Al-Ḥajaru al-Aswad: The Black Stone, A Touchstone of Faith - 4 minutes read

Al-Ḥajaru al-Aswad, the Black Stone, is a venerated Islamic relic embedded in the eastern corner of the Kaaba, the cubical structure in Mecca that serves as the holiest site in Islam. Its origins and significance are deeply intertwined with Islamic faith, sparking both theological discourse and inspiring acts of devotion for centuries.

Origin Shrouded in Mystery

The exact origins of the Black Stone remain a subject of captivating mystery. The Quran itself doesn’t explicitly mention the stone, but rich Islamic traditions offer intriguing narratives. One widely held belief, narrated by Ibn Abbas, describes it as a meteorite gifted by Allah to Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) and his son Ishmael (peace be upon him) to mark the corner of the newly built Kaaba.

Another narration, attributed to Abdullah ibn Masud, suggests the Black Stone was originally white but turned black due to the sins absorbed from pilgrims kissing it. These narratives, though not universally accepted, highlight the mystical aura surrounding the stone and its association with divine favor and human sin.

Physical Description and Historical Alterations

The Black Stone itself is an oval-shaped rock, currently measuring roughly 30 cm x 20 cm. Descriptions from the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) mention it being whole, but damage from fires and pilgrimages over the centuries have left it fragmented.

The Great Flood of Mecca in 683 CE is believed to have caused significant damage, shattering the stone into seven pieces. The Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan ordered a silver frame to hold the fragments together, a structure that remains in place today. This act of preservation underscores the historical and religious significance attributed to the Black Stone by Muslim authorities.

Religious Significance and Practices

The Black Stone holds immense importance for Muslims during Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. While not an object of worship itself, following the practice of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), pilgrims strive to touch or kiss the stone during the circumambulation (tawaf) around the Kaaba. If touching or kissing proves difficult due to the large crowds, pilgrims simply raise their hands in reverence towards the stone as they pass by.

This act of devotion signifies the pilgrims’ connection to the legacy of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) and their submission to Allah’s will. The Black Stone serves as a physical point of focus for their spiritual journey, a tangible reminder of the foundational events in Islamic history.

Hadith and Theological Debates

The hadiths, sayings and traditions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), provide further insights into the Black Stone’s significance and the proper way to approach it:

  • Sahih Bukhari: Narrated Abdullah binAbbas: The Prophet (ﷺ) kissed the Al-Hajar-al-Aswad (the Black Stone) and said, “Verily, I found it a stone that does not benefit anyone nor does it harm anyone (by itself).”

This narration emphasizes that reverence for the Black Stone is a symbolic act, with true worship directed solely towards Allah. Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) own actions serve as a model for pilgrims, discouraging any form of idolatry.

  • Sahih Muslim: Jabir ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: “The black stone is the right hand of Allah with which He shakes the hands of His believing servants on the Day of Resurrection.”

This narration elevates the Black Stone to a symbolic representation of Allah’s mercy. The image of shaking hands evokes a sense of connection and reward for faithful believers on the Day of Judgement.

Conclusion: A Beacon of Faith and History

Al-Ḥajaru al-Aswad stands as a powerful symbol in Islam, a physical connection to the past and a reminder of the core tenets of faith. It serves not as an idol, but as a focal point for devotion and a testament to the rich history and traditions of Islam. The Black Stone continues to inspire theological debates and acts of devotion, solidifying its place as a unique and enduring touchstone of faith for Muslims around the world.