Sunday, April 5, 2009

"Misaligned" Mosques Raise Questions

Some 200 mosques in Islam's holiest city, Mecca, point the wrong way for prayers, reports from Saudi Arabia say.

All mosques have a niche showing the direction of the most sacred Islamic site, the Kaaba, an ancient cube-like building in Mecca's Grand Mosque.

But people looking down from recently built high-rises in Mecca found the niches in many older mosques were not pointing directly towards the Kaaba.

Some worshippers are said to be anxious about the validity of their prayers.

There have been suggestions that laser beams could be used to make an exact measurement.
Tawfik al-Sudairy, Islamic affairs ministry deputy secretary, downplayed the problem in remarks quoted by the pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat.

"There are no major errors but corrections have been made for some old mosques, thanks to modern techniques," he said.

"In any case, it does not affect the prayers."

Source: BBC News

The Muslim "Qiblah" (the direction of prayer) of the first mosques do not align with Mecca. Some Orientalists argue that the earliest mosques were aligned instead toward a point in northern Arabia or even toard Jerusalem, a theory that challenges the belief that the earliest mosques were directed toward the Ka'bah. If early mosques were aligned toward northern Arabia/Jerusalem, then a Qiblah facing Ka'bah represents a later development.

The Qiblah of the earliest mosques in Mecca and Iraq face a point south of Jerusalem and north of the Ka'bah. They appear to be pointing to Egypt. However, the oldest mosques in Egypt align to a point in Arabia.

To what sacred shrine were these first mosques aligned then? They appear to be aligned with Beersheba, Abraham's southern settlement, ruled by Keturah, whose six sons are the ancestors of Arabian tribes still dwelling in the region of Mecca and the southern Arabian Peninsula. Read more here.

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