Inside the Kaaba

Muslims face the Kaaba five times a day in prayer, no matter where they are in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people turn towards this immense cube (which is what “Kaaba” means).

Did you know that it isn’t solid? It has a place to worship inside. The Kaaba is a mosque, a holy house. It is said to have been originally built by Adam and Eve, then restored by Abraham and Ishmael, as the very first place to worship the One God, who Muslims call Allah.

The interior is 13 m (43 feet) high, and the sides are about 10.15 m (33.3 ft) by 8.24 m (27 ft). There are no windows but there are lanterns.

241b4f20kaaba4

These are screenshots from a 3D animation of the interior.

kaaba 4

kaaba 3

This is a top-down map of it.

kaaba-plan

These are cutaway illustrations.

Kaaba inside

What is inside the Kaaba

What is inside the Kaaba

The Kaaba used to be opened twice a week for anyone to pray inside. But now it is opened just twice a year, and then for only dignitaries and exclusive guests, who enter to ceremonially clean it. The door is 2.13 m (7 feet) above ground. There is a wooden staircase on wheels that is used to reach the door.

The key is kept by one tribe. Here are pictures of the key.

k key

k key2

This is all very interesting, but I think this is the most interesting part– if you are inside the Kaaba, what direction do you pray? You are in the center of the center of worship.

The 12th century Sufi mystic and friend of the poet Rumi, Shams of Tabriz said – “The Kaaba is in the middle of the world. All faces turn toward it. See! Each is worshipping the soul of each.”

Now try this. Visualize that you are inside the Kaaba every time you pray, no matter where you are, no matter what faith tradition you practice. You are in the epicenter. You are in the eye of the storm. You are in the heart of the Creator. You are in the first holy place ever made by human hands. Hold that feeling in your heart.  You don’t have to face any direction.  Your prayers go directly to God, right where you are.

 

(Pictures and information are from Wikipedia and other online sources. All copyright belongs to the original owner. Used for educational uses only.)

Advertisements

Prayers in Japanese

He’d always wanted to go to Japan. Many long years he studied the language, the culture. He made sure he wouldn’t be “that American”, the one who talks too loudly, too much, and always in English. That American was always asking for directions, always crossing over some invisible line, some taboo. That American made him want to say he was from Canada, or England, or anywhere else that he could pretend to be from.
He looked Swedish, with his shock of snow blonde hair and six-foot frame, but he couldn’t claim a home he’d never been to. He was descended from a long line of Swedes, but he’d only gotten the genes and not the language or the accent. Even his last name had been assimilated, Americanized to fit in. He couldn’t pretend for long. Once anyone heard his Midwestern accent or saw his passport, the jig was up.
So he blended in other ways. Learned how to not offend. Learned their habits. He always bowed lower. He always wore the right shoes, even the special bathroom slippers. It was important not to stick out any more that he had to.
He hoped that even if he couldn’t blend in physically, he could blend in culturally. Even if you look Japanese, you’ll stick out if you break the rules. He wanted to lay low as long as possible, hoping they wouldn’t notice him after long. This was the only chance to get to stay.
He wanted to see all the temples, praying at every one in the country. This was why he had to not get noticed. Going to just a few temples wouldn’t do. He had to go to every one. Maybe then he would get an answer to his prayer.
He had never spoken of it to anyone, never written it down. He didn’t want to jinx it, to have a self-fulfilling prayer. Or was it prophecy? He forgot. All he knew for sure was that it would only count if his prayer was answered through divine means. Anything else was sure not to last.

Passover is near

The Festival of Passover was approaching, so many people traveled from the countryside up to Jerusalem beforehand to purify themselves. They were hoping to see Jesus. While they were standing in the Temple complex they asked each other “Do you think he’ll come to the Festival or not?” The Pharisees and the chief priests had ordered anyone who knew where Jesus was to tell them, because they wanted to have him arrested.

JN 11:55-57

The question about the Messiah

Jesus asked this question while he taught in the Temple complex, “Why do the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? Inspired by the Holy Spirit, David says in the Psalms ‘God said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I place your enemies under your feet.’ Since David called him his Lord, how can the Messiah be his son?” The large crowd was delighted with this teaching.

MT 22:41-46, MK 12:35-37, LK 20:41-44

God was in this place.

Genesis 28:10-22 (HCSB)
10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He reached a certain place and spent the night there because the sun had set. He took one of the stones from the place, put it there at his head, and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground with its top reaching heaven, and God’s angels were going up and down on it. 13 Yahweh was standing there beside him, saying, “I am Yahweh, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land that you are now sleeping on. 14 Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! This is none other than the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.” 18 Early in the morning Jacob took the stone that was near his head and set it up as a marker. He poured oil on top of it 19 and named the place Bethel, though previously the city was named Luz. 20 Then Jacob made a vow: “If God will be with me and watch over me on this journey, if He provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God. 22 This stone that I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give me.”

According to Rabbi Lawrence Kushner in his book “God Was in This Place & I, i Did Not Know: Finding Self, Spirituality and Ultimate Meaning”, the quote from Jacob in verse 16 is more accurately translated as “God was in this place and I, I did not know.” Note that the word “I” is used twice. “God was in this place and I” is said, then “I did not know.”

Also note that the angels were going up and down – not down and up. This is in verse 12. They are already here on earth, going up to heaven. They aren’t just up there, coming down to us. They are here, with us. God came down to be with Jacob and stood next to him.

God is here, with us. God sends messengers to be with us, intermediaries. They are already here, we just can’t see it.

Perhaps what Jacob was saying was that God was here with me, all along. I was unaware of it.

So Jacob (not yet named Israel) set up a rock – an altar. Because he was altered. His perception was changed. He wanted to remember – this place is special. God was here. Here was where I woke up.

Yet it became A place, rather than an idea that God is with you. Jewish tradition says that same place was where Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac, many years before. It also says that it became the site to the Holy of Holies in the Holy Temple, many years later. It became a fixed place – not an idea. God’s presence was there, and only there, not everywhere. This is a very limiting and dangerous idea.

Let us see what Jesus said thousands of years later – This is when he calls Philip to be his disciple. Note at the end what he says to Nathanael, Philip’s friend.

John 1:43-51 (HCSB)
43 The next day He decided to leave for Galilee. Jesus found Philip and told him, “Follow Me!” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law (and so did the prophets): Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth!” 46 “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael asked him. “Come and see,” Philip answered. 47 Then Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said about him, “Here is a true Israelite; no deceit is in him.” 48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” Jesus answered. 49 “Rabbi,” Nathanael replied, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus responded to him, “Do you believe only because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then He said, “I assure you: You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Note that Jesus says in verse 51 that the angels will be “ascending and descending” – going up and down, exactly the same as Jacob. Jesus knew the scriptures well, and he too noted that God’s messengers weren’t just coming down to us. They are already here with us.

God’s presence is already here, with us, right now. Don’t set up an altar. Here isn’t the place. Everywhere is the place.

Paying the Temple tax

They came to Capernaum, and the people who collected the double drachma tax for Temple maintenance approached Peter and said “Doesn’t your teacher pay the double drachma tax?”

Peter answered “Yes.”

When he went to the house, Jesus started talking about what had just happened before Peter had a chance to. “What do you think Simon Peter? Do earthly kings collect taxes from their sons or from strangers?”

“From strangers” he answered.

“Then the sons owe nothing. But so we won’t annoy them, do this. Go cast your fishing line into the sea and catch the first fish that comes up. You’ll find a coin in its mouth. Give it to them to pay the tax for me and you.”

MT 17:24-27

The escape and return of the Holy Family

The flight into Egypt.

The Magi left, and an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joseph in a dream. The angel said “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the baby and his mother and stay there until I tell you it is safe to return. Herod is about to search for the child to kill him.”

That very night he got up, and taking Mary and the child, escaped to Egypt. They stayed there until King Herod died. This fulfilled the prophecy of Hosea who said: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

MT 2:13-15

The massacre of the innocents

Herod flew into a rage when he realized that the Magi had outwitted him. He gave orders that all male children who were two years or less who lived in and around Bethlehem were to be massacred. This was because the Magi had told him that the star first appeared two years earlier.

This fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah who said “Cries of tears and mourning were heard in Ramah, Rachel weeping for her children, and she was unable to be consoled because they are dead.”

MT 2:16-18

The return to Nazareth.

Herod died, and an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph while he was in Egypt, saying “Get up! Take the child and his mother and return to Israel, because those who wanted to kill the child are dead.”

Joseph immediately traveled to Israel with Jesus and Mary. While on the way he learned that Herod’s son, Archelaus, was king over Judea, so he was afraid to travel there. He was warned in a dream as well, so he went to Galilee instead and settled in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled the words of the prophets who said “He will be called a Nazarene.”

MT 2:19-23

Jesus grew up in Nazareth, becoming strong, wise, and filled with God’s grace.

LK 2:40

In his father’s house.

The family travel to Jerusalem for the Passover festival every year. When he was 12 years old, Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem while his family traveled back home to Nazareth. His parents didn’t notice his absence the first day because they thought he was walking with friends among all the other travelers. Then they began to look for him among their friends and relatives. Not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to continue their search. They finally found him after three days. He was sitting among the teachers in the Temple complex, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him talk was amazed at the depth of his understanding and answers. His parents were astonished when they saw him.

Mary said “Son! Why have you treated us this way? Your father and I have been worried sick looking for you.” Jesus replied “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house?” But they didn’t understand what he was saying.

Then he returned to Nazareth and obeyed them, and Mary stored up this story in her heart. Jesus grew in wisdom and height, as well as in favor with God and people.

LK 2:41-52