What is the meaning of al masjid al haram
according to The Quran?
In the following article, all occurrences of "al masjid al haram"
in The Quran were
analysed and information extracted, in order to gain a
better understanding. The traditional understanding of
this term is "The Sacred Mosque" (in Mecca). Whilst this
is by far the most common understanding, a small
minority of those who follow a Quran based islam have
opted for different understandings.
In this work, sometimes significant points will be made,
but also small observations which by themselves may not
provide definitive insight, but taken together will
hopefully provide a coherent view. Whilst reading this
article, it is recommended to open a new
order to lookup and study each verse cited and context.
For further information, clickable links are given
throughout the article. For the
purposes of accuracy/clarity direct translations are
shown in blue font.
AQ = al quran (the reading)
CAD = Classical Arabic Dictionaries
AMAH = al masjid al haram
1 of this comprehensive study on SuJuD it was
shown that the most suitable meanings for SuJuD were "to
submit, honour or pay respect", which may be
better rendered as "to give acknowledgement/recognition
(in a subservient/submissive manner)" as the core meaning.
2 an analysis of "masjid"
was undertaken, however no definitive conclusion was
The literal meaning of "al
maSJiD al HaRaM" is roughly "the inviolable*/restricted/forbidden/sacred
of SJD, time of SJD. Perhaps the most well-known
theoretical meanings of this Arabic word form would be
place/time of SJD.
*'inviolable' simply means not to
be violated/infringed. This meaning seems to be the most
coherent for its occurrences (see root: HRM).
Review of occurrences
17:1 Glory be to the One who took with/by His
night from al maSJD al haram ila/to al maSJD al aqsa
which We have blessed around* it that We may
show him of Our signs. Indeed, He is the Listener, the
17:2 And We gave Moses the decree/writ and We made
it a guidance for the Children of Israel: "Choose no
guardian/protector besides Me."
17:3 Progeny whom We carried
with Noah, indeed he was a thankful servant.
17:4 And We determined to the
Children of Israel in the decree/writ, surely you will
cause corruption twice in the earth/land, and you will
reach great arrogance.
17:5 So, when came the first promise,
We sent against you servants of Ours, possessors of great
might, so they breached the midst of the homes, and was a
17:6 Then We granted you
victory over them, and We reinforced you with wealth and
children, and We made you more numerous.
17:7 If you do good, you do good for yourselves, and
if you do bad, then it is for it (i.e.
yourselves). So when came the
last/after promise, to sadden/distress your
faces/wills and enter al
maSJD just as
they entered it
the first time, and to destroy what they had
overcome/conquered (with) destruction.
17:8 Perhaps your Lord will have mercy on you**, and if you revert
then so will We. And We made Hell a
gathering place for the
this reading/quran guides to that which is more
upright, and it gives glad tidings to the believers who do
good work, that for them is a great reward.
*note the often overlooked "blessed
AROUND it", not "it" itself but AROUND it.
** the wording
of this warning statement implies it is addressing those
in opposition at the time of this revelation
Note that 17:7 begins with a conditional particle
(Arabic: "in", English "if") and makes a prophecy using
imperfect verbs (see words underlined), implying it is
referring to the future, not as Traditionally understood
referring to the past. Also, the following verse 17:8
adds to the indication of future, warning the present
In Traditional sources there is an
elaborate story behind 17:1, commonly referred to as
"the night journey" (isra)
and "ascension" (miraj)
involving prophet Muhammad being taken from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to the
Farthest Mosque in Jerusalem, but as usual there is variance
within these accounts about the details. For example,
some say it was a physical transportation, some say
spiritual journey or vision/dream. There are many online
articles discussing the details and problems surrounding
this story. You may wish to research this (e.g. here,
traditionally as a journey to Al Masjid Al Aqsa in Jerusalem, it
should be noted that it was NOT built at the time, thus
has been explained away as referring to the area/site,
can generically mean "place of SJD" not an actual
building. Whilst this is theoretically possible, many
still treat it as a proper noun. Interestingly, if we
take it as an area, traditionalist commentators often
say the whole earth is a "masjid" (based on a traditional hadith) thus why
this area is allegedly singled out is unclear, as it
would certainly not be the farthest masjid. It is also
debatable whether Al
Masjid Al Aqsa can truly be described as
"blessed around it" when the region is full of
conflict/oppression today. Perhaps one could argue this
was a reference to the past and/or at the time of
Similarly, it is also debatable
whether the mosque Al
Masjid Al Haram was built at this time, or even
if it was it would have been rudimentary. Most consider
it was not built at the time, thus regard it simply
referring to the area/site. Again, many still treat it
as a proper noun.
Notably, in the
same chapter, in 17:93, the messenger clearly implies he
cannot ascend in the heaven/sky and is only a human. Not
only does this rule out the physical journey/ascension
theory, but implies if he were to ascend physically it
would make him other than human which is the very
opposite of Quran's message. Also see 6:35. Further, a
physical journey has not been described using such terms
in AQ elsewhere as far as I am aware, so we can safely
rule out the physical journey option.
Who does 17:1
realistically only be Moses or Muhammad. Moses because
he is mentioned in the next verse and it begins with "wa/and" implying a
link to what was said previously. Muhammad because when
AQ uses 3rd person singular delivery with the term "abd/servant" and
does not explicitly name the abd addressed, it always or strongly
points to the messenger of Quran, i.e. prophet Muhammad. Please
see all occurrences here: Our abd - 2:23, 8:41, His abd - 18:1, 25:1,
39:36, 53:10, 57:9, God's abd - 72:19. Note how the start of
the very next chapter, 18, and also 25 begin in a
similar manner to 17. This weighs 17:1 in favour of
referring to prophet Muhammad.
It is clear from 17:1 the reason given for taking
His servant from A to B was to be shown some of God's
signs/ayat. Hence a possible link to Moses in 17:2 with "and We gave Moses the
decree/writ", however if so, this would make this the
odd one out, as when AQ discusses revelation it does not
use these terms nor describe anything similar. Unless a
link and explanation can be found of course. Thus, if
anything, 17:1 seems to imply some other kind of signs/ayat.
AMAH is NEVER
mentioned along with Moses elsewhere in AQ, and in fact
is exclusively mentioned along with the messenger of
Quran. Taking these points into account, this weighs
17:1 significantly in favour of referring to prophet
The use of "bi" and "ila" in 17:1 suggest God took with/by
His servant from A to B. Since we have ruled out a
physical journey, this only leaves a spiritual journey
and/or vision/dream or some other understanding. The use
of "night" may indicate during sleep, i.e. a
the context for 17:7 is established by the dual mention
of "masjid" in
17:1, and it just so happens to mention "enter al maSJD just as they entered it
the first time", implying a minimum of two "masjid" are of
relevance - coincidence? If so, what is it referring to?
As stated in part 2 of this series on SuJuD, the most
prominently known "AL maSJD"
in AQ is AMAH, thus in terms of probability, would
likely refer to that.
The only times the words "enter/dKhl" and "maSJD" occur
side-by-side are in 17:7 "enter al maSJD" and 48:27
"enter AMAH" - and it just so happens that in 48:27 it
states "...God has confirmed the vision (al
AMAH..." giving us a link to a vision/dream
- coincidence? Perhaps, but later in chapter 17, in
17:60 it says:
17:59 ...and We sent to Thamud the camel as a
visible sign, but they wronged her. And We do not send
the signs/ayat except as a warning.
17:60 And when We said to thee:
"Your Lord has encompassed the people." And We did not
make the vision (al ru'ya) that We showed* thee except as a trial
for the people, and the accursed tree**
in the quran/reading. And We warn them, but it only
increases their transgression.
*note how "show" (imperfect tense)
in 17:1, and "showed"
(perfect tense) in 17:60, i.e. an action done/completed
by 17:60. The same word (arayna) is used in both cases, which
is the same root as ru'ya/vision.
** see 37:62-66
Note that even though the vision
was shown to thee (singular, i.e. the messenger) it is a
for the people, meaning that it MUST have
been relayed to them. This is compounded by the theme
recurrent of sending the signs/ayat as a warning and the use of "We
warn them / make them fearful...". According to the
traditional explanations of 17:60 (which they link to
17:1), their source material is primarily the
For those following a Quran based islam, the strong
preference is to have a self-contained explanation
within AQ itself. If so, where is this vision explained?
used in only three other instances, that is for Joseph
(12:5, 12:100), the King (12:43) and Abraham (37:102),
and it means dream/vision in ALL cases, specifically a
vision foretelling a future occurrence/event,
and in ALL instances the ru'ya/vision is explained. IF 17:60
and 48:27 are unexplained, then they would be the odd
ones out in AQ, which would be highly unusual.
17:60 also tells us the reason for
the vision and that is it was a fit'na/trial for
the people. This would serve to explain the whole
content of chapter 17, which is a series of stories
about messengership, and warnings, reasons for
rejection, destruction of rejecting/deviant communities,
paradigm shifts and God's will coming to pass. Hence
likely why 17:2 uses "Choose no guardian/protector
besides Me". Is this another coincidence? As a side
note, in 17:60 it says it increases their transgression,
possibly implying it may get worse before it gets better
understanding of AMAH should take these issues into
account and be able to explain them. If we link
these "coincidences" together, we have shown that 17:1
most likely refers to the messenger of Quran, there is
an association between 17:1, 17:7, 17:60 and 48:27, and
it is likely regarding a vision foretelling a future
occurrence which will be blessed around, involving
overcoming the opposition, which would serve as a
warning/trial for such people, and is fulfilled upon
entering AMAH securing, relieving your chiefs,
restraining not fearing with a victory near (see 48:27
analysis). If so, is there an explanation of AMAH that
can provide a fit?
IF we take 'al masjid al haram'
as "the inviolable time of SJD/acknowledgement" (i.e. the term referring to the
time-period/event of the 'inviolable months') and 'al
masjid al aqsa' as "the farthest/remotest time
of SJD/acknowledgement" (implying a time of
SJD/acknowledgement in the future), this would slot in perfectly with
all that has been discussed previously. Around this future
time is blessed, e.g. the believers have grown in
numbers/power/authority, have overcome etc and a
foretelling of this would serve as a warning/trial for the
opposing people, and is completed upon entering AMAH, with
a victory near. Much of AQ may have to be read to
appreciate this progression in success for the believers.
By "inviolable months" I am referring to "al ashhur al hurum"
which are mentioned in 2:194, 2:217, 5:2, 5:97, 9:5 and
refer to a time-period in which al hajj (the symposium/feast) is held,
various regulations are in place etc. Please read these
occurrences to familiarise yourself with this
is a foretelling of a future occurrence/event, and how
the above fits with our chosen meaning of maSJD and
AMAH. In other words, maSJD, AMAH and 'al masjid al aqsa'
must be a reference to a time-period. So we can say the
prophet Muhammad experienced the vision and relayed
revelation of chapter 17 during AMAH. Note that AMAH (i.e. the
term referring to the time-period/event of the
inviolable months) would have been a regular,
or semi-regular, occurrence, e.g. every year perhaps.
This is also suggested by AQ, e.g. 9:28, 28:27.
It is interesting to note how traditional commentators
explain away some points, e.g. the vision referred to in
17:60 (which they link to 17:1) is described as a "trial/ordeal/fit'na for the
people" so they say this is because: Al Jalalayn
they denied it and some of them [even] apostatised
when he [the Prophet] informed them of it", Ibn
Kathir (qtafsir.com) implies that since the prophet saw
it with his physical eyes, rather than a dream, that is
why, but unfortunately for him this contradicts 17:93.
In my view, their explanations are unsatisfactory and
certainly not based on AQ. They also do not seem to
explain why it is placed in the context of a warning.
The traditional story of isra and miraj does not come across as a
warning, hence perhaps the silence on this point. To
make things clearer, a translation of the verses is now
17:1 Glory be to the One who took with/by His
night from the inviolable time of
SJD/acknowledgement to the farthest/remotest
time of SJD/acknowledgement which We have
blessed around it that We may show him of
Our signs. Indeed, He is the Listener, the Seer.
17:7 If you do good, you do good for yourselves,
and if you do bad, then it is for it (i.e.
yourselves). So when came the
last/after promise, to sadden/distress your
time of SJD/acknowledgement just as
they* entered it**
the first time, and to destroy what they had
overcome/conquered (with) destruction.
servants, but this time they would be the present
believers and perhaps their allies.
** THE maSJD,
i.e. al masjid al haram / the inviolable time of
SJD/acknowledgement, which would occur regularly, e.g.
Some may claim that this
understanding contradicts several passages in AQ in
which the prophet Muhammad clearly states he does not
know the future. However there is no contradiction, as
none knows the future, including Muhammad (5:109, 6:50,
7:188, 10:20, 11:31, 18:110, 27:65, 46:9, 81:24). Only
God knows the future and this knowledge can be attained
only through divine revelations/signs (3:44, 3:179,
11:49, 12:102, 30:2, 72:26-28). The messenger only
follows what is inspired/revealed to him, and this
particular vision is relayed in the revelation itself. This is also suggested when the vision is
fulfilled in 48:27 "...He
knew what you did not know...". Or some may
claim the switch in addressee in 17:7 is problematic,
however this is fairly common in AQ, i.e. switching from
past to present audience etc, e.g. see 2:142. This is commonly known as "iltifaat" (see here).
An interesting observation is that
the traditional explanations of 48:27 follow a basic outline to
what was found above, see Asad's note 38 on 48:27 (my
insertion in bold):
"Shortly before the expedition which ended at
Hudaybiyyah, the Prophet had a dream in which he saw
himself and his followers entering
Mecca (read: al masjid al haram) as pilgrims. This
dream-vision was destined to be fulfilled a year
later, in 7 H., when the Muslims were able to perform
their first peaceful pilgrimage to the Holy City". Bear in mind
umrah/hajj would take place in the inviolable time of
acknowledgement. Interestingly, traditional Islamic
history states that after the prophet's "farewell hajj"
he passed away and at this time the believers had
triumphed and were at their peak, which could explain
the use of "aqsa/farthest/remotest time of
acknowledgement" for the prophet as it would have been
Surprisingly, most mainstream traditional commentators
do not link the vision of 48:27 to chapter 17. To them,
the vision of 48:27 is not explained in AQ. If my
findings are correct, then this would imply somewhere
along the way the chapter 17 vision was disassociated
from the 48:27 vision, and the former distorted for
their own ends. For example, in this case, a fixing of
the 5-daily salat.
For those who do not know, according to tradition, it
was only after the alleged isra and miraj did a fix of 5-daily salat come into
observance, as prior to this it was 2-daily for the mumineen/believers
It is strongly recommend to re-read
the analysis above and ponder over the findings
presented here. Also try to insert 'act/institution/etc
of SJD' to see if it works. I personally could not make
much sense of these possible understandings in this
In the following translation, please note: thou/thy/thee
= singular, you/your = plural. Also the coloured words
are there to aid your own study/comparison.
Or do you say
that Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the
Patriarchs were all Jewish or Nazarene? Say: "Are you more
knowledgeable or is God?" Who is more wicked than one who
conceals a testimony with him from God? God is not unaware
of what you do.
That was a
community that passed away, to them is what they earned
and to you is what you have earned; you will not be asked
about what they used to do.
The foolish from the people will say: "What has
turned them from the qiblah/focal-point which they were on* it?" Say: "To God is the
east and the west, He guides whomever He wishes to a
2:143 And as such We have made you a
balanced community so that you will be witnesses over
the people, and the messenger will be a witness over
you. And not We made the qiblah/focal-point
which thou were
except that We make evident he who
follows the messenger from he who will turn back on
his heels. And indeed it was certainly a
except for those whom God guided; And not was God to
let go waste your belief. Indeed, God is over the
people Fully-Kind and Merciful.
2:144 Indeed, We see thy face/consideration/purpose
turn thee (onto/to) a qiblah/focal-point
that will please thee:
so turn thy face/purpose/consideration
in the direction (of) al
maSJD al haram and wherever that you are so turn
your faces/purposes/considerations in its direction and indeed those who
have been given the writ/decree know that it is the truth from
their Lord. And God is not unaware of what they do.
2:145 And even if thou
come to those who have been given the
writ/decree with all signs/evidences they would not
follow thy qiblah/focal-point,
and nor will thou be
and nor some of them are followers of each others qiblah/focal-point.
And surely if thou
were to follow their desires from after what
came to thou of
the knowledge, indeed thou would then surely be among
2:146 Those to whom We have given the decree/writ recognise it like they recognise
their sons; and indeed a group of them surely hides
the truth while they know.
2:147 The truth from your Lord, so do not be from the
2:148 And for each is a direction/course/goal (wijhatun)
he turns towards it, so race** (to yourselves)
the good. Wherever that you will be, God
will bring you (all)
together. God is on every thing Able/Powerful.
2:149 And from wherever thou depart/come forth so turn thy face/purpose/consideration
in the direction (of) al
masjid al haram, and indeed it is surely the truth
from your Lord, and God is not unaware of what you do.
2:150 And from wherever
forth so turn thy face/purpose/consideration
in the direction (of) al masjid al haram and wherever
that you are so turn your faces/purposes/considerations
in its direction so that not will be for the
people against you debate, except those who wronged
among them. So do not fear them, but fear Me and that I may complete My favour upon you and so that
you may be guided.
2:151 As We have sent a messenger to you
from amongst yourselves to recite Our revelations to
you, and purify you, and teach you the decree/book and
the wisdom, and teach you what you did not know.
for interesting and perhaps similar usage of Arabic:
**race/istabiqu is used
elsewhere for the physical racing but no-one takes it as
physical here. See 5:48 and 12:25 as examples. Likewise
"wajh" can mean
the physical face but not always, see its many
occurrences, along with CAD.
The traditional understanding of
these verses is that qiblah
means "prayer direction", and these verses
discuss a change of qiblah
from facing Jerusalem back to the cuboid called
Kaabah in Mecca. There is a little variance when it
comes to who, if anyone, commanded the prophet to face
Jerusalem in the 1st place, e.g. did the prophet simply
follow the custom of the Jews in Medina (where this
revelation allegedly occurred) and face Jerusalem, or
was he commanded by God to do so and later God abrogated
this command in order to pray towards the cuboid.
Readers unfamiliar with the theories on abrogation may
wish to study this subject for background information -
however, as usual, variance exists amongst
Traditionalists (see the works "K.
nasikh wa-l-mansukh" by Abu Ubaid al-Qasim b. Sallam, "The
Sources of Islamic Law: Islamic Theories of
Abrogation" by John Burton).
The following is a list of the problems regarding this
1) It is
entirely an interpretation based on external sources
(i.e. traditions). The terms "kaabah", "mecca", "AMAH", "turn your wajh/face/consideration",
are NEVER discussed elsewhere in AQ involving a specific
physical direction, nor is an example given of anyone
performing salat in
a particular direction.
Some cite 4:102 but please see part 1 of this series for
2) The word "qiblah", and its
root (QBL), cannot be shown to clearly mean "prayer
direction" in any AQ occurrence.
traditional commentators translate the only other
occurrence of the specifc noun "qiblah" (apart from these verses) in
10:87 as "oratories / places of worship" not "prayer
direction". The likely reason is that to do so would
make little sense as 10:87 says "...and make your houses a qiblah...". Further,
they turn it into a plural here, whilst elsewhere it is
4) In addition
to 2:142, the following verses also clearly imply
turning to a specific direction is irrelevant, e.g.
2:115 says "for God
is the east and the west so wherever you turn so there
is God's wajh/presence/consideration...",
2:177 "...it is not
righteousness that you turn your wujuh/faces/considerations
east and the west...". Note the similar words
and these messages (the only ones of their kind) are
only found in chapter 2, and the only times verb form 2 of "turn" is used in
chapter 2 are 2:115, 2:142-150, 2:177. Some commentators explain this
away by saying there was no prayer direction initially,
and later this was abrogated, and so on. However, note
that in terms of sequence, this same message is given
prior to AND after the "change of qiblah" verses.
Interestingly, some traditional commentators accept that
any direction is not special, and the only thing that
makes it special is God having imposed it, no other
5) The verses do
not say turn in the direction of the "Kaabah", but AMAH.
One may ask then, what does one do once inside AMAH or
next to it.
6) The verses do
not say turn your wajh
this is an inserted interpretation. In fact, it
explicitly says "wherever you are" / "wherever thou
start or come forth", implying no limitation, and if so,
this would make it impossible to face one direction all
it is impossible to face an object on a spheroid (i.e.
earth) if you are a long distance away from it. One
actually faces a random point in space, and even if one
were to draw a line on the earth's surface in a
direction towards the intended object being even one
degree off can result in being many miles away from the
object. Thus, it is actually near impossible to do,
unless in close proximity to the object, so if one
wishes to take this interpretation, one must accept
facing one direction is symbolic only.
8) Note how
2:141 clearly implies the past is the past, but
according to the traditional understanding the verses
which follow are about resuming the qiblah of Abraham
et al. Seems a
9) The reason
given for the apparent change in qiblah is "not will be for the
people against you debate", and "that I may complete My
favour upon you and so that you may be guided".
The traditional commentators try to explain these away
using traditions, see Al Jalalayn (altafsir.com), ibn
Kathir (qtafsir.com), Asad (quranix.net). Interestingly, traditional Islamic history shows
that their relations with the Jewish tribes of Medina
only worsened after this point - potentially
contradicting the reasoning offered in AQ.
2:145 says "...nor will they follow
each other's qiblah..." - a much missed
point is the fact that the traditional understanding of "qiblah" as "prayer
direction" requires the people of the book to have a
minimum of TWO different "qiblah" or "prayer directions" in order
to make sense logically, i.e. Jews pray one direction,
Christians pray another. I did not find a commentator who
explained this away. It is possible they did not realise
this. However, there is apparently some evidence to
suggest early Christians prayed facing east, and Jews
faced Jerusalem, thus satisfying the two-minimum criteria.
To me the context of this suggests people can have many qiblah, even their
own individual qiblah,
i.e. more than two.
11) If these
verses were revealed in Medina,
as alleged, then the direction of Jerusalem from there is
clearly north-west, not west. Further, there may be some
evidence Christians prayed to the east, but Jews do not
pray to the west, thus the use of "east" and
"west" in 2:142 are unlikely meant to be taken as
discussing prayer directions, as some claim. Most
traditional commentators do not claim this however.
12) If facing
the cuboid called "Kaabah"
pleased the messenger, as implied in 2:144, then
it should be noted it was full of idols at the time, as
even accepted in traditional sources. They allege that
since it was the first house dedicated to worship, built
by Abraham, this was more important than the fact it was
filled with idols and a pagan symbol, hence "pleased".
13) IF the
cuboid called "Kaabah"
was also the qiblah
of Abraham, as agreed upon by traditionalists,
then it should be noted prophets Moses and Jesus (who
came after Abraham) were NEVER recorded, in any source,
as visiting it nor facing it during prayer. This would
be extremely unusual. Thus, the explanation sometimes
given is that Jerusalem was the legitimate qiblah for
Moses/Jesus, and then the original qiblah (i.e.
cuboid called Kaabah)
was restored with the final revelation, i.e. Quran. This
requires us to believe for some reason God changed it,
then restored it, and now seemingly assigns blame to the
people of the book for not accepting this change. Can we
really blame them for not changing, as this explanation
is tantamount to God being the source of confusion,
which is unacceptable in my view. Further, it is implied
in 2:146 that some of the people of the kitab/book know
that this change is the truth, implying somewhere in
their own scriptures this qiblah is mentioned or that their qiblah will be
superseded by a future messenger etc - if so, where is
this information? Perhaps further research needs to be
done in this area.
14) AMAH as a
building likely did not exist at the time, as admitted
by traditional sources, and refers to the area/site (see Encyclopaedia of Quran, volume
3, p77). How this was delineated is
anyone's guess. Please note some commentators regard
AMAH as Mecca in some verses, e.g. 9:28.
15) As is clear from the last part
of 2:144, the only requirement for knowing the true "qiblah" is to be
given the decree/scripture from our Lord. There is no
requirement to have a compass or to consult a
geographical map to know the true "qiblah" from our
16) IF the
Jerusalem qiblah was
appointed by God, then this indirectly implies the
messenger was dissatisfied with such a qiblah when 2:144
says "...We see thy
face/consideration shifting in the sky..." and
please thee...", i.e. was the messenger
dissatisfied with a command from God?
17) The use of
masculine suffix pronoun "hu/it"
in these verses is somewhat problematic (see bold blue
in the above translation), as IF "it" refers to AMAH as
a physical building then it seems odd (e.g. they
recognise it/AMAH as they recognise their sons). Tafsir
Al Jalalayn states the "it" in 2:146 refers to Muhammad,
Ibn Kathir says it could be Muhammad or Kaabah but
unfortunately for him the latter is a feminine noun so
it cannot be that. Perhaps Ibn Kathir meant AMAH. Some
translators imply the "it" refers to the qiblah but again,
this is a feminine noun (see the use of feminine "ha/it" in 2:143 for
confirmation of this). For me, the variance is telling.
It should be strongly noted that in AQ Abraham is never
said to have built AMAH, nor is it explicitly mentioned
in his presence, thus for the people of the writ/decree
to link this to Abraham and recognise AMAH as the truth
is somewhat difficult.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to state with
certainty what the masculine pronoun "hu" refers to, but
in my humble opinion, the flow and logic of the verses
suggest it=AMAH, especially considering the usage of "it is the truth from
your Lord" in 2:144, 2:147 and 2:149, or
alternatively it could refer to "kitab/decree" like in
18) 2:145 would
imply that if the messenger were to follow their qiblah after these
revelations then he would be a wrongdoer and following
their desires, yet he was apparently following it
previously. Is there a precedent for this in AQ, i.e.
doing X is allowed then a future revelation clearly
changes doing X to desires/wrongdoing? Not to my
19) The expression "turn + wajh", is used in
6:79 and rendered as "I shall turn my face to the One who created
the heavens and the earth..." but explained as
"making his religion
and works sincere" (e.g. Ibn Kathir, Ibn
Abbas), likely because this was prior to the alleged
building of the cuboid called "Kaaba", thus to render it as a
physical direction when such a place did not exist would
be problematic for Traditionalists, yet they take this
same phrase to mean physical directional command here.
Also see "wajh" in 'Verbal Idioms of Quran' by Mustansir
Mir. This shows that this phrase does have a link to
mindset/sincerity/intention/approach/etc even in
traditional sources. The phrase is also used in 28:22
(albeit "turn" is verb form 5 not 2) and likely denotes
an actual physical turning of one's face, but uses the
Arabic word "tilq'aa"
for "towards" not "shatra
(in the direction)" like these verses. Perhaps "til'qaa" is more
appropriate for a physical turning towards, also see
7:47. It is somewhat peculiar "shatra" is used in
2:144-150, rather than the more common "ila/to" for
example, IF it did mean a physical face turning
As a side note, also recall how in part 2 it was shown
the phrase "aqim wajh"
had no link to a physical face or directional command.
20) IF it was a
reference to turning towards another direction in
prayer, then to me, it seems odd that in 2:142 it states
the foolish (al
sufahau) will ask "what has turned them from..." when
this seems like a reasonable question to ask. Think
about it, if you were there as an observer, and a group
prayed towards X then Y for about 18 months (as the
traditional story goes) then back to X again, wouldn't
you also ask "why"? If so, you are of the foolish ones
according to the traditional understanding.
Clearly the traditional position has
issues, thus is there an alternative understanding that
fits better? Before some options are discussed, it
should be mentioned Muhammad Asad has a slightly
different take on these verses, as he does not regard
the prophet as being commanded to face Jerusalem, then
later commanded otherwise (see his translation and notes
He does not believe in abrogation (see
here). Unusually, he says the "great test" in
2:143 was restoring the "prayer direction" from
Jerusalem to the cuboid called Kaabah NOT from the
cuboid to Jerusalem as is commonly interpreted.
Traditional Islamic history tells us that the Arabs
revered the cuboid and Muhammad and the believers faced
it whilst in Mecca, thus one would think it would have
been harder to face away from it, than return to it.
Furthermore, his view would imply that the messenger was
"pleased" for the believers to undergo a "great test" -
which I consider unlikely. Lastly, the flow of the
verses does not seem to fit his take on it. He seems to
hold this understanding as a consequence of rejecting
If one does or does not believe in
abrogation, in either case, any explanation for these
verses should be able to reasonably explain a change of
these verses strongly suggest occurred.
change of qiblah - an
understanding based on Quran
The information we can extract about the meaning of "qiblah", and the
change, from these verses is as follows:
To me, "turning
one's wajh in
the sky" in 2:144 comes across as an idiom, so whilst it
could be literally translated as "turning one's face IN
the sky" it is implying one is directionless, aimless,
floating/blowing in the wind, i.e. no plan/goal to
progress, looking/searching for a way/resolution. Interestingly it is listed in
'Verbal Idioms of Quran' by Mustansir Mir but explained
as he turned his face towards the heaven so often that
it is added emphasis to say his face was IN the heaven,
even though it literally is not. Perhaps, but that does
not change the fact that it is taken by all to mean he
was seeking guidance. The new qiblah resolves this, and is also
pleasing, implying a possible easing of
argumentation/hostility for the believers, which would
tie in with "no debate against you".
- this new change is in some way
related to guiding to a straight/establishing path,
and making the believers a balanced/moderate
- the qiblah which they were on was a
great test (i.e. difficult), except those God
guided, and their belief in such was not going to be
for nothing, hence this new qiblah pleased the
messenger (i.e. less hardship/difficulty)
- in this case
the qiblah happens
to be AMAH, but there are potentially many other qiblah, as
individuals could have their own qiblah
- in 2:148 the usage of
"wherever" is the ONLY time it appears without a
close link to "turn+wajh+AMAH" therefore likens
and consequently likens AMAH to "race to the good"
or at least we can say AMAH involves this.
Furthermore, AQ implies each person may have their
in 2:145 then later in 2:148 says "for each is a wijhatun he
turns towards it", strongly suggesting "qiblah" and "wijhatun" are
being related as similar terms/concepts. Please
re-read these verses as this is a key finding.
- those who have been given the
kitab/book/decree know that it is the truth, and
recognise it like they recognise their sons but hide
the truth. Their qiblah is likely based on desires
- the effects of this change
will be less debate from the people (implying the
former qiblah produced more debate), lead to God
completing His favour, aid guiding, and bringing you
all together wherever you are.
- wherever one is they should
turn their wajh/purpose/consideration in the
direction of AMAH, and from wherever they depart,
from the contexts that likley involves being
oriented towards the truth of your Lord, the good,
and uniting of believers
As a side note, the only other use of
these verses other than "turn+wajh" is 2:148 "...he turns towards it
by anyone. This may help indicate the type of turning
being referred to in these verses.
Based on the above, usage of the root QBL in AQ, CAD
meanings, and the only other occurrence of "qiblah" in 10:87,
in terms of likelihood for the meaning of "qiblah", in my
- focus of interest/attention or activity
2) direction -
general aim or purpose; a general way in which
someone/something is developing
- a way in which to approaching something
- to oppose and mitigate the effects of by contrary
Further, "to God is the east and
the west" in 2:142 implies God encompasses all
things, and the use of "God is Able/Powerful" in 2:148 seems to
restate this theme, i.e. this change is perhaps part of
a bigger plan, and only the foolish will not understand
this. This is reinforced with "God will bring you (all) together"
and "that I may
complete My favour upon you". Note, "God will bring you all together"
which implies many/all believers coming together, and it
is not something easy/ordinary, as it says "God is Able/Powerful"
implying something a little out of the ordinary.
Whatever this new change in qiblah is, i.e. AMAH, should be able
to accomplish this.
The use of "wherever" in "wherever you all are"
and "wherever thou
start/come forth" is interesting. We can
reasonably assume that at the time of revelation all
followers of the messenger (mumineen/believers) were not all in
one place, thus could imply a coming together, a
unification of sorts will result if this new qiblah is
followed. The implication is these verses
are discussing something that will help bring this
2:150 implies "race (to yourselves) the good" and
the change in focal-point to AMAH took place BEFORE
the completion of God's favour. The singular use in 2:149
and 2:150 "wherever
forth" implies the messenger would have
to depart from somewhere, whilst others may not
necessarily have to do so. Bringing you all together
could be a reference to an ushering towards one
place/event at one time. Interestingly, the root
of the term "shatra (in the
direction of)" has some links to things
distant/remote and journeying to a distant/remote
country/land. This may be a coincidence but it may
explain a connotation this term has and the reason
for its unique usage in these verses, especially
so considering the use of "wherever you depart"
and "God will bring you all together".
IF "the inviolable time of
SJD/acknowledgement" (i.e. the term referring to the
time-period/event of the inviolable months) is chosen as a meaning for
AMAH, this would provide a crucial link to a
specific time wherein certain events take place.
If believers were to adopt this as their new
focal-point, this would certainly involve some
having to travel to a location, bring believers
together from all over, promote unity amongst
themselves and a wider people (because such an
event was supposed to be open to all, wherein
hostilities/fighting were meant to cease) and
allow them to put forward good deeds, which would
likely result in good-will from others. This
could, in part, explain the "no debate against
you". IF understandings such as "the inviolable
institution/act/etc of SJD" refer to such a
time/event, then they could work also. If a link
is not made to such a thing, I personally find it
difficult to explain what these verses could refer
to. Further, if no link is made, then this would
imply their previous "qiblah" was not this, thus what
they changed from and to would have to be
As a side
note, this understanding also opens up the
possibility that the messenger was pleased due to
him being a trader, if he was a trader that is,
considering much trading would be done during such
a time/event, see 9:28.
The people of the book may have
recognised it as the truth because they have a
practice which resembles this period in which the
HaJJ/commemoration/feast is held, called
"hagg sukot" (feast of tabernacles) which involves
tents and travelling to a certain location for a
God, celebrating the Torah, spreading the message,
with similar timing and is open to all. There is
also talk of representatives (see 2:196 analysis)
etc. We know from AQ that the
HaJJ was a regular occurrence in Moses'
time, see 28:27. This is perhaps an area for
So we may have a better idea of the meaning of qiblah and
AMAH, but what was the change these verses allude
Firstly, it must be accepted
that this is not clearly stated in AQ, thus some
interpretation/thinking becomes necessary. Without
an explicit reference, this could explain the
fanciful traditional interpretations.
When I examined where in AQ
this subject and related words were discussed, an
interesting discovery was made. ALL verses
AMAH, "al bayt
al haram," "al bayt al atiq" and "kaaba" occur in the latter revealed
chapters of AQ, in order of revelation, not only
according to traditional order of revelation but also
based on analysis of chapter content (e.g. see chapter 7
of "Introduction to Quran" by Richard Bell, or chapter 2
of "Discovering the Quran" by Neal Robinson, or simply
do an online search for the traditional ordering). Out of all the latter chapters that discuss AMAH,
chapter 2 is the first of them, in order of revelation,
implying that from this point forward, AMAH was the focus
- coincidence? 17:1 is the only occurrence of
AMAH that occurs midway through order of revelation.
Bearing in mind what has been proposed above, involving
a future prophecy, and noting 17:1-7 gives no special
status to AMAH or mentions anything about it, and simply
uses it as a reference point - this suggests at this
point in time it was not a focal-point. Another
Not to me. As a side note, whatever meaning of AMAH is
chosen, they should be able to reasonably explain why it
only occurs in the latter stages of revelation.
This information provides us with a
self-contained explanation for the change in focal-point mentioned in
2:142-150. If AMAH had been the focus for the believers
from the start then this would have been difficult to
succeed in because of their low numbers initially,
hostility against them etc but later when their
numbers/influence/message/power had grown AMAH / "the
inviolable time of SJD/acknowledgement" became a perfect
vehicle for all believers to converge upon, thus
solidifying their position and eventually overcome the
Some recurrent themes of the
surrounding context in chapter 2 are that it is
not the mere profession of a creed but righteous
conduct that is proper, and the repeated exemplars
of Abraham and to follow his creed, is something
the believers had in common with the people of the
book, placing an emphasis on unity. The believers
utilising what Abraham followed and did as the
blueprint for their future direction and
ultimately success. These themes could explain the
placement of these verses.
A question may arise, that once the results of
such a change in "qiblah" are fulfilled (e.g.
believers are brought together, completion of
God's favour, and subsequently believers becoming
victorious, completion of the messenger's mission
and Quran revelation etc), are the believers still
to turn their wajh/consideration/purpose in the
direction of AMAH wherever they are? In other
words, is this a command for all people at all
times and all places? I think so, but this could,
theoretically, be debated. Interestingly, in
Traditional Islamic history itself, there is
variance regarding the obligation of hajj
and the importance it had/has at the time, and
shortly after prophet Muhammad's death.
It may be interesting to note that
according to Traditional Islamic history, revelation of
AQ took place over a period of 23 years, and during most
of this time, the believers were allegedly praying
inside AMAH, towards the cuboid called Kaabah, the
inviolable months and al hajj were
presumably a regular occurrence and taking place, but
all these things are only mentioned in the last few
years of revelation, according to tradition. This could
suggest that AMAH/etc was not a focal-point for
believers, as it simply went unmentioned, until later
on. This could be an interesting area of research.
2:190 And fight in the cause of God
against those who fight you, but do not transgress, God
does not like the transgressors.
And kill them wherever you found them, and
expel them from wherever they expelled you, and
persecution/oppression is worse than the killing. And
do not fight them AAinda/(in the presence of)*
al masjid al haram until they fight you fee/in it; so if
they fight you then kill them, such is the recompense
of the rejecters/concealers.
2:192 Then if they cease, then indeed God is Forgiving,
2:193 And fight them until there is no
persecution/oppression and becomes the
obligation/system for God. So if they cease then no
hostility except against the wrongdoers.
2:194 The restricted month for/with the restricted
month, and (for)
the restrictions/sanctions (see 22:30) is just recompense. So
whoever transgressed upon you, then you transgress on
him in the same as he transgressed upon you; and be
conscious of God, and know that God is with those who
2:195 And spend in the cause of God, but
do not throw your resources to disaster. And do
kindness/good, for God loves those who do kindness/good.
and the visit for God. So if you are
prevented/held-back then (give) what is easy of the offering
and do not relieve/unburden your
chiefs/representatives (of this duty) until the offering reaches its
permitted/lawful place**, so whoever from among you
was sick or with/by him harm/annoyance from his chief/representative
then a ransom from abstinence/fast or charity or
observance. So when safe/secure (i.e. in the
designated vicinty) then whoever
benefited/enjoyed by/with the visit to the HaJJ/symposium
what is easy of the offering so whoever couldn't find then an abstinence/fast three
days during the HaJJ/symposium
and seven when you returned, this is ten complete.
That is for one whose people are not at-hand/present (at) al
masjid al haram and be conscious of God and
know that God is severe in punishment.
2:197 The HaJJ/symposium (are)
months/full-moons well known...
* Arabic: AAinda (root:
Ayn-Nun-Dal) = Preposition:
here, with, by, at the point of, about, from, in the
presence of. The word denotes the idea of nearness,
whether it be actual in the sense of possession or
ideational, it also denotes a sense of rank or dignity or
opinion, time and place. See Project
Root List. "with" or "in the presence of" seems to
fit best for the many occurrences of this preposition.
bayt al atiq [22:33], al ka'aba / al bayt al haram
2:191 says "kill them wherever you found them", no
restrictions about place, but it could be argued that
at the end it mentions AMAH as the exception, IF one
took it to mean a physical building/place. 2:191 states
"until they fight you in it (AMAH)" which means AMAH can
be fought in and implies it is something that already
exists, and likens "AAinda" with "fee".
For an analysis of 2:196, this
article must be studied. The flaws in the
traditional understanding of this verse are significant.
2:217 They ask you about the inviolable
month (al shahr al haram)
"Is there fighting in it?" Say: "Fighting in it is a
great wrong but hindering from the way/path of God and
to reject/conceal in/with/by Him/it and al masjid al haram,
and expelling its people* from it is a greater
is worse than killing/warfare." And they will not cease
to fight you until they turn you away from your
system/obligation if they are able. And whoever of you
turns away from his system/obligation, then dies while
he is rejecting/concealing, then these have nullified
their deeds in this world and the hereafter; and these
are the companions of the Fire, in it they are dwelling.
likely refers to the people within it and also pursuing
it, see 22:25, 8:34, 9:17-18. This may also relate to
some instances of the muhajirin/emigrants
that I checked translate "kifr bihi" in 2:217 as
"disbelief/deny/reject in Him" however this creates an
issue with what follows as it would require rendering
"wa (kifr bi) AMAH" as "and disbelief/deny/reject in
AMAH". This is problematic according to Traditional
Islamic history because the polytheists were devoted to
AMAH, thus did not disbelieve/deny/reject in it. This
may explain the variance for this part in translations.
Interestingly, I could not find a "kfr bihi" in AQ
referring to God. Furthermore, it says the
persecution/oppression (al fit'na) is worse than the
killing/warfare, implying what was said before in 2:217
is about fit'na,
not about rejecting/disbelieving in God. Thus, in terms
of probability, "kifr
bihi" likely means "deny/reject/conceal in it
(the path of God)", i.e. the closest preceding masculine
An important article dealing with an
alleged grammatical problem in 2:217 can be found HERE
- it is technical, but essentially the case ending of
AMAH shows that it is joined to a preceding phrase in
this verse - but what phrase? If we accept the wording
of AQ as is, then interpreting AMAH as "the inviolable
time of SJD/acknowledgement" (i.e. the term referring to
the time-period/event of the inviolable months) the
alleged grammar problem disappears. In the article note
how Farra and Razi say similar. Abu Hayyan's explanation is simple
and could also work since in spoken vernacular Arabic it
is common to add on a genitive pronoun without the
being repeated, e.g. 5:69 "... amana biAllahi wa alyawmi al-akhiri...". It would
still leave the potential problem of explaining
"deny/reject/conceal in AMAH" however (as stated in that
article), but this is perhaps less of an issue for the
alternative understandings of 'the inviolable
act/institution/time of SJD'.
Please note that the author of that
article resorts to the rhetoric style ("balagha") in order to
explain away the alleged "inconsistency" in traditional
interpretation and grammar. This suggests that the
solutions discussed in the article were unsatisfactory,
and there is little idea about how to explain the alleged
"inconsistency", hence being placed
under the conveniently fuzzy/undefined catch-all category
of "balagha". For
those relying upon AQ, it is much preferable to have a
solution that corresponds to its internal structure and
logic, if there is such a solution. In this case there is.
8:33 But God was not to punish them
(concealers/rejecters/deniers) while you are among
them, nor will God punish them while they continue to
8:34 And why should God not punish them
while they hinder from al
maSJD al haram, and they were not its
guardians/protectors! Its guardians/protectors are the
conscientious; but most of them do not know.
8:30-40 should possibly be read in conjunction with
9:1-19 and 48:24-28, as they describe similar events.
Surely, those who have rejected/concealed and
hinder from the path of God and al
masjid al haram which We made for mankind, equal are the
devotee/attached/resident in it and the
bedouin/visitor/traveller, and whoever intends/wishes
in it deviation (or) wrongdoing, We will make him taste
from painful retribution.
This verse causes some problems for the
'institution/act/place of SJD' understandings. For
example, the Sacred Mosque in Mecca is not open to
mankind (only those classed as "Muslim"); and as far as
I am aware no-one resides in the Mosque. If it is argued they did reside
there in the past but not now, then there is no warrant
for this in AQ. Not surprisingly, some
commentators regard AMAH as referring to the sanctuary
and/or Mecca as a whole. In terms of 'act/institution of
SJD' the terms "akifu/devotee/resident"
require explanation. These terms could be pondered over
with the use of "haadiri
(present/at-hand)" in 2:196.
And He is the One
who withheld their hands against you, and your hands
against them in midst/interior (of) crowding/MaKKah, after He
had made you victorious over them. God is Seer of what
48:25 They are those who concealed/rejected and
hindered you from/concerning* al
maSJD al haram, and prevented the offering/gift from reaching
its permitted/lawful place. And if not for believing
men and believing women whom you did not know, that
you may trample them so would befall you from them sin
without knowledge, that God may admit in His mercy
whomever He wills. If they had been apart** surely We would then
have punished those who concealed/rejected among them
with a painful retribution.
48:26 When those who concealed/rejected had put in
their hearts disdain, the disdain of the ignorance,
then God sent down His tranquility upon His messenger
and upon the believers, and made them adhere to the
word of righteousness/God-consciousness, and they were
more deserving of it and worthy of it. And God is
fully aware of all things.
48:27 Certainly, God has confirmed His messenger's
vision*** with truth/reality,
surely you (plural)
will enter al masjid al haram, if God wills,
securing/trusting, unburdening/relieving your
restraining/relinquishing not fearing. So, He knew
what you did not know, and He made besides that a
48:28 He is the One who sent His
messenger with the guidance and the system/obligation of
truth, so that it would expose all other systems. And
God is sufficient as a witness.
*Arabic: AAani is a
preposition and can mean: from, of, for, about,
they are all mixed together. One possible meaning of MKK
is "crowding" hence the rendition above (Ref: one,
Could also be a reference to 8:33.
*** Arabic: 'al ruya'
(dream/vision), see analysis of 17:1-7 and 17:60
discussion of 2:196 above. Many translators interpolate
"hair" and imply the "wa/and"
which follows means "or" to make their rendition fit
48:25 implies both believing men and women were present
and out in public and were unknown to the believers
addressed. Note the possible link between this and the
utilisation of AMAH in 2:148-150 in bringing you all
together and completing of God's favour.
"not fearing" likely implies that it is possible to
enter AMAH fearing, and perhaps previously the believers
did so. See in conjunction with 2:114.
As a side note, 48:25 clearly implies that it would not
be possible to identify believers amongst the people,
thus interpretations of 48:29 that imply a physical mark
upon believer's faces (from prostrating) is highly
5:2 You who believe, do not violate the regulations of God, nor the inviolable
month, nor the offerings/gifts, nor the
prefects/administrations, nor those persuing the
inviolable house (al bayt al haram)
seeking bounty* from their Lord and
pleasure/approval. And when lawful, then hunt. And let
not the hatred of a people because they hindered you
from/concerning al masjid al haram; that you transgress.
And help one another on righteousness and piety, and
do not help one another on sin and transgression. And
be aware of God, for God's retribution is severe.
*relates to worldly
benefits/provisions, see 48:29, 59:8, 2:198, 16:14,
17:12, 17:66, 28:73, 30:46, 35:12, 45:12, 73:20, 62:10,
How can those
polytheists have a pledge AAinda/(in the presence of)*
God and His messenger? Except for those whom you made
a pledge AAinda/(in the presence of)*
al masjid al haram. As long as they are straight with
you, then you are straight with them. Truly, The God
loves the forethoughtful/conscientious.
*note the double
use of "AAinda"
which most translators render differently in each
9:17 It was not for the polytheists that they
develop/cultivate God's maSaJiD witnessing over their
own rejection/concealment. For these, their works have
fallen, and in the Fire they will abide.
9:18 Only will develop/cultivate God's maSaJiD is one who believes in
God* and the Last Day, and
upholds the bond/salat, and brings forth
betterment, and does not fear except God. Then perhaps
these that will be of the guided ones.
9:19 Have you made the watering of those undertaking
and development/cultivation (of) al
maSJD al haram like the one who believed in God and the Last
Day and strived in the cause of God? They are not the
same with God. And God does not guide the wrongdoers.
9:20 Those who believed and emigrated and strived in
the cause of God with their wealth and their lives are
in a greater degree with God. These are the winners.
Note the similar wording in 9:17, 9:18, 9:19 regarding
develop/cultivate/enliven God's maSaJiD and AMAH, as if
they were almost interchangeable in this context.
Does 9:19 imply
cultivation of AMAH is not necessarily God-related? It
seems the tone of this verse is telling AQ's audience to
reflect upon their priorities, i.e. the worldy
benefits/considerations of such an event are not as
important as the believers individually and
collectively, e.g. it is simply a means to an end. In
9:19 the latter is more important/better than the
former. Do we find this in Saudi Arabia today? This
possibly seems to be setting them up to hear the news
later, that polytheists are not welcome anymore at such
an event, or at least those polytheists who broke the
9:19 also seems to imply there is a
tangible difference between "watering of those
undertaking HaJJ and development of AMAH" and "one who
believed in God and the Last Day and strived in the
cause of God". This might present some issues with any
understandings that try to equate AMAH with God's system
in full, as striving in the cause of God would surely
involve trying to develop AMAH, thus making them
overlap/similar, IF it meant something like that.
Note how maSaJiD is plural in
9:17-18, yet in 9:19 AMAH is singular. IF these verses
were about mosques, why the change from plural to
singular? Tafsir of Jalalayn claims it can be read
singular, and Ibn Kathir claims the plural can refer to
The Sacred Mosque. How convenient! IF it meant mosque
then this switch between plural/singular leaves out the
theoretical situation of developing a normal masjid, not AMAH,
if that is equal to what is said or not.
To perhaps get a better idea of the background see Toshihiko Izutsu's work on the Lord Allah
pre-Quran ('God and Man in The Koran', chapter 4).
O you who believe, indeed the polytheists are
so let them not
approach/near al maSJD al haram after this year of
theirs; and if you fear poverty, then soon God will
enrich you from His bounty, if He wills. Indeed God is
*Arabic: "najasun" (root:
Nun-Jiim-Siin), implies in mind/influence.
This clearly implies the polytheists participated in
AMAH previously, and "if you fear poverty" shows there
is a potential monetary impact to this decision. These
two issues require explanation for whatever meaning of
AMAH is chosen.
Some traditional commentators say
AMAH refers to the Sacred Mosque here, others say the haram/sanctuary/Makkah.
to Mecca. Interestingly Tafsir ibn Abbas admits such
people undertake pilgrimage and circumambulation of the
cuboid called Kaabah yet says they are idolaters,
implying they are doing (and wishing to do in future)
the same rituals believers do (even after prophet
Muhammad allegedly destroyed the idols inside it) yet
they are still idolaters! If so, how does one
differentiate between such people and believers?
Some wonder how to explain that HaJJ
[22:27] and AMAH [22:25] are open to mankind but here
AMAH is not allowed for these polytheists. They are open
to mankind however not to active troublemakers, and this
is what chapter 9 discusses. 9:28 seems to refer to
specific polytheists by use of "this year of theirs",
and is therefore likely referring to the polytheists who
violated the treaty. To me, this would suggest that the
believers should not enter into a treaty with them which
would allow them to undertake HaJJ and/or participate in
AMAH. Further, technically it is impossible to determine
what is in one's heart, therefore who is and who is not
a polytheist, unless it is blatant polytheism, thus for
this stipulation to apply to all mankind for all time
seems overblown and impractical.
If the Holy Mosque was a strict
monotheistic symbol, why would polytheists care about
not being allowed to enter it? There seems to be little
explanation for this in the traditions. It could be
argued that even though the idols inside the cuboid
called "Kaabah" were destroyed (according to tradition),
they still revered the cuboid (and 'hajar aswad' /
black rock) hence still wanting to enter it etc.
Summary and Discussion
Taking the above review
of occurrences into account, a summarised reference list
of the information extracted about 'al masjid al haram'
will be shown below:
- Glory be to the One who took
with/by His servant (at) night from al
maSJD al haram to
al maSJD al aqsa
which We have blessed around it that We may
show him of Our signs.
- We will surely turn thee (onto/to)
a focal-point that will please thee: so turn thy face/purpose/consideration
maSJD al haram and wherever that you are so
turn your faces/purposes/considerations in its
direction and indeed those who have been given the
writ/decree know that it is the truth from their
- Those to whom We have given
the decree/writ recognise it like they recognise
their sons; and indeed a group of them surely hides
the truth while they know
- from wherever thou start/come
so turn thy face/purpose/consideration
al masjid al haram and wherever that
you are so turn your
faces/purposes/considerations in its direction so that
not will be for the people against you debate,
except those who wronged among them. So do not fear
them, but fear Me and that I may complete My
favour upon you and so that you may be guided.
- And do not fight them AAinda/(in the
al masjid al haram until they fight
you in it
- That is for one whose
people are not at-hand/present (at) al
masjid al haram
- hindering from the way/path of
God and to reject in it and (reject in) al
masjid al haram, and expelling its people from it is a
greater wrong AAinda/(in
the presence of) God
- And why should God not punish
them while they hinder from al
maSJD al haram, and they were not its
guardians/protectors! Its guardians/protectors are
- those who have
rejected/concealed and hinder from the path of God
and al masjid al haram which We made
for mankind, equal are the devotee/attached/resident
in it and the bedouin/visitor/traveller, and whoever
intends/wishes in it deviation (or) wrongdoing, We
will make him taste from painful retribution.
- They are those who
concealed/rejected and hindered you from/concerning al
maSJD al haram, and prevented the
offering/gift from reaching its permitted/lawful
- Certainly, God has confirmed
His messenger's vision with truth/reality, surely you
(plural) will enter al masjid al haram,
if God wills, securing/trusting,
unburdening/relieving your chiefs/representatives, and
restraining/relinquishing not fearing.
- And let not the hatred of a
people because they hindered you from/concerning al
masjid al haram; that you transgress.
whom you made a pledge AAinda/(in the presence of) al
masjid al haram.
- Have you made the watering of
those undertaking HaJJ
and development/cultivation (of) al
maSJD al haram like the one who believed in
God and the Last Day and strived in the cause of
- the polytheists are impure so let them not
approach/near al maSJD al haram
after this year of theirs; and if you fear poverty,
then soon God will enrich you from His bounty
Of course all verses and their analysis should be read,
but the above brief
list can be used by readers to run their understanding of
'al masjid al haram'
through to see how it fits.
Some understandings are reviewed below, as discussed on
the free-minds.org forum:
Sacred Mosque' fares most poorly in 17:1,
2:142-150, 2:217, 9:28, and relatively poorly in 2:196,
22:25, 9:19. Also, please note that traditional
commentators (e.g. Tafsir of Ibn Kathir, Al-Jalalayn,
Ibn Abbas) frequently switch their understanding of AMAH
depending on verse, e.g. it can mean 'the sacred
site/area of prostration' in 17:1, 'kaaba (cuboid)' in
2:144/2:149/2:150, 'the sanctuary / Mecca' in 2:196,
2:217, 22:25, 9:28. Usually, when one forces an
incorrect understanding into AQ it will result in
inconsistency/variance/contradiction, see the important
test of 4:82. If the problems discussed in this work can
be answered then it recommended for those advocating
such a view to put forth their answers.
restriced/inviolable act of SJD/compliance' and
institution of SJD/obedience' fare most poorly
in 17:1, 2:196, and relatively poorly in 2:142-150,
22:25, 9:19, 9:28. Since these two are novel
understandings there has been little analytical
discussion about them. If the problems discussed in this
work can be answered then it is recommended for those
advocating such a view to put forth their answers.
In my view, 'the inviolable time
of SJD/acknowledgement' (i.e. the term referring to the
time-period/event of the inviolable months) did not perform poorly in any
occurrence, however since it is uncommon to read these verses
with this meaning it may seem odd for some readers. If
readers can identify problems that have not been
considered then please let me know.
To better understand what is meant, an
analogy may help: "the inviolable time of SJD" can be
likened to the term "the summer holidays", the former
takes place during the inviolable months of ABCD/etc and
the latter during the summer months of
June/July/August/etc (in the Northern hemisphere), and the term can be used in
a wide variety of ways, e.g. a person can say: "I
am working in the summer holidays", "I am looking
forward to the summer holidays", "I will meet you
in the summer holidays", "The summer holidays are
my favourite time of the year", "I try to make the
most out of the summer holidays" etc. They are
slightly different aspects of the same
time-period/event. Note how the term has time as
well as event connotations, and this is the same
for "the inviolable time of SJD/acknowledgement". Please note, for SJD one can
choose any meaning from: honour/submission or paying
respect, as discussed in part 1.
gathered in this article very strongly links the meaning
of AMAH to a special time-period/event, e.g. the
inviolable months (al
ashhur al hurum) wherein the
HaJJ/feast/symposium takes place. Whatever meaning
of AMAH is chosen, if such a link does not underpin the
chosen meaning, then it is highly unlikely to fit in AQ.
The meanings of 'the inviolable act/institution/place of
SJD' do not have this inherent link.
Further, for those advocating
'act/institution/etc of SJD' without a link to something
specific/fixed/identifiable (such as 'al ashhur al hurum'),
a critical question becomes necessary to answer: in the
many occurrences of "masjid"
what makes it "inviolable" sometimes and sometimes not?
I personally do not see how this can be soundly
answered, except by resorting to arbitrary reasoning.
In addition an answer is also
required as to why AMAH is always singular, whilst "masjid" can be
singular and plural. As we can see, by not fixing it to
something clearly identifiable, getting a logical and
coherent answer to these questions seems difficult. In
the same way that the ordinary word "shahr (month/full-moon/moon-cycle)"
can be linked to "haram"
and refer to something specific, the ordinary word "masjid" can be
linked to "haram"
and refer to something specific. Its meaning and use
then becomes easily identifiable and practical.
So, let's say there are inviolable months wherein al hajj is
done, various restrictions are in place etc etc. If one
were living at that time, and were to refer to this
time-period/event, what phrase/term would one use?
Please ponder on this. In my view, AQ uses AMAH.
The understanding of "masjid" as "time of
possibly also gives us a route to how this meaning was
gradually converted into "place of sujud/acknowledgement"
of SJD" turned that somewhere into a place of/for SJD.
As their numbers and wealth grew they likely made
buildings for such purposes, and those buildings perhaps
came to be known as "Masjid" i.e. Mosque. The understanding of "masjid" as "time of
SJD/acknowledgement" also fits with the findings in part
Interestingly, it has
been noted that according to traditional grammarians
themselves the word form "masjid" does NOT conform to
their own rules of morphology when determining a 'noun
of place' (e.g. mosque), so they treat "masjid" as
an exception to their rules. In other words, according
to their own linguistic rules if it meant a 'noun of
place' the form should more correctly be "masjad"
(i.e. with a fatha on
the second root consonant Jiim). For example, the noun of
place/location for RaQaDa
(same form as SaJaDa) is maRQaD not maRQiD, for NaKaBa
is maNKaB not maNKiB. However, that does not mean the
cannot be a 'noun of place', it theoretically can, as
the grammarians also list other exceptions to their rule
which are used in AQ and they do seem to indicate
time/place (and perhaps concept).
An explanation of this is given below:
So, the form "maf3al"
is known as a "noun of time and place" (T&P),
indicating when and/or where the verb occurs.
dakhala = he
madkhal = the
time and/or place of entering
The noun of time and place can either be of the patterns
"maf3al" or "maf3il" depending
of the middle vowel of the present tense verb. If the
middle vowel is a kasra,
the noun of T&P is "maf3il". If the middle vowel is fatha or dhamma, the noun of
T&P is "maf3al"
yajlis = he
sits ; therefore, the noun of T&P is "majlis"
yadkhul = he
enters ; therefore, the noun of T&P is "madkhal"
yashrab = he
drinks ; therefore, the noun of T&P is "mashrab"
There are 12 exceptions to the rules stated above,
listed by grammarians, e.g. in 'A Grammar of the Arabic
Language' by W. Wright, and they are:
(the specific word forms in red do not appear in Quran to my
1. majzir = the T/P
= the T/P of prostration
3. masqi6 = the T/P
= the T/P of habitation
= the T/P of the sun rise
(مطلع) = the T/P of ascent
= the T/P of the sun set
8. mafriq = the T/P
9. marfiq = the T/P
of resting one's self
10. manbit = the T/P
of a plant's growth
11. mankhir = the
T/P of the breath passing through the nose (commonly,
= the T/P of sacrifice
All the above 12 take a dhamma on the present tense verb,
but, in violation of the rules, they take a kasra for the noun
of T&P instead of a fatha.
However, the regular forms are also said to occur, that
is, majzar, masjad, masqa6, maskan, etc.
Other examples of word form "maf3il" in AQ include: "majalis", "mantiq", "mawazin", "mawatin", "mankib", "mawadi3", "madaji3", "mawaqit".
There may be others. If the reader knows of any, please
let me know. Their usage seems to indicate this form can
indicate time/place/concept. Please read all
The only forms that I came across of "maf3al" in AQ were
and "majma'a" and
all seem to denote place. There may be others. If the
reader knows of any, please let me know. Please read all
To conclude, the word form "ma3fil" (same as "masjid") can
indicate a noun of time/place (and perhaps concept). This is well
established and accepted. Thus, to state "masjid" may mean a
noun of time should not be seen as unusual.
Conclusion of parts 1, 2, 3
The Quranic evidence weighs the evidence in favour of
SJD meaning "to submit/honour/pay respect", "masjid" meaning
"time of SJD", "al
masjid al haram" meaning "the inviolable time
of SJD" (i.e. the term referring to the
time-period/event of the inviolable months). This understanding provides a
logical, coherent and practical answer throughout, and
helps answer some of the most difficult questions in Quran exegesis
(e.g. 17:1-8, 17:60, 48:27, 2:142-150).
The reader is recommended to re-read and reflect upon
the findings of this work. All
feedback is welcome, especially corrections. Thanks.
New article: what
is 'al hajj' according to The Quran?
Root List - Quran concordance, grammar and
Quranic Arabic Corpus
Idioms of the Quran' by Mustansir Mir
of The Holy Quran' by Abdul Mannan Omar
would not have been possible without the
many people who have contributed to this
topic, and without the resources now
available to anyone wishing to study The
Quran in detail. For these stepping
stones, I am indebted and truly thankful.
This work reflects my personal
understanding, as of October 4th, 2012.
Seeking knowledge is a continual process and
I will try to improve my understanding of
the signs within 'the reading' (al quran)
and out with it, unless The God wills
information is correct to the best of my
knowledge only and thus should not be
taken as a fact. One should always seek
knowledge and verify for themselves when
possible: 17:36, 20:114, 35:28,
do not follow what you have no knowledge
of; surely the hearing, the sight and the
heart, all of these, shall be questioned
about that. [17:36]
More articles: http://mypercept.co.uk/articles/