marduk wrote:The author of this page has a good point. Muhammad changed the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to the Kaaba at a time when THE IDOLS WERE STILL IN THERE. As the quote below states, the reason was very obvious. He had failed to impress the Jews by praying toward Jerusalem and fasting on the Day of Atonement (Ashura) so he turned to trying to impress the pagan Arabs instead, since those were the only people he had any real chance of convincing to join his made up religion. But of course I'm sure Muslims have a perfectly reasonable explanation for why Allah would tell Muslims to pray toward the idol shop with idols still in it.
Sure they do, and here it is.
The first change of Qibla occured in Mecca itself, where the believers were commanded to face Jerusalem in prayer. This means the prophet was facing Jerusalem at a time when the Jewish involvement in his life was totally insignificant. The Quran then clarifies how this change was extremely difficult, for the Kaaba was the very symbol of the Abrahamic religion that Muhammad was sent to revive and all the descendants of Ibrahim and Ismail held it in great veneration, even more so the believers. This exposed the prophet to more opposition and those who rejected him would argue that he claims to revive the way of Ibrahim through his spiritual claim over the Kaaba, but is now telling his followers to face Jerusalem and 2:143 refers to that incident "And we did not make the direction of facing/Qibla that you were on, except to know who follows the footsteps of the messenger from who turns upside down on the back of his feet. And it was burdensome except on those that God gifted guidance"
. The verse speaks of how this first Qibla change, away from the Kaaba, to Jerusalem was very burdensome to many early followers who started harboring doubts. But as reported in historical reports and traditions, the prophet of God proceeded with the order while subtely keeping sight of the Kaaba, to the pagans' dislike and to the believers' relief, by facing the southern wall of the Kaaba towards the north, so as to face both the Kaaba and Jerusalem during prayer.
This situation raised other concerns among the believers regarding their prayers that were performed prior to the change of Qibla, if they were still valid in God's eyes but the Quran comforted them that "Allah was not going to make your faith to be fruitless; most surely Allah is Affectionate, Merciful to the people"
After his migration to Medina, the prophet had no choice but to pray exclusively towards Jerusalem as previously ordained in Mecca. The area of the Farthest Mosque 17:1"whose precincts We did bless"
where the Temple of Solomon once stood and his people prostrated to God. It was a blessed and sacred area, this is why the Muslims were told to prostrate in that direction, regardless of whether a temple stood there or not. In Medina, when the prophet and the Muslims prayed northward they could not afford the opportunity of praying with the Kaaba in front of them anymore, like they did in Mecca. In addition their backs were now turned to the Kaaba when facing Jerusalem. This matter greatly disturbed them, and in addition they had to bare the taunting of the people of the book who saw in this a proof of themselves being on the right path and that the Muslims were trying to compete with them in this regard but they are told 2:145"even if you bring to those who have been given the Book every sign they would not follow your qibla, nor can you be a follower of their qibla, neither are they the followers of each other's qibla, and if you follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, then you shall most surely be among the unjust"
. The prophet is told that no sign will make the rejectors among the people of the book follow his qibla since their confusion and prejudice is so deep that, although they read the same scriptures, they follow divergent qibla (ways) and accuse eachother of being misguided 2:113.
This early Medinian period was a means of seperating the obedient from the disobedient just as all the previous hardships and sacrifices seperated the believers from others, the submissive from the arrogant. The Muslims were not only uprooted from their homes but had now lost the comforting sight of what they regarded as their spiritual center 2:144"Indeed We see the turning of your face in heaven, so We shall surely turn you to a qibla which you shall like"
. The experience was so difficult that the prophet's face was in heaven, conveying the picture that Muhammad was anxiously awaiting the day the qibla would be restored to its original foundation to the extent that it was as if he was in heaven, awaiting for the command.
In Medina and aproximately a year after the Hijra, the first Temple of monotheism, the Kaaba, was thus definitively established as the Muslims' qibla 2:144"turn then your face towards the Sacred Mosque, and wherever you are, turn your face towards it, and those who have been given the Book most surely know that it is the truth from their Lord; and Allah is not at all heedless of what they do"
. This SECOND change of qibla, from Jerusalem towards the Kaaba in Mecca was an event of greatest religious significance, and one of the most important commandments given to the Muslims, further cementing their unity and fulfilling the promise made to Ibrahim and Ismail as they were building the Temple long ago. The verses 2:142-152 dealt with all the controversies surrounding the 2 qibla changes, comforting the believers and preparing their minds for the ultimate change of qibla. This was done first by revealing the story of Ibrahim, the various honors bestowed on him by Allah, as well as the honor accorded to his son, Ismail; their prayers for the Kaaba and Mecca, as well as for a prophet and a nation submitted in Islam; their construction of the House and the order then received to cleanse it for the sole worship of Allah, by all the nations, until the Day of Resurrection 5:97,22:25-7. If Ibrahim's seed was to be blessed in Ismail’s progeny, as even stated in the Torah, it was necessary that the new Spiritual Centre should be the house built and purified by Ibrahim and Ismail, and make their nation the inheritors of all those Divine blessings which had been promised to the seed of Abraham.
This ultimate establishement of the Kaaba as the Muslims' Qibla is firstly alluded to in 2:142 (future tense) with an anticipation of the fools' reaction to the command; why would the Muslims turn away from Jerusalem if it was a correct qibla and why had they not alway faced the Kaaba if it was the original and true qibla? It then goes back to the past 2:143 with a reminder of how changing the old qibla was a big issue except to the rightly guided and the passage ends with 2:144 establishing the Kaaba as the definite qibla. It is obvious 2:142-144 were revealed at once. It ends the previous test of knowing 2:143"who follows the footsteps of the messenger from who turns upside down on the back of his feet"
by establishing the Kaaba as the final qibla 2:144.
So as an anticipation to the people's reaction in Medina regarding this last change of qibla the Quran answers 2:142"The East and the West belong only to Allah; He guides whom He likes to the right path"
. As similarly stated in 2:115,26:28,73:9 and more particularly in 2:177, Allah is the Omnipresent grasping the universe as a whole, present in all directions and therefore Jerusalem, the Kaaba and all other places belong to Allah, Who intrinsically has no house and no place. Without His commission, no place has spiritual excellence or preference in its own essence. The direction in itself is therefore not something to be disputed and argued about 2:148"And every one has a direction to which he should turn, therefore hasten to (do) good works; wherever you are, Allah will bring you all together"
. Besides it being a concrete direction of prayer, the "qibla" also carries an abstract meaning as in the direction to find God and this is what 2:145,148 explain. The essence of this injunction is therefore to obey a divine command and hasten to do good works and try to excel others in virtuous deeds; that is the true success in God's eyes.
The verse 2:177 reiterating the issue of direction in prayer comes between verses discussing the laws of religion, it is a warning given to the Muslims that they should not fall into the error into which the previous people fell, who sacrificed the spirit of religion for the outward ceremonial. Internal purity goes in parallel with the external which is why the Quran refers to the Sharia/Law as the Book and the Wisdom 2:151 refering to the body and soul of the shariah respectively, to its commandments and their philosophy. The previous nations, namely the Jews, had neglected this aspect as Jesus amply demonstrates in the NT. The essence of religion, we are here told 2:177, is faith in God and benevolence towards men which Allah compares to an uphill climb 90:11-20.
Besides being an indication that the Israelites had been definately deposed from their spiritual leadership over mankind due to their constant failings as prophecised by Jesus the last of the Israelite prophets in a long line of prophets persecuted and rejected by them Matt21, this last change of qibla was also an annoucement of the glad tidings of the near conquest of Mecca, a forecast of its cleaning and purification from the idols placed in it over time, and the return of Islam as a fulfillement of Ibrahim's prayers and God's subsequent promise of placing the righteous from among his descendants as the leaders of mankind 2:124-130. The appointement of the Kaaba as the Muslims' qiblah was in honor of Ibrahim and Ismail, a confirmation to the claim of the Quran that the Muslims are the true followers of the way of Ibrahim 2:135. It was a favor in a series of favors bestowed upon the believers by Allah 2:150, such as the sending of a messenger from among themselves who brought them wisdom and purification from polytheism, evil and immoral actions 2:151"We have sent among you a Messenger from among you who recites to you Our communications and purifies you and teaches you the Book and the wisdom and teaches you that which you did not know". At all times, the believers are told to keep their remembrence of these favors 2:152"Therefore remember Me, I will remember you, and be thankful to Me, and do not be ungrateful to Me". However immidiately after annoucing this favor, God warns them that leadership is not a bed of roses but a bed of thorns. They will be confronted with all kind of difficulties, and trials and that if they went through their ordeals with fortitude and proceeded on in the way of Allah, they would be blessed with countless blessings and rewards by Him 2:153-7 just as their failure would cause their uprooting.