What Is The Significance of The Qiblah?

10 June, 2017
Q Why do you Muslims face the qiblah while praying? What is the significance of that? Why is the Kabah appointed as the qiblah?

Answer

Salam (Peace) Mark,

Thank you very much for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

You have in fact touched on a very important point.

The simple answer to this is that Muslims do not worship their qiblah (the direction in which Muslims pray), nor do they face it for any reason apart from being commanded by God to do so.

But why are they commanded to do so? What is the wisdom of facing one direction in prayer? Is it just about facing a direction or something more than that?

Let’s explore some aspects of the wisdom of God in this bearing in mind that since the wisdom of God is unlimited and we are limited human beings, we will always remain short of comprehending it fully.

Facing the qiblah is, first of all, a test to our ability to obey the commands of God even when we fall short from understanding His wisdom. Muslims, as servants of God, are required to surrender to Him.

One of the proofs of surrender is to trust the fact that He has wisdom in everything even if we cannot perceive this wisdom. When we face the qiblah with this intention of surrendering ourselves to God, we hope that we have succeeded in the test.

Another aspect is the fact that the qiblah is a sign of the spiritual unity of Muslims. At the time of prayer, Muslims all over the world are lined in circles big and small facing one direction and feeling belonging to this center and belonging to each other.

This creates a spiritual unity among all Muslims all over the world and leaves them with a sense of belonging to each other.

On the individual level, it is well known that Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) is one of the main Islamic deeds and the fifth pillar of Islam. Muslims all over the world, who are not in Hajj, face Makkah five times a day to re-voice their wish and love to perform this great ritual of Islam.

It is as if they are repeatedly renewing their pledge that they will be doing it one day, sooner or later. Even if they cannot physically be there, they are spiritually there five times a day when they face the Kabah.

Another important point, which I think very important today, is the fact that everyone in this world has a direction in his or her life, whether physical or spiritual.

Some people take their religious beliefs as their direction and try to express that in a certain way. Some people take other ideologies as their direction in life and try to express that in one way or another.

Only when people lose the direction, they face loss and disruption. Since Islam is the religion of monotheism and since Muslims believe that Almighty God is beyond space and place, above time and perceptions, we cannot face the heavens in our prayer because it is impossible, but we raise our hands seeking help from God.

When it comes to prayer, we are commanded to face the place that received the first words of the Quran and witnessed the connection between the heavens and the earth, the place that witnessed the early days of Islam and the emergence of this great religion.

But why the Kabah? That is another important point to speak about here. Muslims do not face Madinah where lies the grave of the Prophet (peace be upon him) simply because we do not worship the Prophet. Muslims are not grave worshipers, nor do they worship human beings.

Muslims face the Kabah because it is the first sacred house ever built for mankind, established by Adam and raised by Prophet Abraham. So, they connect themselves with these great prophets and renew this lineage that extends from Adam to Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

We confirm by this the fact that Islam is the true religion of God that has been revealed to all prophets and messengers everywhere and has been finalized by Muhammad. The start was with Adam at the Kabah and the end was with Muhammad also at the Kabah.

In between these two great prophets, there was another great prophet; that is Abraham, the father of the Abrahamic faiths who raised the building of the Kabah following the instruction of God.

Our facing the Kabah in prayer is another token of love to this great prophet and confirmation of our link with other Abrahamic faiths through our link to Abraham himself.

The fact that the Holy Mosque in Makkah is the first mosque ever built for mankind and the first place of worship is confirmed by the Quran, as Almighty God says in the Quran:

{Most surely the first house appointed for men is the one at Bakkah [Makkah], blessed and a guidance for the nations.} (Aal `Imran 3:96)

Of course, the word “Bakkah” here is another name of the Holy City of Makkah. The verses of the Quran also confirm the link with Abraham:

{In it are clear signs, the standing place of Abraham, and whoever enters it shall be secure, and pilgrimage to the House is incumbent upon men for the sake of Allah, (upon) everyone who is able to undertake the journey to it; and whoever disbelieves, then surely Allah is Self-sufficient, above any need of the worlds.} (Aal `Imran 3:97)

Honoring the Kabah is not something invented by Islam. It has been a very old tradition in Arabia where Arabs inherited from their forefathers who go back to Prophet Ishmael and his father, prophet Abraham, who love and respect the holy place.

Muslims are reviving this great tradition as required by God to confirm this long chain of Prophets and this link between the heaven and the earth.

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.

Salam.

This response is from About Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

One Qiblah, United Community

https://aboutislam.net/counseling/ask-the-scholar/acts-of-worship/who-was-the-first-to-build-the-kabah/

https://aboutislam.net/reading-islam/understanding-islam/one-direction-one-people-one-god/