Friday, October 5, 2018

Landmark Holy Place of Islam: Masjid Qiblatain (Masjid of Two Prayer Directions)

New religions take time to mature and cement their basic foundations. When Allah chose Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), a pious, respectful and trusted man from one of the leading tribes of Makkah to be His last prophet through whom the last of the divine religions, Islam, was to be sent to the mankind, the pagans of Makkah were the most intolerable and hostile audience the Prophet of Allah had to face. Therefore, the Divine messages trickled down slowly and it took some 23 years to complete the religion as Islam solidified its position unto the disbelievers and nonbelievers.
Masjid Al Aqsa, Jerusalem
Initially, when the five prayers were made obligatory for the Muslims, the prayer direction  or the Qibla (in Arabic) was chosen to be the Masjid Al Aqsa in the holy lands located on a hill in the Old City of Jerusalem that for thousands of years has been venerated as a holy site, in Judaism and Christianity and from thence by Islam too. Right from the early days of Islam, Muslim's Qibla remained the direction of Masjid Al Aqsa for over 13 years, that is from 610 CE until 623 CE. However, seventeen months after the migration of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) from Makkah to Medina the Qiblah became oriented towards the Ka'aba, Masjid Al Haraam, in Makkah.


When the Muslims came to Medina and started praying in the direction of Masjid Al Aqsa, equally revered by the Jews and which also the direction of their prayers, the Jews initially rejoiced the fact that the Prophet of Islam had to take their sacred city as a Qibla. And it was also thought by the Muslims that by having a common Qibla, the two religions would foster religious harmony and cordial relations in future. But as the spread of Islam started to gain momentum, the Jews of Medina felt threatened of losing their religious identity and as a retaliation started to mock the Muslims for not having a Qibla of their own. "Muhammad claims that his is an independent religion and his law supersedes all previous laws, but he does not yet have an independent 'qiblah' and offers his prayers facing the 'qiblah' of the Jews".

This started hurting the Prophet of Allah and he would invariably go out at night and look towards the Heavens for a Divine command regarding the Qibla for Muslims.



The silent prayers of the Prophet of Allah were finally answered and on that fateful day of 2 Hijrah when the Prophet of Allah was leading the noon prayers, came the Divine commandment:
We have certainly seen the turning of your face, [O Muhammad], toward the heaven, and We will surely turn you to a qibla with which you will be pleased. So turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haram. And wherever you [believers] are, turn your faces toward it [in prayer]. Indeed, those who have been given the Scripture well know that it is the truth from their Lord. And Allah is not unaware of what they do. [Surah Al Baqara 2:144]
The Prophet of Allah had almost finished the two rakah or the cycles, when the Divine message arrived to change the direction of Qibla towards Ka'aba, Masjid Al Haraam, in Makkah. Thus the messenger of Allah changed the direction which was almost opposite to the direction of Masjid Al Aqsa and offered the remaining two cycles of the prayers. 
Masjid Al Haraam, Ka'aba - Makkah
Due to this change of Qibla, the masjid became to known as the Masjid Qiblatain, the Masjid with two Qiblas or the prayer directions.

The direction change made Muslims joyous, but it was a day of mourning for the Jews. The Muslims had now become completely independent of them and a prophecy in their old books had been fulfilled that the last of the great prophets would change the orientation of the religion of Allah from Jerusalem to the Ancient House of Abrahim (upon him be peace). Their elders went as a body to the Prophet (ﷺ) and said that if he would change his orientation back to Jerusalem, then they would follow him. [2]

Allah (ﷻ) revealed in the Quran in Surah al-Baqarah: 
“And even if thou broughtest unto those who have received the Scriptures all kinds of portents, they would not follow thy Qibla, nor canst thou be a follower of their Qibla; nor are some of them followers of the Qibla of others. And if thou shouldst follow their desires after the knowledge which has come unto thee, then surely wert thou of the evil doers.” [2:145]
While most of the Muslims accepted the Divine commandant wholeheartedly as Ka'aba was well known to them, some of Medina had some dual feelings as they failed to understand the wisdom behind the change in the Qibla direction. In fact it was a test for the true believer, because the true believer, unlike others, accepts the commands of Allah without any doubt:
“And thus we have made you a just community that you will be witnesses over the people and the Messenger will be a witness over you. And We did not make the qiblah which you used to face except that We might make evident who would follow the Messenger from who would turn back on his heels. And indeed, it is difficult except for those whom Allah has guided. And never would Allah have caused you to lose your faith. Indeed Allah is, to the people, Kind and Merciful.” [Al-Baqarah 2:143]
And yet again:
“Whatever Verse (revelation) do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring a better one or similar to it. Know you not that Allah is able to do all things?” [Al-Baqarah 2:106]
Thus from then on, Masjid Al Haraam, Ka'aba in Makkah became the direction for all the Muslims living anywhere in the world. Today more than a billion Muslims living all over the world face Ka'aba - an act that induces unity and focus of one's faith.

A few words about the Qibla al-Qudsiyya: It is the name given to a small sect of the Jews of Medina who converted to Islam in 622/623. When the Qibla was changed, these Jews protested and finally declined the change. They remained Muslims, but did not accept any of the verses in the Qur'an written after the date of the split. Little is known of the existence of these Islamic Jews afterwards. [3]

You may now watch a video of Masjid Qiblatain as shared on YouTube:
Next time you are in the holy lands and visit Medina, do not forget to visit this very important landmark of Islamic history. Masjid Qiblatain lies three miles away from Masjid an-Nabwi in Medina.

Photo (Masjid Qiblatain) | Photos (Masjid Al Aqsa / Masjid Al Haraam, Ka'aba | 
References: | 1 | 2 | 3 |
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