National Grand Mufti of Australia

East and West

سيقولون السفهاء من الناس ما ولاهم عن قبلتهم التي كانوا عليها؟ قل لله المشرق والمغرب، يهدي من يشاء إلى صراط مستقيم.
The fools among the people will say: “What has turned them away from the Qiblah which they used to be upon?” Say: “The East and the West both belong to Allah: He guides whoever He wills to a Straight Path.”

The Qiblah is the direction to which Muslim turns in Prayer. In order to emphasise our universal brotherhood and mutual co-operation, Islam lays great stress on communal Prayer.

For such Prayer, order, punctuality, symbolic postures and a common direction are essential so that the Imam and the Jama‘ah may face one way and offer their supplication to Allah.

In the early days, the Muslims faced the holy city of Al-Quds as their Qiblah. This city is also sacred to the Jews and Christians.

When the Muslims were persecuted mercilessly in Makkah and turned out therefrom, they emigrated to Al-Madinah. Under Divine direction, the Prophet (s.a.w.) began to organise the people into an Ummah, an independent nation, with laws and rituals of its own.

At that point in time, the Ka‘bah was established as the Qiblah for the Muslims, thus going back to the earliest temple dedicated to Allah with which the Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) and his offspring were connected. Al-Quds still remained sacred in the eyes of the Muslims.

وكذلك جعلناكم أمة وسطا لتكونوا شهداء على الناس ويكون الرسول عليكم شهيدا
And thus We have made you a middle nation that you may be witnesses over mankind and that the Messenger may be a witness over you.

وما جعلنا القبلة التي كنت عليها إلا لنعلم من يتبع الرسول ممن ينقلب على عقبيه
And We did not make the Qiblah that you were upon except that We might know who follows the Messenger from those who turn back on their heels.

وإن كانت لكبيرة إلا على الذين هدى الله وما كان الله ليضيع إيمانكم إن الله بالناس لرءوف رحيم
And this is a hardship except for those whom Allah has guided: and Allah would never cause your Iman to be lost. Truly, Allah is Compassionate and Merciful to mankind.

Having the city of Al-Quds as the Qiblah might have seemed strange to the Arabs, and the change of it from Al-Quds to the Ka‘bah might have seemed stranger after they had become used to the former. Truly speaking, the direction, east or west, was not the thing that mattered. What did matter was the sense of discipline, upon which Islam lays so much stress. Which of us is willing to follow our Prophet? (s.a.w.)

قد نرى تقلب وجهك في السماء فلنولينك قبلة ترضاها
We have seen the turning of your face to the sky. So, We will turn you to a Qiblah that you will be pleased with.

The Prophet (s.a.w.) was seeking the guidance of Allah in the matter of the Qiblah. Naturally, his heart was delighted when the Ka‘bah was designated as the Qiblah. Its connection with the Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) and his descendants gave it great antiquity. Its character of being an Arab centre of worship made it appropriate as the Risalah came in Arabia and was preached through the union of the Arabs.

فول وجهك شطر المسجد الحرام وحيث ما كنتم فول وجوهكم شطره. وإن الذين أوتوا الكتاب ليعلمون أنه الحق من ربهم وما الله بغافل عما يعملون.
So, turn your face towards the direction of Al-Masjid-ul-Haram, and wherever you are, turn your faces towards its direction. And truly, those who have been given the Book indeed know that it is the Truth from their Lord; and truly, Allah is not heedless of what they do.

قل لله المشرق والمغرب يهدي من يشاء
Say: “To Allah belongs the East and the West. He guides whom He wills…”

Before the advent of Islam, humanity was steeped in many superstitions. One of them was that people regarded certain directions as sacred. Under the influence of sun-worship, it became a matter of common belief that since the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, these two directions must be sacred. The Qur’an declares that both the east and the west belong to Allah.

وحيث ما كنتم فول وجوهكم شطره
And wherever you are, turn your faces towards its direction.

Allah gives us the Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.) as the example of the correct attitude to take in these circumstances. Although the Christians and the Jews both claim to revere the Prophet Ibrahim (a.s.), respectively saying that he was a Christian and a Jew, Allah tells us that Ibrahim (a.s.) was neither a Christian or a Jew, but a Hanif and a Muslim: one who devotes and submits himself completely to Allah.

During the Makkan period, the Muslims prayed facing the holy city of Al-Quds. At that time, the Ka‘bah contained, and was surrounded by, the idols of the pagan Arabs who controlled Makkah. The religion of the Jews was closer at that time to the religion of Islam; hence Allah ordered the Qiblah to be Al-Quds.

When the Prophet (s.a.w.) and the Muslims migrated to Al-Madinah, the city became the centre of the Islamic Da‘wah and the establishment of the Shari‘ah. The Jews degraded the Muslims and considered them to be a deviated sect of Judaism since they turned their faces towards the same Qiblah as the Jews. On becoming aware of this problem, the Prophet (s.a.w.) became disturbed and used to stand up at midnight looking towards the heavens, waiting a command regarding the matter of the Qiblah to descend.

In the second year after the Hijrah, while leading the Muslims in Salah inside the Masjid of Banu Salim, during the second rak‘ah of the Salah, Jibril (a.s.) descended and took the arms of the Prophet (s.a.w.) and turned him to face the new Qiblah, the Ka‘bah in Makkah.

This was a very important event in Islamic history. It strengthened the Muslims’ confidence in their religion and hinted to them the glad tidings of the nearness at hand of the liberation of Makkah from the Mushrikin.

وإن الذين أوتوا الكتاب ليعلمون أنه الحق من ربهم وما الله بغافل عما يعملون.
And truly, those who have been given the Book indeed know that it is the Truth from their Lord; and truly, Allah is not heedless of what they do.

This Ayah confirms that the Ahl-ul-Kitab were quite sure of the truth of the Mission and Message of the Last Prophet (s.a.w.), which was mentioned in their own books, but they never mentioned it, and even made efforts to conceal the fact, out of envy and enmity towards the Believers and the Din of Islam. In addition, the Jews felt deprived of the honour of having the new Ummah praying towards their Qiblah.

For the Muslims, this event proved to be a great favour from Allah, as it united them and turned them to their own centre of focus for their religious rituals. It was also a great test to determine the faith of the Muslims, and to distinguish the believers from the disobedient and hypocrites.

When the news of the changing of the Qiblah reached the Muslims in one of the Masjid of Al-Madinah after they had performed Salat-ul-Dhuhr facing Al-Quds, they then performed Salat-ul-‘Asr facing the new Qiblah. Hence, this Masjid became known as Masjid-ul-Qiblatayn.

From that day, the Muslims of the world have turned their faces five times a day towards the Ka‘bah in the holy city of Makkah.

سبحانك اللهم وبحمدك
أشهد أن لا إله إلا أنت
أستغفرك وأتوب إليك