Why is the covering of the Kaaba black?

The Details of the Question
Why is the covering of the Kaaba black?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The cloth of the Kaaba is not made black at one time. First it is dyed in red, then green and then in black. There are black woven embossed embroideries on the covering. There are the 99 names of Allah, kalima at-tawhid and tasbihat in embroidery. There is a band of 47-meter long on the top one-third part of the covering. There are Quranic verses related to hajj on the band. Those verses are woven with silver threads dipped in gold water.

The Kaaba has always maintained its identity of a holy shrine that arouses religious enthusiasm and tranquility in the spirits of Muslims. Therefore, looking at the Kaaba is regarded as a kind of worshipping. The place of the Kaaba in the universe is resembled and compared to the place of the heart in the human body. In other words, the Kaaba is the heart of the universe. The Muslims that circumambulate around the Kaaba in waves express the beating of that heart. Each Muslim that circumambulates the Kaaba feels some, whether little or much, enthusiasm and grandeur. Al-Batanuni expresses his feelings about it in his book called ar-Rihla al-Hijaziyya as follows:

The whole congregation gathered with a feeling of the deepest awe in front of the grandiose dominance and lofty splendor, in front of which the greatest spirits felt themselves as nothing. If we had not seen the movements of the bodies during the prayer (salah) and the raising of the hands during the supplication, had not heard whispering of the words uttered and the beating of the hearts in the presence of that endless grandeur, we would have thought that we had been transferred to another realm and life. In fact, we were in a different realm, then. We were in the house of Allah and in the presence of Allah.  Our heads were bent down; our tongues were tied. Our hands were turned upwards; our eyes were full of tears; our hearts were full of awe and our inner selves were full of good and clean feelings.”

In another place, he also said, “Makkah is the peak of His power and will and the place where His revelation was sent down; the Kaaba is His shrine and the place of His grandeur and help.”

The feeling of respect toward the Kaaba became manifest by putting the covering around it. There are different narrations about who put the first covering around the Kaaba. Although it is reported that Hazrat Ismail (Ishmael) (pbuh) put the first covering around the Kaaba, it is more widely accepted that As’ad Abu Karib, a Yemeni King, put the first covering around the Kaaba. According to a narration, once As’ad Abu Karib traveled to Makkah and stayed there for six days; he sacrificed animals and gave the meat away to the people of Makkah and to the poor.  While he was in Makkah, he saw in his dream that he put a covering around the Kaaba. In the morning, he realized what he saw in his dream and put a covering from the fabric that he saw in his dream around the Kaaba. On the second night, he saw in his dream that he put a covering from another fabric around the Kaaba and on the third night yet another covering. Every morning, he realized what he saw in his dream. Thus, he was known as the first person to put a covering around the Kaaba. Therefore, Our Prophet (pbuh) said, “Do not curse Tubba (As’ad Abu Karib) because he is from the People of Oneness.”

There are several narrations that Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) put a covering around the Kaaba. According to the narrations, the Kaaba was covered by woolen fabrics during the Era of Ignorance. Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) covered the Kaaba with a covering of Yemeni fabric. Hazrat Umar and Hazrat Uthman covered it with thin Egyptian fabric. The narrations agree that the Prophet covered the Kaaba but there are different narrations about the type of the fabric. However, the scholars explaining hadiths say that it is possible that the Messenger of Allah put coverings of different fabrics at different times around the Kaaba. During the Era of Bliss and the Four Caliphs, the covering was changed every year. Hazrat Muawiyah changed it twice a year, and Mamun changed it three times a year.

He covered it with a red fabric on the day of Tarwiyah, one day before the day of Arafah, a fabric called Qabati on the first day of the month of Rajab and a white fabric on the twenty-seventh day of the month of Ramadan. During the Era of Fatimis, a white covering was put around the Kaaba. Sultan  Mahmud Sebuk Tekin put a yellow covering around the Kaaba. During the time of Abbasid Caliph Nasir, the Kaaba was covered with a green covering. Then, during the time of the same Caliph, it was changed to black.  From then on, the covering of the Kaaba is black.  During the history of Islam, the covering of the Kaaba was never ignored; in Hijri 750, Salih Ismail bin Nasir set up a foundation in a village near Cairo, and he allocated that village for the covering of the Kaaba; the covering of the Kaaba was renewed every year with the income of that foundation.

It is reported in narrations that the covering of the Kaaba was renewed every year during the time of Hazrat Umar and that the covering that was removed was divided among hajis. Those who go to Makkah from Jeddah using the old motorway today see separate buildings in an area of 100.000 square meters just before entering Makkah. In those building, about 300 workers and artisans work on a very blessed thing. They manufacture “Kiswa”, the great fabric that covers the Kaaba. Until 1962, the covering of the Kaaba was manufactured in Egypt. Then, King Saud had a factory to produce Kiswa built in Makkah. Today, the covering of the Kaaba is woven and produced in that factory by skillful artisans, weavers, calligraphers and technical experts.  Every year, 24 million riyals (according to 1988) are allocated for Kiswa.  670 kilograms of pure white silk and 720 kilograms of dye and acid are used for the covering.  Kiswa consists of 47 parts. Each part is 14 meters long and 95 centimeters wide. The total are of the covering is 650 square meters. The chapter of al-Ikhlas is embroidered with gold on each corner. Other verses are woven on the panels under the band. 120 kilograms of gold and silver were used on the silk dyed black. The ratio of gold to silver is 1 to 4. The weaving, dyeing and embroidering process of Kiswa takes about 1 year. Kiswa is completed one month before Hajj and it is delivered to the family of ash-Shaibi. When the Kaaba is washed for the second time, the old covering is removed and the new one is placed. The old covering is cut into pieces and distributed to Muslims.

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