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Prophet Abraham (a.s) and Mecca
1- Settlement of Abraham’s wife and son in Mecca
According to the verse of the Quran, Abraham along with Ishmael moved to Mecca. He then settled him in Mecca. In this regard the Quran says: “Our Lord, I have settled some of my descendants in an uncultivated valley near Your sacred House, our Lord, that they may establish prayer.” (Surah 'Ibrahim-Verse 37). What caused Abraham to make such decision was the incompatibility of Abraham’s wife, Sareh and Hagar (Ishmael’s mother) before the birth of Isaac. This incompatibility bothered Abraham and hence he complained to God and he was commanded by God to settle Ishmael and his mother in Mecca. The verses which are related to this story especially, the verse 37 of Surah 'Ibrahim “that they may establish prayer” and verse 125 of Surah “And We charged Abraham and Ishmael, [saying], "Purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who are staying [there] for worship and those who bow and prostrate [in prayer]”, indicates that the main purpose of Abraham for settling Ishmael and his mother in Mecca was to establish a firm base for inviting people to monotheism. It has to be said that the future events including asking God to purify His House has also proved this issue very well. The verse 39 of Surah 'Ibrahim “Praise to Allah, who has granted to me in old age Ishmael and Isaac. Indeed, my Lord is the Hearer of supplication” refers to the fact that God bestowed upon Abraham (a.s) his children in old age (either when he was at least 64 years old or when he was at most 117 years old). Therefore, Abraham traveled to Mecca at that age. According to Abraham’s supplication in verse 126 of Surah Al-Baqarah “My Lord, make this a secure city and” when Abraham entered Mecca, at that place there was no city and later the settlement of Ishmael and Hagar in that place, provided the grounds for establishing the city of Mecca and Abraham’s supplication in verse 35 of Surah 'Ibrahim “My Lord, make this city [Makkah] secure” indicates that at that place, the city of Mecca had been established in Abraham's time. The first thing that comes to everybody's mind is that firstly: “How was it possible that such a kind prophet (Abraham (a.s)) had settled his wife and son in the desert.” Secondly: “What motivated him to do this unbearable settlement?”
In response to these questions it has to be said that firstly, this migration and settlement was a great trial for Abraham (a.s) and Hagar and both of whom could proudly cope with it. In addition, Abraham’s emotions could not prevent this great prophet from fulfilling his tasks. Secondly, regarding the motivation for this settlement, the only term which has been mentioned in this verse is “that they may establish prayer” and it means that the purpose of this settlement had been establishing prayer and in general (and without considering the specific criteria) the purpose of the religion of God had been establishing prayer. Consequently, due to this sacred goal, Abraham’s emotions were relieved and it caused Hagar not to be fearful of anything. As it was already mentioned when Abraham decided to leave his wife and son, Hagar said: “To whom will you leave us in this desert?” Abraham said: “To the One who has commanded me to settle you here. He will protect you and will provide sustenance for you.” The reason why this House has been attributed to God is that it has been built for no reason but to worship Allah. However, the “sacred” House refers to the sanctity which has been regarded by God for this House.
2- Construction of the Kaaba
Kaaba was the first house which was built for humanity to worship Allah. In Prophet Adam’s time, it was constructed by him and later due to Noah’s flood this house was destroyed. But Abraham khalilulah knew that Mecca was the place in which the Kaaba had already been built. Accordingly, Abraham again constructed this House by the command of God. On the other hand, since Hagar and Ishmael settled in Mecca and additionally many tribes moved to this land after the revelation of Zamzam Well to Hagar, it was natural that this community would require a law (religion) and a leader. The principle outcome of a law, a good leader and the enforcement of law is worshiping God. Therefore, it can be concluded that at that time, people needed to go to a place of worship in which they could worship God in specific times and at that place of worship they could also be trained to learn the ethics. It is so good that this place of worship was built by the hero of invitation to monotheism, Abraham khalilulah and the rite of which was determined by this great man. Accordingly, after the preliminary stages was finished, he was commanded by God to build the Kaaba with the aid of Ishmael. Most of the commentators believe that the Kaaba had existed before the time of Abraham. The verse 127 of Surah Al-Baqarah “And [mention] when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and [with him] Ishmael, [saying], "Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing” and verse 96 of Surah “Indeed, the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Makkah - blessed and a guidance for the worlds” also prove this issue. In this regard some commentators have also referred to verse 37 of Surah 'Ibrahim “Our Lord, I have settled some of my descendants in an uncultivated valley near Your sacred House…” because the term “near Your sacred House” indicates that when Abraham along with Ishmael and Hagar travelled to Mecca, there had been traces of the Kaaba. This reasoning is acceptable only if this statement had been said when Abraham had brought Ishmael and Hagar to Mecca. Some commentators, however hold that this statement had been said after the construction of the Kaaba and the establishment of the city of Mecca and in the last days of Abraham’s life. According to various narrations, the place of Kaaba was not clear but Abraham recognized it by the aid of Gabriel or the storm which was called Sakine or a cloud which shadowed the place of the Kaaba. Then, he constructed the Kaaba at that place. A group of commentators believe that the verse 26 of Surah Al-Haj “And [mention, O Muhammad], when We designated for Abraham the site of the House” refers to this issue. This point of view is based on the fact that the term “We designated for” does refer to determining the place of the Kaaba and preparing it for Abraham (a.s). But some commentators have not accepted this interpretation and have interpreted this verse as the following: “We revealed to Abraham to consider the place in which the Kaaba had already existed as his temple”. Consequently, although this verse would imply that at the time of Abraham, the construction of the Kaaba had not existed, it would not mean that the place of the Kaaba had not been clear either. In this regard, a narration from Imam Sadiq (a.s) proves this issue. According to this narration, the first time Abraham moved to Mecca (while the construction of the Kaaba had been destroyed), he became responsible by God to perform the rites of the Hajj and when he did so, one year later he became responsible to construct the Kaaba. This narration shows that although the Kaaba had been destroyed, its location was almost clear. The verses of the Quran do not explicitly refer to God’s commandment to Abraham (a.s) to construct the Kaaba but according to narrations, Abraham became responsible to construct the Kaaba by the command of God. According to the verse 127 of Surah Al-Baqarah “And [mention] when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and [with him] Ishmael…” and a narration form Imam Sadiq (a.s) which refers to the fact that both Abraham and Ishmael were responsible to perform the House, most commentators hold that Abraham along with Ishmael founded the Kaaba. Accordingly they were responsible to keep the Kaaba clean. Anyhow, according to the verse “And [mention, O Muhammad], when We designated for Abraham the site of the House” (Surah Al-Haj-Verse 26), Abraham’s mission to construct the Kaaba was taken place after his great trial for the sacrifice of Ishmael. Shortly after this event, Gabriel appeared to him and said: “Construct the Kaaba”. Abraham asked: “Where shall I construct it?” Gabriel said: “Follow this cloud and wherever it stopped, construct the House there.” Abraham moved on and Gabriel guided him until he reached the location in which a construction had been built by Adam and in this regard the Quran says: “We designated for Abraham the site of the House.” Abraham (a.s) said: “O God, where can I find the stones required for construction of the House?” At that moment, Gabriel became responsible to provide the stones for Abraham from the following five mountains: Mina, Black, Judi, Abu Qubais and Al-Safa. Then, Abraham along with his son, Ishmael raised the walls of the Kaaba (almost nine cubits) and while raising the walls he said: “And [mention] when Abraham was raising the foundations of the House and [with him] Ishmael, [saying], "Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing.” (Surah Al-Baqarah-Verse 127). In the verse “raising the foundations” the Arabic equivalent for the term “foundations” which is the plural form of “foundation” refers to that part of the building which is located over the ground. It has to be mentioned that in this verse, raising the wall has been interpreted as raising the foundations metonymically. The sentence “Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the Hearing, the Knowing” is the supplication of Abraham and Ishmael. After the construction of the wall of the Kaaba, Abraham and Ishmael raised their hands for praying and said: “Our Lord, accept this from us”. Despite the fact that they had constructed the Kaaba as the servants, they intended to show their utmost modesty, therefore they did not refer to what they had done and merely said: “accept this from us”. According to the Quran, when Abraham and Ishmael finished constructing the Kaaba, their prayer was as the following:
1- Our Lord, accept this from us.
2- Make us Muslims [in submission] to You and from our descendants a Muslim nation [in submission] to You.
3- Show us our rites.
4- Accept our repentance.
5- Send among them a messenger from themselves who will recite to them Your verses and teach them the Book and wisdom and purify them. (Surah Al-Baqarah-Verse 125)
3- The coverage of the House of Kaaba
There is a slight difference between what Sheikh Koleini and Al-Shaykh al-Saduq have narrated form Imam Sadiq (a.s). According to them Imam Sadiq (a.s) said: “When the construction of the Kaaba was finished, they built two doors for the Kaaba, one for entrance and the other for the exit. In addition, they made two thresholds for these doors as door loops were also hung, but the House and its doors had no coverage until Ishmael married to a wise woman from the Hamir tribe. When Ishmael move to Ta'if to supply food, she stayed in Mecca. One day she saw an old man with disheveled appearance. That old man asked her some questions and moreover, he asked her how she was. In response to the old man’s question she said that she was fine and again he asked her about her private life, and again he received the same response. Then, he again asked her about her tribe and the woman said that she was from the Hamir tribe. The old man gave her a letter and said: “give it to your husband when he returned” and he said goodbye to her and left Mecca. Ishmael returned from Ta'if and her wife gave her the letter. When Ishmale read the letter, he said to her: “Did you recognize that old man?” Her wife replied: “No, I did not, he was a good looking old man who resembled you.” Ishmael said: “He was my father.” When her wife heard that said: “Woe to me.” Ishmael said: Why? Do you fear that he may have seen part of your body? Her wife replied: “No, but I fear that I had been negligent to him.””
After this event, one day her wife said to Ishmael: “What is your idea about covering the doors of the Kaaba with a curtain?” Ishmael said: “”It is a good idea.” Following this suggestion, they prepared two curtains and hung them on the doors of the Kaaba. Ishmael’s wife then suggested that they prepare another curtain and cover the walls of the Kaaba too, because the walls had become Unsightly. Ishmael agreed with her wife’s suggestion too and after her decision, she asked her tribe for help and then they provided a lot of wool. Then, the other women in her tribe began spinning the wool and weaving it and when each piece was prepared, they hung it to a part of the Kaaba. When the due time for the Hajj arrived and many people traveled to Mecca, they could cover many parts of the Kaaba, but some parts still had no coverage. Ishmael’s wife said: “We can cover this part with weeds, and hence they did so.” When the Arabs went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and saw the Kaaba, they said to themselves that it is better to bring a gift for repairing this House. Since then, the pilgrims customarily brought their gifts to the House. When a lot of money and gifts were collected, they covered the Kaaba with curtains and removed the weeds. Accordingly, the whole parts of the Kaaba were covered by the curtains. At that time, the Kaaba had no roof, hence to this purpose, Ishmael found some pieces of wood and built a roof for the Kaaba and covered it with mud. Ishmael and other people had great difficulty accessing to water and therefore Ishmael informed Abraham of this issue. He, then dug some wells by the command of God and this problem was also resolved.
4- The purpose of the construction of the Kaaba and its reconstruction
Abraham asked God to show him the location of the Kaaba and by the command of God, Gabriel descended on earth and determined the former place of the Kaaba. Then, Abraham was prepared to reconstruct the Kaaba at that place. To this purpose, Ishmael brought stones from the desert and Abraham built the wall and accordingly the wall reached a height of nine cubits and then Abraham covered its roof with pieces of wood. It has to be said that Abraham was guided by God so he could find Al-Hajar al-Aswad which had been brought from Heaven to the earth by Adam and had been located in Abu Qubais mount. Then, Abraham along with Ishmael took this stone and set it in its specific place. This stone still is in the same place.
Abraham built two doors for the Kaaba one of which faced the west and the other faced the east. Accordingly, in this stage too, with the aid of Ishmael and through his supplications, Abraham fulfilled his duty. It should be noted that it was the preliminary stage which was related to the appearance of the Kaaba. But what is important is the purpose for which this House has been built and consequently, all hardships for the construction of this House must be in line with achieving this purpose. The purpose of the construction of the Kaaba was saving mankind from idolatry, superstitions and inviting them to monotheism. Accordingly, the purpose was that the Kaaba be a base for monotheism by which people could be trained and in all aspects of life and hence they could turn to the Almighty God. It should be noted that this purpose is also clear in Abraham’s above mentioned supplications, especially in his fifth supplication in which referring to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) he said: “Our Lord, send among them a messenger from themselves who will recite to them Your verses and teach them the Book and wisdom and purify them.”
5- The mission of Abraham and Ishmael
In this regard the Quran says: “And [mention] when We made the House a place of return for the people and [a place of] security. And take, [O believers], from the standing place of Abraham a place of prayer. And We charged Abraham and Ishmael, [saying], "Purify My House for those who perform Tawaf and those who are staying [there] for worship and those who bow and prostrate [in prayer]” (Surah Al-Baqarah-Verse 125). This verse refers to the fact that this House is a place of resort for mankind, a place of safety, a place for prayer and a place for those who are circumambulating it (performing the rites of the Hajj). In the sentence “And We charged Abraham and Ishmael, [saying], "Purify My House”, the meaning of the Arabic equivalent for the term “to charge” is “to command”. In this verse the Arabic equivalent for the term “purity” could only refer to spiritual purity or both spiritual and apparent purity, however, regarding the context of verse, it would refer to spiritual purity. Consequently, it means that Abraham showed people the way to worship God and prevented them from idolatry. Anyhow, regarding the Arabic equivalent for the term “purity”, there are two possibilities which are as follows:
A- Purity means that the House of God (the Kaaba) is pure and permissible for the worshippers, those who circumambulate around the Kaaba and those who perform I’tikaf (to stay in a mosque for a particular time period for the purpose of worshiping Allah).
B- Or it means to purify that House from dirt and filths which are made due to people’s negligence in the mosque or their evil deeds which cause the corruption. These evil deeds include shirk and the manifestation of which is idolatry. Therefore, it refers to purifying the House of God (the Kaaba) from the spiritual filths and Abraham was become responsible to invite and teach people to worship God and prevent them from shirk and idolatry as he himself was responsible to worship God.
6- Invitation to the Hajj
When the construction of the Kaaba was finished and as it is said after Abraham (a.s) performed the rites of the Hajj and intended to sacrifice Ishmael, he was commanded to invite people to the Hajj. In this regard the Quran says: “And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]...” After this command of God, it is said that on Dhu al-Hijjah, Abraham stood either on the mount Abu Qubais or Al-Safa, Sabir or one of the pillars of the Kaaba or Al-Hajar al-Aswad or the standing place of Abraham and there he proclaimed to the people the Hajj. According to another narration he stood on Sabir mount and there he proclaimed to the people the Hajj. In this verse the term “proclaim” may refer to people’s invitation to perform the rites of the Hajj or to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca and the Kaaba. Anyhow, Abraham and Ishmael were commanded by God to perform the rites of the Hajj. By the command of God, Gabriel was revealed to Abraham and taught him and his son Ishmael the rites of the Hajj including Tawaf, Staying in Arafat and Mashar and the ritual of Mina, etc. Then, they also performed the above mentioned rites of the Hajj respectively and considering the importance of the Hajj they recognized its material and spiritual benefits. According to Ibn Abbas, the famous commentator, Abraham climbed the Abu Qubais mount and there he put his finger into his ears and cried: “O people of the world! Accept your Lord’s invitation to perform the ritual of the Hajj and to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca.” God conveyed his message to all people until the end of the world and those who were of Abraham’s real descendants, accepted his invitation by all their hearts and showed that they were ready for this great goal and learning from the Hajj. In verse 130 of Surah Al-Baqarah, the Quran proclaims to all people of the world that: “No one would be averse to the pure religion of Abraham except those who make a fool of themself, We had chosen Abraham in this world and the Hereafter, among the righteous”. Accordingly, the rites of the Hajj which are regarded as one of the most important religious rites of the world, remind us of Abraham. In has to be said that the fact that Abraham acted like a servant of God is observable in all rites of the Hajj and basically, without the remembrance of Abraham, performing the rites of the Hajj is meaningless. The reason is that the name of this great man (Abraham) and what he did would always remain in people’s mind and those who were eager, could take this path which would lead to human’s dignity. The Hajj indeed is people’s movement along with Abraham and toward the path which will lead to God and in which the act of worship and the individual and social policies are integrated. It has to be said that if the actual content of Hajj be properly followed, the greatest events regarding the worship of Allah will be taken place. In this regard the Quran says: “And proclaim to the people the Hajj [pilgrimage]; they will come to you on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every distant pass” (Surah Al-Haj-Verse 27). In this verse the Arabic equivalent for the term “proclaim” refers to proclaiming to the people with a loud voice and that is why some commentators have interpreted it as “calling”. The Arabic equivalent for the word “Hajj” literary means “to intend to do something” however, this term refers to those rites which are performed when going on a pilgrimage to Mecca (the Kaaba) and they were performed for the first time by Abraham and performing these rites were continued until the time of the last prophet (the prophet Muhammad (pbuh)). The relationship between the literal meaning and idiomatic meaning of this word is because the one who intends to go the Kaaba is said to have gone on a pilgrimage to Mecca for performing the rites of the Hajj. This person when returns from Hajj is called “Haji”. It refers to the person who has performed the rites of the great House of God. In the previous verse, the Arabic equivalent for the term “lean camel” refers to an animal which has become skinny due to walking for a long time and the Arabic equivalent for the term “distant” refers to a long distant.
Performing the rites of the Hajj
If in the verse 128 of Surah Al-Baqarah, the Arabic equivalent for the term “rites” “…show us our rites…” refers to the rites of the Hajj and in the verse 102 of Surah As-Saffat, the Arabic equivalent for the term “exertion” refers to the pilgrims’ exertion during the rites of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, therefore these two verses will refer to performing the rites of the Hajj by Abraham and Ishmael. According to a narration, Abraham and Ishmael had performed their first Hajj rites before the construction of the Kaaba, however other narrations indicates that Abraham’s first Hajj had been performed after the construction of the Kaaba. According to narrations, Gabriel (a.s) had accompanied Abraham (a.s) and Ishmael (a.s) during the rites of the Hajj and had taught them the way they had to perform these rites. Some commentators attribute the first Hajj to Abraham however according to various narrations, Adam (a.s) has been introduced as the first person who has performed the rites of the Hajj. Even according to some narrations, before Abraham’s departure for Mecca, the Arab people performed the rituals of the Hajj though the Kaaba had already been destroyed.
The secret of Abraham’s standing place next to the Kaaba
In this regard the Quran says: “In it are clear signs [such as] the standing place of Abraham” (Surah 'Ali `Imran-Verse 97).
The Quran also says “…And take, [O believers], from the standing place of Abraham a place of prayer….” (Surah Al-Baqarah-Verse 125). It has to be said that the standing place of Abraham is a place which is located in the Kaaba, however as follows, there are controversies about the condition of this place:
A- Abraham’s standing place is a stone bearing the footprints of Prophet Abraham [however, there are controversies regarding the fact that where this stone had been when Abraham had placed his feet over it and that how this footprint has been made]. Some commentators hold that this stone had been the very stone over which Abraham had placed his feet to create the wall of the Kaaba (9 cubits). Some other commentators however, believe that it had been the very stone that Abraham’s wife had placed it under his husbands’ feet in order for him to clean himself when he had returned from his travel. Accordingly they believe that while cleaning himself, Abraham’s footprint had been made on the stone. It is said that this stone is currently where it is called, “Abraham’s standing place”. It is said that this stone has been buried there next to the place around which the pilgrims circumambulate for the Hajj.
B- The other possibility is that perhaps the term “Abraham’s standing place” might show that Abraham’s standing place refers to the House itself.
C- The third possibility is that this stone had been in a specific place in the House where Abraham had worshiped God.
The secret why a place has been called as Abraham’s standing place
Some people may imagine that since Abraham (a.s) had constructed this House and he had been one of the great divine prophets, in his honor and in order to reward him for the construction of this House, God has determined a place for him and has asked His pilgrims to perform Salah there. It has to be said that based on human’s wisdom, Abraham had deserved such a great honor. But in the holy verse of the Quran, God says that the “standing place of Abraham” is one of the divine signs and it mean that Abraham’s standing place is a clear sing which reminds us of the status of God. Abraham invited people to monotheism and he never ceased inviting people to this path. Therefore, which sign is clearer than Abraham’s standing place by which people’s attention has been drawn to Allah. Consequently, in addition to the great sign (the Kaaba), there needs to be another sign like Abraham’s standing place. It has to be said that Abraham’s standing place could be a role model for all human beings which would guide them in the path which would lead to God. So Abraham (a.s) was a sign and invited people to God and his standing place was a sign too.
1 - Translation of al-Mizan, vol. 12, p.111 and p.110, vol. 14, p. 520, vol. 3, pp. 546-548
2 - Tarikh al-anbiya', p. 306
3 - Majma' al-Bayan, vol. 7, pp. 80-81
4 - The characteristics of the Prophets as role models in the holy Quran by Ainullah Irshadi
5 - Encyclopedia of the Holy Quran, Vol. 1, By: Mohammad Salehi Manesh
6 - Andisheh Qom website, Article of the goal of the construction of the Kaaba and its reconstruction
7 - Tarikh al-anbiya', By: Rasoul Mahallati
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