Qibla

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At prayer in Damascus
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At prayer in Damascus

Qibla is an Arabic word referring to the direction that should be faced when a Muslim prays. Originally, this direction was toward Jerusalem (and it is therefore called the First of the Two Qiblas). In 624 AD, during Muhammad's exile in Medina, the Qibla was changed to point to the Kaaba, where it has remained ever since. Some academic scholars have attributed this change in the direction of prayer to a rift between Muhammad and the Jews in Medina.

The Qibla, for any point of reference on the Earth, is the direction of the Kaaba. In Muslim religious practice, supplicants must face this direction in prayer. It should be noted that Muslims do not worship the Kaaba or its contents, any more than Christians worship churches or crosses; the Kaaba is simply a focal point for prayer.

The Qibla points along the shortest path to the Kaaba. Because the Earth is approximately spherical, this path will be a great circle such as airplanes fly. The location of the Kaaba (at 21° 25' 24" N, 39° 49' 24" E) can be used together with spherical geometry to determine the Qibla for any given point on the Earth.

At least one special case exists: when inside the Ka'ba itself, Muslims face towards its outer walls during prayer.

In ancient times, Muslims traveling abroad used an astrolabe to find the Qibla. At the moment in the year when the Sun is directly overhead the Kaaba, the direction of shadows in any sunlit place will point directly away from the Qibla.

The Qibla has importance to more than just the salat, and plays an important part in everyday ceremonies. The head of an animal that is slaughtered is aligned with the Qibla. After death, Muslims are buried with their faces in the direction of the Qibla.

See also

External links

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