You might have heard that Muslims consider Al-Ka’aba the center of the earth because airplanes and birds can’t fly over Al-Ka’aba due to the massive gravitational force in this area. You’ve probably also heard that Al-Ka’aba is the first point where the sun rises in Mecca. None of this is actually true. Here’s why Muslims consider Al-Ka’aba the center of the world and the middle of the Middle East:
Pilgrimage to a holy site is a core principle of almost all faiths. The Ka’aba, meaning cube in Arabic, is a square building elegantly draped in a silk and cotton veil. Located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, it is the holiest shrine in Islam. Muslims believe that Allah ordered the Ka’aba to be constructed. The story goes that Abraham built the mosque with his oldest son, Ishmael in the likeness of Allah’s home in heaven, Baitul Ma’amoor.
The Ka’aba was the object of pre-Islamic pagan worship, threatened by the rise of Islam. Prophet Muhammad was apparently part of the priesthood of the Ka’aba at one time. Muslims consider it to be the religious center of the world, and not the earth. In the same way, the Romans considered Rome to be the center of the world.
For Muslims, Al-Kaaba is the center of the Middle East because it is the holiest place in Islam. The Qibla, the direction Muslims face during prayer, is the direction from their location on Earth towards the Ka’aba. In Islam, Muslims pray five times a day and after 624 CE, these prayers were directed towards Mecca and the Ka’aba, rather than Jerusalem; this Qibla is marked in all mosques and enables the faithful to know in which direction they should pray. The Qur‘an established the direction of prayer.
There, they gather around the Ka’aba, a cubic-shaped building at the center of Islam’s most sacred mosque, Al-Masjid al-Haram. During the ritual of the hajj, pilgrims must walk around the Ka’aba seven times in a counterclockwise direction, a ceremonial practice that has been going on for fourteen centuries.
So what is Hajj?
All Muslims aspire to undertake the hajj, or the annual pilgrimage, to the Ka’aba once in their lives if they are able. Prayer five times a day and the hajj are two of the five pillars of Islam, the most fundamental principles of the faith. Upon arriving in Mecca, pilgrims gather in the courtyard of the Masjid al-Haram around the Ka’aba. Then, they circumambulate—tawaf in Arabic—or walk around the Ka’aba, during which they hope to kiss and touch the Black Stone—al-Hajar al-Aswad—embedded in the eastern corner of the Ka’aba.
The Eastern corner carried different names but holds a sole sacred significance; it hosts the Black Stone and marks the starting and ending point of Tawaf (the circumambulation). You might wonder why the Black Stone is very sacred for Muslims? It is believed that the Black Stone is one of the white rubies of the paradise and pilgrims try to touch the Black Stone or wave at it in case they couldn’t reach it. Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, said:
“The black stone came down from paradise and it was whiter than milk, but the sins of the sons of Adam turned it black.”
This is the story of the Ka’aba and why Muslims consider it to be the middle of the Middle East. You can read more about this magnificent holy place and history of the building of the Ka’aba.