posted on Jul, 17 2006 @ 06:35 AM
This is from Wikipedia:
According to Islamic tradition, God ordained a place of worship on Earth to reflect the house in heaven called al-Baytu l-Maˤmur (Arabic: البيت
المعمور ). Muslims believe that Adam was the first to build such a place of worship.
According to the Qur'an, the Kaaba was built by Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Ismail (Ishmael. This is not accepted by non-Muslims, but Western
academics do believe that Mecca may have had a long history as a center of worship.
At the time of Muhammad, his tribe, the Quraysh, was in charge of the Kaaba, which was at that time a shrine to numerous Arabian tribal gods. Desert
tribesmen, the Bedouin, and inhabitants of other cities would join the annual pilgrimage, to worship and to trade. Caravan-raiding, common during the
rest of the year, was suspended during the pilgrimage; this was a good time, then, for travel and trade.
Muhammad, preaching the doctrine of monotheism and the promise of the Day of Judgment, faced mounting opposition in the city of Mecca. The Quraysh
persecuted and harassed him continuously, and he and his followers eventually migrated to Medina in 622 CE. After this pivotal migration, or Hijra,
the Muslim community became a political and military force. In 630 CE, Muhammad and his followers returned to Mecca as conquerors and the Kaaba was
re-dedicated as an Islamic house of worship. Henceforth, the annual pilgrimage was to be a Muslim rite, the Hajj.
The Qibla, for any point of reference on the Earth, is the direction to the Kaaba. In Muslim religious practice, supplicants must face this direction
at prayer. Some non-Muslims believe that Muslims worship the Kaaba; Muslims themselves say that the Kaaba is simply a focal point for prayer.
There are various opinions as to the status and meaning of the Black Stone.
Many Muslims regard the Stone as 'just a stone'. When Umar ibn al-Khattab, the second Caliph, came to kiss the stone, he said, in front of all
assembled: "No doubt, I know that you are a stone and can neither harm anyone nor benefit anyone. Had I not seen Allah's Messenger kissing you, I
would not have kissed you." Many Muslims follow Umar: they pay their respects to the Black Stone in a spirit of trust in Muhammad, not with any
belief in the Black Stone itself.
Some say that the stone is best considered as a 'marker', useful in keeping count of the ritual circumambulations one has performed (tawaf).
Other Muslims are more willing to believe that the Stone itself has some supernatural powers. They believe that it fell from the sky during the time
of Adam and Eve, and that it has the power to cleanse worshippers of their sins by absorbing them into itself. They say that the Black Stone was once
a pure and dazzling white; it has turned black because of the sins it has absorbed over the years.
Still others believe that the stone can only erase the believer's minor sins. On the Day of Judgement, the Stone will testify before God (Allah) in
favor of those who kissed it.
These last could perhaps be regarded as folk beliefs, not necessarily shared by all Muslims.