03 Nov Sūratu’l-Baqarah [The Cow] : (2:150)
َمِنْ حَيْثُ خَرَجْتَ فَوَلِّ وَجْهَكَ شَطْرَ الْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ ۚ وَحَيْثُ مَا كُنتُمْ فَوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ شَطْرَهُ لِئَلَّا يَكُونَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَيْكُمْ حُجَّةٌ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ فَلَا تَخْشَوْهُمْ وَاخْشَوْنِي وَلِأُتِمَّ نِعْمَتِي عَلَيْكُمْ وَلَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُون
From wherever you go out (for journeying), turn your face (O Messenger) towards the Sacred Mosque (in the Prayer). Wherever you may be, (O you who believe,) turn your faces towards it, that the people may not have an argument against you—unless they be those immersed in wrongdoing; and hold not them in awe, but stand in awe of Me—and that I may complete My favor (of faith and Islam) upon you, and that you may be wholly guided (in Islam to the truth). (Al-Baqarah 2:150)
The Beloved Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, performed his Prayers turning towards the Masjidu’l-Aqsā for about sixteen or seventeen months after his emigration to Madīnah. The Ka‘bah was full of idols at that time. Our Prophet was to keep away from idols. Thus, God’s Messenger was prohibited from performing his Prayers turning towards the Ka‘bah for a period of time in order to emphasize his stance against idol-worship.
There is a strong relationship between the truth of Ahmad and the truth of the Ka‘bah.
▪Perceiving this in his conscience, the Prophet always desired to turn his face towards the Ka‘bah. The Qur’ān narrates his heartfelt bond with the Ka‘bah in the following verse:
“Certainly We have seen you (O Messenger) often turning your face to heaven.”
The purpose of the Prophet’s turning his face to heaven was that he desired God’s new decree about changing the qiblah (direction to be turned towards in the Prayer). Indeed, he was expecting news beyond the heavens. So, the rest of the verse gives the good news to him:
“We will surely turn you towards a direction with which you will be pleased.”
In fact, to understand the fine point of this matter requires comprehending the creation of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and the Ka‘bah as twins in the same womb.
▪During this time, Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, needed to emphasize his stance against idol-worship. In truth, God’s Messenger had a profound relationship with the Ka‘bah; yet, the issue of the Unity of God, which was the reason why he was chosen and sent as a Messenger, was much more important than both the sacredness of the Ka‘bah and the Ka‘bah’s becoming the qiblah for believers. For this reason, the beloved Prophet, who began turning his face towards the Masjidu’l-Aqsā while in Makkah, continued to do so for a while in Madīnah, too.
▪The Jews of Madīnah began to tell Muslims that it was they who represented the Divine Religion, and Muslims were to follow them. They would cite Muslims’ turning to Baytu’l-Maqdīs in Jerusalem as a proof of their claim. Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, could have adopted the Ka‘bah as his qiblah as soon as he migrated to Madīnah, but he was not acting on his own.
He was absolutely submitted to God in his every action; and he was living according to God’s will, not his own.
▪Additionally, the Prophet’s honoring the Masjidu’l-Aqsā as his qiblah caused the torch of guidance to flame in the heart of many Jewish people, such as ‘Abdullah ibn Salām. For this issue might have been implied in their sacred Book. In any case, some of the Jewish people converted to Islam. Finally, the mission was accomplished due to this 16–17 months’ practice. Jewish opponents could no longer have any other argument to object to Muslims, and the polytheists were unable to accuse Muslims of turning towards the Ka‘bah, which was full of their idols at that time. Similarly, the Jews should no longer have had an excuse to claim that it was they who represented the Divine Religion and that Muslims were to follow them.
In fact, there were some among them who had learned from their Book that the Last Prophet would have the Ka‘bah in Makkah as his qiblah, and they could not understand why the Prophet was turning towards Baytu’l-Maqdīs in Jerusalem.( Ibn ‘Āshūr, Tafsīratu’t-Tahrīr wa’t-Tanwīr, 2/34.)
At this point, Allāh brought His Messenger and the Ka‘bah together, and He commanded all Muslims to turn towards the Ka‘bah in Prayer.
“That I may complete My favor upon you” in the verse means: Your turning towards the Masjidu’l-Aqsā is actually a favor upon you.
▪Yet, the greater favor is the reunion of the loved ones, which means the reunion of Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and his Community with the Ka‘bah. Furthermore, the “favor” refers to the rise of God’s Messenger from and through the truth of the Ka‘bah to the final point a created being is able to reach and be favored with God’s special consideration. All these can only be possible by turning towards the Ka‘bah. So, Allāh the Almighty completed His favor upon both His Messenger and the believers.