Is Kabah Kiswah Cloth Ethical For Being Expensive?

Yesterday, the Kabah got its new Kiswah, the black cloth covering. A total of 700 kg of raw silk, and 120 kg of gold and silver thread ar...

kabah kiswah cloth
Yesterday, the Kabah got its new Kiswah, the black cloth covering.

A total of 700 kg of raw silk, and 120 kg of gold and silver thread are used to make the Kiswah, also known as gilaaf.

How Much?!
The cost of a single Kiswah is about 20 million Saudi riyals. When converted, this amounts to a staggering $5.3 million USD and £3.3 million British pounds.

Incredible. And unislamic.

*Current exchange rate: 1 SAR = 0.266 USD. 1 SAR = 0.166 GBP.

The covering of the Kiswah is a tradition kept in Prophet Muhammad's family, peace be upon him, whose noble ancestors saw decorating the House of God as an honour.

kabah photos arabic videoBack then, the fabric coverings were also beautiful, but not costly. The Kiswah was also never taken off, each new covering was laid on top until the smaller Kabah could not take the weight.

Now, a single new Kiswah embellished with verses from the Qur'an cloaks the Kabah and the previous covering is taken down. The old Kiswah is usually cut into smaller parts and distributed as gifts to Muslim dignitaries and organisations.

How The Kiswah Is Made - CAD/CAM + Jacquard
The luxurious Kiswah fabric undergoes several stages. The first is the dyeing of imported raw silk in a 'paralysis' form, dyed in black or red or green.

  • Important question: are these vegetable inks? Does their creation create pollution and release toxic waste into rivers?

kabah hajj kiswah 2011Next, the paralysis cloth is converted into material ready for embroidery or being printed on. Techniques such as the Jacquard weave and CAD printing prepare the silk to be handled by employers.

  • Important questions: Are the employers receiving a fair wage? Do their families and local community benefit from the production?

In the stage of printing, all finishes of the fabric are carried out on a computer. A wire screen creates the custom Arabic fonts for embroidery and to help workers manually wire the silver and gold threads.

  • Important question: Gold and silver is a costly product, are there cheaper alternatives?

Four pieces of raw silk dyed black cover the sides of the Kabah while the heavier panel that curtains the Kabah door is also decorated with Arabic calligraphy taken from the Qur'an and Muslim beliefs.

The final stage of assembly involves the Jacquard woven cloth - similar to a long curtain - and threads to be installed on a giant loom.

kiswah gilaaf cost fabric design
Each Kiswah covering consumes a vast 450 kilometres of silk, taking an area of 658 square metres when laid flat.

  • Important question: Silk worms are specially bred for this source and silk production is time consuming and costly. Can more environmentally friendlier and organic materials be used instead?

The composite pieces, padding, gold and silver threads and the belt across the Kiswah, come to a total length of nearly 47 metres. This include 4 pieces of Arabic cloth for Arabic phrases and 6 below the belt.

Although the Kiswah is a beautiful tradition that aims to sanctify and elevate the status of the simple House of God - bait-Ullah - the high cost loses the humility with which the Kabah was built.

Edited + translated from Arabic. The Eco Muslim.

+ CII Broadcasting

More on Hajj:
Hajj Healthy And Safety Awareness Week For British Pilgrims
'Eid-el-Kabir': The Complete Islamic Injunctions For Animal Sacrifices
“Mekkah Metro” Marks A Green Hajj For Pilgrims


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Post a Comment

  1. Some brilliant points are raised here. I've often thought about this myself too.

  2. Glad there's some like-minded people out there. Without free thought and kind critique we'll let our principles slide. I'd love to address this to the KSA King some day, insha-Allah. Salam Robi, always a pleasure.

  3. Very good points. Thanks for sharing.

  4. This is something I have thought about many times, and it never makes sense to me.  Especially the fact that they change it every year.  And the previous year's pieces become what?  Religious relics?  Silk and gold - what about people dying of HUNGER?

    Great article - thanks!

  5. i find u very confused person, more and more u seem to belive in technological solutions rather than the natural way, go and do some study, dont start behaving like a good orator, be a good debator


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