I remember one day when one of my next of kin nearly had me confused. She asked me about something that I had always neglected to research.
” Don’t we muslims worship the Kaba (the black cube-shaped house in Makkah) just as non-muslims worship idols ?” She queried.
“Why do we bow and prostrate towards kaba?” She quizzed again.
By that time, she was seated in front of TV watching people praying around the Kaba. I told her that we only pray towards the Kaba following the command of Allah and that in doing so it helps build uniformity of muslims. By saying so, I thought I had summed-up everything- probably the best answer I had. But alas, from her looks, I knew that she was not satisfied at all, she wanted more… Unfortunately, having thrown everything I knew about that topic, I was nothing more than a mere empty tin. In fact, that answer was enough for me, but I underestimated the logic of the world’s reality by thinking that the answer is/was adequate for every muslim.
When Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid was asked about the wisdom of muslims facing towards the kaba, he explained :
“With regard to His (Allah’s) believing slaves, they are tried and tested in this brief, transient world. If they succeed in remaining steadfast in worshipping their Lord and attaining the highest degree of submission to Him, He will compensate them for that, by His kindness and grace, with Paradise in which there is that which no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and it has not entered the heart of man.
Among these tests is the fact that Allaah commands them to do some things for which their minds cannot comprehend the wisdom behind them, they can only submit and obey. This is in order to distinguish those who are sincere in their claims to be believers from those who are insincere. For Allaah is the Creator of reason, and He is the One Who issues the command, so whoever responds and submits, and says, “I hear and obey, even though I do not understand the reason, because I admit my mortality, my weakness and my submission to Allaah, for Allaah cannot be questioned as to what He does” – such a one is a believer who, it is hoped, will prosper and succeed in this world and in the Hereafter.
This is how the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) were, as al-Bukhaari (1597) and Muslim (1270) narrated in their Saheehs that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with him) said of the Black Stone when he kissed it: “By Allaah, I know that you are only a stone and you can neither bring benefit nor cause harm. Were it not that I had seen the Messenger of Allaah kissing you I would not have kissed you.” So when we Muslims pray facing the direction of the Ka’bah, we do so because Allaah has commanded us to do that. If he had commanded us to pray facing in any other direction, we would have had to do that. The same applies to many other acts of worship, We pray Zuhr with four rak’ahs and Maghrib with three and Fajr with two, because Allaah has commanded us to do so. We perform Tawaaf seven times around the Ka’bah, and we stone the Jamaraat seven times, and we do not do more than that under any circumstances. All of that is because that is what Allaah has commanded us to do.”
Some three months ago I heard one of renown the scholars describing the qualitative differences between Idols and the Kaba. He pointed out that even if the Kaba is removed or destroyed, muslims will still worship the true God and that they will continue facing the same direction.
Those who worship the idols e.g Buddha can not worship without having Buddha idol infront of them. Another amazing difference is that muslims can even pray inside the Kaba while idol worshipers can not pray inside their idols since their idols are considered ‘Gods’. Historically, we know that Bilal climbed and stood on top of Kaba and called for prayer (adhaan). If Kaba was ‘God’, who would dare climb and stand on top of ‘Him’?
May Allah increase us in knowledge.
“Glory be to You (Allah), we have no knowledge except what you have taught us. Verily, it is You, the All-Knower, the All-Wise.” Quran 2 verse 32
Allah knows best.