Shedding Light on the Ka’bah’s Black Stone in Mecca

By: Amira El Zein  

This paper analyzes a particular sacred object in Islam, namely the Black Stone placed in the Ka’bah, the sacred shrine for Muslims. The paper argues that the symbols embedded in the Black Stone could be better deciphered through the quasi-universal concept of pairing heaven and earth, where what is below on earth is similar to what is above in heaven. Most religions such as Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam look at their temples as mere copies of celestial ones. Thus, the earthly Ka’bah in Mecca reflects the original one in heaven. Moreover, the Black Stone in the Ka’bah is believed to have come from Paradise, as the primary sources indicate. This paper argues further that it is imperative to look at the various narratives regarding the Black Stone in three different layers of Islam: orthodox Islam, popular Islam, and mystical Islam in order to unearth continuities and discrepancies among these three different accounts and thus offer a comprehensive picture of this sacred object in Islam. My approach is interdisciplinary inasmuch as it relies on Jungian psychology (Joseph Campbell, Marie-Louise von Franz), phenomenology and history of religions (Mircea Eliade), Comparative religion, and the relation between astronomy, cosmology, and sacred places (Nicholas Campion, Lindsay Jones, and Philip Sheldrake).

Black Stone, Mecca, Celestial Temple, Earthly Temple, Heaven and Earth
Religious Foundations
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Amira El Zein

Associate Professor, Arabic Literature and Culture, Georgetown University in Qatar, Qatar