Kiswah: The Covering Of Kaaba

Kiswah: The Covering Of Kaaba | Hejaz-e-Moqaddus

Muslims do worship the Kaaba, but it is Islam’s most sacred site because it represents the metaphorical house of God and the oneness of Allah in Islam. Muslims around the world face toward the Kaaba during their five daily prayers. Muslims believe the Kaaba was built by Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) & Ismail as a house of monotheistic worship thousands of years ago. Over the years the Kaaba was reconstructed & attracted different kinds of pilgrims including early Christians who lived in the Arabian Peninsula. Meaning cube in Arabic, the Kaaba is a square building unlike almost any other religious structure. It is fifteen meters tall and ten and a half meters on each side; its corners roughly align with the cardinal directions.

The Kiswah is the cloth that covers the Kaaba. The term Kiswah is known as the ‘Ghilaf’. Hanging the Kiswah, a huge piece of black silk embroidered with gold patterns, over the Kaaba symbolizes the start of the Hajj pilgrimage season. The Kiswa is a great cloth that covers the Kaaba, the sacred stone building at the center of the Great Mosque in Makkah, that is the physical center of Islam and is called “the House of God.” Every year the Kiswa is removed and the Kaaba is redraped in a new cloth on the 9th day of the month of Dhu al-Hijah, the day the pilgrims leave for the plains of Mount Arafat during the Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah, following in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions in preparation for receiving worshippers the next morning, which coincides with Eid Al-Adha.

The Colors Of Kiswa During Different Ages

The colors of the Kaaba’s coverings have seen regular changes through the ages.

The Prophet Muhammad covered it with white-and-red striped Yemeni cloth, and Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq, Umar ibn Al-Khattab, and Uthman ibn Affan covered it with white. Ibn Al-Zubayr covered it with red brocade.

During the Abbasid era, it was draped once with white and once in red, while the Seljuk Sultan covered it with yellow brocade. The Abbasid Caliph Al-Nassir changed the Kiswa’s color to green and later to black brocade, and this has remained its color to the present day.

Qubati fabric was brought from Egypt and was one of the best types of fabric used to cover the Kaaba. The Yemeni Kiswa was also a quality cloth and most famous at the time.

On why the colors changed over the ages, Al-Dahas said that white was the brightest color, but it was not durable. It often became torn, dirty, and impure as pilgrims touched it and because it was not practical or long-lasting it was replaced with black-and-white brocade and shimla, which was used for covering Arab tents.

Black was finally chosen at the end of the Abbasid era because it was durable and could withstand being touched by visitors, pilgrims, and people from different cultures from around the world. Muslim kings and sultans then continued to undertake covering the Kaaba and caring for it. During the Saudi era, the Kiswa has received great attention. The Islamic state that existed in Egypt at the time continued to send the Kiswa for centuries.

The Saudi founder King Abdul Aziz gave directions for the establishment of a private house for making the Kiswa in Ajyad neighborhood close to Makkah’s Grand Mosque, the first house dedicated to weaving the Kiswa in the Hijaz since the Kaaba was covered in the pre-Islamic era until the present era.

How Kiswa Is Manufactured The Kaaba Kiswa Factory 

The factory where the Kiswa is made is equipped with the latest advanced machines in the weaving industry at the time and continues to produce The desalination department is the first of the complex’s sections. It is responsible for the purity of water, which reflects on the quality and texture of silk, and the desalination of groundwater for washing and dyeing silk.

The dyeing process starts after the removal of the waxy layer coating the silk threads.

The cotton lining of the Kiswa is also washed and the silk is then dyed with black for the outer drape and with green for the inner one, as is the case for the covering of the Prophet’s chamber. Every Kiswa requires 670 kg of natural silk.

With regard to machine textile manufacturing, the complex is equipped with advanced Jacquard machines, which create woven Qur’anic verses and produce black silk engraved with verses and prayers as well as plain silk made for printing verses and silver-thread and gold-plated embroidery. These machines use 9,986 threads per meter to weave the Kiswa in record time.

In the printing department, the process of placing the first drawing starts from printing the Qur’anic verses and Islamic motifs on the Kaaba’s belt. The section also prepares the manasij, two sides made of solid wood, and white raw fabric is pulled between them. The plain silk is then placed on top and the belt of the Kiswa is printed on it before the Kaaba’s door and the embroidery is added. Workers use silkscreen printing for the Qur’anic verses with white and yellow ink. Sixteen pieces are produced for the Kaaba’s belt with Quranic verses written on them; six pieces of different sizes under the belt; four firm pieces for the Kaaba’s corners; 12 lamps below the belt; five pieces above the corner of the Black Stone, and the outside curtain of the Kaaba’s door.

The creation of a new Kiswah every year involves more than 200 specialist fabric workers. The outer layer of the Kiswah is made of 47 pieces of silk imported from Italy, each 98 centimeters by 14 meters. The inside of the Kiswah is a cotton lining which helps preserve the silk. Approximately 120 kg of silver & gold threads that come from Germany are used to emboss the Quranic verses on the Kiswah. Gold thread adorns the black silk, spelling out Quranic passages as well as phrases such as “no God but Allah”, and “glory to God”

Specialist embroiderers & artisans create the embroidery of the belt of the Kiswa Al Kaaba with gold thread. 114 people work on this step for the 16 parts of the belt. According to current stats, it costs around £3.4m to make the Kiswah

The Kiswah includes the curtain of the Kaaba door. The embroidered curtain was put on the Kaaba gate for the first time in 1300-1396 (819 in the Hijri calendar). The door of the Kaaba is now made of solid gold; it was added in 1982. The curtain has a sentence of dedication and many verses and religious phrases embroidered with silver threads plated with gold. It is 23 feet high and 13.1 feet wide with the entire surface covered with verses from the Qur’an embroidered in gold-plated silver thread.

The Kiswah Al Kaaba factory in Makkah has been making the Kiswah for almost 45 years. It takes the whole year to produce the cover; 6-8 months of that is taken up by embroidery alone. The factory opened in 1977 & has about 200 employees, 114 of whom work solely on embroidery.

As the new Kiswah is attached, the old one is lowered from beneath after loosening the supporting robes. When the new Kiswah is fully in place, the individual pieces are sewn together to form a complete encasement.