The Kaaba is the first place of worship, which God commanded Abraham and Ishmael to build over four thousand years ago. The building was constructed of stone on what many believe was the original site of a sanctuary established by Adam. The story of the building of the Kaaba is related in the Qur’an thus:
"And remember Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the (Sacred) House, (saying): ‘Our Lord, accept it from us, for You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing. Our Lord, make us those who submit to You and of our descendants a people who submit to You. And show us our rites, and forgive us. Indeed, You are the Forgiving, the Compassionate." Qur'an (2:127-128) "Remember We made the House a place of gathering for people, and of security. And you take the Station of Abraham as a place for prayer. And We covenanted with Abraham and Ishmael that they should sanctify My House for those who circumambulate it or use it as a retreat, or bow or prostrate themselves (there in worship)." Qur'an (2:125)
The Kaaba is situated inside the compound of the Sacred Mosque in the center of the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. It is draped with a woven black covering embellished with Qur’anic verses embroidered in gold. This covering is replaced annually with a new one.
Because of its unique significance as the first house of worship of God, Islam prescribes that Muslims face the direction of the Kaaba whenever they perform prayer. This direction of the Kaaba from any place on earth is known as the Qiblah. Since Prophet Muhammed was sent to unite all of humanity in the worship of the One True God, the Qiblah was set to stand as a symbol of complete unity. Hence millions of Muslims in every part of the world turn their faces toward the same central point five times a day as they offer their worship to God. Since at all times some people in some parts of the world are engaged in prayer, the cycle of worship with its focus toward the Sacred House continues uninterrupted.
The Kaaba is the visible symbol of God’s Unity, representing in concrete form His centrality in the life of the Muslim, the focal point for Muslims of all times and places to turn toward in their worship as a symbol of their unity as one community submitting to the One God, a part of the endless stream of worshippers facing and circling around it unceasingly since remote antiquity in the glorification of God Most High. The Kaaba is the center of universal worship and the symbol of God’s universal message, Islam.
Pilgrimage (Hajj) to the Kaaba is obligatory once in a lifetime for those Muslims who can afford it.