Which way to Mecca?

An embarrassing slip-up by Indonesia’s top religious authority:  A cleric from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) admitted the body made a mistake last March when calculating where Muslims should turn to when praying. He said new instructions had now been issued and that people only had to shift their position for the correct alignment.[…] Ma’ruf ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images
BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images
BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images

An embarrassing slip-up by Indonesia's top religious authority: 

A cleric from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) admitted the body made a mistake last March when calculating where Muslims should turn to when praying. He said new instructions had now been issued and that people only had to shift their position for the correct alignment.[...]

Ma'ruf Amin from the MUI said a "thorough study with some cosmography and astronomy experts" revealed that Indonesian Muslims had been facing southern Somalia and Kenya instead of Mecca, which is more than 1,000 miles further north.

An embarrassing slip-up by Indonesia’s top religious authority: 

A cleric from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) admitted the body made a mistake last March when calculating where Muslims should turn to when praying. He said new instructions had now been issued and that people only had to shift their position for the correct alignment.[…]

Ma’ruf Amin from the MUI said a "thorough study with some cosmography and astronomy experts" revealed that Indonesian Muslims had been facing southern Somalia and Kenya instead of Mecca, which is more than 1,000 miles further north.

I know that calculating qibla was a tricky problem facing the pioneering Arab mathematicians and geographers of the Middle Ages, but with the exception of unusual situations like praying in space, it really doesn’t seem like it should be all that complicated these days.  I mean, there’s a free iPhone app that does it. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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