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Aspects of the Islamic faith - 120: The Black Stone And Its Importance

Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals

Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi

When we do the tawaf around the Kaaba, during the pilgrimage or the Umrah, or even as a sunnah, we always start and finish at the eastern corner of the Kaaba where the Black Stone is placed. It is recommended to kiss the Black Stone or touch it at the beginning and as we start every round, but if the place is too crowded, it is enough to just signal with one's hand, observing what is recommended to do and say during tawaf. It is important, therefore, to know what significance, if any, the Black Stone has.

Umar ibn Al-Khattab, the second closest to the Prophet (peace be upon him) of all his companions, once stood at the Black Stone and kissed it as he was about to do his tawaf. He then addressed it saying: "I know that you are merely a stone that can cause neither harm nor benefit. Had it not been for the fact that I saw the Prophet kissing you, I would not have kissed you." (Related by Al-Bukhari).

Thus Umar put the whole issue of the Black Stone and its significance in the right perspective. It is a mere stone that causes neither benefit nor harm to anyone. As a stone, it is not different from any other stone. Umar obviously knew that the stone could not hear him, but his words were meant for the people present, and indeed for all others. Saying them there meant that they would be communicated by other pilgrims to all their peoples throughout the Muslim world. Hence, the action of kissing the Black Stone or venerating it seeks only to follow the Prophet's example, because the Prophet has taught us only what is good. Thus, it falls within the general requirement of following the Prophet's guidance. The Black Stone has no significance other than its being the mark for the start and end of a particular ritual of worship.

It is useful to know something of the history of the Black Stone. It is well known that the Kaaba was built, on God's instructions, by the prophets Abraham and Ishmael. It is reported that when they completed its building, Abraham said to his son: ‘Bring me a fine stone to but at this corner. He brought him this stone which was different from the rest of stones they used in the building. It is black with a touch of redness, and looked different in texture. There is no doubt that it is unlike other stones, because it has been there for several thousands of years, retaining its shape, form and color despite all sorts of weather conditions and the billions of hands touching it and lips kissing it. It resisted fires, floods and other turbulent conditions, as well as several cases of renovation and rebuilding. All those who renovated the building of the Kaaba retained it in its position. Some reports suggest that it is a meteor brought to Abraham by the Angel Gabriel. Even if this is true, it does not change its religious status we have mentioned, that it is a stone with no special characteristics or status. When we venerate it, we do so because it marks a ritual of worship, but it is not a part of that worship.

What is part of our worship is to follow the Prophet's guidance. In this connection, he kissed the Black Stone at times, signaled to it with his staff at other times and signaled with his hand when convenient. Whichever of these is easiest for us when we do the tawaf is perfectly acceptable. We are rewarded for following the Prophet's example. Anyone who thinks the Black Stone can bring him benefit or prevent harm is in gross error.

 

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