It means Direction in Arabic. It is towards Jerusalem that the Jews pray
(Dan. 6:11; ; Judith 9:1; I Esdr. 4:58; Tobit 3:11).They and the Christians, consider Jerusalem to be the literal centre of the world, the city towards which all pilgrims and exiles turn their faces.
At first, when Muhammad left Mecca to Madina among the 'Jews', he instructed his followers to pray towards the Sham (Jerusalem)(Bukhari 1:397 & 6:17/18/20/21) just like the Jews.
This was a deliberate and convenient decision made by Muhammad to curry favour with the Jews (and Christians) for their assistance and help shown to him and his followers at the beginning.
It is obvious that Muhammad - heard about the first destruction of the First Temple - but did not know that the Second Templein his time was nothing more than a pile of rubble with compost heaped upon its precinct by the Christians. He may have believed that it was rebuilt and hence was sure of its physical existence.
The fact that he had the first Qibla towards Jerusalem,shows the immense reverence that he had for its holiness -more so than at that time - he had for the Ka'ba which was associated in his Monotheistic mind purely with Paganism.
As Muhammad's influence became greater among the pagan tribes, and his antagonism with the Jews became more and more serious, his attitude changed markedly and instead of allowing the Jews to convert to his theology through the persuasion of the Quran, he now wanted them to be converted by force and by threat contrary to the Quranic verse
2:256 " there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from error; whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things" that prohibited this type of conversion.
The refusal of theJews - after 18 months of his presence in the Madina - to follow Muhammad's new 'theology' turned him into their implacable and spiteful enemy to the extent that he made a 180 degree reversal and changed the direction of the Qibla from Jerusalem towards the Ka'ba,the pagan shrine ofMecca.
To justify his 'about face' change of the Qibla fromJerusalemto Mecca,Muhammad shows his extreme keenness by the length and vehemence of his utterance in 2:142-152. These verses are addressed as much to his followers as to the Jews of Arabia.
The word Qiblah appears first in 2:142/5. The Quran never mentions Jerusalem by name or even Al Quds. Since preIslamic pagan Arabs had absolutely no affiliations or regard for Jerusalem and had no idea as to what it was or even where it was, they could not have faced Jerusalem in prayer prior to Muhammad.
The Quran does not ordain that at prayers, the Muhammadan Muslims should face Jerusalem; this is found only in the Ahadith. These acts of convenient afterthought reversals became the pattern in Muhammad's life as reflected both in the Quran and the Hadith verses.
Take the above example for instance, if the Ka'ba was the original 'House of Allah' as the Quran asserts, then there is absolutely no logical or theological reason as to why Muhammad directed the FIRSTQibla towards Jerusalem unless he knew and believed that it was holier than the Ka'ba, especially since neither Allah nor Gabriel had INSTRUCTEDhim to do so in the firts place.
Muhammadchose the first Qibla towards Jerusalem, all by himself, WITHOUT any prodding from Allah or Gabriel.
To explain away his convenient political/theological reversal and change of mind, he gave the untenable and lame excuses in the following verses-
2:142The fools among the people will say: "What hath turned them from the Qiblah to which they were used?" Say: To Allah belong both East and West; He guideth whom He will to a Way that is straight.
144We see the turning of thy face (for guidance) to the heavens; now shall We turn thee to a Qiblah that shall please thee. Turn then thy face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque; wherever ye are turn your faces in that direction. The People of the Bookknow well that that is the truth from their Lord nor is Allah unmindful of what they do.
145Even if thou wert to bring to the People of the Bookall the signs (together) they would not follow thy Qiblah; nor art thou going to follow their Qiblah; nor indeed will they follow each other's Qiblah. If thou after the knowledge hath reached thee wert to follow their (vain) desires then wert thou indeed (clearly) in the wrong.
146The People of the Book know this as they know their own sons; but some of them conceal the truth which they themselves know.
147The truth is from thy Lord so be not at all in doubt.
148To each is a goal to which Allah turns him; then strive together (as in a race) toward all that is good. Wheresoever ye are Allah will bring you together. For Allah hath power over all things.
149From whencesoever thou startest forth turn thy face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque; that is indeed the truth from thy Lord. And Allah is not unmindful of what ye do.
150So from whencesoever thou startest forth turn thy face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque; among wheresoever ye are turn your face thither that there be no ground of dispute against you among the people except those of them that are bent on wickedness; so fear them not but fear Me; and that I may complete My favors on you and ye may (consent to) be guided.
151A similar (favor have ye already received) in that We have sent among you an Apostle of your own rehearsing to you Our signs and sanctifying you and instructing you in Scripture and wisdom and in new Knowledge.
152Then do ye remember Me; I will remember you. Be grateful to Me and reject not faith.
So presumably, it was all a 'test' for his followers. This is a lame and meaningless excuse since there is no 'test' or challenge either intellectual or physical in changing one's direction of prayer. The Ahadith make it very clear that the change in the direction of the Qibla was acted upon immediately and without hesitation or questioning by his gullible and unthinking robot-like followers.
Some Muhammadan and Western authors express the opinion that the pagan Arabs had a Qibla towards the Ka'ba. If this were the case then it is a wonder that neither in the Quran nor in the Ahadith is this mentioned since there would have been of necessity the usual'revelation' to explain to his followers why he changed from the Ka'ba to Jerusalem in the first place especially since the Ka'ba is supposed to be of greater antiquity as the
First Masjid of Allah.
The whole thing is a falsehood and a piece of political and theological propaganda by the later Muhammadan theologians who planted the seeds of such an idea to give themselves a 'legitimate' foundation to incorporate Jerusalem as a holy city in their beliefs system.
After having decided to break with the older traditions, Muhammad authorised the pilgrimage to the Ka'ba and allowed the kissing of the Black Stone, both of which were pagan fetishes in the first place.
Furhtermore, Muhammad legitimised all the religious traditions of the pagan Arabs, incorporated them into his new cult but with the sole stipulation that there was only Allah, the supreme god to pray to, and no other.
With a simple stroke, he was able to convert a lot of Arabs and especially the Qurayshites because he allowed them to keep their economic and religious privileges intact.
Sahih Al-Bukhari HadithHadith 1.392 & 9.358 Narrated byBara bin Azib
Allah's Apostle prayed facingBaitul-Maqdis[Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem]for sixteen or seventeen monthsbut he loved to face the Ka'ba (at Mecca) so Allah revealed:
"Verily, We have seen the turning of your face to the heaven!" (2.144)
So the Prophet faced the Ka'ba and the fools amongst the people namely "the Jews" said, "What has turned them from their Qibla (Baitul-Maqdis) which they formerly observed"" (Allah revealed): "Say:
'To Allah belongs the East and the West. He guides whom he will to a straight path'." (2.142)
A man prayed with the Prophet (facing the Ka'ba) and went out. He saw some of the Ansar praying the 'Asr prayer with their faces towards Baitul-Maqdis, he said,
"I bear witness that I prayed with Allah's Apostle facing the Ka'ba."
So all the people turned their faces towards the Ka'ba.
*** If Muhammad truly 'loved' to face the Ka'ba in the first place, why then did he not do so? After all, no one had put a sword to his neck to force him to face 'Jerusalem' in the first place.
Neither the Quran nor Gabriel had instructedhim or directed him to face the 'Sham' to begin with. There was no 'revelation' pertaining to such a Qibla. It was Muhammad ALONE who decided to face the direction of the Temple of Jerusalem because in the Meccan period and the very early Madinan period, he believed in the PRIMACY ofJerusalem and Solomon's Temple over the Ka'ba, which was still harbouring the pagan rock gods of Arabia.
Muhammad only changed his mind about the Ka'ba when he realised that the Jews were not going to change their religion and believe in his version of Islam nor in him as the prophet of Allah.
He therefore conveniently changed the Qibla towards the Ka'ba, his SECONDARY choice, so as to placate his Quraiysh tribe ***
Sahih Al-Bukhari HadithHadith 1.147Narrated byAbdullah bin Umar
"Whenever you sit for answering the call of nature, you should not face the Qibla or Baitul-Maqdis (Jerusalem)."
I told them,
"Once I went up the roof of our house and I saw Allah's Apostle answering the call of nature while sitting on two bricks facing Baitul-Maqdis (Jerusalem) "
(Fateh-al-Bari, Page 258, Vol. 1).
Sahih Al-Bukhari HadithHadith 1.490Narrated byAisha
The things which annul the prayers were mentioned before me. They said,
"Prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey and a woman (if they pass in front of the praying people)."
"You have made us (i.e. women) dogs. I saw the Prophet praying while I used to lie in my bed between him and the Qibla. Whenever I was in need of something, I would slip away, for I disliked to face him."
*** According to the Hadiths, Muhammad's prayers were rendered Null & Void under these circumstances ***
Sahih Al-Bukhari HadithHadith 2.204Narrated byAnas bin Sirin
We went to receive Anas bin Malik when he returned from Sham and met him at a place called 'Ain-at-Tamr. I saw him praying riding the donkey, with his face to this direction, i.e. to the left of the Qibla. I said to him, "I have seen you offering the prayer in a direction other than that of the Qibla." He replied, "If I had not seen Allah's Apostle doing it, I would not have done it."
Sahih Al-Bukhari HadithHadith 4.334Narrated byAbdullah bin Umar
Once I went upstairs in Hafsa's house and saw the Prophet answering the call of nature with his back towards the Qibla and facing Sham.
*** Only Muhammad was allowed to BREAK any prohibition that he or his Quran ordained.
In this case, his back was towards the Ka'ba ***
Sahih Al-Bukhari HadithHadith 6.13Narrated byAl Bara
The Prophet prayed facing Bait-ul Maqdis (i.e. Jerusalem) for sixteen or seventeenmonths but he wished that his Qibla would be the Ka'ba (at Mecca).
(So Allah revealed (2.144) and he offered 'Asr prayers (in his Mosque facing Ka'ba at Mecca) and some people prayed with him. A man from among those who had prayed with him, went out and passed by some people offering prayer in another mosque, and they were in the state of bowing. He said, "I, (swearing by Allah,) testify that I have prayed with the Prophet facing Mecca." Hearing that, they turned their faces to the Ka'ba while they were still bowing.
Some men had died before the Qibla was changed towards the Ka'ba. They had been killed and we did not know what to say about them (i.e. whether their prayers towards Jerusalem were accepted or not). So Allah revealed:
"And Allah would never make your faith (i.e. prayer) to be lost (i.e. your prayers offered (towards Jerusalem). Truly Allah is Full of Pity, Most Merciful towards mankind." (2.143)
*** To expiate those who died before the Qibla was changed, the usual MADE to ORDER'revelation' was 'descended' to Muhammad ***
Sahih Al-Bukhari HadithHadith 6.21Narrated byIbn Umar
While some people were offering Fajr prayer at Quba mosque, someone came to them and said, "Qur'anic literature" has been revealed to Allah's Apostle tonight, and he has been ordered to face the Ka'ba (of Mecca) so you too, should turn your faces towards it. Their faces were then towards Sham (Jerusalem), so they turned towards the Qibla (i.e. Ka'ba of Mecca)."