Quran Read-A-Long: The Cow 142-147 Teaches About the Qiblah, the Direction of Prayer

These verses seem to reflect a familiar theme draped in a new guise: the direction of prayer. Muslims are supposed to pray in the direction of the Ka’aba in Mecca, which is indicated by the Qiblah, a mark in the wall of every mask or house of prayer.

What seems to be happening in these verses is that an actual direction is being used as a means of addressing the direction of the straight path towards God – straight to the Ka’aba, if you will. Those who face the direction of the Qiblah believe what they have been given and know it to be true, but we must understand that asking why people turn away is a foolish inquiry, since we know that God possesses all directions.

This is a minimalistic post this week. If there is something you’d like to mention in these verses that I glossed over, please don’t be shy.

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The Cow 142-147

142. The foolish will now ask and say: “What has made the faithful turn away from the Qiblah towards which they used to pray?” Say: “To God belong the East and the West. He guides who so wills to the path that is straight.” 143. We have made you a temperate people that you act as witness over man, and the Prophet as witness over you. We decreed the Qiblah which you faced before that We may know who follow the Apostle and who turn away in haste. And this was a hard (test) except for those who were guided by God. But God will not suffer your faith to go waste, for God is to men full of mercy and grace. 144. We have seen you turn your face to the heavens. We shall turn you to a Qiblah that will please you. So turn towards the Holy Mosque, and turn towards it wherever you be. And those who are recipients of the Book surely know that this is the truth from their Lord; and God is not negligent of all that you do. 145. Even though you bring all the proof to the people of the Book they will not face the direction you turn to, nor you theirs, nor will they follow each other’s direction. And if you follow their whims after all the knowledge that has reached you, then surely you will be among transgressors. 146. Those to whom We have sent down the Book know this even as they know their sons. Yet a section among them conceals the truth knowingly. 147. The truth is from your Lord, so be not among those who are sceptics.

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One Response

  1. Qibla(direction of prayer)to the Kaba. –It symbolizes the new laws/religion and at the same time, the continuity of the religion of Abraham. It also creates a unifying symbol for the community creating the idea of a “brotherhood” that transcends (local)tribal loyalty. To have a Qibla also creates a “difference”, a new identity for the religious community. To the muslims of Medina, who had to migrate to Medina, this was also the direction of “home” —where they came from. In this way it was a “blessing”—but it was also a test. (Similar to when Prophet Adam is told not to eat from the tree). “muslim” means one who submits (to God’s will). It is also a test in another way—that of unity within diversity—verse 142 points out that the east and the west belong to God and he will guide whom he pleases. Previous to these verses, there were other verses that talked of inclusiveness—the idea that “labels”/names, were not what is important but how one follows guidance to do good. This is followed in verse 145 which basically says–to each, his own guidance. The people of the book have their ways and the new community/brotherhood (Ummah) has their own ways which they are to follow. (see verse 148) Differences can create tension but the test here is that of tolerance and the “middle way”. Verse 143 speaks of a brotherhood that is “justly balanced”–my translation—yours says “temperate”–the arabic word is wasat which implies the “middle way”. There is also another point here. One reason why the Qibla would have been disturbing was because at this point, it was still filled with idols—and Islam is a monotheist religion. To make the Kaba the direction of worship could have been puzzling to some. In this light, the last lines of verse 143 are interesting. My translation says –“for God is to all people full of kindness, most merciful”.—-God is there, receiving anyone who turns to him—He is God even to those who do not believe.

    Responsibility— this is a theme throughout the Quran. Those who are “blessed” with more—also have more responsibility. verse 145 says—“If you, after the knowledge has reached you, were to follow their desires–then you are clearly in the wrong.” —the medina verses are the later verses (and this is an early medina verse) and so the muslim community/brotherhood has been given guidance /knowledge and they have the responsibility to follow this guidance. (this theme is more clear in the next section)

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