You are at a gathering in an unfamiliar area when suddenly, out of all the people assembled, you get the burden of determining the direction of the Qiblah for ṣalāh. That's right. The burden of making sure everyone's ṣalāh is offered in the proper direction is in your hands. Should it be incorrect, wrong corner, opposite way – then you get the wrath and blame of everyone else.
Most of us though, are prepared for such an occurrence, keeping a compass with us at all times. This should, theoretically, quell any and all disputes about qiblah direction. Simply put it down, let the compass do its thing, find North, and then face NorthEast (assuming you are in North America).
Unfortunately, not all compasses are built the same – and not all compasses carry the same level of mobility and versatility. Only certain types are viable for keychain/pocket use, while a whole different genre of compasses can be used for carrying in a backpack or purse. My personal preference has always been to keep a compass on my keychain, so that I am always prepared.
Over the past few months though, I found myself flying through a number of different compasses trying to find the right one. So I'll share here some short reviews of different ones I have used and their varying results.
Eddie Bauer Zip Pull compass – about $10 at Target. The Prophet (sal-Allahu 'alayhi was-Sallam) said that the believer does not get bitten from the same hole twice. In other words, don't make the same mistake twice. Well, I made the same mistake 3 times with this compass, because it was the most convenient one I could find. It has a flashlight, thermometer, and compass all built into one. This reduced the bulk on my keychain by combining two gadgets into one (compass+flashlight). The problem with this is that it is not really suited to sustain the rigors of a keychain attachment. After a few weeks or a couple of months, the compass or thermometer piece would simply fall out. It took me til the 3rd time to realize that I didn't just get a defective one, it just can't sustain. Eddie Bauer also makes another keychain compass that has a whistle, but I found this to be too bulky for pocket use.
Carabiner Compass – about $5 bucks at most retail stores. I tried a couple of different types these and stopped quickly. On one of them, the compass piece broke, and on the other – i just got tired of using the carabiner. I just find them to be too big and useless. If you're in the habit of using one of these anyway, this might be a good and cheap solution.
Metallic/Nautical Compass – about $5-10 online.
I bought one of these on eBay, thinking it was about the size of a quarter. Whoever gave that measurement must have had some GIGANTIC quarters. This thing looks small, but when I got it, it was HUGE. Even if the diameter is workable, the thickness of the compass is not something you can readily see online, nor its weight (it is really heavy). I didn't even bother trying to use this one.
Keychain Compass Ball – about $2.
I thought I finally found the solution to the bulk/size issues I had been having with the other compasses. It also wasn't a combo tool, so there was less chance of it breaking off. Or so I thought – until I decided to toss my keys to someone from upstairs, and they dropped them. The keys hit the floor and the compass went flying, the plastic part holding the metal ring breaking off. It was not much of a loss though, as this compass was extremely unreliable anyway, picking up very heavy magnetism from my keys. In fact, I remember a few times holding it in my hand and walking in a circle while the compass remained stationary.
After much anguish and experimentation, I finally found the solution. Actually, I found two solutions. I got tipped off to this nifty new gadget. A GPS powered precision laser compass. WOW. You just put this down, it works its magic, and shoots out a laser light pointing towards the direction of the Qiblah.
This compass has only two shortcomings:
1) It costs 99 pounds ($163 in American)
2) Despite the hefty price tag, it is currently out of stock.
My frustration level with compasses had reached such a level, that I was ready to plop down the money for this compass. Well that, and it is just seriously one suave device. The coolness factor of having this is definitely off the charts.
As this did not work out, I did find a better solution – though admittedly it is not a viable option for everyone. Watch this video, and then I'll add some details:
Really, there isn't much else left to be said. If you can get this solution, it's really the best (and most accurate). The best part about this is that you can actually see very easily how many degrees off you are from North. So if your city's Qiblah direction is 46 degrees NorthEast, then this compass makes it a breeze to find it.
How do you find out how many degrees you need to be set at? Well, there's an app for that. (Sorry, I couldn't resist).
The iPray app (free) lets you input your location, and it will actually tell you the exact degree setting for the Qiblah from your locality.
This is by far my favorite solution, but there is a much more economical one as well. That is the good old qiblah compass most of us have been seeing since we were little:
This is the old reliable. The only downside of it is that it is not something you can necessarily carry in your pocket on a regular basis, but it is something that can easily be kept in the car or in a bookbag or something.
So that's my compass experience, what's yours?