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Qibla Change: The Test for Early Muslims

Allah clearly mentioned in the Quran one of the most important attributes of the believers.

{It does not behoove a believer, male or female, that when Allah and His Messenger have decided an affair they should exercise a choice. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has strayed to manifest error} (Al‐ Ahzab 33:36)

This is a fundamental quality of the believer. You will find it throughout the Quran:

{Obey Allah and Obey the Messenger…} (An‐Nisaa’ 4: 59, Al‐Ma’idah 5:92, An‐Nur 24:54, Muhammad 47:33, At‐Taghabun 64:12)

An unconditional and complete submission to their commands is the essence of being a Muslim.

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The Prophet and his Companions demonstrated this quality very well. However, this quality is not easy to achieve.

It will be challenged by Shaytan (the devil) and it will be tested by Allah in almost every aspect of our lives. Therefore, it needs to be developed and nurtured the same way Allah and His Messenger did with the Companions.

It was developed by the strong verses of the Quran,

{If you obey him, you will be guided…} (An‐Nur 24:54)

It was instilled in the hearts of the believers by strong warning,

{Let those who go against his order beware lest a trial or a severe punishment afflict them} (An‐Nur 24: 63)

It was also tested through important events that the Companions, as well as generations to come, will never forget.

Consequences of Disobedience

The simple act of disobedience that took place by the archers during the battle of Uhud resulted in the killing of seventy of the Companions as well as a defeat in such a crucial battle.

They paid the price and they learned the lesson. So did we and so will generations to come.

The incidents are numerous. Yet the most amazing incident that helped develop such a quality was the incident of the change of the Qibla, the direction where Muslims point to during salah.

A Lesson in Complete Submission

The first house that was built on this earth for people to worship Allah was the Sacred House of Allah in Makkah,

{The first house established for mankind is the one at Bakkah: It is full of blessings and guidance to the whole world.} (Aal `Imran 3: 96)

Ibrahim and Isma`il (peace and blessings be upon them) reestablished it and made it the destination for all people to worship Allah. Ibrahim called upon people to come and perform Hajj. People came to it from all over the inhabited world. The Arabs developed complete love towards it and it was the place for Hajj to all of them.

Sacred House

Even after the Arabs strayed from the faith of Ibrahim and started worshipping idols, the Sacred House of Allah in Makkah continued to have the precious value in their hearts.

The people of Quraysh surrounded it with idols that Arabs used to worship to attract all the Arabs to it. It became the symbol of religion in the peninsula and Makkah became the place to visit for all Arabs.

When Abrahah, the Yemeni king, built his own religious house, called Al‐Qullays, and tried to attract attention to it, it was completely disregarded and Makkah continued to have its value.

This drove the Yemeni king crazy. He tried to destroy this house in Makkah to promote his own house and we all know how Allah saved His house and destroyed Abrahah and his army.

After the incident, the value of the House of Allah in Makkah increased even more than what it used to be especially in the hearts of those who experienced this great incident.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions grew up in this environment, they glorified the House of Allah, and Makkah was the most beloved place to them. When revelation came down on the Prophet, the Quran continued to add more glory to the glory.

Believers love Allah more

{And those who believe love Allah more than all else} (Al-Baqarah 2:165)

Everyone loves the Ka`bah, those who believe in Allah and His Messenger and those who do not. Everyone aims for the Ka`bah, those who worship Allah as well as those who worship idols.

Allah wanted to remove any attachment to anything or anyone except Him.

The believers should love the Ka`bah and adore it only because of Allah, not anything else. Muslims should face the Ka`bah not because of anything except that it is the House of Allah. For that to happen, Allah ordered His Messenger to face another sacred place, that was Jerusalem.

Changing the Qibla

It is sure not easy on any Arab to leave the Ka`bah and face Jerusalem, especially those who grew up next to the Ka`bah.

Muslims had to make the decision: following Allah’s orders or following their own desires. The choice for the believers was obvious, yet wasn’t easy even on the Prophet himself.

Later in Madinah, after the Prophet migrated to it, the Prophet used to long for a revelation to direct him back to face Makkah during Salah. Allah said,

{We see you oft turning your face towards the sky, so We shall surely turn you to a Qibla which you shall like…} (Al‐Baqarah 2:144)

The Prophet and his Companions demonstrated clear obedience to Allah. They passed a very difficult test. They abandoned the Qibla that they grew up knowing for the Qibla that Allah wanted them to have.

When the love and the obedience of Allah filled their hearts, Allah ordered His Messenger to stop facing Jerusalem and start facing Makkah again.

They, as well as every single Muslim who came after, face Al‐Ka`bah. Now, it is because Allah Almighty commanded so.