Lesson From The Quran

In the sphere of human and social relations too, the earlier Ummahs have in their behaviour been guilty of excess in one way or another. On the one hand, we see an indifference to human rights and particularly an utter disregard of the rights of women, and, in general, a pursuit of individual interests and desires irrespective of the question of right and wrong. On the other hand, we have the display of an exaggerated sentimentality which forbids the eating of animal flesh, in spite of Allah having made it lawful, and which frowns upon the killing of an insect even accidentally. It was the Islamic Ummah and its Shari'ah which established an equilibrium and a just order in the field of human relations. On the other hand, it set down a clear code of human rights, extended them to women as well, and prescribed that not only in times of peace but on the battle-field itself the enemies too must enjoy certain inalienable rights. On the other hand, it clearly demarcated every right and every duty, and put down every act of falling back from the prescribed mark or exceeding it as a crime. The Islamic Shari'ah also taught that one should try to fulfil all of one's obligations towards others, but if one saw one's own rights suffer, one should exercise patience and forgiveness.
In the economic sphere too, the other Ummahs have been a prey to excesses of different kinds. For example, in our own age we have, on the one hand, the Capitalist system which pays no heed to the distinction between the lawful and the unlawful, and is totally blind to the welfare of the people, but exalts the amassing of wealth as the highest virtue; on the other hand are certain economic systems which have no respect for personal property. In actual fact, the essence of these two hostile systems is the same - the pursuit of worldly things as the be-all and the end-all of human life. Contrary to this, the Islamic Shari'ah brings the conflicting elements into an equilibrium, giving to each its proper place. On the one hand, it does not allow the amassing of wealth to be made the ultimate end of man's effort, nor does it make human dignity depend on the considerations of money or rank or office. On the other hand, it promulgates certain principles for the distribution of wealth in a balanced manner so that no member of a society should be deprived of the basic necessities of life, nor should an individual or a group appropriate all the available wealth. The things which can be shared in common by all the members of a society have been entrusted to public or joint control, while in certain specific things the right to private property has been fully respected. It made a clear-cut distinction between lawful (Halal) possessions and unlawful (Haram) possessions, insisting on the spiritual merit of lawful possessions and laying down the rules for making use of them.

Injunctions and related considerations
(1) According to the present verse, Allah has made the Islamic Ummah an equitable and just, and hence a trustworthy community, "so that" it may be qualified to bear witness. From this we infer the legal principle that one who is not 'Adil (trustworthy - as defined by the Shari'ah) cannot be acceptable as a witness in a court of law.
(2) According to al-Qurtubi, this verse establishes Ijma': (إجماع), or the consensus of the Islamic Ummah, as one of the four deciding agencies in the matter of legislation. For, the very fact that Allah Himself has accepted this Ummah as a trustworthy witness as against the other traditional communities, shows that the consensus of this Ummah is a deciding factor in legislative matters, and that it is necessary (Wajib) to act upon it. Thus, the consensus of the blessed Companions has to be accepted by their successors, and that of the latter by the next generation.
According to Al-Tafsir al-Mazhari, this verse establishes the principle that the deeds and actions of this Ummah which have been approved by a consensus are all of them commendable, for, if one were to admit the possibility of a consensus on an error, the Ummah cannot be characterized as being moderate and just.
Imam al-Jassas adds that the dependability of the consensus is not particular to the time of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) or of the blessed Companions, but that the consensus of the Muslims in any age whatsoever is equally trustworthy, for this verse is addressed to the whole Ummah which includes not only the contemporaries of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) but also the succeeding generations of Muslims upto the Day of Judgment. Thus, the Muslims living in any age whatsoever qualify as the witnesses of Allah whose agreement on a certain point becomes a deciding factor in matters of legislation, and who cannot arrive at a consensus on anything which should constitute an error or a deviation. (Let us not, however, forget that consensus or Ijma in this context does not at all imply a sort of referendum on the basis of adult franchise, but means the agreement of a majority of such scholars as fulfil the necessary conditions for pronouncing a judgment in the matters of the Shari'ah - that is to say, those who possess the authority to exercise Ijtihad. It goes without saying that once a consensus of this kind has been arrived at in any matter, the majority of the Ummah accepts it, and holds by it.)

....Verse 143
.... وَمَا جَعَلْنَا الْقِبْلَةَ الَّتِي كُنْتَ عَلَيْهَا إِلَّا لِنَعْلَمَ مَنْ يَتَّبِعُ الرَّسُولَ مِمَّنْ يَنْقَلِبُ عَلَى عَقِبَيْهِ وَإِنْ كَانَتْ لَكَبِيرَةً إِلَّا عَلَى الَّذِينَ هَدَى اللَّهُ وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُضِيعَ إِيمَانَكُمْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِالنَّاسِ لَرَءُوفٌ رَحِيمٌ ()
And We did not appoint the Qiblah which you used to observe except to know him who follows the Messenger as distinct from him who turns on his heels. And, it was burdensome indeed, but not on those whom Allah guided. And Allah is not to let your faith go waste. Certainly Allah is very kind, very merciful to the people.

The History of the Qiblah
There is some difference of opinion among the blessed Companions and their Successors as to whether it was the Baytullah at Makkah or the "Baytul-Maqdis" at Jerusalem which was appointed as the Qiblah, when the five daily prayers were made obligatory in Makkah al-Mukarramah before the Hijrah (the migration of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) from Makkah to Madinah). According to the blessed Companion 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas, the first Qiblah was the Baytul-Maqdis, and continued to be so even after the Hijrah for some sixteen or seventeen months, and it was only then that Allah commanded that the Baytullah be taken as the Qiblah, However, the practice of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) at Makkah was that he used to offer his prayers between al-Hajar al-Aswad ("the Black Stone") and al-Rukn al-Yamaniyy ("the corner facing Yemen") so that his face should be turned towards the Baytullah and the Baytul-Maqdis both at the same time. But this was no longer possible when he migrated to Madinah, and hence his keen desire that the Baytullah be appointed as the new Qiblah. (ibn Kathlr) But other Companions (RA), are of the view that when the five daily prayers were made obligatory at Makkah, it was the Baytullah which served as the Qiblah for the Muslims as it had for Sayyidna Ibrahim and Sayyidna Isma'il (AS). As long as the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) stayed at Makkah, he continued to observe this Qiblah. But after the Hijrah, Allah ordained a change in the orientation, and the Baytul-Maqdis was appointed as the Qiblah, which it continued to be for sixteen or seventeen months. Then came a new commandment, and the Baytullah was restored as the Qiblah. Al-Qurtubi, relying on the authority of Abu 'Amr, prefers the second view to the first. The raison d'etre of these changes of orientation has been explained like this. When the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) came to Madinah, he had to deal with the Jews, and in order to familiarize them with Islam he adopted their Qiblah under divine commendment. But, by and by it became evident that a stubborn people like the Jews would not easily give up their hostility to Islam. So, Allah allowed him to go back to the original Qiblah, which, being the Qiblah of his forefathers, Sayyidna Ibrahim and Sayyidna Isma'il (AS), was naturally dearer to him. In fact, the mosque of Sayyidna Salih (AS) was oriented towards the Baytullah, as is shown by an incident reported by al-Qurtubi from Abu al-'Aliyah al-Riyahi. The latter once had a debate with a Jew concerning the orientation adopted by Sayyidna Musa (Moses AS). The Jew insisted that the great prophet turned in his prayers towards the Sakhrah, The Dome of the Rock in the Sacred Mosque at Jerusalem, while Abu al-'Aliyah maintained that he stood near the Sakhrah, but his face was turned towards the Baytullah. Finally, the latter suggested that the dispute could be decided by having a look at the mosque of Sayyidna Salih (AS) situated on a hill below the Baytul-Maqdis. And, on visiting the mosque, they found that it was oriented towards the Baytullah.
Now, according to those who prefer the first of the two views, the raison d'etre was that it was necessary at Makkah to differentiate the Muslims from the idol-worshippers and to emphasize the distinction between the two, and hence the Baytul-Maqdis was appointed as the Qiblah of the Muslims instead of the Baytullah which was at that time the Qiblah of the mushrikin. Then, after the Hijrah, there arose a new need at Madinah - that of highlighting the distinction between the Muslims and the Jews. So, the Qiblah of the Jews was given up, and the Baytullah was adopted as the Qiblah of the Muslims.
On account of the difference between these two views, the phrase "the Qiblah which you used to observe" has also been interpreted in two ways. On the basis of the first view, "the Qiblah" referred to in the present verse can only be the Baytul-Maqdis which was the first and earlier Qiblah; on the basis of the second, it can also be the Ka'bah which was the earliest and the first Qiblah. Anyhow, the real import of the verse remains the same in either case - the commandment with regard to the change in orientation is a test of the faith of those who claim to be the followers of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), which would openly demonstrate the distinction between those who are genuinely obedient to Allah and His Messenger (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), and those who follow their individual opinion. History records that after this verse had been revealed, those who were weak in their faith, or were just hypocrites, forsook Islam, and even accused the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) of having gone back to the ways of his own people - that is, of the mushrikin.