The Kaaba, also referred to as al-Kaʿbah al-Musharrafah, and commonly shortened to Ka'bah, is a building at the center of Islam's most important mosque, the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is the most sacred site in Islam. It is considered by Muslims to be the Bayt Allāh and is the qibla for Muslims around the world when performing salah.
The Kaaba is believed by Muslims to have been built and rebuilt several times throughout history, most famously by Ibrahim and his son Ishmael, when he returned to the valley of Mecca several years after leaving his wife Hajar and Ishmael there upon Allah's command. Circling the Kaaba seven times counterclockwise,, is an obligatory rite for the completion of the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. The area around the Kaaba on which pilgrims circumambulate is called the Mataaf.
The Kaaba and the Mataaf are surrounded by pilgrims every day of the Islamic year, except the 9th of Dhu al-Hijjah, known as the Day of Arafah, on which the cloth covering the structure, known as the Kiswah is changed. However, the most significant increase in their numbers is during Ramadan and the hajj, when millions of pilgrims gather for tawaf. According to the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, 6,791,100 pilgrims arrived for the Umrah pilgrimage in the Islamic year 1439 AH, a 3.6% increase from the previous year, with 2,489,406 others arriving for the 1440 AH Hajj.


The literal meaning of the word Ka'bah is cube.
In the Quran, the Kaaba is also mentioned by the following names:
The mosque surrounding the Kaaba is called al-Masjid al-Haram.



Prior to the spread of Islam throughout the Arabian Peninsula, the Kaaba was a holy site for the various Bedouin tribes of the area. Once every lunar year, the Bedouin tribes would make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Setting aside any tribal feuds, they would worship their gods in the Kaaba and trade with each other in the city. Various sculptures and paintings were held inside the Kaaba. A statue of Hubal, the principal idol of Mecca, among other pagan deities, are known to be placed in or around the Kaaba. There were paintings of idols decorating the walls. A picture of the 'Isa and his mother Maryam was situated inside the Kaaba and later found by Muhammad after his conquest of Mecca. The iconography portrayed a seated Maryam with her child on her lap. The iconography in the Kaaba also included paintings of other prophets and angels. Undefined decorations, money and a pair of ram's horns were recorded to be inside the Kaaba,. The pair of ram's horns were said to have belonged to the ram sacrificed by the Prophet Ibrahim in place of his son Ishmael as held by Islamic tradition.
al-Azraqi provides the following narrative on the authority of his grandfather:
I have heard that there was set up in al-Bayt a picture of Maryam and 'Isa. said: "Yes, there was set in it a picture of Maryam adorned ; in her lap, her son Isa sat adorned."
-al-Azraqi, Akhbar Mecca: History of Mecca
In her book , Karen Armstrong asserts that the Kaaba was officially dedicated to Hubal, a Nabatean deity, and contained 360 idols which probably represented the days of the year. However, by the time of Muhammad's era, it seems that the Kaaba was venerated as the shrine of Allah, the High God. Once a year, tribes from all around the Arabian Peninsula, whether Christian or pagan, would converge on Mecca to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, marking the widespread conviction that Allah was the same deity worshipped by monotheists. Alfred Guillaume, in his translation of the Ibn Ishaq's seerah, says that the Kaaba itself might be referred to in the feminine form. Circumambulation was often performed naked by men and almost naked by women. It is disputed whether Allah and Hubal were the same deity or different. Per a hypothesis by Uri Rubin and Christian Robin, Hubal was only venerated by Quraysh and the Kaaba was first dedicated to Allah, a supreme god of individuals belonging to different tribes, while the pantheon of the gods of Quraysh was installed in Kaaba after they conquered Mecca a century before Muhammad's time.
Imoti contends that there were numerous such Kaaba sanctuaries in Arabia at one time, but this was the only one built of stone. The others also allegedly had counterparts of the Black Stone. There was a "Red Stone", in the Kaaba of the South Arabian city of Ghaiman; and the "White Stone" in the Kaaba of al-Abalat. Grunebaum in Classical Islam points out that the experience of divinity of that period was often associated with the fetishism of stones, mountains, special rock formations, or "trees of strange growth." Armstrong further says that the Kaaba was thought to be at the center of the world, with the Gate of Heaven directly above it. The Kaaba marked the location where the sacred world intersected with the profane; the embedded Black Stone was a further symbol of this as a meteorite that had fallen from the sky and linked heaven and earth.
According to Sarwar, about 400 years before the birth of Muhammad, a man named 'Amr bin Luhayy, who descended from Qahtan and was the king of Hijaz placed an idol of Hubal on the roof of the Kaaba. This idol was one of the chief deities of the ruling Quraysh tribe. The idol was made of red agate and shaped like a human, but with the right hand broken off and replaced with a golden hand. When the idol was moved inside the Kaaba, it had seven arrows in front of it, which were used for divination. To maintain peace among the perpetually warring tribes, Mecca was declared a sanctuary where no violence was allowed within of the Kaaba. This combat-free zone allowed Mecca to thrive not only as a place of pilgrimage, but also as a trading center.
Many Muslim and academic historians stress the power and importance of the pre-Islamic Mecca. They depict it as a city grown rich on the proceeds of the spice trade. Crone believes that this is an exaggeration and that Mecca may only have been an outpost for trading with nomads for leather, cloth, and camel butter. Crone argues that if Mecca had been a well-known center of trade, it would have been mentioned by later authors such as Procopius, Nonnosus, or the Syrian church chroniclers writing in Syriac. The town is absent, however, from any known geographies or histories written in the three centuries before the rise of Islam. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "before the rise of Islam, it was revered as a sacred sanctuary and was a site of pilgrimage." According to historian Eduard Glaser, the name "Kaaba" may have been related to the southern Arabian or Ethiopian word "mikrab", signifying a temple. Again, Crone disputes this etymology.
In Samaritan literature, the Samaritan Book of the Secrets of Moses claims that Ishmael and his eldest son Nebaioth built the Kaaba as well as the city of Mecca." The Asatir book was suggested by some opinion to have been compiled in the 10th century BCE, while another opinion in 1927 suggested that it was written no later than the second half of the 3rd century BCE.

According to Islamic opinion

The Quran contains several verses regarding the origin of the Kaaba. It states that the Kaaba was the first House of Worship for mankind, and that it was built by Ibrahim and Ismail on Allah's instructions.
Ibn Kathir, in his famous exegesis of the Quran, mentions two interpretations among the Muslims on the origin of the Kaaba. One is that the shrine was a place of worship for angels before the creation of man. Later, a house of worship was built on the location and was lost during the flood in Noah's time and was finally rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael as mentioned later in the Quran. Ibn Kathir regarded this tradition as weak and preferred instead the narration by Ali ibn Abi Talib that although several other temples might have preceded the Kaaba, it was the first Bayt Allah, dedicated solely to Him, built by His instruction, and sanctified and blessed by Him, as stated in Quran 22:26–29. A hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari states that the Kaaba was the first masjid on Earth, and the second was the Temple in Jerusalem.
While Abraham was building the Kaaba, an angel brought to him the Black Stone which he placed in the eastern corner of the structure. Another stone was the Maqam Ibrahim, the Station of Abraham, where Abraham stood for elevation while building the structure. The Black Stone and the Maqam Ibrahim are believed by Muslims to be the only remnant of the original structure made by Abraham as the remaining structure had to be demolished and rebuilt several times over history for its maintenance. After the construction was complete, God enjoined the descendants of Ishmael to perform an annual pilgrimage: the Hajj and the Korban, sacrifice of cattle. The vicinity of the shrine was also made a sanctuary where bloodshed and war were forbidden.
According to Islamic tradition, over the millennia after Ishmael's death, his progeny and the local tribes who settled around the Zamzam well gradually turned to polytheism and idolatry. Several idols were placed within the Kaaba representing deities of different aspects of nature and different tribes. Several rituals were adopted in the pilgrimage including doing naked circumambulation. A king named Tubba' is considered the first one to have a door be built for the Kaaba according to sayings recorded in Al-Azraqi's Akhbar Makka.

Ptolemy and Diodorus Siculus

Writing in the Encyclopedia of Islam, Wensinck identifies Mecca with a place called Macoraba mentioned by Ptolemy. G. E. von Grunebaum states: "Mecca is mentioned by Ptolemy. The name he gives it allows us to identify it as a South Arabian foundation created around a sanctuary. In Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam, Patricia Crone argues that the identification of Macoraba with Mecca is false and that Macoraba was a town in southern Arabia in what was then known as Arabia Felix. A recent study has revisited the arguments for Macoraba and found them unsatisfactory.
s representing the Kaaba, 17th century.Based on an earlier report by Agatharchides of Cnidus, Diodorus Siculus mentions a temple along the Red Sea coast, "which is very holy and exceedingly revered by all Arabians". Edward Gibbon believed that this was the Kaaba. However, Ian D. Morris argues that Gibbon had misread the source: Diodorus puts the temple too far north for it to have been Mecca.

Muhammad's era

During Muhammad's lifetime, the Kaaba was considered a holy site by the local Arabs. Muhammad took part in the reconstruction of the Kaaba after its structure was damaged due to floods around 600 CE. Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasūl Allāh, one of the biographies of Muhammad, describes Muhammad settling a quarrel between the Meccan clans as to which clan should set the Black Stone in its place. According to Ishaq's biography, Muhammad's solution was to have all the clan elders raise the cornerstone on a cloak, after which Muhammad set the stone into its final place with his own hands. Ibn Ishaq says that the timber for the reconstruction of the Kaaba came from a Greek ship that had been wrecked on the Red Sea coast at Shu'aybah and that the work was undertaken by a Coptic carpenter called Baqum. Muhammad's Isra' is said to have taken him from the Kaaba to the Masjid al-Aqsa and heavenwards from there.
Muslims initially considered Jerusalem as their qibla, or prayer direction, and faced toward it while offering prayers; however, pilgrimage to the Kaaba was considered a religious duty though its rites were not yet finalized. During the first half of Muhammad's time as a prophet while he was at Mecca, he and his followers were severely persecuted which eventually led to their migration to Medina in 622 CE. In 624 CE, Muslims believe the direction of the qibla was changed from the Masjid al-Aqsa to the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, with the revelation of Surah 2, verse 144. In 628 CE, Muhammad led a group of Muslims towards Mecca with the intention of performing the Umrah, but was prevented from doing so by the Quraysh. He secured a peace treaty with them, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, which allowed the Muslims to freely perform pilgrimage at the Kaaba from the following year.
At the culmination of his mission, in 630 CE, after the allies of the Quraysh, the Banu Bakr, violated the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, Muhammad conquered Mecca. His first action was to remove statues and images from the Kaaba. According to reports collected by Ibn Ishaq and al-Azraqi, Muhammad spared a painting of Mary and Jesus, and a fresco of Abraham; but according to Ibn Hisham, all pictures were erased.
al-Azraqi further conveys how Muhammad, after he entered the Kaaba on the day on the conquest, ordered all the pictures erased except that of Maryam
After the conquest, Muhammad restated the sanctity and holiness of Mecca, including its Masjid al-Haram, in Islam. He performed the Hajj in 632 CE called the Hujjat ul-Wada' since Muhammad prophesied his impending death on this event.

After Muhammad

The Kaaba has been repaired and reconstructed many times. The structure was severely damaged by a fire on 3 Rabi' I 64 AH or Sunday, 31 October 683 CE, during the first siege of Mecca in the war between the Umayyads and 'Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr, an early Muslim who ruled Mecca for many years between the death of ʿAli and the consolidation of power by the Umayyads. 'Abdullah rebuilt it to include the hatīm. He did so on the basis of a tradition that the hatīm was a remnant of the foundations of the Abrahamic Kaaba, and that Muhammad himself had wished to rebuild it so as to include it.
The Kaaba was bombarded with stones in the second siege of Mecca in 692, in which the Umayyad army was led by al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf. The fall of the city and the death of 'Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr allowed the Umayyads under 'Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan to finally reunite all the Islamic possessions and end the long civil war. In 693 CE, 'Abd al-Malik had the remnants of al-Zubayr's Kaaba razed, and rebuilt it on the foundations set by the Quraysh. The Kaaba returned to the cube shape it had taken during Muhammad's time.
During the Hajj of 930 CE, the Shi'ite Qarmatians attacked Mecca under Abu Tahir al-Jannabi, defiled the Zamzam Well with the bodies of pilgrims and stole the Black Stone, taking it to the oasis in Eastern Arabia known as al-Aḥsāʾ, where it remained until the Abbasids ransomed it in 952 CE. The basic shape and structure of the Kaaba have not changed since then.
After heavy rains and flooding in 1626, the walls of the Kaaba collapsed and the Mosque was damaged. The same year, during the reign of Ottoman Emperor Murad IV, the Kaaba was rebuilt with granite stones from Mecca, and the Mosque was renovated. The Kaaba's appearance has not changed since then.
The Kaaba is depicted on the reverse of 500 Saudi riyal, and the 2000 Iranian rial banknotes.

Architecture and interior

The Kaaba is a cuboid-shaped structure made of stones. It is approximately tall, with sides measuring. Inside the Kaaba, the floor is made of marble and limestone. The interior walls, measuring, are clad with tiled, white marble halfway to the roof, with darker trimmings along the floor. The floor of the interior stands about above the ground area where tawaf is performed.
The wall directly adjacent to the entrance of the Kaaba has six tablets inlaid with inscriptions, and there are several more tablets along the other walls. Along the top corners of the walls runs a Black cloth embroidered with gold Qur'anic verses. Caretakers anoint the marble cladding with the same scented oil used to anoint the Black Stone outside. Three pillars stand inside the Kaaba, with a small altar or table set between one and the other two. Lamp-like objects hang from the ceiling. The ceiling itself is of a darker colour, similar in hue to the lower trimming. The Bāb ut-Tawbah—on the right wall opens to an enclosed staircase that leads to a hatch, which itself opens to the roof. Both the roof and ceiling are made of stainless steel-capped teak wood.
Each numbered item in the following list corresponds to features noted in the diagram image.
  1. The Ḥajar al-Aswad, is located on the Kaaba's eastern corner. It is the location where Muslims start their circumambulation of the Kaaba, known as the tawaf.
  2. The entrance is a door set above the ground on the north-eastern wall of the Kaaba, called the Bab ar-Rahmah, that also acts as the façade. In 1979, the gold doors made by artist Ahmad bin Ibrahim Badr, replaced the old silver doors made by his father, Ibrahim Badr, in 1942. There is a wooden staircase on wheels, usually stored in the mosque between the arch-shaped gate of Banū Shaybah and the Zamzam Well. The oldest surviving door dates back to 1045 CE.
  3. The Mīzāb al-Raḥmah, commonly shortened to Mīzāb or Meezab is a rain spout made of gold. Added when the Kaaba was rebuilt in 1627, after a flood in 1626 caused three of the four walls to collapse.
  4. This slant structure, covering three sides of the Kaaba, is known as the Shadherwaan and was added in 1627 along with the Mīzāb al-Raḥmah to protect the foundation from rainwater.
  5. The Hatīm and also known as the Hijr Ismail, is a low wall that was part of the original Kaaba. It is a semi-circular wall opposite, but not connected to, the north-west wall of the Kaaba. It is in height and in width, and is composed of white marble. The space between the hatīm and the Kaaba was originally part of the Kaaba, and is thus not entered during the tawaf.
  6. al-Multazam, the roughly space along the wall between the Black Stone and the entry door. It is sometimes considered pious or desirable for a pilgrim to touch this area of the Kaaba, or perform dua here.
  7. The Station of Ibrahim is a glass and metal enclosure with what is said to be an imprint of Abraham's feet. Ibrahim is said to have stood on this stone during the construction of the upper parts of the Kaaba, raising Ismail on his shoulders for the uppermost parts.
  8. The corner of the Black Stone. It faces very slightly southeast from the center of the Kaaba. The four corners of the Kaaba roughly point toward the four cardinal directions of the compass.
  9. The Rukn al-Yamani, also known as Rukn-e-Yamani or Rukn-e-Yemeni, is the corner of the Kaaba facing slightly southwest from the center of the Kaaba.
  10. The Rukn ush-Shami , also known as Rukn-e-Shami, is the corner of the Kaaba facing very slightly northwest from the center of the Kaaba.
  11. The Rukn al-'Iraqi, is the corner that faces slightly northeast from the center of the Kaaba.
  12. Kiswah, the embroidered covering. Kiswa is a black silk and gold curtain which is replaced annually during the Hajj pilgrimage. Two-thirds of the way up is a band of gold-embroidered Quranic text, including the Shahada, the Islamic declaration of faith.
  13. Marble stripe marking the beginning and end of each circumambulation.
Note: The major axis of the Kaaba has been observed to align with the rising of the star Canopus toward which its southern wall is directed, while its minor axis roughly align with the sunrise of summer solstice and the sunset of winter solstice.
The Kaaba is the holiest site in Islam, and is often called by names such as the Bayt Allah. and Bayt Allah al-Haram

As the Qibla

The Qibla is the direction faced during prayer. The direction faced during prayer is the direction of where the Kaaba is, relative to the person praying. Apart from praying, Muslims generally consider facing the Qibla while reciting the Quran to be a part of good etiquette.

In pilgrimage

The Masjid al-Haram is the focal point of the main rites the Umrah pilgrimage, and to a lesser extent in the Hajj pilgrimage that occurs in the month of Dhu al-Hijjah in the Islamic calendar. Muslims perform the tawaf around the Kaaba which is at the core of the modern Masjid al-Haram. To be in a state of Wudu is mandatory while performing tawaf as it is considered to be a form of worship
The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, required of all able-bodied Muslims who can afford the trip. In recent times, about 1.8 million Muslims perform the Hajj every year. Some of the rituals performed by pilgrims are symbolic of historical incidents. For example, the incident of Hagar's search for water is emulated by Muslims as they run between the two hills of Safa and Marwa. The Hajj is associated with the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad from the 7th century, but the ritual of pilgrimage to Mecca is considered by Muslims to stretch back thousands of years to the time of Prophet Ibrahim.


The building is opened biannually for the ceremony of the cleaning of the Kaaba known as "The Cleaning of the Sacred Kaaba". The ceremony takes place on the 1st of Sha'baan, the eighth month of the Islamic calendar, approximately thirty days before the start of the month of Ramadan and on the 15th of Muharram, the first month. The keys to the Kaaba are held by the Banī Shaybah tribe, an honor bestowed upon them by Muhammad. Members of the tribe greet visitors to the inside of the Kaaba on the occasion of the cleaning ceremony.
The Governor of the Makkah Province and accompanying dignitaries clean the interior of the Kaaba using cloths dipped in Zamzam water scented with Oud perfume. Preparations for the washing start a day before the agreed date, with the mixing of Zamzam water with several luxurious perfumes including Tayef rose, 'oud and musk. Zamzam water mixed with rose perfume is splashed on the floor and is wiped with palm leaves. Usually, the entire process is completed in two hours.