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The Lock and Key of the Ka’bah

The Lock of the Kabah
The Lock of the Kabah

This is a close-up of the lock on the door of the Ka’bah. Guardianship of the Ka’bah is entrusted to the Bani Shaybah (the Tribe of Shaybah) since an incident from the lifetime of the Prophet (ﷺ). The keeper of the Key of the Ka’bah is known as the ‘Sadin’.

Kabah keys ceremony
Keys handing ceremony to the Shayba family

Earlier guardians of the Ka’bah

  • The Prophet Ebrahim (عليه السلام) entrusted the guardianship of the Ka’bah to his son Prophet Ismail (عليه السلام). It was then passed on to his sons.
  • Guardianship was then taken over by the Jurham tribe and then by the tribe of Khuza’a.
  • Possession was then gained by Qusay bin Kilab, a direct ancestor of the Prophet (ﷺ).
  • Qusay bin Kilab passed on the tradition to his son Abd Munaf. However, shortly before his death he transferred guardianship of the Ka’bah to his eldest son Abd al-Dar as a way of honouring him.
  • It then moved from person to person until the key was possessed by Uthman bin Talha at the time of the Muslim conquest of Makkah.

The Prophet (ﷺ) asks for the keys of the Ka’bah upon the conquest of Makkah

  • The Prophet (ﷺ) and the Sahabah entered Makkah victoriously in the year 630 CE (8 AH). Upon entering the Haram, the Prophet (ﷺ) went to the Ka’bah but found it was locked. Uthman bin Talha, who wasn’t a Muslim at the time, had locked it and hidden himself away.
  • Ali (رضي الله عنه) was instructed by the Prophet (ﷺ) to go and find him and retrieve the key. He tracked him down, snatched the key from him and opened the door of the Ka’bah. The Prophet (ﷺ) went inside and performed two raka’hs of salah. 
Entrance of the Kabah
Entrance of the Kabah
  • Abbas (رضي الله عنه), the uncle of the Prophet (ﷺ) then made a request: “You know that our family is in charge of pouring water for the pilgrims who come for Hajj, If you hand the key over to us, we will have two points of honour, one is to pour the water and the other to open and lock the door of the Ka’bah as and when necessary.”

A verse of the Quran is revealed

  • Upon this, Allah (ﷻ) revealed a verse of the Quran in through the angel Jibraeel (عليه السلام):

Allah is commanding you to return the trusts to those whom they belong to.

Quran (4:58)
  • The Prophet (ﷺ) immediately understood what this meant. He got up, gave the key back to Ali (رضي الله عنه) and told him to return it to Utman bin Talha.
  • Ali (رضي الله عنه) went to Uthman bin Talha and returned the key, apologising for the harsh way in which he had taken it from him. Uthman bin Talha was surprised at the gesture and asked the reason why. On being told that a verse of the Quran had been revealed regarding him to the Prophet (ﷺ) about returning this trust, Uthman bin Talha accepted Islam.
  • Note that the above verse of the Quran is the only verse to have been revealed inside the Ka’bah.

The key is to remain in the family of Uthman bin Talha (may Allah be pleased with him)

  • The Prophet (ﷺ) summoned Uthman bin Talha (رضي الله عنه) and told him, “The key shall remain with you and none but a tyrant shall take it from you.”
  • After Uthman bin Talha (رضي الله عنه) died, his cousin Shaybah received the key and this heirloom has remained amongst his progeny. His descendants are alive to this day and they are commonly known as the Shaybi people. The wording of the Hadith tells us that the family of Uthman bin Talha (رضي الله عنه) would remain until the Day of Qiyamah and they will always retain the honour of having possession of the key.
  • The above statement of the Prophet (ﷺ) is extraordinary because although many powerful monarchs have reigned throughout the ages, Allah has always preserved this great honour amongst the Shaybah family. This will continue and none will be able to snatch the honour away from them. Today the key is still in their possession.
Current keys of the Kabah
Current keys of the Kabah – Photo: SaudiGazette.com
  • The above photo shows the key to the door of the Ka’bah (bottom), the key to the door of repentance inside the Ka’bah (top right) and the key to the roof (top left).

Recent ‘Sadins’ (Keepers) from the family of Uthman bin Talha (رضي الله عنه)

  • Shaykh Abdul-Aziz al-Shaybi was the sadin of the Ka’bah for 18 years, until he passed away in 2010.
  • The deceased brother, Shaykh Abdul Qader al-Shaybi became the new sadin. He passed away in 2015.
  • Dr. Saleh Bin Taha Al-Shaibi, the oldest member of the Shaybah family, is the new keeper of Ka’bah. He is the 109th successor of Uthman bin Talha (رضي الله عنه).
Dr. Saleh Bin Taha Al-Shaibi
Dr. Saleh Bin Taha Al-Shaibi

The lock and key of the Ka’bah have changed many times in history

  • Both the lock and key of the Ka’bah have been changed many times in history by different rulers as and when then need arose. The key below was donated by the Mamluk Sultan Sha’ban II iN the 14th century. It’s displayed in the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo.
Mamluk Key of the Kabah
Mamluk Key of the Kabah
  • The keys to the Ka’bah are traditionally kept in embroidered bags. The Quranic verse above from Surah Nisa is inscribed on it.
Key and cover of the Kabah
Key and cover of the Kabah
  • Around 50 historic keys are kept in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey.

References: SaudiGazette.com, thenationalnews.com, muslimink.com, arabnews.com, alarabiya.net, Hajj journey to the heart of Islam – The British Museum Press