The Malaysian National Space Agency in 2006 sponsored a conference of religious scholars to determine the Qibla for astronauts in orbit. Now the Malaysian Airline installs electronic devices on planes enabling passengers to locate the precise Qibla (direction) to perform salat (the five daily Islamic prayers).
The Qibla insures that Muslims are facing Mecca during prayers and animal slaughters. The Islamic Qibla is very important but is it correct?
The Original City of the Islamic Qibla
From 610 to 623 CE, the Islamic Qibla originally pointed to Jerusalem. In 623 CE, Muhammad commanded his followers to change the direction and pray towards the Sacred Mosque.
Muslims prioritize the Qibla because Allah commands it. “Turn then thy face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque” (Qs 2:144). The Sacred Mosque (al–Masjid al-Haram), the Black Stone (al-Hajr Aswad) and the Kaabah are located in Mecca.
The History of the Qibla of Islam
Archaeologist Dan Gibson shares new information about the original Qibla in his book, Qur’anic Geography. Using satellite imaging, he discovered the Qibla of mosques in Islam’s first century.
Between 623-725 CE (1-107 AH), the Qibla of all mosques faced the ancient city of Petra, in present day Jordan. Some of these mosques include the Kufa and Wassit in Iraq, the Fustat in Egypt, and many others. Petra lies 1,270 kilometers (762 miles) north of Mecca.
Some mosques built after 725 CE pointed towards Mecca, others towards Petra. By 822 CE, the Qibla of all new mosques pointed towards Mecca. Religious scholars now weigh this new discovery when discussing the Muslim Qibla. They are asking, “Was Petra, not Mecca, the original home of Islam?” (For more information, contact IAI staff)
The Christian “Qibla”
Technically, Christians do not have a “Qibla.” They don’t pray towards Jerusalem either. Why? Wasn’t Isa crucified and buried there?
Yes, but His grave is empty! Christians and Muslims agree that Isa Al-Masih is in heaven. Isa commanded His followers to pray, “Our Father in heaven.” That is where Allah resides, “Heaven is My throne” (Injil, Acts 7:49).
Would most Muslims agree that the Christian’s Qibla should point to heaven? (Let us know your thoughts)
Heart Purity Trumps the Qibla
In Zabur, David states, “If we hide sin in our hearts, God will not hear us” (Psalm 66:18). Purity of heart has priority, not the Qibla when praying.
The Injil shows the only way to heart purity. “If we confess our sins . . . [Isa] . . . [will] forgive us . . . and . . . cleanse us from all wickedness” (Injil, I John 1:9). If our hearts are pure, whichever direction we pray, God will hear!
QUESTIONS FOR CONTEMPLATION
We encourage our readers to comment on the article above. Please start a dialogue with us by focusing on the following questions:
- Why did the Qibla in the earliest days of Islam point to Petra? How should this new discovery impact Muslims at this time? (If you prefer emailing us about this, click here.)
- Do you feel it would be better for Christians to pray in the direction of Jerusalem? Please explain the logic behind your answer.
- What do you think is more important: to perform salat in the correct direction of the Qibla or to prioritize praying with a pure heart, free from sin? Explain your answer.
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