15.3 The New Orientation
Until that date, seventeen months after the Hijra to Medina, the Muslims had made their orientation in the prayer the same as that of the Jews. Mohamed had felt increasingly uneasy about this and had longed for a direction to face that was characteristic of the pure, un-spoilt faith that was his in common with his forefathers, Abraham and Ishmael. Where could a faith so very old, yet reborn and revived, turn? Mohamed had turned towards Allah for guidance, and the command had come:
We see your face scanning the sky.
We shall give you an orientation you approve.
Turn your face towards the Sacred Mosque.
Wherever you are, turn your faces towards it.
Those given the Book know it is the truth from their Lord.
Allah is not unaware of what they do. (2:144)
The Muslims were overjoyed because the implications of the new orientation were very great; the hopes it revived even greater. Mecca was the Messenger's homeland and in Mecca had been built the first sanctuary for the worship of Allah. The Emigrants were homesick for this place that had spiritual connections stronger than anywhere else in the world, but they would not admit it even to themselves. Allah, who knows the secret of every heart, would give them back what they had sacrificed for the sake of their religion. He would give them back the Sacred House, cherished and sought out by pilgrims throughout the centuries.
If their orientation was to be the House of Allah, then surely one day Allah would let His Messenger return to it. If they were given permission to pray towards it, then surely one day they would be allowed to go there as pilgrims and circle the Kaaba as their ancestors Abraham and Ishmael had done. It was a day of hope and rejoicing for the Muslims; a day of connecting the very new with its ancient roots.