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The Black Stone is a 30 cm (12 in) diameter stone embedded in a silver frame on a corner of the Kaaba (Arabic: cube) in Mecca. The Kaaba is the holiest place in Islam, located near the center of Mecca. Five times a day, Muslims around the world pray in the direction of Mecca. During the Hajj, a religious pilgrimage to Mecca, Muslims walk around the Kaaba seven times, beginning and ending at the Black Stone, which they kiss if there is an opportunity. Muslims are careful to point out that they are not worshipping the Black Stone or the Kaaba, just using it as a focus of prayer to God and the memory of Muhammad.
There are several legends and stories surrounding the Black Stone. According to Islamic tradition, the Black Stone fell from Heaven, God's way of showing to Adam and Eve where to build a shrine to make sacrifices to Him. In the process of Noah's flood, the altar and stone were lost, until Abraham, one of the earliest prophets, rediscovered the stone with the help of Archangel Gabriel and built a new altar there. Originally dazzling white, the stone turned black after millennia of absorbing the sins of pilgrims.
Because the Black Stone has not been tested in a laboratory, its makeup is unknown, though various visitors have proposed that it is an agate, basalt lava, piece of natural glass, or -- most popularly -- a stony meteorite. Though it is often called a meteorite, this identification is inconsistent with the stone's glassy appearance as well as a 951 CE account that said the stone could float on water. More likely, the stone is a tektite (molten silica ejected by a meteorite) or desert glass, a type of mineral created when an asteroid explodes in a thermal airburst and fuses together the underlying sand. If it is the latter, then a possible site of discovery may have been the Wabar craters in the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia, three craters covered in black glass, meteorite iron, and chunks of white sandstone.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Black Stone and where is it located?
The Black Stone, known as Al-Hajar Al-Aswad in Arabic, is a revered Islamic relic situated in the eastern corner of the Kaaba within the Grand Mosque, Al-Masjid Al-Haram, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. According to Islamic tradition, the stone dates back to the time of Adam and Eve and is believed to have been sent down from Heaven to guide people to perform the pilgrimage. It holds a significant place in the rituals of the Hajj, with pilgrims often trying to touch or kiss the stone during their pilgrimage.
What is the significance of the Black Stone in Islam?
In Islam, the Black Stone is deeply venerated as a symbol of God's covenant with Abraham and Ishmael. It is said to have been placed by the Prophet Muhammad in the Kaaba's wall. The stone is not worshipped but is honored as a relic of profound historical and spiritual importance. Pilgrims believe that touching the stone is an act of worship, which symbolizes their entrance into a divine presence, and it serves as a starting point for the Tawaf, the circumambulation of the Kaaba.
What are the physical characteristics of the Black Stone?
The Black Stone is composed of a number of fragmented dark rocks that are held together by a silver frame. It is roughly 30 cm (12 inches) in diameter and has an oval shape. Over centuries, the stone has been damaged and subsequently repaired, with the current encasement designed to protect it from further harm. Its color is said to have darkened over time due to the sins it has absorbed from the touch of pilgrims, according to Islamic tradition.
Has the Black Stone always been part of the Kaaba?
Historical accounts suggest that the Black Stone has been associated with the Kaaba for millennia, long before the advent of Islam. It is believed to have been revered by pre-Islamic pagan tribes as a sacred object. With the rise of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad reaffirmed its significance by placing it in the wall of the Kaaba, thus integrating it into Islamic rites. Despite attempts to remove or damage it throughout history, the Black Stone has remained a central part of the Kaaba's structure.
Can non-Muslims view or touch the Black Stone?
Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the Grand Mosque in Mecca, as it is a sacred site exclusively for Muslim worship. Consequently, non-Muslims are unable to view or touch the Black Stone. The restriction is in place to maintain the sanctity of the pilgrimage experience for Muslims, who travel from all over the world to perform the Hajj and Umrah, during which they may have the opportunity to interact with the stone as part of their religious observance.