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Black Stone of Mecca

Located in the eastern corner of the Kaaba is the Black Stone of Mecca, whose now-broken pieces are surrounded by a ring of stone and held together by a heavy silver band. According to tradition, this stone was given to Adam on his expulsion from paradise to forgive his sins. In another account, it is believed the angel Gabriel gave the stone to Abraham while he was building the Kaaba, according to Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Non-Muslims may remember that the Kaaba is the "cube" that Abraham constructed with Ishmael in Mecca almost 4,000 years ago when Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, were expelled from Abraham's tribe in Israel (Genesis 16: 1-16).

Tradition suggests that the Prophet Muhammad places the stone in the Kaaba in 605 CE. While the Black Stone was originally one piece, it is now compromised of eight small pieces affixed to make a larger stone encased in a silver frame.

Recently, high-resolution photos of the sacred stone have been revealed for the first time. Pictures of the Black Stone took the internet by storm as hashtag #BlackStone trended on Twitter in Saudi Arabia, and people shared the never-before-seen images of the stone. The lead-in picture at the top shows the Kaaba from the southeastern corner with the stone encased in a silver frame. The picture below is a close-up of the stone taken with new photography techniques.

The stone, thought to be black, seems to be multi-colored with only sporadic small patches of black color in the stone. Initially, people believed it to be a meteorite. Since it is fractured into several pieces, the possibility of it being a nickel-iron meteorite is somewhat ruled out. The leading option is a terrestrial stone known as agape. Agape is hard, tough, fine-grained, and would display a high polish from being rubbed by the hands of millions of pilgrims. While agape does come in black, it also comes in multi-colors, similar to the new photographs taken.

Different history and religious books mention that the stone is white. In some stories, it is described as "whiter than snow." The answer to why it was named the Black Stone is that the Prophet explained that man's sins are what blackened it.

The stone and the act of kissing the stone are considered sacred. Omar, the second Muslim caliph, is quoted as saying, "I know that you are a stone, you do not cause benefit or harm; and if it were not that I had seen Allah's Messenger – peace and blessings of Allah be upon him – kiss you, I would never have kissed you." So, the ritual was started for pilgrims to kiss the stone as they go around the Kaaba.

The stone has unique characteristics confirmed by the Prophet. They are:

  • The stone is located in the holiest place in the great house of God, the Kaaba.

  • Muslims begin the walking of the pilgrimage from the corner in which the Blackstone is located.

  • Whoever touches the stone makes a contract with God.

  • On the Day of Judgment, it will bear witness for those who surrendered to the truth and touched it.

  • It has the status of the right hand of God on Earth.

The use of "black stones" as a religious prop has many precedents. The Hindu god, Shiva, had black stones representing it in many temples in India circa 1000 B.C. The Roman emperor, Elagabalus, in A.D. 218, brought his religion and his black stone to Rome from his home in Syria. It was called the Black Stone of Emesa and believed to be a meteorite. There were also sacred black stones found at Golgi in Cyprus, in the Phoenician temples in Malta, and the Mistress of Turquoise's shrine in Sinai. One reference in the Bible describes some meteorites as being in such places of worship (Acts 19:35).

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