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Holy Kaaba, Hateem, and Hajr-e-Ismail

(by M. Zubair Makba)

In front of the northern wall of the Holy Kaba (Northern wall is the wall on which Mezab a Rahmat is located) there is a 1.31 meter high semi-circular wall. The area between the northern wall of Kaba and this semi-circular wall is commonly known as Hateem. Some people also call this area as Hijr a Ismail, but in reality this area consists of both.

Before Islam the last construction of Kaba took place in the year 35th Meladi, by the Quraish, and unfortunately it was the first time in the history of Kaba that the original Ibrahimi foundation of Kaba was not followed. The Kaba was reduced from the northern side due to the lack of construction fund.

This construction lasted up till 64th Hijrah. During the rule of Yazeed bin Mawiah, his commander Haseen bin Numair Kundi took siege of Masjid Al Haram where Hazrat Abdullah bin Zubair had taken shelter. Haseen bin Numair pelted stones on the holy mosque which resulted in cracking down all the four walls of Kaba. During this siege the news of Yazeed bin Mawiah`s death arrived and Haseen left the siege and went back to Shaam. When the situation settled down and Hazrat Abdullah bin Zubair became the Khalifa he started reconstruction of the Kaba. This was 64th Hijrah.

After demolishing the Kaba the floor of the Kaba was dug and Ibrahimi foundation was reached. Hazrat Abdullah bin Zubair showed this foundation to the people of Makkah and other Ashabas, and after making them witness he reconstructed the Kaba on Ibrahimi foundation and shape. After the construction the dimension of the Kaba was as follows:

Eastern wall (from Hajar a Aswad to rukn a Iraqi) 32 Zeraa
Northern wall (from rukn a Iraqi to rukn a Shami) 22 Zeraa
Western wall (from rukn a Shami to rukn a Yamani) 31 Zeraa
Southern wall (from rukn a Yamani to Hajar a Aswaad) 20 Zeraa

Zeraa means Arm. It is an old unit of length which means the length from the tip of the center finger up to the elbow (Qamoos Al Moheet and Taj Al Arous). The heights of the walls were increased from 19 Zeraa to 27 Zeraa and instead of only one eastern door another door at the western wall was fixed. To reach the roof stairs were built on the Rukn-a-Iraqi side. The roof was wooden and was supported by 3 wooden pillars built in the center of Kaba which lay in the same line. (These pillars were reinforced in the year 1332 Hijrah and in 1417 Hijrah they were replaced).

The Istelaam of all four corners of the Kaba started as now it was built on the original Ibrahimi foundation. This situation stayed for 10 years. In the year 74th Hijrah, Hijjaj bin Yousuf killed Hazrat Abdullah bin Zubair and mislead Khalifah Abdul Malik bin Marwan by a letter saying that Hazrat Abdullh bin Zubair has changed the shape of Kaba on his own contrivance, and it should be put back to its old shape.

After getting the approval of the Khalifah he reduced the Kaba from the northern side by 6 hands and one Balisht (a unit of length meaning from the tip of the little finger to the tip of the thumb of a fully stretched palm of a grown average man) which brought Kaba back to the dimensions of the Quraish. When Abdul Malik bin Marwan came for Hajj in 75th Hijrah he came to know about the real situation and felt sorry. He tried to put back Kaba on the dimensions of Hazrat Abdullah bin Zubair but the Ulema did not allow him as they were afraid that the Kaba will become a play ground among the rulers. Even Khalifah Haroon Rasheed tried for the same but was stopped by Imam Malik and other Ulema.

Keeping the above in mind we come to the conclusion that from the northern wall of the Kaba a distance of 6 hands and one "Balisht" towards the semi circle wall is the area of the Kaba which was left by the Quraish during construction due to the lack of construction fund and this is known as Hateem, and rest of the area up to the semi circle wall is Hijr a Ismail.

The figure 6 hands and one Balisht is taken from a book "Akhbar a Makkah" by Azraqi, while in a book "Maraat Al Harmain" by Rifat Basha the distance of Hateem is written as 3.12 meters.

The Historians agree that from 64 Hijrah to 1040 Hijrah the need of reconstruction of the holy Kaba did not arise except for repair work which took place from time to time. On 19th Shabaan Wednesday 1039 Hijrah a very heavy rainfall took place in Makkah which resulted in a huge amount of water accumulation in the holy Mosque. Water level was above the door of the Kaba. Next day near the Assr time first the northern wall of Kaba fell down then the eastern wall up to the door fell down, after that half of the western wall and the roof collapsed.

This was the "Usmani rule" and Sultan Murad Khan was the ruler. After taking the necessary Fatawa he started the reconstruction of the holy Kaba. The Kaba was rebuilt on the Zubairi foundation as it was still strong, but no change was made in the shape and dimensions. The stones for construction of the Kaba were taken from a mountain of Makkah which was known as Jabal a Shubaikah but afterwards this mountain became famous as Jabal a Kaba.

On 1377 Hijrah, Mohammed Tahir Kurdi the writer of "Tareekh Al Qaweem" counted the number of stones used in the construction of Kaba. It was a total of 1614 out of which 419 stones were on the eastern wall, 449 on the western, 318 on the northern, and 428 on the southern wall. Most of the stones were about 90 centimeters thick.

Since 1040 Hijrah to date no reconstruction of the Kaba has taken place except repair work, and still the old construction is very strong. The present golden door of the Kaba was fixed on 1399 Hijrah by King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz. The present dimensions of the Kaba are as follows:

Northern wall 11.03 meters
Southern wall 11.28 meters
Eastern wall 12.70 meters
Western wall 12.04 meters

The distance from the center of the northern wall to the center of Hijr a Ismail wall is around 8.44 meters. The distance between Safa and Marwa is 394 meters.

(The above information has been translated from different chapters of a book and has been arranged into sequence)