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This article discusses the black stone housed at the Ka'aba.
Five times a day Muslims prostrate towards the Ka'aba which houses the black stone (Ruknu l-Aswad). The black stone is a baetyl originating from pre-Islamic Arabian polytheism. It is an important part of the hajj pilgrimage, performed primarily because it is mandatory and because Muslims believe their sins will be forgiven. . The pilgrims kiss the Ka'aba's eastern cornerstone (the black rock), and if they cannot kiss it, they point to it during circumambulation.
Circumambulation around the Ka'aba was originally a pagan ritual (albeit they did it naked), as was the running through the valley between Safa and Marwa. The Ka'aba was originally a pagan shrine, housing 360 stones and statues. And pagans performed a hajj even before the advent of Islam.
Muslims believe that the stone was "put there by Prophet Ibrahim and Isma'il (peace be upon them both) by the order of Almighty Allah, and the purpose of it was to indicate the beginning of tawaf (circumabulation of the Ka`bah)." However, there is no scientific, historical, or archaeological evidence that places Abraham and Ishmael at the Ka'aba. And there is no evidence that circumambulation of any building or stone was initiated by Abraham and Ishmael.
During its history, the black stone has been struck and smashed by a stone fired from a catapult, it has been smeared with excrement, stolen and ransomed by the Qarmatians, and smashed into several fragments.
- (Antiquity) A meteorite or similar-looking rough stone thought to be of divine origin and worshipped as sacred.
Definitions - baetyl
AllWords English Dictionary,
Encyclopædia Britannica, 2009
Arabian religion, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2009
The black stone was important to the Arabian polytheists prior to Muhammad's prophethood.
Tafsir Ibn Kathir
Other important Baetyls in Arabia
The black stone was not the only important stone in Arabia.
God Eloh and his Black Stone
Ancient writers Herodian and Cassius Dio mention a temple in Syrian city of Emesa (nowadays known as Hims or Homs). Why was this temple special and particularly interesting for us? A local Semitic god named Eloh (meaning Lord) was worshipped there. He was better known to Romans and Greeks as Heliogabalus, a corruption of Eloh Gabal (Lord of Mountain, one of Eloh’s titles). Eloh was associated with sun and thus identified with Roman god Sol and Greek Helios.
In the temple one of the holiest relics of antiquity, the Black Stone, was kept. It was believed to come from outside earth (possibly a meteorite) and to be a manifestation of Eloh himself. Faithful from the entire Roman orient were flocking for a pilgrimage there. They were bringing valuable gifts and offerings. The followers of Eloh had to obey ritualistic rules. For example they had to be circumcised and were not allowed to eat pork.
This cult would probably be forgotten among thousands of others if not a dramatic twist of its fortune. In 218 a young priest of that temple and a Roman citizen Varius Avitus Bassus was prompted by his power-hungry family and usurped the throne of Rome by claiming to be an illegitimate son of murdered emperor Caracalla (ruled 211-217). He ruled for just four years and is remembered mostly by his nickname – name of his god – Elagabalus.
Elagabalus was a perverted ruler. He was reported to have prostituted himself in the imperial palace. He had numerous wives and husbands at the same time. He was known to be a masochist and allowed everyone to beat him. The young man was obsessed with sex, but his contemporaries were of the view that it was his cult of Eloh that depraved him.
The young emperor brought his famous Black Stone to Rome. He wanted to make the worship of Eloh either supreme or the only religion of the Roman Empire. This caused uproar among Romans. Every year in summer a bizarre procession was talking place. The Black Stone was placed on a chariot with reins stick to it (suggesting that the god himself was coaching). The emperor was walking afoot near the chariot. Senators, notable citizens, parade of soldiers, musicians and exotic animals followed.
After four years of insane rule, Elogabalus was murdered by soldiers. His body was thrown to river Tiber. 
2. Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) also narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “When the Black Stone came down from Paradise, it was whiter than milk, but the sins of the sons of Adam made it black.” (At-Tirmidhi, Sunan)
3. Ibn `Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) further related that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “By Allah, Allah will bring it forth on the Day of Judgment, and it will have two eyes with which it will see and a tongue with which it will speak, and it will testify in favor of those who touched it in sincerity.” (At-Tirmidhi, Sunan)
4. Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) quoted the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying: “Touching them both (the Black Stone and Ar-Rukn Al-Yamani) is an expiation for one’s sins.” (At-Tirmidhi, Sunan, hadith no. 959. This hadith is classified as hasan by At-Tirmidhi and as Sahih by Al-Hakim (1/664), and Adh-Dhahabi agreed with him.)(The aforementioned hadiths were quoted from a fatwa by the prominent Saudi scholar Sheikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid, www.islam-qa.com)
Islam Online, Fatwa Bank, January 8, 2003
Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad, Living Islam, April 11, 2000
- "Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said, "Whoever performs Hajj for Allah's pleasure and does not have sexual relations with his wife, and does not do evil or sins then he will return (after Hajj free from all sins) as if he were born anew."" - Sahih Bukhari 2:26:596
- "Narrated 'Asim bin Sulaiman: I asked Anas bin Malik about Safa and Marwa. Anas replied, "We used to consider (i.e. going around) them a custom of the Pre-islamic period of Ignorance, so when Islam came, we gave up going around them. Then Allah revealed" "Verily, Safa and Marwa (i.e. two mountains at Mecca) are among the Symbols of Allah. So it is not harmful of those who perform the Hajj of the House (of Allah) or perform the Umra to ambulate (Tawaf) between them." (2.158)" - Sahih Bukhari 6:60:23
- "Narrated Abu Huraira: In the year prior to the last Hajj of the Prophet when Allahs Apostle made Abu Bakr the leader of the pilgrims, the latter (Abu Bakr) sent me in the company of a group of people to make a public announcement: 'No pagan is allowed to perform Hajj after this year, and no naked person is allowed to perform Tawaf of the Kaba.' (See Hadith No. 365 Vol. 1)" - Sahih Bukhari 2:26:689
- Sheikh Ahmad Kutty - The Black Stone: History & Significance - Islam Online, January 8, 2003
- Hırka-i Saadet Dairesi; Hilmi Aydın(2004) - The sacred trusts: Pavilion of the Sacred Relics, Topkapı Palace Museum, Istanbul - Tughra Books, ISBN 9781932099720
- Burton, Richard Francis (1856) - Personal narrative of a pilgrimage to El-Madinah and Meccah - G. P. Putnam & Co., p. 394
- Francis E. Peters (1994) - Mecca: a literary history of the Muslim Holy Land - Princeton University Press, pp. 125–126, ISBN 9780691032672
- Cyril Glasse - New Encyclopedia of Islam: A Revised Edition of the Concise Encyclopedia of Islam (p. 245) - Rowman Altamira, 2001, ISBN 0759101906
- Black Stone of Mecca - Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007
- Poczet Cesarzy Rzymskich (In English: Roman Emperors), by Aleksander Krawczuk