Short Answer: God honored the Ancient House by calling it His own. During Hajj, Muslims practice certain acts out of obedience to God’s commandments and summoning. Muslims go to Makkah to glorify God, not to kiss a stone or worship a man or a semi-divinity. The entire course of devotion is for God alone. The Black Stone and the Ka`bah are only symbols of homeland and devotion of reverence. So why do we do this? To follow Prophet Muhammad’s example.
Salam (Peace) Dear Lara,
Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
When I read your question, I thought to myself: “Do we Muslims do that out of love or faith?”
I then found the answer to my question in the following quote:
Of the wondrous doings of God Most High is this: that He has created the hearts of men with an instinctive desire to seek these sublime sanctuaries, yearning to present themselves at their illustrious sites, and has given the love of them such power over men’s hearts that no one alights in them, but they seize his whole heart, nor quits them but with grief at their departure.
This was how the famous traveler Ibn Battutah expressed something of what the experience of pilgrimage meant.
This is where and when Muslims walk around their Ka`bah and kiss the stone you are questioning, Lara.
Hajj is For Allah Alone
During Hajj, Muslims practice certain acts out of obedience to God’s commandments and summoning.
So it should be pointed out here that the entire course of devotion is for God alone.
Muslims go to Makkah to glorify God, not to kiss a stone or worship a man or a semi-divinity.
Thousands of pilgrims from all over the Muslim world gather simultaneously for the same rites.
Along with doing these rites, Muslims lovingly circumambulate the Ka`bah together. Most of them, emotionally strive to reach the Black Stone and kiss it.
Why Kiss It??
Kissing or touching the Black Stone at the Ka`bah is an optional action, not obligatory or prescribed.
Those who kiss the Black Stone or touch it do not do it because they have faith in the Stone or attribute any superstitious qualities to it. Their faith is in God only.
They kiss, touch, or point at the Stone only as a token of respect. It is a symbol of love for Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who laid the Stone at the foundation of the Ka`bah when it was reconstructed.
But why do we do this?
To follow Prophet Muhammad’s example.
It was narrated that ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) came to the Black Stone and kissed it, then he said:
I know that you are only a stone which can neither bring benefit nor cause harm. Were it not that I had seen the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) kiss you, I would not have kissed you. (Narrated by al-Bukhari, 1520; Muslim, 1720)
The Ka ‘bah is Sacred
Lara, according to Islam, God has honored the Ka`bah, the Ancient House, by calling it His own. He has made it a goal for His servants, consecrating its surroundings as a sanctuary for His House and for the glory of His cause.
He has emphasized the dignity of the place by declaring its game and trees inviolable. Allah has modeled it on a royal court, the goal of visitors from all over the world.
The Ka`bah has always been honored by being the first house ever established on earth specifically for the purpose of sincere practice of monotheism.
Prophet Abraham & Prophet Ishmael
Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and his son Isma`il (Ishmael) (peace be upon both of them) worked together in rebuilding its walls, by their own hands:
Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the station of Ibrahim as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Ibrahim and Isma`il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).
And remember Ibrahim said: ‘My Lord, make this a City of Peace, and feed its people with fruits,- such of them as believe in God and the Last Day.’ He said: ‘(Yea), and such as reject Faith,- for a while will I grant them their pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of Fire,- an evil destination (indeed)!’
And remember Ibrahim and Isma`il raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): ‘Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing.’ (Quran 2:125-127)
Likewise, Allah also said,
Behold! We gave the site, to Ibrahim, of the (Sacred) House, (saying): ‘Associate not anything (in worship) with Me; and sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or stand up, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer).’ (Quran 22:26)
Maybe the point will become clearer by comparison.
A Modern-Day Example
It is a natural thing for a good patriot returning from exile, or a fighting soldier coming back from the battlefield, to do certain things upon reaching the borders of his beloved homeland.
For example, he may kiss the ground at the borders. He may embrace the first few compatriots he meets, with great emotion.
This is considered normal and appreciable, but no one would think that the patriot or soldier worships the ground or deifies his fellow compatriots or attributes some divine qualities to the landmarks.
Simply, the behavior of pilgrims should be interpreted in a similar way.
So it is in this human perspective that the story of the Ka`bah and the Black Stone can be viewed. It is in the light of such human experiences, under extraordinary circumstances, that it is best understood.
The love and devotion is to God alone. The Black Stone and the Ka`bah are only symbols of homeland and devotion of reverence.
Lara, I hope this answers your questions.
(From Ask About Islam’s archives)