Every pilgrim to Mecca dreams certain dreams- to drink to their fill from the well of Zamzam, pray undisturbed in the multazim, cry uncontrollably while holding on to the kiswah, pray in the Rawdah, touch/kiss the black stone. Few though, are blessed with accomplishing all of their dreams these days- mainly because of the huge influx of pilgrims into Mecca and Medina. All the times in my life that I’ve visited the Ka’aba, I’ve been unsuccessful in greeting the black stone in person. I usually have to wave at it from afar and hope to touch this piece of the heavens some day. For me, that blessed opportunity happened to be in Turkey!
During our recent visit, we happen to be staying a street away from the Mehmet Pasha Mosque in Istanbul- a quaint little mosque built by the famed architect Sinan- which houses four pieces of the hijre aswad or the heavenly black stone! Today, after a tranquil fajr prayer and a calm dhikr attended by all the resident students of the Mehmet Pasha madrasa, we were blessed to be able to see all four pieces of paradise and touch one!
These pieces of the sacred stone were preserved when the cover of the hijre aswad was being replaced by the Ottomans. The golden cover is on display at the Topkapi palace but the four small pieces, about an inch long and half an inch wide, have found their home in this blessed mosque.
This mosque is a quick ten minute walk from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia- both in the Sultanahmet area. At any given time, you can witness the young Turkish huffaz sit under the black stone and perfect their recitations or pray calmly, as this little mosque doesn’t get the tourists from around the world like the Blue mosque does.
One of the pieces of the hijre aswad (black stone) greets every one entering the mosque as it sits above the entrance door to the masjid. The second is unreachably high above the mihrab, looking at every masjid goer, the third one sits right at the arch of the stairs leading up to the muezzins tower and the fourth one is lodged between a white tower inside the mosque and cemented block. These rectangular pieces of stone are clearly visible- secured on distinct large wooden blocks that frame them.
The ehtaram or respect that the Ottomans showed to these fragments of the heavenly stone is just another of the many ways Turkey has impressed me with their love and respect of the Ahl al Bayt and nonchalant approach to traditional Islam. No one argues with you or brushes you away if you stand to touch the black stone, in fact, they show you where the others in the mosque are located. They help get a stool for your old mom to use and clamber on while trying to get her cold fingers to feel this piece of paradise. They ask softly, where you are from and smile with a “welcome” when you respond. Though English is not the first or the second language of most Turkish people today, they sure can speak the language of Adab and make one feel welcome!
If you go, here’s where to look for it!