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How to Read the Sky to Find the Qibla

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وَعَلامَاتٍ وَبِٱلنَّجْمِ هُمْ يَهْتَدُونَ

“And landmarks. And by the stars they are [also] guided.” [16:16]

You’re on a road trip and it’s time to pray Maghrib and ‘Isha. You pull into a rest area and make wudu. How do you know which direction to face?

Most of us would probably pull out a smartphone and use our qibla app. But there’s a much cooler way of finding the Qibla.

Before we had smartphones, Muslim sailors and merchants developed the art of reading the stars for navigation. If you’ve never looked up at the sky, you might not have realized that stars don’t stay in the same place. As the earth rotates, stars appear to be in different positions.

Except one.

Muslim sailors called it al-Qiblah and it is found in the constellation they named al-Rakabah. We know it as the North Star, found in the Little Dipper.

Once you do this a few times, it becomes really easy to spot the north star and know the qiblah. You’ll find it even faster than the time it takes to open up the app on your smartphone. Plus you’ll get major coolness points for doing this in front of other people.

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Step 1- Locate Banat Naash al-Kubra (The Big Dipper)

The easiest way to find the north star is by first finding the Big Dipper. This is one of the easiest constellations to find. Look for a large spoon shaped constellation. Three stars in the handle, four stars in the head.

See it?

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Now?

Step 2-Trace a line to al-Qiblah (the north star)

Imagine a line that connects the front two stars of the Big Dipper. If you follow that line, about five times the distance will be the north star. It’s the first bright star you’ll run into that’s close to this vector.

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Step 3-Trust but verify

You don’t want to accidentally be praying in the wrong direction so make sure that you’re actually at the north star. The north star is part of the constellation the Muslims called al-Rakabah, or, as we commonly know it, the Little Dipper. The north star is the last star in the handle. The Little Dipper floats above the Big Dipper, as if it is pouring water into the Big Dipper.

Try it out:

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Once you know where north is, finding the Qibla is pretty easy. If you’re in America, it’s North East, so face the north star and it’s half a turn to your right (i.e., clockwise).

Unfortunately, this only works in the northern hemisphere. If you’re in Australia, stay tuned for how to find the Qibla in the southern hemisphere!

 

“Hailing from the Midwest, YetAnotherParaclete is a 4th year medical student preparing for a career in psychiatry. He completed his undergraduate studies with a triple major in Biology, History, and Psychology. YetAnotherParaclete hosts a blog aimed at cultivating holistic Muslim men at http://www.idealmuslimman.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Yousuf

    October 12, 2016 at 9:18 PM

    Great article! Thanks for the info. One thing I’d add is, the little dipper might not necessarily be “above” the big dipper, since the stars are rotating around the North Star then their positions would be rotated as well.

  2. Avatar

    Aisha

    October 12, 2016 at 9:41 PM

    This is great! Never had much luck understanding constellations, but this helped a lot. Will definitely try when I’m travelling inshAllah. JAK!

  3. Avatar

    Engineer MK

    October 13, 2016 at 3:41 AM

    Its better u try locating d Qibla before travelling…. So that u can be sure u understand the process by compairing your result and the Known Qibla in your present location.
    May Allah help Us.

  4. Avatar

    ihafidh

    October 13, 2016 at 9:59 AM

    Awesome!!! Nice illustrations to make it easy to spot the north star.

  5. Avatar

    .....

    October 13, 2016 at 1:49 PM

    An astraunaut once said he couldnt find Allah in the heavens!

    Knock knock….please let me in.

    Whether amongst the last in or out….ya Allah and please forgive me…..why are you also laughing….

    So much to do before then….

    Excuse got to go and do the tidying up and hoovering….if can do that is….

    my light has gone……As to the remaining stars…..keep on….

    Peace

  6. Avatar

    Brittney Slavonjack

    October 13, 2016 at 2:32 PM

    this is good, hopefully I can see through the smog tonight.

  7. Avatar

    Sharaph

    October 13, 2016 at 3:32 PM

    What about those in Europe?

    • Avatar

      YetAnotherParaclete

      October 13, 2016 at 8:23 PM

      Sharaph,

      It works in Europe as well. Actually, all of the northern hemisphere. It’s when you’re in Australia that you have to use a different method.

      YetAnotherParaclete

      • Avatar

        Tara

        November 21, 2016 at 6:25 PM

        The North Star is always due north. But If you’re in Europe, you’ll find that then turn to the southeast to pray. Ie: turn to the right until the North Star is just behind your left shoulder.

  8. Avatar

    Ali

    October 14, 2016 at 11:04 PM

    Assalamu alaikum,
    This is good to know, I liked the article. But I wanted to let others know that the prerequisite the article assumes is that you know the direction of the Qibla in terms of degrees from the North.

    In other words, if you know how to find a Qibla with a Non-Qibla Compass (i.e., a NORMAL compass) since you would know the bearing of the Qibla, then inshaAllah you can find the Qibla using the technique described in this article.

    Another way to find the Qibla is to wait for the Sun to be directly above the Kaaba. The idea is, that if a building were to be erected in place of the Kaaba, and if the building would be so tall that it would reach the Sun, would you not face the building since you know that is the Kaaba? This technique does not require one to know the Qibla in terms of a compass bearing, but it does require you to know what time of the year the Sun is directly above the Kaaba AND that you can see the Sun during that time from your part of the world too.

    And Allah knows best.

  9. Avatar

    lying....and damned

    October 19, 2016 at 3:14 PM

    Orion meter shower tonight apparently….

    Either way…30 green bottles ..standing on a wall….
    (Sorry for bulb-use candles)
    It seems…and Allah knows best….welcome..to the confusion…

    Hold tight…Allah’s rope always present…..

    Peace

  10. Avatar

    sabzz

    October 22, 2016 at 12:32 AM

    If you are in Australia finding the qibla in sydney and on the east coast is easy during the day it is five degrees east of the sun set so when you see the sun going down face it and turn your body five degrees you’ll find it.

    • Avatar

      Gotta Pray

      October 27, 2016 at 12:51 AM

      Salaam alailom,

      Excuse my ignorance, what and how do you measure degrees?

      Either way, jazak Allah khairan, took a faliq as to prayers..etc.

      Barak Allah feekom.

  11. Avatar

    qw

    October 23, 2016 at 4:54 AM

    thank you very much! Jazakallahu khair.

  12. Avatar

    muslimguy

    October 28, 2016 at 8:02 PM

    Sadly us city dwellers never see starry skies anymore. :( Good tip tho.

  13. Avatar

    AbuMisbah

    October 30, 2016 at 5:09 PM

    JazakAllah Khair. How to find the qibla during day time?

  14. Avatar

    Zia-e-Taiba

    October 31, 2016 at 6:17 AM

    Great Article! everybody can also find the Prayer Times & Qibla DirectionPrayer Timing & Qibla Direction

  15. Avatar

    Moin

    November 20, 2016 at 10:11 PM

    Good knowledge sharing article. Really appreciate

  16. Avatar

    Intrigued

    December 1, 2016 at 4:25 AM

    Very nice article… my family and I have recently moved to the countryside… and there are no city lights in our backyard…the stars are just visible and its so grand.. SubhanAllah…
    so..if all the constellations are always moving does the north star still always stay above the big dipper?

    I will take note… jzk k

  17. Avatar

    Fatima

    December 2, 2016 at 3:22 AM

    To find Qibla the best way I found recently was to use this amazing application using your phone.

    Please refer to the website

    http://www.Ibadatapp.com

    Download this app which has many more features such as Quran with translation to English, Malay, Indonesian, Russian, Urdu etc.

  18. Avatar

    Ati

    December 7, 2016 at 7:20 PM

    Subhanallah! Simply amazing. Islamic astronomy would be an interesting subject to learn more about. Jazakallah very useful. I sometimes have doubts with my smartphone apps so this way I’ll know I am using a time tested and more accurate method in sha Allah.

    I’m waiting for the Australia one! Post soon please :)

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#Islam

14 Short Life Lessons From Studying Aqidah

Lessons I learned Studying Theology (Aqidah) with a Local Islamic Scholar in Jordan

Hamzah Raza

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I sit here in the Jordanian heat, with a kufi on and prayer beads in my hand. I watch as young kids play soccer with their kufis and kurtas on in the streets. They go on and on until the Adhan interrupts their game. I think of how different the kids back home in the United States are. Due to the rules for living in this quaint Jordanian neighborhood, the kids are not allowed to play video games, use social media, or watch television. This is the Kharabsheh neighborhood on the outskirts of Amman, Jordan.

I have spent the past two months living in this community. It is a community so similar to, yet so different from any community I have ever lived in. In many ways, it is just like any other community. People joke around with one another, invite people over for dinner, have jobs, go to the gym, and do other pervasive events of everyday life. But in many other respects, the community is different from most in the world today. Many of those living here are disciples (mureeds) in the Shadhili Sufi order. Sufism has faced a bad reputation in many parts of the world today. The stereotype is that Sufis are either not firm in their commitment to religious law (Sharia), or lax in their understanding of Islamic theology (aqidah). Far from the stereotype, I have never met any people in my life more committed to the Sharia. Nor have I ever met people so committed to staying true to Islamic orthodoxy. Just in seemingly mundanes conversations here in Kharabsheh, I find myself learning a plethora of life lessons, whether that be in regard to Islamic jurisprudence, the ontology of God, or the process of purifying one’s heart.

I have compiled a list of a few lessons I learned in studying an elementary aqidah (theology) text with a disciple of Shaykh Nuh, who is a scholar of theology and jurisprudence in himself. Without further adieu, here are some of the lessons I learned.

1) If you want to know the character of a man, ask his wife. People may think someone is great, but his wife will tell you how he actually is. One of the greatest proofs of the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is that he had 11 wives over his lifespan and they all died upon Imaan (faith).

2) Humans are never static. We are always incrementally changing. No one changes in anything overnight. People are either gradually getting better, or gradually getting worse. Every day, you should sure that you are always improving. Do not get worse. If you only pray your Fard(mandatory) prayers, start to pray Sunnah(recommended prayers). If you are already praying your Sunnah prayers, improve the quality of your prayer or pray nafl (optional prayers).

3) Hope in the Mercy of God, and fear of His Justice, are two wings that we need to balance. If one has too much hope, they will become complacent and think they can refuse to follow God’s rules, and do whatever they want, because God is Merciful. If one has too much fear, they will give up. They will inevitably sin (as all humans do), and lose all motivation to better themselves.

4) The believer has great hope in the Mercy of God, while also great fear in His Justice. It is an understanding of “If everyone were to enter Heaven except for one person, I would think that person is me. And if everyone were to enter Hell except for one person, I would think that person is me.”

5) Whether we do something good or bad, we turn to God. If we do something good, we thank God (i.e. say Alhamdulillah). If we do something wrong, we turn back to God(i.e. say Astagfirullah and/or make tawbah).

6) Everyone should have a healthy skepticism of their sincerity. Aisha (May God be pleased with her) said: “Only a hypocrite does not believe that they are a hypocrite.”

7) You are fighting a constant war of attrition with your carnal desires. Your soul (ruh) and lower self (nafs) battle it out until one party stops fighting. Either your soul gives up and lets your carnal desires overtake you, or your carnal desires cease to exist (i.e. when your physical body dies). Wage war on your carnal desires for as long as you live.

life lessons, aqidah

8) The sign of guidance is being self-aware, constantly reflecting and taking oneself to task. The evidence of this is repenting, and thinking well of others. If we find ourselves making excuses for our actions, refusing to repent for sins, or thinking badly of others, we need to change that.

9) The issue with religious people is that they are often tribalistic and exclusivist. The issue with secular people is that they often have no clear meaning in life, and are ignorant of what lies beyond our inevitable death. One should be able to cultivate this meaning without being tribalistic or arrogant towards others, who have not yet been given guidance.

10) There are philosophical questions regarding free will and determinism. But it is ultimately something that is best understood spiritually. An easy first step is to understand the actions of others as predetermined while understanding your response as acts of free will. This prevents one from getting too angry at what others do to them.

11) Always think the best of the beliefs of other Muslims. Do not be in a rush to condemn people as heretics or kuffar. Make excuses for people, and appreciate the wisdom and experiences behind those who may be seemingly strange in their understanding of things.

12) Oftentimes, people get obsessed with the problems of society and ignore the need to change themselves. We are not political quietists. But we recognize that if you want to turn society around, the first step is to turn yourself around.

13) Do not slam other individuals’ religious beliefs. It leads to arrogance and just makes them more defensive. If you are discussing theology with non-Muslims, be kind to them, even if pointing out flaws in their beliefs. People are more attracted to Islam through people of exemplary character than they are through charismatic debaters or academics that can tear them apart. As my teacher put it rather bluntly, “Don’t slam Christians on the Trinity. No one can actually explain it anyways.”

14) In the early period of Islam, worshipping God with perfection was the default. Then people strayed away and there was a need to coin this term called “Sufism.” All it means is to have Ihsan (perfection or beauty) in the way you worship God, and in the way you conduct each and every part of your life.

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Ten Things You Didn’t Know About The Kaaba- Video

Dr Muhammad Wajid Akhter

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Kaaba

Every Muslim knows the Kaaba, but did you know the Kaaba has been reconstructed several times? The Kaaba that we see today is not exactly the same structure that was constructed by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon them. From time to time, it has needed rebuilding after natural and man-made disasters.

Watch to learn ten things that most people may not know about the Ka’aba, based on the full article Ten Things You Didn’t Know About the Ka’aba.

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Eid Lameness Syndrome: Diagnosis, Treatment, Cure

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How many of you have gone to work on Eid because you felt there was no point in taking off? No Eid fun. Have you ever found Eid boring, no different from any other day?

If so, you may suffer from ELS (Eid Lameness Syndrome). Growing up, I did too.

My family would wake up, go to salah, go out to breakfast, come home, take a 4+ hour nap and then go out to dinner. I didn’t have friends to celebrate with and even if I did, I wouldn’t see them because we stuck to our own immediate family just as they did.

On the occasion that we went to a park or convention center, we would sort of have fun. Being with other people was certainly better than breakfast-nap-dinner in isolation, but calling that a memorable, satisfying, or genuinely fun Eid would be a stretch.

I don’t blame my parents for the ELS though. They came from a country where Eid celebration was the norm; everyone was celebrating with everyone and you didn’t have to exert any effort. When they moved to the US, where Muslims were a minority, it was uncharted territory. They did the best they could with the limited resources they had.

When I grew up, I did about the same too. When I hear friends or acquaintances tell me that they’re working, doing laundry or whatever other mundane things on Eid, I understand.  Eid has been lame for so long that some people have given up trying to see it any other way. Why take personal time off to sit at home and do nothing?

I stuck to whatever my parents did for Eid because “Eid was a time for family.” In doing so, I was honoring their cultural ideas of honoring family, but not Eid. It wasn’t until I moved away that I decided to rebel and spend Eid with convert friends (versus family) who didn’t have Muslim families to celebrate with on Eid, rather than drive for hours to get home for another lame salah-breakfast-nap-dinner.

That was a game-changing Eid for me. It was the first non-lame Eid I ever had, not because we did anything extraordinary or amazing, but because we made the day special by doing things that we wouldn’t normally do on a weekday together. It was then that I made a determination to never have a lame Eid ever again InshaAllah.

I’m not the only one fighting ELS. Mosques and organizations are creating events for people to attend and enjoy together, and families are opting to spend Eid with other families. There is still much more than can be done, as converts, students, single people, couples without children and couples with very small children, are hard-hit by the isolation and sadness that ELS brings. Here are a few suggestions for helping treat ELS in your community:

Host an open house

Opening up your home to a large group of people is a monumental task that takes a lot of planning and strength. But it comes with a lot of baraka and reward. Imagine the smiling faces of people who would have had nowhere to go on Eid, but suddenly find themselves in your home being hosted. If you have a big home, hosting an open house is an opportunity to express your gratitude to Allah for blessing you with it.

Expand your circle

Eid is about commUNITY. Many people spend Eid alone when potential hosts stick to their own race/class/social status. Invite and welcome others to spend Eid with you in whatever capacity you can.

Delegate

You can enlist the help of close friends and family to help so it’s not all on you. Delegate food, setup, and clean-up across your family and social network so that no one person will be burdened by the effort InshaAllah.

Squeeze in

Don’t worry if you don’t have a big house, you’ll find out how much barakah your home has by how many people are able to fit in it. I’ve been to iftars in teeny tiny apartments where there’s little space but lots of love. If you manage to squeeze in even two or three extra guests, you’ve saved two or three people from ELS for that year.

Outsource Eid Fun

If you have the financial means or know enough friends who can pool together, rent a house. Some housing share sites have homes that can be rented specifically for events, giving you the space to consolidate many, smaller efforts into one larger, more streamlined party.

Flock together

It can be a challenge to find Eid buddies to spend the day with. Try looking for people in similar circumstances as you. I’m a single woman and have hosted a ladies game night for the last few Eids where both married and single women attend.  If you are a couple with young kids, find a few families with children of similar age groups. If you’re a student, start collecting classmates. Don’t wait for other people to invite you, make a list in advance and get working to fend off ELS together.

Give gifts

The Prophet ﷺ said: تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا‏ “Give gifts to increase love for each other”. One of my siblings started a tradition of getting a gift for each person in the family. If that’s too much, pick one friend or family member and give them a gift. If you can’t afford gifts, give something that doesn’t require much money like a card or just your time. You never know how much a card with kind, caring words can brighten a person’s Eid.

Get out of your comfort zone

If you have ELS, chances are there is someone else out there who has it too. The only way to find out if someone is sad and alone on Eid is by admitting that we are first, and asking if they are too.

Try, try, try again…

Maybe you’ve taken off work only to find that going would have been less of a waste of time. Maybe you tried giving gifts and it didn’t go well. Maybe you threw an open house and are still cleaning up/dealing with the aftermath until now. It’s understandable to want to quit and say never again, to relent and accept that you have ELS and always will but please, keep trying. The Ummah needs to believe that Eid can and should be fun and special for everyone.

While it is hard to be vulnerable and we may be afraid of rejection or judgment, the risk is worth it. As a survivor and recoverer of ELS, I know how hard it can be and also how rewarding it is to be free of it. May Allah bless us all with the best Eids and to make the most of the blessed days before and after, Ameen.

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