“…And We made the direction of prayer which you used to face…” [al-Baqarah; 143]
“…And it is a must to distinguish the location that the Muslim faces for such activities as prayer and worship and make it unique, so that he himself can be distinguished and made unique because of his outlook and methodology. So, this distinction is an answer to the natural call of one’s existing feelings and direction to be distinct and unique, just as it creates new feelings and direction that are distinct and unique.
And because of this, we find that we are prohibited from imitating non-Muslims in those things which are unique to them that are outward indicators of inner realities, just as we are forbidden from imitating their behavior and feelings. This prohibition is not out of an attitude of blind action that consists simply of adopting some random outer actions. Rather, it involves a deeper look into what is beyond these outer actions! It involves a deep look into the hidden driving forces that are behind the outer appearances, and these driving forces are what distinguish one group of people from another, one way of thinking from another, one outlook from another, one instinct from another, one mode of behavior from another, and one direction in life from another.
Abu Hurayrah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: “The Jews and Christians do not dye their hair. So, differ from them.”
And the Messenger of Allah said: “Do not stand up as the non-Arabs stand, out of glorification of each other.”
And he said: “Do not elevate my status as the Christians did with the son of Mary. Verily, I am a slave. So, refer to me as the slave and Messenger of Allah.”
He prohibited imitating them in their dress and outer appearance, he prohibited imitating them in their actions and behavior, and he prohibited imitating them in speech and manners, because behind all of these things are deeper, hidden realities that distinguish one outlook from another, one way of life from another, and one community’s goal from another.
Then, he forbade the extraction of guidance from other than Allah and His unique methodology that this Ummah was brought to manifest upon the Earth.
He also forbade the feeling of inner defeat in front of any other group or nation of people on Earth, as the feeling of inner defeat towards any specific society is what steps on the soul and forces it to imitate this society, and the Islamic community was established in order to be in a position of leadership for humanity. Therefore, it is necessary for it to put forth its traditions – just as it is necessary for it to put forth its ‘aqidah – from the sources of reference that have been chosen to fuel this leadership.
The Muslims are superior and uppermost, they are the most just of all the nations, and they are the best group that has been brought out for the people. So, from where will they obtain their outlook and methodology? From where will they obtain their traditions and system? If they do not obtain these things from Allah, then, by default, they are obtaining them from the very sources that they were brought out to remove!
…And the Muslim community that faces a unique and distinct qiblah must grasp the true and intended meaning of facing it: the Qiblah is not simply a location or direction that the congregation faces while in prayer. The location or direction is nothing more than a symbol; a symbol of distinction and uniqueness – distinction in outlook, distinction in personality, distinction in goal, distinction in priorities, and distinction in spirit.”
[‘Fi Dhilal al-Qur’an’; 1/128-9]