Kiswat ul-Ka’bah: The curtain of Ka’bah

Makkah: Kiswah is the cloth that covers the whole structure of Kaaba in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. The term Kiswah is Arabic for ‘pall’ (a sheet of fabric). It is changed annually on the 9th day of the month of Dhu al-Hijjah after Fajr (dawn prayer). On that day, all Haj pilgrims leave for the plains of Mount Arafat- – no Hajj pilgrim is to be found in the premises of Haram, except locals who visit to have a look at the changing of Kiswah.

Why Ka’bah is draped with Kiswah

Draping the Ka’aba with Kiswah is the way of sanctifying and respecting the Ka’bah. The first to cover it was the Yemeni King of Himyar. He dreamt that he was covering the Ka’bah and decided to do so in his real life. Afterwards, people began offering Ka’bah different pieces of cloth as gifts. Even during the period of Jahiliya (before the advent of Islam) the Ka’bah was to be covered with finest cloth.

Did Prophet Muhammed (may peace be upon him) drape the Ka’abah?

When Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) conquested Makkah on 10-20 Ramazan, 8 AH (after hijra), corresponding to 630 AD, he also covered the ka’bah with Yemeni fabric, the finest cloth available during that time. Since then, the tradition of changing the Kiswah continues till date.

The Caliphs, Omar and Othman (may Allah be agreed with them) also covered Ka’bah with Al-Kabati (a kind of cloth from Yemen).

Did Kiswah changed its colour?

Before the period of Abbasid, the colour of Kiswah used to be red, green and white in colour. The Abbasids Preferred the black colour. Since then the black colour remained the same.

The tradition of annually draping the Ka’bah with new Kiswah continued for centuries, but the timing differed for one Islamic era to another.

During the Ummayyad period, a new Kiswah was draped around the Ka’bah on Ashura, the 10th day of Muharram. It was replaced by another Kiswah at the end of Ramadan. The practice remained unchanged during the Abbasid period.

During the reign of Abbasid Caliph Al-Ma’moon, the Ka’bah used to get new Kiswah three times in a year. The first was a red silk Kiswah on the first day of Hajj, the second was the white Al-Qabbati (a cloth used for decoration) on the eve of the seventh Hijri month (Rajjab), and the third, made of white silk, on the 27th day of Ramazan.

When and where was the Kiswah factory established

Kiswah was used to be supplied by different countries; the most prominent was Egypt. In 1926 King Abdulaziz ordered to build the Kiswah factory in Egypt. Therefore, Kiswah was manufactured in Egypt and was sent to Makkah.

In 1972, King Fahd, the then Minister of Home Affairs and Deputy Minister for Council of the Ministers laid the foundation of the factory exclusively meant for manufacturing the Kiswah. The factory is located in the Oum Al Jood district of Makkah with high-tech machines. They retained the method of manual production like embroidery, because of its high artistic value.

In 2017, King Salman had ordered to replace the old machines with the new ones to automate the process. This has saved labour and time. Even the embroidery and other works are also being done with automated machines. The factory has the biggest and most beautiful cloth manufacturing machinery in the world.

The process of manufacturing the Kiswah

More than 200 artisans from Saudi Arabia and other nationalities take part in the manufacturing of Kiswah. First, the cloth is woven with finest raw silk; then it is dyed, and printed with great care and skill. The fabric is dyed in black colour outside and green inside.

The silk fabric, gold and silver threads and other materials that are used for manufacturing the Kiswah are passed through a strict quality check. Then the fabric pieces are embroidered with The Qur’anic verses with gold and silver threads. When it is stitched to perfection, it is then perfumed and veiled on the Ka’bah on the ninth day of Dhu al-Hijjah. The Kiswah is not one piece of cloth; it consists of 47 pieces which are stitched together at a later stage. The length of each piece is 14 metres, and the width is 101 cm.

The process of manufacturing the Kiswah is continued round the year. No sooner one Kiswah is completed, they start manufacturing the other one for the next year.

The material used in kiswah

The material used in the manufacturing of Kiswah is 670 kg of raw silk which imported from Italy, 120 kg of gold plated threads and 100 kg of silver-plated threads that come from Germany. The cost of the Kiswah is US$6 million (Rs. 42,168 crores).

This Kiswah is usually ready two months before the beginning of Hajj. The caretakers of Ka’bah, who belong to the Bani Shaiba family, take its possession.

Where does the old Kiswah go?

Once in a year, the Kiswah is changed on 9th of Dul Hijjah. The old Kiswah is sent to a government warehouse where it preserved carefully from bacteria or chemical reactions. If requested by higher authorities, it is distributed in small parts to museums or gifted to foreign dignitaries who visit Makkah to perform Hajj or Umrah.

A Piece of 300-year old Kiswah was exhibited during last Ramazan in the Nizam’s Museum, Purani Haveli. The Kiswah was brought from Makkah by Mir Qamaruddin Khan Siddiqui Bayafandi (Asaf Jah I).
Makkah Masjid and Chowk ki Masjid are also privileged with pieces of Kiswah one each respectively.

What are the Quranic verses embroidered on Kiswah

The curtain that hangs on the door of Ka’bah is fully embroidered with The Qur’anic verses in beautiful calligraphy. It is difficult for non-Arabs to make out what Qur’anic verses are written on it. Hence, below is a list of the verses:

حسبى الله
الله ربي
اياك نعبد
قَدْ نَرَىٰ تَقَلُّبَ وَجْهِكَ فِي السَّمَاءِ.
فَلَنُوَلِّيَنَّكَ قِبْلَةً تَرْضَاهَا.
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم: وَسَارِعُوا إِلَىٰ مَغْفِرَةٍ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ وَجَنَّةٍ عَرْضُهَا السَّمَاوَاتُ وَالْأَرْضُ أُعِدَّتْ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ.
الله نور السماوات والأرض
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم: لَّقَدْ صَدَقَ اللَّهُ رَسُولَهُ الرُّؤْيَا بِالْحَقِّ ۖ لَتَدْخُلُنَّ الْمَسْجِدَ الْحَرَامَ إِن شَاءَ اللَّهُ آمِنِينَ.
يَا عِبَادِيَ الَّذِينَ أَسْرَفُوا عَلَى أَنفُسِهِمْ لَا تَقْنَطُوا مِن رَّحْمَةِ اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَغْفِرُ الذُّنُوبَ جَمِيعاً إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ.
سم الله الرحمن الرحيم: مُّحَمَّدٌ رَّسُولُ اللَّهِ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ أَشِدَّاءُ عَلَى الْكُفَّارِ رُحَمَاءُ بَيْنَهُمْ ۖ تَرَاهُمْ رُكَّعًا سُجَّداً.
لا إله إلا الله المك الحق المبين.
محمد رسول الله صادق الوعد الأمين.
صدق الله العظيم.

At the end to the right of the curtain, it is written that:
“this Kiswah is manufactured in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.”

And to the left it is written:

“this Kiswah is gifted to Ka’bah by the custodian of the two holy mosques Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, may Allah accept it.”

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