The Kaʿba Orientations: Readings in Islam’s Ancient House By
 Simon O’Meara
Publisher Edinburgh University Press Pub Date 2020 Pub Location GB Isbn 0 Course(s)


In this monograph, Simon O’Meara investigates Islam’s most sacred site, the Kaʿba, in terms of its agency within premodern Islamic culture. Based upon an extensive and comprehensive range of historical primary sources, both textual and visual, the book explores the building’s predominantly spatial cultural effects: Islam’s sacred direction, or qibla; the axis and matrix mundi of the Islamic world; an architectural principle in the bedrock of this world; a circumambulated goal of pilgrimage and a site of spiritual union for mystics and Sufis. To each cultural effect a chapter is devoted. Together the chapters comprise the “orientations” of the book’s title: readings in the cultural work of the Kaʿba. Effectively, the study explains what the Kaʿba is, how it operates and why it is pivotal to the Islamic world. It additionally returns the building to its rightful central place within Islamic architectural history, where it had long been ignored in Western scholarship; it underscores the utility of investigating not just what a building is intended to be by its architect or patron, but how it is used, imagined and experienced by its users; and it demonstrates the methodological importance of considering art and architecture as cultural agents, not mere signs.