KISSING THE BLACK STONE IN ISTANBUL…….

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There are three things one notices when approaching and entering a mosque in Turkey……One is it architectural grandeur or lack of it, who built it, and the feeling of spirituality that seeps from its walls and musallah.

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As we entered this mosque it was immediately apparent that it had the Master architect Sinan’s stamp on it. Every curve and niche was well thought out and reflected tawheed in a very subtle manner. It had a certain delicacy in its shape that belied the uncouth castles and churches in Europe that lavishly spill grandeur but lack the finesse that is Mimar Sinan’s signature.

It was raining gently as we alighted from the bus and made our way through the rain washed lanes of the historic part of Istanbul. The dome and the minaret peeked out of the fresh green leaves that were trying to declare spring but shivering in this sudden change in temperature.

We walked in and immediately I felt rooted by an odd combination of a sense of power and the hush of serenity inside the mosque. I of course had not read up on the mosque and its details, as I like to get a “feel” of the place before I read someone else’s “feel” and commentary.

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Right from the door I stood looking at the long, tall beautiful archway dressed in cobalt blue, carmine red and azure green tiles artfully integrated remind us of The Promised Garden for the righteous. The minbar was engraved in marble and looked down like royalty at the visitors.

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the red is from Iznik crafted ceramic tiles

The guide then led us to a low hand crafted ceiling of one of the anterooms in the back of the mosque. Here in 1578 the craftsmanship was so advanced that no glue, no nails and nothing extra had been used to hold the design together. It was an intricate jigsaw puzzle in the shape of a star with flowers and leaves woven into it. The late morning felt like afternoon and outside it had become dark with the rain.

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Celing crafted in 1578, in the cloudy mid morning light

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crafted in 1578, this ceiling lights up when light is cast on it.

“Light show” the caretaker said pulling out his penlight to few of us gathered to appreciate the art of the ceiling. Suddenly the light went on and it seemed that the fairy Godmother touched the Turkish Cinderella and her tattered worn out face transformed into this beautiful multicolored flower design threaded into the lacework of the wood. The dull ceiling was transformed into a beauty with the touch of Light.

Some one whispers to me……..” guess what this mosque has?” I look at her perplexed…….” It has parts of the black stone!”

I stand transfixed and one by one my memory banks open like the IPhone X opens with face recognition.

I recalled my Ummrah where I had been flung at the black stone and the soldier standing on the ledge above me while trying to keep back the heaving crowd had yelled to me “Yallah Hajji” I was propelled forward and bent in to kiss it……..and felt that it was many stones not one……..

How did any portion of the black stone reach this mosque?

The story is lifted from the pages of history as related in the Encyclopedia Britannica and Ismaili.net:

The Qarmatians (Arabic: قرامطة‎ Qarāmita; also transliterated Carmathians, Qarmathians, Karmathians) were a syncretic religious group that combined elements of Zoroastrianism with the Ismaili Shia Islam centered in al-Hasa (Eastern Arabia), where they established a religious utopian republic in 899 AD. (More can be read about the Ismaili  terorrist hit and run techniques in “The Assassins” by Bernard Lewis).

They are most famed for their revolt against the Abbasid Caliphate. Mecca was sacked by the sect’s leader, Abu Tahir al-Jannabi, [1] outraging the Muslim world, particularly with their theft of the Black Stone and desecration of the Zamzam Well with corpses during the Hajj season of 930 CE. [2]

The Abbasids had to pay ransom money to the terrorists to reclaim and return the black stone to its rightful place at the Kaaba. During the removal and hostage period it was broken into pieces and the eight pieces remain at the Kaaba where they are kissed by millions at Hajj.

  • Six (additional) pieces are in Istanbul, Turkey. How did these pieces get to Istanbul, it is true that the Turks did rule over what is now Saudi Arabia for many years and hold in respect and protection many historical Islamic relics. These were fragments which were rescued by the Turks and Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) knows best.
  • The Turks have protected and housed many historical Islamic relics which were in danger of falling into non Muslim hands.
  • One is displayed in the mihrab of the Blue Mosque, one above the entrance of the tomb of Suleiman the Magnificent and four in the Sokullu Sehit Mehmet Pasa Camii mosque (one over the mihrab, one below the lower pulpit, another is above the upper pulpit and the last is over the entrance door). 
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The small black rectangle is the black stone, below the arabic and above the minbar surrounded by a gold border

The morning outside was getting darker and had started to feel more like afternoon but it was not Dhuhr yet.

I looked above the mihraab and there bordered in gold was a small rectangle of the black stone, the stone from Jannah.

There is nothing more intense and overwhelming emotionally than when you actually see what you have been dying to see …………and hoping to touch. Suddenly the milling crowd of white clad men at Hajj melted into the quietude of this serene mosque whose interior was deepening with the solace of accessibility to the sacred black stone. I had been invited! I felt honored and humbled.

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That is me in the red scarf reaching up to touch the sacred black stone

One by one we climbed the stairs of the Khatib, touched it with our forefinger kissed it and were transported to another world. This, I thought to myself is how the black stone should be touched and kissed: in private, with respect, honor and serenity.

Thank you Turkey …….for respecting our Muslim relics, honoring our Muslim past, enabling our current Muslim presence, and treating us like respected guests in your land and in your mosques.

Thank you for treating us to this unforgettable afternoon in Sokullu Sehit Mehmet Pasha’s mosque where each curve of marble has been caressed by the master Mimar Sinan and thousands of heads have bowed to the Divine seeking salvation. Thank you for including me in your guests.

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Historical Note:

The Sokollu Mehmed Pasha Mosque is a 16th- century Ottoman mosque. It was designed by Ottoman imperial architect Mimar Sinan (c. 1488/1490-1588) and built for the grand vizier Sokollu Mehmed Pasha (in office 1565–1579) in 1578. It is one of the three mosques with the same name of Mimar Sinan in Istanbul.

***Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Al Madina Institute and especially to Sidi Moutesem Atiya for organizing the spiritual tour of Istanbul, where I had the opportunity to experience this visit.

4 thoughts on “KISSING THE BLACK STONE IN ISTANBUL…….

  1. As-salamu alaikum, I had the same experience when I was in Istanbul 2018. We had no idea of the pieces of the Black Stone and were so overwhelmed! May I use your photos? I was to excited to make any that day.

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