Facing Mecca Doesn’t Matter When You Pray, Says Islamic Leader July 19, 2010

Facing Mecca Doesn’t Matter When You Pray, Says Islamic Leader

There are two stories here and only one is being reported.

The first story is that Indonesian Muslims have been praying in the wrong direction.

Muslims are supposed to face the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia during prayer and the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued an edict in March stipulating westward was the correct direction from the world’s most populous Muslim country.

“But it has been decided that actually the mosques are facing Somalia or Kenya, so we are now suggesting people shift the direction slightly to the north-west,” the head of the MUI, Cholil Ridwan, told Reuters. “There’s no need to knock down mosques, just shift your direction slightly during prayer.”

Right. Because, as we all know, prayers shouldn’t be bending along the way…

The second story — the one that’s not making headlines — is this one:

Ridwan said Muslims need not fear that their prayers have been wasted because they were facing the wrong way.

“Their prayers will still be heard by Allah,” he said.

So, to recap:

An Islamic leader has admitted that facing Mecca while you pray doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.

For what it’s worth, praying at all doesn’t make a difference since no one’s actually listening to you… but to throw in more superstitious nonsense on top of already superstitious nonsense is just plain ridiculous.

I’ve met plenty of Muslims who go out of their way to make sure they’re facing “the right direction” during prayer — are they going to stop worrying about that now? Doubtful. They’ll cling to the myth that facing Mecca matters.

That means you’ll be seeing this kind of image for a long time to come:

At least one Islamic worker seems to think you don’t need to do that:

“I don’t really worry about the praying direction,” said Riza Irwansyah, an office worker in Jakarta. “The important thing is I prayed to Allah and I believe He will listen, no matter which way I’m facing.”

Well, Allah’s not listening. But it’s nice to hear someone say the direction he faces has never concerned him.

(Thanks to Hector for the link)

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  • Michael

    I’m sure if they were originally facing Kenya, with no Allah there to receive the prayers, they would inevitably just circle the globe a few times until hitting Mecca.

    But if devotees worry about the expediency of their prayers, I’d like them to try sending some directly through the Earth. That way, the prayers wouldn’t have to waste travel time circling around, and could get directly to the business end of things.

    We need to find some Muslims to try this for us. I’ll let you all know how the results go.

  • Richard Wade

    Perhaps it would be better if they were less mindful of the direction they’re praying, and more mindful of the direction they’re going in life.

  • CatBallou

    My (midwestern) college roommate was from Iran. (This was pre-revolution.) She always faced south to pray, so one day I asked her—not wanting to sound too ignorant—about the notion of having to face Mecca. She was horrified to learn that she’d been facing the wrong direction all that time, but decided for herself that it probably wasn’t a spiritual disaster. Although she did start praying toward the west after that.

  • Hitch

    I cannot help but approve of religious practices that encourage the use of a compass and the practice of geo-location math. If only they would require folks to go through those motions a few times a day and scientific literacy would increase drastically.

  • Josh BA

    I bet, even if you got rid of the directional requirements, the prayer would still look like that. If everyone prays at the same time, a regular grid with everyone facing the same way would appear the be the simplest efficient way to pack mostly rectangular (at least when bent like that) people in.

  • So, I guess prayer compasses are not popular in Indonesia? There’s even clever prayer rugs with compass included for serious religious globe-trotters.

  • chatterbox

    But… they’re facing the ground when they pray, right?

    There was an article last year about mosques in mecca not pointed correctly as well…

  • Jonas

    I’m guessing Imams will still be guiding their flock to pray in the same direction, as indicated in the picture above. — Praying toward Mecca likely originated as a meme to enforce this group activity.

    Whether or not the flock is facing Mecca won’t matter.

  • littlejohn

    Given that the Earth is spherical, wouldn’t one have to direct one’s prayers downward to send them toward any terrestrial city?
    I’ll bet the god Bloorg, of Alpha Centauri, is still trying to figure out why her subjects are addressing her as “Allah.”

  • Mary

    Looking at that picture of rows of men bowed down in prayer, all I could think was I hope no one had beans for lunch that day.

  • Catinthewall

    I agree, they might as well stick their heads in the sand literally as well as metaphorically.

    ^You know who and his "wife".

  • CylonOven

    Catinthewall & Littlejohn:

    They should address this issue.
    But they’d just say prayers are affected by gravity. Har har har.

  • Daniel


    That’s a good question…

    I guess the real question is, how do prayers work(well, they don’t, but assuming they did)? Do they work like Javelin missiles, going straight into the air then traveling towards their target? I guess in that sense only the general direction matters, as the prayer will direct itself towards the target.

    What actually happens at Mecca is really curious. Is it like a mailbox, and Allah reads prayers while he’s taking a shit, or does it shoot them up to Allah and he receives them(and does nothing).

    I wonder how Christian prayers work…

    Somebody should study this shit.

  • Evan

    Speaking of directional requirements, the secretary at my work mentioned something peculiar about a year ago when her grandfather passed away. She asked the Boss if he knew which direction the body should be buried so they would be facing the right way when resurrected on Judgment Day. She was very concerned about this.

    I do a lot of head/desk-ing at work.

  • Islam is all about keeping the sheeple synchronized. To this end, it is important. It’s hard to “Think Differently” when you are realigned 5 times a day.

  • Aj

    Clearly prayers follow Newton’s law of universal gravitation, that’s why they need to travel the shortest route to Mecca, to make sure they don’t fall short.

    This isn’t as embarrassing as the time the Roman Catholic Church decided that actually unbaptized babies didn’t actually go to purgatory, and it may not exist anyway.

  • Okay. Wait a minute.

    It doesn’t matter what direction you face when you pray: Allah will hear you anyway.

    But from now on, people who are praying should shift their position slightly to the north-west, so as to be facing in the right direction.

    Even though it doesn’t matter what direction you face when you pray.

    Wait a minute. What?

  • Hold on now…it doesn’t matter any more which direction I pray, but it matters in which direction I urinate and defecate?
    This pisses me off, I wish those guys would get their shit together.

  • muggle

    Looking at that picture and suffering greatly from arthritis, I have to ask, how do they handle cripples who couldn’t possibly get in that position let alone out of it? Are they excused or should I be afraid to ask?

  • @muggle,
    They’re excused.

  • muggle

    Thanks, Godless. The stuff I wonder.

  • Epistaxis

    Do prayers follow a “great circle” route? If so, a compass and flat map isn’t enough.

    Maybe they should just set up a series of local repeater stations, since a tiny angular difference could throw you way off at this range.

  • Hell? This is the 21st Century. The obvious solution is a geosynchronous satellite for such prayers. Easy to aim towards, and everything can be beamed directly at mecca. I mean, really, now. How old-fashioned can one be?

  • Pete

    There’s no need to knock down mosques, just shift your direction slightly during prayer

    An Islamic leader has admitted that facing Mecca while you pray doesn’t make a damn bit of difference

    Its good to see some cracks finally appearing in old ideas of absolutes with regards to these faiths.

    How much longer before they also realize there is no need for women to be opressed and hidden away.Or realize turning themselves into human bombs really makes little good sense either.

  • Aj


    Didn’t Hemant post about that some time ago? Something about North American Muslims changing direction because they were using a flat map which meant they were facing South when they should have been facing North.

  • SickoftheUS

    The Mecca-praying reminds of this page I saw yesterday while shopping for a stove:


    Read the details. It takes a while to get your brain around the multiple layers of religious idiocy that these devices accommodate.

  • Jash

    About the direction of prayer, some of my muslim friends say that it is not for the effectiveness of prayer, but just to ensure uniformity. Another reasons cited is, to avoid praying to some other ‘creation’. Since there exists a ‘rock from heaven’ at mecca.

  • @Jash,

    “Another reasons cited is, to avoid praying to some other ‘creation’. Since there exists a ‘rock from heaven’ at mecca.”

    Your friends are not entirely wrong, but that “rock” you speak of is The Black Stone, which is imbedded in a corner of the Kaaba. The Kaaba is the structure in Mecca that Muslims are facing when they pray 5 times a day. It’s also used to count the number of times you’ve walked around the Kaaba when you perform the Hajj, or holy pilgrimage.
    Back to the comment on uniformity. Muslims do not have a “personal relationship” with Allah, as many Christians (and even some Jews) may claim to have. The entire experience is linked to the knowledge that you are part of a greater whole, a little cog in a mighty machine. The uniformity is allegedly intended to place emphasis on the equality of men before Allah, but more than anything, it serves to emphasize group subordination and submission. Islam is submission.

  • Claudiaaneglz

    God listens! But when people who claim to be in “submission” to god pray for those who are also say they are in submission to god to have a brutal life, then Islam is not of God. Islam is hate. We will face the real creator’s judment for everything that we say or pray. Jesus is of God. He forgives our nasty prayers.

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