Qibla (Arabic: القِبلَة, direction) is an Islamic term referring to the place towards which Muslims perform some of their rituals such as worships. Muslims' Qibla is Ka'ba located in Mecca. Al-Masjid al-Aqsa was the first Qibla for Muslims, and in the second year of Hijra/623 rd based on Al-Qibla Verse, Muslims switched their Qibla to Ka'ba. Most historians believe that the change of Qibla happened between the noon prayer and the afternoon prayer in Dhu l-Qiblatayn Mosque in Medina. In Islam prayers, slaughter of animals, and the burial of the dead must be in the direction of Qibla. These are laws of sharia that are commonly accepted by both Shia and Sunni Muslims.
Change of the Qibla
The word "Qibla" literally means direction, and in the Islamic terminology it means Ka'ba or any direction at which Ka'ba is located.
The Prophet (s) used to say his prayers in the direction of al-Masjid al-Aqsa in Bayt al-Maqdis (Jerusalem) when he was still in Mecca and the first years of his immigration to Medina, though, he was personally inclined to say prayers in the direction of Ka'ba. Thus, he always expected a divine revelation concerning the change of Qibla. Eventually God satisfied the Prophet (s) by revealing the Qibla Verse, issuing a command as to switching from al-Masjid al-Aqsa to al-Masjid al-Haram (where Ka'ba is located):
|“||We certainly see you turning your face about in the sky. We will surely turn you to a Qibla of your liking: so turn your face towards al-Masjid al-Haram, and wherever you may be, turn your faces towards it! Indeed those who were given the Book surely know that it is the truth from their Lord. And Allah is not oblivious of what they do. (Qur'an 2:14)||”|
There is no agreement among scholars of Quranic exegesis as to when and where this verse, known as the Qibla Verse, was revealed; there are different views about this—from 6 to 19 months after the Prophet (s)'s immigration to Medina.
There are different views about where the verse was revealed and the Qibla was switched to Ka'ba for the first time. On some accounts, it was the mosque in Banu Salima area in northwestern Medina, today known as al-Masjid al-Qiblatayn (the mosque of the two Qiblas), or the mosque of Banu Salim b. 'Awf tribe where the Prophet (s) said his fist Friday Prayer, or the mosque of the Prophet (s) himself.
There are cases in which it is an obligation to stay in the direction of Qibla:
Obligatory prayers and their Qada (saying them after their prescribed times), as well as forgotten Sajda and Tashahhud should be done in the direction of Qibla; that is, the person should be such that it can be said of him or her that they are in the direction of Qibla, though the person should not be scrupulous about this. Most Shiite authorities (Maraji') do not take it obligatory for one's knees and toes to be in the direction of Qibla. In recommended prayers, it is not an obligation to stay in the direction of Qibla, though it is doubly recommended.
If a person cannot say their prayers while standing or sitting, then they should lie down on their right side in such a way that the foreparts of their bodies are directed toward Qibla. And if this is not feasible, then they should lie down on their left side in such a way that the foreparts of their bodies are directed toward Qibla. And if even this is not feasible, then they should lie down on their back in such a way that their soles are directed towards Qibla.
Dying, Prayer of the Dead, and Burial
At the time of dying: a Muslim who is about to die should be laid down on their back in such a way as to their soles are directed towards Qibla.
Prayer of the dead: people who say prayers on a corpse should be directed towards Qibla, and the corpse should be laid down on its back in such a way that his right is the direction of Qibla.
Burial: a corpse should be laid down on its right side in such a way as to its foreparts are directed towards Qibla.
Slaughter of Animals
In religiously legitimate slaughter of animals (Dhibh), the animal must be laid in a way that foreparts of the animal should be directed towards Qibla.
There are cases in which it is recommended to say prayers in the direction of Qibla:
- When reciting an orison or asking something from God
- When reciting the Quran.
- When reciting divine names and attributes
- In rituals following prayers (Ta'qibat)
- In Sajdat al-Shukr (Sajda for thanking God)
- In general, while sitting or lying down
Forbidden or Disliked Cases
At the time of urination or defecation, the foreparts of one's body, that is, the stomach and the chest, should not be in, or opposite, the direction of Qibla, and it is an obligatory caution (al-Ihtiyat al-Wajib) that a non-mature child not be seated in, or opposite, the direction of Qibla at the time of urination or defecation. However, if a child sits this way on their own, then it is not obligatory to prevent them from doing so.
There are cases in which it is disliked to be in the direction of Qibla, like:
- When putting on one's pants,
- During a sexual intercourse,
- Generally any action that is uncongenial to the dignity of Qibla.
Legitimate Ways of Finding the Direction of Qibla
The legitimate ways in which the direction of Qibla can be known include:
- One's personal assurance or certainty,
- A testimony by two just and honest people who have found the direction on their own,
- Testimony of a person who has found the direction of Qibla on the basis of scientific rules,
If none of these ways are available, then one should rely on their own conjectures. However, one should find the most precise method possible for arriving at a conjecture.
If a person fails to find the direction of Qibla, then they should say their prayers in the four directions. Inside Ka'ba, one is at liberty to say prayers to whatever direction one prefers.
In Space Travels
Some scholars of Fiqh maintain that for people who travel to space, to stay in the direction of the Earth is to stay in the direction of Qibla, but if they fail to find the direction of the Earth, then they should say prayers on all four directions. With respect to the times of prayers, they should say the five obligatory prayers for every 24-hour time period, and they had better observe the ordinary temporal intervals between the five prayers on the Earth.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from قبله in Farsi WikiShia.
- Find the Qibla at your place using this Islamic web service that offers a Qibla pointer