Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Safar\Rabi-Ul-Awwal 1424 H
May 2003
Volume 16-05 No : 197
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Islam and Astronomy


Determination of the Exact Qibla Direction

Determination of the Exact Qibla Direction

By Dr Syed Abdul Zahir

The performance of any Salat all over the world facing Makkah i.e. the Qibla is Fard or obligatory as per the Qu’ran-e-Kareem chapter –7, verse 29. Majority of our people are ignorant about it and have taken it for granted that the west is our Qibla in the sub-continent. For example if one faces the west in Bangalore, the direction will be towards Yemen, Ethiopia and Sudan. Bangalore is situated at a latitude of about 13 degree North, while Makkah is at 21.5 North. That means Makkah is about 8.5 degree North of Bangalore. The west is the right Qibla for the places in central India for example Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Nagpur etc, which are situated on or close to the latitude of Makkah in 21.5 degree North. The people in South India have to face a little North from its west, while the people in the North have to face a little South from their latitude. It will be a sin if we do not attempt to determine the exact Qibla (very close) of our place. But Allah is all forgiving. The opportunity to determine the right Qibla at any place in the sub-continent befalls in the very near future within a radius of about 3000 miles or 5000 kms from Makkah. Please note down in your diaries the two important dates and the time. 1. May 28th each year at 2.48 pm I.S.T, and 2. July 16th each year at 2.57 pm I.S.T.

The date and timing in Pakistan and Bangladesh are:
In Pakistan May 28th each year at 2.18 pm and July 16th 2.27 pm In Bangladesh May 28th each year at 3.18pm and July 3.27 pm. Note: Probably the Pakistan standard time has been changed. On these two days and the time the sun in situated exactly on the top of Makkah i.e it is exactly midday or the Zawal time over there. You may be aware that the Makkah time is exactly 2 ½ hours behind the Indian Standard time. The Experiment: Exactly on the day and the time, mark the line of the shadow on the floor of any vertical object like a pillar, a tree, a plumb or a stone tied to a 2 feet long string to be suspended, vertical rods of the windows in the western wall of a house etc. The line of the shadow itself towards the west represents the exact direction of the Qibla at that very place. This experiment is as per the Shariah Qu’ran chapter 55, verse 5 and Science, as such it is most reliable. All its parallel lines on any side too, show the Qibla direction. You will know as to how much deviation you have to make from the west or its latitude to determine the exact Qibla at any given place. For Bangalore, it is about 19 degrees North. This experiment can be carried out in sunlight at any place on the mountains, a sailing ship or plane, jungle, in the shops or offices. This experiment may be carried out one or two days earlier or later and similarly one or two minutes earlier or later and the margin of error will be negligible. The dates and timings are perpetual on good for the life time. The Qibla direction may be re-confirmed on July 16th . Please note that the spot when the sunset occurs is not the exact west as many have imagined. This is true only one week before and one week after March 21 and September 23 i.e the Equinoxes. When the sun sets exactly at the level of the equator on the west. The sun sets nearly 23 ½ North of the equator on June 21st and 23 1/2 degree South of the equator on December 25th- the solistices i.e the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn respectively. Please inform about the simple experiment to your friends and especially to the teachers in the madrasa and other Muslim institutions so that this simple method of determining the right Qibla can be demonstrated to the students as a practical class. As regards the determination of the Qibla direction for the places situated beyond a radius of about 3000 miles from Makkah, the Scientific method used is to find out the shortest distance between Makkah and any city say X by drawing what is known as a Great Circle, rather a plane that passes through Makkah, the point X and the center of the Earth – this circular plane infact exactly bisects the globe of the Earth into two equal holes. The direction of the arc of the great circle between Makkah and the point X shows the correct Qibla direction of the place X. The formula to determine the exact Qibla direction Geometrically is:-
Formula:- cot A = (Cos c x Tan a) – (sin c x Cos (d-b) Sin (d-b)
Where: a= Latitude of Makkah i.e 21, 25, 16 degree b=Longitude of Makkah i.e 39,49,29 degree, c=Latitude of the place X, d=Longitude of the place X For more clarifications you may consult specialists in Astrophysics, Mathematics, Geography or myself. Accordingly, the correct Qibla direction for all our North-Eastern States is not exactly West, but turn about 12 to 15 degrees North from the West. Written and calculated by Dr. Syed Abdul Zahir, M.S, Member, International Islamic Calendar Programme, Malaysia.
Islamic Astronomer, Tel: 6647960, Address: No, 171, 6th Main Jayanagar 4th Block, Bangalore-560011.

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