“KAABA, the house of ALAAH in MEKKAH is covered by a black cloth called “KISWA” which is produced by and chnaged every year disinged by a special factory in MEKKAH.
Even today in Makkah the years old ritual is being practised with full enthusiasm. The holy Kaaba is covered with new kiswa (cover) every year on the 10th Dhul Hijjah, which coincides with Haj.
Every year the old Kiswa is removed, cut into small pieces and gifted to certain individuals, visiting foreign Muslim dignitaries and organisations. Some of them sell their share as souvenirs of Haj. Earlier Umar bin al-Khattab(radiyallahu anhu) would cut it in to pieces and distribute them among the pilgrims who used them as shelter from the heat of Makkah.
The present cost of making the kiswa amounts to SR 17 million. The cover is 658 sq. metres long and is made of 670 kgs of pure silk. For embroidery 15 kilos of gold threads are used. It consists of 47 pieces of cloth and each piece is 14 Metres. long and 101 cms broad. The kiswa is wrapped around the Kaaba and fixed to the ground with copper rings.
Traditionally the pattern of kiswa has not changed. The material is made up of silk and a gold embroidered band is sewn about three fourth the distance from the bottom. The part covering the door, which stands 2.13 metres above the ground on the north-east side wall, is covered separately with richly embroidered Quranic verses, leaving an opening for the black stone.
The colour of Kiswa kept changing during the reigns of different Caliphs and rulers. In earlier days the kiswa was changed on 10th of Muharamm but slowly it was shifted to 10th of Dhul-Hijjah. Amir Maawiya(radiyallahu anhu) started to cover it on 10th Muharram (first month of Muslim calendar) as well as on Idd ul-Fitr (Ramadan).
In olden days different clans of Makkah would cover the Kaaba by turns yearly. Tribal leaders would also bring small drapes to cover the walls of Kaaba.
Once the grand mother of Prophet Mohammed (sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam) had offered a white Kiswa. Prophet Muhammed(sallallahu alaiyhi wassallam)) used the Kiswa made of Yemeni cloth. Caliphs Umar(radiyallahu anhu) and Uthman(radiyallahu anhu) covered it with an Egyptian white cloth, Qubati. Haroon Al-Rasheed used a white Kiswa.
The Making of Present Day Kiswa
Silver and golden threads are used for embroidery. Embroidery threads are now made locally in Saudia Arabia, by the same goldsmith who made the door of Kaaba. Finished pieces under go strict quality control tests in the laboratory before being stitched together.
Engraved with verses from the Holy Qur’an, the Kiswa is intricately woven with gold and silver threads.
The Kiswa is made in many stages. After the cover is designed by well-known artists, it is colored. Intricate work includes the design of decorations, the embroidered inscriptions on the belt and the Kaaba door curtain, and the decorations on Jacquard cloth for the outer and inner cover.
Next come the printing and dyeing stages. The Kiswa is later woven and embroidered. Manual weaving is done by experienced craftsmen and mechanical weaving on modern looms.
The unique embroidery is achieved in several stages. First by sewing cotton thread, on the inscriptions and decorations printed on the cloth. Then comes the embroidery threads of yellow cotton.
The embroidery is then covered with gold plated silver threads which protrude two centimeters above the cloth.
The New Kiswa is made of approximately 670 kilograms of pure white silk and 150 kg of gold and silver. It cost more than SR17 million and is considered one of the most exquisite works of Islamic art. It is manufactured at the factory of Kiswa at Ummal-Joud, a suburb of Makkah.More than 240 employees, work in the factory. Skilled craftsmen use a combination of the latest technology, ancient looms and artistic calligraphy to produce a work of exotic beauty. Usually the new cloth is to be ready two months before Haj.
Before placing the new dress, the old Kiswa is cut into pieces and presented to leaders of Muslim countries, diplomats and major institutions around the world. One such piece was presented to the United Nations.