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Istilam al-Hajar

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Pilgrims looking for a chance to kiss or touch the Black Stone

Istilām al-hajar (Arabic: استلام الحجر, lit, Touch of the Stone) is to touch and kiss the Black Stone (Hajar al-Aswad) with the intention of being blessed. There are different hadiths in which istilam al-hajar is commanded, which is interpreted by jurists as the act being recommended. According to a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), the philosophy behind the act is that the Black Stone will testify in one's favor on the Day of Judgment.

Hajar al-Aswad

The Black Stone
Main article: The Black Stone

Al-Hajar al-Aswad, or the Black Stone, is a sacred stone with an old history and a special status in the Islamic culture and the rituals of hajj. The stone is installed in the Eastern Corner (al-Rukn al-Sharqi) of the Ka'ba (which is also known as "al-Rukn al-Aswad"—the Black Corner—or "al-Rukn al-Hajari"—the Stone Corner) one and a half meters above the ground. The Black Stone is not mentioned in the Qur'an. According to a hadith from Imam al-Sadiq (a), the Black Stone is one of the "clear proofs" (al-ayat al-bayyinat) of the Ka'ba.

Istilam

Literally, "istilam" means to touch and kiss for purposes of blessing. Terminologically, it refers to the act of touching al-Hajar al-Aswad and its corners. It is discussed under the issues of hajj.

"Istilam" of al-Hajar al-Aswad takes place by kissing it and touching it with one's hand.

There are different hadiths in which "istilam" of the Black Stone is commanded. Imam al-Sadiq (a) says, "… then touch al-Hajar al-Aswad and kiss it, and if you could not kiss it, then rob your hand over it, and if you could not do this, then point to it …". It is reported that the Prophet (s) touched the Black Stone when he performed recommended or obligatory tawaf (circumambulation around the Ka'ba).

"Istilam" of al-Hajar al-Aswad is an act agreed upon by different Islamic denominations. Even Ibn Taymiyya and his followers who take the touching or kissing of sacred objects to amount to kufr (disbelief in Islam) permit this in the case of the Black Stone. In his book, Ibn Taymiyya says, "Circumambulation, the touching of corners, and the kissing of the Black Stone and … only in the case of al-Masjid al-Haram".

The Philosophy of Istilam al-Hajar

Imam al-Sadiq (a) was asked about why the Black Stone should be touched and kissed. He said, "The touching and kissing of the Black Stone is because when the Exalted God made His servants testify for a covenant with Him, He brought the Black Stone from the Heaven and ordered it to swallow the covenant. Thus, if one is faithful to the covenant with God, the Black Stone will testify that he did not violated the covenant."

The Jurisprudential Ruling

Jurists have cited different hadiths to show that it is recommended to touch and kiss the Black Stone. The ruling includes women as well. Thus, some jurists maintain that istilam al-hajar is recommended for women if there are no illegitimate consequences. It is notable that the ruling of Istihbab (being recommended) for kissing and touching the Black Stone is suspended in certain conditions, such as times when the areas around the Ka'ba are too crowded and the "istilam" leads to harassment. This is true for both men and women alike.

References