The Ka’ba was the most important holy place in Arabia even in pre-Islamic times; it contained hundreds of idols representing Arabian tribal gods and other religious figures, including Abraham, Jesus and Mary. It is a massive cube believed to have been built by the Prophet Abraham and dedicated to al-Lah (The God who was the same God worshipped by the Jews and Christians); it stands in the centre of the Sanctuary in the heart of Mecca. Embedded in the Ka’ba’s granite matrix is the famous Black Stone, which tradition says was originally cast down from Heaven as a sign for Adam.
The Zam-Zam holy well is nearby and is believed to have quenched
the thirst of Hagar and her child in the wilderness. (Genesis 21:19).
Arabs from all over the peninsula made an annual pilgrimage to Mecca,
performing traditional rites over a period of several days. Mohammad
eventually destroyed all the idols in and around the Ka’ba, and
re-dedicated it to the One God, Allah, and the annual pilgrimage became
the Hajj, the rite and duty of all Believers.
The historian Ibn Ishaq tells of a reconstruction of the Ka’ba
when Mohammad was a boy. A quarrel broke out between the Meccan clans as
to which clan should set the Black Stone in place. The solution was to
ask the first person who entered the Sanctuary from outside to be the
judge. The young Mohammad was the first to do so. He put the stone on to
a heavy cloth and had all the clan elders take part of the cloth to
raise it and thus share in the task equally.