By Dr Yasir Qadhi, Imam, Dean, The Islamic Seminary, USA
As we are all aware, the one original stone that has remained since the time of Ibrahim (alahi salam) is Hajar al-Aswad. It is the only stone that has been on earth for over 5000 years. That is, by the way, a huge achievement.
The building of the Kaaba has gone through many renovations. The stones and bricks of the Kaaba have been renewed many times. 4000 years ago, there was hardly any structure remaining on earth. The building of the Kaaba has gone through many different re-buildings. The physical stones and bricks are renewed every decade. The last major renewal was in 1997. But there is one stone that has been there for 4000 years. And that, of course, is Hajar al-Aswad.
I am going to give you an interesting aspect of Hajar Aswad. Perhaps a lot of people are not aware. It passed through the pre-Islamic, Islamic, and post-Islamic eras. In the pre-Islamic era, Jubril (alaihi salam) brought the Hajar Al-Aswad to Ibrahim (alaihi salam). It came from above; Allah gifted to Ibrahim (alaihi salam). That is why successive generations preserved it, and that is why when the Kaaba was rebuilt, they kept the Hajar-Al-Aswad. Other stones did not enjoy this treatment, and this is because Hajar Al-Aswad is special. We also know that it was our Prophet Muhammad (salallahu alaihi wasalam) who lifted it and placed it in its place.
Before Islam, in fact, about one hundred years before the coming of the Prophet of Islam, there was a civil war between the tribe of Jurhum and the tribe of Khuza’a. In the civil war, when the Jurhum were ousted from Makkah by the Khuza’a, they wanted to destroy Kaaba just to show their animosity out of the fact that they were being kicked out of Makkah. They wanted to get rid of the Hajar Al-Aswad. They got rid of Zam-Zam water and covered it up. Remember the story of Abudul Mutalib, who rediscovered the Zam-Zam? They also destroyed aspects of the Kaaba, pulled the Hajar-al-Aswad out, took it far away, and buried it somewhere. It was by Allah’s Qadar that a lady who was hiding for her life close to where they buried it saw them while they were burring it from where she was hiding. So, Hajar Al-Aswad was gone for some time, and it was later returned.
Some scholars said that when Jurhum removed the Hajar Al-Aswad, either it got broken or it was weak and susceptible to being broken into pieces.
In the time of the Prophet (sallahu alaihi wa salam), he lifted it and placed it where it in its position, and it remained there until the time of Abdallah bin Zubair, when the Umayyads attacked the Kaaba and got it burned, and the Hajar Al-Aswad was damaged. Abdallah bin Zubair decided for the first time that the Hajar Al-Aswad could not be left like that, and so he was the first person to put that silver alloy around it. He was the first person to put protection around it. That iconic case remained until the time of Haruna Rashid. The new helmsman came one night, did his tawaf, saw the silver alloy degraded and rusting after 130 years, and decided to change its casing. He really spent a fortune to put one hundred percent silver in it to replace it. It was like, the most expensive material then. Remember also that Ibn Zubair, who was speaking in terms of civilization, did not have access to the wealth as much as Haruna Rashid, who was in Baghdad, the pinnacle of the Muslim empire then. Again, the craftsmen, skills, and technology had grown, giving Haruna Rashid the leeway to do something better—the beautiful shape that we are now familiar with. So, he covered the Hajar al-Aswad in this regard. This came about in 190 hijrah.
Then, in 317 hijrah, a tragedy happened. If you don’t know about this tragedy, sorry, I have to let you know, because this is history, and I don’t change history. That year, there were many Shiaisms, groups, and sects. One of the most fanatical sects is the right-wing killing and carrying out mayhem, a breakaway of Islam. The Qarmatians, who called themselves the Qarmatians, are one of the branches of Shi’iasm. Within Ismailism, there were many different branches. The Qarmatians did not follow the Shari’ah; they did not pray five times a day; they went against Islamic theology; and they made an empire on the island of Bahrain and a part of Saudi Arabia. They are separate from the Abbasid and the Fatimate. They rejected any group outside theirs, and they also did not acknowledge the Fatimate Caliphate. So, they broke away and started fighting the Abassid. The Abbasid were weak, and the Qarmatians took over much of the Abbassid empires. They surrounded Kufa as they were about to take over the city. They attempted to attack Baghdad. In the year 317 Hijrah, they launched an attack on Makkah, and they succeeded. During Hajj, they killed 20,000 hujjaj, and it was said blood was flowing in Makkah. The leader made some Kufri statements and commanded that Hajar Aswad be taken out. They wanted to remove it completely from the metal, but Haruna Rashid had placed it so well that it was difficult to remove the silver. So, they began hitting it with an axe. And they caused the Hajar Al-Aswad to crumble, then took it, went to their land in Qatif, and built another Kaaba over it. And they demanded the people do tawaf around it. But their own people refused, and so they fought their own people again and killed another 2,000 of their own people. And for 22 years, there was no Hajar Al-Aswad in Makkah. It was in Qatif. Some say the actual building of their own Kaaba is still standing today.
For 22 years, the Abbasid Caliphate attempted to get it back. They even negotiated, asking them to name their price, but the Shiah in Qatif refused. They refused all entreaties until the Fatimate interceded. The Fatimate interceded mainly because they were getting some blames about the whole saga because they were a branch of Ismaili and they had to prove they had nothing to do with them. After several entreaties, on a certain day, the Hajar Al-Aswad was thrown into the mosque of Kufa. From there, it was brought back to the Haram in Makkah.
Note that now the Hajar al-Aswad has been made into pebbles. It is no longer a brick, but pebbles. The head of Makkah then made an alloy, placed the pebbles into the alloy, and put silver around it to further protect it. So, for the actual Hajar Al-Aswad, the black structure that you see inside the silver is not the Hajar Al-Aswad but the small pebbles inside the black structure. If you look at any picture, or if you are able to get to that spot, make sure you look inside; you will see small pebbles inside; that is the Hajar Al-Aswad. But if you just kiss the outside structure, you have done your job. You don’t have to aim your lips inside where the pebbles are. Allah is Al-Gaffur Ar-Raheem. It is not our fault. And what can we do? Technically speaking, you should be aware of where the pebbles are inside the alloys, which are usually updated after 100 or more years. The pebbles are very small—only three or four of them—and bigger than the size of the finger.
So, the Hajar Al-Aswad that is put into the case of 329 AH remained so until Suleiman Al-Qanuni became the Khalifa who conquered places in Europe. He spent several millions of dollars on Makkah and Jerusalem. If you have been to Palestine, you will notice that the wall and the structure were built by Suleiman Al-Qanuni 550 years ago. He did the same to Makkah and Madinah. Although none of the Ottoman Khulafa did hajj, including Suleiman Al-Qanuni, but he spent a fortune on Makkah and Madinah. If you had gone to Makkah before the 1980s, you would have seen some of the original structure of Suleiman Al-Qanuni until the 1980s. He was the one who made some flags in Kaaba. He made some of the structures, including doors, before the 1980s, when the expansion was carried out. 550 years ago. Because he spent a fortune, he did not go to perform hajj; he wanted to go see the Hajar Al-Aswad. So, what did he do? They brought Hajar al-Aswad to him. But not all of it—only five pieces. His main architect, Sinan, decided that the Waziri of that time, Muhammad Basha, would build a special masjid to house the five stones of Hajar Aswad. So, he built the masjid and named it Suleiman Basha in Istanbul, which stands till today. So, Suleimam Basha financed the masjid built by Sinan. In the masjid, he built key places where the five pieces of Hajar Aswad were kept. So, when you walk into the masjid, one of them is there; when the Khatib walk to the minbar, one of them is there. So, to this day, five stones of Hajar Al-Aswad are in Istanbul.
As said by Umar bin Khatab when he kissed the Haja Al-Aswad, I know you are not something that can harm me. We don’t worship the stone, but Allah blessed us to have the icon there: “You are only a rock; you don’t benefit me; I am kissing you because the Prophet (sallalahu alaihi wa salam) kissed you.”
We have to be within the realm of our aqeedah. It is a historic rock given to Ibrahim by Allah.
About Sheikh Dr Yasir Qadhi
Dr. Yasir Qadhi, PhD, is a resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center, a professor at Rhodes College in the Department of Religious Studies and the Dean of Academic Affairs at AlMaghrib Institute. He graduated with a BSc in Chemical Engineering from the University of Houston, and studied at the Islamic University of Madinah where he completed a BA from the College of Hadith and Islamic Sciences followed by a MA in Islamic Theology from the College of Dawah. He then returned to the United States and completed a PhD in Religious Studies from Yale University. He is one of the few people who has combined a traditional Eastern Islamic seminary education with a Western academic training of the study of Islam.