Q. Could you explain what is the significance of the semicircle area near the Kaaba and why we offer a prayer there? As far as I know, the Kaaba itself is not the object of our worship. Could you clarify what it represents. Why do people cling to it, especially under its door? I am told that when it is washed, those who undertake the task pray inside it. Is this true and permissible? Which part of it is called the Multazam, and what does it signify?
A. You are right when you say that the Kaaba is not the object of our worship. This is certainly true. We worship God alone, and we do not represent Him in any physical form. The Kaaba is only the focus point in our worship of God Almighty. It symbolizes the unity of all Muslims in all generations, as they all turn toward it when they pray. It acquires its importance from the fact that it is the first house ever built for human worship. This is clearly stated in the Qur’an: “The first House (of worship) ever set up for mankind was indeed the one at Bakkah: rich in blessing; and a source of guidance to all the worlds.” (3: 96) Incidentally, Bakkah is another name of the city of Makkah. It was built by the two prophets Abraham and Ishmael on God’s orders and by His guidance.
Muslims know that the Kaaba itself has no power to benefit or harm anyone. It is a blessed place for our worship, but worship is addressed to God alone. We greet the Kaaba by doing the tawaf around it, which is a walk encircling it seven times, during which we praise and glorify God, read the Qur’an, or pray for our forgiveness, God’s mercy or any other thing. This tawaf counts like a prayer, but ordinary speech is permissible while we are doing it.
When the Kaaba was first built, it incorporated the semicircle area known as Hijr Ismaeel, but on renovating the building by the Arabs at one point before Islam, the stones available were insufficient, because the Arabs raised its height. This is why they reduced its size and marked the semicircle area, which is part of its area. Hence, the tawaf goes round this semicircle. We pray inside this area after tawaf because the Prophet did so, and he told us to learn our rituals from his practice. This means that praying inside the Kaaba is permissible, and those who are able to do so speak of a highly inspiring experience. The door is kept locked because if people were allowed to get inside, there would be much scrambling that could lead to injury or loss of life.
Clinging to the Kaaba building is not allowed, except at the Multazam, which is the part below the door. If one manages to place one’s body against the Kaaba at the Multazam, raising one’s hands and praying, one is certain of having one’s prayers answered. However, people must behave properly, without pushing or rushing one another.
Arab News Islam 2 June 2003