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Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"The word qibla means direction or point towards which one turns his face for prayer as opposed to dibrah which indicates the direction or point towards which one turns his back. The word qibla occurs four times in the Koran.

While the Prophet was in Mecca, he used to pray with his face to the holy temple at Jerusalem, but six months after his coming to Medina, where the Jewish element was strong, he was expressly directed by Divine revelation to turn his face to the Kaba as his qibla: "And from whatsoever place you come forth, turn your face towards the Sacred Mosque; and wherever you are, turn your faces towards it" (2:150). This order that all places of worship should coverage towards the Kaba had an underlying purpose which is hinted at in the Koran in connection with the subject of the qibla: "And every one has a direction to which he turns himself, therefore hasten to do good works; wherever your are, God will bring you all together" (2:148). The bringing of all together clearly means the making of all as one people, so that, beneath the ostensible unity of direction lies the real unity of purpose. Thus, the unity of the qibla among Muslims stands for their unity of purpose, and forms the basis on which rests the brotherhood of Islam. Hence, the Prophet's saying: "Do not call your ahl qibla (those who follow your qibla) kafirs"

It is related that when the Islamic army returned from the battle of Khaibar, they alighted at a place for prayer at evening. The sky was covered with dense clouds and it was too dark, and as a result the direction of qibla could not be located. They offered prayer on different directions. Next day when they reached Medina and found their directions being different, they started to re-offer their prayer. On this juncture, the Koranic verse revealed: "And God's is the East and the West, therefore whither you turn, thither is God's face" (2:115).

Fakhruddin Razi (4:18) take a broad sense of the Koranic context and points out that both East and West belong to God, wherever God chooses to order men to face will be the qibla. No direction has any superiority over any other; the qibla has thus no intrinsic merit, but is the qibla simply on account of the fact of God's having imposed it.

Zamakhshari interprets the verse as follows:- "To God belongs the east and the west means that the lands of the east and the west and the entire earth belong to God. Wherever, therefore, you turn your face, that is, in whatever place you perform the act of turning your faces there is the face of God. The face of God here means the direction which he decreed and with which He was pleased (1:306).

The verse could also mean, according to Ibn Arabi, "To God belongs the illumination or shinning forth (ishraq) upon men's hearts through His being reflected in them and manifesting Himself to them in the attribute of His beauty in the state of their presence (shuhud), and annihilation (fana). To him also belongs the westering (ghurub), that is, concealing Himself in them by veiling Himself in the forms and essences of their hearts. It is His self-concealment in the attribute of His Majesty in the state of their subsistence (baqa) after annihilation. To whatever direction you turn then there shall be His face. For there is nothing in reality but He alone" (1:8).

The qibla is a direction or point, which does not direct the existence of God over there alone. God is Omnipresent and His existence is not limited to the extent of one direction only. God says: "The East and the West belong only to God" (2:142), "And He is with you wherever you are" (57:4) and "It is not righteousness that you turn your face towards the East and the West, but righteousness is this that one should believe in God and the last day and the angels" (2:177).

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