Covering of the Kaaba

Covering of the Kaaba: Kiswa is the cloth that drapes the Kaaba, the centerpiece of the Grand Mosque at Mecca and the direction in which Muslims world over turn to pray. Its production was a traditional craft in Egypt before the Saudi kingdom began making it in a factory in 1962. The gold-embroidered black cloth has gone through many changes over the years.

The black cloth that covers the Kaaba is known as Kiswa and it is usually replaced once a year on the 9th day of the month of Dul Hijjah (month of the pilgrimage) following in the footsteps of Prophet Mohammed.

The Kiswa: The story behind the covering of the holy Kaaba

Nearly a hundred years after his grandfather had the honor of stitching the cloth that covers Islam’s holiest site, Ahmed Othman still painstakingly labors with love over pieces in his workshop in Egypt’s Cairo where he carries on the tradition of embroidering the Kiswa even though its production has now moved east.

He says his work is indistinguishable from the original made from black fabric that is embroidered with gold Quranic verses and Islamic motifs that adorn the Kaaba year-round. Reports say the Kiswa will be replaced with a new one kept on standby after devotees end the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca this year.

Kiswa Of Kaaba – The Holy Cloth That Adorns The House Of Allah

Othman’s work is of course not to the scale of the huge cubic structure, toward which Muslims the world over turn to pray. But customers often ask for replicas of the section of the cloth, such as the Kaaba’s door, and pay several thousands of dollars for it.

The black cloth that covers the Kaaba is known as Kiswa and it is usually replaced once a year on the 9th day of the month of Dul Hijjah (month of the pilgrimage) following in the footsteps of Prophet Mohammed.

Since the 13th century Egyptian artisans, like Othman’s family, would make the Kiswa until the Saudi Kingdom fully took over the production in 1962. Othman still keeps the traditional craft alive although many other craftsmen have shifted to more lucrative means of earning.

Kiswah – The cloth that covers the Kaaba

How is the Kiswa made now?

The Kiswa needs at least 670 kilograms of silk, enough to cover the centerpiece of the Grand Mosque in Mecca which is estimated to be about 15 meters high and about 10-12 meters long. The silk is imported from Italy and blended with cotton to make the drape which is then embroidered using silver and gold plated thread that is imported from Germany.

After taking over from traditional Egyptian craftsmen, the Saudi Kingdom began producing the Kiswa in factories where dozens of workers are engaged to make a new covering every year. It costs roughly Rs 50 crore to stitch and embroider this holy mantle.

Do you know the cost of Kaaba’s cover?

The silk and cotton threads used are subjected to various tests to ensure their strength and durability. They have to be able to withstand the vagaries of the weather and are chosen accordingly. The silver and gold-coated threads are also required to meet high benchmarks.

The tradition of Kiswa

Arab News reported that the first man to cover the Kaaba in pre-Islamic times was Tubbaa Al-Humairi, the king of Yemen.

The Kiswa has been changed multiple times in history and various cloths of different colors were used to veil the shrine.

The Prophet Mohammed is believed to have covered it with white-and-red striped Yemeni cloth. Others after him have used white cloth, green cloth, red brocade, yellow brocade, and black brocade, which remains the color to this date.

Making of Black Cloth(Kiswa) Covering Kaaba!

White, though the brightest, would get soiled quickly and, so, black became the shade of choice. Pilgrims touch the Kaaba when they circumambulate the shrine during Hajj and the Kiswa bears the wear and tear caused by them. To protect the cloth, authorities raise the Kiswa by 3 meters every year in preparation for the Hajj.

The choice of dyes and material for Kiswa used to be dictated by the financial means of the times. The Kiswa would be changed whenever the fabric was available. The kiswah also has a belt section that wraps around to hold it in place. It is 46 meters long and 95cm wide, made from 16 pieces and also embroidered with Quranic verses.

One of the pieces on the belt features a dedication naming the date the kiswa was made.

The kiswa 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).

How the kiswah is made for Hajj each year

At the end of the Hajj season, the cloth is divided into pieces and distributed among dignitaries or religious institutions. The fragments are highly valued and regarded as an heirloom. In earlier times, it is said the Kiswa would be removed when it drooped or became worn out and the cloth would be cut and divided among pilgrims.

The term kiswah in Arabic means clothes made for covering the body but is also used as the term for the silk cover for the Kaaba. It is affixed to the stone by copper rings at the bottom of the marble base.

The covering of the Kaaba is made of 47 pieces of natural silk, every 98 centimeters by 14 meters. The outer layer of the kiswah is made from 670kg of raw silk. The inside of the covering is a strong cotton lining, which helps to preserve the silk on top.

Gold thread adorns the black silk, spelling out Quranic passages as well as phrases such as “no god but Allah”, and “glory to God”.

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