By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
9 June 2012
We are reproducing in original Urdu and in English and Hindi translations a widely syndicated article in India’s Urdu Press by Maulanama Nadeemul Wajidi of Deoband seminary detailing Muslims’s love for and claims to Haram Ash-Sharif Baitul Muqaddas and Masjid-e-Aqsa, also known alternatively as Temple Mount and Solomon’s Temple or First Temple in Jerusalem. Muslim Press the world over is constantly full of Muslim lamentation over the loss of full control over Baitul Muqaddas and Masjid-e-Aqsa since Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem. Fighting an occupation is one thing. All Justice-loving people in the world are with Palestinians on that issue. But world Muslim community making an ideological claim over a building complex that God told us belongs to our religious cousins, the Ahl-Kitab Jews and Christians, is something quite another.
Muslims revere these structures as their first Qibla, as it was this direction they faced in their prayers in the formative phase of Islam when Prophet was still hoping for reconciliation with and acceptability as a Biblical prophet by the Jews and Christians. Even though the Prophet and other Meccans always wanted to use Kaaba Shareef as their Qibla, this was one of the concessions they were willing to make as per God’s advice in the interest of wider acceptability by other Biblical religions. However, when all these attempts failed and Jews had to be expelled because of their perfidy in times of war which would not be acceptable to any besieged city, the Prophet and the Muslims from Mecca started looking towards Heaven for permission to change their Qibla from Baitul Muqaddas to Kaaba Shareef.
This is how God responded while recording the Prophet’s desire for a separate Qibla: Surah Baqra 2: 144. “We see the turning of thy face for guidance to the heavens. Now shall We turn thee to a Qibla that shall please thee. Turn then thy face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque. Wherever ye are, turn your faces in that direction. The people of the Book know well that that is the truth from their Lord, nor is Allah unmindful of what they do.”
This is what most Muslims remember and follow. But the very next verse explained to them that Baitul Muqaddas was the Qibla for Jews and Christians, something Muslims have forgotten; our self-righteous ulema are of course in the habit of ignoring inconvenient Qur’anic verses, verses that do not support their rapacious, self-righteous, male-chauvinist, Islam-supremacist attitudes. Let us read this verse and see what it says:
Sura Baqra: 2: 145: “Even if thou wert to bring to the people of the Book all the signs (together), they would not follow thy Qibla (Kaaba); nor art thou going to follow their Qibla (Baitul Muqaddas) nor indeed will they follow each other’s Qibla. If thou, after the knowledge hath reached thee, wert to follow their (vain) desires, then wert thou indeed (clearly) in the wrong.”
To buttress this proposition, let us also consult, the Tafseer (exegesis, interpretation) of the authorized Saudi translation in this context. It says: “A very clear glimpse of the old Jewish practice in the matter of the Qibla and the importance attached to it is found in the book of Daniel, V1. 10. Daniel was a righteous man of princely lineage and lived about 606--538 B.C. He was carried off to Babylon by Nebuchednezzar, The Assyrian, but was still living when Assyria was overthrown by the Medes and Persians. In spite of the “captivity” of the Jews, Daniel enjoyed the highest offices of state at Babylon, but he was ever true to Jerusalem. His enemies (under the Persian monarch) got a penal law passed against anyone who “asked a petition of any god or man for 30 days” except the Persian King. But Daniel continued true to Jerusalem. His windows being open in his chamber towards, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”
Were we thus to read the entire Qur’anic exhortation on the issue of Qibla, we would not have fallen into the ever deepening morass of intra-Ahl-e-Kitab conflict. We can continue to revere the sacred places in Jerusalem according tour traditions while recognizing God-ordained rights of the Judaeo-Christian religious communities to their Qibla in Jerusalem as we have ours in Mecca. Exactly what shape our expression of reverence for our original Qibla takes and whether we are allowed to visit and when and how frequently, etc, can be peacefully and easily negotiated once we concede their God-given right to their Qibla.
In the meantime let us also try and remember another of God’s commandments that will help us come out of our Qibla fixation.
Surah Baqra: 2: 115 “To Allah belong the East and The West: Wheresoever Ye turn, there is Allah’s Face. For Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.”
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