Wa`alaykum as-Salam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
In this fatwa:
1- It is stated in the books of seerah (biography of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that Muslims were facing Jerusalem as the qiblah (direction toward which Muslims turn their faces in Prayer).
3- Among the reasons behind this change is that the Kabah was held by all as the holiest of sites.
In his response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Canada, stated:
The qiblah was changed from Jerusalem to the Kabah in Makkah for the Kabah is the first and most ancient House of Worship ever built for all humankind for the purpose of worshipping Almighty Allah alone, as stated in the Quran.
Almighty Allah says:
“The first House [of worship] appointed for humankind was that at Bakkah: Full of blessing and of guidance for all kinds of beings.” (Aal `Imran 3:96)
The shift of qiblah from Jerusalem to the Kabah thus represents Islam’s stance of calling the humankind away from local or provincial shrines to the First Sanctuary, where the peoples are invited to give heed to the roots of their father, Adam (peace be upon him).
In other words, this shift intended to unify the humanity under the Lordship of One God. Islam thus cuts off all tribal, racial, and ethnic divisions that separate the peoples from one another.
Furthermore, we also learn from the traditions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that the Kabah was the qiblah of the Prophets before him (peace be upon them all). We have been told that all Prophets — such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus — were also facing the Ka`bah in their Prayers.
Allah Almighty knows best.
Editor’s note: This fatwa is from Ask the Scholar’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.