views updated Jun 08 2018


The place toward which Muslim worshippers direct themselves for prayer, the qibla, has always been an important Islamic identity marker. The Ka˓ba and the Holy City of Mecca play a very important role as symbolic center in several kinds of religious behavior. The salat (prayer) is performed with the face in the direction of Mecca; the deceased is buried lying on his right side, facing Mecca, and it is also advised to take the qibla into account in a positive or negative way in various other activities. Discourse about the qibla is often embedded in notions of power and tradition. For example, the divide among the Javanese communities in present-day Surinam and the Netherlands between East-keblat people and West-keblat are closely related to reformist versus traditionalist ideas, respectively. The traditionalist West qeblat people keep to their pre-diaspora Javanese customs, identity, and their original Indonesian prayer direction to the West. Reformists argue that it should be altered. Similar discussions take place elsewhere.

Recent historical research by Uri Rubin indicates that the first qibla the Muslims used in Mecca was the Ka˓ba, in agreement with the local hunafa˒ (monotheists), who saw the Ka˓ba as the qibla of Ibrahim and his son Isma˓il. Shortly before the hijra to Medina, and possibly associated with the revelation of the isra˒ (Muhammad's night journey, from Mecca to Jerusalem), the qibla was altered toward Jerusalem. The Meccan sanctuary became the qibla again in 624 c.e. (cf. Q. 2: 136ff) when an important change in Muhammad's attitude toward the Jews occurred.

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Bashear, Sulayman. "Qibla Musharriqa and Early Muslim Prayer in Churches." The Muslim World 81, nos. 3–4 (1991): 267–282.

Ichwan, Moch. Nur. "Continuing Discourse on Keblat: Diasporic Experiences of the Surinamese Javanese Muslims in the Netherlands." Sharqiyyāt 11 (1999): 101–119.

King, David A., and Wensinck, Arend Jan. "Kibla." In The Encyclopaedia of Islam. 2d ed. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1960–.

Rubin, Uri. "Hanifiyya and Ka˓ba: An Inquiry into the Arabian Pre-Islamic Background of Dîn Ibrâhîm." Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 13 (1990): 94–112.

Gerard Wiegers


views updated May 17 2018

Qibla. Direction of Mecca, more specifically the Kaʿba, towards which each Muslim must turn in order to perform the ṣalāt validly. In a mosque, the qibla is marked by the miḥrāb.

The word ‘qibla’ is then also used more loosely for a fixed direction of prayer in any religion.


views updated May 18 2018

qibla. Direction towards which every Muslim must turn for prayer. It was originally towards Jerusalem, but from C7 was orientated towards Mecca. In mosques it is marked by the qibla wall, decorated with one or several mihrabs.