Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(The foolish of the people) the ignorant among the Jews and Arab idolaters (will say: What hath turned them) made them change (from the Qiblah which they formerly observed) except that they want to revert to the religion of their ancestors; it is also said that this means: there was no reason to turn from the direction in which they prayed, i.e. Jerusalem? (Say) O Muhammad! (unto Allah belong the East) praying to the Ka'bah (and the West) the prayer that you prayed in the direction of Jerusalem-both are with Allah's command. (He guideth whom He will unto a straight path) He confirms whom He wills on a straight Religion and direction of prayer.
The fools, the ignorant, among the people, that is, the Jews and the idolaters, will say, ‘What, matter, has turned them, the Prophet (s) and the believers, from the direction they were facing in their prayers formerly?’, this being the Holy House (bayt al-maqdis, sc. Jerusalem); the sīn [of sa-yaqūlu, ‘they will say’] denotes the future tense and informs of the Unseen. Say: ‘To God belong the East and the West, that is, all directions. Thus He commands that they face whichever direction He wills, and there can be no objection. He guides whomever He will, His guidance being, to a straight path’, that is, the religion of Islam, and you are among these [guided ones].
The fools among the people will say: He has called them fools, of slight intellect, because of the failure of their intellects to be true [to their nature] by perceiving the truth of the religion of Islam, and to fulfill this [truth] in accordance with what they knew to be the due of this school and to stop at this [religion]. That is why their dispute concerned God, despite their according with [the principle of] God's Oneness and the singling out of Muslims for singular devotion [to God]. For were they to perceive the truth they would perceive their singular devotion and they would no longer dispute. Were their intellects composed, they would have inferred from signs and perceived what is due to every religion and school of thought, and would have distinguished between that religion of truth [Islam], which is like the spirit in comparison, and the falsehood promoted by its adherents, [falsehood] with which has the religion of Islam has become mixed and draped itself. For it [Islam] is all truth, nay, it is the truth of all truths, which is why they [Muslims] were appointed as a midmost community, that is, a balance between all communities, meritorious over them and witnesses against them. 'What has turned them from the direction they were facing in their prayers formerlyḍ', [they said that] because they were restricted to a specific direction and so they could only accept something restrictive, not knowing the Oneness that accommodates all directions. Say: 'To God belong the east and the west, [to be understood] as has been mentioned according to the two interpretations. He guides whomever He will to a straight path', that is, the path of Oneness in relation to which all directions are the same by virtue of the fact that the Truth to which all is directed is not in any direction and that all directions are contained in Him, through Him and to Him, as He has said: Whithersoever you turn, there is the face of God [Q. 2:115].
Imam Al-Bukhari reported that Al-Bara' bin `Azib narrated: "Allah's Messenger offered his prayers facing Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) for sixteen or seventeen months, but he wished that he could pray facing the Ka`bah (at Makkah). The first prayer which he offered (facing the Ka`bah) was the `Asr (Afternoon) prayer in the company of some people. Then one of those who had offered that prayer with him, went out and passed by some people in a mosque who were in the bowing position (in Ruku`) during their prayers (facing Jerusalem). He addressed them saying, `By Allah, I bear witness that I have offered prayer with the Prophet facing Makkah (Ka`bah).' Hearing that, those people immediately changed their direction towards the House (Ka`bah) while still as they were (i.e., in the same bowing position). Some Muslims who offered prayer towards the previous Qiblah (Jerusalem) before it was changed towards the House (the Ka`bah in Makkah) had died or had been martyred, and we did not know what to say about them (regarding their prayers towards Jerusalem). Allah then revealed:
(And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost (i.e., the prayers of those Muslims were valid)) (2:143).''
Al-Bukhari collected this narration, while Muslim collected it using another chain of narrators. Muhammad bin Ishaq reported that Al-Bara' narrated: Allah's Messenger used to offer prayers towards Bayt Al-Maqdis (in Jerusalem), but would keep looking at the sky awaiting Allah's command (to change the Qiblah). Then Allah revealed:
(Verily, We have seen the turning of your (Muhammad's) 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 Al-Haram (at Makkah).) (2:144)
A man from among the Muslims then said, "We wish we could know about those among us who died before the Qiblah was changed (i.e., towards Makkah) and also about our own prayers, that we had performed towards Bayt Al-Maqdis.'' Allah then revealed:
وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُضِيعَ إِيمَـنَكُمْ
(And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost.) (2:143)
The fools among the people, meaning the People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), said, "What made them change the former Qiblah that they used to face'' Allah then revealed:
سَيَقُولُ السُّفَهَآءُ مِنَ النَّاسِ
(The fools (idolators, hypocrites, and Jews) among the people will say...)
until the end of the Ayah.
`Ali bin Abu Talhah related that Ibn `Abbas said: When Allah's Messenger migrated to Al-Madinah, Allah commanded him to face Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem). The Jews were delighted then. Allah's Messenger faced Jerusalem for over ten months. However, he liked (to offer prayer in the direction of) Prophet Ibrahim's Qiblah (the Ka`bah in Makkah) and used to supplicate to Allah and kept looking up to the sky (awaiting Allah's command in this regard). Allah then revealed:
فَوَلُّواْ وُجُوهَكُمْ شَطْرَهُ
(turn your faces (in prayer) in that direction.) meaning, its direction. The Jews did not like this change and said, "What made them change the Qiblah that they used to face (meaning Jerusalem)'' Allah revealed:
(Say (O Muhammad ): "To Allah belong both, east and the west. He guides whom He wills to the straight way.'')
There are several other Ahadith on this subject. In summary, Allah's Messenger was commanded to face Bayt Al-Maqdis (during the prayer) and he used to offer prayer towards it in Makkah between the two corners (of Ka`bah), so that the Ka`bah would be between him and Bayt Al-Maqdis8. When the Prophet migrated to Al-Madinah, this practice was no longer possible; then Allah commanded him to offer prayer towards Bayt Al-Maqdis, as Ibn Abbas and the majority of the scholars have stated.
Al-Bukhari reported in his Sahih that the news (of the change of Qiblah) was conveyed to some of the Ansar while they were performing the `Asr (Afternoon) prayer towards Bayt Al-Maqdis, upon hearing that, they immediately changed their direction and faced the Ka`bah.
It is reported in the Sahihayn (Al-Bukhari Muslim) that Ibn `Umar narrated: While the people were in Quba' (Mosque) performing the Fajr (Dawn) prayer, a man came and said, "A (part of the) Qur'an was revealed tonight to Allah's Messenger and he was commanded to face the Ka`bah. Therefore, face the Ka`bah. They were facing Ash-Sham, so they turned towards the Ka`bah.
These Hadiths prove that the Nasikh (a Text that abrogates a previous Text) only applies after one acquires knowledge of it, even if the Nasikh had already been revealed and announced. This is why the Companions mentioned above were not commanded to repeat the previous `Asr, Maghrib and `Isha' prayers (although they had prayed them towards Jerusalem after Allah had changed the Qiblah). Allah knows best.
When the change of Qiblah (to Ka`bah in Makkah) occurred, those inflicted with hypocrisy and mistrust, and the disbelieving Jews, both were led astray from the right guidance and fell into confusion. They said:
( It is not Al-Birr (piety, righteousness) that you turn your faces towards east and (or) west (in prayers); but Al-Birr is the one who believes in Allah.) (2:177) This statement means, the best act is to adhere to Allah's commands. Hence, wherever He commands us to face, we should face. Also, since obedience requires implementing Allah's commands, if He commands us every day to face different places, we are His servants and under His disposal, and we face whatever He orders us to face. Certainly, Allah's care and kindness towards His servant and Messenger, Muhammad, and certainly, his Ummah (Muslim nation) is profoundly great. Allah has guided them to the Qiblah of (Prophet) Ibrahim -- Allah's Khalil (intimate friend). He has commanded them to face the Ka`bah, the most honorable house (of worship) on the face of the earth, which was built by Ibrahim Al-Khalil in the Name of Allah, the One without a partner. This is why Allah said afterwards:
(They do not envy us for a matter more than they envy us for Jumu`ah (Friday) to which Allah has guided us and from which they were led astray; for the (true) Qiblah to which Allah has directed us and from which they were led astray; and for our saying `Amin' behind the Imam (leader of the prayer).)
(Thus We have made you true Muslims, a Wasat (just) (and the best) nation, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger (Muhammad ) be a witness over you.)
Allah stated that He has changed our Qiblah to the Qiblah of Ibrahim and chose it for us so that He makes us the best nation ever. Hence, we will be the witnesses over the nations on the Day of Resurrection, for all of them will then agree concerning our virtue. The word Wasat in the Ayah means the best and the most honored. Therefore, saying that (the Prophet's tribe) Quraysh is in the Wasat regarding Arab tribes and their areas, means the best. Similarly, saying that Allah's Messenger was in the Wasat of his people, means he was from the best subtribe. Also, `Asr, the prayer that is described as `Wusta' (a variation of the word Wasat), means the best prayer, as the authentic collections of Ahadith reported. Since Allah made this Ummah (Muslim nation) the Wasat, He has endowed her with the most complete legislation, the best Manhaj (way, method, etc.,) and the clearest Madhhab (methodology, mannerism, etc). Allah said:
(He has chosen you (to convey His Message of Islamic Monotheism to mankind), and has not laid upon you in religion any hardship: it is the religion of your father Ibrahim. It is He (Allah) Who has named you Muslims both before and in this (the Qur'an), that the Messenger (Muhammad ) may be a witness over you and you be witnesses over mankind!) (22:78)
Moreover, Imam Ahmad reported that Abu Sa`id narrated: Allah's Messenger said:
(Nuh will be called on the Day of Resurrection and will be asked, `Have you conveyed (the Message)' He will say, `Yes.' His people will be summoned and asked, `Has Nuh conveyed (the Message) to you' They will say, `No warner came to us and no one (Prophet) was sent to us.' Nuh will be asked, `Who testifies for you' He will say, `Muhammad and his Ummah.')
This is why Allah said:
وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَـكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا
(Thus We have made you a Wasat nation.)
The Prophet said; (The Wasat means the `Adl (just). You will be summoned to testify that Nuh has conveyed (his Message), and I will attest to your testimony.)
It was also recorded by Al-Bukhari, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah.
Imam Ahmad also reported that Abu Sa`id Khudri narrated: Allah's Messenger said:
(The Prophet would come on the Day of Resurrection with two or more people (his only following!), and his people would also be summoned and asked, `Has he (their Prophet) conveyed (the Message) to you' They would say, `No.' He would be asked, `Have you conveyed (the Message) to your people' He would say, `Yes.' He would be asked, `Who testifies for you' He would say, `Muhammad and his Ummah.' Muhammad and his Ummah would then be summoned and asked, `Has he conveyed (the Message) to his people' They would say, `Yes.' They would be asked, `Who told you that' They would say, `Our Prophet (Muhammad) came to us and told us that the Messengers have conveyed (their Messages). ')
Hence Allah's statement:
وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَـكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطًا
(Thus We have made you a Wasat nation.)
He said, "(meaning) the `Adl,' (he then continued reciting the Ayah):
(Thus We have made you, a just (and the best) nation, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger (Muhammad ) be a witness over you.)''
Furthermore, Imam Ahmad reported that Abul-Aswad narrated: I came to Al-Madinah and found that an epidemic had broken out that caused many fatalities. I sat next to `Umar bin Al-Khattab once when a funeral procession started and the people praised the dead person. `Umar said, "Wajabat (it will be recorded as such), Wajabat!'' Then another funeral was brought forth and the people criticized the dead person. Again, `Umar said, "Wajabat.'' Abul-Aswad asked, "What is Wajabat, O Leader of the faithful'' He said, "I said just like Allah's Messenger had said:
(Any Muslim for whom four testify that he was righteous, then Allah will enter him into Paradise.' We said, `What about three' He said, `And three.' We said, `And two' He said, `And two.' We did not ask him about (the testimony) of one (believing) person.)''
This was also recorded by Al-Bukhari, At-Tirmidhi, and An-Nasa'i.
(And We made the Qiblah (prayer direction towards Jerusalem) which you used to face, only to test those who followed the Messenger (Muhammad ) from those who would turn on their heels (i.e., disobey the Messenger). Indeed it was great (heavy, difficult) except for those whom Allah guided.)
Allah states thus: We have legislated for you, O Muhammad, facing Bayt Al-Maqdis at first and then changed it to the Ka`bah so as to find who will follow and obey you and thus face whatever you face.
مِمَّن يَنقَلِبُ عَلَى عَقِبَيْهِ
(...from those who would turn on their heels.) meaning, reverts from his religion. Allah then said:
وَإِن كَانَتْ لَكَبِيرَةً
(Indeed it was great (heavy, difficult))
The Ayah indicates that changing the Qiblah from Bayt Al-Maqdis to the Ka`bah is heavy on the heart, except for whomever Allah has rightly guided their hearts, who believe in the truth of the Messenger with certainty and that whatever he was sent with is the truth without doubt. It is they who believe that Allah does what He wills, decides what He wills, commands His servants with what He wills, abrogates any of His commands that He wills, and that He has the perfect wisdom and the unequivocal proof in all this. (The attitude of the believers in this respect is) unlike those who have a disease in their hearts, to whom whenever a matter occurs, it causes doubts, just as this same matter adds faith and certainty to the believers. Similarly, Allah said:
(And whenever there comes down a Surah (chapter from the Qur'an), some of them (hypocrites) say: "Which of you has had his faith increased by it'' As for those who believe, it has increased their faith, and they rejoice. But as for those in whose hearts is a disease (of doubt, disbelief and hypocrisy), it will add doubt and disbelief to their doubt and disbelief; and they die while they are disbelievers.) (9:124, 125)
(And We send down of the Qur'an that which is a healing and a mercy to those who believe, and it increases the wrongdoers in nothing but loss.) (17:82)
Certainly, those who remained faithful to the Messenger, obeyed him and faced whatever Allah commanded them, without doubt or hesitation, were the leaders of the Companions. Some scholars stated that the Early Migrants (who migrated with the Prophet from Makkah to Al-Madinah) and Ansar (the residents of Al-Madinah who gave aid and refuge to both the Prophet and the Migrants) were those who offered prayers towards the two Qiblah (Bayt Al-Maqdis and then the Ka`bah). Al-Bukhari reported in the explanation of the Ayah (2:143) that Ibn `Umar narrated: While the people were performing the Fajr (Dawn) prayer in the Quba' Mosque, a man came and said, "Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet and he was ordered to face the Ka`bah. Therefore, face the Ka`bah.'' They then faced the Ka`bah. Muslim also recorded it.
At-Tirmidhi added that they were performing Ruku` (bowing down in prayer), and then changed the direction (of the Qiblah) to the Ka`bah while still bowing down. Muslim reported this last narration from Anas. These Hadiths all indicate the perfect obedience the Companions had for Allah and His Messenger and their compliance with Allah's commandments, may Allah be pleased with them all.
وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُضِيعَ إِيمَـنَكُمْ
(And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost.) meaning, the reward of your prayers towards Bayt Al-Maqdis before would not be lost with Allah. It is reported in Sahih that Abu Ishaq As-Sabi`y related that Bara' narrated: "The people asked about the matter of those who offered prayers towards Bayt Al-Maqdis and died (before the Qiblah was changed to Ka`bah). Allah revealed:
وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُضِيعَ إِيمَـنَكُمْ
(And Allah would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost.)''
It was also recorded by At-Tirmidhi from Ibn `Abbas, and At-Tirmidhi graded it Sahih.
Ibn Ishaq reported that Ibn `Abbas narrated:
وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُضِيعَ إِيمَـنَكُمْ
(And Allah would never make your faith to be lost.) entails: Your (prayer towards) the first Qiblah and your believing your Prophet and obeying him by facing the second Qiblah; He will grant you the rewards for all these acts. Indeed,
إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِالنَّاسِ لَرَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ
(Truly, Allah is full of kindness, the Most Merciful towards mankind.)''
Furthermore, it is reported in the Sahih that Allah's Messenger saw a woman among the captives who was separated from her child. Whenever she found a boy (infant) among the captives, she would hold him close to her chest, as she was looking for her boy. When she found her child, she embraced him and gave him her breast to nurse. Allah's Messenger said:
(Do you think that this woman would willingly throw her son in the fire) They said, "No, O Messenger of Allah!'' He said, (By Allah! Allah is more merciful with His servants than this woman with her son.)
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
After the Hijrah the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) continued to turn his face in the Prayer towards the Temple (at Jerusalem) for about 16 or 17 months; then he was commanded to turn his face towards the Ka'bah (at Makkah). This change of the qiblah (direction of Prayer) with its implications has been described in detail in the succeeding verses.
Those foolish people who did not have the sense to appreciate the true significance of this change began to raise different kinds of objections in order to create doubts in the minds of the Believers. Being narrow-minded, they thought that Allah was confined to a particular point or direction and the change of qiblah meant turning away from Him. This absurd objection has been removed by the declaration that east, west and all other directions belong to Allah. The fact that the qiblah lies in a certain direction does not mean that Allah is confined to that direction only. Those people who are blessed with guidance cannot entertain such narrow ideas. (Also refer to E.N.'s 115 and 116).
This is the declaration of the leadership of the Muslim Community. "Thus" refers both to the Guidance of Allah which was sent through Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) and to the change of the qiblah. It was by following the Guidance that the Muslims achieved those excellences which led to their appointment as the "Community of the Golden Mean," and it was the change of the qiblah from the Temple to the Ka`bah that was an indication that the Israelites had been deposed from the leadership and the Muslims had been appointed to it. Therefore the change of the giblah from the Temple to the Ka`bah was not merely a change of direction as the foolish people took it to be, but it was really the formal declaration of the change of leadership from the Israelites to the followers of Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him).
The word "ummat wasat" is so comprehensive in meaning that no English word can correctly convey its full sense. It is a righteous and noble community which does not go beyond proper limits, but follows the middle course and deals out justice evenly to the nations of the world as an impartial judge, and bases all its relations with other nations on truth and justice.
The meaning of "We have appointed you as ummat wasat so that you may be witnesses in regard to mankind and the Messenger may be a witness in regard to you" is: On the Judgement Day when all mankind will be called to account together, the Messenger, as Our authorised representative, will give evidence in regard to you to prove that he had imparted to you, by word and by deed, without any reservation, the whole teaching of sound thought, righteous deed and justice given by Us. Then you, being representatives of the Messenger, in your turn, will be required to give evidence to prove that you had done your utmost to impart, by word and deed, to mankind whatever the Messenger had imparted to you just as you had received it from the Messenger.
Thus, a person or group's being appointed by God a witness by itself amounts to its being exalted to the office of leadership and religious guide in the world. Though it is a position of honour, it carries very onerous responsibilities with it. It requires that the Muslim Community should become a living witness of piety, truth and justice before the world just as the Holy Prophet bore witness before it, and its wards and deeds should suffice to demonstrate to the world the meaning of truth, justice and piety. It also implies that it is a great responsibility for which the Muslim Community is accountable. Just as the Holy Prophet was responsible for conveying the Guidance of Allah, so the Muslims are responsible for conveying it to the people of the world. If they fail to prove in the Court of Allah that they have discharged this responsibility to the best of their ability, they will be condemned there. And they along with their evil geniuses and accomplices shall be accountable for all the evils which prevailed during their term of leadership, if they had shown any relaxation in the performance of their obligation as witnesses of the Truth. On the Day of Judgement, Allah will surely ask, "What did you do to prevent it when you saw the epidemic of sin, tyranny and impiety breaking out in the world?"
The fools among the people will say “What has turned them from the direction they used to face in their prayersḍ” The eyes of the disbelievers were weak so the correct view about all the circumstances of the believers was not apparent to them. They looked with an eye to finding ugliness and let loose their tongues to oppose everything that was and would be from [the believers]. They did not see anything new without bringing forth a new objection to it. That included the change in the matter of the qibla when it was shifted to the Kaʿba. They said that if their qibla was correct what would turn them from itḍ So [God] said: Say: “To God belong the East and the West. He guides whomever He will to a straight path.” The servants worship toward any region and direction they will. Similarly the companions of absence and those who are veiled from witnessing [the way in which] the Real grants free agency to His friends seek only certain aspects of the affair and bring their own states to bear upon them. If they had seen the whole picture with singular vision they would have been saved from the pain of divisive thinking the distraction of accursed thoughts and the claims of fractured conjecture but God guides whom He wills to His light.
(The foolish of the people will say…) [2:142]. This was revealed about the change of the qiblah. Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ja‘far informed us> Zahir ibn Ahmad> al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Mus‘ab> Yahya ibn Hakim> ‘Abd Allah ibn Raja’> Isra’il> Abu Ishaq> al-Bara’ who said: “When the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, went to Medina, he prayed toward the direction of Jerusalem for sixteen or seventeen months. But Allah’s Messenger, Allah bless him and give him peace, liked to be directed in prayer toward the Ka‘bah. Allah, exalted is He, revealed (We have seen the turning of thy face to heaven) up to the end of the verse [2:144]”. The foolish among people, who are none other than the Jews, said: (What hath turned them from the qiblah which they formerly observed?) Allah, exalted is He, said: (Unto Allah belong the East and the West) up to the end of the verse. This is narrated by Bukhari from the report of ‘Abd Allah ibn Raja’.