When I first converted to Islam, one of the main things that amazed me completely was the fact that five times every single day, Muslims face toward the direction of the Kaaba to pray. This unity is not seen in any other religion other than Islam, and this cannot be reasoned out other than the staunch belief that drives our worship- the belief in the Oneness of God. However, finding the Qibla might still be a challenging task for some people especially if you are someone like me living in a non-Muslim majority country. I do not have the luxury of praying in a dedicated musollah or mosque at all times, where the Qibla direction is marked out for us. Especially while I am traveling to unfamiliar lands or even places within my own country, l need to use the available tools to find out my Qibla direction.
If I am stuck in the situation of having to locate my Qibla while traveling or in an unfamiliar location, here are the ways I figured out to try to find my Qibla direction wherever I am in the world.
1. Use an Islamic app with a Qibla compass feature:
The most common method that I (and most other people) use is to download an Islamic app with a Qibla compass feature onto my smartphone. This is a quick way for me to find out my Qibla direction wherever I am, simply because I always have my smartphone on hand. Unfortunately, this method is not always accurate (shock!) because especially while we’re indoors or when the sky’s cloudy, the compass goes hay bonkers. There was one time I was trying two phones at one time and both showed different directions! The horror, when you realise you’ve been praying in the wrong direction the whole time!!! 😟
2. Use an Islamic app with a Qibla MAPS feature:
Not all apps have this, but if yours does, you can easily align yourself to the Qibla direction by zooming into the map and seeing where your building aligns to your position, and following the line that the map shows to direct yourself to the right Qibla direction. This eliminates the inaccuracy mentioned about in point 1 above, and I would recommend double checking with this method. Because this is SO IMPORTANT to double check, the TAKVA team has integrated this very important feature in their upcoming app MasjidHub. Not everyone knows this important way of double-checking, so do spread the word!
3. Google Qibla Finder:
This is another intelligent innovation by Google which I often use as a quick checker on the Qibla direction. You don’t need to download any apps for this, as the Google Qibla Finder can be accessed from any browser. After opening this site on chrome, I just simply move around with my camera until I see the Kaaba symbol floating in space and there we go! That’s my Qibla direction.
4. An Old-School Compass:
If you’re old-school and know how to work a compass, you can keep one compass with you to help you find your direction in unfamiliar places. (An interesting fact: we once saw a prayer space in Japan that provided us with a compass, how thoughtful!) I can easily search on Google to understand which direction the Kaaba is located concerning where I am in the world. Then I simply hold the compass flat and when the dial is settled, I just turn towards the direction of Kaaba for my location.
5. Google Maps:
(Disclaimer: It’s not very exact!) If the above options are not available, this method still is somewhat alright (As long as the skies are clear and there’s not a lot of interference). What I would do is to open up Google Maps, and you’ll see your location as a blue dot icon with a radar pointing out in the direction you’re facing. Since we know where Mecca approximately is, zoom out till you see Mecca’s approximate location, and turn until your radar points towards Mecca. I would warn that this isn’t fully accurate as the previous methods though, so only opt for it if you’ve no other choice.
6. The Sun:
(Disclaimer: It’s not very exact too unless you’re trained in this!) In the old ages, before technology and tools were invented, people used to find any direction of their desired destination by looking up to the sky, following the positions and movement of the Sun and the Moon. We can also identify the direction of Qibla by understanding the position of both ourselves and the Sun.
However, it requires quite a bit of skill to accurately find the Qibla. It was and still is hard for me to acquire such skills, but is quite useful if I have nothing else on me to rely on. For example, as I lived on the east side of Mecca, it was understood that the Kaaba was at my west and the Sun also sets in the west from my place. So, if I know in which direction my sun sets in, I can figure out the approximate Qibla direction. You can also try using the same method concerning where you are in the world.
One of the criteria that makes prayer valid is that we have to be facing the direction of the Kaaba. So I always make sure to use all the resources I can access to help me find the exact direction to worship Allah five times a day.
Are you ready to find your Qibla? What other methods can you think of to find your Qibla direction?