Why did God change the prayer direction?

Why did God change the direction of prayer (Qibla)? Did He just change His mind?

God can do anything He wants. “Change mind” is something that applies to creatures only, not God. When God orders you to do something then orders you to stop doing it and do something else, He’s not changing His mind; He’s testing your obedience. This is exactly the reason God gives in the Quran, “And We did not let the direction (Qibla) that you used to face but to know who would follow the messenger and who would turn his back.” (2:143)

Plain and simple. No need to be confused. God further adds, “It is a big matter except for those whom God has guided.” (2:143) It was indeed a big event, a tough test of faith.

That said, there is no evidence that the facing of Jerusalem in prayer was by order from God. It was simply the choice of the people of Medina and the Prophet (PBUH) did like them when he migrated from Mecca to Medina. There was no specific direction of prayer until about eighteen months later when the order was revealed in 2:144.

I also find it fascinating that the main detractors were the Jews of Medina. It’s understandable that they would be upset that Jerusalem was no longer the direction of prayer, but God tells us that they knew from the Torah that the direction of prayer is Mecca,
“And verily those who have been given the Book know that it is the truth from their Lord. God is not unaware of what they do.” (2:144)

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