Horror - Your Qibla Compass Isn’t Always Accurate In A Building 😱
Did you know that compasses (physical ones, as well as the ones on your phone), can point in different directions in the SAME room? I experienced this many times before while whipping out my Qibla compass app on my phone to find out the direction to pray, and to my horror, it read a different direction than what it was the day before. Worse, when I took a friend’s phone to verify, both phones sometimes pointed in different directions at the same spot!!! Faulty compass? Or could it be jinn? Or… just something else?
I had a mind-blowing conversation with a fellow Muslim revert, Brother Saleh, who is a land surveyor by profession. As a land surveyor, he is required to be well versed in the field of mathematics to provide accurate maps for various purposes such as construction. After he reverted to Islam, Brother Saleh took it upon himself to learn about how the direction to Qibla is calculated using mathematical formulas. (This is an act that is Fard Kifayah, meaning that it is obligatory for the Muslim community to have this knowledge as a whole, and if enough members in the Muslim community fulfil the obligation, the remaining Muslims are freed from the responsibility before Allah SWT).
In my conversation with Brother Saleh, I found that the main reason for the differences in compass direction in a room was usually because the room was made from reinforced concrete. The steel bars between the walls cause magnetic interference with the compass, resulting in variational inaccuracy. If we all lived in wooden houses there’d be no problems, he said. But don’t most of us live in concrete buildings? How’d we be able to verify the direction then?
Now, Brother Saleh gave another startling bit of information:
Once a year at noon Mecca time, every shadow on the earth points toward the Qibla.
How, how amazing is that?! It is as if even our shadows are lining up to pray Salah! 😍 MashaAllah. And you can very easily verify your Qibla Direction with this knowledge even during an overcast, cloudy day. Just take a thin object (like a chopstick, or straw), place it on a flat white surface, and ta-da! The faint shadow of the thin object is your Qibla direction. The position of Mecca was determined by Divine Reason.
(Ps. The time and date are different in different parts of the world, but it stays the same. For Asia, Europe, and Africa, it is usually on 27-28 May and 15-16 July; for North/South America, Australia and Antarctica, it is usually on 12-13 January and 28 November).
Well, what if you are not anywhere near these periods and desperately need to find your accurate Qibla? This solution that I will talk about next will do the job!
Using Mathematics To Locate Your Qibla Direction
Of course, since the Earth is a globe, one simply cannot draw a straight line from their location to Mecca and state that it’s the direction to face. Spherical trigonometry is used, where a ‘curved’ triangle determines the angles. This method of calculation was discovered by the greatest Muslim minds in the 8th century and is still being used in the computational methods we see today.
Relax. I’m not asking you to whip out your calculators every time you need to calculate your Qibla accurately 😅… You can see this calculation in action in a few Muslim apps which show the direction of Qibla in map form- the line is not a straight line, but a curved one!
Your only job is to look for an app with this feature (we’ve got 👉 Masjidhub to do the heavy work!)
Now that you know all of this, you can understand and know when and where to use the tools you have in different situations- how your app Qibla compass would work fine outdoors or in a wooden house, but use the app’s Qibla map feature for within buildings or for confirming on the accuracy.
InshaAllah, we may always use this example to reflect on Allah’s Wisdom and how Allah has blessed so many individuals with great knowledge. Truly, this inspires us to learn more and more.