Why was Jerusalem used as Qiblah for Muslims and not the Ka`bah? Clearly the Ka`bah had been built for this very purpose when built by Abraham long before the Prophet SAW.
It is quite clear from the Qur’an as well as the established historical evidence that while living in Mekkah – where the majority of the followers of the Prophet (pbuh), since their childhood, held the Ka`bah in great esteem and revered it as the House of God’s worship – the Prophet (pbuh) and his followers were directed by God to face toward Jerusalem, in their prayers. Later on, when the Prophet (pbuh) and his followers migrated to Medinah the Prophet (pbuh) and the Muslims were directed to change the direction of their prayers and to face the Ka`bah in their prayers.
In other words, in Mekkah, where people were naturally inclined toward making the Ka`bah as the Qiblah, it was Jerusalem, which was set as a temporary Qiblah. This, according to the Qur’an, was for the purpose of testing the Muslims in their faith and obedience of the Prophet (pbuh). The Qur’an has mentioned the reason for the initial setting of the temporary Qiblah in the following words:
And We did not appoint the Qiblah toward which you were [facing in your prayers] except to test those who followed the Messenger from those who would turn on their heels [as regards their Faith]. Indeed it was a grave test, except for those guided by God (Al-Baqarah 2: 143).
The cited verse should adequately answer your question.
January 7, 2001