A l Q i b l a t a i n
Masjid al Qiblatain (or the Mosque with two Qiblas), is situated in Madinah, a few kilometres from Masjid an-Nabi. It is one of the oldest Mosques in the world, and uniquely contains thus two mihrabs - one in the direction of bait al-Maqdis (Jerusalem), and the other towards Makkah.
This is the masjid in which our beloved Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) received Allah Ta'ala's command to adopt the Ka'bah as the qibla, from the original Qibla, towards Jerusalem.
According to ahadith, when the prayers had been enjoined upon the Prophet Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) and all other Muslims to offer salah, after his ascension to the heavens, he and the other Muslims used to face in the direction of Bait al-Maqdis in al-Quds, in Jerusalem.
This was the practice in Makkah, and continued in Madinah until the second year after Hijrah.
While the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) faced Bait al-Maqdis, in his heart, he longed to turn his face towards the niche of Ibrahim in the Ka'bah at Makkah.
In Madinah, the Jews also said their prayers facing Bait al-Maqdis (Jerusalem). They did not like the idea that the Muslims had the same Qiblah as they did, and tried to use this fact to discredit Islam and the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam).
They argued that the Muslims claimed to have a religion whose laws superseded all other previous laws, yet they did not have an independent Qiblah, but offered their prayers facing the Qiblah of the Jews.
Upon the Prophet (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) receiving this news, he used to come out at night and look into the sky awaiting the revelation from Allah about this matter. The following verse was revealed at this time:
"Verily! We have seen the turning of your face towards the heaven; surely we shall turn you to a prayer direction (Qibla) that shall please you.."
[surah al-Baqarah; 2:144]
The fact that the Qiblah was the same as that of the Jews was also because it was a test of the faith of the people. The true faith of the followers would be tested by seeing if any of them refused or delayed to turn towards the new Qiblah as chosen by Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta'ala).
This is confirmed in the Holy Qur'an in the following verse:
"We decreed your former Qiblah only so that We may know the Prophet's true followers and those who were to deny him. It was indeed a hard test, but not for those whom Allah guided..."
[surah al-Baqarah; 2:143]
Subsequently, in the second year of Hijrah, Allah revealed the verse of the Qur'an to Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wa salam) to change direction when praying from Jerusalem, and now face towards Makkah.
Muhammad (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) was facing Jerusalem; after he (salAllahu alayhi wasalam) had already completed two rak'ats of the noon prayer (reported to be either Dhur or Asr), the Angel Jibrael (alayhis salam) communicated to him the command of Allah. He was directed by Angel Jibrael to turn completely around.
So he turned his body around towards the Ka'bah during prayer, and so did his followers. Hence, this mosque came to be called Masjid Qiblatain, the masjid with the two qiblas.
It is clear from the Qur'an itself that the change of qibla provoked controversy particularly among the Jews and the hypocrites who were their allies.
"The fools among the people will say, 'What has made them turn away from the direction they used to face?' Say, 'To Allah belong both the east and the west. He guides whomever he will to a straight path.' Hence we have made you a midmost nation, so that you will be witnesses against mankind and the Messenger will be a witness against you. We did not appoint the direction you used to face except to know him who follows the Messenger from him who turns back on his heels. Though in truth it is a very hard thing except for those whom Allah guides. Allah would not let your belief go to waste. Allah is All-Gentle, Most Merciful to mankind."
[surah al-Baqarah; 141-2]
The importance of the qiblah is later reaffirmed in the same Surah:
"From wherever you come out turn your face towards the Sacred Mosque. It is certainly the truth from your Lord. Allah is not heedless of what you do. From wherever you come out, turn your face to the Sacred Mosque. Wherever you are, turn your faces it towards it so that people will have no argument against you, except for those among them who do wrong and then do not fear them but rather fear Me, so that I can complete my blessing on you so that perhaps you may be guided."
[Surah al-Baqarah; 148-9]
So Bait al-Maqdis was the first qiblah for the Muslims while offering prayer.
Masjid al-Qiblatain was originally built by Bani Salamah, who were of the Al-Khazraj tribe on a small hill near Wadi al-Aqeeq.
Over time, the design and structure of the masjid changed greatly. It is now triangular shaped, situated slightly west of Madinah al-Munawwarah.
Qiblatain mosque can accommodate up to 2000 worshippers. The main prayer hall adopts geometry and symmetry which is accentuated by the use of twin minarets and twin domes. Living accommodations for the Imam, the Muaddhin and the caretaker are discreetly grouped it one block to the west of the main structure.
Entry to the prayer hall is from the raised courtyard, also to the north, which can be reached by stairs and ramps from the main directions of approach. The prayer hall itself consists of a series of arches which runn parallel to the qibla wall.
The main dome to the south is raised on a drum of windows which allow light to filter into the interior directly above the mihrab. Near to that is a second dome, and diretly under it; a replica of the mihrab found in the lower chamber of the Dome of the Rock (Masjid as-Sakharah) in Bait al-Maqqdis (Jerusalem) reminds onlookers of the oldest extant mihrab of Islam.
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