Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
Then Allah mentioned the direction of prayer to Him, saying (Unto Allah belong the East and the West) as a direction of prayer for him who does not know the correct direction of prayer, (and whithersoever ye turn) your faces in prayer after ascertaining the direction, (there is Allah's Countenance) that prayer is performed in Allah's pleasure. This verse was revealed about a group of Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) who prayed whilst travelling in the wrong direction after doing their best to determine the correct direction. It is also said that saying (Unto Allah belong the East and the West) means: the people of the East and the people of the West have one direction of prayer which is the Sacred Precinct, and therefore (there is Allah's Countenance) means: that is the direction of prayer to Allah, (Lo! Allah is All-Embracing) regarding the direction of prayer, (All-Knowing) of their intentions.
The following was revealed either when the Jews criticised the change of the direction of prayer [qibla], or concerning the supererogatory prayers on animal-back during journeys, which one may pray in any direction: To God belong the East and the West, that is, the entire earth, because these two [directions] represent both sides of it [the earth]; whithersoever you turn, your faces in prayer by His command, there is the Face of God, the direction of prayer with which He is pleased. Lo! God is Embracing, His bounty embracing all things, Knowing, how to manage His creation.
And to God belong[s] the east, that is, the realm of light and manifestation, which is the paradise of the Christians and their prayer direction, and is, in reality, His esoteric aspect; and the west, that is, the realm of darkness and concealment, which is the Paradise of the Jews and their prayer direction, and is, in reality, His exoteric aspect whithersoever you turn, that is, in whichever direction you turn outwardly and inwardly, then there is the face of God, that is, the Essence of God self-disclosed through the totality of His attributes. Or [it means] to God belongs the illumination of your hearts by [His[ manifestation in them and [His] self-disclosure to them through the attribute of His beauty in the state of your presential vision and your annihilation [therein]; and [that to God belongs] the alienation in them through His self-covering and His self-veiling in their [your hearts'] forms and essences, and through His self-concealment by the attribute of His majesty in the state of your subsistence after annihilation. Thus, in whichever direction you turn, then there is His face, with no thing there except Him alone. Lo! God is Embracing, of the totality of existence, comprehending all directions and existences, Knowing, of all knowledge and knowables.
This ruling brought comfort to the Messenger of Allah and his Companions, who were driven out of Makkah and had to depart from the area of Al-Masjid Al-Haram. In Makkah, the Messenger of Allah used to pray in the direction of Bayt Al-Maqdis, while the Ka`bah was between him and the Qiblah. When the Messenger migrated to Al-Madinah, he faced Bayt Al-Maqdis for sixteen or seventeen months, and then Allah directed him to face Al-Ka`bah in prayer. This is why Allah said,
(And to Allah belong the east and the west, so wherever you turn (yourselves or your faces) there is the Face of Allah (and He is High above, over His Throne)).
`Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn `Abbas said, "The first part of the Qur'an that was abrogated was about the Qiblah. When the Messenger of Allah migrated to Al-Madinah, which was inhabited by the Jews, he was at first commanded to face Bayt Al-Maqdis. The Jews were happy, and the Messenger of Allah faced Bayt Al-Maqdis for some ten months. However, the Messenger of Allah liked to face the Qiblah of Ibrahim (Al-Ka`bah at Makkah), and he used to look to the sky and supplicate. So Allah revealed,
قَدْ نَرَى تَقَلُّبَ وَجْهِكَ فِي السَّمَآءِ
(Verily, We have seen the turning of your (Muhammad's) face towards the heaven) until,
فَوَلُّواْ وُجُوهَكُمْ شَطْرَهُ
(turn your faces (in prayer) in that direction) (2:144).
The Jews were disturbed by this development and said, `What made them change the direction of the Qiblah that they used to face' Allah revealed,
قُل لّلَّهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَالْمَغْرِبُ
(Say (O Muhammad ): "To Allah belong both, east and the west'') and,
فَأَيْنَمَا تُوَلُّواْ فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ
(So wherever you turn (yourselves or your faces) there is the Face of Allah (and He is High above, over His Throne)).''
`Ikrimah said that Ibn `Abbas said,
فَأَيْنَمَا تُوَلُّواْ فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ
(So wherever you turn (yourselves or your faces) there is the Face of Allah (and He is High above, over His Throne)) means, "Allah's direction is wherever you face, east or west.'' Mujahid said that,
فَأَيْنَمَا تُوَلُّواْ فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ
(So wherever you turn (yourselves or your faces) there is the Face of Allah (and He is High above, over His Throne))
means, "Wherever you may be, you have a Qiblah to face, that is, Al-Ka`bah.''
However, it was said that Allah sent down this Ayah before the order to face the Ka`bah. Ibn Jarir said, "Others said that this Ayah was revealed to the Messenger of Allah 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.'' For instance, Ibn `Umar used to face whatever direction his animal was headed and proclaim that the Messenger of Allah did the same, explaining the Ayah,
فَأَيْنَمَا تُوَلُّواْ فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ
(So wherever you turn (yourselves or your faces) there is the Face of Allah).''
That Hadith was also collected by Muslim, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa'i, Ibn Abi Hatim, Ibn Marduwyah, and its origin is in the Two Sahihs from Ibn `Umar and `Amr bin Rabi`ah without mentioning the Ayah. In his Sahih, Al-Bukhari recorded that Nafi` said that whenever Ibn `Umar 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.'' 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.
The Qiblah for the People of Al-Madinah is what is between the East and the West
In his Tafsir of this Ayah (2:115), Al-Hafiz Ibn Marduwyah recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(What is between the east and the west is the Qiblah for the people of Al-Madinah, Ash-Sham and `Iraq.)
At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah recorded this Hadith with the wording,
«مَا بَيْنَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ قِبْلَة»
(What is between the east and the west is a Qiblah.)
Ibn Jarir said, "The meaning of Allah's statement;
إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ
(Surely, Allah is Sufficient (for His creatures' needs), Knowing) is that Allah encompasses all His Creation by providing them with sufficient needs and by His generosity and favor. His statement,
(Knowing) means He is knowledgeable of their deeds and nothing escapes His watch, nor is He unaware of anything. Rather, His knowledge encompasses everything.''
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
That is, "Allah is not confined to any one direction, eastern or western, but is Master of all directions and places. If a particular direction is fixed for worship, it does not mean that Allah resides in that direction only. There is, therefore, no need to enter into disputes as to why a certain direction and place has been fixed instead of the other or why faces were at first turned towards a particular direction but now are being turned towards a different direction and a different place. "
Allah is neither limited nor narrow-minded nor short-sighted nor indigent, as they suppose He is. On the contrary, His Kingdom is boundless and so are His vision and generosity. He also knows which of His servants remembers Him and also where and when and with what intention.
To God belong the East and the West; whithersoever you turn there is the face of God. Lo! God is Embracing Knowing. Here the allusion is to the eastern and western places of hearts [of the believers]. Hearts have rising lights shawāriq and night visitors Ṭawāriq. The night visitors are the murmurings hawājis of the lower selves that arrive in the darknesses of desire and carnal passions. The rising lights are the stars of different types of knowledge the moons of presence and the suns of gnosis. As long as the lights are rising the qibla of the hearts is clear and visible. Then when the realities take over the authority of the lights becomes hidden like stars at the rising of the sun. Similarly at the appearance of the Real there is destruction and subjugation so there is no witnessing of any trace no remaining sensation or comprehension no power of intellect or knowledge no illumination of deeper knowledge. For the experiencing of all these qualities lasts only as long as human nature lasts. When those who have attributes become effaced how can any attribute of theirs remainḍ He said “whithersoever you turn there is the face of God.” As long as there is a remnant or even a sliver of sensory perception and the ability to differentiate then the qibla should be aimed for and if it is not known it should be sought. According to scholars when the guideposts in every direction are obscure and there is no knowledge of the qibla all directions are equally permissible for prayer since none of them can be preferred for the intention niyya.
(Unto Allah belong the East and the West…) [2:115]. There is a scholarly disagreement regarding the occasion of revelation of this Qur'anic verse. Abu Mansur al-Mansuri informed us> al-Hafiz 'Ali ibn 'Umar> Abu Muhammad Isma'il ibn 'Ali> al-Hasan ibn 'Ali ibn Shabib al-'Umari> Ahmad ibn 'Ubayd Allah ibn al-Hasan al-'Anbari who said: “I found written in my father's epistle: 'Abd al-Malik al-'Arzami narrated to us> 'Ata' ibn Rabah> Jabir ibn 'Abd al-Malik who said: 'The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, sent a military expedition in which I was present. It was dark and so we could not determine the precise direction of the qiblah. Some of us said: we know the exact direction; it is toward the North. They prayed and drew lines. Some others said: the qiblah is toward the South. They prayed and drew lines. When it was morning and the sun had risen up, they discovered that their lines were pointed to a different direction to that of the qiblah. When we returned from our journey we asked the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, about this but he did not give us an answer. Allah, exalted is He, then revealed this verse (Unto Allah belong the East and the West…)' ”. Abu Mansur informed us> 'Ali> Yahya ibn Sa'id>Muhammad ibn Isma'il al-Ahmasi> Waki'> Ash'ath al-Samman> 'Asim ibn 'Ubayd Allah> 'Abd Allah ibn 'Amir ibn Rabi'ah> his father who said: “We were praying with the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, while on a journey. And because it was a dark night we could not determine the precise direction of the qiblah. Each man prayed toward whichever direction he thought was right. In the following morning, we mentioned what had happened to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and then the verse (Unto Allah belong the East and the West…) was revealed”. Ibn 'Umar is of the opinion that the above verse is about voluntary offering of supererogatory prayers. Abu'l-Qasim ibn Sa'dan informed us> Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah al-Hafiz> Muhammad ibn Ya'qub> Abu'l-Bukhturi 'Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Shakir> Abu Usamah> 'Abd al-Malik ibn Sulayman> Sa'id ibn Jubayr> Ibn 'Umar who said: “The verses (Unto Allah belong the East and the West…) was revealed so that one prays toward whatever direction one's mount directs one upon offering supererogatory prayer”. Said Ibn 'Abbas, according to the narration of 'Ata': “When the Negus died, Gabriel came to the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, and said: 'The Negus has died, so perform the prayer of the dead over him'. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, summoned his Companions, aligned them in rows, went to the front and said: 'Allah has commanded me to perform the prayer of the dead over the Negus who has died, so do pray over him'. And the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, and his Companions prayed over him. The Companions of the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, said in between themselves: 'How could we possibly pray over a man who prayed toward other than our own qiblah', this is because the Negus prayed toward Jerusalem which was the qiblah until he died but which was subsequently changed toward the Ka'bah. Allah, exalted is He, therefore, revealed this verse (… and whithersoever ye turn, there is Allah's Countenance…)”. Qatadah, on the other hand, is of the opinion that the above verse was abrogated by the saying of Allah, exalted is He (wheresoever ye may be, turn your faces (when ye pray) toward it) [2:144]. This is also the opinion of Ibn 'Abbas, according to the report of 'Ata' al-Khurasani. He also said: “The first of the Qur'an to be abrogated is the question of the qiblah. Allah, exalted is He, says (Unto Allah belong the East and the West and whithersoever ye turn, there is Allah's Countenance). Thus, Allah's Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, prayed toward Jerusalem and left praying toward the Ancient House. Then, Allah directed him to pray toward the Ancient House”. He said: “And in the report of 'Ali ibn Abi Talhah al-Walibi that when Allah's Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, migrated to Medina which was mainly populated by the Jews, Allah commanded him to pray toward Jerusalem. The Jews were happy. He prayed toward this direction over thirteen months. But the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, liked the qiblah of Abraham. So when Allah, exalted is He, directed him to it, the Jews felt uncomfortable and said: (What hath turned them from the qiblah which they formerly observed?) [2:142], Allah, exalted is He, revealed: (whithersoever ye turn, there is Allah's Countenance)”.