Qiblah is changed to Masjid Al-Haram
(2nd Year of Hijrah / AD 623)
In Madinah, the Messenger of God and the Muslims used to perform prayers by turning toward Jerusalem, that is, Bayt al-Maqdis, the place of prophets, upon the order of God. However, the Prophet wanted and desired in his heart to turn toward the Kaaba, which is an exceptional monument of the creed of oneness, the first worshipping place on earth and the qiblah of his ancestor Hazrat Ibrahim. The Muslims, especially, the Muhajirs had the same desire in their hearts because turning toward the Kaaba would be a means of remembering Makkah, their homeland.
Their desire was strengthened because they were disturbed when Jews started to say, “Muhammad and his friends did not even know where their qiblah was when we showed it to them!” Therefore, the Messenger of God was waiting for the revelation for the change of the qiblah, watching Jibril and praying with the desire of the Kaaba.
As a matter of fact, he told Jibril (may God be pleased with him) about his desire: “I want my Lord to change the qiblah from the qiblah of Jews to the Kaaba!”
Jibril (may God be pleased with him), “I am a slave! Pray your Lord. Ask him!” (1)
Thereupon, when the Prophet was about to perform prayers turning toward Bayt al-Maqdis, he used to raise his head toward the sky.
Finally, in 17th month of Hijrah, the following verse stating that the qiblah was changed to Majid al-haram was sent down:
“We see the turning of thy face (for guidance) to the heavens; now shall We turn thee to a Qiblah that shall please thee. Turn then thy face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque; wherever ye are turn your faces in that direction. The people of the book know well that that is the truth from their Lord nor is Allah unmindful of what they do!” (2)
When that verse was sent down, the Messenger of God was leading the noon prayer in his mosque. The first two rakahs of the prayer had been performed; the last two rakahs were about to be performed. The Prophet changed his direction slowly and turned his blessed face toward the Kaaba. The Muslims turned toward the Kaaba with the Prophet, too. (3)
The Mosque with Two Qiblahs
According to another narration, the Messenger of God went to the region of Bani Salama to visit Umm Bishr, the mother of Bish b. Bara, on a Monday in the month of Rajab. A meal was cooked for him. They ate it. Meanwhile, the time for the noon prayer started. The Prophet started to lead the noon prayer to the Muslims in the mosque there. After praying the first two rakahs, he was ordered to turn toward the Kaaba while performing the prayer. Thereupon, he turned toward Masjid al-Haram together with the Muslims following him at once.
Therefore, the Bani Salama Mosque was given the name “Masjid al-Qiblatayn [Mosque with Two Qiblahs]”. (4)
Upon the order of the Prophet, all Muslims were informed that the qiblah was changed from Masjid al-Aqsa to Masjid al-Haram.
The determination of the qiblah as the Kaaba caused some concerns among the Muslims because there were some Muslims who performed prayers by turning to Bayt al-Maqdis before the qiblah was changed and then died or were martyred. Therefore, they went to presence of the Prophet, expressed their concerns and asked him, “O Messenger of God! What will the state of the Muslims who died before the change of qiblah be like? They performed prayers by turning to Bayt al-Maqdis.”.
God Almighty eliminated their concerns by sending down the following verse: “We appointed the Qiblah to which thou wast used, only to test those who followed the Messenger from those who would turn on their heels (from the faith). Indeed it was (a change) momentous except to those guided by God. And never would God make your faith of no effect. For God is to all people most surely full of kindness, Most Merciful.” (5)
When the Messenger of God had gone to Madinah and started to perform prayers by turning toward Bayt al-Maqdis, the Arab polytheists were offended. When the qiblah was changed to the Kaaba, the Jews were offended and started to talk against it and cause mischief. Some of their scholars asked the Messenger of God, “O Muhammad! What has turned you from the Qiblah to which you were used? Are you not the one who said he belonged to the nation and religion of Ibrahim?” Then, they made the following sly offer:
“If you return toward the qiblah that you used to turn, we will obey you and confirm you!”
The following verses narrate that event:
“The Fools among the people will say: "What hath turned them from the Qiblah to which they were used?" Say: To God belongs both East and West; He guideth whom He will to a Way that is straight.”
“Thus have We made of you an Ummah justly balanced That ye might be witnesses over the nations and the Messenger a witness over yourselves.”
“...Even if thou wert to bring to the people of the Book all the signs (together) they would not follow thy Qiblah; nor art thou going to follow their Qiblah; nor indeed will they follow each other's Qiblah.”
“If thou after the knowledge hath reached thee, wert to follow their (vain) desires―then wert thou indeed (clearly) in the wrong.” (6)
The Qiblah of the Quba Mosque
After the qiblah was changed to Masjid al-Haram, the Messenger of God went to Quba and changed the qiblah of the Quba Mosque, which was the first mosque built in the history of Islam, to the direction of the Kaaba.
1. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 1, p. 241; Tabari, Tarikh, V. 2, p. 265.
2. al-Baqara, 144.
3. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 1, p. 241-242.
4. Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, V. 1, p. 241-242; Balazuri, Ansab, V. 1, p. 246.
5. al-Baqara, 143.
6. al-Baqara, 142-143, 145.