The story of the great jurist Imam Mālik and the rebuilding of the Ka`bah is a lesson for Islamic workers. It shows how important it is to take a broad, inclusive view of things and show sensitivity to people, their feelings, and their motives. It shows the importance of preserving the general welfare of the Muslims and upholding the sanctity of Islam over doggedly pursuing the narrow application of a particular hadith in isolation.
Al-Hajjāj b. Yūsuf destroyed the Ka`bah when `Abd Allah b. Zubayr took control of Mecca. During his time in power, Ibn Zubayr rebuilt the Ka`bah on the original foundations laid down by Abraham. Then, when al-Hajjāj b. Yūsuf seized control of Mecca, he tore it down again and rebuilt it on the foundations they were on before he had first destroyed it.
Later, the Caliph heard the hadith from Mālik where the Prophet said to his wife: “`Ā’ishah, had it not been for the fact that your people have so recently emerged from the pre-Islamic age of ignorance, I would have had the Ka`bah torn down and rebuilt restoring the parts of the structure that have been lost. I would have set it firmly on the ground with two doors, one on the eastern side and the other on the western side, so that it would be upon the foundations laid by Abraham.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (1586) and Sahīh Muslim (1333)]
After hearing this, the Caliph resolved to have the Ka`bah rebuilt once again on Abraham’s original foundations. But Mālik advised him not to, saying: “Commander of the Faithful, I implore you, for Allah’s sake, do not make the Sacred House a plaything for kings. Every king will want to tear it down and rebuild it the other way. The people will cease to revere it.”
Mālik was and insightful person. He had the foresight to know that that each king would want to use the reconstruction of the Ka`bah to assert his authority, to show that he was intent on reform and renewal.
Mālik envisioned a frightful future where each king would tear down the Ka`bah and rebuild it on the alternative foundation, the first king claiming that he sincerely wants to fulfil the Prophet’s wishes and restore it to Abraham’s foundations as the Prophet expressed he wished, while the next king would proclaim that he sincerely wanted to restore it to the form that the Prophet purposefully left it in. Mālik wanted to nip this tendency in the bud, and he persuaded the Caliph to leave the Ka`bah alone.
Anyone other than Mālik would have jumped at the chance to get the Caliph to carry our something for the sake of the Prophet’s Sunnah and bring something about that the Prophet had longed to implement. However, Mālik possessed great forethought. He knew the precedent the Caliph would be setting for his successors. Instead of focusing on the one hadith in isolation, he looked at all the general principles of preserving the sanctity and strength of Islam.