Some historical facts about the Ḥajr Aswad (Black Stone) in the Ka’bah.

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By Professor Yasir Qadhi.

Theologically, from the ḥadith we learn that Jibrīl brought this stone to Ibrahīm from Jannah, and that it was originally white.
When the ancient tribe of Jurham was expelled from Makkah (before the time of Jesus, some millennia before Islam), they took the Ḥajr and hid it; however Allah willed that a lady from the tribe of Khuzā`ah saw this from afar and told her tribe where it was hidden. Hence they dug it back and replaced it. It is possible it was first broken during this time – sources are vague.

The Kabah was rebuilt a few times, but the Ḥajr was always kept in place, until a great flood destroyed the Kabah when the Prophet (SAW) was 35 years old. This was the incident in which he (SAW) was chosen to lift it up with his blessed hands and place it back in its corner. Some sources seem to indicate that it was already cracked during this time.

During the time of Abdullah b. Zubayr’s rule over Makkah, the city was attacked twice by the Umayyads. In the first attack, in 64 AH, the Ka`bah caught fire and was severely damaged. Ibn al-Zubayr was the first to order that the broken stones of the Ḥajr be placed in a case of silver ore to protect it, as it was damaged in this attack (again, sources are unclear but it is highly likely that the Ḥajr was broken again after Jurham’s incident; it is also possible that it was broken for the first time). In the second attack in 73 AH some walls of the Ka’bah were destroyed but the Ḥajr was untouched. More than a century later, the Caliph Ḥarun al-Rashīd saw the pitiful state of the Ḥajr’s silver case, and ordered a new one built in around 170 AH. This was an extremely fancy case, encrusted with diamonds and silver and other jewels.

The worst incident to ever occur to the Ḥajr was during the infamous raid of the Qarāmites, a break-away sect of the Isma`īlis, who attacked the Ka’bah in 317 AH (this is one of the most bizarre incidents in Islamic history – the well of Zamzam was filled with the dead bodies of the pilgrims and Ḥajj was stopped for a few years). The leader of them, a certain Abu Ṭāhir al-Jannābī, climbed the Ka’ba, shouted out blasphemies, and broke the Ḥajr with an axe. This group hijacked the Ḥajr and installed it in a fake replica of the Ka’bah that they built in their province of al-Aḥṣā, where the Ḥajr remained for 22 years! Finally, after a hefty ransom and the intervention of the Faṭimid empire, the Ḥajr was returned, cracked and broken, to Makkah.(Yes, for 22 years there was no Black Stone in the Ka’bah!) During this phase, the Ḥajr was completely shattered into bits and what was returned was various pebbles of the original, in a sack.

It is now that the modern structure recognizable to us was born. A large ingot of silver and other precious metals was made, and around 15 remaining pieces of the Ḥajr, none of which was larger than two centimeters (0.7 inches), placed in the metal ingot. Some of these pieces – perhaps around 8 – simple melded in and could not be seen anymore. Only around 7 of the larger pieces of the original remain, as seen in a hand-drawn diagram traced directly on top of the Ḥajr (below) in the year 1957 CE.

However, over the course of the last few decades, and in order to protect the Ḥajr, an extremely expensive mixture of frankincense, ambergris and other compounds is poured as an outer layer over the stone, so that the continual rubbing and kissing of the Ḥajr doesn’t wear it out and so that it is protected with a layer. Hence, if you were to stand in front of the Ḥajr and had time to examine it (theoretically!), you would not actually be able to see the original stones of the Ḥajr; only the shapes are vaguely discernible.

During the time of King Abd al-Azīz in the 1950s, he ordered that a small sample be taken for a chemical examination; after the analysis, he himself placed it back into the ingot that it currently stands in. While the silver ingot is updated and cleansed and taken care of, the ingot itself has not been broken apart to expose the original pieces of the Ḥajr for many, many centuries.

And now you know! For an interesting video of the regular maintenance of the Ḥajr, see the link below.

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