In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is Everywhere
The idolaters compelled the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum to migrate from Makkah to Madinah, thus separating them from the Ka’abah. For some sixteen or seventeen months, the Muslims had to (under the commandment of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala) pray in the direction of Bayt Al-Maqdis [Jerusalem]. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, however, felt a deep longing for turning towards the Ka’abah (the Qiblah of Prophet Ibraheem ‘alayhi salaam), and from time to time would look upward to the sky waiting for a new commandment to come. Finally, such a commandment came (ayah 144) and Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala made Ka’abah the Qiblah for the Muslims.
This commandment naturally delighted the Muslims, but the Jews made it an occasion for taunting and accusing the Muslims for going against the way of the earlier prophets.
Thus, ayah 115 is an answer to the objections of the Jews and also brings comfort to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala cannot be limited to one fixed direction. He is everywhere and surrounds everything.
It also means that the Bayt Al-Maqdis and Ka’abah enjoy an inherent or inalienable superiority, either of them can acquire a position of privilege if Allah wills so. What really matters is obeying the commands of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.
In order to win His pleasure, one has to orient oneself according to what He Himself has determined. If, in spite of being infinite and free from all limitations, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has yet fixed a particular orientation, it is because He is Omniscient, and knows what is the best in a certain situation and for a certain people.
Although it is not possible for man to comprehend fully the wisdom present in each and every divine commandment, yet the fixing of a definite orientation for Salah has a very obvious raison d’être. Whichever way one turns, one would, no doubt, find Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala facing him; but if one has to choose a direction every time one starts to pray, it would only mean a dispersion of one’s attention. And when several men are offering their prayers jointly it would really be odd if each one of them adopts a different orientation. So, a fixed Qiblah for all helps in acquiring the necessary concentration of mind and the sense of a joint purpose. This explanation satisfactorily dispels the objection often raised by certain antagonists who accuse the Muslims of being the worshipers of the Ka’abah. The Ka’abah is a direction for bringing unity among the Muslims all around the world – we do not worship the Ka’abah in itself.
“So, wherever you [might] turn, there is the Face of Allah…” means wherever you may be, you have a Qiblah to face that is Ka’abah. However, this ayah was later abrogated. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas radhiAllahu ‘anhu said that this was the first ayah to be abrogated.
For the obligatory prayers, it is compulsory to find the direction of Qiblah; otherwise, your prayer will be invalid. For the voluntary prayers, however, you can pray in any direction.
Jarir said, “Others said that this ayah was revealed to the Messenger of Allah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam permitting the one praying voluntary prayers to face wherever they wish in the east or west, while traveling, when in fear and when facing the enemy.”
In his Saheeh, Al-Bukhari recorded that Nafi’ said that whenever Ibn ‘Umar radhiAllahu ‘anhu was asked about the prayer during times of fear, he used to describe it and would then say, “When the sense of fear is worse than that, pray while standing, or while riding, whether facing the Qiblah or not.” Nafi’ then said, “I think Ibn `Umar mentioned that from the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.”
It was also said that the ayah was revealed about those who are unable to find the correct direction of the Qiblah in the dark or due to cloudy skies and, thus, prayed in a direction other than the Qiblah by mistake.
[Admin’s comment: As today, we have applications available it is not impossible for one to find the direction of prayer. We should take all necessary measures in ascertaining the direction and not be negligent about it. Muslim Pro is an application that tells you the direction wherever you might be.]
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ends the ayah by saying,
“Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.”
He encompasses all His Creation. He knows what one hides in his heart and with what intention he offers his prayers. If the person was sincere and unintentionally prayed in a wrong direction, his error will be overlooked. The worshiper, however, should try his best to find out the Qiblah. He is All-Knowing means He is knowledgeable of our deeds and nothing escapes His watch. Therefore, become Rabbani [Allah wala] and fear Him at all times wherever you might be.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala grant us His khashiya ameen.
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