• Kaaba Key

    The Keykeeper of the Kaaba (Arabic; سدانة الكعبة; “Sadanah al-Kaaba”) is a venerable profession tasked with the care and management of the Kaaba and its affairs. This role encompasses a range of duties, including opening and closing the Kaaba, maintaining its cleanliness, performing rituals such as washing and covering it, repairing any damage to its covering, welcoming visitors, and overseeing all related tasks.

    For over sixteen centuries, predating the advent of Islam, the descendants of Qusayy ibn Kilab, the fourth grandfather of the Prophet ﷺ, have served as keykeepers of the Kaaba. Among these descendants are the esteemed members of the Banu Shaybah family of the Quraish tribe, who hold the custodianship of the Kaaba in accordance with the Prophet’s ﷺ directive.

    History

    Since the time of Prophet Ibrahim, S, the responsibility for the upkeep of the Kaaba has been passed down through generations. Initially, this duty fell upon his son Ismail S, who worked alongside his father in raising the foundations of the Kaaba.

    However, over time, control over the Kaaba’s guardianship shifted. Initially usurped by the Jurhum tribe, it was later seized by the Khuza’a tribe. Eventually, it came into the hands of Qusayy ibn Kilab.

    The custodianship of the Kaaba remained within Qusayy’s lineage, passing from him to his eldest son Abdul Dar, and then among the Banu Abdul Dar both before and after the advent of Islam. This lineage persisted until it reached Uthman ibn Talha I.

    Prophetic Era

    Before Makkah had been conquered by the Muslims, Uthman ibn Talha held the position of key keeper of the Kaaba. He was known as the “Sadin of Makkah”. In the year of the Conquest, in 8 AH (629 CE), Uthman, alongside Amr ibn al-As and Khalid ibn al-Walid M accepted Islam and migrated to Madinah.

    On the day of the Conquest of Makkah, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ proceeded to Masjid al-Haram on his camel alongside Usamah ibn Zayd I. Bilal and Uthman ibn Talha L also joined him.

    Upon reaching the Haram, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ tied his she-camel outside the mosque. He proceeded to perform Tawaf and kiss the Hajar al-Aswad.

    After the Kaaba had been cleansed of idols, the Prophet ﷺ entered it with Usamah ibn Zayd, Bilal, and Uthman ibn Talha. They pronounced the takbir in each corner of the Kaaba and performed salah.

    Abdullah ibn Umar I narrates:

    Allah’s Messenger ﷺ entered Makkah through its upper part, and he was riding his she-camel. Usama ibn Zayd was his Companion-rider behind him (on the same she-camel). In his company were Bilal and Uthman ibn Talha, who was one of the al-Hajabah (who keep the key of the door of the Kaaba). When he made his she-camel kneel in the Mosque (i.e., al-Masjid al-Haram), he ordered him (i.e., Uthman) to bring the key of the Kaaba. Then Allah’s Messenger ﷺ entered the Kaaba along with Usama ibn Zayd, Bilal and Uthman ibn Talha, and he stayed in it for a long period and then came out. The people rushed (to get in) and Abdullah ibn Umar was the first to enter and he found Bilal standing behind the door. Ibn Umar asked Bilal, ‘Where did Allah’s Messenger ﷺ offer the salah (prayer)?’ Bilal showed him the place where he had offered salah. Abdullah later on said, ‘I forgot to ask Bilal how many prostrations (i.e., rak’ahs) the Prophet ﷺ offered.’
    [Narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari]

    As he exited the Kaaba, the Prophet ﷺ summoned Uthman ibn Talha. Entrusting him with the key of the Kaaba, and said:

    Take this key as an everlasting trust; none save a tyrant would seek to take it away from you.

    Thus, the guardianship of the Kaaba remained within this lineage as ordained by the Prophet ﷺ.

    After Uthman ibn Talha passed away, his cousin Shaybah I inherited the key, and this esteemed heirloom has remained among his descendants. The term “khalidah”, meaning “forever”, uttered by the Prophet ﷺ indicates that the progeny of Uthman ibn Talha will persist until the Day of Judgement, and they will always have the honour of possessing the Kaaba key.

    Today

    Today, Saleh bin Zain Al-Abidin Al-Shaibi holds the esteemed position of senior caretaker of the Kaaba. He assumed the role in 2013 following the passing of his uncle, Abdul Qadir Taha Al-Shaibi. He is recognized as the 77th caretaker since the conquest of Makkah and the 109th since the time of Qusayy ibn Kilab.

    The Key

    Both the key and lock of the Kaaba have undergone numerous changes, with different rulers replacing them through the years.

    Today, the key measures 40cm in length and is stored in a silken bag adorned with pure gold decorations. The bag is replaced annually and is crafted in the same factory responsible for creating the Kiswah. It bears an inscription of the verse:

    إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَن تُؤَدُّوا۟ ٱلْأَمَـٰنَـٰتِ إِلَىٰٓ أَهْلِهَا
    God commands you [people] to return things entrusted to you to their rightful owners.
    [Surah al-Nisa, 4:58]

    Around 50 historic keys are preserved in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey.

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