Part II | Labbaika: Here I am !

One always finds people circumambulating it day and night, in the morning and evening
File Photo
File Photo

Shabir Sarwar Malik

Centrality of Kaba - Bait ul Allah- in the context of the annual pilgrimage, and that of the highly travelled Prophet Ibraheem (AS) together with his wife Hajira, and son, Prophet Ismail (AS) as well as with various rites that are performed within the holy premises or in nearby areas and being associated with their life story, it would be apt to revise the relevant references Holy Quran affords.

Ibraheem “A man of Truth, a Prophet (19:41 Sideeqan Nabee) whom Allah promised to make him a model Patriarch to ‘nations’ (2:124 Imam) for ‘passing the tests’, came to Makkah, made his second wife and her only son dwell (Zuriyaat; Askanatu;...[-’readers must not forget he had Ishaq /Issac from Sarah...through him lineage leads to Christ while as through Ismail it lead to Prophet Muhammad (SAW)]... in this valley-bereft-of-cultivation, in the tract very near the mini-hillocks of Safa and Marwa (where later the spring of ‘Zum Zum’ appeared), praying to Allah for fruits (14.37-38; Samaraat ); after raising (Yarfu) the foundation of this house (2:127). Interestingly, years later, after having a vision of ‘sacrificing’ this son (Aara; 37:102); [‘who was that time old enough to carry load of wood by then (Gen: 22:6)’] but when Ibraheem was about to do so Allah ransomed (Fidiya 37:107) by substituting a ram. In brief ( 22:27 ) Ibraheem proclaimed the pilgrimage (2: 132) and left that legacy. Questions raise their heads: Wherefrom this Patriarch had come? Was he simply a man caught between rival interests of his two wives; Sarah and Hajirah? Latter was of Yemenite origin who was gifted to him while on the visit to Egypt. When she and her son settled by the side of Zum Zum, caravans found a good reason to devise new route (caravan roads in deserts were determined by proximity to water source, be they well, spring or sea water and so was eruption of habitations as we find in other parts of the globe cities/towns/villages existed near rivers mostly)...and later in life, Ismael took his wife from the Jerhumi travelers of Yemen.

Western scholars, states the probability that fore-fathers of Ibraheem - who belonged to a nomadic-Semitic-branch, came originally from Armenia and stayed initially in Haran, Palestine but finally entered Ur and Nineveh. Here in course of time, in the area called Mesopotamia; where settled Semetic branch of Amorites ruled, these new comers began to challenge the rulers. Based on evidences, experts have inferred that world’s first civilisation, dating back to fourth millennium BC existed here in Mesopotamia that was home to Summerian civilisation as well as of Asyrians. Lower Mesopotamia was called Ur and there around 2300 BC an empire existed. Interestingly here in Mesopotamia the worship of heavenly bodies was practiced but days were not far when this would be declared Zil-e-Mubeen; manifest error. In connection with this piece of land, we hear of a name Terah (of Old Testament) sounding somewhat similar to its Talmudic form Zerrah; this is what the earliest English translator of Quran, George Sales, propounds. Holy chapters 6,14,19, 21 and 37 tell us that attempts to correct the rulers (Namrood’s wrong beliefs led to Ibraheem’s flight from this area of Nineveh, Mesopotamia) and modern writers conclude, he moved to Jordan, then to Egypt, (where, as per some writers he was instrumental in transferring the knowledge and technology of building cause-ways from Tigris Euphrates region to that of Nile….[ Readers should bear in mind that the ancient name of Tigris was Diglat and that of Euphrates was Urudu], then onwards to Syria, then Makkah and other regions around Yemen and Hebron. ( It is said that Sarah was later buried 20 miles away from Jerusalem, two miles north of Hebron, at a place called Ramaet el Khalil). It is fairly believed that this nomadic prophet left his imprint on an astoundingly large area, sowing seeds of civilisation all around. Namrood, it is said now, was the third descendant of Ur-Nammu of 2100 BC. He was the great conqueror who ruled Babylon, Babylonia (Akkad), Assyria, Nineveh and Caleh.

Scientists say Ramopithecus man appeared eighty lac years ago and present race of Homosapiens is just 40,000 years old . Archeologists have divided pre-historic time on the basis of cultural progress and named 9000 BC as final Palaeolithic period(cave dwellers); and 9000 to 7000 BC as Proto-Neolithic period . Settled communal life and domestication of animals like sheep and horse is first believed to have begun in Eynan - in the upper Jordan Valley and at Jericho (in Palestine, at north end of the Dead Sea, 8000 years before the birth of Christ. In the field of agriculture, we hear about the eminence of Turkey (Catal Hayak); in construction field that of Mesopotamia (Erida, known for the impressive prototype of Ziggurat temple-tower, dating back to 5000 BC) but more relevant to my present topic being Ur and Nineveh so attention of readers is drawn to Archaeologists like J E Taylor, Sir Charles Leonard Woolley and Henry Layard whose great contribution in this field is to be acknowledged as it is with their efforts, (that I lovingly call, ‘Song of The Spades’), that the temple dedicated to moon god/goddess, Nanner and Ningal, was discovered in 1929 in Ur (also called Tell-al-Muqayyer; 120 miles north of Basra, Baghdad) and city of Nineveh (modern Mosul) where very near to Tigris river 12 clay tablets about the popular Epic of Gilgamesh, were recovered. Prof Robert Koldeway excavated in Baghdad the statue of goddess Ningal, belonging to 2000 BC. In short the area between Tigris and Euphrates rivers is believed to be the cradle of multiple civilisation. And dear readers, Hazrat Ibraheem (AS) belonged to this area.

Research by western scholars have likewise made us better understand many other Quranic verses; as the holy book is no simple prose book but it has its own idiom and unless effort is made in right direction with due thought on the language and diction of the holy Quran, it is very much certain, that in literal interpretation and translation many a wrong would be inadvertently created. Dawood (AS) and Sulaimaan (AS) belonged to the second group of doer-prophets and men of action. They established the Jewish monarchy (6:84) and these two are famous for war skills, swift-footed horses (38:31). For example 34:10 and other similar ones actually refer to iron smelting (Wannalul Hadeed), the art of making coats-of-mail (Sanatul Boos…), armours and the art of furnace. ‘Winds obedient to Sulaimaan’ (AS) is today accepted as reference to his naval fleet whose one morning and evening travel was equal to that done in a month, before that, this Sulaimaan (AS) extended his empire up to Syria and his naval fleet swayed even over the Gulf of Aqaba and unruly people infesting these waters.

Back to the (11 to 14 meter) cuboid Kabba, pilgrims at once note that the gold and silver plated Baab-e-Kabba is fitted on North East side, well above average human height but most convincing explanation one hears is that since torrential rain waters in past, at times flooded the premises (taken care of by the construction of deep drains all around, many decades back) hence its placement well above. About the rare door, Mustajaar, except for mention in some books, pilgrims notice nothing. Yes, captivating is the 5 piece black silk Gilaaf of Kabba, on which Arabic words and Aayats are embroidered with gold thread. This Gilaf is changed every year in presence of representatives and dignitaries of Muslim countries, during Hajj days, finally on 9 Zil Haj when old one is removed and new one, manufactured in a Meccan factory, manually since 2001 AD, is placed on it. The reddish black stone, Sangg-e-Aswad, fitted on eastern corner, believed to be a meteor piece brought down from nearby hillock of Northeastern side called Jabl-e-Abu Qabees, lodged at a height of 4 feet, presently encased in silver, is the starting point for Tawaf, circumambulation. Almost 7 meters away from Kaaba door is the 7-feet high glass dome, covering a stone, called Maqaam-e-Ibraheem. Farther away are the stairs that lead down to the hundreds of taps through which water of Zum Zum is made available to pilgrims and it is said many times its dredging has been done. Farther away are the remnants of uneven rocky portions of Safa and Marwah hillocks, nearly 240 meters apart, now almost veranda like part of the mosque; here pilgrims do 7 single rounds, Sayee.

Kaaba has been rebuilt many a time since the advent of holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW); Moulaana Moudoodi says over 20 times, and every year expansion work keeps expanding the Haram portion, with the zeal with which the present ruling dynasty, initiated it in first half of the last century. The houses and dwellings of Prophet’s time, do not exist at present as all; those surrounding the Haram have been included in it at different stages, for creating space and facilities for ever-increasing pilgrims. Moulaana Nadwi writes that he never found the Mutaaf portion empty during any of his visits. True, one really finds people circumambulating it day and night, in the morning and evening… moving slowly in a churning fashion around the Bait-u-Ullah. As days of Zil Haj month draw near, the melodious voices of the Imams of Harmain Sharfain (Makkah and Madina) seem to beckon my restless soul, and in silence I send reverential salutations to the holy Prophet (SAW).

(Concluded)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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