The ‘Qibla’ is of utmost importance for the daily lives of Muslims. It is the direction towards the Ka’bah in Makkah, Saudi Arabia and is also the direction towards which all Muslims are ordered to pray five times a day. In the Quran, Allah (SWT) says:
Verily! We have seen the turning of your (Muhammad’s SAW) face towards the heaven. Surely, We shall turn you to a Qiblah (prayer direction) that shall please you, so turn your face in the direction of Al-Masjid- Al-Harâm (at Makkah). And wheresoever you people are, turn your faces (in prayer) in that direction. Certainly, the people who were given the Scriptures (i.e. Jews and the Christians) know well that, that (your turning towards the direction of the Ka’bah at Makkah in prayers) is the truth from their Lord. And Allâh is not unaware of what they do.
Now a days locating the Qibla has become much easier than in the past with help from technology. There are quite a few options which you can use to find the correct direction of the Qibla when you are in an unfamiliar place.
The Basic Concept for Locating the Qiblah
The first, most important thing is to understand where you are in relation to Makkah. Many people believe that Muslims pray facing east; but this is incorrect. This would only be true if you were in a location west of Makkah. If you are in Japan you would face west or northwest; while in Africa you would generally pray facing north or northwest.
Amazingly, while on a map Makkah appears to be southwest of the U.S., still in most of the United States Muslims pray towards northeast! Can you guess why? Of course, this is because the Earth is spherical and Muslims in the U.S. discovered that the distance to Makkah measured from northeast is actually shorter than the distance measured from southeast. Thus, northeast is the correct direction to pray!
Different Methods for locate the Qibla
Use the Sun
The Sun rises from the East and sets in the west across. If you know where you are in relation to Makkah, then you can easily gauge your directions by observing where the Sun rises from and sets at in your immediate area.
For example, if you know that Makkah is north of your country and the Sun sets to your exact left, then you are already facing the Qiblah. On the other hand if the sun is setting on your right, then you need to be facing the opposite direction.
Make a sundial
• Wherever you are, get to level ground and place a vertical object, approximately 3 feet in length, on the ground just before noon
• Mark the place on the ground at the tip of the shadow
• Now make a circle which has a radius that is equal to the length of the shadow
• As the day progresses, the shadow will get shorter moving away from the circle. Eventually the shadow will start getting longer in a different direction and finally will touch the circle again.
• Make another point at this intersection of the circle and the shadow.
• Now draw a line between the two marks you made.
• The direction is west to east. The first point is west and the second east.
• Draw a line which is perpendicular to this line. The line you just drew is the north-south line.
• Now keeping in mind where you are in the world you will able to get a rough idea of where the Qibla is.
Use a Watch
An analog watch with hours and minutes hands can help you find directions too!
• If you are in the northern hemisphere, then hold your watch horizontally such that the hour hand points to the sun.
• The point which is midway between the hour hand and 12-marker on the watch is south. Once you know where south is you can easily determine the other directions.
• If you are in the southern hemisphere you will need to hold the watch horizontally such that the twelve o’clock mark points towards the sun.
• The direction that is right in the middle of the 12 marker and the hour hand will be north. You can then easily determine the other directions.
• Now keeping in mind where you are in the world you will able to get a rough idea of where the Qibla is
Use a Compass
The Compass is the easiest way to determine your directions. If you know where you are in relation to the Ka’bah this is a much more accurate method as compared with a stick in the ground.
Software Apps and the Internet
Technology today has made it much easier to determine the exact location of the Qibla. We can easily download apps onto our smartphones that point to the exact direction of the Qibla. Some regular mobile phones also come with built-in applications for locating the direction of the Qibla.
You can also go online to determine the direction of the Qibla using various websites by entering your current location.
Using the Sun again (twice a year)
Twice a year, you can use the Sun to determine the precise location of the Qibla. The sun is overhead or right above the Ka’bah at two times of a year. These times are:
• May 28 at 9:18 UT
• July 16 at 9:27 UT
On these dates, at these exact times (converted to your local time) when you face the sun you will also be facing the Ka’bah, thus giving you the direction to your Qibla.
Although this option cannot be used on a daily basis, it is still a tried and tested method for locating the direction of the Ka’bah.