An artist’s imaginary rendition of the valley of Makkah before Prophets Ibrahim and Isma’il built the Ka’bah. Courtesy of the Dar al-Madinah Museum, Madinah, Saudi Arabia.
There is little disagreement about Prophet Ibrahim’s relationship with the Ka’bah and al-Masjid al-Haram: about building it and actualizing its projected status and function. This is so because the Qur’an and Prophet Muhammad’s Sunnah are at once explicit and eloquent as regards the subject matter, unlike the eras that preceded Prophet Ibrahim and the relationship between their own prophets and the Ka’bah -- if we assume that the Ka’bah was built before Ibrahim. While the Qur’an discloses that Ibrahim was shown the site of the Ka’bah (al-Hajj, 26), that he and his son Isma’il raised its foundations (al-Baqarah, 127), and that they were directed to purify or sanctify it for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves therein in prayer (al-Baqarah, 125), there are scores of authentic traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) which describe even certain details of their building it.
Read more: Prophets Ibrahim and Isma’il and the Ka’bah
Prior to the epoch of Prophets Ibrahim and Isma’il, there existed only Makkah sanctuary (haram) and the location as well as foundations of the Ka’bah (al-Masjid al-Haram), which had been instituted or appointed for humankind as early as when God created the heavens and the earth. The Qur’an reveals: “Indeed, the first House (of worship) established for mankind was that at Makkah -- blessed and a guidance for the worlds.” (Alu ‘Imran, 96) The Prophet (pbuh) also confirmed: “Allah made this town (Makkah) sacred on the day He created the earth and the heavens; so it is sacred by the sacredness conferred on it by Allah until the Day of Resurrection...” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith No. 3139) As a result, the prophets before Ibrahim and Isma’il and their followers -- just like those who came after them -- were to face the place (the site of the Ka’bah, its foundations and the haram) in their prayers. When needed or commanded, a form of the pilgrimage (Hajj) to the place, too, was undertaken.Read more: Appreciating the Ka’bah
Humans are not the only creatures that build. Many a creature that we classify low down the hierarchy of the animal kingdom, such as bees and ants, build elaborate structures. However, it has been suggested that it is awareness and imagination that single out humans as superior to other animals in architectural output. While the rest of creation act on the environment instinctively with no reasoning or training - as preordained by Allah, the Creator of the universe - man does the same willingly and at his own discretion. Since his actions are preceded with thinking and rationalizing, man clearly demonstrates through acts of building -- and through every other engagement of his, indeed -- his philosophy of and outlook on life and its manifold realities. The relationship between the two, i.e., one’s outlook on life and the disposition of his acts -- including building -- is causal, the former always being the cause of the latter. No sooner does a paradigm shift occur in one’s worldview -- no matter how (in)significant -- than a corresponding change accordingly ensues in the very essence and character of one’s performances, thus revealing and immortalizing one’s actual relationship with his self, with his peers, with other creatures and, of course, with his Creator and Lord.Read more: Building as an Indispensable and Creditable Activity
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Spahic Omer
Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environmental Design
International Islamic University Malaysia
The Umayyad caliph ‘Abd al-Malik b. Marwan embarked on building the Dome of the Rock for several socio-political and religious reasons. Three of them seem to have been most decisive:
Firstly: Religious reason
With no exception, Muslim historians keep informing us generously that the caliph ‘Abd al-Malik had a remarkable religious upbringing. He was born in Madinah in 23/643 or 26/646. There as a youngster he joined the rising intellectual and religious elite of the Muslim community in passionate knowledge pursuit. Ultimately, he emerged as one of the most reputable scholars of Madinah, the religious and learning center in Islam for centuries, becoming an epitome of scholarship, excellence and virtue. Abu al-Zinad has said: “Four are the scholars (jurists, fuqaha’) of Madinah: Sa’id b. al-Musayyab, ‘Urwah (b. al-Zubayr), Qubaysah b. Dhuwayb and ‘Abd al-Malik b. Marwan before entering the field of political affairs.” ‘Abd al-Malik was nicknamed the dove of the Mosque on account of the time he used to spend in the Prophet’s Mosque for both learning and worship purposes. During the reign of the caliph Mu’awiyah, when his father Marwan b. al-Hakam was the Madinah governor, ‘Abd al-Malik was even appointed in charge of the Madinah Register (Diwan al-Madinah). He remained in Madinah until 64/683 when the case of ‘Abdullah b. al-Zubayr reached so alarming proportions that the whole region of al-Hijaz hastened to pledge allegiance to him, and the members of the Umayyad family, in turn, had to flee for their safety to Syria. Next, ‘Abd al-Malik was a governor of Palestine for sometime to his father, and it was, in all probability, then that he added to his affection for the whole area and the al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as that he coined some preliminary strategies with regard to the territory’s future development.Read more: The Main Reasons for Building the Dome of the Rock