Let us examine closely the square-structured Ka'bah (The Holy House) at Makkah, in Arabia, wherein in its Eastern corner lies the Black Stone set up chest-high.
Every pilgrim in Makkah tries to kiss and caress it fondly first thing upon arrival there. This action marks the start of the act of Tawaf. The word "Tawaf" is an Arabic infinitive noun, which means to circle, compass or move around something.
A pilgrim has to circle the Ka'bah seven times, to complete Tawaf. Each one of the seven rounds begins by kissing or caressing if possible, or by simply pointing at the Black Stone. The Black Stone thus, serves to mark the start of each round. Tawaf is one of the integral parts of Pilgrimage (Hajj), which is also performed, as a separate act of worship at any time. Thus we find the Ka'bah continually being circled by people day and night.
The Real Importance of Tawaf:
Circumambulating the Ka'bah and kissing the stone are in fact considered the Tawaf's outer aspects, apart from its inner significance. They resemble something like the standing, bowing, prostrating and sitting postures observed in the daily Islamic prayers.
Yet, the prayer postures, as well as the circling around the Ka'bah coupled with kissing, both form the outward shell of the chaff, which preserves the grain.
The grain of the Tawaf lies in the lofty meanings of the Pilgrim's recitation and prayers, in the soul-stirring emotions surging in his heart - such as his extreme love for Allah, his awe of Him, and his high hopes in Him. Examine, for instance, the words brimful of God's oneness, which the pilgrim utters.
It is his regular formula, at the start of each round of the Tawaf, as he kisses, caresses, or points at the Black Stone, declaring: "(I begin) in the Name of Allah who is Most Great. O Allah! (I perform) believing in thee, confirming Thy Book, fulfilling Thy Pledge, and following the Way of Thy Prophet, Muhammad - Blessing and peace be upon him!"
As such, the Tawaf around the Ka'bah is done solely in the Name of the One Supreme Allah, and that it is never done in the name of any other deity, nor for the Black Stone itself, as others allege. The operation of Tawaf is in compliance with the Holy promise the pilgrim has committed with His Lord.
He does it as a believer in the One God, not as an idolater, but as a conformer of Allah's revealed Books, and as a follower of His Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam). Far from worshipping the Stone, the Pilgrim is kissing it, or pointing at it, just as was done by the Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam).
Glorifying the One God:
The pilgrim goes on glorifying Allah the most High, while performing the rounds, with these noble hymns: "Glory be to Allah! All Praise be to Allah! There is no deity save God. Allah is Most Great! There is no handling, nor power, save by Allah's Help."
A monotheist (muwahhid - One-God worshipper) holds these sublime prayers far more valuable than the earth's entire riches. With these, he praises his One and Only Lord, as he circles a spot made Holy by the presence of His House. Is there any remotest trace of Polytheism (multi-god worship) or Idolatry in such an act?
A Select Prayer:
As he has left all his worldly affairs behind, the pilgrim, besides praising Allah, also goes on praying for his worldly betterment, in between. Here is his all-embracing prayer to Allah, the Benevolent: "O Allah! Make me content with my appointed lot, and bless me therein. And make good to me all, my losses and needs."
The Two-world Prayer:
Unlike unbelievers, the pilgrim has a living faith in the coming eternal hereafter. He does not fail here, therefore, to say the best possible prayer man could ever ask.
It is from the Qur'an itself and combines both the good of this world and the world to come in his supplication as follows: "O Lord! Bestow upon us the good in this world and the good in the hereafter. And save us from the torment of the fire" [Al-Qur'an 2:201]
Could a Stone Be God?
Although so reverently kissed and caressed during the Tawaf, the Black stone, in one of the corners of the Ka'bah, is no graven image for the pilgrims to worship. That is the last thing any muwahhid could ever imagine. For a stone is just a mere stone after all. It has no power whatsoever to do good or inflict harm to any one, apart from Allah, the Sole Deity of mankind.
That is a thing cherished either knowingly, ignorantly or figuratively - by those who take to stone-worship instead of God-worship, a belief and practice as unholy as it is senseless. This is why the Black Stone becomes a mystery to such people, and so, some out of ignorance openly charge that Muhammad (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) did break every Idol in Islam except one - meaning the Ka'bah, or the Black Stone! Even some unwitting Muslims get easily confused about the Black Stone.
It was hence that 'Umar, the second Caliph (radiallahu 'anhu), did well to remove this hidden doubt from the mind. So when he came to kiss the Stone, he cried out publicly to it: "No doubt, I know that you are a stone and can neither harm anyone nor benefit anyone. Had I not seen Allah's Messenger (PBUH) kissing you, I would not have kissed you. [Summarized Sahih Al-Bukhari, Al-Hajj, page 396 No. 808 on the Black Stone]
True Story of the Black Stone:
More than five thousand years ago today, the father of the prophets, Prophet Ibrahim ('alaihi salaam) the Upright (Haneef), had built the present structure of the Ka'bah under Allah's own orders. He ('alaihi salam) built it along with his youthful son, Ishmael ('alaihi salam), forefather of the Arabs.
This is how the Qur'an describes their building it together: "And (remember) when Ibrahim (Abraham) and (his son) Isma'il (Ishmael) were raising the foundations of the House (the Ka'bah) at Makkah, (saying), 'Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us. Verily! You are the All-Hearer, all Knower.'" [Qur'an 2:127]
The father and the son, true Monotheists (Muslims), were thus raising the foundations with trembling hearts, for the Muslims are Allah's most devoted servants, ever fearful of his displeasure. While building the Ka'bah, therefore, both of them were afraid that Allah may not accept their humble service, hence that prayer of theirs.
How touching of such fidelity, how moving of such humility towards Allah the Great! It is the essence of Monotheism, the ideal pattern of Faith and Actions great and small for all Muslims to follow. When raised to a certain height, Ibrahim ('alaihi salam) ordered his son to choose a piece of stone to mark the main cornerpoint. Even as the lad was searching for it, the Archangel Gabriel appeared with the Black Stone from Heaven.
Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam) said: "The Black stone descended from heaven, when it was whiter than Milk, but people's sins have blackened it". (At-Tirmidhi, Kitab Al-Hajj), the Black stone, Ibraheem ('alaihi salaam) took it up and fitted it in, and there it stands up to this day. It is a heavenly stone, then, and not an earthly one. It was selected by Allah for His Holy House (the Ka'bah).
Teaching the Pilgrimage Rites:
The building thus finished, this is how Ibrahim and Ishmael ('alaihimas salam) went on further praying to Allah, in the next Verse: "Our Lord! And make us submissive unto you and of our offspring a nation submissive unto You, and show us our Manasik (all the ceremonies of Pilgrimage - Hajj and Umrah etc.) and accept our repentance. Truly, You are the One Who accepts repentance, the Most Merciful." [Qur'an 2:128]
Thereupon Allah taught them through revelation the pilgrimage rites, which includes the Tawaf.
Is Kissing Essential?
We have known the working procedure of the Tawaf, it consists of circling around the Ka'bah seven times. Each circle begins by kissing the Black Stone, or by caressing it, which is its normal procedure. But Tawaf is not a one-man business, hundreds, even thousands, are circling the Ka'bah at one and the same time. How could each person kiss the Black Stone separately?
Naturally, when so over-crowded, the kissing will have to be dispensed with by some or many of them. At such times it is quite enough therefore, to face the Black Stone from any distance, and only point at it by one's right hand, at the start of each round. The pilgrim then recites his formula and proceeds on.
History Unfolds a Rare Aspect:
Assuming that the Black Stone is missing for one reason or another, does it render the Tawaf and Pilgrimage invalid and void on such account? Absolutely not.
This is exactly what has already happened in the history of Islam. The Karamathians (Arabic: al-Qaramitah), the most un-Islamic sect in Islam, had removed the Black Stone during their mad merrymaking in the year 317 AH/980 AD. They carried it away with them to their territory in Al-Ahsa (in the Arabian Gulf). After keeping it there for twenty years, they had returned it back to Makkah in the year 339 AH (see shorter Encyclopedia Leiden 1953, P. 219).
In such an event, the Shariah (Law) maintains that the pilgrim shall perform his Tawaf without the Black stone. Instead of the Black Stone, the pilgrim shall touch its place at the corner of the Ka'bah, or point at its spot, and continue his Tawaf.
Thus the total absence of the Stone itself makes no difference in the validity of the Tawaf and the Pilgrimage. This shows how tiny a part is being played by this stone. How ignorant of others and how childish, therefore, sounds the charge that it is the "most Precious Idol preserved by Islam"!
Does Kissing Mean Worshipping?
Kissing a stone is not a sign of its worship at all. Kissing the Black Stone cannot be twisted into idol worship, for the stone is no image, just as mere kissing is not worshipping by any stretch of the imagination. Anyone might allege that Muslims do worship a certain 'idol', but the fact remains that they do not worship anything save Allah, the One. The idol and its worship simply do not exist.
The Bible is kissed in lawcourts; does that mean then that it is worshipped? Moreover, parents kiss their children lovingly, without any trace of worship in it at all. A big question mark that should come to one's mind is the pre-Islamic Arab idolaters who had held the Ka'bah.
With all their polytheism and idolatry, they too used to circle the Ka'bah and kiss the Black Stone. Had their kissing been an act of idol-worship, why then was there still a need for them - despite the presence of their "almighty" Black Stone - to install three hundred and sixty idols therein?!
This proves beyond a shadow of doubt that it is one thing to kiss the Black Stone under Divine Orders, and quite another to worship a stone or an idol. Most notable, perhaps, is the fact that One-God worshippers do nothing beyond simply kissing the Black Stone.
They neither venerate it with folded hands, nor kneel down, nor prostrate themselves, nor squat before it. For all these is done only by idol-worshippers before their idols.
By: Abdus-Samad Sharafuddin