- The first House (Qibla) ever constructed for mankind (to worship Allah) is indeed the one in Makkah, teeming with blessings and (the Centre of) guidance for the whole world.
(Āl-i-‘Imrān, 3: 96)
The Kaaba was the first ever place to worship Allah, built by Adam as ordered by Him. Prophet Ibrahim migrated from Iraq to Hebron. Forty years following his death, Prophet Yaqoob built a worship place at Bayt Ayl. The Holy Temple was constructed centuries later at the same point. And that’s how Bayt al Maqdis came into being.
Land of the Messengers
Bayt al Maqdis is that sacred place where one cleanses himself of all sins. It is also known as the Holy place. It is located on hills, one of which is called the hill of Sehwan where Masjid al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat al Sakhra) are situated. According to Islam, Masjid al Aqsa is indeed Bayt al Maqdis. This was the first Qibla for Muslims. It is about 1300 km away from Makkah. Besides holding value for Muslims, this place is of worth to most nations because almost every prophet was born and brought up in Bayt al Maqdis.
It is indeed more precious to Muslims since on the night of Mirage, when the Prophet reached Masjid al Aqsa, one lac and twenty four thousand messengers assembled there to welcome him. He shook hands with them all and led them as Imam in the prayer. Prophet Jacob, Joseph, David, Solomon, Yahya, Musa and many other prophets started their preaching journey at the same place. Hence, it is also known as the land of Messengers.
Significance of Bayt al Maqdis
Now the significance of Bayt al Maqdis for Muslims is that it is their former qibla. Masjid al-Aqsa is the third holiest place of worship for Muslims – after Makka and Madina. Offering a prayer in Masjid al-Aqsa carries reward that of one fourth of praying in Kaaba.
According to a tradition, offering prayer at the Masjid al Haram is equivalent to offering one thousand prayers. And offering a prayer at masjid al Aqsa is equivalent to offering two hundred and fifty prayers.
A hadith says that it isn’t right to travel to a mosque with the intention of worship except three mosques; Masjid al Haram, Masjid al Nabwi and Masjid al Aqsa. These are the reasons due to which the relation of Muslims with Bayt al Maqdis is faithful and religious. (Source: Tareekh Bayt al Maqdis by Mumtaz Liaquat)
The Holy Kaaba was there forty years before Bayt al Maqdis. A Hadith related to this says:
- Hazrat Abuzar asked the Prophet, what the age difference between the two mosques is?) to which the Prophet responded “40 years”. (Bukhari)
Now the question is, why was Bayt al Maqdis brought into being while the ‘Bayt Allah’ (Kaaba) already existed?
Shifting of the Qibla
When the Prophet used to reside in Makkah he offered his prayers facing towards the Holy Kaaba. As soon as he migrated to Madinah, by the order of Allah he shifted the direction of his qibla towards the Bayt al Maqdis. For sixteen or seventeen months the Prophet made Bayt al Maqdis the direction of the qibla but deep down he always wanted the Kaaba to be direction of the qibla. Two groups lived in Madinah. Infidels; whose qibla was the Holy Kaaba and people of the Book; who offered prayers in the direction of Bayt al Maqdis.
However, after the Prophet’s migration, a small free leadership of Muslims formed in Madinah. Jews were more preferable than the infidels so Masjid al Aqsa was indeed the direction of qibla for several years. Keeping Bayt al Maqdis the qibla was in fact accepting Jewism as the leading religion so the Jews often said that Muslims want to share their qibla but not their religion. Therefore, the Prophet requested Allah to shift the qibla back to the Holy Kaaba.
Waiting for the Revelation
One day angel Jibrael said, “I like that Allah turn me away from the qibla of jews and make me follow another direction. I am too His creation like the Prophet Mohammad. This issue is out of my hands, I am only obedient to Allah’s commands. That being said, please request the Prophet for this matter.” Then the prophet would always look towards the sky. In hopes of Jibrael to bring a revelation from Allah. So He reveled this verse:
(O Beloved!) We have been watching your radiant face turning frequently towards heaven. So We will indeed make you turn towards that Qibla (direction of Prayer) with which you feel pleased. So turn your face towards the Sacred Mosque now. And, wherever you are, (O Muslims,) turn your faces towards it. And those who have been given the Book definitely know that this (commandment of changing the Qibla) is the truth from their Lord. Allah is not unaware of the works they are doing.
(al-Baqarah, 2 : 144)
Hazrat Bashar bin Brah had invited the Prophet over to his house. It was time for the Duhr prayer. He stood up to lead the prayer. He had only offered two rakahs when during his prayer he received a revelation of shifting the qibla. Everyone then changed their direction towards the Kaaba, following the Prophet.
The Secret Expedience behind Shifting the Qibla
Many people did not like the idea of shifting the qibla. Allah wanted them to be clear that He doesn’t want their worship for their personal desires. He wanted to test who gave up their baser-self desires and did as directed by Him.
Regarding this Allah mentions in the Quran:
Meaning: And We appointed the Qibla (the direction of Prayer), which you used to face before, only to bring to light (by trial) who would follow (Our) Messenger and who would turn back upon his heels. This (change of Qibla) was indeed a hard task, but not for those whom Allah blessed with guidance (and gnosis of spiritual truths). And it is not Allah’s Glory to void your faith (without any reason). Allah is surely Most Clement, Ever-Merciful to mankind.
(al-Baqarah, 2 : 143)
Allah shifted the direction of qibla during prayer because He wanted to check who followed His Prophet and who did not. This is the only reason Allah commanded to make Bayt al Maqdis the qibla In the presence of the Kaaba.
The Jews feel really bad about the qibla shifting. They were happy as long as the qibla for Muslims was the Bayt al Maqdis. They felt proud that Allah’s Messenger prayed in the direction of their qibla. Whereas, when the qibla shifted they became really upset and even started taunting that since the Prophet opposes them in everything so had to oppose them in the qibla direction as well. Likewise, the group of hypocrites also started talking ill about the matter. That’s when Allah revealed the following
Now the foolish will say: ‘what has turned away these (Muslims) from their Qibla (Bayt al-Maqdis in Jerusalem) to which they used to face (before)?’ Say: ‘The east and the west (all) belong to Allah alone. He guides whom He pleases to the straight path.’
(al-Baqarah, 2 : 142)
So the reason behind all this was to separate the hypocrites from the true believers. The hypocrites did not accept the qibla shifting and lost faith. It was clear who is truthful and trustworthy and willingly follows the Prophet, and who are the people disguised as Muslims while parting ways from Islam. It was also a test for Muslims. The ones who hadn’t reached spiritually high enough, also couldn’t accept the qibla changing so they alongside the Jews condemned it.
On the other hand, the companions did just as the Prophet did, since he is the Kaaba of the Kaaba. On the Conquest of Makkah while Hazrat Bilal was about to make the Azan he asked the Prophet what direction should he recite it in; to which the Prophet responded, “Towards my face.”
Significance of a Spiritual Guide
This incident of shifting the qibla is a lesson for all Muslims as to wholeheartedly follow everything their spiritual guide does or says. Rather than being hesitant and keep wondering why a certain order is given. Regarding a spiritual guide, Sultan Bahoo states:
My spiritual guide is pilgrimage of the holy Kaaba for me
He is the door of blessings
Circumambulating around the qibla
Freshens up my hajj every time
Likewise, Rumi says, “burn down the pages of a thousand books and turn the direction of your heart towards your Beloved.”
My spiritual guide, Sultan Mohammad Najib ur Rehman says:
- A seeker of Allah should be like a sunflower; always facing towards the sun (his spiritual guide).
Indeed the companions turned along with the Prophet while the qibla shifted and formed a great example, true quest of this shifting is of the Prophet Mohammad. Which was a test for true seekers. It also tells one should listen to his spiritual guide instantly rather than making excuses and wasting time. A true lover bows down in front of his spiritual guide at every single command. He listens to every order and reaches the level of Tasleem o Raza. May Allah grant us the capability of becoming true seekers.