Thanwi: Meaning of Ka’ba ‘moving’ in honor of the righteous

The great jurist and spiritual master of the past century Maulana Muhammad Ashraf Ali Thanwi (d. 1943)  has addressed the query about narratives of Ka’ba moving from its place in honor of some righteous persons.

It is said about some saints that when they reached Makkah they found that Ka’ba was not there. Amazed at it, they prayed to Allah to be told of the whereabouts of Ka’ba. Once made to realize they saw that a pious person was coming and Ka’ba had gone to receive him.

This narrative was found fault with by three groups;

    1. Those who have nothing to do with religion. They belied it, laughed at those who narrated it and dubbed them as superstitious.
    2. Those followers of the religion who just view things superficially. Such people rejected it as the hallucinations of the mystics.
    3. The existentialists/empiricists. They said it is against reason and if it had so happened history must have had some record of such happenings and we have not found any such record.

[In order to understand the idea] know that there is the appearance (soorat) of Ka’ba and there is spirit (rooh) of Ka’ba. Its spirit is a special ‘spiritual illumination’ (tajalli) of which the physical structure of Ka’ba is a manifestation. Therefore, for the righteous people who saw that Ka’ba was not at its place means that spiritual illumination of Ka’ba was [to their mystic senses] focusing not on the pilgrims but on those righteous persons.

Anyway, there were pious people towards whom Ka’ba itself turned [i.e. its spiritual illumination was focused towards them] but for the purpose of Hajj they had travel to Ka’ba by themselves.”

 Ashraf Ali Thanwi, Ashraf al-Jawab, (Karachi: Maktaba ‘Umar Farooq, n.d.) 314

Whether or not one opts to enter the realm of such mystical interpretation it has to be accepted that there is nothing particularly objectionable in this  idea. If some gnostic (‘arif) tends to put things this way there is no reason to take exception to it for it neither contradicts any established article of the faith nor subterfuges the shariah precepts and obligations.

Allah knows the best!

— Ahmad Shamil

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