Qiblah Finding: An Art Made Easier Through the Ages

Qiblah Finding: An Art Made Easier Through the Ages

By Abdul-Lateef Balogun

–        G.I.S. Analyst – Malaysia

Whether a slight or great deviation, the key issue seems to be the actual effort and level of sincerity displayed in trying to figure out the right direction of the Qiblah.

Whether a slight or great deviation, the key issue seems to be the actual effort and level of sincerity displayed in trying to figure out the right direction of the Qiblah.

For millions of Muslims around the world, traveling is part of their routine. Whether for studies, business or pleasure, the need to embark on long-distance journeys arises continuously and with this comes the challenge of determining the correct direction of the Qiblah while on such trips.

The importance of identifying the Qiblah (direction towards the Ka`bah in Makkah) lies in the obligation of performing the five daily Prayers in the life of a Muslim. Making a sincere attempt to face the Qiblah is one of the conditions for the validity of Prayer.

When a mosque is accessible in their respective home countries many Muslims hardly bother about this since the Qiblah is already identified inside their mosques. However, when one is traveling and cannot find a mosque (or is unfortunate enough to land in a mosque where the Qiblah is not correctly positioned,) knowing how to find the Qiblah becomes a handy skill.

An Age Old Problem

Precise observation, as well as an uncanny ability to derive new solutions to ancient problems, was perhaps what made Muslim scientists outstanding in the Middle Ages. It, therefore, did not come as a surprise when they embarked on the arduous journey of mathematically determining the Qiblah.

The puzzle was to devise a means of finding the direction of the Ka`bah in Makkah at all times. By employing advanced trigonometry, they eventually came up with medieval Qiblah tables, which had a high degree of accuracy.

However, the sophistication of these tables, which even European geographers at that time couldn’t fully comprehend, limited their use (Lunde). Another popular instrument that was used for determining the Qiblah then became the Astrolabe.

Initially designed mainly for astrology, navigation, and surveying, astronomers from the Islamic world soon found another use for it. By adding special tables to the existing ones at the back of the conventional astrolabe, it had the added functionality of finding the direction to Makkah, and consequently the Qiblah. (Winterburn)

Life Made Easier

With the rapid spread of Islam came the demand for more accurate, easier-to-use instruments with which the direction of the Qiblah could be determined almost effortlessly. It was necessary to cater to the needs of the growing Muslim population that had spread far beyond the Arabian Peninsula thereby making the determination of the Qiblah with the available instruments a more challenging task.

In the 13th century AD, the introduction of the compass to the Islamic world revolutionalized the entire Qiblah finding process (Winterburn). By incorporating it into the astrolabe, it was possible to find Makkah from anywhere around the Islamic world. Further advancements saw the compass being used alongside other Qiblah indicators such as the Sundial and the Persian Qiblah indicator, all of which were quite famous during the 18th century.

In the late 20th century compass-based tools were made to help Muslims quickly find the Qiblah. A compass specially marked and coded for major cities around the world and with the Ka`bah drawn inside its dial became popular at one point. A similar compass stuck to a portable prayer mat also became commonly sold around the world. But in this present century, things couldn’t have gotten better for the Muslim Ummah.

With the proliferation of smartphones and other digital gadgets, the usual problems faced while trying to find the Qiblah are fast fading away. Be it a wristwatch, mobile phone or hand-held GPS device, the most important thing is to ensure they are equipped with either a compass or a relevant map to be able to perform the needed function of finding the Qiblah in real-time.

The latest trend has become the use of Location Based Services (LBS). LBS involve software solutions configured to work with a handheld mobile device, which in turn operates on a specific wireless network. When used in conjunction with a Geographical Information System (GIS) server application, it readily provides the device owner with vital information such as the routes to, and location of, Makkah relative to their own present location or position. (GIM International)

The combination of GIS and GPS technologies has analytical capabilities that make it possible to determine the individual location of each mobile phone user. Thereafter, required information such as the location of the Qiblah and other places of interest is presented to the user via a map interface. For devices that do not support a graphical map interface, the requested information comes in the form of textual or audio instructions.

Sadly though, the high cost of these gadgets limits the number of prospective buyers cum users.

A Controversial Issue?

Quite similar to the contentious issue of moon sighting especially prior to the commencement of the holy month of Ramadan, “Qiblah finding” is one topic that sometimes causes tempers to flare when being discussed.

While some people believe the center of the face has to be perfectly aligned with the center of the Ka`bah for the prayer to be valid, others believe this position is too rigid and need not be adopted. The prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace be upon him, is reported to have said: “Whatever is between the east and the west is the Qiblah.” (Narrated by At-Tirmidhi, 342; Ibn Maajah, 1011)

Though short, the profound meaning derivable from this hadith forms the basis of many Islamic verdicts (fatwas) on the issue of the Qiblah. As a result, the majority of scholars, including two of the four great Imams, Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Abu Hanifah, are of the opinion that the one who is close to the Ka`bah is required to face it head on, while the one who is far away from it must seek the general direction of the Ka`bah, without having to face it precisely. (Al-Munajid)

Hence, a slight deviation in the Qiblah is generally regarded as something permissible as long as the worshipper has done his utmost in trying to get it right, and perfection sure lies with Allah alone. There might not be much cause for worry if the deviation from the Qiblah is slight, but what happens if the deviation was great or totally off while praying?

According to a verdict issued by the highest religious decision-making body in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, “If a worshipper does his best to identify the direction of the Qiblah and prays, then he discovers that he was mistaken, his prayer is still valid.” (Fataawa Al-Lajnah Al-Daa’imah-6/314)

Whether a slight or great deviation, the key issue seems to be the actual effort and level of sincerity displayed in trying to figure out the right direction of the Qiblah. Therefore, the quarrels that sometimes arise when trying to establish the right position of the Qiblah at a certain location might just be uncalled for.

As Muslims, we are of the firm conviction that whatever Allah commands us to do is ultimately for our benefit, and this includes facing the Ka`bah in Prayer. The same way we strive day and night, spending lots of money to acquire quality education, posh cars, and houses, we need to channel the similar amount of resources, energy, zeal, and passion towards our religion.

By so doing, we are likely to always get the direction of the Qiblah right irrespective of which part of the globe we find ourselves; and if not, our Lord is most merciful, oft-forgiving.

 

References

–        Lunde, Paul, and Bilkadi, Zayn. “Arabs and Astronomy.” Saudi Aramco World Magazine. January/February 1986.

–        Winterburn, Emily. “Using an Astrolabe.” Foundation for Science Technology and Civilization (FSTC) Limited. August 2005.

–        Winterburn, Emily. “Astronomical Instruments through Time.” BBC. 30 May 2009. Accessed 27 July 2009.

–        “Location-Based Services for Emergencies.” GIM International. Reed Business, Netherlands. May 2009.

–        Al-Munajid, Salih. “Conditions for Prayers-Question No. 91405.” Islam Q & A. 30 May 2009. Accessed 27 July 2009.

–        “A Mistake in the Direction of the Qiblah-Fataawa Al-Lajnah Al-Daa’imah-6/314.” Islam Q & A. 27 July 2009.

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Abdul-Lateef Balogun has a BSc in Surveying & Geoinformatics from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. He is studying his Master degree at the Department of Geoinformatics, University of Technology, Malaysia.  He can be reached by sending an e-mail to sciencetech@iolteam.com.

 

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Muslims and Merry Christmas Wishes

Muslims and Merry Christmas Wishes

By Jamaal Diwan
merry christmas

Exchanging greetings , even gifts with non-Muslims out of companionship and manners is permissible.

Is it permissible for me to say “Merry Christmas” to my non-Muslim classmates, friends, family, neighbors, and others this holiday season?

(Please keep in mind that on the days of `Eid they always wish me a “Happy `Eid” and even buy me gifts.)

Allah says in the Qur’an, addressing how Muslims should deal with non-Muslims:

Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. Allah only forbids you from those who fight you because of religion and expel you from your homes and aid in your expulsion – (forbids) that you make allies of them. And whoever makes allies of them, then it is those who are the wrongdoers. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8, 9)

There are also many places in the Qur’an and Sunnah that encourage the Muslim to be of the best of manners. One example of this is the adith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) where he said: “The believers with the most complete faith are the ones with the best manners.” (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Ibn Habban, and Al-Hakim)

The Prophet also said: “Verily, I was sent to perfect good character.” (Al-Bukhari)

That being said there are a couple of things to take into consideration here. The first is that there is no disagreement between the scholars regarding the impermissibility of celebrating Christmas. It is a religious holiday that is based on beliefs that are against Islam and it is not permissible for Muslims to celebrate it.

This is because it goes against the concept of protecting one’s deen (religion) and contradicts the teachings of the Prophet which limited Muslim religious holidays to the two `Eids. That does not mean that they cannot spend time with their non-Muslim family on such a day if there is a family get together but that is a different issue.

As to whether or not one can greet their non-Muslim family and friends with “Merry Christmas” there are two major opinions. The first says that it is impermissible and was held by scholars such as Ibn Al-Qayyim, Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn `Uthaymin, and others.

The second opinion is that it is permissible as long as the intention is to interact with them in the best way possible without supporting their belief.

What is meant by this is not that people are not allowed to believe what they want to believe. They are. What rather is meant by this is that the Muslim is not agreeing with their belief. This opinion was held by scholars like Yusuf Al-Qaraḍawi and Muṣṭafa Zarqa. The latter opinion also allows the exchanging of greeting cards on holidays like Christmas as long as the card is free from any sort of religious symbolism.

Al-Qaradawi in his fatwa specifically mentions  being aware of the opinion of Ibn Taymiyya, but that he does not agree with it based on the influence of the different times and  circumstances during Ibn Taymiyyah’s era.

Al-Qaradawi speculated that had Ibn Taymiyyah lived during the times in which we live and seen the importance of good relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims, that he would have changed his opinion. Regardless whether that would be the case or not,  it does show that Al-Qaradawi was acutely aware of Ibn Taymiyyah’s opinion when he gave his fatwa.

Social Sensitivity

The argument against saying “Merry Christmas” to one’s family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers is based on the concept that in doing so you are approving of their beliefs in some way. This is simply not the case, and saying “Merry Christmas” is nothing more than an act of good societal manners.

However, it should be noted that this is not the same as actually celebrating Christmas or other non-Muslim religious holidays. Celebrating these holidays is not allowed but exchanging greetings and even gifts with non-Muslims on them out of companionship and manners is permissible, as long as the gifts themselves are permissible. This is especially the case when those same friends and family greet and exchange gifts with you on the Muslim holidays.

In conclusion, in America, for example, we need to try and seek a balance between maintaining our identity and the purity of our beliefs while at the same time dealing with our greater society in the best way possible.

Therefore, I think the way Muslims in America should deal with this issue depends on their circumstances. An interesting way to understand this predicament is to look at how Jews in America deal with this same question. It seems that they have many of the same discussions that we have around this time of year.

In general there are a couple of things that we want to try and be aware of at the same time: we want to maintain our identity and belief, we want people to understand Islam as much as possible, we want to respect and appreciate others, we want to treat others in the best way possible, we don’t want to be socially awkward or insular. Different situations will require different responses. Those of us who have non-Muslim families have different situations than those of us who do not.

You could reply with a number of different answers, including: “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Holidays”, “As a Muslim I don’t celebrate Christmas”, or “Thank you.  I don’t celebrate Christmas, but merry Christmas to you.” The appropriate answer will depend on the person, the situation, one’s internal intentions, and the perceived intentions of the one they are speaking to.

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Source: Jamaaldiwan.com

Note: The answer here by Jamaal Diwan is based on the fatwas of Sheikhs Yusuf Al-Qaraawi and Muṣṭafa Al-Zarqa.

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What Is the Difference Between Mani and Madhi?

What Is the Difference Between Mani and Madhi?

Difference Between Mani and Madhi

Question:

I cannot distinguish between the excretion which comes out from the private parts. Is it an impure excretion that necessitates ghusl (ritual bath) or is it something that only requires washing off the private parts and performing wudu’ (ablution) before offering prayer?

Answer:

Al-Mani (semen) is a thick white fluid that discharges by male or female as a result of sexual ejaculation. In such case, one has to perform ghusl whether male or female. If the discharge of sperm is due to illness or extreme cold, then there is need to perform ghusl. The majority of scholars are of the view that sperm is pure.

Al-Madhi is a sexual discharge that come out due to sexual arousal, e.g. sexual thoughts or foreplay. It comes out from both male and female. There is a consensus among scholars that madhi is impure. In such case, one has to wash his private parts, washing off any impurity on the clothes, and

`A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked about a person who found moisture (on his body or clothes) but did not remember the sexual dream. He replied: He should take a bath. He was asked about a person who remembered that he had a sexual dream but did not find moisture. He replied: Bath is not necessary for him.” (Authenticated by Al-Albani)

If one wakes up and remembers that he had a wet dream, but he does not find any witness around his private parts or on his clothes, then he does not have to perform ghusl. Umm Salamah narrated that Umm Sulaim, the wife Abu Talhah said, “O Allah’s Messenger! Allah is not ashamed of the truth. Is a ghusl (bath) compulsory for a woman when she has a sexual dream?” He (peace be upon him) replied, “Yes! When she sees signs of liquid” (Agreed upon)

Do not miss watching this important fatwa with Dr. Muhammad Salah to realize the difference between mani, madhi and the wet dream.


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Source: Iqra Youtube Channel.

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Consequences of Not Offering Friday Prayer

Consequences of Not Offering Friday Prayer

Importance and Virtues of Friday Prayer 

Question:

Is there an excuse for not attending the Friday Prayer?

Answer:

The main purpose of our creation is to worship Allah Almighty alone. The Qur’an says:

And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. (Adh-Dhariyat 51:56)

Seeking knowledge, education, or getting a job are all recommended, but what is most important is answering the call of prayer once it is due. It was narrated that Ibn Um Maktum asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying: “O Messenger of Allah, I am a blind man, my house is far away (from the mosque), and I have a guide who does not follow me. Is it possible that permission be granted to me for saying prayer in my house? He asked: Do you hear summons (adhan)? He said: Yes. He said: I do not find any permission for you.” (Abu Dawud)

We hear in the adhan (call to prayer), Come to the prayer, Come to success. The ultimate success is achieved by answering the call of Allah while the ultimate loss is neglecting His call. Friday is a surah in the Book of Allah that was named after a verse within it which says,

O you who have believed, when [the adhan] is called for the prayer on the day of Jumu’ah [Friday], then proceed to the remembrance of Allah and leave trade. That is better for you, if you only knew. (Al-Jumu`ah 62:9)

The verse urges a Muslim to leave everything in his hand and to go as early as possible to the mosque before the Imam climbs the minbar.  Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “He who takes a bath on Friday, like the bath for ceremonial purity, and then goes (to the mosque), he is like one who offers a camel as a sacrifice to seek the Pleasure of Allah; and he who comes at the second hour is like one who offers a cow to win the Pleasure of Allah; and he who comes at the third hour is like one who offers a ram with horns (in sacrifice); and he who comes at the fourth hour is like one who offers a hen; and he who comes at the fifth hour is like one who offers an egg. And when the Imam ascends the pulpit, the angels (who write the names of those who come to the mosque before the coming of the Imam) close (their record) in order to listen to the Khutbah.” (Agreed Upon)

Warning against Neglecting Friday Prayer

It was narrated from Abu Al-Ja`d Ad-Damri -who was a Companion of the Prophet – that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever missed three jumu`ahs out of negligence, Allah Almighty will place a seal over his heart.” (An-Nasai’)

Watch to learn more about the rulings of the Friday and the consequences of not offering it.

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Source: Iqra Youtube Channel.

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What Are the Virtues of Fajr Prayer?

What Are the Virtues of Fajr Prayer?

Virtues of the Fajr Prayer 

Question: What are the virtues of offering the Fajr (Dawn) Prayer in congregation at the mosque? What is the authenticity of the hadith in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) said “Whoever prays Fajr in congregation, then sits remembering Allah until the sun rises, then prays two rak`ahs, will have a reward like that of Hajj and `Umrah.”?

Answer: First of all, it is highly recommended to attend all the prescribed prayers in congregation at the mosque. Some scholars are of the opinion that it is wajib (obligatory) for men to offer prayer at the mosque. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The prayer of a person in congregation is twenty-seven times in excess to the prayer said alone.” (Muslim)

Dr. Muhammad Salah starts his talk by shedding some light on the importance of acting upon a reliable reference that are the Qur’an, Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the way of Salaf (righteous scholars). Sometimes, people act upon some statements without verifying their authenticity like gathering for reciting a certain surah in certain number of times.

There are a lot of verses and prophetic traditions concerning the numerous virtues of the Fajr Prayer:

1- Allah swears by the Fajr prayer due to its great significance,

By the dawn. (Al-Fajr 89:1)

2- Fajr is witnessed by the angels.

And [also] the Qur’an of dawn. Indeed, the recitation of dawn is ever witnessed. (Al-Israa’ 18:78)

Do not miss watching this important talk about the virtues of following the authentic traditions of the prophet and the virtues of the Fajr Prayer as well.

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Source: Iqra Youtube Channel.

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