The keepers of the Kaaba key

September 08, 2017

THE guardianship of the Kaaba is still inherited by the sons of Shaybah and their successors — a tradition that has been instituted by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) after the conquest of Makkah the eighth year after Hijrah. Following the Muslim victory, the Prophet entrusted the key of the city to Uthman Bin Abi Talha and deemed the caretaking of the Kaaba to be uniquely and eternally bestowed upon the line of the sons of Shaybah.

The prophet’s words were: “Take it, Oh Bani Talha, eternally up to the Day of Resurrection, and it will not be taken from you unless by an unjust, oppressive tyrant.” This explains why this tradition has been inherited by the sons of Shaybah and their successors till present times.

The first caretaker

Islamic researcher Mohi Eddin Al-Hashemi, who specializes in the two holy mosques, notes that the story of the guardianship of the Holy Kaaba had been first instituted during the times of the Prophet Ibrahim, who with his son Ismail (peace be upon them) were ordered by Allah to raise the foundations of the Kaaba, initiating the tradition of the guardianship of the Kaaba.

The latter includes the maintenance of all matters related to the Al-Musharrafah (Holy Kaaba) ranging from its opening and closing, to preserving its immaculacy as well as monitoring its visitors. Monitoring all affairs related to the Holy Kaaba also comprises the supervision of the mausoleum of the Prophet Ibrahim.

Al-Hashimi adds that the Prophet Ibrahim entrusted the guardianship of the Kaaba to his son Ismail, who continued it until his passing. Afterward, the tradition was taken over from the sons of Ismail against their will by the tribe of Jarham (Banu Jarhma). Later on, it came also to be forcibly passed over to the tribe of Khuzaah (Banu Khuzaah), but its possession was regained by Qusai Bin Kilab Bin Murrah, who was the third great grandfather of the Prophet and a descendent of Ismail, the first to serve as the Kaaba’s caretaker.

Subsequently all matters related to the latter were entrusted to Qusai Bin Kilab. The latter had three sons namely Abd-Al-Dar the eldest (great-great grandfather of Shaybah Bin Hashim, Abd Manaf (great-great grandfather of the Prophet Muhammad) and Abd-Al-Uzza. Abd Manaf was highly honored among the tribes for his wisdom and sound discernment during his lifetime, which prompted Qusai to entrust the caretaking of the Kaaba to Abd Manaf. However, shortly before Qusai’s death as a way of honoring his eldest Abd-Al-Dar, he entrusted to him all his rights and powers including the caretaking of Kaaba.

As stated by Mohi Eddin Al-Hashimi, the caretaking of the Kaaba is inherited by the eldest son of each family and it was passed until it transferred to Uthman Bin Talha who lived during the Prophet’s times. As reported by Uthman Bin Talha on the day of victory of Islam over Makkah in the eighth year of Hijrah, the Messenger of Allah entered the city. When the Muslims were about to enter the Kaaba they found it locked. They asked who was keeping the key and they found out it was with Uthman Bin Talha. The latter was a non-believer so upon knowing about the arrival of the Prophet in Makkah, he locked the door of the holy sanctuary.

As the Prophet entered Makkah, its people accepted Islam, but Uthman was hiding. The Prophet ordered Ali Bin Abi Talib to take the key from Uthman.

Ali went to find Uthman and asked for the key but Uthman did not give it to him. Ali then snatched the key from him for the Prophet to enter the Kaaba. They opened the door and the Prophet entered the Kaaba where he prayed two rakaas.

At that time, Abbas Bin Abd Al-Muttalib, an uncle of the Prophet, was there and requested that the key must be kept with the family and then Gabriel came down with a verse, which revealed inside the Kaaba.

The Shaybah family are the keepers of the Keys, and they are the keepers because Allah desired so by revealing the only verse that was revealed inside the Kaaba. “Indeed, Allah commands you to render trusts to whom they are belong to .....” ( 4:58).

Soon as that verse was revealed, the Prophet ordered Ali to return the key to Uthman Bin Talha and excuse themselves. Ali then went to Uthman and gave back the key and presented their apologies for the wrong he had done to him by forcibly taking the key. The latter shocked Uthman, who could not believe Ali was giving back the key to him as instructed by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the conqueror of Makkah. Ali explained to him that a verse was revealed for him in which Allah instructed the Prophet to return the trust to whom it belongs to.

Al-Hashemi points out that the guardianship of the Kaaba remained with Bani Shaybah, which is bestowed upon the elders of the family until today.

The functions of the ancient caretaker were to open and lock the door of the Kaaba and to oversee its maintenance, assisting in the washing, the cleaning and supervision of the station of Abraham.

At the present time, the guardianship belongs to the sons of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zine Al Abidine Bin Abdul-Maati Al-Shaibi, who kept the honor for 43 years. When Sheikh Mohammed passed away in 1253 AH, his eldest son Abdul Kader inherited the guardianship after him, then his brothers Solomon, Ahmed and Abdullah.

Al-Hashemi says the guardianship was transferred to the next generation to Sheikh Abdul Qadir Bin Ali Bin Mohammed Bin Zine Al Abidine Al Shaibi, who died in 1351 AH after witnessing the unification of the Kingdom.

Then Mohammed Bin Mohammed Saleh Al-Shaibi became the caretaker of the Kaaba. Upon falling ill, he transferred the guardianship to Sheikh Abdullah Bin Abdul Qadir Al-Shaibi, who was succeeded by his sons Amin, Taha and then Assem.

Their cousin Talha Bin Hassan Al-Shaybi received the guardianship followed by Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah Bin Qadir Al-Shaybi who died in the month of Dhul Hijjah in 1431 AH. The guardianship moved to Sheikh Abdul Qadir Bin Taha Al-Shaybi who served the Kaaba for four years. His reign witnessed the change of the Kaaba’s lock by the order of King Abdullah.

Prince Khaled Al-Faisal handed Sheikh Abdul Qadir the lock on behalf of the King on the occasion of the cleaning of the Kaaba. He witnessed the installation of a lock for the inner repentance door of the Kaaba. When Sheikh Abdul Qadir died after a long battle with disease, his cousin Dr. Saleh Bin Zain Al-Abidine Al-Shaybi became the caretaker.

At present, the functions of the caretaker were limited to the opening and closing of the Kaaba. The Royal Court and the Ministry of the Interior and emergency forces coordinate with him if there are any state guests.

The Kaaba is cleaned annually on the 15th of Muharram each year. After the issuance of a Royal Order, the Emirate of Makkah coordinates with the caretaker about the arrangements.

In addition, the head caretaker receives the new cladding of the Kaaba on the first of Dhul Hijjah to be installed on the day of Arafat by the tailors and specialists of the King Abdul Aziz Complex for cladding.

The ceremony of handing over the cladding of the Kaaba takes place at the King Abdul Aziz Complex and is held in the presence of the head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques Affairs alongside the director of the Complex and a large gathering of officials.

— Al-Arabiya English

September 08, 2017
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