BUILDING THE KA'BA
Building the Ka'ba in Mecca, the spiritual and ritual center of the Islamic world, marks a climax in the Abraham-Ishmael cycle and signals the culmination of Abraham's religious career according to at least one school of early Islamic tradition. This observation may not be immediately clear from a casual reading of the sources, for most append traditions to Abraham's building of the Ka'ba which tell of his centrality in the Pilgrimage ritual, an act which might be seen as the true acme of his life since it establishes a sacred precedent for the Islamic requirement of Pilgrimage. But the Pilgrimage traditions are inconsistent in structure, content, and attribution, suggesting a later association. 1 They represent more recent developments that did not form part of a coherent early group of traditions making up the epic Abraham story.
The reports about building the Ka'ba are divided into three major types distinguished by the ultimate authorities of their records of authentication: Ibn 'Abbās, 'Alī, and al-Suddī. 2 Abraham is always depicted as the primary builder, with Ishmael sometimes assisting him, but it is not always clear whether the entire Ka'ba is built or whether only the foundations are raised. The most consistent and often recurring version is that attributed to Ibn 'Abbās.
This version is dominated by fourteen traditions attributed directly to Ibn 'Abbās. Twelve are complete narratives 3 and two are fragments. 4 One additional narrative, identical to the Ibn 'Abbas version, is given without a chain of authorities, 5 and one fragment is attributed to Sa'īd. 6 Thirteen of the sixteen traditions, therefore, are complete narratives.
The paradigmatic Ibn 'Abbās version: