Our Qiblah did not start off with the Kaabah. It was the Bayt Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) first then Allah change it to Kaabah.
First look for Jerusalem on the map. Draw a line from Makkah to Jerusalem. This map will help explain the orientation of Jerusalem relative to Makkah and also the orientation of Madinah.
Prophet Muhammad when he was praying in his years in Makkah, he used to pray facing the Kaabah but towards Jurusalem, bayt Al-Maqdis. When he made hijrah, he pray also to Bayt Al Maqdis but he had to back the Kaabah. Muhammad s.a.w. had wished that he would face the Kaabah, the Qiblah of Ibrahim, again. Prophet Muhammad used to supplicate to Allah and look at the sky, waiting for Allah’s command. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir). He was keen on the change but dared not request.
The Jews also used the fact that Muslims adopted their own holy city (Jews consider Jurusalem to be their holy city) as their qiblah to claim that Judaism was the religion of truth and that Muhammad and his companions adopt Judaism, instead of calling on the Jews to accept Islam.
Then Allah revealed ayah Al Baqarah 2:144.
Verily! We have seen the turning of your (Muhammad’s SAW) face towards the heaven. Surely, We shall turn you to a Qiblah (prayer direction) that shall please you, so turn your face in the direction of Al-Masjid- Al-Harâm (at Makkah). And wheresoever you people are, turn your faces (in prayer) in that direction. Certainly, the people who were given the Scriptures (i.e. Jews and the Christians) know well that, that (your turning towards the direction of the Ka’bah at Makkah in prayers) is the truth from their Lord. And Allâh is not unaware of what they do. (144)
Imam Bukhari reported that Al Bara’ bin ‘Azib narrated
The Prophet prayed facing Bait-ulmaqdis (i.e. Jerusalem) for sixteen or seventeen months but he wished that his Qibla would be the Ka’ba (at Mecca). (So Allah Revealed (2.144) and he offered ‘Asr prayers(in his Mosque facing Ka’ba at Mecca) and some people prayed with him. A man from among those who had prayed with him, went out and passed by some people offering prayer in another mosque, and they were in the state of bowing. He said, “I, (swearing by Allah,) testify that I have prayed with the Prophet facing Mecca.” Hearing that, they turned their faces to the Ka’ba while they were still bowing.
The Jews in Madinah countered with a sustained campaign of criticism. Their new campaign sought to create doubts in the minds of Muslims as to the basis of their own religion.
These are among what they argued
- If it was right, the Jews argued, that the Muslims should formerly face Jerusalem in their Prayers, then the new direction is wrong.
- They also told the Muslims:“Your Prayers from now on would then be of no value. If, on the other hand, the new direction is right and the Kabah is the true qiblah, then your Prayers in the past were in vain.”
- The Jews also argued that God, the Lord Who knows all, does not change His instructions in that manner. The change clearly showed, the Jews went on, that Muhammad did not really receive any revelation from God.
Reassurance was needed and was, indeed, provided in a long passage in the Quran, which runs from verse 106 to verse 150 in the surah entitled Al-Baqarah.
Also in the same hadith as the above..
Reported by Imam Bukhari
..Some Muslims who offered prayer towards the previous Qiblah (Jerusalem) before it was changed towards the House (the Ka`bah in Makkah) had died or had been martyred, and we did not know what to say about them (regarding their prayers towards Jerusalem). Allah then revealed Al Baqarah 2:143:
وَكَذَٲلِكَ جَعَلۡنَـٰكُمۡ أُمَّةً۬ وَسَطً۬ا لِّتَڪُونُواْ شُہَدَآءَ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ ٱلرَّسُولُ عَلَيۡكُمۡ شَهِيدً۬اۗ وَمَا جَعَلۡنَا ٱلۡقِبۡلَةَ ٱلَّتِى كُنتَ عَلَيۡہَآ إِلَّا لِنَعۡلَمَ مَن يَتَّبِعُ ٱلرَّسُولَ مِمَّن يَنقَلِبُ عَلَىٰ عَقِبَيۡهِۚ وَإِن كَانَتۡ لَكَبِيرَةً إِلَّا عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ هَدَى ٱللَّهُۗ وَمَا كَانَ ٱللَّهُ لِيُضِيعَ إِيمَـٰنَكُمۡۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بِٱلنَّاسِ لَرَءُوفٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬ (١٤٣)
Thus We have made you [true Muslims – real believers of Islâmic Monotheism, true followers of Prophet Muhammad SAW and his Sunnah (legal ways)], a (just) (and the best) nation, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) be a witness over you. And We made the Qiblah (prayer direction towards Jerusalem) which you used to face, only to test those who followed the Messenger (Muhammad SAW) from those who would turn on their heels (i.e. disobey the Messenger). Indeed it was great (heavy) except for those whom Allâh guided. And Allâh would never make your faith (prayers) to be lost (i.e. your prayers offered towards Jerusalem). Truly, Allâh is full of kindness, the Most Merciful towards mankind. (143)
Corresponding the Jews asking why the change of Qiblah, Al Baqarah 2:115
وَلِلَّهِ ٱلۡمَشۡرِقُ وَٱلۡمَغۡرِبُۚ فَأَيۡنَمَا تُوَلُّواْ فَثَمَّ وَجۡهُ ٱللَّهِۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ وَٲسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ۬ (١١٥)
And to Allâh belong the east and the west, so wherever you turn (yourselves or your faces) there is the Face of Allâh (and He is High above, over His Throne). Surely! Allâh is All-Sufficient for His creatures’ needs, All-Knowing. (115)
Also read Al BAqarah 2: 148-152
The change of Qiblah is a test for those who believe. the Arabs, even though they were pagans before Islam, still perform traditional prayer ritual towards the Kaabah. Unfortunately mostly have taken up to worshiping idols.
Kaabah is highly revered among the Arabs. It is a symbol of national glory. It is a factor that pull all the Arab tribes together.
Thus it was a test of true submission towards Allah when they were asked to pray towards Jerusalem initially. The sahabahs need to abandon former loyalties and tribal racial. hence the need to separate worship from traditional practice of the Kaabah.
After Hijrah however, the Muslims were taught to see Kaabah in a different light, unlike the idol practice and national pride that they had before. Then only they were asked to face Kaabah. Having purification of the Muslim’s heart by them giving full submission to Allah’s command, they are then directed to face their distinctive Qiblah, the Kaabah, the first house of worship ever built. (reference
The revelation to change the qiblah was sent down when Mohammad saw was in a masjid now called Masjid Qiblatain, meaning the masjid of two qiblahs. 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.
Quoted from here
This story might be heavy for the younger children. These notes are only for my guideline. Like any story, narrate them according to their level. For S (who is seven), I only told her that our qiblah used to be facing the masjidil Aqsa, I showed her a picture of the sacred mosque and shoqed her on the map where Jerusalem is.
I tell a bit more to H (he is ten). But did tell him in a simplified manner that the directions are a test to the early muslims.