Explainer : Why Is The Kiswah Of The Kaaba Raised Every Year Ahead Of The Hajj
Recently, the authorities in the Masjid-al-Haram raised the Kiswah-al-Kaba in a symbolic event ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. The Kiswah of the Kaba is raised annually and a white cloth symbolizing the Ihram is wrapped around the Kaba al-Musharrafah. This year the Hajj pilgrimage is significant as it reopens for the rest of the world after pilgrims from other parts were restricted for two years in the wake of the covid pandemic
What is Kiswah?
The Kiswah-al-Kaba or the cloth of Kaba is the large overall black sheet of silk that covers the Kaba-al-Musharrafah- the sacred stone structure forming the centre of the Masjid-al-Haram and the Islamic world. Embroidered with gold and silver patterns, the Kiswah has a belt called the Hizam, which are inscriptions of the verses from the Quran and a curtain over the door of Kaba called the Sitara or Burqu’. Every year the Kiswah is changed on the 9th Dhu-al-Hijjah, known as the Day of Arafah as pilgrims leave for the Mount of Arafat, in preparation of receiving them next morning on Eid-al-Adha.
Throughout the history, the Kiswah has seen continual changes in its colour. Prophet Muhammad draped the Kaba in a white and red Yemeni cloth while Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq and Umar ibn Al-Khattab used an exclusively white cloth for the Kiswah. During Ibn Al-Zubayr’s time the Kaba was covered with red brocade while Seljuk Sultan used a yellow one. Caliph Al-Nassir then changed the Kiswah’s color to green and later to the present-day black brocade, which has remained the same till date.
Why is the Kiswah raised every year ahead of the Hajj?
Every year, the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques lifts the lower part of the Kiswah by about 3 meters and covers the raised part with a white cotton Ihram as a precaution to maintain the cleanliness and safety of the Kiswah and prevent its tampering. During the Hajj, crowd management becomes a difficult task and various superstitious beliefs provoke the pilgrims to cut the part of the Kiswah or inscribe their names on it.
What is the White Ihram?
The White Ihram symbolizes the beginning of the Hajj season. Earlier, the Kiswah was raised in a way that the white cloth beneath it was revealed. However, a separate white cloth is now wrapped around the Kaba.
Why The Kiswah Wasn’t Raised This Year On 15th Dhul Qadah?
Generally, the Kiswah is raised on the 15th Dhul Qadah every year as a massive crowd of pilgrims or the Hajis gather in the Mataf or the surrounding area, thus making the task difficult. However, since there is a cap of only 1 million Hajis expected to undertake the Hajj this year, the lesser crowd enabled the authorities to raise the Kiswah on a later date.
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