The Black Stone
Millennia ago, in classical antiquity, the Kaaba was once a great center of religious worship for polytheistic pilgrims from all across the ancient lands of Mesopotamia. The sacred site contained countless idols to the gods and goddesses of various different pantheons. As part of this, the “Black Stone” had long been associated with the Kaaba, which was built in the pre-Islamic period and was a site of pilgrimage for the Nabateans who visited the shrine once a year. Given the culture that existed at that time, it’s possible that the venerated object had fallen from the sky, just like the meteorite which was worshipped in the ancient Greek Temple of Artemis in the Mediterranean. The only difference is that the Black Stone at the Kaaba was attributed to the Arabian goddess Allat, and the Semitic goddess Asherah.
As a consequence of this, in January of the year 630, the prophet Muhammad marched 10,000 loyal soldiers from Medina to Mecca and rode to the Kaaba. Once there, he began systematically destroying several hundred different idols to the various gods and goddesses of the time, leaving only the spiritual site itself. He only left one object unmolested. According to some scholars, the Black Stone greeted Muhammad before his prophethood. This led to a debate about whether the Black Stone’s greeting comprised actual speech or merely a sound, and following that, whether the Black Stone was a living creature or an inanimate object. Either way, the Black Stone was held to be a symbol of prophethood. So, Muhammad rededicated the sacred space to Islam in the name of Allah, placing the Black Stone on the eastern corner of the Kaaba. After that, Muhammad rode his horse around the building seven times, touching the Black Stone with his stick in a gesture of reverence.
As part of this, Islamic monotheistic mythology asserts that the Black Stone fell from Jannah to show Adam and Eve precisely where to build an altar, which became the first temple on Earth. In line with this, Muslims believe that the Black Stone was originally pure and dazzling white, but has since been tarnished by the sins of the people who touch it. Plus, the Black Stone was originally a single piece of rock but today consists of a number of pieces that have been cemented together in a paste of camphor, musk, and amber. This is because the Black Stone was struck and smashed into more than a dozen pieces by a rock that was fired from a catapult during the Umayyad Caliphate’s siege of Mecca in 683. The fragments were rejoined by Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr using a silver ligament, prominently placed on the Kaaba about five feet above the Tawaf yard. This ligament is regularly welded to the Black Stone, which gets perfumed five times a day.
In the end, the Black Stone’s exposed face now measures about 8 inches by 6 inches. The thing is that the original size of the object of obsession is unclear and the recorded dimensions have changed considerably over time, as the pieces have been rearranged in their strange cement matrix time and time again. In the year 930, it was stolen by the Qarmatians, who carried the Black Stone away to their base in Hajar. The Qarmatian leader Abu Tahir al-Jannabi set the Black Stone up in his own mosque, the Masjid al-Dirar, with the intention of redirecting the hajj away from Mecca. In spite of those efforts, pilgrims continued to venerate the spot where the Black Stone had been. So, the Black Stone was returned to the Kaaba in 952 where it has remained ever since. As such, the Black Stone has never been analyzed with modern scientific techniques so its true origins remain the subject of speculation to this very day. Nonetheless, Muslims from all around the world still flock toward the Black Stone in an effort to kiss it and hopefully receive Allah’s blessings, and they will continue to do so for countless generations.