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QIBLAH
OUTSIDE AND INSIDE

Brother Arshad   

Every time we prepare for Salaah (Prayers), the first thing we do after weve taken Wudhoo (Ablution) is to face the Qiblah. Occasionally, we find ourselves in an unfamiliar place, then we have to calculate the direction of Qiblah. It may need a compass and a map, to ensure that we face Qiblah in our Salaah. This routine has become such a habit, that we dont even think about it. We take it for granted. We simply cant imagine doing our Salaah, without facing Qibla. But why is this so important? What is the significance of Qiblah? Why cant we just face any direction thats convenient?

Qiblah is important because it gives us a sense of unity, uniformity and discipline. If there were no Qibla, we would pray as isolated groups with no connection to one another. Qiblah gives us a focus, a common sense of purpose, a direction. 

In Sra Al-Baqara v.143, we read:
The fools among the people will say: What has turned them from the Qiblah to which they were used? Say: To Allh belong both East and West; He guides whom He pleases to a Way that is straight.

This Aayah (Verse) refers to that historic event, when just over 16 months after Hijrah (Migration ofProphet, SallAllaho alaihe wa sallam, from Makkah al Mukarramah to Madinah al Munawwarah), a revelation came, changing the Qiblah from Masjid Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem to the Bait-Allah, the House of Allah in Makkah al Mukarramah. The change of Qiblah was a very significant move. Jerusalem, as we all know, is a city of great importance to Muslims, Jews and Christians. By facing Jerusalem as the first Qiblah, the young Muslim Ummah linked itself with the long series of prophets that included Prophet Ibrahim and ProphetEesaa.

By turning towards Makkah al Mukarramah, the new Qiblah, the Muslims could assert themselves as a new nation with its own distinct center, and still be linked to the most ancient prophetic traditions. It was of course, in Makkah al Mukarramah that the first House of Worship was built by Prophet Ibrahim. Makkah al Mukarramah was also the city which from which many were exiled because of their faith. If we look at Makkah al Mukaramah on the map of the world, we will see that it is situated in a central position, on the Arabian Peninsula, which itself lies midway between Africa, Asia and Europe. It is at the crossroads of major continents, and also of great civilizations. The next Aayah (Verse) goes on to say,

Thus have We made of you an Ummah, justly balanced, that you might be witnesses over the nations and the Messenger a witness over yourselves. And We appointed the Qiblah to which you were used only to test those who followed the Messenger from those who would turn on their heels (from the faith). Indeed it was (a momentous change) except to those guided by Allah. And never would Allah make your faith of no effect. For Allah is, to all people, most surely, full of kindness, Most Merciful.

Another important result of this change of Qiblah from Masjid al Aqsa, Bait al Muqaddas, Jerusalem, to Makkah al Mukarramah, was that it became a great test of faith, to separate the true believers from those whose loyalties were really outside the Muslim community. A clear distinction had to be drawn between the goals and ambitions of Islam and that of other faiths, particularly of the Jews and Christians. On this matter the Quraan is quite emphatic.

We see the turning of your face (for guidance) to the heavens; now shall We turn you to a Qiblah that will please you. Turn then your face in the direction of the Masjid al Haraam (Sacred Masjid); wherever you 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.

Even if you were to bring to the people of the Book all the signs (together) they would not follow your Qiblah; nor are you going to follow their Qiblah; nor indeed will they follow each others Qiblah. If, after the knowledge has reached you, you were to follow their (vain) desires then, indeed, you would be (clearly) in the wrong.

Our Qiblah is a very important part of our lives. Every Muslim knows that without the Qiblah, none of our daily Salaah, can be done correctly. Even before we start, we need to know the direction of Makkah al Mukarramah. Qiblah is about orientation, about our sense of direction.

But, apart from the precise physical direction we must face, what really is the purpose of facing towards Makkah al Mukarramah and aligning ourselves with the Qiblah?

Whenever we begin our Salaah, we not only face the House of Allah in Makkah al Mukarramah, but we also connect ourselves, along an invisible line, an axis that proceeds from every point on earth, to the Spiritual Center of Islam. Whether we offer Salaah alone, or as recommended, we pray in a group, we do so as a part of the great Ummah or Community of Islam. Standing and facing Qiblah in our prayers, connects us along an invisible line, to every other Muslim on the planet. We become an important link in the huge chain of worshippers who face Makkah al Mukarramah at least 5 times each day. If we could go up into space and look down on the earth and see all the Muslims in Salaah, we would see a huge flower the size of the earth, opening and closing its millions of petals. Each of those petals represents a Muslim at prayer. And those of us who have been blessed with the invitation from Allah to perform Hajj or Umrah, will remember that remarkable sight inside Al-Harram al-Shareef. There, at Salaah times, it is asif a giant flower opens and closes its petals, as Muslims prastrate as one body, in neat and orderly rows, around the Kabah.

So, Qiblah is not only about degrees latitude or longitude on the compass. Its about bringing together every nation, language, race and tribe on this planet, in regular acts of worship linked to a common center. Qiblah lies at the very heart of the great Ummah of Islam. Qiblah is the navigational axis that connects every Muslim through the Holy Kabah in Makka al Mukarramah, to every other Muslim. This is the physical expression of Tawheed, the belief in Allahs oneness, Allahs Unity. Because Allah is One, therefore His Ummah is one, and our Qiblah, our direction for worship, is one.

We Muslims have one Qiblah that points us to The House of Allah, in Makkah al Mukarramah. This Qiblah keeps us united, disciplined, and focused, like the beautifully ordered rows of petals on a flower. But in a sense, this is the outer Qiblah, the Qiblah of geography, navigation, and points of the compass. In a sense, there is also, another Qiblah, equally important. This other Qiblah is internal, invisible, psychological, spiritual. This is the Qiblah of the Heart.

Sadly, many Muslims focus exclusively on the first kind of Qiblah. They are meticulous about the precise compass readings to ensure that they are facing exactly the right way for Salaah. However, they neglect the Qiblah of the heart. While their prayers are physically and outwardly correct, their hearts, their emotions and ambitions and desires are pointing in a hundred different directions. To these Muslims, Salaah has become merely a good habit, but their main concerns in life are focused on their jobs, their families, their material possessions and worldly pleasures. While the outer appearance is all correct and proper, the inner personality is fragmented and in crisis. Worst of all, so many Muslims are quite content to live this way, and die this way. But this is not an acceptable way of life for a Muslim. The aim of a true believer should be, to bring together these 2 levels of existence, the outer Qiblah and inner Qiblah, the outer and inner personality, so that they are both focused as one.

Let us pray to Allah (Subhaanahu wa Taaalaa) to help bring together our outer personality as well as our innermost desires and ambitions. O Allah! Help us, to refocus ourselves, and to bring a convergence of the outer Qiblah we face in every Salaah, and the inner Qiblah, of our hearts. O Allah! Help us in this lifelong battle against the temptations of Shaytaan. O Allah! Help us to filter out those distractions and vanities that obscure our vision of Your Sirt Al-Mustaqeem, Your Straight Path. O Allah! Guide us all to what pleases you, and leads us to Your Grace and your Mercy. Aameen. 

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