You wrote: “You mention that by Quran using "east" and "west" in 2:142 this implies a physical direction, but not necessarily, and in fact, by using this phrase the Quran is clearly implying direction is irrelevant. Direction being irrelevant is also repeated in 2:115 and 2:177”
Dear brother, you are confused between two different things. East/West/North/South are physical directions. God is not negating physical directions, rather pointing out that these physical directions in themselves have no inherent good, rather good is in following God’s guidance. When Muslims did not face Masjid Alharam for some time in Medina, God did not nullify their deeds. In fact, facing Masjid Alharam even today but not following God’s clear injunctions is of no good either. 2:142 says, “For Allah is the East and the West. He guides whom He wills to a path straight.” Same thing is said in 2:115, i.e. For Allah is the East and the West. Similarly, East and West are physical directions in 2:177 as well.
Thus, when East/West physical directions are brought to answer a concern by fools about the change of Qibla in the same verse, Qibla CANNOT be anything but the PHYSICAL DIRECTION.
You wrote: “Exactly. Quran says 2:144 "...and WHEREVER that you are so turn your faces/considerations..." 2:149 and 2:150 "...And from WHEREVER thou depart/come forth so turn thy face/consideration..." and "...WHEREVER that you are so turn your faces/consideration..."
To me it seems you are again stuck at single word, the phrase in question is “Fa’wallū wujūhakum = You turn your faces” . This has a word “Fawallu” preceding it, which can easily be deciphered. See 2:155
[2:155]: And to Allah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you turn (Tuwallu), there is the Face of Allah. Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.
Again you see, East/West a physical direction is brought next to turning of oneself, clearly establishing physical turning. Now when this is coupled with “your faces”, it is obviously “physically turning your faces.”
You wrote: “Note the use of "wherever thou depart/come forth" (implying travel) face it, BUT in 2:239 we know that one can do salat whilst walking/riding and obviously one would not be facing al masjid al haram all the time when walking/riding, one would be facing wherever one is going to. Thus, a potential contradiction arises in your understanding I think.”
Walking/riding/traveling etc. are all scenarios covered under exceptions which is clearly stated in 2:239. Further, the phrase under discussion does not imply traveling, rather it implies coming out, coming forth, since it is a compound consisting of three words: Min ḥaythu Kharajta.
You wrote: Also please remember "wajh" does not only mean the physical face. A good example of this is in 6:79 in which "turn" and "face" is used.”
This is again misunderstanding of yours. Here is 6:79: Indeed, I have turned my face (wajjahtu wajhiya) toward He who created the heavens and the earth, inclining toward truth, and I am not of those who associate others with Allah."
Please pay attention to the phrase “wajjahtu wajhiya”, it is the variation of the same word as verb and noun brought together and can easily be rendered figuratively. Whereas in 2:144 etc., the phrase is different “Fa’wallū wujūhakum = You turn your faces”, as explained above.
You wrote: “I think there are various issues with the understandings presented thus far (including brother jawaid's). I'm not sure which is correct but we must accept that a large part of our understandings are based on interpretation and interpolation, not solid evidences. Thanks for the discussion.”
These are good consoling thoughts, otherwise yours as well as brother Jawaid’s understanding do not fit in these verses whatever way you look at it, grammatically, linguistically, contextually, Tasreef-wise, and so on.
At the end, however, you have to be clear and satisfied in yourself, for it is ultimately your choice. I have pondered over all extrapolations that I could lay my hands on for past few years to say the least. So far I have not found any convincing and logical interpretation/understanding other than what I presented here. I believe my understanding is very closely tied up with verses, words, phrases, tasreef, and fit very nicely in the context. No evidence is better than the verses of God.