Finding Al-Ka'aba Direction For Prayers

Al-Jazeerah, June 3, 2007


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Finding Al-Ka'aba Direction When Praying


Qibla Direction from North America: The controversy of Qibla from North America surfaces from time to time. One group of people favors the direction of South-East, and another group favors North-East. Now the question is whether South-East is correct or North-East is correct. Those who favor South-East are mislead by looking at the flat map with an argument that Makkah is south and East of North America. They are under a fallacy that the earth is a flat plane. Actually it is more like a sphere floating in space of three dimensions. North Pole is a point from where every direction is South; there is no East or West from there. If you take a globe and stretch a thread from Alaska to Makkah, you will see that the thread passes through or close by North Pole. So, the Qibla from Alaska will be towards North.

The map on the right is a true projection of the globe keeping Makkah at the center of projection. This projection allows us to draw a line from any place to Makkah and note the angle from the longitude lines. That gives the Qibla from North. For example, take Alaska, and draw a line from Alaska to Makkah (as shown by blue line). You will see that the line passes through North Pole, so the Qibla from Alaska is due North. Curved lines on this map are longitude lines and they all meet at South and North Poles. They are not like latitude lines that are parallel to each other and do not meet. Take another example, Miami. The green line from Miami to Makkah makes an angle of about 56 degrees from the longitude line that goes to North Pole. So, the Qibla from Miami is 56 degrees to East from North.

If that is confusing, then let us think that there is a very high minaret over Ka’bah, so high that it reaches the sky. Everyone would agree that if we can see that minaret, facing to that is the direction of Qibla. Now, Allah (SWT) has provided that imaginary minaret in the form of the sun being at the top of that minaret. It has been observed for centuries that there are two days in a year (May 28 and on July 16) when sun comes exactly overhead Ka’bah at the local noon time. Muslims in many distant countries for centuries used to wait for these dates, in the hope to see which direction is the sun and then set the orientation of the mosques.

It has been observed that around noon time of Makkah, it is about 6 am in Nova Scotia, Canada and Maine, USA. The sun rises in those locations as it comes overhead Makkah at local noon time. Facing the sun on those two dates around 6 am gives the correct direction of Qibla from North America. Those who had observed this confirmed that they saw the sun in North East direction at the specified time and date. Therefore, it is correct to say that Qibla from North America is generally North-East, except from Alaska and California where it is close to North direction.

The actual direction of the sun observed verifies with the angle calculated using Spherical Trigonometry for calculating the direction from one point to another. For the 48 contiguous states of USA, the Qibla is some angle between North and East; the angle varies from location to location. The precise value of what angle from North one should turn to face the Qibla can be calculated from Spherical Trigonometry, using Great Cirlce concept or shortest distance theory, assuming the earth is a sphere. The fact that the earth is a geoid (ellipsoid flattened at the poles) affects the results in negligible and practically immeasurable quantities.

Khalid Shaukat is a consultant to ISNA, Fiqh Council Of North America, and Shura Council of North America for the matters of Qibla Direction, Prayer Times, and Moonsighting.

People tend to use compass for determining Qibla, but they do not realize the errors involved in compass. Firstly, the compass is affected by metallic objects in the vicinity, in furniture, in building materials, or even buried in the ground, so the compass placed at different locations in the same room gives different directions. Secondly, the angle of Qibla can only be calculated from True North, and True North cannot be determined by compass. Compass points to magnetic North, (based on earths magnetic field, which is changing continuously, and sometimes has erratic behavior) that may be many degrees away from True North.

Qibla Compass: To account for the difference in magnetic North and true North, a Qibla Compass (of 40 zones) has been designed which comes with a little booklet giving a list of cities and a number for each city from 0 to 39. If you have a small booklet that has only a few cities of USA, then it is an outdated booklet printed more than 30 years ago. The numbers in that booklet have slightly changed in recent times because of continuously changing earth's magnetic field. A new booklet printed with a new compass is available from Halalco Books. This new booklet has almost 600 cities from North America and additional 600 cities from almost every country in the world. To see the most up to date list of Qibla direction from every country in the world click here. A USA and Canada map below shows numbers for 40 zones compass.

  To download a research paper by Dr. Waheed Younis, please click on Qibla

To download a research paper by Dr. Kamal Abdali, please click on Qibla
If you have Netscape with Acrobat reader, you will view this paper in your browser and can print it from there. or send e-mail to Dr. Kamal Abdali.

More Accurate Method

It is not advisable to determine Qibla using compass specially for Orienting Masajid. The following method which uses the sun is more reliable. It has been observed for centuries and reported in many books by Muslims around the world that two times a year the sun comes overhead above Ka'bah. This is observational fact for centuries, and is used to set the correct Qibla direction in places far from Makkah by Muslims for last so many centuries. Those two dates and times are:


May 28 at 9:18UT
July 16 at 9:27UT

When you observe the sun at these times (after converting it to your local time), you will be facing the Ka'bah giving you Qibla direction, because if there were a very high minaret over Ka'bah reaching up to the sky, then you will see it just like you are seeing the sun. Now, let us take a few examples. If you are in Islamabad, Pakistan (+5 hours time difference from Greenwich), the local time to observe the sun would be 2:18pm on May 28, and 2:27pm on July 16.

Click here to see the difference between your local time and Greenwich mean time

Similarly, if you are in Nova Scotia, Canada (-3 hours time difference from Greenwich), the local time to observe the sun would be 6:18am on May 28, and 6:27am on July 16.

If you are at a location that you cannot see the sun on the above mentioned two dates, then you can locate Qibla from the sun when it comes overhead at a point diametrically opposite of Makkah on the globe and look for the following two dates and times:

November 28 at 21:09UT
January 16 at 21:29UT

Face toward the shadow from the sun at these times (after converting it to local time) and you will be facing Ka'bah. If you can see the sun but cannot see the shadow, put your back towards the sun and your face will be towards Qibla.

Most Accurate Method

Qibla direction from the sun: Every day, at a certain time the Qibla can be determined from the sun, either by facing it or by facing the shadow from it, or else there is a time when Qibla would be 90 degress left or right of the sun. This time can be calculated for everyday for any desired location. This is the most accurate method. Remember, the compass, cannot tell you the True North, because its needle points to Magnetic North, and there is no way to know exactly how many degrees it is away from Ture North. Estimated values of the difference between True North and Magnetic North can be used but they can have errors, because magnetic field is not only changing continuously, but also can be erratic due to other physical changes present inside the earth. Moreover, the presence of other magnetic fields or metallic objects can deflect compass needle pointing in the wrong direction.


Qiblah direction from the sun (Most Accurate Method):
The most accurate method for determining the Qiblah direction for mosques is the Sun. For most of the days at a specific time of the day, the sun shadow of a Sundial directly faces the Qiblah or the opposite of the S.D. shadow faces Qiblah direction. Also at noon time S.D. shadow or its opposite points to the Geographical North . These times can be calculated for everyday for any desired location.

  Location: Dalton, GA, Usa
  Latitude:   Longitude:
  Time zone:   Month:

Most people do not have access to programs that calculate the time when the Sundial shadow (or the opposite) points to the Qiblah direction; therefore, we at the Islamicfinder have decided to provide this service to help all Muslims Insha Allah to determine the Qiblah direction accurately provided that they use very accurate watch (or GPS timer). Based on your location, the program provides you with the following table:


Note: Please read the instructions carefully. We welcome any comments or corrections.
Qiblah direction according to Geographical North = 51.786798 (From North Clockwise)
Date G.N.Time S.D. Shadow Opposite S.D. Shadow SD Shadow 90 degree
1 13:43 15:49 * *
2 13:43 15:47 * *
3 13:42 15:46 * *
4 13:42 15:44 * *
5 13:42 15:43 * *
6 13:42 15:41 * *
7 13:41 15:40 * *
8 13:41 15:38 * *
9 13:41 15:36 * *
10 13:40 15:35 * *
11 13:40 15:33 * *
12 13:40 15:32 * *
13 13:40 15:30 * *
14 13:39 15:29 * *
15 13:39 15:27 * *
16 13:39 15:26 * *
17 13:39 15:24 * *
18 13:39 15:23 * *
19 13:38 15:21 * *
20 13:38 15:20 * *
21 13:38 15:19 * *
22 13:38 15:17 * *
23 13:38 15:16 * *
24 13:37 15:15 * *
25 13:37 15:13 * *
26 13:37 15:12 * *
27 13:37 15:11 * *
28 13:37 15:09 * *
29 13:37 15:08 * *
30 13:37 15:07 * *
Sundial: The sundial is any straight vertical object which makes 90 degrees angle with the ground, e.g. Street's Lamp Posts.
G.N.Time: The time when the Sundial marks Geographical North. It is also know as noon time.
S.D. Shadow: The time when the Sundial Shadow points to Qiblah.
Opposite S.D. Shadow: The time when the Opposite of the Sundial Shadow points to Qiblah.
SD Shadow 90 degree: The time when the Sundial Shadow makes a 90 degree angle with the Qiblah.
*: The Sundial or the opposite does not point to Qiblah on that date.

The Compass Method:
Most people use compass to determine the Qiblah direction; however, the compass has two major problems:
a) The compass can be influenced by metallic objects in the vicinity (e.g. furniture); therefore a compass placed in different places in the same area can give different directions.
b) The compass points to magnetic north. The magnetic north varies from city to city and varies with time as well, and therefore magnetic north can not be used to fix Qiblah directions for mosques.
The computation of Qiblah is done by using the Geographical North. Then the values converted with respect to the magnetic north enable the use of the compass. These tables are available in small booklets with compasses for Qiblah direction.



Contact us at:

Dalton Islamic Center

843 McAfee Street

Dalton, GA 30722, USA

 Phone: 706-226-9841









The Grand Mosque in Makkah during Haj and the holy month of Ramadan (Arab News, 11/6/02)
The Prophet's Mosque in Madinah, which is visited by Haj and Umrah pilgrims out of love and respect for Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). (AN Archives, 2/4/03).
A view of Alquds (Jerusalem) with Al-Aqsa Mosque in front, prominent is the golden Dome of the Rock. Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest Islamic shrine, after the Makkah and Medina shrines. It includes all the area between the walls, both buildings and courts, all are sacred and Islamic waqf.

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