Which way is it to Mecca again?

One of the inherent risks in getting overly specific in how your religious ceremonies are performed is the chance that someone will screw it up and call everything into question. For example you probably shouldn’t get too specific about things like which direction to face while praying:

Mecca mosques ‘wrongly aligned’

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.


It says something about how deep the delusion among some Muslims goes that some were worried that their prayers would be invalid because they were facing the wrong direction when saying them. Think of how silly you’d think someone was being if they said that they had to dress in all blue robes and wear a bee bonnet and stand on one foot while praying otherwise God wouldn’t consider their prayers.

Naturally the religious leaders are trying to reassure everyone:

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.”

Of course it doesn’t affect the prayers. Praying to a non-existent being isn’t affected by which direction you’re facing or what clothes you’re wearing or how you prostrate yourself because there’s nothing there to pray to. If it makes you feel better to beseech your invisible sky friend then by all means do so, but don’t sweat the details cause it isn’t going to matter.

11 thoughts on “Which way is it to Mecca again?

  1. Les, can you prove that it doesn’t make a difference which direction you face when praying?  I thought not.  Who are you to say what counts with God?

  2. Les, can you prove that it doesn’t make a difference which direction you face when praying?

    If a) praying makes no difference, then b) how you do it makes no difference.


  3. This is all because of George W. Bush and his global warming. See, the change in temperature has moved the Kaaba ever so slightly, so, actually, the old mosques are right and the newer ones are wrong!  tongue wink

  4. Well, now they have a reason and someone to blame for their prayers not being answered.

    Actually, tangent-ly speaking, no matter which direction you’re facing, if you’re facing forward (and not at the ground, then a straight line would mean you’re looking into space.

  5. Silly Logan.  Everyone knows that prayers aimed at Mecca stay on the ground.  They get beamed up to Allah once they get there.

    Of course, this means that if you are facing Mecca, then your butt is facing Mecca in the other direction.  I’m sure this means something.

  6. There’s a Sufi saying that goes something like this:
    The faithful turn towards Mecca to pray, but when one is in Mecca one can pray in any direction.

    Which evidently isn’t true, unless you are at the Kaaba.

    Of course, it’s a dual layer saying, in that if one is in whatever the Sufi/Muslim “state of grace” is, it doesn’t matter what direction you face, you will be facing God.  Or at least that’s my interpretation.

  7. It does say something about these people’s mentality that they think the supposedly “mreciful” creator of the entire universe would be so persnickety about such details.

    Of course, if the mihrab being a little off doesn’t matter, why would it matter whether you’re facing Mecca at all?  Or does God just demand a good-faith effort to face Mecca?  Why would he care?

  8. Zilch: Either facing Mecca is irrelevant, which directly contradicts the Koran IIRC, or the prayers weren’t working and nobody noticed. Either way it’s an awkward point to answer.

    Remember 666? Everything about that number was invalidated when it was correctly translated as 616.

    But hey, this is an opportunity – Both are exactly like when your Pop first lets go of your bike when you’re learning to ride. You do fine until you notice he’s not holding you up any more, and then you either panic and fall on your face or you carry on, knowing that you can now ride. Which is it to be? (as if I can’t guess)

  9. Every wing in the prison has an arrow to show whuch way to pray.  I never really wondered how accurate it has to be- just a couple of minutes (1/60 degree) would make all the difference over 3011 miles- I’ve looked at google Earth, and know where the line on E wing should go- I will check tomorrow!

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