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KISWA


Kiswa is the covering of the Kaba of Masjid E Haram in Makkah. The Kiswa is made of pure natural silk dyed in black. On this silk are engraved the phrases: " 0' Allah, There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. The Most Loving, the Benefactor. Glory be to Allah and Praise be to Allah and Glory is to Allah the Great". The cloth is fourteen meters high. On the top third of the cloth, there is the Kiswa belt which is ninety-five centimeters wide and for- ty-five meters long. It consists of sixteen pieces and surrounds the Kiswa from all sides. The belt is embroidered with protruding designs that are enameled with silver threads covered with gold. Some Quranic aayaath are written on it in Ath-Thuluth style of Arabic calligraphy. Under the belt, at each corner of the Ka'aba, Surah of Ikhlas (Purity of Faith) is written inside a circle surrounded by a square shape of Islamic embellishment. At the same height, also under the belt, there are six verses of the Quran. Each of these ayath is written in a separate frame. On the areas separating these frames there is a shape of a lamp on which either of the following Phrases is written:"O' you The Alive The Self Subsisting". "The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful", or "Praise be to Allah". All that is written under the belt is in Ath- Thuluth style of handwriting, embroidered in protruding designs and interwoven with silver threads covered with gold. These designs were introduced during the Saudi reign. Each separate side of the Ka'aba has certain Quranic aayaath written on it. The four sides are: the side of Al-Multazam, the side of AlHijr, the side facing the Door of Ibraheem, and the side between the Two Corners. [1] [2]

 

Table of Contents

 

History

Before and During Prophet Muhammad’s times

The history of the Kiswa is part of the history of The Ka'aba. It was said that Prophet Ishmael (peace be upon him) covered the Ka'aba. It was also mentioned that Adnan son of A'ad, the great grandfather of Prophet Muhammad () was the first man to cover the Ka'aba with cloth. But the proven fact was that Tuba'a Al-Hemyari, King of Yemen, was the first to cover the Ka'aba with different kinds of heavy rough cloth. After Tuba'a, many people in pre-Islamic times covered the Ka'aba.  The Kiswa used to be made of straw, from striped Yemeni cloths, from silk, Iraqi pads, Yemeni shawls or Coptic Egyptian cloth. All these types of textile had been known in the pre-Islamic times. Coverings were put over each other. When they became heavy or started to wear out they were re- moved and then divided among the people or buried under the earth. 

 

It was natural that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not partici- pate in the covering of the Ka'aba before the conquering of Makkah as the polytheists would not allow him. The prophet (peace be upon him) kept the Kiswa and did not replace it until it caught fire bacause of a woman who tried to perfume the Ka'aba with burning incense. Then, the Prophet (peace be upon him) covered it with Yemeni cloth. Then the righteous caliphs after the Prophet (peace be upon him) covered the Ka'aba with Coptic cloth.

 

Time of Caliphates

It has been confirmed that Mu'awya Bin Abi Sufyan(R) used to cover the Ka'aba with silk brocade on the occasion of Ashura and with Coptic cloth at the end of Ramadan. Then it was covered with the same material by Yaziid Bin Mu'awya, Bin Az-Zubair, and Abdul Malik Bin Marwan. The coverings accumulated on top of the Ka'aba one layer above the other until it was feared that the Ka'aba would collapse. When the Abbaside caliph Al-Mandi performed Hajj in 160H. he ordered that only one covering should remain and all other coverings should be removed. This became the normal practice adopt- ed until now. The Caliph Mamuun used to cover the Ka'aba three times a year: with red silk brocade on the eighth of Dhul-Hijja, with white Coptic cloth on the first of Rajab and with silk brocade on the twenty ninth of Ramadam. The caliph An-Nasir (an Abbaside) covered it with green cloth and with black cloth. From thereon the black cloth prevailed and became the accepted cloth for covering the Ka'aba. The first Egyptian ruler who had the honor of covering the Ka'aba after the Abbaside era was King Adh-Dhahir Peipers. Then, it was covered by King Al-Mudhafar, King of Yemen, in 659H. Then he continued to cover it alternately with the Kings of Egypt. In 810H, the embellished curtain put on the door of Ka'aba was introduced. It is called Al-Burqu' (the veil). It was discontinued be- tween the years 816H.- 818H., but from 819H. onward it was reintro- duced again. In 751H. King Al-Saleh Ishmael son of Nasser Qalwuun King of Egypt donated an endowment in the form of black Kiswa for the Ka'aba once a year and a green covering for the Phophet's Chamber in the Prophet's Mosque once every five years. At the beginning of  the thirteenth century, Khedaiwi Muhammad Al-Basha discontinued this endowment and the expenses of Kiswa became the responsibility of the government. hence, Turkey and its Sultans became responsible for the internal Kiswa of the Ka'aba.

 

During Saudi Reign

Since King AbdulAziz Bin Abdulrahman Al-Saud was greatly concerned about taking care of the Ka'aba, his Majesty ordered that a special factory for the Kiswa be constructed in Makkah in Muharram 1346AH. Everything concerning this project was made available. The factory was opened in the middle of that year. It was the first Kiswa for the Ka'aba to be produced in Makkah and the factory became great honor for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In order to perfect the work and show it in the most favorable image that suits the sacredness of the Ka'aba; On July 1, 1927, King Abdulaziz ordered the construction of a special factory to be exclusively devoted to the manufacture of the Kiswa in Ajyad district in Makkah Al-Mukarramah.

 

This factory, which was built on an area of 1,500 square meters, was the first of its kind to be set up in Makkah. In 1962, King Saud ordered that a house to manufacture the Kiswa should be set up in Makkah.

 

Later in 1977, the new Kiswa factory at Umm Al-Jud in Makkah was inaugurated during the reign of King Khaled, although the ground-breaking ceremony took place during the era of King Faisal. About 200 artisans combine their talents to manufacture the Kiswa, in addition to the factory’s administrative staff, which was placed under the supervision of the General Presidency of the Two sacred Mosques in 1993. About 670 kg of pure silk is required to weave the Kiswa, which is then dyed black. The thickness of the silk cloth should be 1.37 mm, and it is lined on the inside by strong white cotton cloth. It was supplied with modern machines to prepare the textile. A new automated department was intro- duced while keeping the manual department because of its high artistic value. The factory while keeping pace with the most modern developments is still preserving the artistic manual tradition so that the Kiswa can be produced in the most elegant design. [3]

 

Its Belt

The Belt, It consists of four pieces:

The First Piece : In the name of Allah, the Merciful the Compassion- ate {{ Remember We made the House a venue of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take you the Shrine of Abraham as a place of prayer}}. (289 cm.) 

 

The Second Piece: {{ And We Covenanted with Abraham and Ishmael, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer}} (303 cm) 

 

The Third Piece: {{And remember Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House (with this prayer): " Our Lord! Ac- cept (this service) from us: For You are the All-Hearing , the All- Knowing)} (314 cm) 

 

The Fourth Piece: (("Our Lord! make of us Muslims, bowing to Your (Will), and of our progeny a people Muslim, bowing to Your (Will); And show us our places for the celebration of (due) rites; and turn unto us (in Mercy); for You are the Oft-Returning, Most Merciful}} (338 cm) 


B-Below the Belt:
This consists of the presentation statement, Su- rah of Ikhlas, and three lamp shapes. First is the following presentation statements:" This Kiswa is made in the Makkah and offered as a gift to Ka'aba by the Custo- dian of the Two Sacred Mosques King Fahad Bin Abdulaziz. (490 cm) 

 

In addition to that statement, there are also: One Surah of Ikhlas (82 cm x 85 cm.) and three lamp shapes as follows: 1- "Praise be to Allah the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds". (58 cm. x 72 cm.) 2 - - 0' you the Alive the Self-Sustaining" (65 cm.x 46 cm.) 3- "O' you Most Gracious, Most Merciful" (65 cm. x 46 cm.) [4]

 

Manufacturing stages

Dyeing

This is the first stage of production in the factory. The Dyeing Department is provided with the best types of natural silk in the world (provided in the shape of raw skeins of threads covered with a layer of natural gum called sarcenet). This gives the silk a kind of yellowish color. The skein of threads which weighs about 100 grams, is 3000 meters long and 76 cm. high. It is made exclusively by a specialized international company.

 

Weaving Stages

A- Preliminary Weaving:

Changing the silk skeins into cones of thread so that they can be spread on the special machines is done by arranging the longitudinal threads of the textiles side by side on a cylinder called the warp folder. This stage is called warping. Then, the ends of the threads are passed through the wires of the combs of the loom. This stage is called junctionning. The latitudinal threads (weft) are wound round a special wheel called reel, fixed inside the shuttle. The shuttle moves inside the longitudinal thread (the warp) to the left and to the right to make the textile. In the past, these steps were done manually. But now, after the continuous developments in production methods, the threads find their way to manual or mechanical weaving machines. 

 

B- ManualWeaving:

 The value of the manually woven cloth is well known internationally. Many would compete to obtain it despite the recent developments in weaving cloth by machines. In The Kiswa Factory, the manual department collaborates with the internal production department in producing I, the green or black embellished cloth (Jakard). This is done carefully and painstskingly in an elaborate and patient work. The result is masterpiece of artistic textile that glorifies Allah with the groups of circumambulators. The following phrase is written thereon: ("There is no God but Allah and Muhammad (peace be upon him ) is the Messenger of Allah"). 

 

C- AutoWeaving:

Another quantity of dyed thread is made ready for weaving, combined and interwoven by modern weaving machines. Patterned cloth is made on the Jakard machines while plain cloth is made on the Doby ones. With the increase in demand, it was natural that the people responsible for the operation of the factory should think of automatic weaving looms. The Saudi youth can now operate the most sophisticated auto mated weaving machines, so that the Kiswa factory can keep pace with the international developments in the fields of science and tech- nology. By so doing, the production will be increased, and the Saudi labor force shall assume the responsibility of developing the textile in- dustry in Saudi Arabia. The glorious past led to a unique future and contemporary production that represents the dawn of a developing weaving industry in the kiswa factory in Makkah.

 

Designing

The artistic designs and the calligraphy on the Kiswa are not fixed. They are changed from time to time in a continuous search for the better. The designer studies the Islamic embellishments and patterns, and records his ideas in sketches to be shown to the competent authorities. Then, the well-examined designs are drawn carefully in the required space. 

 

After it is colored and shaded, a permission for execution is given by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to his excellency the Director General for the Affairs of the Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah. The designs contain the embellishment and embroidered scripts on the belt and the curtain. The protruding Jakard patterns on the outside and inside surfaces of the Kiswa are designed in the same way. Special designs are put on special blocks of paper. 

 

These designs are printed on pieces of special carton which are mounted on the Jakard machine where the holes allow the up and down movements of the threads to formulate the designed embellishments and the accompanying inscriptions. 

 

The permission of His Ma- jesty the King is sought for any design or modification thereon. The embellishments that will be embroidered on the Kiswa cloth are printed in the printing department which was founded in 1399H. This method replaced the old method which depended on sprinkling powder and lime on the engraved pattern and stamping these patterns on the cloth.

 

Printing

In the Printing Department the weaving machine is prepared first. The weaving machine consists of two parallel sides of strong wood. Stretched between these two sides is a rough fabric (lining) on which blank black silk is fixed. On this black silk the belt of the Kiswa, the curtain of the door of the Ka'aba and all other embellishments are printed. 

 

The printing is done by shaplons (silk screens). The preparation of these silk screens requires great artistic effort that cannot be described here in detail. 
Generally, the shaplon (screen) is a kind of frame on which a nylon or silk cloth with open bores is stretched. To make the shaplon a printing mould all bores should be blocked except those required for the lines and patterns of the designs to be printed. This is done by spreading on the shaplon a chemical substance that has the property of congealing when exposed to light; hence it is spread and dried in the dark. 

 

The design required is printed on black, transparent plastic to act as a negative film. This film is photographed and projected on the silk screen, exposing both to the light for several minutes. The light penetrates through the whole surface of the film except for the parts marked by the black color. After photographing and washing, the spread substance falls off these parts and remains only on the open bored silk. At this stage the shaplon becomes sketched mould ready for printing the design on the cloth hundreds of times. This is done by using some types of ink prepared in this department to fall through the open bores of the shaplon, delineating the threads and the designs to be printed accurately. 

 

Embroidering

After the production of the cloth and the printing of the inscriptions on that cloth as explained above, we come to the most important stage that characterizes the Kiswa of the Ka'aba. It is the stage of embroidering the cloth with golden and silver threads. 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.

 

Those frames are embroidered with yellow cotton thread for the patterns that will be embellished with golden threads and with white cotton threads for the patterns that will be embellished with silver threads in parallel directions and with extreme dexterity.

 

These basic protruding frames are then covered by either pure silver threads or silver threads covered with gold. These pattern frames rise to about two centimeters above the cloth level which makes it very difficult to execute by using machines. 

The manual work is done incessantly and tirelessly to execute and bring forth an artistic masterpiece that shows extreme perfection and exactness. Thus, the Kiswa becomes ready to be put on the Ka'aba on the ninth of Dhul-Hijja, the day on which pilgrims stand on 'Arafat Mount. When they pour down from Arafat and come down to the Holy Mosque to perform the circumambulation of Pouring-Down, they see the Ka'aba in its magnificent new garment. [5]

 

See also

Kaba; Makkah; Masjid E Haram; Umrah; Hajj; Prophet Muhammad; DhulHijjah;

 

References

[1] http://www.islamhelpline.net/node/7651

[2] http://factory.gph.gov.sa/en/index.html

[3] http://factory.gph.gov.sa/en/index.html

[4] http://factory.gph.gov.sa/en/index.html

[5] http://factory.gph.gov.sa/en/index.html

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