Masjid al Qiblatain, or the ‘Mosque with Two Qiblas’, is one of the oldest mosques in the world and is unique because it contains two ,niche, mihrabs – one in the direction of Bayt al Muqaddas (Jerusalem) and the other facing Ka’aba.
In Madinah, the Jews offered their prayers facing Bayt al Muqaddas. The Prophet and his companions also offered prayers facing the same direction. This had been their practice from Makkah and had continued until the second year after hijrah. But the Jews argued that though the Muslims claimed to have a religion whose laws superseded all other previous laws, they don’t have their own Qibla to face.
Upon receiving this news the Prophet peace be upon him used to come out at night and look into the sky – thinking and waiting for a revelation from Allah. The following verse was then revealed: ‘Verily! We have seen the turning of your (Mohammed’s) face towards the heaven. Surely, we shall turn you to a Qibla (prayer direction) that shall please you, so turn your face to the direction of al Masjid al Haram (at Makkah). And wheresoever you people are, turn your faces (in prayer) in that direction.’ Qur’an 2:144
The change in the direction of the Qibla also served as a test of faith for the people. They were tested by seeing if any of them refused or delayed turning towards the new Qibla as ordered by Allah. ‘We decreed your former Qibla 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 has guided…’ Qur’an 2:143
‘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 towards the Sacred Mosque. Wherever you are, turn your faces towards it so that the people will have no argument against you, except for those among them who do wrong. Do not fear them, but rather fear Me, so that I can complete My blessing on you so that perhaps you may be guided.’ Qur’an 2:149-150