The Architecture of the Holy Kaaba

In the centuries before the Prophet Muhammad’s mission , the Holy Kaaba was a trapezoidal structure, with walls no higher than 4.5 meters. As it had no ceiling at that time, its covering hung loosely down the walls. The Kaaba had a two-panel hinged door with a lock at ground level to protect the treasures of money and jewelry presented to the Kaaba as gifts.

The Kaaba was not immune to damage. According to Islamic sources, it was destroyed by the Great Flood at the time of Noah. Since its rebuilding by Abraham and Ishmael, it also was subjected to frequent floods and devastating fires and was rebuilt more than once. The first such rebuilding was by the Jurhum and ʿAmālīq tribes.

Around one century before the birth of the Prophet Muhammad {pbuh}, the cover caught fire and the Kaaba’s walls cracked. The tribe of Quraysh were alarmed, but they were reluctant to demolish it for reconstruction. Their leader at the time, Quṣai ibn Kilāb (d. 480 CE), rebuilt its walls using square, rough stones from the surrounding valley. Inside, the construction used alternating wood and stone columns.

After floods from the surrounding valleys weakened the Kaaba’s structure again, the leaders of the Quraysh decided unanimously as its custodians to demolish the Kaaba completely and rebuild it from the original foundation. The Prophet Muhammad {pbuh} took part in this rebuilding and placed the Black Stone in the Kaaba’s wall, and in so doing resolved a potential conflict between different factions of the Quraysh.

During the revolution of Ibn al-Zubayr 64 AH/683 CE, the Holy Kaaba was demolished by catapults. The Sacred House was rebuilt with some modifications in size. Subsequently, the building was returned by ʿAbd al-Malik ibn Marwān to its previous structure as it was in the days of the tribe of Quraysh.

The Kaaba did not undergo any further significant repairs or restorations until the period of Ottoman rule. The Ottoman sultans and caliphs paid particular attention to the three Holy Mosques. After parts of the Kaaba collapsed due to heavy rains, Ottoman Sultan Murad IV ordered the reconstruction of the Kaaba in 1039 AH/1630 CE. Many renovations followed after that, the latest of which came during the reign of the House of Saud. King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz changed the roof, repaired the walls and expanded the Holy Mosque.

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The Hajj Procession: The Mahmal’s Journey by Land and Sea

Muḥammad Ṣādiq Bek (d. 1320 AH/1902 CE)
Boulaq Press, Cairo, 1303 AH/1886 CE

View of the Kaaba and its Surroundings

Gouache on paper, possibly Turkey, 13th century AH/20th century CE

Revelations of the Two Holy Mosques

Muḥyi al-Dīn Muḥammad al-Shirāzī al-Lārī (d. 933 AH/1527 CE)
Indian Sub-Continent, 11th century AH/17th century CE

Atlas Paintings of Ali Bek’s Trip

Domingo Badia Lipsch (d. 1233 AH/1818 CE)
Didot, Paris, 1229 AH/1814 CE

Photo’s from Mecca

The Journey of the Mahmal: An Account of the Egyptian Pilgrim’s Journey to Mecca

Muḥammad Ṣādiq Bek (d. 1320 AH/1902 CE)
Wādī al-Nīl Press, Cairo 1228 AH/1881 CE