The current Qiblah of Islam, the Kaaba in the Great Mosque of Mecca
The former Qiblah of Islam, the al-Aqsa Mosque (Temple Mount),[1] in the Old City of Jerusalem

The Qibla (Arabic: قِبْلَة‎, "Direction", also transliterated as Qiblah, Qibleh, Kiblah, Kıble or Kibla) is the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays during ṣalāh (Arabic: صَلَاة‎). It is fixed as the direction of the Kaaba in the Hejazi[2] city of Mecca. Most mosques contain a wall niche that indicates the Qibla, which is known as a miḥrâb (Arabic: مِحْرَاب‎). Most multifaith prayer rooms will also contain a Qibla, although usually less standardized in appearance than one would find within a mosque.[3]

Muslims all praying towards the same point is traditionally considered to symbolize the unity of the Ummah (Arabic: اُمَّة‎, the community Muslims worldwide), under the Sharīʿah (Arabic: شَرِيْعَة‎, Law of God). The Qibla also has importance beyond ṣalāh, and plays a part in various ceremonies. The head of an animal that is slaughtered using ḥalāl (Arabic: حَلَال‎, 'Allowed') methods is usually aligned with the Qibla. After death, Muslims are usually buried with the body at right angles to the Qibla and the face turned right towards the direction of the Qibla.[citation needed]


Masjid al-Qiblatayn in Medina is the place where the Qiblah was switched towards Mecca

According to the traditional Muslim view, the Qiblah in the Islamic prophet Muhammad's time was originally the Noble Sanctuary in the city of Jerusalem, similar to Judaism.[1][4] This Qiblah was used for over 13 years, from 610 CE until 623 CE. Seventeen months after Muhammad's 622 CE arrival in Medina, the Qiblah became oriented towards the Kaaba in Mecca.[5][6] According to traditional accounts from Muhammad's companions, the change happened very suddenly during the noon prayer in Medina, in a mosque now known as Masjid al-Qiblaṫayn (Arabic: مَسْجِد الْقِبْلَتَيْن‎, "Mosque of the Two Qiblahs").[6] Muhammad was leading the prayer when he received revelations from God instructing him to take the Kaaba as the Qiblah (literally, "Turn then Thy face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque.").[6][7] According to the traditional accounts contained in the hadith and sira, Muhammad, who had been facing Jerusalem, upon receiving this revelation, immediately turned around to face Mecca, and those praying behind him also did so.[6]

Some have claimed that the Qur'an does not identify or allude to Jerusalem as being the first Qiblah, and that the practice of facing Jerusalem is only mentioned in traditional biographies of Muhammad, or hadith collections.[8] There is also disagreement as to when the practice started and for how long it lasted.[8] Some sources say the Jerusalem Qiblah was used for a period of between sixteen and eighteen months.[9] The Jewish custom of facing Jerusalem for prayer may have influenced the Muslim Qiblah.[10] Others surmise that the use of Jerusalem as the direction of prayer was to either induce the Jews of Medina to convert to Islam or to "win over their hearts".[9] When relations with the Jews soured, the Qiblah was changed towards Mecca.[10] Another reason given why the Qiblah was changed is that Jews viewed the use of Jerusalem as signalling the Muslims' intention of joining their religion. It was changed to discredit this assumption.[9] Others state that it was changed because Muhammad was angered by that city or its people, and not because of his conflict with the Jews.[11]

In Medieval times, Muslims travelling abroad used an astrolabe to find the Qiblah.[12]


A mihrab at the 16th century Jama Masjid, Fatehpur Sikri, indicating Qiblah
Qibla, in addition to be compulsorily maintained while establishing salat, is also maintained by Muslims while supplicating.

From whencesoever Thou startest forth, turn Thy face in the direction of the sacred Mosque; that is indeed the truth from the Lord. And Allah is not unmindful of what ye do. So from whencesoever Thou startest forth, turn Thy face in the direction of the sacred Mosque; and wheresoever ye are, Turn your face thither: that there be no ground of dispute against you among the people, except those of them that are bent on wickedness; so fear them not, but fear Me; and that I may complete My favours on you, and ye May (consent to) be guided;

— Qur'an, sura 2 (Al-Baqara), ayat 149 - 150[13]

It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces Towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfil the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah-fearing.

— Qur'an, sura 2 (Al-Baqara), ayah 177[14]

The two moments in each year when the sun is directly overhead the Kaaba, the sun will indicate the direction of Mecca in all countries where it is visible. This happens on May 27 or May 28 at 9:18 GMT and on July 15 or July 16 at 9:27 GMT. Likewise there are two moments in each year when the Sun is directly over the antipode of the Kaaba. This happens on January 12 or January 13 at 21:29 GMT and on November 28 at 21:09 GMT. On those dates, the direction of shadows in any sunlit place will point directly away from the Qiblah. Because the Earth is almost a sphere, this is almost the same as saying that the Qiblah from a place is the direction in which a bird would start flying in order to get to the Kaaba by the shortest possible way. The antipode of the Kaaba is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, in remote southern French Polynesia, some 35 mi (56 km) northeast of Tematangi atoll and 85 mi (137 km) west-northwest of Moruroa atoll.

In contrast to the regular custom, there is a mosque which does not face the Qiblah. It is Cheraman Juma Masjid in the south Indian state of Kerala. Unlike other mosques in the south Indian state, it faces eastwards, instead of westwards to Mecca.[15][16][17]

Islamic mathematics[edit]

Al-Ashraf's diagram of the compass and Qibla. From MS Cairo TR 105, copied in Yemen, 1293.[18]

Determining the direction of the Qiblah was a central issue and a constant generator of a scientific environment during the Islamic Golden Age, one that required both mathematics and observation. Muslim scientists who contributed works to determine the Qiblah direction from any point on the Earth's surface were: Al-Khawarizmi, Habash al-Hasib al-Marwazi, Al-Nayrizi, Al-Battani, Abū al-Wafā' Būzjānī, Ibn Yunus, Al-Sijzi, Abu Nasr Mansur, Ibn al-Haytham, Al-Biruni, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, Ibn al-Shatir, and Al-Khalili, among others.[19]

The Yemeni Sultan al-Malik al-Ashraf described the use of the compass as a Qibla indicator in the 13th century.[20] In a treatise about astrolabes and sundials, al-Ashraf includes several paragraphs on the construction of a compass bowl (ṭāsa). He then uses the compass to determine the north point, the meridian (khaṭṭ niṣf al-nahār), and the Qibla. This is the first mention of a compass in a medieval Islamic scientific text and its earliest known use as a Qibla indicator, although al-Ashraf did not claim to be the first to use it for this purpose.[18][21]

From space[edit]

In April 2006, the Malaysian National Space Agency sponsored a conference of scientists and religious scholars to address the issue of how the Qiblah should be determined when one is in orbit[22]. The conference concluded that the astronaut should determine the location of the Qiblah "according to [their] capability."[23] There have already been several Muslim astronauts. The first Muslim in space was Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 1985, and the first Muslim woman in space was Anousheh Ansari in 2006.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has stated that one should face the direction of the Earth.[24] This is part of the Malaysian document which recommends that the qibla should be 'based on what is possible' for the astronaut, and can be prioritized this way: 1) The Ka'aba 2) The projection of Ka'aba 3) The Earth 4) Wherever.[25]

Qiblah indicated in a hotel in Egypt

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Hartsock, Ralph (2014-08-27). "The temple of Jerusalem: past, present, and future". Jewish Culture and History. 16 (2): 199–201. doi:10.1080/1462169X.2014.953832.
  2. ^ Merriam-Webster's Geographical Dictionary. 2001. p. 479. ISBN 0 87779 546 0. Retrieved 2013-03-17.
  3. ^ Hewson, Chris (March 1, 2012). "Multifaith Spaces: Objects". University of Manchester. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  4. ^ Mustafa Abu Sway, The Holy Land, Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Qur’an, Sunnah and other Islamic Literary Source (PDF), Central Conference of American Rabbis, archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-28
  5. ^ In the Lands of the Prophet, Time-Life, p. 29
  6. ^ a b c d William Montgomery Watt (7 February 1974). Muhammad: prophet and statesman. Oxford University Press. pp. 112–113. ISBN 978-0-19-881078-0. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  7. ^ Sura 2 (Al-Baqara), ayah 144, Quran 2:144
  8. ^ a b Tamar Mayer; Suleiman Ali Mourad (2008). Jerusalem: idea and reality. Routledge. p. 87. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
  9. ^ a b c Yohanan Friedmann (2003). Tolerance and coercion in Islam: interfaith relations in the Muslim tradition. Cambridge University Press. p. 31. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
  10. ^ a b Britannica; Dale Hoiberg; Indu Ramchandani (2000). Students' Britannica India. Popular Prakashan. p. 224. Retrieved 5 October 2010.
  11. ^ "Altafsir 2:144".
  12. ^ Winterburn, Emily (2005). "Using an Astrolabe". muslimheritage.com. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  13. ^ Quran 2:149–150 (Yusuf Ali)
  14. ^ Quran 2:177 (Yusuf Ali)
  15. ^ "World's second oldest mosque is in India". Bahrain tribune. Archived from the original on 2006-07-06.
  16. ^ Cheraman Juma Masjid A Secular Heritage
  17. ^ A mosque from a Hindu king
  18. ^ a b Schmidl, Petra G. (1996–97). "Two Early Arabic Sources On The Magnetic Compass". Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies. 1: 81–132. http://www.uib.no/jais/v001ht/01-081-132schmidl1.htm#_ftn4
  19. ^ Moussa, Ali (2011). "Mathematical Methods in Abū al-Wafāʾ's Almagest and the Qibla Determinations". Arabic Sciences and Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. 21 (1). doi:10.1017/S095742391000007X.
  20. ^ Savage-Smith, Emilie (1988). "Gleanings from an Arabist's Workshop: Current Trends in the Study of Medieval Islamic Science and Medicine". Isis. 79 (2): 246–266 [263]. doi:10.1086/354701.
  21. ^ Schmidl, Petra G. (2007). "Ashraf: al‐Malik al‐Ashraf (Mumahhid al‐Dīn) ʿUmar ibn Yūsuf ibn ʿUmar ibn ʿAlī ibn Rasūl". In Thomas Hockey; et al. (eds.). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. New York: Springer. pp. 66–67. ISBN 9780387310220. (PDF version)
  22. ^ "Malaysian Conf. Probes How Muslim Astronauts Pray" Archived 2006-05-25 at the Wayback Machine on Islam Online
  23. ^ "First Muslim to Fast Ramadan in Space" Archived 2007-11-17 at the Wayback Machine on Islam Online
  24. ^ "Question & Answer - Qibla"
  25. ^ Di Justo, Patrick (26 September 2007). "A Muslim Astronaut's Dilemma: How to Face Mecca From Space". Wired. Retrieved 25 May 2015.

Further reading[edit]

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