Rumi’s Garden, an online Islamic store, was partially founded to make sacred relics, such as the Blessed Kiswah of the Holy Ka’aba and the Kiswah al Saadat of the Blessed Chamber of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (Masjid an Nabawi), available to the general public at affordable prices. With the grace of God, we have also been able to recreate exact relic replicas of other sacred objects, such as the Blessed Footprint of the Prophet ﷺ and The Ashtiname Covenant which the Prophet ﷺ sealed with his Blessed Palm print.
The idea behind the Islamic Relics Hub project is to spread information to allow people to understand the importance of these sacred objects and their function both on a personal level and as a greater Muslim community. Indeed, relics, such as the Ka’aba Kiswah, is evidence before our eyes that we all share one belief and a common history.
In the age we live in, learning about our rich heritage and reclaiming it as part of who we are as Muslims is an invaluable gift to be able share with the men, women and children of our Ummah.
Since we implemented the Rumi’s Garden project, we have received many questions concerning the Blessed Kiswah as a result of the lack of information on the internet. Furthermore, myths have come to exist about the Kiswah, many of which are simply untrue.
For this article, which will become part of a series, I hope to debunk certain myths about Islamic sacred relics, with a focus on the Holy Ka’aba Kiswah.
Rumi's Garden has donated many relics and relic replicas to various mashayakh, mosques, orphanages, universities, madrasahs and exhibitions around the world. View our donations here.
Myth #1: The Ka’aba Kiswah is simply a cloth and carries no meaning.
"Upon the earth are signs for those possessing certainty" (52:20)
To see the true meaning behind the created world is a an important concept emphasized in the Holy Quran. In fact, training the mind and the heart to recognise signs is essential for the spiritual seeker.
The Holy Ka’aba itself, and it’s beautiful veil, is full of symbolism and this can be seen in the many descriptions available in traditional Islamic literature.
To paraphrase one scholar, the Holy Ka’aba can be described to be like a living body, protecting its mysteries with the black cloth - the Kiswah. The darkness of the Kiswah symbolises intensity of light; a light so bright that it contains and transcends all colors and forms. The golden letters of the Noble Quran embellish the black Kiswah like the radiance of the sun. Amongst other symbols, the gold represents the Knowing Heart of the believer - free from all impurities.
This is simply one possible interpretation of what the Kiswah can symbolize. In a beautiful article entitled ‘Unveiling the Ka’aba’, Wolfson gives another example:
“The sacred covering of the Ka’aba has the potential to remind the pilgrim that truth exceeds the letters, and yet it is only by way of the letters that one accesses truth. The goal of the path, as Sufīs have continually emphasized for centuries, is to lift the veil to see the face, but it is only through the veil that one can see the face. To see with no veil, therefore, is to see that there is no seeing without a veil, a seeing that liberates the mind of the fanciful urge to posit a face beyond the veil.”
Myth 2: Owning a Blessed Kiswah, a relic or a relic replica is shirk (idolatry). Veneration of relics is polytheism.
In a very powerful fatwa issued by al Azhar’s Dar al-Ifta, it was made clear that the position of venerating other than God is permissible in Islam, but with a particular limitation. This limitation is that the veneration does not reach the degree that one associates partners with God as was done in the Jahiliyya period prior to Islam. In the time of Jahiliyya, the unbelievers used to worship false gods, often made of stones. These deities that were worshipped, were believed to have the power to benefit and inflict harm in themselves and were venerated, to the exclusion of God.
However, the veneration of things that are worthy of respect, even if they are inanimate, does not fall into the category of taking an associate with God (Do not most of us venerate our parents and maybe even carry a photo of them in our wallets or phones?)
This misunderstanding of what shirk is fundamentally comes from the denial of God's Immanence in Wahabi ideology. In reality, God, on the one hand, is the “Other” (Huwa) who infinitely transcends the world and creation; On the other hand, the world is His manifestation in which He is present for ‘Wheresoever you turn, there is the Face of God.’ (2:115). This implies that without God’s immanence, the world would be reduced to nothing, and that the world – and all that it contains – is necessarily sign. A sign therefore can never be an idol, unless in the mind of the venerator, the true meaning of the sign is lost.
There are even examples of the Prophet ﷺ himself venerating objects which many of us may think of as being inanimate.
In one hadith, cited by Dar al-Ifta, it was reported that upon seeing the Ka'aba, the Prophet ﷺ would raise his blessed hands and say, "O Allah! Increase this House (Ka'aba) in honor, greatness, nobility and majesty" (al-Baihaqi). Furthermore, Ikrimah Ibn Abu Jahl has said that the Prophet ﷺ used to press the a Quran copy to his face and say: "The book of my Lord, the Book of my Lord”.
These incidents, amongst many other, make it clear that venerating what God venerates is equivalent to veneration through God. The Quran says: “And whoever honors the symbols of Allah - indeed, it is from the reverence of hearts" (22:32). Furthermore, obeying the commands of the Apostle of God ﷺ is to obey God Himself; The Quran says, "He who obeys the Messenger, has obeyed Allah" (4:80).
The fatwa by Dar al Ifta gives a beautiful example of how the angels prostrated to Prophet Adam, by the order of God. This act was one of faith and tawhid (belief in the indivisible oneness of God). The idolaters, however, prostrated in front of their false deities and are damned for their sin. What makes the prostration of the angels different to those prostrating idolaters since both were bowing towards an object other than God? The difference simply lies in the intention; The angels believed in the one true Reality, while the non-believers worshipped false gods and therefore associated partners with Him.
This brings us to the question of baraka (God’s Blessings and Grace). Al Azhar has asserted that to believe that baraka exists through a person or object has nothing to do with idolatry or disbelief. It also does not lead to shirk since a true understanding of baraka always leads back to its source which is God Himself. It only becomes shirk when one disassociates the baraka from God which is actually hardly ever the case with Muslims.
Most Muslims fundamentally believe that God is the one who emanates and creates baraka and that baraka is found through objects and persons and not from them. This, in a very real sense, is true tawhid and the essence of monotheism since God, by definition, is Omnipotent. In Arabic theological language, the theological term for the understanding of this concept is tawheed al-af’al (unity of action).
Myth 3: The Kiswah should be given out for free since the Saudi Arabia distributes it for no money after the Hajj season.
Every year, after Hajj season, in a tradition started by Sayidna Umar ibn al-Khattab, the Blessed Kiswah of the Holy Kaaba is cut up and distributed. However, unlike the days of Sayyidna Umar, it is now given to VIPs, dignitaries and organizations that are involved in the Hajj business. It is generally very hard for a regular Muslim to come across an authentic Kiswah.
Very often the people who receive these Blessed Kiswah pieces end up selling them, sometimes for extortionate amount of money. Others, sell their pieces to various collectors or give them to certain trusts.
Here is where Rumi’s Garden comes in! We have formed a solid network of reliable Islamic relic collectors who are willing to sell pieces of the Kiswahs they own in order for us to make it more available to the general public.
Myth 4: The Ka’aba Kiswah is completely handmade
Unlike the days of old when the Holy Ka’aba Kiswah was made by wooden handlooms, the process of making the black cloth is now highly mechanized. The process involves the purchase of extremely high quality textiles from Italy and Germany which is washed in special detergents in order for to remove wax. The cloth is then cooked to a temperature of 90 degrees celsius (194 Fahrenheit) and washed several times to bring out its natural colour. The black dye is then applied.
As to the golden qandeels, Samadiyyas and the Holy Ka’aba belts, they are embroidered by hand, by master craftsmen and their assistants, although computers are used to ease the design process. The threads are made from silver and plated with gold. Approximately 20 KG of gold is used for the embroidery.
Myth 5: One miracle of the Blessed Kiswah is that it does not burn
Absolutely not! Do not burn your Blessed Kiswah! And do not try this at home!
The Kiswah burns if you take a flame to it. One of the methods some people use to verify whether a Kiswah is real or a replica, is to do a burn test. When natural materials burn, it turns to ash and leaves a natural smell. When it is mixed with synthetic material, such as polyester, it clumps up into a ball, becomes hard and stinks of burnt plastic.
We at Rumi’s Garden really disapprove of this method of burning Blessed Kiswahs because it does show extreme disrespect towards the relic. Even a replica should be respected in our eyes since each piece was crafted with love and contains the name of God.
There are other ways to test for the authenticity of a Kiswah and we shall explain this process in the our next article, God willing.
Prayer mat size carpets from the Blessed Rawdah in Masjid an Nabawi and the Holy Ka'aba are available at Rumi's Garden. Click here to purchase.
To visit Rumi's Garden online Islamic store click here.
We sell replicas of the Prophet Muhammads' (PBUH) blessed footprint, Kaaba kiswahs, kiswahs from the Prophet Muhammed's holy chamber in Medina, carpets from Riad al Jannah, bakhoor, incense burners, Muslim prayer beads and much more!