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وَكَذَلِكَ جَعَلْنَاكُمْ أُمَّةً وَسَطاً لِّتَكُونُواْ شُهَدَآءَ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ وَيَكُونَ ٱلرَّسُولُ عَلَيْكُمْ شَهِيداً وَمَا جَعَلْنَا ٱلْقِبْلَةَ ٱلَّتِي كُنتَ عَلَيْهَآ إِلاَّ لِنَعْلَمَ مَن يَتَّبِعُ ٱلرَّسُولَ مِمَّن يَنقَلِبُ عَلَىٰ عَقِبَيْهِ وَإِن كَانَتْ لَكَبِيرَةً إِلاَّ عَلَى ٱلَّذِينَ هَدَى ٱللَّهُ وَمَا كَانَ ٱللَّهُ لِيُضِيعَ إِيمَانَكُمْ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ بِٱلنَّاسِ لَرَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ
-Al-Baqarah ( البقرة )

Kashani Tafsir

[Thus, We appointed you a midmost community that you might be witnesses to the people; and that the Messenger might be a witness to you] The meaning of their being witnesses to the people and of the Messenger's being a witness to them is that they will behold, through the light of Oneness, the dues of religions and will come to know the dues [incumbent] upon the followers of every religion and the due upon every religious person in terms of his [particular] religion, as well as the falsehood that is not the due of [any of] these [religions] but the inventions and desires of their souls, the mendacities of their traditions, their concoctions and their stopping short at their religion and their deeming false all other religions, and their veiling and confining themselves to the exoteric aspect [of their religion] without penetrating deeply its esoteric [dimension] and fundament. For otherwise they would have known the authenticity of Islam, as the path of truth is one, and would not have concealed themselves behind the truths all [other] religions; especially the religion of Islam which is the greatest and most manifest truth. The Messenger beholds the [spiritual] rank of every religious person in relation to that religion of his and the truth of his religion which he follows, as well as the veil by which he veils himself from the perfection of his religion. Thus he [the Messenger] is aware of their sins and the limits of their faith, as well as their deeds, the good ones and the evil ones, their sincerity and their hypocrisy and otherwise, through the light of the Truth; his community knows those [same things] about all other communities through his [their Messenger's light];
and We did not appoint the direction you were facing, except that We might know, [meaning] knowledge at the level of differentiation (tafṣīl) that follows from a thing becoming knowable, not the knowledge that precedes at the source of the union at the beginning of existence, for it [a thing] is known to him by that [initial] knowledge before it comes into existence because all knowledge belongs to Him with no one other than Him possessing any knowledge. Thus our knowledge, by which we know things, manifests itself upon us as the loci of that manifestation through His knowledge, which is His differentiated knowledge, meaning, His knowledge of the details of existents. Thus by that differentiated mode of knowledge that manifests itself upon us He knows things after they come into existence, just as He knows them by that initial knowledge at the source of union before they come into existence; who followed the Messenger, by declaring His Oneness, from him who turned on his heels, because of his being veiled through his confinement to [his] religion - though it were a grave thing, in other words, that the change [of qibla] was grave, that is was troublesome and burdensome, save for those whom God has guided, those whom God has guided to the affirmation of His Oneness and delivered them from the veil of [religious] confinement; but God would never cause your faith to be wasted, that is, your prayers towards the Holy House [of Jerusalem], because it was [performed] for God. And since it was for Him, in whichever direction you orientated yourselves formerly, He would accept these [prayers]. Upon my life, it was a hardship only for two groups, those veiled by the truth from creation and those veiled by creation from the truth: the former realised that the initial change [of prayer direction], which was from the Kaʿba to the Holy House [of Jerusalem], represented the [external] form of the ascension from the station of the heart and the mystery, meaning, the unveiling and the communion, to the station of the spirit and the hidden, meaning, the witnessing and the direct vision; and so they [this former group] considered the second change [of prayer direction], which had represented the form of the return to the station of the heart in the state of uprightness and stability (tamkīn) for the call, prophethood and the witnessing of the union at the source of differentiation and differentiation at the source of the union where there is no being veiled from creation by the truth or from the truth by creation, [they considered this second change] to be a descent after the ascent and distance after nearness, and they supposed that the efforts to [attain] the more noble station had been wasted and that there was now departure after arrival and a fall from the level, and so this [change] became a hardship for them. As for the other [the second] group, they confined themselves to the [external] form of their rituals and deeds without knowing the wisdom behind the change and supposed the soundness of the latter devotion and not the former and so its going to waste and its invalidation, as they imagined it, became a hardship for them; thus We guided to the opposite of what they had imagined according to what is understood from this verse; truly, God is Gentle with people, gentle to them by expanding the breast and removing the veil in the state of subsistence after annihilation for the former [group] and by accepting what the second [group] performed of deeds out of sincerity even if they were not aware of what they were doing, Merciful, being merciful to them through the existence of the Truth for the first [group] and the reward for deeds and guidance to the truth for the second [group] and His granting to them of success in rising from their state and station to the station of certainty.