Hajj 2021 explained: Kiswa

The Kiswa, or Kiswat Al-Kaabah — which means “pall” in Arabic — is the cloth that covers the Kaaba in Makkah’s Grand Mosque. (SPA)
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  • Specialist team replaces Kaaba cloth

On Monday, The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques replaced the covering of the Kaaba.

The specialist team from the King Abdul Aziz Complex for Holy Kaaba Kiswa dismantled the old kiswa and installed the new one.

The Kiswa, or Kiswat Al-Kaabah — which means “pall” in Arabic — is the cloth that covers the Kaaba in Makkah’s Grand Mosque.

Every year, on the ninth day of the month of Dhu Al-Hajjah, the day pilgrims leave for the plains of Mount Arafat during the Hajj pilgrimage, the Kaaba is draped with a new kiswa. The old one gets cut into pieces and given to visiting foreign Muslim dignitaries and organizations.

The kiswa consists of 47 pieces of cloth. Each piece is 14 meters long and 101 centimeters in breadth. The kiswa is wrapped around the Kaaba and fixed to its base with copper rings.

It is made of black silk textile with inscriptions embroidered in gold and silver wire. These inscriptions include verses from the Qur’an and supplications to Allah.

The cost of making the kiswa is around SR17 million. The entire cover is 658 sq. meters in length and is comprised of 670 kg of pure silk, and 150 kg of pure gold and silver in the thread used for the embroidery.

According to Arab folklore, the tradition of draping the kaabah goes back to 390-420 CE, when the king of Himyarite Kingdom in Yemen, King Tuba Abu Karab As’ad, ordered cloth to cover the Kaaba for the first time, during the rule of the Jurhum tribe in Makkah.

The tradition continued for centuries, including the reign of Prophet Muhammad. The Kaaba was draped over for years without removing the old kiswas. Then the Abbasid King, King Al-Nasir, established the new practice of draping the Kaaba with only one layer as he saw that accumulated Kiswas could cause damage to the holy site.

Although the known color of kiswa is black, the colors of the kiswa would change during the reigns of various rulers and caliphs. The Prophet Muhammad and his caliphs used a white color for the kiswa. Red, green and black have all been used, until King Al-Nasir and King Al-Ma’mun agreed that black should be the color of the kiswa.

The cloth was be manufactured in Egypt from the time of Ayyubids to the Ottoman Empire. Amir Al-Hajj, the commander of the Hajj caravan, was responsible for delivering the kiswa from Egypt to Makkah. In 1927, the manufacture was partially moved from Egypt to Makkah before it was fully relocated in 1962.