What was the difficulty/test mentioned in the "change of qiblah" verses?

It has recently come to my attention that many people misread these verses and erroneously conclude that the difficulty discussed in 2:143 was the change in "qiblah" (which is what Traditional explanations tend to focus on). In some ways it is understandable that a misreading occurs as we are likely clouded in thinking by the traditional discussions surrounding these verses. I will outline the multiple problems with this traditional understanding:

1) Please pay careful attention to the tense of the words highlighted (green is present/future/imperfect tense, red is past/perfect tense):

2:142 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 straight/establishing path."
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 on it** 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 great/difficult (thing/test) 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.
Indeed, We see thy face/consideration moving in the sky/heaven; so surely We will turn thee (onto/to) a qiblah/focal-point that will please thee: so turn...
*i.e. they will say in the future, obviously AFTER the change in qiblah/focus occurs. This is also made clear by use of the prefixed future particle "sa" in the Arabic.
**compare these occurrences.

Hopefully it should now be clear that the great/big (thing/test) was being on the 1st qiblah (i.e. the one prior to the change). However, we can also verify this using what else The Quran says.

2) It is clear from 2:144 that the change in qiblah (or the 2nd qiblah) will please the messenger. Therefore if you think that the change in qiblah was the difficult thing (as is traditionally discussed) then this will conflict with the messenger being pleased about it. Is he pleased for him (and his community) to undergo a great difficulty? Yes/No.

3) If, for some reason, you answer "yes" to the above it is refuted by 2:144 when it says "Indeed, We see thy face/consideration moving in the sky/heaven; so surely We will turn thee (onto/to) a qiblah/focal-point that will please thee...". This is taken by everyone (that I have read) to mean the messenger was seeking guidance, he was somewhat unsettled/uncomfortable, and we may even say not as pleased (relatively speaking) on the 1st qiblah (prior to the change). To make it even clearer:

We see thy face/consideration moving in the sky/heaven (i.e. currently on the 1st qiblah, less pleasing)
surely We will turn thee
(onto/to) a qiblah/focal-point that will please thee (i.e. on/to the 2nd qiblah, more pleasing)

This matches with 2:143 in which it is said the 1st/prior qiblah was difficult. It ties together perfectly.

4) Furthermore, this is confirmed in 2:150 when it gives us the reasons for the change (or what the change in qiblah will result in) e.g. "so that not will be for the people against you debate/argument". Obviously being in a situation of less argument/hostility would be more pleasing i.e. a positive, further solidifying that the 1st qiblah which they were on (probably involving more argument/hostility) was the difficult one.

All information confirms and reinforces each other, that being on the 1st qiblah was the difficulty spoken of in 2:143.

Note: I am simply using the terminology "1st qiblah" and "2nd qiblah" to make this article easier to follow. In the article on "al masjid al haram" it is highlighted that The Quran tells us there could be many qiblah, each person could have their own qiblah etc. This makes sense with the term qiblah being related to wijhatun (course, goal, motive, direction) in 2:148. To read further discussion please see the article.
After reading these articles you may wish to try slotting in whatever understanding you have of "qiblah" and "al masjid al haram" and what the 1st qiblah was etc to see if you can make sense of the verses. There is a high chance you will fail and/or be unable to explain the various issues brought up in these verses. If you come up with something that fits (different to my own understanding) please share it here.

It is ironic to think that some may read the above, ignore the problems and stick with their current view. Akin to turning back on their heels unable to face the truth. Maybe it's time to change direction?


This work reflects my personal understanding, as of 17th July 2020. 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 otherwise. All 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, 49:6, 58:11.

More articles: http://mypercept.co.uk/articles/