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The Making of Kiswa

Workers embroider the Kiswa

Throughout Islamic history, it has been considered a great honor to be able to perform a service to the Ka`bah, in the Sacred Mosque in Makkah. One of these services, performed by both kings and commoners, is to be able to contribute towards the covering of the Ka’aba with the Kiswa – its drape. Helping to do this can be done in many ways: from funding the making of the Kiswa to sewing it.

The Kiswa is made of pure natural silk dyed in black. On this silk are engraved the phrases:

” 0′ Allah, There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. The Most Loving, the Bene- factor. Glory be to Allah and Praise be to Allah and Glory is to Allah the Great”.

The cloth is fourteen meters high. On the top third of the cloth, there is the Kiswa belt which is ninety-five centimeters wide and for- ty-five meters long. It consists of sixteen pieces and surrounds the Kiswa from all sides. The belt is embroidered with protruding designs that are enameled with silver threads covered with gold. Some Quranic verses are written on it in Ath-Thuluth style of Arabic calligraphy.

Under the belt, at each corner of the Ka’aba, Surah of Ikhlas (Purity of Faith) is written inside a circle surrounded by a square shape of Islamic embellishment. At the same height, also under the belt, there are six verses of the Holy Quran. Each of these verses is written in a separate frame. On the areas separating these frames there is a shape of a lamp on which either of the following Phrases is written:”O’ you The Alive The Self Subsisting”. “The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”, or “Praise be to Allah”. All that is written under the belt is in Ath- Thuluth style of handwriting, embroidered in protruding designs and interwoven with silver threads covered with gold. These designs were introduced during the Saudi reign. Each separate side of the Ka’aba has certain Quranic verses written on it. The four sides are: the side of Al-Multazam, the side of AlHijr, the side facing the Door of Abraham, and the side between the Two Corners.

A Labor of Love

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Photographs of 27 of the artisans working at the Dar al-Kiswah in the 1920s

Photographs of 27 of the artisans working at the Dar al-Kiswah in the 1920s and 1930s, 36 x 25.3 cm, Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art © Nour Foundation. Courtesy of the Khalili Family Trust.

For more information visit: The Kiswa Factory

 

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