Will you explain the statement "make your dwellings into places of worship" mentioned in verse 87 of the chapter of Yunus? Did prayer and qiblah exist in the previous nations?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

"We inspired Moses and his brother with this Message: ‘Provide dwellings for your people in Egypt, make your dwellings into places of worship (qiblah), and establish regular prayers: and give glad tidings to those who believe.’" (Yunus, 10/87)

The demand from Hz. Musa (Moses) and his brother to prepare dwellings in Egypt for their nation.

Some tafsir scholars established a connection with the order to establish prayers after that and interpreted the word "qiblah" as "mosques" thus; they interpreted this order as "make your dwellings into places of worship". Acting upon the lexical meaning of the word "qiblah", some tafsir scholars hold the view that what is meant in the verse is to build dwellings facing one another and to help one another. 

Ibn Ashur states that those interpretations do not comply with historical information and expresses his view as follows: The order to prepare dwellings in the verse tells the two prophets mentioned in the verse to instruct their nation to build dwellings. 

Since Sons of Israel lived in the south of Egypt near the city of Memphis, what is meant in the verse is their building other houses in Egypt. It is not meaningful for Allah, who knew that Sons of Israel would leave Egypt – with His permission and help – to want them to build mosques. They were probably ordered to prepare dwellings probably like tents and sheds in another place to prepare for migration. There is some information in the Torah supporting this view.

What is meant by qiblah is the direction of south. The reason why this direction is mentioned as qiblah might be Hz. Musa’s turning toward Hz. Ibrahim’s qiblah in that period. However, Hz. Musa may have used a word meaning south and the Quran may have expressed it with the word qiblah, which is commonly used in the sense of south among Arabs. The reason why the houses ordered to face south might be the sun entering from their doors in all seasons during the most part of the day, which is very beneficial.

As Ibn Ashur points out, there are scholars who hold the view that Hz. Musa turned toward the Kaaba, Hz. Ibrahim’s qiblah, before he was ordered to turn toward the direction of Quds (Jerusalem) and what is meant by the word "qiblah" in the verse is the Kaaba but there are also scholars who interpret it as Bayt al-Maqdis.

The use of the dual conjugation first and plural conjugation after that and singular conjugation at the end of the verse is explained as follows by tafsir scholars: First, Hz. Musa and Hz. Harun (Aaron) are addressed so that they would prepare dwellings for their nation because it is the duty of the prophets to choose a place and to lead their nations. Then, the plural form was used to make both the prophets and all of the responsible people in their nation contribute to the preparation of their houses and worshiping places, or turn toward qiblah and not to neglect to worship Allah. Finally, Hz. Musa is addressed and he is ordered to give good news to the believers who express their concern in the previous verse and he is ordered to tell them that they will attain salvation. Since Hz. Harun was subject to Hz. Musa related to the duty of prophethood, Hz. Musa is addressed. There are some scholars who hold the view that this part addresses Hz. Muhammad but this view is generally regarded as weak. There is no definite information about the real nature of the order to pray but it is highly probable that the prayer that Sons of Israel performed before by following Hz. Ibrahim and his followers before Hz. Musa became a prophet is meant.

That they are ordered to perform prayers immediately after the order that includes signs for the preparation for migration suggests that it is an important warning telling them that they should not neglect to worship because of being busy with preparations.

"We inspired Moses and his brother with this Message: ‘Provide dwellings for your people in Egypt, make your dwellings into places of worship, and establish regular prayers: and give glad tidings to those who believe.’"

We inspired Moses and his brother as follows: "Provide dwellings for your people in Egypt. Make your dwellings into places of worship, and establish regular prayers there. Do not fear the oppression of Pharaoh because of your prayer. In addition, give glad tidings of great thawabs and victories in the future to those who believe."

The statement translated as "make your dwellings into places of worship" in the verse were explained in different ways by tafsir scholars.

a. Abdullah b. Abbas, Ibrahim an-Nahai, Mujahid, Abu Malik, Rabi' b. Anas, Dahhak and Ibn Zayd explained that statement as follows: "Make your dwellings into places of worship, and establish regular prayers there." Sons of Israel performed prayers only in synagogues and they feared Pharaoh and his nation when they prayed. Thereupon, Allah ordered them to make their dwellings into places of worship, and establish regular prayers there.

b. According to another view reported from Abdullah b. Abbas, Mujahid, Qatada and Dahhak, the explanation of that statement is as follows: "Change the direction of your mosques to the Kaaba." When Sons of Israel complained about the torture of Pharaoh, Allah ordered them to make their dwellings into places of worship and change their direction to the Kaaba.

c. According to Said b. Jubayr, the explanation of that statement is as follows: "Make your homes face one another.

Tabari states that the first view is preferable because that is the first meaning understood from the text of the verse and that it is appropriate to explain the words of Allah based on the expressions that are used the most. (see Tabari and Diyanet Tafsirs)

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Did performing prayers exist in other religions?

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