What Was the Original Qibla Direction?

Answered by Shaykh Shuaib Ally

Question: Assalam alaykum,

Is it correct that the original Qibla was set as the ka’ba in Mecca, then changed to the Holy Lands of Jerusalem, and then changed back to its original appointment?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullah,

The scholarly position that seeks to make use of the available evidence is that that the Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him) prayed during his stay in Makkah facing Jerusalem. In doing so, he would either place the Ka’ba between himself and Jerusalem, thus in effect facing both, or place it to the side, such that he was not turning his back to it, or face Jerusalem alone.

Upon migration to Medina, the direction of the Qibla continued to be Jerusalem, although it was then physically impossible for one to also face the Ka’ba, as Medina is north of Makkah.

This remained the Qibla for approximately another 16 months, at which point the prayer direction was changed to the Ka’ba in Medina.

Ibn Hajar notes that the opinion that the Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him) first prayed towards the Ka’ba is weak, and requires postulating multiple instances of abrogation. The position outlined above, he argues, takes into account the available evidence and the narration of Ibn ‘Abbas that clearly indicates that the Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him) faced Jerusalem while in Makkah.

Al-Hafidh al-‘Iraqi, in his versification of the life of the Prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him), wrote:

He would face in his prayer / in Makkah: al-Quds, but would place
The House before him as well / in obligatory and other prayers
After the Emigration likewise, towards al-Quds / for sixteen or seventeen months
The Qibla was changed after that / to God’s Ka’ba – how blessed a direction!

A more detailed discussion can be found in Ibn Hajar’s Fath, or Zarqani’s commentary on Qastallani’s Mawahib.

Sources: Fath al-Bari; al-Futuhat al-Subhaniyya; Sharh al-Mawahib

Shuaib Ally