La ciudad de Petra está orientada a la misma estrella que la Kaaba
Agosto 13, 2009La estrella Canopo
Los principales monumentos de Petra, la legendaria ciudad de los nabateos en Jordania, están orientados hacia el solsticio y hacia Canopo, la estrella que guiaba a las caravanas por la Península arábiga, al igual que sucede con la Kaaba, en La Meca, según el astrónomo del IAC Juan Antonio Belmonte.
Canopus o Canopo es el nombre propio de la estrella Alfa Carinae (α Car / HD 45348 / HR 2326), la más brillante de la constelación de Carina («La Quilla») y la segunda más brillante del cielo, tras Sirio (α Canis Majoris), con una magnitud aparente de -0,72. Aunque se trata de una estrella del hemisferio celeste Sur profundo, puede observarse incluso desde la costa africana del Mar Mediterráneo. Es circumpolar al sur de latitud 38° S, en ciudades como Bahía Blanca (Argentina) y Valdivia (Chile).
El investigador del Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) explica que, tras realizar trabajos de campo en la ciudad nabatea, considera a Petra “como un maravilloso taller para los estudios arqueoastronómicos y arqueotopográficos”.
Para su estudio midió los principales monumentos de la ciudad nabatea -El Tesoro, el Monasterio y las tumbas reales, entre otros- y tras analizar los datos halló, para su sorpresa, que la astronomía y la topografía “sagrada” eran muy importantes para orientar las tumbas y los templos.
Los nabateos eran una tribu árabe que habitó el sudeste de Palestina y Siria, en la frontera con el mundo helénico, un par de siglos antes de Cristo, y fundaron un imperio que se extendía desde el Mar Rojo hasta Damasco y desde Gaza hasta los desiertos de Arabia central.
El astrónomo encontró “sorpresas agradables” en Petra, como el que uno de sus monumentos más famosos, El Monasterio, está orientado a la puesta de Sol en el solsticio de invierno, un momento clave del ciclo anual.
El Monasterio,Petra.No podría estar orientado de otro modo,por la montaña que tiene detrás.
Pero el investigador halló además un dato “sugerente” sobre el emplazamiento de estos monumentos al detectar que tienen la misma orientación astronómica que la Kaaba antes de que fuera islamizada y convertida en el centro principal de peregrinación de los musulmanes, cuando era un santuario pagano en el que se creía que había unos 360 ídolos, destruidos por el profeta Mahoma tras conquistar la Meca.
“La Kaaba muestra los mismos alineamientos que Petra, ya que los nabateos al fin y al cabo eran una tribu árabe, y refuerza lo que los textos mencionan sobre otros monumentos pre-islámicos”, detalla Belmonte.
También otro templo principal, el de los Leones Alados, dedicado posiblemente a la diosa Al Uzza, está orientado hacia Canopo, la segunda estrella más brillante del cielo y que, al marcar el Sur con relativa precisión, era utilizada por las caravanas para orientarse desde Petra hacia La Meca y desde allí hacia los países del incienso y su destino final, Saba.
Otro dato “curioso” es que los dos grandes obeliscos de más de seis metros, excavados en la montaña en una muestra de la habilidad de los escultores nabateos, están orientados Este-Oeste de manera que al amanecer y al atardecer, y en el equinoccio, ambos están perfectamente alineados y su sombra “se toca, lo que seguramente implicaba algo en la mente de sus constructores”.
Mathematical Astronomy in Medieval Yemen
A Biobibliographical Survey
by David A. King
American Research Center in Egypt Catalogs – ARCEC 4
Astronomical Orientation Of Ka`bah
It has recently become evident that astronomical alignments were widely used by Muslims over the centuries for finding the Qiblah and for orienting mosques towards the Ka`bah. The Qiblah of some of the early and medieval mosques were intended to be “parallel” to one of the walls of Ka`bah, this “parallelism” being achieved by facing the mosque towards the same astronomical horizon phenomena as one would be facing when standing in front of appropriate wall of the Ka`bah. The reason for the use of astronomical alignments, particularly cardinal and solstitial directions and the rising point of the star Canopus, can now be understood in the light of the astronomical alignment of Ka`bah itself. The use of astronomical alignments (and also directions associated with the winds, see Fig. 11) for Qiblah was actually favoured by the religious authorities over the Qiblah directions computed mathematically by the Muslim astronomers in medieval times.
Figures 5 and 6 show the astronomical alignment of the Ka`bah as implied by the MS Milan Biblioteca Ambrosiana 73 Sup., a treatise authored by a Yemeni astronomer Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr al-Farisi (c. 1290).
Figure 5: The alignments of the Kaabah implied by the first section of the text illustrated in MS Milan Biblioteca Ambrosiana 73 Sup.
Figure 6: The alignments of the Kaabah implied by the second section of the text illustrated in MS Milan Biblioteca Ambrosiana 73 Sup.
Studies by Hawkins and King using the modern tools of astronomy have shown that the actual alignment of the Ka`bah are the following:
Figure 7: Actual alignments of the Kaabah.
Figure 8: Astronomical alignments of the Kaabah drawn to scale.
From the light of above knowledge we can see why the early mosques in Iraq were aligned towards the winter sunset. Aligning the mosques in Iraq towards the winter sunset would mean “facing” the northeast (or southwest) wall of Ka`bah (Figure 5 and 8). Similarly one can see that the mosque of `Amr bin al-`As in Fustat just outside Cairo faced the winter sunrise because this would mean “facing” the northwest (or southeast) wall of Ka`bah (Figure 6 and 8). The implication of this astronomical orientation had not been grasped by Crone and Cook and their likes most probably because of their lack of knowledge of astronomy in general and Islamic astronomy in particular. Like Crone and Cook, Suliman Bashear and Moshe Sharon have argued along the same lines using similar Islamic literary sources concerning the Qiblah of the early mosque in Fustat without bothered to inform the readers where exactly the correct direction of Qiblah lies. Bashear says:
… one must add the reports noted by some scholars concerning `Amr bin al-`As‘s prayer in a church in Egypt, where he made only a slight diversion from its eastern qibla, as well as the fact that the mosque which bears his name had one “very much turned towards the east” (qibla musharriqa jidan) and that it remained so until turned south towards Mecca by al-Walid’s governor, Qurra b. Sharik, in 92 AH.
The Qiblah of Cairo is 46° 20′ south of east not “south towards Mecca”. The amount of deviation is not indicated in the sources quoted by Crone and Cook, Bashear and Sharon but all of them suggested that `Amr bin al-`As prayed facing slighly south of east or slightly turned away from east. This would mean that he faced roughly the winter sunrise that is only a slight diversion from east; 27° south of east to be precise. In the light of above source quoted by Bashear we wonder what was there for Qurra bin Sharik to correct the Qiblah! We do not have know of any literary sources that say Qurra bin Sharik re-oriented the mosque accurately towards the Qibla. This is because the mosque of `Amr bin al-`As even today is oriented towards the winter sunrise.
Sharon, in fact, acknowledges the fact that the mosque of `Amr bin al-`As is oriented towards winter sunrise but this contradicts his own thesis that the Qiblah of mosques of early Muslims in Christian-dominated areas such as in Syria and Egypt was the Qiblah of Christians, due east! It makes us wonder how good is Sharon’s sense of direction when he mentions that the Qiblah in Syria is due east. He does not mention any sources to support his claim. What is clear is that he does not understand the finer points of astronomy; the difference between winter sunrise and equinoctial sunrise. He is also unaware of some of the recent literary sources that mention the use of astronomical alignments to direct the early as well as medieval mosques towards their Qiblahs.
From the above discussion we can infer that the early Muslims, though not very well versed in the aspects of astronomy, had a fair idea about the orientation of the sunrises, sunsets and rising of Canopus with respect to Ka`bah during various parts of the year. These astronomical phenomena were used to orient the mosques towards their respective Qiblahs. David King says:
Our sources state that, for example, the qibla in North West Africa is towards the rising of the sun at the equinoxes, due east; that the qibla in Egypt is towards the rising of the sun at midwinter; that the qibla in Yemen is towards the direction from which the north wind blows or is towards the Pole Star, which does not rise or set, but whose position defines north; that the qibla in Syria is towards the rising of the Canopus; that the qibla in Iraq is towards the setting of the sun at midwinter; and that the qibla in India is towards the setting of the sun at the equinoxes, due west.
It can be deduced that the mosques oriented using astronomical phenomena were not often oriented accurately towards Qiblah.
What now becomes almost unbelievable is that Crone and Cook as well as Smith quote Jacob of Edessa to support their argument that the Muslim Qiblah was not fixed towards Makkah (or Ka`bah) whereas Jacob of Edessa actually says:
The Jews who live in Egypt, as likewise Mahgraye there, as I saw with my own eyes and will now set out for you, prayed to the east, and still do, both people – the Jews towards Jerusalem, and the Mahgraye towards the Ka`bah (K`bt’). And those Jews who are in the south of Jerusalem pray to the north; and those in Babylonia and nhrt’ and bwst’ pray to the west. And also the Mahgraye who are there pray to the west, towards the Ka`ba; and those who are to the south of the Ka`ba pray to the north, towards the place. So from all this it is clear that it is not to the south that the Jews and Mahgraye here in the regions of Syria pray, but towards Jerusalem or Ka`bah, the patriarchial places of their races.
This, in actuality, proves the opposite of Crone and Cook as well as Smith’s claim. The structure of the sentence clearly shows that there were two different places: Jerusalem and the Ka`bah (notice also the plural form of “place” and “race”). Any attempt to claim that there was more than one Ka`bah is merely clutching at straws. The word Ka`bah in Arabic means “cube” and the only Ka`bah is that found in Makkah.
In Egypt, the Muslims prayed towards “east” (i.e., the winter sunrise) as being almost correctly observed by Jacob of Edessa (see Figure 4). What is more interesting is that Jacob of Edessa asserts the Qiblah of Muslims by saying they always prayed towards Ka`bah no matter where they were. Crone and Cook as well as Smith base their hypothesis on what one may call outright quackery.
Since Crone and Cook deduced from the Qiblah of the early mosques that there were aligned somewhere towards a mysterious sanctuary in northern Arabia, we would like to add remind that they conveniently forgot to mention the orientation of one of the the earliest mosque: al-Masjid al-Aqsa. This mosque is oriented due south, towards Makkah. Further we would also like to add a recent study to check the claims of Crone and Cook.
Recently, Avni studied 12 mosques (10 open and 2 closed) in the settlements in Negev highlands, Occupied Palestine, dating them to first two centuries of hijra. He also provides the data for the mihrab azimuth (i.e., Qiblah) of various mosques. Surprisingly, there is no mention of the possible astronomical alignment used to determine the Qiblah. Due to the closeness of these settlements to each other we would consider the Qiblah of a place called Sede Boqer as our principal reference. The data provided by Avni can be plotted as follows:
Figure 9: The direction of Qiblah from Sede Boqer. The coloured arrows show the direction of the Qiblahs of 12 mosques studied by Avni. The mosque in Sede Boqer itself is oriented at 166° east of north, off by about 13° from the true Qiblah. The rising of Canopus is shown by a blue arrow-head in the bottom of the figure.
As one can see that maximum deviation from the actual Qiblah is about 29° for a mosque which has its Qiblah pointing due south. Rest are deviated between 5 to 19° from the actual Qiblah. The question now is: what was the method used to align these open mosques in the Negev highlands to such a high degree of accuracy? Certainly it was not the sunrise during summer, winter or equinox? Could it be the rising of one of the stars, e.g., Canopus, one of the brightest in the southern hemisphere? To confirm our doubts we ran the simulation of the night sky at Sede Boqer using Starry Night Backyard 3.1 software. The results were quite stunning.
Figure 10: A simulation of Canopus rising at Sede Boqer at an azimuth of 158°.
Canopus rises at Sede Boqer at an azimuth of 158° (east of north). The Qiblah at Sede Boqer is 153° 15′ east of north. The difference is mere 5°! The 11 mosques are oriented between 158 to 172° and only one a bit off to about 182° (Figure 9). Aligning the mosques using Canopus would mean “facing” the northwest (or southeast) wall of Ka`bah (Figure 8). Although we do not know of any Islamic literary sources to substantiate our claim, we are pretty certain that Canopus was used to align these open mosques towards the Qiblah. It is worth adding that none of these early mosques are oriented towards northern Arabia or Jerusalem.
Now that we have sorted out the main issues, let us now turn our attention to finding out Qiblah according to Islamic tradition. This would help us understand some of the issues surrounding the Qiblah being off by certain degrees. After this we will discuss various methods of Qiblah determination used by early Muslims before the advent of mathematical calculation-based Qiblahs.
There are several traditions in the Islamic heritage showing that the determination of the Qiblah was accomodated with some flexibility except for Makkah owing to the little knowledge in the fields of geography and geometry in the early centuries of Islam. Such traditions can be found in several hadith collections like Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Sunan Ibn Majah and Muwatta’ Malik as stated below.
a. Muwatta’ Malik
Malik narrated to me on the authority of Nafi`that `Umar Ibn al-Khattab said: “[Anywhere] between the East and the West is taken as a Qiblah as long as one heads towards the House”
In Al-Muntaqa – the commentary on Muwatta’, we read the following about this hadith :
Concerning “[Anywhere] between the East and the West is a Qiblah”, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal said: “This applies to all countries except in Makkah at the House [i.e., the Sacred Mosque] where whoever shifts from it has missed the Qiblah.” Ahmad Ibn Khalid said: “This hadith applies to the inhabitants of Madinah and whoever is like them whose Qiblah is between East and West”, narrated by Muhammad Ibn Maslamah from Malik. Ahmad Ibn Khalid said: “As for those who are located to the East of Makkah or to the West, their Qiblah is between South and North and they have room in that [i.e., flexibility in the determination of the direction] as much as the inhabitants of Madinah and others have.” This opinion mentioned by Ahmad Ibn Khalid is clear and correct but it goes in pairs with the effort [ijtihad] for whoever is knowledgeable in this respect. This is due to the fact that in their facing the Qiblah the people are in two categories. First, those who can see the House must head towards it and it is not permissible for them to do otherwise because it is mandatory for those who see the Qiblah to follow it and whoever does not has shifted from it undoubtedly, which is not permissible and there is no disagreement about that. A similar opinion has been narrated from Muhammad Ibn Maslamah.
Secondly, those who cannot see the Qiblah are either people able of performing ijtihad or imitators. Those who are able of performing ijtihad are bound to do it in order to determine the direction of the Qiblah between East and West while heading towards the House. But, those who are not fit for ijtihad are bound to follow the latter if any. Otherwise, said Qadi Abu al-Walid, may Allah be pleased with him, he has the status of someone from whom the evidence pointing to the Qiblah is concealed. I’d rather prefer that he delays his prayers to the end of their alloted times hoping that he might find someone to imitate and this applies to every place except al-Madinah where it is not suitable to make an ijtihad leading to a Qiblah different than the Qiblah of the Mosque of the Prophet, peace be upon him, since it is the Prophet, peace be upon him, is the one who set its Qiblah and this constitutes an evidence from him in this regard. Ibn al-Qasim narrated from Malik that Jibril, peace be upon him, is the one who determined for the Prophet, peace be upon him, the Qiblahh of his mosque.
b. Sunan al-Tirmidhi
Muhammad Ibn Abi Ma`shar told us, my father told us on the authority of Muhammad Ibn `Amr from Abu Salamah from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said “[Anywhere] between the East and the West is a Qiblah.” Yahya Ibn Musa narrted to us on the authority of Muhammad Ibn Abi Ma`shar likewise. Abu `isa said: “The hadith of Abu Hurayrah has been narrated through other ways. Some scholars have spoken about Abu Ma`shar with regards of his [bad] memory, his name is Nujayh the freed slave of Banu Hashim.” Muhammad [al-Bukhari] said: “I don’t narrate anything from him while the people have narrated from him”. Muhammad said: “The hadith of `Abdullah Ibn Ja`far al-Makhrami from `Uthman Ibn Muhammad al-Akhnasi from Sa`id al-Maqbari from Abu Hurayrah is sounder and more authentic than the hadith of Abu Ma`shar”
Imam al-Ahwadhi comments on the aforementioned hadith in his Tuhfah saying :
With regards to the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said “[Anywhere] between East and West is a Qiblah.”
Al-Suyuti said: “This is not a general statement about every country, it only applies to al-Madinah and its likes.” Al-Bayhaqi said in Al-Khilafiyyat [The Controversial Matters]: “Those who are meant [by this hadith], and Allah knows best, are the inhabitants of al-Madinah and whoever his Qiblah is the same as the people of al-Madinah.” Al-Shawkani said: “There has been a disagreement about the meaning of this hadith.” Al-`Iraqi said: “This is not a general statement about all countries, it is rather a applicable to Al-Madinah and any spot having the same Qiblah and this was the opinion of al-Bayhaqi in Al-Khilafiyyat and that of Ahmad Ibn Khaluweih al-Rahbi who said: the other countries have a similar room in determining the Qiblah between South and North.” Likewise, Ibn `Abd al-Barr said: “This is correct and cannot be refuted and there is no disagreement between the scholars about it.” Al-Athram said: “I asked Ahmad Ibn Hanbal about the meaning of this hadith, he said: “This is applicable to all countries except Makkah at the House, shifting from it slightly is no less than missing the Qiblah.” Then he said: “This is the East” and he pointed towards it, and “this is the West” and pointed towards it and between them is a Qiblah. I told him: “Whoever heads between them in his prayer, his prayer is valid. He said: “Yes, and he must seek the middle.” Ibn `Abd al-Barr commented on Ahmad’s statement “This is applicable to all countries” saying that he means all the countries who like al-Madinah head towards the South where the Ka`bah is located and so they head towards it and can go aside to the right and to the left between the East and the West putting the West on their righthand side and the East on their lefthand side. Similarly, the people of Yemen have the same flexibility in their Qiblah between the East and the West, when they head towards the Qiblah they out the East on their righthand side and the West on their lefthand side. Similarly, the people of Iraq and Khurasan have the same room in facing the Qiblah between the South and the North. The people at the opposite to Iraq face at the opposite of this. The Qiblahh is restricted only for the people in the Holy Mosque. It widens a little for the inhabitants of Makkah, and widens a little more for the people of the Haram [the precincts of the Holy Land] and then it is as wide as described earlier for the people of other locations”.
For the sake of completeness, we state the second occurence of this hadith in Sunan al-Tirmidhi from the way `Abdullah Ibn Ja`far al-Makhrami :
Al-Hasan Ibn Bakr al-Marwazi told us, al-Mu`alla Ibn Mansur narrated to us on the authority of `Abdullah Ibn Ja`far al-Makhrami from `Uthman Ibn Muhammad al-Akhnasi from Sa`id al-Maqbari from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Between the East and the West is a Qiblah.” Abu `isa said: “This hadith is hasan sahih. The narrator was called `Abdullah Ibn Ja`far al-Makhrami because he is the son of al-Miswar Ibn Makhramah. Several people among the Companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, narrated that between the East and the West is a Qiblah among them are `Umar Ibn al-Khattab, `Ali Ibn Abi Talib, Ibn `Abbas and Ibn `Umar said: “If you let the West on your right hand side and the East on the lefthand side, wherever in between is a Qiblah if you are seeking to head towards the Qiblah. Ibn al-Mubarak said: “Anywhere between the East and the West is a Qiblah this is for the people of the East.” And he chose for the people of Marw [a location in Persia] to head to the left.
Let us now summarize the discussion. All the material above shows that the early salaf accepted some flexibility in the determination of the Qiblah and that it was not determined with a compass precision as the early Muslims did not have the tools to find that precision. The use of prophetic saying to know the Qiblah is used even today. In the Hanafi, Maliki and Hanbali schools of Islamic Jurisprudence, the criterion of facing the direction of prayer (i.e., Qiblah) is merely that some portion of the person’s face to be directed towards the Ka`bah. This takes in 180°, from far left to far right, such that when the Ka`bah is anywhere between , one is considered facing the prayer. In the Shafi`i school, facing the direction of prayer is a necessary condition. If the direction is not known that the person asks someone who knows; if no such person is available he uses personal reasoning.
Crone commenting on the strong “sense” of direction of early Muslims says:
It is, however, somewhat unlikely that recent conquerors [i.e., the Muslims] with a strong sense of where they came from should have adopted a simplistic Qiblah notion popular with `ulama in medieval Central Asia and Spain.
The sense of direction of humans is not as strong as migratory birds. It might be argued that, if people have travelled, most people have at least a vague notion of the direction from which they have travelled, even over long distances. Of course, this is especially true in the advent of Islam when the tools for accurately determining the direction were not available at all. Crone constructs her line of reasoning upon rather flimsy grounds, from which she is either hiding information or which she cannot support with adequate information. Throwing around words like “strong sense”, “aiming at precision” etc. shows the desperation to arrive at a pre-conceived conclusion rather than dealing with the topic in an objective, methodical fashion. We have already seen one such example.
Closely following the footsteps of Crone we have Smith, according to whom, the early Arabs were sort of experts in determing the directions because their livelihood was dependent upon travelling in the desert and that they “certainly” knew how to “follow” the stars. He says:
Some Muslims argue that perhaps the early Muslims did not know the direction of Mecca. Yet these were desert traders, caravaneers! Their livelihood was dependant on travelling the desert, which has few landmarks, and, because of the sandstorms, no roads. They, above all, knew how to follow the stars. Their lives depended on it. Certainly they knew the difference between the north and the south.
The above paragraph is only illustrative of Smith’s ignorance in the basics of astronomy for determining the Qiblah. The Qiblah is most accurately determined only by using the latitude and longitudes not the stars. The position of the stars change with the latitude, longitude and time of the night (and day!). Unlike the claims of Crone and Smith, David King, who has done exclusive studies on Qiblah determination in early and later times in Islam, says:
In the first two centuries of Islam, when mosques were being built from Andalusia to Central Asia, the Muslims had no truly scientific means of finding the Qiblah. Clearly they knew roughly the direction they had taken to reach wherever they were, and the direction of the road in which pilgrims left for Mecca could be, and in some cases actually was, used as a Qiblah. But they also followed two basic procedures, observing tradition and developing a simple expedient.
So, in early Islam, the Qiblah was determined using the tradition of the Prophet(P) and using simple expedient. The tradition of the Prophet(P) was that:
the Qiblah is between the east and the west.
The practice of the Prophet(P) was imitated by the believers. When he was in Madinah, he prayed southwards towards Makkah; and there were those who were contend to follow his example and pray towards the south wherever they were, be it in Andalusia or Central Asia, an important point to which we will come later. Others followed the practice of the first generation of Muslims who laid out the first mosques in different parts of the Islamic World that were based on the Prophetic tradition and astronomical horizon phenomena.
The mosques that were converted from earlier religious edifices, the orientation of which was considered acceptable for the Qiblah; such was the case, for example, in Jerusalem and Damascus, where the Qiblah adopted was due south.
How were the early churches converted to mosques?
At Homs, for example, they took a fourth part of the church of St. John. How was a church converted into a mosque? One can easily guess. In Syria the Qiblah is due South, where as churches are turned towards the east. Under these circumstances it was only necessary to close the western entrance, pierce a new entrance in the north wall and pray across the aisles. This is exactly what happened as can be verified in the Great Mosque of Hama where the west front of the Kanisah al-`Uzma (Great Church) which was converted into a mosque in A.D. 636-7, now forms the west end in the sanctuary. Its three western doors have been converted into windows and is now entered from the north.
Creswell also mentions about the mosques in Persia particularly at Istakhr and Qasvin which were perhaps converted from apadana, or hypostyle hall of Persian kings, with a flat roof resting on columns with double-headed capitals.
Many early mosques were laid in the direction defined by astronomical horizon phenomena, such as the rising and settings of the sun at the equinoxes or solstices and of various prominent stars and star groups; such was the case, for example, in Egypt and Central Asia, where the earliest mosques were aligned towards winter sunrise and winter sunset, respectively. The directions known as Qibalat al-Sahabah, the “Qiblah of the Companions”, remained popular over the centuries. One such example is the mosque of `Amr bin al-`As in Fustat just outside Cairo, that we had discussed earlier, faces the winter sunrise.
Astronomical alignments were used for the Qiblah because the fiirst generation of Muslims who were familiar with Ka`bah knew that when they stood in front of the edifice, they were facing a particular astronomical direction. In order to face the appropriate part of the Ka`ba which was associated with their ultimate geographical location, they used the same astronomically-defined direction for the Qiblah as they would have been standing directly in front of that particular segment of Ka`ba. This notion of Qiblah is, of course, quite different from that used by astronomers. Such simple methods for finding the Qiblah by astronomical horizon phenomena are outlined in the legal texts and in treatises dealing with folk astronomy. In medieval sources, we also find Qiblah directions expressed in terms of wind directions. Several wind schemes defined in terms of solar or steller risings and settings, were part of the folk astronomy and meteorology of pre-Islamic Arabia [as shown in the figure below]. The folk astronomy flourished along with the mathematical astronomy (from 3rd / 9th century onwards), but was far more widely known and practiced.
Figure 11: The orientation of rectangular base of the Kaaba towards the rising of Canopus and summer solstice, as recorded in various medieval sources, the earliest dating from the 7th century. The ‘cardinal’ winds are shown, each one striking a wall of Kaaba head-on. The rising point of Canopus is accurate to within 2°.[28,29]
The determination of Qiblah in the mosques converted from earlier religious edifices or the early mosques, as one can easily see, was only a rough guess and involved following the practice of the Prophet(P), his Companions or the first generation of Muslims.
Figure 12: A simple scheme of sacred geography in the published text of the Kitab al-Masalik of Ibn Khurradadhbih (3rd / 9th century).
From 3rd / 9th century onwards, Muslim astronomers working in the tradition of classical astronomy devised methods to compute the Qiblah for any locality from the available geographical data. For them, the Qiblah was the direction of greater circle joining the locality to Makkah, measured as an angle to the local meridian. The determination of Qiblah according to this definition is a non-trivial problem of mathematical geography, whose solution involves the application of complicated trignometric formulae or geometrical considerations. Lists of Qiblah values for different localities and tables displaying the Qiblah for each degree of longitude and latitude difference from Makkah were available.
However, mathematical methods were not available to the Muslims before the late 2nd / 8th and early 3rd / 9th centuries, the Qiblah was not generally found by computation anyway even after the mathematical solutions were available. This is very well illustrated in the diagram below for Qiblahs in the cities of Cordova, Cairo and Samarqand.
Figure 13: Different Qiblah directions that were used at different times for (1) Cordova, (2) Cairo, and (3) Samarqand, according to various medieval sources.
Below is the description of various Qiblahs in the above cities.
- Cordova, Spain: According to a 12th(?)-century treatise on the astrolabe, the following directions were used in Cordova: (a) the direction computed using the standard approximate formula; (b) the direction of winter sunrise; (c) southeast (this depends upon my interpretation of the garbled text); (d) the direction of the Grand Mosque (‘perpendicular’ to the northwest wall of the Ka`ba); and (e) due south (not specifically mentioned in this text).
- Cairo, Egypt: According to the 15th-century Egyptian historian al-Maqrizi, the following directions were used in Cairo: (a) due east (not specifically mentioned); (b) the direction of winter sunrise (this is the Qiblah of the Companions of the Prophet; (c) the direction computed (by the astronomer Ibn Yunus) using an accurate formula; (d) the orientation of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun (variously explained); and (e) any direction between the rising and setting of Canopus.
- Samarqand, Uzbekistan: According to the 11th-century legal scholar al-Bazdawi, the following directions were used in Samarqand: (a) due west (Hanafi legal school) (corresponds to the direction in which the road to Makkah left Samarqand); (b) the direction of winter sunset (as used for the Grand Mosque); (c) southwest (underlies a table presented by al-Bazdawi and lifted from some earlier source); (d) the direction computed using mathematical formulae (not specifically mentioned); and (e) due south (Shafii legal school) (corresponds to the Qiblah used by the Prophet in Medina).
It was claimed by Crone, Cook and Smith that the early mosques pointed towards an unnamed sanctuary in northern Arabia or even close vicinity of Jerusalem. However, a closer analysis using the modern tools available to us show that the Qiblahs of early mosques were oriented towards astronomical alignments; winter sunrise of mosque in Egypt and winter sunsets for mosques in Iraq. It was shown conclusively that the early mosques do not point at northern Arabia or even close vicinity of Jerusalem. We also added the study of 12 early mosques in Negev highlands to support our conclusions.
In the early centuries of Islam, Muslim did not have tools to determine the Qiblah with precision. Only from third century onwards mathematical solutions for determining Qiblah were available; even then their use was not widespread. The folk astronomy retained its strength as suggested by various mosques in Cairo, Cordova and Samarqand. This gave rise to various directions of Qiblah, sometimes way off from the true direction.
And Allah knows best!
Compare the results with the ones obtained from US Naval Observatory.
Elementos y orientación de la Ka´aba
- This calculation does not foresee sunrise and sunset in geographical places with permanent day or night, i.e., at the poles.
- The origin of the azimuth is the cardinal point North. A value of 242° would indicate 242° east of north (or 62° west of south).
- For locations West of Greenwich (i.e., negative geographical longitude), for example -10°10’10″, put negatives in the boxes all the variables -10°-10′-10″.The same holds true for the latitude.
La Piedra Negra,La Ka´ana,La Meca,Arabia
Definition Of Astronomical Terms
Azimuth: The horizontal angular distance from a fixed reference direction to a position, object, or object referent, as to a great circle intersecting a celestial body, usually measured clockwise in degrees along the horizon from a point due north.
Vernal Equinox: The Vernal Equinox is one of the two points where the Ecliptic crosses the Celestial Equator. At the Vernal Equinox the sun appears to be moving across the equator from the Southern Celestial Hemisphere to the Northern Celestial Hemisphere. The arrival of the sun at the Vernal Equinox on or about March 21 marks the beginning of Spring.
Autumnal Equinox: The Autumnal Equinox is one of the two points where the Ecliptic crosses the Celestial Equator. At the Autumnal Equinox the sun appears to be moving across the equator from the Northern Celestial Hemisphere to the Southern Celestial Hemisphere. The arrival of the sun at the Autumnal Equinox on or about September 23 marks the beginning of Autumn.
Summer Solstice: This is the time when the Sun reaches its most northerly point. It marks the beginning of Summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere. This happens on June 21st.
Winter Solstice: This is the time when the Sun reaches its most southerly point. It marks the beginning of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and the opposite in the Southern Hemisphere. This happens on December 21st.
Left: Conceptual representation of the Kaaba, as built by Abraham; çRight: Representation of the Kaaba as it stands today
References & Notes
 P. Crone & M. Cook, Hagarism: The Making Of The Islamic World, 1977, Cambridge University Press, pp. 23-24.
 The latitude and longitude of Wasit and Kufa were obtained from Heavens-Above.
 P. Crone, Meccan Trade And The Rise Of Islam, 1987, Basil Blackwell: Oxford, p. 198. See footnote 131.
 P. Crone & M. Cook, Hagarism, op cit., pp. 23-24.
 P. Crone, “The First Century Concept Of Higra“, Arabica, 1994, Vol. XLI, pp. 386-387.
 Abi al-Abbas Ahmad b. Yahya b. Jabir al-Baladhuri (ed. M. J. De Goeje), Futuh al-Buldan, 1866, E. J. Brill: Leyden, p. 276. Al-Baladhuri did not supply any angle of deviation of the mosque. Not surprisingly Crone and Cook quoting al-Baladhuri say that “this is implied by the tradition about the first mosque at Kufa….), see Hagarism, op cit., pp. 173, footnote 27. Italics are ours. We calculated the Qiblah from the plan of the mosque provided in Encyclopaedia Of Islam, “Architecture”, 1960, Volume 1, E. J. Brill: Leiden, p. 611.
 D. A. King, “Science In The Service Of Religion: The Case Of Islam“, Astronomy In The Service Of Islam, 1993, Variorum: Hampshire (Great Britain), p. 260. See figure 12.
 D. A. King, “The Sacred Direction In Islam: A Study Of Interaction Of Religion & Science In The Middle Ages“, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 1985, Vol. 10, p. 319.
 For a general review on this topic see D. A. King’s, “Astronomical Alignments In The Medieval Islamic Architecture“, Annals Of The New York Academy Of Sciences, 1982, Vol. 385, pp. 303-312.
 G. S. Hawkins & D. A. King, “On The Orientation Of The Ka`bah“, Journal For The History Of Astronomy, 1982, Vol. 13, pp. 103-105. Hoyland considers Hawkins’ and King’s idea to be “insightful and revealing of medieval times” but rejects when the ideas are “retrojected to the first two centuries of Islam.” He thinks that the alignment of the early mosques such as the mosque of `Amr bin al-`As in Fustat facing towards winter sunrise as “conjectures”; see R. G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam As Others Saw It: A Survey And Evaluation Of Christian, Jewish And Zoroastrian Writing On Early Islam, 1997, The Darwin Press, Inc.: Princeton (New Jersey), p. 573. It has been clearly shown by us through calculations that the orientation of the early mosques in Egypt and Iraq were indeed oriented towards known astronomical phenomena. Nevertheless, Hoyland offers a good critique of Crone and Cook’s hypothesis about Qiblah of early mosques.
 G. S. Hawkins & D. A. King, “On The Orientation Of The Ka`bah“, op cit., p. 107 for the orientation of Ka`bah. The azimuths of sunrises and sunsets were computed using the formula in appendix. The azimuth for Canopus was found using Starry Night Backyard 3.1 software.
 S. Bashear, “Qibla Musharriqa And Early Muslim Prayer In Churches“, 1991, The Muslim World, Volume LXXXI, Nos. 3-4,, p. 268.
 P. Crone & M. Cook, Hagarism, op cit., p. 173, see footnote 29.
 M. Sharon, “The Birth of Islam In The Holy Land“, in M. Sharon (Ed.) The Holy Land In History And Thought: Papers Submitted To The International Conference On The Relations Between The Holy Land And The World Outside It, Johannesburg 1986, 1988, E. J. Brill: Leiden, p. 230.
 D. A. King, “The Sacred Direction In Islam: A Study Of Interaction Of Religion & Science In The Middle Ages“, op cit., p. 320.
 P. Crone & M. Cook, Hagarism, op cit., p. 173. See footnote 30. Also see W. Wright, Catalogue Of Syriac Manuscripts In The British Museum Acquired Since The Year 1838, Part II, 1871, British Museum: London, p. 604.
 G. Avni, “Early Mosques In The Negev Highlands: New Archaeological Evidence On Islamic Penetration Of Southern Palestine“, 1994, Bulletin Of The American Schools Of Oriental Research, Volume 294, pp. 83-100.
 Ibid., see p. 95 for all the table of type of the mosque and its orientation in various locations in Negev highlands.
 Due to the closeness of these settlements the deviation of the Qiblah from the reference Sede Boqer does not exceed more than ± 3°.
 Nuh Ha Mim Keller, The Reliance Of The Traveller: A Classic Manual Of Islamic Sacred Law, 1994, Amana Publications: Beltsville (Maryland, USA), pp. 123-125.
 Parts of discussion in this section are taken from ref. 7, pp. 245-262.
 See ref. 3.
 This is a very well-known fact. The early Muslim astronomers used it, the modern Qiblah calculating programmes as well as watches apply these principles. For details on Islamic astronomy see, D. A. King’s “Universal Solutions In Islamic Astronomy“, From Ancients Omens To Statistical Mechanics: Essays On The Exact Sciences Presented To Asger Aaboe, eds. J. L. Berggren & B. R. Goldstein, 1987, Copenhagen University Library: Copenhagen, pp. 121-132. Also see D. A. King’s “Universal Solutions To Problems Of Spherical Astronomy From Mamluk Egypt & Syria“, A Way Prepared: Essays On Islamic Culture In Honor Of Richard Bayly Winder, eds. F. Kazemi & R. D. McChesney, 1988, New York University Press: New York, pp. 153-184. For early Islamic mathematical methods for Qiblah computation see D. A. King’s “The Earliest Islamic Mathematical Methods & Tables For Finding The Direction Of Mecca“, Zeitschrift für Geschichte Der Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften, 1986, Volume 3, Institut für Geschichte Der Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften: Franfurt, pp. 82-149 (with corrections listed in ibid, 4, 1987/88, p. 270). For watches see, e.g., catalogue of Casio Qiblah calculating watch.
 David A. King, “Science In The Service Of Religion: The Case Of Islam“, op cit., p. 253.
 K. A. C. Creswell, A Short Account Of Early Muslim Architecture, 1968, Librairie Du Liban, Beirut, p. 7.
 Ibid., pp. 7-8.
 David A. King, “Science In The Service Of Religion: The Case Of Islam“, op cit., p. 260.
 Ibid., p. 254.
 D. A. King, “The Sacred Direction In Islam: A Study Of Interaction Of Religion & Science In The Middle Ages“, op cit., p. 327.
 C. E. Bosworth, E. Van Donzel, B. Lewis & Ch. Pellat (eds.), “Makka“, Encyclopaedia Of Islam, Volume VI, E. J. Brill: Leiden, p. 183.
 D. A. King, “The Sacred Direction In Islam: A Study Of Interaction Of Religion & Science In The Middle Ages“, op cit., p. 325.
Para los musulmanes, toda la tierra es una mezquita, pero la Kaaba es el lugar de referencia simbólico hacia donde dirigir tu “Nia” intención en el momento de realizar los cinco Salats (oraciones rituales).
La Kaaba se encuentra en el centro de un gran patio dentro de una mezquita construida en el siglo VIII, llamada Masjid al-Haram. El patio está rodeado de claustros y pórticos. Allí se pueden concentrar hasta 35.000 personas. El edificio cuenta además con siete minaretes y veinticuatro puertas. En la esquina sur se encuentra la Piedra Negra. En el recinto hay también un pozo sagrado llamado Zamzam (o Zemzem). Se dice que fue utilizado por Agar, madre de Ismael (Ismail).
La Piedra Negra es, según la tradición, un aerolito que el ángel Gabriel (Yibril) entregó a Abraham (Ibrahim). Se dice que descendió a la tierra más blanco que la leche, pero los pecados de los hijos de Adán le volvieron negro. Abraham y su hijo Ismael (Ismail) la colocaron en la esquina oriental cuando terminaron de construir la nueva Kaaba. Debe ser besada con unción, pero nunca con adoración, por todos los peregrinos que accedan a ella. Mahoma la besó y dijo: No me olvido que eres una piedra y no puedes hacerme ni bien ni mal. Está rodeada por un anillo de plata. También es conocida como la piedra de Alá.
El exterior está construido con sillares de granito sin decoración y sin ventanas. Tiene una sola puerta. Se cubre con un manto negro de seda que tiene una franja de textos del Corán escritos en oro. Es lo que se llama kiswa; está suspendido en el techo y sujeto con cordones a unos anillos de bronce que se encuentran en la base.
Tiene además un canalón de oro macizo, que fue un regalo de un sultán de Turquía, construido concretamente por orden del sultán Ahmed I y de cuya elaboración se hizo cargo el padre de Eyliya Çelebi, el derviche Mehmet Zilli Efendi. Fue añadido en 1627, después de que una inundación produjera el año anterior grandes daños en la Kaaba, tantos que hubo de ser prácticamente reconstruida. Cada año se la lava y se renueva el manto. El interior es oscuro. El techo se sujeta sobre tres columnas de madera. Las paredes están revestidas de placas de mármol, igual que el suelo. En tiempo reciente le fue añadida una puerta de oro. En época preislámica, el interior guardaba imágenes de las divinidades de diferentes tribus árabes.
En tiempos de Mahoma, la tribu de Quraish era la encargada de guardar el santuario de la Kaaba. Mahoma era hijo de un mercader perteneciente a esta tribu.
- La Piedra Negra en la esquina sureste. En 684 la piedra estalló a causa del calor provocado por un incendio. En 930 la tomó como botín el movimiento de los Cármatas. Fue restituida en 950.
- Puerta de la Kaaba (muro este).
- Canalón de oro.
- El šādarwān, o refuerzo para facilitar la evacuación del agua de lluvia, se añadió al mismo tiempo que el canalón.
- La zona llamada hatīm está delimitada por la pared llamada Piedra de Ismael, parte de la Kaaba original bajo la cual estaría enterrada Agar.
- Al-Multazam es la parte del muro que une la puerta y la Piedra Negra.
- La Etapa o Estación de Abraham (مقام إبراهيم , Maqām Ibrāhīm), donde según la tradición Abraham dejó las huellas de sus pies.
- Esquina de la Piedra Negra (sureste).
- Esquina del Yemen (suroeste). Una gran piedra vertical forma esta esquina de la construcción. Es costumbre que los peregrinos pasen la mano sobre la piedra.
- Esquina de Siria (Sham) (noroeste).
- Esquina de Iraq (noreste).
- La Kiswa o tela que recubre la Kaaba.
- Banda de mármol que marca el inicio y el final de las circunvalaciones.
- A este lugar se le llama a veces Estación de Gabriel (مقام جبريل, Maqām Yibrīl).