Mankind needs to be united but we must unite on something that will mark out peace and justice for all, not just a few, and we want peace and justice that will be constant; regardless of changes in time and place.
Mankind is rarely united for long and division often breeds a competitive spirit, and when pride rules, war and destruction ensue. Without a moral and spiritual unifying factor, mankind will destroy himself. Only one thing can unite mankind on goodness and constancy; something that goes far beyond pride: devotion to the Creator and Nurturer of all and care for His creation.
Attaining this high state of being that transcends worldly desires is not easy; it requires a code of conduct, a way of life and a spiritual and physical direction to which all are united. In Islam, this sublime course is symbolized in the Kaaba; the Qiblah.
Wherever you find Muslims; in whatever environment; under all kinds of conditions you will find them gather at the times of Prayer, face the Kaaba in Mecca, and worship their Lord with devotion. This gives them a clear purpose and single-mindedness that is necessary to retain identity in a world where morals and values are falling apart.
The Muslims did not always face Mecca in their prayers. This change came about early on in Islam.
How the Qiblah Changed
The Prophet (PBUH) described the Ummah (Muslim Nation) as being like one body; when one part of it is in pain and fever it affects all the other parts.
In the beginning of Islam, Muslims prayed facing Baitul-Muqaddis in Jerusalem; a shared Qiblah between the Muslims and the Jews. Then not long after the migration to Medina the Prophet (PBUH) received a divine order to change the Qiblah and pray towards Masjid Al-Haram (The Grand Mosque).
One day during the noon prayer the Prophet (PBUH) was told by Jibreel (Gabriel) to turn and face Al-Masjid Al-Haram and all those with the Prophet at that time followed him. This was a test from the Lord to see who was sincere in their faith.
The Qiblah was changed with a gentle harmony of movement and obedience to God and His Messenger, peace be upon him. The Prophet (PBUH) described the Muslim Nation as being like one body; when one part of it is in pain and fever it affects all the other parts. The oneness of direction and the harmony which with Muslims adhere to their Lord clearly manifest this meaning.
The Building of the Kaaba
To discuss the history of the Kaaba we have to remember Prophet Abraham and his noble family; his wife Hagar and his son, Ismail (Ishmael). Abraham is known for his sincere adherence to monotheism and his strength of character with which he stood up against the falsehood of his time. It was upon this sincerity, character and belief that the Kaaba was built.
God Says: “Indeed, Abraham was a [comprehensive] leader, devoutly obedient to Allah , inclining toward truth, and he was not of those who associate others with Allah .” [Quran 16:120]
Abraham debated the king of Babylon (Nimrod) about the Lordship of Allah when this evil king claimed to be a god. Abraham also reminded his idolatrous people that the planets, the sun and the moon which they worshipped (Al-An’am 6:74-81) all set and disappeared while he declared the oneness of Allah. Abraham was the only one of his people who stood up for monotheism. Indeed, he was a nation. But Abraham did not only speak against idol worship; he also smashed the idols of his people (Al-Anbiya 21:51-58) and because of his courage and trust in his Lord the fire into which he was later thrown became cool. Abraham never hesitated or doubted his Lord and the reward he received because of his faith was immense.
God Says: “O fire, be coolness and safety upon Abraham.” [Quran 21:69]
After emerging from the fire, Abraham left his stubborn people and established the religion in another land. This city was Mecca.
“…Abraham said, And [mention, O Muhammad], My Lord, make this city [Mecca] secure and keep me and my sons away from worshipping idols.” [Quran 14:35]
The courage of Hagar, the mother of Ismail, and the adversity she faced, are well known. Hagar was both a wife of a prophet and the mother of a prophet. She exemplified perfect faith as she faced this situation with her young son, Ismail.
Pained upon leaving his wife and son, and entrusting them to Allah, Abraham made the following dua (supplication).
“Our Lord, I have settled some of my descendants in an uncultivated valley near Your sacred House, our Lord, that they may establish prayer. So make hearts among the people incline toward them and provide for them from the fruits that they might be grateful.” [Quran 14:37]
The Lord hears and knows all things and He rewarded both Abraham and Hagar for their faith and steadfastness. While desperately searching for water for her little son, Hagar ascended Mount Safa and when she descended to the valley, she ran till she reached Mount Marwah. She ran between the mountains many times; concerned about her son but sure of the help of her Lord. As she was running God Sent Gabriel to cause the water of Zamzam to flow and soon after the tribe of Jurhum settled there.
Later Abraham returned to Mecca and built the Kaaba with his son, Ismail, praying that his descendants would believe in God. Answering his supplication, God sent the seal of the Prophets, Muhammad, peace be upon him, from Mecca to establish Islam. From its beginning, the Kaaba was a spiritual center.
The Call of Abraham
Muhammad (PBUH) was sent by God to purify the religion of Abraham from distortion Abraham was ordered by God to proclaim Hajj, calling those who believe in Allah at all times and in every place to visit the House of their Lord.
Muhammad (PBUH) was sent by the Lord to purify the religion of Abraham from distortion. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Truly, I was written as the Seal of the Prophets with Allah when Adam was still lying on the ground…I am the supplication of my father Abraham and the good tidings of my brother ‘Eesa (Jesus)….”
Until today, Muslims answer the call of Abraham by performing pilgrimage and at least five times a day, Muslims face toward Mecca in their prayers, unified in obedience to Allah.
Upon What Does the Qiblah Unite Us?
Many tears are shed as Muslims face the Qiblah and pray; many sins are forgiven and many hearts are guided. Having a Qiblah not only gives the Muslims a physical direction to face in Prayer, but it also unifies our hearts, making it easier to focus on clearly defined goals of worship, manners and behavior.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “I only came to teach you good character.”
Everything that forms a decent character and noble manners is instilled in Muslims and is part of what unites us; honesty, trustworthiness, justice, tolerance and so on. One Qiblah, one straight path, one code of conduct and one mass of people facing it five times a day; a spectacle of human spirituality and devotion.
The Lord gave us the means to follow His way and He does not leave us alone in our struggle to live up to the moral and ethical standards of a life that faces the Qiblah.
The Lord Says: “And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.” [Quran 2: 186]
Many tears are shed as Muslims face the Qiblah and pray; many sins are forgiven and many hearts are guided. The Muslims become one; free of the burdens of pride and racism, as hearts seek the Creator and all that pleases Him. Many hearts become humble, and intentions and wishes form on the lips of humble supplicants. Grievances are relieved and hearts are healed. The earth heaves a sigh when masses of humanity turn in unity and harmony in one direction, praying to the one Lord, with oneness of heart and intention, let us not be the exception.