As muslims, we are united in that wherever we are in the world we aim to offer our prayers facing the same point on Earth.
The Qibla, which is Arabic for direction, is the direction that should be faced when a muslim prays during salat. It is fixed as the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
All over the world, mosques identify the direction of the Qibla through indications on the wall called mihrab. Even multi-faith rooms in Airports and Shopping Malls have the direction of the Qibla marked in this way.
Other than offering salat, other occasions warrant the use of the Qibla also. The head of an animal that is slaughtered using halal methods is aligned with the Qibla. After death, muslims are buried with their heads turned right towards the direction of the Qibla.
However, the Qibla wasn’t always the Kaaba in Mecca. Shortly after the relocation to Medina, Allah SWT ordered the muslims to pray towards the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
This was to last for around 17 months and in that time both Jews and Muslims of Medina prayed in the same direction.
Despite this being a sort of collaboration between the two religions, after a while claims began to surface from the Jewish contingent in Medina.
They began to claim that the prayers being offered were to the ‘Qiblah of the Jews’.
Allah SWT provided revelation in Sura Al-Baqarah ayat 142:
“The fools amongst the people will say, “What has turned them from their Qiblah to which they used to face in prayer”. Say, “To Allah belong both, east and the west. He guides whom He wills to a straight way.”
So why did Allah SWT, order the change in the Qibla? The Prophet SAWS would spend the night praying for revelation in this matter during the 17 months. This is referred to in ayat 144 of Sura Al-Baqarah:
“Many a time We have seen you turn your face towards heaven. We will make you turn towards ‘Qiblah’ that will please you.”
My brothers, for most of us here we have seen first hand account of Allah SWT’s wisdom and mercy in our everyday lives. In this occasion he reveals through the Glorious Quran the reasoning behind the 17 month change in the Qiblah and demonstrates His divine wisdom for us all to reflect upon.
In ayat 143 of Sura Al-Baqarah, Allah SWT says:
“We decreed your former Qiblah only in order that We might know the Prophet’s true followers and those who were to disown him. It was indeed a hard test, but not for those whom Allah guided.”
My brothers, if you reflect then this verse is explaining that the change in Qibla to Jerusalem and then to Makkah was to identify the hypocrites amongst the prophet SAWS as they struggled to face Makkah at the end of the 17 month test.
As muslims, we face the Qiblah five time every day and often we are caught in a situation where we may be on the road and aren’t aware of the direction of Qiblah.
In these situations, the following tips are useful for working out the direction of Qiblah:
- There are over a dozen smartphone apps that use GPS to assist the muslim in locating Qiblah. Mostly they are free and are available in both Google Play store and Apple’s App store.
- For those who don’t have access to that technology, the UK is unique in that there is a fool-proof way to establish Qibla by just looking at the Sky satellite dish connected outside homes. All Sky satellite dishes face in the general direction of Makkah in the UK so they provide a useful tool to determining which direction to offer the Salat.
My brothers, we have been given a direction from Allah SWT specifically for our nation and in answer to the duas of our prophet SAWS. Let’s not let it become an abandoned direction.
May Allah SWT make us appreciate this lesson from the Quran. May Allah SWT make us revere the Qiblah given specifically to the Muslims. And May Allah SWT be pleased with each and every salat we offer facing the Qiblah.
Ameen wal hamdullilahi rabilalameen.