from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The qibla wall in the main mosque of Kairouan . Postcard around 1900.

The qibla ( Arabic قبلة, DMG qibla  'direction of prayer') is the direction of prayer prescribed by the Koran for Muslims to the Kaaba in Mecca , the highest shrine in Islam , wherever the believer may be on earth. The determination of this direction led early on to significant improvements in astronomy and celestial mechanics by the Arabs .

In contrast to Orthodox Muslims ( Sunnis and Shiites ), the Alevis do not pray in the direction of the Qibla , since they do not know any compulsory prayer .


A simply designed qibla wall in al-Qurna , Egypt

At the beginning of Islam, according to the Jewish (and ancient Christian) tradition with which Mohammed was familiar in this regard, Muslims prayed towards al-Quds (Jerusalem) . The traditions in the biography of the prophet do not give any clear information about the direction of prayer of the prophet before his emigration to Medina. According to some reports, he and his followers prayed towards Jerusalem; other traditions act as mediators and say that Mohammed prayed in the direction of Jerusalem, but also took the Kaaba in that direction into account. After the hijra , the emigration of Muhammad and his companions ( sahaba ) from Mecca to Medina , the Islamic community continued to pray towards Jerusalem. It was not until the second year after the hijra , probably 16-17 months after emigrating from Mecca - traditionally February 11, 624 is given as the date - that Mohammed changed the direction of prayer to the Kaaba in Mecca, a historical decision that can also be read in the Koran is.

“We see that you are not sure where in heaven you should turn your face (during prayer). That is why we want to point you (now) in a direction of prayer that you will gladly agree to: Turn your face towards the holy place of worship (in Mecca)! "

- Quran : Sura 2, verse 144

“The reason for the change in the direction of prayer in Jerusalem lies in the new position on the older revelation religions, which Muhammad gradually gained in Medina. While he used to feel closely related to the Jews and Christians, the ineffectiveness of his propaganda among them caused him to look for another connection, and he finally found it in the 'religion of Ibrahim', which a revelation intertwines with the Ka'ba ... In this way the pagan place of worship became a sanctuary of Islam and as such a place for the direction of prayer, just as Jerusalem was for the Jews. "

In sura 3 verses 96-97 the foundation of the Meccan - originally pagan - sanctuary is moved back to the very earliest times of mankind, it is also "the holy place of Ibrahim" (see also sura 2, verse 125). By changing the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca, the pilgrimage to Mecca , which was originally also pagan, has its final Islamic character: "And people are obliged to God to make the pilgrimage to their house - as far as they can find a way" ( Sura 3, verse 97).

The " mosque of the two directions of prayer " (مسجد القبلتين). It marks the place where Mohammed is said to have changed the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca.

The reorientation from Jerusalem to Mecca by God's command: “Turn your face in the direction of the holy place of worship (in Mecca)!” Already required a “historical” justification in the time of Muhammad. This happened through the representation of the so-called "Abraham legend" from an Islamic point of view. Muhammad's claim to Mecca, in the direction of which he and his congregation in Medina prayed from December 623 / January 624, is based on the Koran itself: it is Abraham / Ibrahim - with his son Ishmael - who was commissioned by God to deal with the impurity of the Meccan sanctuary so that the monotheistic rites of Islam could be performed there. The change in the Qibla and the direction of prayer that is still valid today confirm, according to the Islamic view, that the statements about Abraham / Ibrahim and his relationship to the Meccan sanctuary are not a legend, but historical facts.

With this, Mohammed emphasized his unrestricted claim to the pre-Islamic Kaaba sanctuary, the builder of which, according to Islamic teachings, was Abraham (Ibrahim), and understood Islam as the continuation and completion of Abraham's monotheism . The mosque near Medina, in Qubāʾ , where the direction of prayer was changed, was called the " mosque of the two directions of prayer "مسجد القبلتين masjid al-qiblatain . The biographies of the Prophet's Companions mention the first followers of Muhammad from Mecca and Medina as a group "who prayed in both directions" to highlight their early conversion to Islam.

The Sunni Orthodoxy describes itself as "the people of the Qibla and the unity of the Muslims". The term "ahl al-qibla" is synonymous with "ahl al-islam", for the Muslims ahl al-qibla wal-dschama'a  /أهل القبلة والجماعة / ahlu ʾl-qibla wa-ʾl-ǧamāʿa


World map in equidistant azimuthal projection , centered on the Kaaba in Mecca. So the qibla can be read easily.

A hadith narrated by ʿAbdallāh ibn ʿAbbās says that "the house", i.e. the Kaaba, is the qibla for the people who stay in the holy mosque , the holy mosque is the qibla for the people who are stay in the haram of Mecca, and the haram of Mecca is the qibla for the rest of the earth's inhabitants in the east and west from the Islamic ummah .

The methods of determining the qibla were relatively simple in the early centuries of Islam. In a treatise on popular astronomy by al-Hasan ibn ʿAlī al-Umawī (late 12th century) it is explained that in al-Andalus, to determine the qibla , one stands in such a way that the celestial pole is behind the left shoulder and then have to look south. This also explains why the Great Mosque of Cordoba with its qibla wall faces due south.

According to traditional teaching, in the two moments of each year when the sun is at its zenith over the Kaaba , every shadow on the earth points exactly in the opposite direction of the qibla; so it can be determined exactly twice a year even without instruments, just with the help of a calendar and a clock. Mathematically, this formula boils down to determining the qibla along a great circle , i.e. according to the shortest linear distance; In contrast to the shadows, this great circle also exists on the night side of the earth and can serve to determine the Qibla there. In North America there are Muslims who prefer to use the same course , because there the great circle method provides a more north-easterly direction, in Alaska even an almost exactly north, while the same course results in the intuitively more correct southeast direction. Most Muslims in America also use the more traditional great circle method.

In countries with a predominance of Islam (e.g. in hotels) the Qibla arrow in green can be found on the ceiling .

Other uses

The Qibla also has a meaning in other areas of life for Muslims, because in addition to prayer, intercession ( Duʿāʾ ) in the direction of Mecca is spoken . The slaughter of animals, not just sacrificial animals, also takes place with the head of the animal in the direction of Mecca. Muslim graves are oriented so that the deceased is lying on their right side with their face towards the qibla . In mosques , the direction of prayer is indicated by the mihrab .

See also


  • AJ Wensinck: Mohammed en de Joden te Medina . Leiden 1908. p. 108ff; P. 133ff.
  • AJ Wensinck and DA King: Art. Ḳibla. In: The Encyclopaedia of Islam . New Edition, Brill, Leiden. 5: 82-88 (1986).
  • AJ Wensinck and JH Kramers: Concise Dictionary of Islam. Brill, Leiden 1941. pp. 324-325.

Web links

Commons : Qibla  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. David A. King : World Maps for Finding the Direction and Distance of Mecca: Examples of Innovation and Tradition in Islamic Science. Brill, Leiden and London 1999.
  2. ^ Uri Rubin: Between Arabia and the Holy Land: a Mecca-Jerusalem Axis of Sanctity. In: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam (JSAI). 34 (2008), pp. 350-351; 354
  3. ^ Theodor Nöldeke: History of the Qorāns. Second edition. Edited by Friedrich Schwally. Leipzig 1909. Vol. 1, pp. 174f.
  4. ^ WM Watt: Muhammad at Medina. Oxford 1956. pp. 202f.
  5. Nöldeke: History of the Qorāns. Leipzig 1909. Vol. 1, p. 175 (note k).
  6. Edmund Beck: The figure of Abraham at the turning point in the development of Muhammad . In: Rudi Paret (ed.): The Koran. Scientific book society. Darmstadt 1975. p. 115.
  7. ^ WM Watt: Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman. Oxford 1961. pp. 112f.
  8. Rudi Paret: Mohammed and the Koran. 8th edition. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2001. pp. 119-122.
  9. Michael Lecker: Muslims, Jews & Pagans. Studies on Early Islamic Medina. Brill, suffering. 1995. pp. 142f. and 143, note 234
  10. ^ Concise dictionary of Islam. P. 325.
  11. al-Baihaqī : Kitāb as-Sunan al-kubrā . Ed. Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Qādir ʿAṭā. Dār al-Kutub al-ʿilmīya, Beirut, 2003. Vol. II, p. 16. Digitized
  12. See David A. King: Islamic Astronomical Instruments. London 1987. XV 370.