03 Nov Sūratu’l-Baqarah [The Cow] : (2:144)
قَدْ نَرَىٰ تَقَلُّبَ وَجْهِكَ فِي السَّمَاءِ فَلَنُوَلِّيَنَّكَ قِبْلَةً تَرْضَاهَا
Certainly We have seen you (O Messenger) often turning your face to heaven. We will surely turn you towards a direction with which you will be pleased. (Al-Baqarah 2:144)
Thw most striking aspect of this verse is fact that the changing of the direc-tion of worship—qiblah—is mentioned together with the satisfaction of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. Some may ask about the relationship between the satisfaction of the Prophet and the changing of the direction of the qiblah. As it will also be pointed out in the following verse discussed (al-Baqarah 2:150), from a Sufi/spiritual perspective, there is a strong connection between “the truth of the Ka‘bah,” toward which Muslims turn in worship, and “Haqīqah Ahmadiyah”—the ontological truth of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, as Ahmad, the name by which he was called in the heavens before his coming to the world as Muhammad. To explain this connection most precisely, the essence of Prophet Muhammad and the truth of the Ka‘bah are the twins that were created in the very same womb of creation.
▪In a certain period of time, the qiblah was the Masjidu’l-Aqsā in Jerusalem due to certain instances of wisdom although Muslims were living at that time either around the Ka‘bah or in the city of Madīnah.
Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, was looking for-ward to being reunited with the Ka‘bah and was unburdening himself to God Almighty in strong aspiration for the realization of this sacred reunion.
▪In fact, like all the other Prophets, he was like a heavenly dove that could never be captivated and distracted by any worldly charm. He descended from Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, who had been freed from the earthly gravitation and rose directly to the spiritual station of being God’s intimate friend. As for himself, Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, would rise high to the Sidratu’l-Muntahā (the Farthest Lote-tree), which symbolizes the farthest or highest limit separating the realms of the Creator and the created from each other, and to the highest point of nearness to God, which is symbolized in the Qur’ān as “the distance of two bows’ length, even nearer” (An-Najm 53:9). He traveled in the realms beyond, his heart never contradicting what he saw and his sight never swerving or going wrong (An-Najm 53:11, 17). He completed his travel with a transcendent return to the earth for a sublime cause.
▪This supreme commander, the ruler of humanity and jinn, who had traveled in higher and higher realms until the farthest point of the realm of the created and beneath the feet of whom angels had spread their wings, was turning his face to heaven with a Prophetic kindness and consideration and asking,
“When is the reunion, O my God?”
in humbleness and courtesy. And when God Almighty allowed him to be reunited with the Ka‘bah, he was utterly happy and satisfied. God Almighty told him,
“We will surely turn you towards a direction that will please and satisfy you.”
This also meant that God Almighty was also pleased with him and the direction to which he turned in worship, that is, the Ka‘bah.
▪The Prophet’s former qiblah, Baytu’l-Maqdīs (literally “the Holy House/Shrine”), which will certainly continue to preserve its holiness, moved two steps backward, and at a time when humanity was being pre-pared for a new era that brought with it new thought, feelings, and con-siderations, the antique building, the Ka‘bah, which always preserves its freshness attracts the Almighty’s sight upon itself, was opened to its Twin and his followers with its light, secret, and hidden assets in its bosom. The Ka‘bah embraced them in a way that it never did for others, and it would live the beginning and the end together, for the first and the last time.
Certainly We have seen you (O Messenger) often turning your face to heaven. We will surely turn you towards a direction with which you will be pleased. (Now the time has come, so) turn your face towards the Sacred Mosque. (And you, O believers) turn your faces towards it wherever you are. (Al-Baqarah 2:144)
With its totality considered, this meaning of this verse has another di-mension:
Prophet Muhammad’s turning towards the Masjidu’l-Aqsā (a.k.a. Baytu’l-Maqdīs) in worship in the initial years of the Madīnah period of his Messengership had a positive effect on the Jews of Madīnah to accept Islam.
In other words, they considered the possibility that Muhammad might be a Prophet.
▪The later changing of qiblah to the Ka‘bah, moderated the hearts of Makkan polytheists, who claimed to follow Abraham’s religion but did not believe in Islam, and thus Prophet Muhammad’s Prophethood found a basis of discussion. In this way, both places that were sanctified by Jews and polytheists were also recognized by Islam, and this influenced both groups’ view of Islam. Like other Qur’anic verses, this verse has also a deep effect on human psychology or people’s mood. This psychological aspect of the Qur’ān is perhaps the least studied among all other aspects during the long history of Qur’anic commentary.
The word “shatra” in this verse means “a half” or “a part/side” of some-thing, or “towards/in the direction of” something. It shows that turning one’s face in his or her Prayers towards the Ka‘bah which stands in the courtyard of the Masjidu’l-Haram (the Sacred Mosque) in Makkah as directly as possible is obligatory and mandatory. Hence, many Companions and their scholarly successors deduced from the words “shatra” (towards) and “haythumā” (wherever you are) the necessity that the believers must search for the right direction before beginning their Prayers, wherever on the earth they find themselves. That is, those who are in the Sacred Mosque around the Ka‘bah are considered to obey the Divine command to turn towards the Ka‘bah by facing straight towards any part or side of the Ka‘bah. As for the people who live far away from the Ka‘bah, they would obey God’s command by turning their body towards the direction of the Ka‘bah.
Here, the word “haythumā” (wherever you are) also explains that while turning one’s face towards the Ka‘bah is mandatory, it is not compulsory to search for a specific place for the Prayer (Salāh) as the entire world is a place of worship for a Muslim. Prophet Muhammad’s saying,
“The earth has been made for me a masjid”(Bukhārī, Tayammum, 1; Salāh, 56; Muslim, Masājid, 3–5.)
also points to this fact.