Wednesday, April 25, 2007


The direction in which the believer orients himself or herself for salat, the prayer of Islam.The qibla is always directed towards the Ka'ba of Mecca, but for 1,5 years in the early Islam, the qibla was Jerusalem (from 622 to 624). Other religions had their qiblas at the time of early Islam, and even before Muhammad. The change of qibla is recorded in the Koran, as a reprimand to people complaining:
Chapter 2136...Unwise people will say: What made them change the qibla they had? Answer them: God is of the east and of the west, he guides the ones he pleases on the right path...

What qibla did Muhammad and the first Muslims have before they started to turn towards Jerusalem? On this point, three versions exist in the Sunna: Jerusalem was the qibla; Ka'ba was the qibla; and the qibla was on a line, the one running from Jerusalem to Ka'ba.Qibla is in a mosque indicated by a mihrab, a niche in the wall. Salat performed outdoors, use a sutra, which can be almost any object, to indicate the qibla. For some older mosques, the indication of the qibla is with errors due to limited knowledge on how to find the correct direction.The qibla has importance to more than just the salat, and plays an important part in everyday ceremonies. The head of an animal that is slaughtered, is aligned with qibla. People are buried with their face in direction of the qibla. Lovemaking is best done with the heads facing qibla. The qibla is important, and it is believed that directing things towards the qibla, will decide whether the act done is good or useless.


Islam is a religion with more than 1.2 billion believers world wide. It dominates in East- and North Africa, in the larger Middle East, in Central Asia and in Indonesia.The word "Islam" is best translated with "submission", meaning submission under the will and guidance of God. But the word has a deeper meaning, understood through other words with the same Arabic root (s-l-m): "salam," peace, and "salama," safety and security. Hence, the word "Islam" itself explains much of the central core of the religion.
CORE VALUESIn Islam there is only one god, although there are other supernatural beings, like Satan and angels. The religion is defined by the Koran, believed to be the word of God, and a large collection of striptures from the hand of humans. To the latter group belongs especially the hadiths (acts and sayings of Muhammad and other early Muslims), early theological works, law scriptures (Sharia) and commentatory scriptures which are still being produced.Islam is often promoted as a complete religion, which social life is part of the complete religious life of the adherents. Islam is even promoted as a political system. On the personal level, the core of Islam may understood from sura 2:172, in which righteousness is defined, righteousness being the ultimate quality of a true Muslim. It involves a complete belief in God and his prophets (note the plural) and love and caring for all believers, especially the poor and weak.Islam is defined out of the following, known as the 5 pillars:
1. Shahada, the creed stating that "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his messenger".
2. Salat, the prayer which is to be performed five times a day. This prayer is performed after strict rules: bending and uttering phrases from the Koran, as well as facing the direction towards the ka'bain Mecca.
3. Zakat, alms. This is a prescription which is practiced in very different ways in Islam today.
4. Sawm, fast during the month of ramadan.
5. Hajj, pilgrimage to Mecca. This an obligation for all Muslims in good health and sufficiently good economic situation.


The most holy structure in Islam situated in Mecca, and is according to Islam the centre of the world.The Ka'ba is the qibla, the direction Muslims perform the salat, the prayer, in. The area around the Ka'ba is considered sacred, and inside the area the truce of God reigns. Man and animals are all safe here, and shall not be forced away. In the Koran, it is written:
3, 90 ...the first house built for mankind, was in Mecca, to bless and guide all worlds
The base of the Ka'ba is 10.5 x 12 meters, and it's 15 meters high, and is standing on a marble base which is 25 cm high. Each of the corners are pointing in the four directions of the compass. It is built of grey stones from the hills around Mecca.The door of the Ka'ba is in the northeastern wall, and is 2 meters above the ground. Inside the Ka'ba, three wooden pillars hold the roof up. The roof can be accessed by a ladder. The floor is covered by marble, and there are no furnitures, except gold and silver lamps.On the outside, in the corner east of the door and 1,5 meters above the ground, the Black Stone is found. This Black Stone is now in pieces, three large parts, and smaller fragments, which are tied together with a silver band. There are several theories on the origin of the Black Stone: a meteor; lava; or basalt. Its colour is reddish black, with some red and yellow particles. Its original diameter is estimated to have been 30 cm. There is another stone, too, built into the Ka'ba, in the western corner, the Stone of Good Fortune, which is far less sacred than the Black Stone. The wall between the door and the Black Stone, is very sacred, and has a lot of baraka.The Ka'ba is covered by the kiswa, a black curtain produced in Egypt, and changed annually at the time of hajj. In an interim period, lasting a little bit more than two weeks, the Ka'ba is covered by a white covering, and it is at the end of hajj that the new kiswa is presented. The tradition of the kiswa has seen many changes. Several kiswas could earlier be put over the Ka'ba, kiswas coming from anywhere, and in all possible colours.There is sparse information on the Ka'ba before the time of Muhammad, but it is clear that it had for centuries been used as an important religious centre, by one or more polytheistic religion(s), which all are now disappeared.There are no traditional sources telling anything about its age, but according to Islam it is the first construction ever put up on earth, as it is seen out of the Koran- excerpt above. But another excerpt (2, 121) says that it was Ibrahim and Isma'il who raised the foundations of it. This can be understood as the two renovating the Ka'ba.A fire in the Ka'ba at the time of Muhammad destroyed it partly, and the renovation resulted in major alterations. The size was increased, the door was put up high to prevent unwanted visitors. Rebel activities in 683 CE (64 H) destroyed the Ka'ba over again, and a fire made the Black Stone split. The second renovation began after the removal of the old ruins. Two new doors at ground level were added. In 693 (74 H) the new doors were removed, and the Ka'ba have had more or less the same shape and size up until now. Only small alterations and renovations have been made. Most of the stones are original from the 683 structure. The Black Stone was removed from the Ka'ba for more than 20 years in 10th century, but was eventually returned to its original place.The doorkeepers of the Ka'ba are still the family Banu Shayba, which were appointed by Muhammad.In addition to being the centre of hajj and umra, the Ka'ba is the centre for some other and smaller ceremonies. One of these ceremonies involve the actual opening of the Ka'ba, where people, men first, then women, can enter.


City in Saudi Arabia with 1.4 million inhabitants (2003 estimate). Mecca is located about 80 km from the Red Sea Coast, around a natural well.Mecca is the most holy city in Islam. The city is revered from being the first place created on earth, as well as the place where Ibrahim together with his son Isma'il, built the Ka'ba. The Ka'ba, the centre of Islam, is a rectangular building made of bricks. Around the Ka'ba is the great mosque, al-Haram, and around the mosque, in between the mountains, are the houses that make up Mecca.Mecca was a central point on the caravan routes running over the Arabian peninsula at the time of Muhammad. Mecca was revered as a holy city even before the first revelations came to Muhammad.Mecca's importance as a centre of religious teaching must not be exaggerated. Very soon in the beginning of the Muslim expansion, religious teaching moved to other places in the Muslim world. Mecca is important in two points: Centre of the compulsory pilgrimage, and a focal point for all Muslims.Today, many of the people living in Mecca are pilgrims wanting to study Islam in the very centre of the world. But this learning is primarily aimed at normal people, and even today Muslim theology is exercised other places. But for Saudi Arabia, Mecca is the centre of religious teaching.Apart from the services for pilgrimage there are only modest economic activities going on. Every year some 2 million pilgrims attend the hajj, and this number is now regulated, where each country can send a fixed number of adherents. The numbers of Muslims coming to Mecca for the umra, the lesser pilgrimage are far less, and not regulated.
HISTORYKnown around 0 CE as Macoraba, and was an important trade and religious centre.
630: Comes under control of Muhammad, and purged it of all traces of non-Muslim religion.
1269: Comes under control of the Egyptian Mamluks.
1517: Passes to the Ottoman Empire.
1925: Comes under control of King Ibn Sa'ud.
1979 November 21: On the first day of the 15th Islamic century, a group of 300 students from the Theological University of Medina take control over the Holy Mosque of Mecca. They keep control for two weeks, when 63 are captured alive and the mosque is recovered. All occupants are executed.
1987 July 31: Riot by Iranian pilgrims. More than 400 people die.
1989 July 9: Two bombs kill 1 person. Shi'is of Kuwait are accused, and 16 are executed.
1990 July 2: Stampede lead to 1402 people dead.
1994: A stampede kills 400 people.
1997 April 15: Fire kills 340 people.
2004 February 1: Stampede kills 244 people.
2006 January 13: More than 345 pilgrims dies in a stampede near the Jamrat Complex in Mina.