The Ka’abah and Its Symbolism

A brief reflection on unity

I remember, at the age of eleven, entering the House of Allah. It was crowded and I was short, and I remember being jostled between the elbows of adults, almost tripping on the abayas of mothers, and craning my neck to see behind the pillars to catch my first glimpse of the Ka’abah.

Many Muslims often comment on their first emotion at the Ka’abah as one of incredible unity. Malcolm X observed, “There were tens of thousands of pilgrims, from all over the world. They were of all colors, from blue-eyed blondes to black-skinned Africans. But we were all participating in the same ritual, displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood…” Certainly the Ka’abah equalizes all of humanity around it, but it also symbolizes the unity of the community and brings forth humanity throughout the cosmos, not simply on the human plane. “The axis by which pilgrims revolve is not simply an earthly one”—according to scholarship, the axis extends to the skies, where angels and heavenly inhabitants circumambulate an exact replica of the Ka’abah, many dimensions away.

When I finally saw it, I remember time slowing down, the magnificent structure looking back at me with majesty, pointing to my best Friend, turning my gaze to Who was above it.

A depiction of the Kaabah from the 7th century

A depiction of the Kaabah from the 7th century

According to tradition , the Ka’abah, or the Cube, was first built by the first Abrahamic Prophet, Adam (upon him be peace). What is amazing about this is that the Ka’abah is symbolic not only of the unity of mankind through space, but also through time. Throughout human history, it has always existed as a place of worship of the Divine God. When we declare our allegiance to the One, we are in the memories of billions of footsteps, in the residue of the very first human beings, in the energetic space of thebeing of human.

I walked closer and saw it in its stillness and the pilgrims around it in their movement, blurring into one.

Reflecting upon the symbolic nature of one of the most powerful spiritual symbol of Islam, one of the Abrahamic faiths (comprised of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) I wondered…what is my centre? What do I revolve around? The Ka’abah in its stillnessand the pilgrims in their revolution symbolised for me the eternity of the Divine and the ephemerality of us. We change — we are born, we live, we die and it is He who remains.

The Lord reigneth, He is clothed with majesty. Psalms 93:1

All that passes away, save the Face of your Lord of Majesty and Glory. Qur’an 55:26-27

Wajida Syed is the Creative Designer at MIIM. When she is not taking pictures, designing graphics or wreaking havoc, she enjoys learning about the visual principles of traditional arts. Follow @MIIMDesigns and @Wajida_Syed on Twitter. Check out her photography project at facebook.com/AsSeenByWajida.