Kiswat Al-Kaaba

The rituals and skills associated with covering the Holy Kaaba   History:  Since God guided prophet Ibrahim to build the holy house (the Kaaba), Muslims from around the world have been doing pilgrimage and facing that holy house to perform their prayers. according to the Holy Quran “the first House [of worship] established for mankind was that at Makkah”. Kaaba is the center of the grand mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, in the form of a large square shaped building. The cloth covering the Kaaba is called AL-Kiswah, it is a sign of respect, honor and reverence to the holy house. It was said that prophet Ishmael was the first who covered al Kaaba but the proven fact was that Tuba’a AlHimyri, king of yemen was the first to cover the kaaba with different kinds of heavy cloth 390–420 CE. It was permitted that anyone who wanted to cover the Kaaba could do so freely and whenever he liked. The Kiswah used to be made of straw, from striped Yemeni cloths, from silk, Iraqi pads, Yemeni shawls or Coptic Egyptian cloth. Coverings were put over each other. When they became heavy or started to wear out they were removed and then divided among the people or buried under earth. The coverings accumulated on top of the Kaaba one layer above the other until it was feared that the Kaaba would collapse, when the Abbasid caliph Al-Mandi performed Hajj (pilgrimage) in 776 and he ordered that only one covering should remain and all other coverings should be removed. This became the normal practice adopted until now. The caliph An-Nasir (an Abbasid) covered the kaaba with green cloth and with black cloth. From there on the black cloth prevailed and became the accepted cloth for covering the Kaaba. The first Egyptian ruler who had the honor of covering the Kaaba after the Abbasid era was King Adh-Dhahir Peipers. Then, it was covered by King Al-Mudhafar, King of Yemen, in 1260. Then he continued to cover it alternately with the Kings of Egypt. At the beginning of the thirteenth century Turkey and its Sultans became responsible for the internal Kiswa of the Ka’aba. Then King Abdulaziz, king of Saudi Arabia ordered that a special factory for the Kiswa be constructed in Makkah in 1972. And the Kiswah factory was opened in the middle of that year. It was the first Kiswa for the Holy Ka’aba to be produced in Makkah and the factory became great honor for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.    In 19 76 the factory was renewed and new automated department was introduced while keeping the manual department because of its high artistic value. While keeping pace with the most modern developments the factory is still preserving the artistic manual tradition so that the Kiswa can be produced in the most elegant design.   The Kiswa has 7 stages of making:   the first stage is dyeing, natural silk is dyed in two steps, first the gum removal from the silk to prepare it for dyeing. Then the seconds step is the black or green dye. Black is for the exterior of the covering and green for the interior.    Next is the weaving, which is done in three steps:   The Preliminary Weaving, which is changing the silk skeins into cones of thread so that they can be spread on the special machines. Then comes the Manual Weaving step, In The Kiswa Factory, the manual department collaborates with the internal production department in producing the green or black embellished cloth (Jakard). The third step is the Auto Weaving, where another quantity of dyed thread are made ready for weaving, combined and interwoven by modern weaving machines. With the increase in demand, it was natural to think of automatic weaving looms. The Saudi youth operate the most sophisticated auto mated weaving machines.    The third Stage is designing, The artistic designs and the calligraphy on the Kiswa are not fixed. They are changed from time to time. The designer studies the Islamic embellishments and patterns to create the design needed.    The embellishments that will be embroidered on the Kiswa cloth are printed in the printing department.    The Fourth stage is printing, the printing is done by shaplons (silk screens).    The fifth stage is Embroidering. Which is the most important stage that characterizes the Kiswa of the Ka’aba. This unique embroidering process is accomplished by putting cotton threads in various densities on the lines and embellishments printed on the cloth stretched on the loom in a way that formulate a frame protruding on the surface of the cloth. the frames are then covered by either pure silver threads or silver threads covered with gold.The manual work is done incessantly and tirelessly to execute and bring forth an artistic masterpiece that shows extreme perfection and exactness.    The sixth stage is the Assembly of the Kiswa, The cloth for each of the four sides of the Ka’aba is cut separately depending on the width of the side. Then it is lined with a cotton cloth which has the same length and width. The edges are stitched together then the top of the cloth is fixed by thick ropes that run through nooses.The embroidered pieces of the belt, the pieces under it and the lamp shapes on each of the four sides of the Ka’aba, are fixed in the same way.
The seventh stage is the Delivery of the Kiswa to the Head Gate-keeper of the Holy Masjid. After the dawn of the ninth of Dhul-Hijja; the day the pilgrims stand on Arafat, the new Kiswa is taken to The Holy Mosque to be mounted.