Praying towards Kaaba – Sign of Divine Blessing: Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:149-150) By: Mohammad Sobhanie

Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:149-150)

By: Mohammad Sobhanie

 

Praying towards Kaaba – Sign of Divine Blessing

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

وَمِنْ حَيْثُ خَرَجْتَ فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ ۖ وَإِنَّهُ لَلْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكَ ۗ وَمَا اللَّـهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ ﴿١٤٩﴾ وَمِنْ حَيْثُ خَرَجْتَ فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ ۚ وَحَيْثُ مَا كُنتُمْ فَوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ شَطْرَهُ لِئَلَّا يَكُونَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَيْكُمْ حُجَّةٌ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ فَلَا تَخْشَوْهُمْ وَاخْشَوْنِي وَلِأُتِمَّ نِعْمَتِي عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ ﴿١٥٠

2:149 And from whatever place you leave (and to whatever place you arrive), turn your face towards Masjid al-Haram (at prayer time). In fact, this is a Commandment of your Lord and Allah (SWT) is not oblivious of what you do.

2:150 And from whatever place you leave (and to whatever place you arrive), turn your face towards the Masjid al-Haram (at Prayer time) and wherever you are, turn your faces towards it (Masjid-al-Haram). So that (fair-minded) people may not have any argument against you, except such of them as are unjust; so do not fear them, and fear Me, that I may fulfill My favor on you and that you may walk on the right course.

Commentary: The ordinance of the change in the direction of the Qiblah was issued with the revelation of the aforementioned verses. In particular, verse 2:150 commands the Prophet “from whatever place you leave (and to whatever place you arrive), turn your face towards Masjid al-Haram (at prayer time)” [(وَمِنْ حَيْثُ خَرَجْتَ فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ)]. “In fact, this is a Commandment of your Lord,”, [(وَإِنَّهُ لَلْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكَ)] “and Allah (SWT) is not oblivious of what you do” [(وَمَا اللَّـهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ)]. The ruling is reaffirmed again in the next verse:

وَمِنْ حَيْثُ خَرَجْتَ فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ …. ﴿١٥٠

2:150 O Prophet “And from whatever place you depart (and to whatever place you arrive), turn your face towards Masjid al-Haram (at prayer time)

Note that the Prophet (SAWA) left Mecca and migrated to Medina. Hence, one may perceive that this ruling is only for Medina. The verse continues and affirms the generality of ruling by stating:

… وَحَيْثُ مَا كُنتُمْ فَوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ شَطْرَهُ لِئَلَّا يَكُونَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَيْكُمْ حُجَّةٌ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ فَلَا تَخْشَوْهُمْ وَاخْشَوْنِي وَلِأُتِمَّ نِعْمَتِي عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ ﴿١٥٠

… “and wherever you are, turn your faces towards it (the Masjd-al-Haram)” [(وَحَيْثُ مَا كُنتُمْ فَوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ شَطْرَهُ)]. “So that (fair-minded) people may not have any argument against you” [(لِئَلَّا يَكُونَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَيْكُمْ حُجَّةٌ)]. However, “the obstinate and unjust ones among them (will continue to dispute you regardless the direction you offer your prayers)” [(إِلَّا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ)].

The phrase “So that (fair-minded) people may not have any argument against you”, [(لِئَلَّا يَكُونَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَيْكُمْ حُجَّةٌ)], reveals that Muslims would be criticized if there was no change in the direction of Qiblah for two reasons. First, the Jews of Medina would question the authenticity of the Prophet’s mission if they knew that the foretold prophet was praying towards two different Qiblahs [2:144 al-Baqara]. Second, one rightfully would ask: why do Muslims not pray towards the house of Kaaba, which is the most sacred place to them? Hence, the change in the direction of Qiblah took away any potential opportunities to argue against Muslims.

The verses also state that Muslims should not give in to the intimidation of obstinate and unjust people [(الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ)], instead they should fear none except Allah (SWT) [(فَلَا تَخْشَوْهُمْ وَاخْشَوْنِي)].

Finally, the change in the direction of Qiblah fulfilled the divine blessing on Muslims so that they may walk on the right course [(وَلِأُتِمَّ نِعْمَتِي عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ)]. The preposition (لِ) in (لِأُتِمَّ) is indicative of the final cause. Hence the connotation of the phrase [(وَلِأُتِمَّ نِعْمَتِي عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ)] is that: “With the change in the direction of Qiblah, I (Allah) fulfilled My blessing on you [(وَلِأُتِمَّ نِعْمَتِي عَلَيْكُمْ)] so that you may be guided on the right path [(وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ)]”.  One may ask, how did Allah (SWT) fulfill His blessing with the changing the direction of Qiblah?

The house of Kaaba is the first house of worship which Prophet Adam (AS) first built on Earth and was later rebuilt by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail (AS). When Prophet Ibrahim (AS) migrated with his wife Hajar (AS) and Ismail (AS) to the land of Mecca, Ismail (AS) was an infant then. Prophet Ibrahim (AS) prayed to his Lord and said [Ibrahim, 14:37]:

رَّبَّنَا إِنِّي أَسْكَنتُ مِن ذُرِّيَّتِي بِوَادٍ غَيْرِ ذِي زَرْعٍ عِندَ بَيْتِكَ الْمُحَرَّمِ رَبَّنَا لِيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ فَاجْعَلْ أَفْئِدَةً مِّنَ النَّاسِ تَهْوِي إِلَيْهِمْ وَارْزُقْهُم مِّنَ الثَّمَرَاتِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَشْكُرُونَ

14:37 “Our Lord! I have made some of my offspring settle in a barren valley near Your Sacred House! Our Lord! I did so that they may establish Prayer. So make the hearts of people affectionately inclined to them, and provide them with fruits for their sustenance that they may give thanks.

Surely, the aforementioned verse affirms that Prophet Ibrahim’s (AS) objective of rebuilding the house of Kaaba was for the establishment of Salaat and Prayer towards it (عِندَ بَيْتِكَ الْمُحَرَّمِ رَبَّنَا لِيُقِيمُوا الصَّلَاةَ). With the change in the direction of prayer towards the Kaaba, the prayer of Ibrahim (AS) was fulfilled and consequently, Allah (SWT) bestowed His favor on every Muslim.

In general, whenever we stand facing the house of Kaaba for praying, the mere act of standing towards Qiblah reminds us of the struggle and sacrifices of Prophet Ibrahim (AS), Ismail (AS) and the noble lady Hajar (AS), their contribution to establishing monotheism on Earth, and their sincere obedience and unequivocal trust in Allah (SWT). This reminder is itself a great inspiration for those who seek divine guidance [(إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَذِكْرَىٰ لِأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ) [39:21 Az-Zumar].

 

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