A Prophet, A Slave, and A Baby
The story of the Kaaba begins over a thousand years before the birth of Christ, when an old man, a woman, and their infant son wandered into a deserted valley near the eastern coast of Arabia. The old man was Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), the woman was his Egyptian slave Hajjar (Hagar), and the baby was their son Ismail (Ishmael).
Acting on the instructions of his Lord, Ibrahim left his family behind in the valley of Mecca with only a few provisions. When those provisions ran out, Hajjar went in search of help.
She left the baby Ismail behind as she ran between the two mountains bordering the valley. When Hajjar returned, she found an angel stooped beside her baby. With the tip of his wing (some say the heel of his foot) the angel dug a hole in the sand. Miraculously, a spring of water began to shoot up from the desert floor. As promised, Allah almighty was caring for His servants.
A City Is Born
Not long after this event, a small band of Bedouin passing through saw birds in the sky. The Bedouin knew these birds only appeared where there was water. But they also knew there was no water in this area. Curious, they followed the birds until they found Hajjar and her son near the new spring of water.
The Bedouin asked for permission to settle near the well, and Hajjar agreed. As time went by, the little settlement continued to grow as more and more families settled in the valley. This was the beginning of the city we now know as Mecca.
Building The Kaaba
As the city grew, so did the baby Ismail. His father, Prophet Ibrahim, would come to visit. When Ismail was a young man, Allah instructed them to build a house of worship. This structure was built in the shape of a cube and would be known as the Kaaba. Prophet Ibrahim would continue to visit Mecca and the Kaaba every year on an annual pilgrimage.
The people of the settlement followed the faith of Ibrahim, Ismail, and Hajjar. The Kaaba became the center of worship in the growing city. Ismail was a prophet of Allah like his father, and instructed the people of his town to practice Tawheed, or pure monotheism.
The Kaaba And Hajj Are Corrupted By Idolatry
But as the city grew, people began to move further and further away from the Kaaba and from Prophet Ismail. Eventually, Prophet Ibrahim died, as did Hajjar, and Prophet Ismail. As the early generations of Mecca passed, they were replaced by others who did not know or forgot the original monotheistic purpose of the Kaaba and Ibrahim’s annual pilgrimage (Hajj).
The Hajj pilgrimage became a celebratory occasion, and the Kaaba was stocked with idols and false deities. Men and women would run naked throughout the holy precinct. Merchants from all over would travel to the Kaaba and set up shop during the pilgrimage. People and tribes from all over Arabia would make the journey to Mecca to take part in the festivities.
But this annual pilgrimage had nothing to do with the worship of Allah or the practices of Ibrahim, Ismail, and Hajjar. It was simply a time to make money, drink alcohol, and commit immoral acts. It would not be until the conquest of Mecca by Prophet Muhammad, a descendant of Prophet Ismail, that the Kaaba would be returned to its monotheistic purposes.