prophet migrated to Al-Madinah, this practice was no longer possible; then Allah commanded him to offer prayer towards Bayt Al-Maqdis, as Ibn Abbas and the majority of the scholars have stated.

Al-Bukhari reported in his Sahih that the news (of the change of Qiblah) was conveyed to some of the Ansar while they were performing the `Asr (Afternoon) prayer towards Bayt Al-Maqdis, upon hearing that, they immediately changed their direction and faced the Ka`bah.

It is reported in the Sahihayn (Al-Bukhari Muslim) that Ibn `Umar narrated: While the people were in Quba' (Mosque) performing the Fajr (Dawn) prayer, a man came and said, "A (part of the) Qur'an was revealed tonight to Allah's Messenger and he was commanded to face the Ka`bah. Therefore, face the Ka`bah. They were facing Ash-Sham, so they turned towards the Ka`bah.

These Hadiths prove that the Nasikh (a Text that abrogates a previous Text) only applies after one acquires knowledge of it, even if the Nasikh had already been revealed and announced. This is why the Companions mentioned above were not commanded to repeat the previous `Asr, Maghrib and `Isha' prayers (although they had prayed them towards Jerusalem after Allah had changed the Qiblah). Allah knows best.

When the change of Qiblah (to Ka`bah in Makkah) occurred, those inflicted with hypocrisy and mistrust, and the disbelieving Jews, both were led astray from the right guidance and fell into confusion. They said:

(What has turned them (Muslims) from their Qiblah to which they used to face in prayer.)

They asked, "What is the matter with these people (Muslims) who one time face this direction (Jerusalem), and then face that direction (Makkah)'' Allah answered their questions when He stated:

 (Say (O Muhammad ): "To Allah belong both, east and the west.) meaning, the command, the decision and the authority are for Allah Alone. Hence:

 (...so wherever you turn (yourselves or your faces) there is the Face of Allah (and He is High above, over His Throne).) (2:115),

and:

 ( It is not Al-Birr (piety, righteousness) that you turn your faces towards east and (or) west (in prayers); but Al-Birr is the one who believes in Allah.) (2:177) This statement means, the best act is to adhere to Allah's commands. Hence, wherever He commands us to face, we should face. Also, since obedience requires implementing Allah's commands, if He commands us every day to face different places, we are His servants and under His disposal, and we face whatever He orders us to face. Certainly, Allah's care and kindness towards His servant and Messenger, Muhammad , and certainly, his Ummah (Muslim nation) is profoundly great. Allah has guided them to the Qiblah of (Prophet) Ibrahim -- Allah's Khalil (intimate friend). He has commanded them to face the Ka`bah, the most honorable house (of worship) on the face of the earth, which was built by Ibrahim Al-Khalil in the Name of Allah, the One without a partner. This is why Allah said afterwards:

 (Say (O Muhammad ): "To Allah belong both, east and the west. He guides whom He wills to the straight way.'')

Imam Ahmad reported that `A'ishah (the Prophet's wife) said that Allah's Messenger said about the People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians):

 (They do not envy us for a matter more than they envy us for Jumu`ah (Friday) to which Allah has guided us and from which they were led astray; for the (true) Qiblah to which Allah has directed us and from which they were led astray; and for our saying `Amin' behind the Imam (leader of the prayer). (Tafsir Ibn Kathir: http://tafsir.com/default.asp?sid=2&tid=3863)

So all of this is the history, and purpose of the Kaabah.

Now the critics of Islam often like to say oh well we have no archaeological evidence to support any of this, that Abraham and Ishmael actually went to Mecca and built the Kaabah. For starters just because you haven't found any of the archaeological evidence does not mean that all of this false, as the saying goes, an absence of evidence doesn't mean the evidence isn't there, and doesn't mean what's being report is false.

The problem for the critics is that we do have proof that these events are true. For starters the Prophet Muhammad's people, specifically his own family traced their lineage all the way back to Abraham through Ishmael. So right there we have a connection between the area of Mecca with Abraham and Ishmael.

Now off course what the critics like to do is brush aside all of this material we just quoted, they say oh well this material is made up or is simply not good enough for us. Yet they offer no good reason as to why this evidence isn't good enough, the only reason it's not good enough for them is that it comes from the authentic hadiths. Mind you authentic hadiths that are more reliable than many of their own historical records and documents that they consider reliable. More reliable than the New Testament as well.

Furthermore here is another hadith that establishes a connection between Abraham and Ishmael with the Kaaba and the city of Mecca:

Bukhari Volume 2, Book 26, Number 671:

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

When Allah's Apostle came to Mecca, he refused to enter the Ka'ba with idols in it. He ordered (idols to be taken out). So they were taken out. The people took out the pictures of Abraham and Ishmael holding Azlams in their hands. Allah's Apostle said, "May Allah curse these people. By Allah, both Abraham and Ishmael never did the game of chance with Azlams." Then he entered the Ka'ba and said Takbir at its corners but did not offer the prayer in it.

This is an authentic hadith from the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and this hadith reports how there were pictures of Abraham and Ishmael INSIDE THE KAABAH! There are countless of other reports that establish a connection between these people and area, to Abraham and Ishmael. Why would these people just make it up?

So we have authentic hadith after authentic hadith that talk about Abraham and Ishmael building the Kaabah, we have reports which talk about how the Prophet's family goes back to Abraham, and on and on it goes. So yes we do have the evidence, and the critics simply choose to not accept these sources.

In conclusion, the Kaabah is the furthest thing from a big idol, Muslims at the site of the Kaabah are united in praying to the one true God, while Muslims of the past eliminated the idols and idol worship from the holy site, surely if the Kaabah was to be this great idol, then the Muslims would’ve never done such a thing and would’ve allowed the idolatry to remain at the site. The idolatry that did take place at the Kaabah was an innovation brought forth by the pagans of the time, who mixed some of the true and original rites set forth by Abraham and Ishmael, with idolatrous practices that were eventually removed by the Muslims, allowing the Kaabah to return to it’s true and original purpose. Which was to be a site of worship of the one and true God only.

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