The Kaaba before the Prophet Muhammad’s Mission

After the Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael established the foundations of the Holy Kaaba, God commanded Abraham to summon all people to visit it for pilgrimage. People came from around Arabia to answer the call. The first pilgrims were from the tribe of Jurhum who lived in the territory around the Kaaba. This tribe took over the custodianship of Mecca and the Kaaba and drove the rival ʿAmālīqa tribe from Mecca.

A long time later, the Jurhum began to abuse the Kaaba’s sanctity, stealing its treasures and destroying the well of Zamzam so that none would find it. The tribe of Kenāna, the offspring of Prophet Ishmael, formed an alliance with the tribe of Khuzā’a to drive the tribe of Jurhum out of Mecca, and the Khuzā’a assumed sole custodianship of the Kaaba and the service of the pilgrims.

Historical accounts tell that ʿAmr ibn Luhai, leader of the tribe of Khuzā’a, was the first to change the religion of the Prophet Abraham by placing idols around the Kaaba to be worshipped alongside God. The dominance of the Khuzā’a over Mecca lasted several centuries, until Quṣai ibn Kilāb, leader of the Quraysh tribe and the paternal third-great-grandfather of the Prophet Muhammad {pbuh}, seized custodianship from them. He rebuilt the Kaaba, fed the pilgrims and became a leader respected throughout Arabia.

The Kaaba was much respected and highly revered by the Arabs. Poets competed for the honor of hanging their poems on the Kaaba’s cloth cover, the kiswa, which was a source of great pride and glory for them. These poems survive to this day as testimony to the great eloquence and linguistic brilliance of Arabic poetry in the time before the Prophet Muhammad’s mission.

Although well-protected by its custodians, the Kaaba was not completely safe from external enemies. Perhaps the most dangerous threat was the expedition of Abraha (approximately 571 CE), a Christian king of Ḥimyar and Yemen who built a church in Sanaa to divert Arab pilgrims from the Kaaba. Abraha met a horrible end, the account of which is preserved for posterity in an entire chapter of the Holy Qur’an.

Before the mission of the Prophet Muhammad {pbuh}, the Quraysh custodians rebuilt the Kaaba after it was destroyed by a flood, doubling the height of its walls and ornamenting them, as well as restoring its treasures. The Prophet Muhammed {pbuh} himself played a significant role in this reconstruction of the Kaaba, as recounted in the books of the Prophet’s Sīra, or biography.

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History of Holy Mecca

Quṭb al-Dīn Muḥammad bin Aḥmad al-Nahrawālī (d. 988 AH/1583 CE)
Ottoman Printing Press, Cairo, 1304 AH/1886 CE

Holy Qur’an Manuscript

Calligrapher, Aḥmad al-Qara Ḥaṣārī (d. 962 AH /1555 CE)
The Ottoman Empire, 952 AH/1545 CE

Comments on The Seven Hanging Poems

ʿAbūʿAbdullah Ḥusayn ibn Aḥmad al-Zawzanī (d. 486 AH/1093 CE) 
India, 12th–13th century AH/18th–19th century CE