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The Black Stone, surrounded by its silver frame and the black cloth kiswa on the Kaaba in Mecca
The Black Stone (called الحجر الأسود al-Hajar-ul-Aswad in Arabic) is a Muslim object of reverence, said by some to date back to the time of Adam and Eve. It is the eastern cornerstone of the Kaaba, the ancient stone building towards which all Muslims pray, in the center of Masjid al-Haram, the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The Stone is roughly 30 cm (12 in.) in diameter, and 1.5 meters above the ground.
Meanwhile, the Nazi involvement in Saudi Arabia became more and more extreme. The State Department and Department of the Interior did not have to rely on Army Intelligence reports from Britain and their own G-2 agents to discover the extent of that involvement. Details of it leaked into such liberal publications as Asia and the Americas and Great Britain and the World. From these sources, from German Foreign Office document 71/51181 (July 22, 1942) and from recently declassified secret reports prepared by British Intelligence on Walter Schellenberg of the Gestapo, it is possible to determine the extent of Nazi influence on Ibn Saud in the middle of the war. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was, until the time of Italy's collapse as an Axis partner, living in Rome, working with the agents of Kurt von Schroder's friend and associate Ambassador Franz von Papen in Ankara, Turkey, to send out agents through the Arab states. In Saudi Arabia fanatical Arabs were trained as Nazis at German universities and schools. From a headquarters in a carpet shop in Baghdad, Dr. Fritz Grobba, German minister to Iraq, ran espionage rings, subsidized Arabic newspapers and clubs in the Saudi Arabian capital of Jidda, The German TransOcean News Agency functioned as an espionage and propaganda agency in Jidda. The Nazi spy Waldemar Baron von Oppenheim, until recently in the United States and Syria, was headquartered in Saudi Arabia. Many Nazis flocked in disguised as tourists or technicians. They constructed roads and built factories. They formed German-Arab societies and learned Arab language so as to address crowds and whip them up into a fanatical support of Hitler. Ibn Saud, as always, played both ends against the middle, protesting admiration for Roosevelt and Churchill while authorizing his personal representative Rashid Ali EI-Kilani to continue to represent him in Berlin and address the Moslem society there.
-- Trading With the Enemy, by Charles Higham
When pilgrims circle the Kaaba as part of the Tawaf ritual of the Hajj, many of them try, if possible, to stop and kiss the Black Stone, emulating the kiss that it received from Muhammad. If they cannot reach it, they are to point to it on each of their seven circuits around the Kaaba.
The Stone is in pieces, from damage which was inflicted during the Middle Ages. It is now held together by a silver frame, which is fastened by silver nails to the Stone.
Origins and History
There are varying opinions as to the Stone's history and nature.
Many Muslims believe that the Stone fell from Heaven during the time of Adam and Eve, and that it was once a pure and dazzling white, but has turned black because of the sins it has absorbed over the years.
Some say that the Stone was found by Abraham (Ibrahim) and his son Ishmael (Ismail) when they were searching for stones with which to build the Kaaba, around 1700-2000 B.C. They recognized its worth and made it one of the building's cornerstones. It was also said that the stone was given to (Ibrahim) Abraham by the Archangel Gabriel.
Non-Islamic historians point to the history of baetylus, or meteorite worship, in pre-Islamic Arabia, and say it is likely that the Stone is a meteorite. Grunebaum, in Classical Islam, says that the Kaaba was a place of pilgrimage even in pre-Islamic times, and was probably the only sanctuary built of stone, but that there are other sources which indicate there were other Ka'ba structures in other parts of Arabia. A "red stone", the deity of the south Arabian city of Ghaiman, and the "white stone" in the Ka'ba of al-Abalat (near the city of Tabala, south of Mecca). He points out that the experience of divinity of that time period was often associated with stone fetishes, mountains, special rock formations, or "trees of strange growth."
A 1315 image of Muhammad lifting the Black Stone into place, when the Kaaba was rebuilt in the early 600s
It is clear that the Black Stone was an object of veneration even before Muhammad, but in modern Islam, he is clearly associated with it.
Early chroniclers say that the Kaaba was rebuilt during Muhammad's lifetime, after damage caused by a flood. Around 600 A.D., the various tribes worked together on the project, but there was some contention among the Quraysh, Mecca's ruling clan, as to who should have the honor of raising the Black Stone to its final place in the new structure. Muhammad is said to have suggested that the Stone be placed on a cloak and that the various clan heads jointly lift it. Muhammad then placed the Stone into its final position with his own hands.
The current ritual of the Hajj also involves pilgrims attempting to kiss the stone seven times (once for each circumambulation of Kaaba), emulating the actions of Muhammad. When Umar ibn al-Khattab (580-644), the second Caliph, came to kiss the Stone, he said in front of all assembled: "No doubt, I know that you are a stone and can neither harm anyone nor benefit anyone. Had I not seen Allah's Messenger [Muhammad] kissing you, I would not have kissed you." Many Muslims follow Umar: they pay their respects to the Black Stone in a spirit of trust in Muhammad, not with any belief in the Black Stone itself. This, however does not indicate their disrespect to the stone, but their belief that harm and benefit are in the hands of God, and nothing else. In modern times, large crowds no longer make it practically possible for everyone to kiss the stone, so it is currently acceptable for pilgrims to simply point in the direction of the Stone on each of their circuits around the building. Some even say that the Stone is best considered simply as a marker, useful in keeping count of the ritual circumambulations (tawaf) one has performed.
Some Muslims also accept this hadith, from Tirmidhi, which asserts that at the Last Judgement (Qiyamah), the Black Stone will speak for those who kissed it:
It was narrated that Ibn ‘Abbas said: The Messenger of Allah said concerning the Stone: "By Allah, Allah will bring it forth on the Day of Resurrection, and it will have two eyes with which it will see and a tongue with which it will speak, and it will testify in favour of those who touched it in sincerity."
There are conflicting stories about the reason that the Stone is in pieces. Some sources state that it occurred as the result of a theft in 930 CE, when Qarmatian warriors sacked Mecca and carried the Black Stone away to their base in Bahrain. According to this version of the story, it was returned twenty-two years later, but in a cracked and damaged state. According to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the damage occurred during a siege in 638. Another account has it happening later, during a siege launched by a general of the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik (646-705).
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• Elliott, Jeri (1992). Your Door to Arabia. ISBN 0-473-01546-3.
• Mohamed, Mamdouh N. (1996). Hajj to Umrah: From A to Z. Amana Publications. ISBN 0-915957-54-x.
• Time-Life Books (1988). Time Frame AD 600-800: The March of Islam, ISBN 0-8094-6420-9.