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Masjid Qiblatain means the Masjid with two qiblas i.e one towards Al-Quds in Jerushalam and other towards Baitullah in Makkah. Several questions come to mind. Why two Qiblas? Why, how and when the change took place? Who ordered the change? What was the effect of this change?
Initially the Qiblah (or the prayer direction) for all the Prophets was Baitullah in Makkah which was constructed at the time of Adam (AS). Al-Imran # 96
“Verily, the first House appointed for mankind was that at Bakkah (Makkah), full of blessing, and a guidance for all universes.”
Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and Ismael (AS) followed this Qiblah. Later Al-Quds was fixed as Qiblah for some of the Prophets from Israelites. These Prophets while praying in Al-Quds, used to face it in such a way that both Al-Quds and House of Allah in Makkah were right in front of them.
ProphetMohammed (SAS) used to stand between Hajr-e-Aswad and Rukne-Yamani so that both the house of Allah (SWT) and Al-Quds were in front of him too.
As mentioned in Bukhari, Prophet Mohammed (SAS) offered salat in Madina facing towards Al-Quds for sixteen or seventeen months. He was totally submitted to the commands of Allah (SWT) However he wished that the Qiblah would be the one as it was for Adam (AS) and Ibrahim (AS). Prophet Mohammed (SAS) was very hopeful that his wish would be fulfilled. He used to wait for revelations and looked for it towards the sky again and again as mentioned in Al-Baqarah # 144
“Verily! We have seen the turning of your (Muhammad’s (SAS)) face towards the heaven. Surely, We shall turn you to a Qiblah (prayer direction) that shall please you, so turn your face in the direction of Al- Masjid-AI-Haram (at Makkah). And wheresoever you people are, turn your faces (in prayer) in that direction.”
In this way Allah (SWT) fulfilled the wish of Prophet Mohammed (SAS). Note that only Allah (SWT) can order the change of Qiblah and it is not left to the descretion of any Prophet.
The effect of the change of Qiblah was two fold. As soon as the Jews found that Qiblah for the Muslims was Baitullah instead of Al-Quds, they joked and made fun of Muslims. They said,
“What kind of religion is this which keeps changing Qiblah?”
At the same time the Jews were alarmed by the change. So far the Muslims were somewhat acceptable to Jews. The change of Qiblah meant that Muslims were a seperate and distinct group or nation. Hence the Jews accelerated their opposition against the Muslims and regarded them their enemies.
Furthermore, Allah (SWT) has his own plan and wisdom. Change of Qiblah was to sort out the hypocrites from the sincere Muslims. Al Baqarah #143
And We made the Qiblah which you used to face, only to test those who followed the Messenger from those who would turn on their heels. Indeed it was great (heavy) except for those whom Allah guided. And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost. Truly, Allah is full of Kindness, the Most Merciful towards mankind.
According to a hadith in Bukhari and Muslim, the change of Qiblah took place while Prophet Mohammed (SAS) was leading Salat-ul-Asr, though some narration say Dhur, in Masjid Qiblatain. The Prophet (SAS) and his followers changed the direction during this salat.
Some Companions finished their salat and went to their communities. They noticed that their brothers were praying in their neighborhood mosque facing towards Al-Quds. One Companion loudly informed them that they had just prayed with the Prophet (SAS) facing towards Baitullah. On hearing this, their brothers turned their direction during salat, without any fussing or questioning whatsoever. This brings out the point that the credibility of one person as a witness is sufficient in some cases in Islam.
The news of the change of the Qiblah reached Quba next day. As mentioned in Bukhari and Muslim, the people of Quba also changed their direction during the salat on hearing the announcement even from one individual. It also shows how much mutual respect, confidence and trust the Companion of Prophet (SAS) enjoyed and practiced.
I was very pleased to see written on top of a mehrab of a masjid in Madina. Al-Baqarah #144.
“We shall turn you to a Qiblah (prayer direction) that shall please you.”
This gift was given by Allah (SWT) to Prophet Mohammed > and his Ummah in Masjid Qiblatain.
Before change of Qiblah the Prophet (SAS) used to lead salat in Masjid Nabawi from a spot across from old Bab Jibreel facing towards north. After instruction for the change of Qiblah, he led salat from Aisha column for a few days and then permanently led salat from where Mehrab Nabawi is. With the change of Qiblah, he faced towards south (Baitullah).
With change of Qiblah, the area across from the old Bab Jibreel was now the back of Masjid Nabawi. This area was reserved for Ashab-us-Suffah for their residence and education. It also clarifies that the platform for custodial staff seen in the Prophet’s Mosque was not the site for Ashab-us-Suffah as misunderstood by many visitors.