“Righteousness is not turning your faces towards the east or towards the west; true righteousness consists in believing in Allah and the Last Day, the angels, the Book and the Prophets, and in giving away one’s property in love of Him to one’s kinsmen, the orphans, the poor and the wayfarer, and to those who ask for help, and in freeing the necks of slaves, and in establishing Prayer and dispensing the Purifying Alms (Zakah). True righteousness is attained by those who are faithful to their promise once they have made it and by those who remain steadfast in adversity and affliction and at the time of battle between Truth and falsehood. Such are the truthful ones; such are the God-fearing.”
(Al-Qur’ān – 2:177)
This ayah of the Holy Qur’ān defines righteousness in a very comprehensive manner. It emphasises that true righteousness lies in one’s firm belief in Allah the Exalted with all His Divine Attributes, in the Day of Judgement, the angels, the Qur’ān as the revealed Book and all the Prophets without any discrimination.
Turning one’s face towards the east or the west is mentioned here only by way of illustration. The actual purpose of the verse is to emphasise that the observance of certain outward religious rites, the performance of certain formal religious acts out of conformism, and the manifestation of certain familiar forms of piety do not constitute that essential righteousness which alone carries weight with God and earns His recognition and approval.