Changing the Qiblah, direction of the prayer, from Jerusalem to Makkah

I take refuge with Allaah, the Exalted, from the accursed devil.

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Raheem: In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.

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May the Peace and Blessings of Allah Azza wa Jal, our Lord Glorified and Praised be He, be upon our beloved  Prophet, his Family, and Companions.

Changing the Qiblah, direction of the prayer, from Jerusalem to Makkah.

سَيَقُولُ السُّفَهَآءُ مِنَ النَّاسِ مَا وَلَّـهُمْ عَن قِبْلَتِهِمُ الَّتِى كَانُواْ عَلَيْهَا قُل لّلَّهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَالْمَغْرِبُ يَهْدِى مَن يَشَآءُ إِلَى صِرَطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ

(142. The fools (idolators, hypocrites, and Jews) among the people will say: “What has turned them (Muslims) from their Qiblah ﴿prayer direction (towards Jerusalem)﴾ to which they used to face in prayer.” Say (O Muhammad ): “To Allah belong both, east and the west. He guides whom He wills to the straight way.”)

– وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَـكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا لِّتَكُونُواْ شُهَدَآءَ عَلَى النَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ الرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيدًا وَمَا جَعَلْنَا الْقِبْلَةَ الَّتِى كُنتَ عَلَيْهَآ إِلاَّ لِنَعْلَمَ مَن يَتَّبِعُ الرَّسُولَ مِمَّن يَنقَلِبُ عَلَى عَقِبَيْهِ وَإِن كَانَتْ لَكَبِيرَةً إِلاَّ عَلَى الَّذِينَ هَدَى اللَّهُ وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُضِيعَ إِيمَـنَكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِالنَّاسِ لَرَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ

(143. Thus We have made you (true Muslims ـ real believers of Islamic Monotheism, true followers of Prophet Muhammad and his Sunnah (legal ways)), a Wasat (just and the best) nation, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger (Muhammad ) be a witness over you. And We made the Qiblah which you used to face, only to test those who followed the Messenger (Muhammad ) from those who would turn on their heels (i.e., disobey the Messenger). Indeed it was great (heavy, difficult) except for those whom Allah guided. And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost (i.e., your prayers offered towards Jerusalem). Truly, Allah is full of kindness, the Most Merciful towards mankind.)

Surah 2 Al Baqarah Verse 142-143

Tafsir Ibn Kathir

Imam Al-Bukhari reported that Al-Bara’ bin `Azib narrated: “Allah’s Messenger offered his prayers facing Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) for sixteen or seventeen months, but he wished that he could pray facing the Ka`bah (at Makkah). The first prayer which he offered (facing the Ka`bah) was the `Asr (Afternoon) prayer in the company of some people. Then one of those who had offered that prayer with him, went out and passed by some people in a mosque who were in the bowing position (in Ruku`) during their prayers (facing Jerusalem). He addressed them saying, `By Allah, I bear witness that I have offered prayer with the Prophet facing Makkah (Ka`bah).’ Hearing that, those people immediately changed their direction towards the House (Ka`bah) while still as they were (i.e., in the same bowing position). Some Muslims who offered prayer towards the previous Qiblah (Jerusalem) before it was changed towards the House (the Ka`bah in Makkah) had died or had been martyred, and we did not know what to say about them (regarding their prayers towards Jerusalem). Allah then revealed:

(And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost (i.e., the prayers of those Muslims were valid)) (2:143).”

Al-Bukhari collected this narration, while Muslim collected it using another chain of narrators. Muhammad bin Ishaq reported that Al-Bara’ narrated: Allah’s Messenger used to offer prayers towards Bayt Al-Maqdis (in Jerusalem), but would keep looking at the sky awaiting Allah’s command (to change the Qiblah). Then Allah revealed:

(Verily, We have seen the turning of your (Muhammad’s) face towards the heaven. Surely, We shall turn you to a Qiblah (prayer direction) that shall please you, so turn your face in the direction of Al-Masjid Al-Haram (at Makkah).) (2:144)

A man from among the Muslims then said, “We wish we could know about those among us who died before the Qiblah was changed (i.e., towards Makkah) and also about our own prayers, that we had performed towards Bayt Al-Maqdis.” Allah then revealed:

(And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost.) (2:143)

The fools among the people, meaning the People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), said, “What made them change the former Qiblah that they used to face” Allah then revealed:

(The fools (idolators, hypocrites, and Jews) among the people will say…)

until the end of the Ayah.

`Ali bin Abu Talhah related that Ibn `Abbas said: When Allah’s Messenger migrated to Al-Madinah, Allah commanded him to face Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem). The Jews were delighted then. Allah’s Messenger faced Jerusalem for over ten months. However, he liked (to offer prayer in the direction of) Prophet Ibrahim’s Qiblah (the Ka`bah in Makkah) and used to supplicate to Allah and kept looking up to the sky (awaiting Allah’s command in this regard). Allah then revealed:

(turn your faces (in prayer) in that direction.) meaning, its direction. The Jews did not like this change and said, “What made them change the Qiblah that they used to face (meaning Jerusalem)” Allah revealed:

(Say (O Muhammad ): “To Allah belong both, east and the west. He guides whom He wills to the straight way.”)

There are several other Ahadith on this subject. In summary, Allah’s Messenger was commanded to face Bayt Al-Maqdis (during the prayer) and he used to offer prayer towards it in Makkah between the two corners (of Ka`bah), so that the Ka`bah would be between him and Bayt Al-Maqdis. When the Prophet migrated to Al-Madinah, this practice was no longer possible; then Allah commanded him to offer prayer towards Bayt Al-Maqdis, as Ibn Abbas and the majority of the scholars have stated.

Al-Bukhari reported in his Sahih that the news (of the change of Qiblah) was conveyed to some of the Ansar while they were performing the `Asr (Afternoon) prayer towards Bayt Al-Maqdis, upon hearing that, they immediately changed their direction and faced the Ka`bah.

It is reported in the Sahihayn (Al-Bukhari Muslim) that Ibn `Umar narrated: While the people were in Quba’ (Mosque) performing the Fajr (Dawn) prayer, a man came and said, “A (part of the) Qur’an was revealed tonight to Allah’s Messenger and he was commanded to face the Ka`bah. Therefore, face the Ka`bah. They were facing Ash-Sham, so they turned towards the Ka`bah.

These Hadiths prove that the Nasikh (a Text that abrogates a previous Text) only applies after one acquires knowledge of it, even if the Nasikh had already been revealed and announced. This is why the Companions mentioned above were not commanded to repeat the previous `Asr, Maghrib and `Isha’ prayers (although they had prayed them towards Jerusalem after Allah had changed the Qiblah). Allah knows best.

When the change of Qiblah (to Ka`bah in Makkah) occurred, those inflicted with hypocrisy and mistrust, and the disbelieving Jews, both were led astray from the right guidance and fell into confusion. They said:

(What has turned them (Muslims) from their Qiblah to which they used to face in prayer.)

They asked, “What is the matter with these people (Muslims) who one time face this direction (Jerusalem), and then face that direction (Makkah)” Allah answered their questions when He stated:

(Say (O Muhammad ): “To Allah belong both, east and the west.) meaning, the command, the decision and the authority are for Allah Alone. Hence:

(…so wherever you turn (yourselves or your faces) there is the Face of Allah (and He is High above, over His Throne).) (2:115),

and:

 (It is not Al-Birr (piety, righteousness) that you turn your faces towards east and (or) west (in prayers); but Al-Birr is the one who believes in Allah.) (2:177) This statement means, the best act is to adhere to Allah’s commands. Hence, wherever He commands us to face, we should face. Also, since obedience requires implementing Allah’s commands, if He commands us every day to face different places, we are His servants and under His disposal, and we face whatever He orders us to face. Certainly, Allah’s care and kindness towards His servant and Messenger, Muhammad , and certainly, his Ummah (Muslim nation) is profoundly great. Allah has guided them to the Qiblah of (Prophet) Ibrahim — Allah’s Khalil (intimate friend). He has commanded them to face the Ka`bah, the most honorable house (of worship) on the face of the earth, which was built by Ibrahim Al-Khalil in the Name of Allah, the One without a partner. This is why Allah said afterwards:

(Say (O Muhammad ): “To Allah belong both, east and the west. He guides whom He wills to the straight way.”)

Imam Ahmad reported that `A’ishah (the Prophet’s wife) said that Allah’s Messenger said about the People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians):

(They do not envy us for a matter more than they envy us for Jumu`ah (Friday) to which Allah has guided us and from which they were led astray; for the (true) Qiblah to which Allah has directed us and from which they were led astray; and for our saying `Amin’ behind the Imam (leader of the prayer).)

Allah said:

(Thus We have made you (true Muslims), a Wasat (just) (and the best) nation, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger (Muhammad ) be a witness over you.)

Allah stated that He has changed our Qiblah to the Qiblah of Ibrahim and chose it for us so that He makes us the best nation ever. Hence, we will be the witnesses over the nations on the Day of Resurrection, for all of them will then agree concerning our virtue. The word Wasat in the Ayah means the best and the most honored. Therefore, saying that (the Prophet’s tribe) Quraysh is in the Wasat regarding Arab tribes and their areas, means the best. Similarly, saying that Allah’s Messenger was in the Wasat of his people, means he was from the best subtribe. Also, `Asr, the prayer that is described as `Wusta’ (a variation of the word Wasat), means the best prayer, as the authentic collections of Ahadith reported. Since Allah made this Ummah (Muslim nation) the Wasat, He has endowed her with the most complete legislation, the best Manhaj (way, method, etc.,) and the clearest Madhhab (methodology, mannerism, etc). Allah said:

(He has chosen you (to convey His Message of Islamic Monotheism to mankind), and has not laid upon you in religion any hardship: it is the religion of your father Ibrahim. It is He (Allah) Who has named you Muslims both before and in this (the Qur’an), that the Messenger (Muhammad ) may be a witness over you and you be witnesses over mankind!) (22:78)

Moreover, Imam Ahmad reported that Abu Sa`id narrated: Allah’s Messenger said:

(Nuh will be called on the Day of Resurrection and will be asked, `Have you conveyed (the Message)’ He will say, `Yes.’ His people will be summoned and asked, `Has Nuh conveyed (the Message) to you’ They will say, `No warner came to us and no one (Prophet) was sent to us.’ Nuh will be asked, `Who testifies for you’ He will say, `Muhammad and his Ummah.’)

This is why Allah said:

(Thus We have made you a Wasat nation.)

The Prophet said; (The Wasat means the `Adl (just). You will be summoned to testify that Nuh has conveyed (his Message), and I will attest to your testimony.)

It was also recorded by Al-Bukhari, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah.

Imam Ahmad also reported that Abu Sa`id Khudri narrated: Allah’s Messenger said:

(The Prophet would come on the Day of Resurrection with two or more people (his only following!), and his people would also be summoned and asked, `Has he (their Prophet) conveyed (the Message) to you’ They would say, `No.’ He would be asked, `Have you conveyed (the Message) to your people’ He would say, `Yes.’ He would be asked, `Who testifies for you’ He would say, `Muhammad and his Ummah.’ Muhammad and his Ummah would then be summoned and asked, `Has he conveyed (the Message) to his people’ They would say, `Yes.’ They would be asked, `Who told you that’ They would say, `Our Prophet (Muhammad) came to us and told us that the Messengers have conveyed (their Messages). ‘)

Hence Allah’s statement:

(Thus We have made you a Wasat nation.)

He said, “(meaning) the `Adl,’ (he then continued reciting the Ayah):

(Thus We have made you, a just (and the best) nation, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger (Muhammad ) be a witness over you.)”

Furthermore, Imam Ahmad reported that Abul-Aswad narrated: I came to Al-Madinah and found that an epidemic had broken out that caused many fatalities. I sat next to `Umar bin Al-Khattab once when a funeral procession started and the people praised the dead person. `Umar said, “Wajabat (it will be recorded as such), Wajabat!” Then another funeral was brought forth and the people criticized the dead person. Again, `Umar said, “Wajabat.” Abul-Aswad asked, “What is Wajabat, O Leader of the faithful” He said, “I said just like Allah’s Messenger had said:

(Any Muslim for whom four testify that he was righteous, then Allah will enter him into Paradise.’ We said, `What about three’ He said, `And three.’ We said, `And two’ He said, `And two.’ We did not ask him about (the testimony) of one (believing) person.)”

This was also recorded by Al-Bukhari, At-Tirmidhi, and An-Nasa’i.

The Wisdom behind changing the Qiblah .

Allah then said:

(And We made the Qiblah (prayer direction towards Jerusalem) which you used to face, only to test those who followed the Messenger (Muhammad ) from those who would turn on their heels (i.e., disobey the Messenger). Indeed it was great (heavy, difficult) except for those whom Allah guided.)

Allah states thus: We have legislated for you, O Muhammad, facing Bayt Al-Maqdis at first and then changed it to the Ka`bah so as to find who will follow and obey you and thus face whatever you face.

(…from those who would turn on their heels.) meaning, reverts from his religion. (Allah then said:)

(Indeed it was great (heavy, difficult))

The Ayah indicates that changing the Qiblah from Bayt Al-Maqdis to the Ka`bah is heavy on the heart, except for whomever Allah has rightly guided their hearts, who believe in the truth of the Messenger with certainty and that whatever he was sent with is the truth without doubt. It is they who believe that Allah does what He wills, decides what He wills, commands His servants with what He wills, abrogates any of His commands that He wills, and that He has the perfect wisdom and the unequivocal proof in all this. (The attitude of the believers in this respect is) unlike those who have a disease in their hearts, to whom whenever a matter occurs, it causes doubts, just as this same matter adds faith and certainty to the believers. Similarly, Allah said:

(And whenever there comes down a Surah (chapter from the Qur’an), some of them (hypocrites) say: “Which of you has had his faith increased by it” As for those who believe, it has increased their faith, and they rejoice. But as for those in whose hearts is a disease (of doubt, disbelief and hypocrisy), it will add doubt and disbelief to their doubt and disbelief; and they die while they are disbelievers.) (9:124, 125)

and:

(And We send down of the Qur’an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe, and it increases the wrongdoers in nothing but loss.) (17:82)

Certainly, those who remained faithful to the Messenger , obeyed him and faced whatever Allah commanded them, without doubt or hesitation, were the leaders of the Companions. Some scholars stated that the Early Migrants (who migrated with the Prophet from Makkah to Al-Madinah) and Ansar (the residents of Al-Madinah who gave aid and refuge to both the Prophet and the Migrants) were those who offered prayers towards the two Qiblah (Bayt Al-Maqdis and then the Ka`bah). Al-Bukhari reported in the explanation of the Ayah (2:143) that Ibn `Umar narrated: While the people were performing the Fajr (Dawn) prayer in the Quba’ Mosque, a man came and said, “Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet and he was ordered to face the Ka`bah. Therefore, face the Ka`bah.” They then faced the Ka`bah. Muslim also recorded it.

At-Tirmidhi added that they were performing Ruku` (bowing down in prayer), and then changed the direction (of the Qiblah) to the Ka`bah while still bowing down. Muslim reported this last narration from Anas. These Hadiths all indicate the perfect obedience the Companions had for Allah and His Messenger and their compliance with Allah’s commandments, may Allah be pleased with them all.

(And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost.) meaning, the reward of your prayers towards Bayt Al-Maqdis before would not be lost with Allah. It is reported in Sahih that Abu Ishaq As-Sabi`y related that Bara’ narrated: “The people asked about the matter of those who offered prayers towards Bayt Al-Maqdis and died (before the Qiblah was changed to Ka`bah). Allah revealed:

(And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost.)”

It was also recorded by At-Tirmidhi from Ibn `Abbas, and At-Tirmidhi graded it Sahih.

Ibn Ishaq reported that Ibn `Abbas narrated:

(And Allah would never make your faith to be lost.) entails: Your (prayer towards) the first Qiblah and your believing your Prophet and obeying him by facing the second Qiblah; He will grant you the rewards for all these acts. Indeed,

Allah said:

(Truly, Allah is full of kindness, the Most Merciful towards mankind.)”

Furthermore, it is reported in the Sahih that Allah’s Messenger saw a woman among the captives who was separated from her child. Whenever she found a boy (infant) among the captives, she would hold him close to her chest, as she was looking for her boy. When she found her child, she embraced him and gave him her breast to nurse. Allah’s Messenger said:

(Do you think that this woman would willingly throw her son in the fire) They said, “No, O Messenger of Allah!” He said, (By Allah! Allah is more merciful with His servants than this woman with her son.)

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