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Ramadan Under Lockdown: How Qibla Change Can Prepare Us

In Newton’s laws of motions, the law of inertia tells us a lot about the nature of moving and still objects around us: When something is at rest (think about your fridge at home), it is going to take a lot of effort to get it to move. When another object is at motion (think about a car that lost its brakes), it is going to take an immense force to slow it down to safety.

A very similar reasoning applies to the laws of human (E)motions: When we are stuck at a given course of motion (a habit, lifestyle, or a belief), big events are required to bring them back to where they should be.

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Kabah under Lockdown

On the 15th of Shaban during their second year after migration to Madinah, the Muslim community went through one of those difficult course-changing incidents.

After praying towards Jerusalem for more than 13 years, they were commanded by Allah to change their Qibla towards Makkah.

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Aside from the social, spiritual, and political implications of this event (Know more about that here), such event is very relevant for us in 2020: We see the Kabah area empty and the Masjid of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) unattended. We are stranded away from our mosques, like a fish who cannot get back to its water bowl.

On top of that, we are expecting a Ramadan under quarantine, stripped from a great deal of spiritual and social elements: Taraweeh, Iftars, and gatherings.

Difficult Change

We probably will realize some of the benefits and wisdoms behind this experience, but definitely not while being in the thick of it. The Companions received the divine order to change, to adapt, to submit, and Allah SWT praised the ones who successfully complied:

 {And We did not prescribe the Qibla which you used to observe except to know the one who follows the Messenger as distinct from the one who turns on his heels. It was burdensome indeed, but not on those whom Allah guided. Allah will not allow your faith go to waste. Certainly Allah is very kind, very merciful to the people.} (Al-Baqarah 2:143)

For many of us, it may not sound a big deal: you just direct your prayer rug to a different direction. However, it was for them a huge change that had multiple social and political ramifications. As the previous Ayah shows, it was enough of an excuse to cause some Muslims to revert away from Islam. It was a big of a deal to draw a huge criticism to the Muslims: 

{The foolish among the people will say: “What has turned them away from their Qibla which they used to observe?” Say: “To Allah belong the East and the West. He guides whom He wills to a straight path.} (Al-Baqarah 2:142)

What Really Matters

The Companions had to wait for the revelation to come down and satisfy their thirsty hearts: Righteousness is not defined by the technicalities of your rituals (such as the Qibla direction). Despite being a major part of faith, establishing the Fiqh of prayer is a piece of a bigger and more intricate puzzle:

{Righteousness is not (merely) that you turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteousness is that one believes in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Book and the Prophets, and gives wealth, despite (his) love for it, to relatives, and to orphans, the helpless, the wayfarer, and to those who ask, and (spends) in (freeing) slaves and observes the Salāh (prayers) and pays Zakah-and (the act of) those who fulfill their covenant when they enter into a covenant, and, of course, those who are patient in hardship and suffering and when in battle! Those are the ones who are truthful, and those are the God – fearing.} (Al-Baqarah 2:177)

Ask Yourself

As we come closer to a very different Ramadan, the Qibla Change event brings many spiritual and intellectual questions for us:

  • Are we going to find meaning and connection to Allah in our prayers, regardless of the location and the environment?
  • Are we going to experience the transformational elements of fasting, without the sweet social interactions of Iftar?
  • Are we going to donate generously and support our institutions and our fragmented and war-torn brethren, even while being disconnected physically from other gatherings?
  • Are we going to maintain the ties of kinship and the spirit of brotherhood with our families and community members?
  • Are we going to choose wisely what kind of media to consume and what material to fill our hearts and eyes and minds with?

At the end of the day, we all have our own preferences, our inclinations, our strengths and weaknesses. Each one of us has a story of how we were guided, what makes us cry, laugh, love, hate, pray, donate, etc..  

We got to read ourselves, understand ourselves, and search deep inside, and then use such valuable insight to excel and compete in good deeds and self-purification: 

{For everyone there is a direction to which he turns his face. Strive, then, to excel each other in good deeds. Wherever you are, Allah will bring you all together. Allah is certainly powerful over everything.} (Al-Baqarah 2:148)

Please, try to use the disturbance in “spiritual inertia” this Ramadan as an opportunity to reorient your qibla; Try your best to grow, to shine, and to thrive this Ramadan, not only survive, and try your best to spread this attitude and this positivity around you.

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About Dr. Mohannad Hakeem
Dr. Mohannad Hakeem is an educator, activist, and author who has studied traditionally under multiple scholars in the Muslim world for the past 20 years. He is originally from Lebanon and currently resides in Dearborn, MI, USA, where he has helped establish multiple community initiatives and organizations, with a focus on youth empowerment and education. His most recent book, "The 40 Hadith on Community Service," draws inspiration from the Quran and the Sunnah to provide young Muslims with an "algorithm" for success and excellence in both the worldly life and the afterlife. In his professional career, Dr. Hakeem earned a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. In this role, he has taught several students, conducted research, and authored 80+ patents and technical papers.