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Praying towards mecca

Praying towards Mecca


( kudos to Chris and Donal for giving me the idea :) )

[here's a picture of a guy on a mat praying towards mecca]

One of the Muslim rules about praying is that, wherever possible, one should pray towards Mecca. Consciously praying any other direction presumably makes the prayers count less.

[A more global view: on a curved surface, how can you really pray towards mecca while being at a tangent to the surface?

In terms of vectors, this means that one can think of one’s prayer as being divided up into two parts, one towards Mecca and one perpendicular.

[A decomposition of the prayer vector into the Mecca component and the ... other ... component]

What should be done to orient one’s self properly towards mecca involves
somewhat more extreme posturing than the normal horizontal orientation
most people take – one must also orientate one’s self vertically to face
Mecca (i.e. one must take into account the curvature of the earth).

However, taking into account the curvature of the earth, it is clear that in America one’s prayer isn’t going towards Mecca by any means. However, thanks to physical reasoning, all is not lost.

You see, treating the prayer as a vector (lets call it P, a certain amount of it ALWAYS goes towards Mecca so long as the prayer makes an angle less than 90 degrees with the direction that you should be praying.


The first, and most obvious solution is to pray harder to make the component of the prayer in the direction towards Mecca large enough so as to be satisfactory.

The second solution is to pray upon a wedge that will point you directly towards Mecca:

[the solution: a man on a wedge!]

However prayer using the “prayer wedge” can be just as difficult as one has to fight off the force of gravity pulling you off the wedge. However, for locations
relatively close to Mecca, this is easy (for longer distances this effect is no longer negligable, and the use of a light harness may become desirable and indeed
necessary to ensure a safe session; elsewise all your prayers might well end up being those asking Him to keep you secure on your Prayer Wedge!).

It came to my mind that maybe I was a bit, shall we say, excited, about my theory and did not take the traditional Muslim tradition as seriously as perhaps I
should; because taking it that one merely has to pray tangential to the earth leads me to believe that perhaps instead of moving along *straight lines* the prayer
vectors have some mass and travel instead along geodesics around the earth. This minimization of work in getting to Mecca would be miraculous indeed, and may
even lead to some solid estimates of the properties of prayer (mass, velocity, etc.).

Please, please note that this article does not stem from my fundamental distaste
for organised religion, but rather from a wholly respectable and respectful sense of
fun-poking thereat.


  1. Dean wrote:

    Great website. I’m glad to know that if I was sinking in a big boat i could still pray to God. Or if I was doing geometry, I could still pray to God. Or if I was on top of the world I would still know how to pray to God.

    Monday, March 19, 2007 at 6:45 pm | Permalink
  2. riazi wrote:

    I would like know about praying in mecca

    Thursday, June 21, 2007 at 5:18 pm | Permalink
  3. a muslim wrote:

    I think you should know more about Islam. It is not appropriate to be seen as an ignorant as you showed yourself to be in this article. It would only cost you just some minutes to read from the authentic books of Muslims.

    Sunday, December 14, 2008 at 11:19 pm | Permalink
  4. Icecube wrote:

    A. Muslim, than you for your comment.

    To clarify: I have read many texts both concerning Islam/Islamic culture, and written by Muslims authors (I suspect the issue of authenticity is moot, so won’t deal with that). The attempt at humour above might belie this fact, it seems. Ah well.

    I think the issue of propriety an interesting and important one. I appreciate your concern, and will keep it in mind, though I currently see little reason not to keep this piece of juvenilia up.

    Monday, December 15, 2008 at 1:49 pm | Permalink
  5. Firu wrote:

    hah! I get it! And, its fun! I’m glad I am not muslim, lest the enjoyment be drained entirely from such comic novelties.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 5:16 am | Permalink
  6. Joey wrote:

    Well Muslims face Mecca NOT because that’s where God resides that’s an intend to face towards the most sacred place in the World. Most Muslim understand the difference in direction and the angle at which Earth is tilted and the curvature etc.. again it is the INTENTION … all muslim actions are based on intentions

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Permalink
  7. reza wrote:

    dear Stephen
    we are facing Mecca because we believe that God say we shuold do,
    and there is some important thing you should know,we are believe that God has no body so you can’t say God is only in Mecca!God is in everywhere and in every time,God never die!

    Saturday, July 2, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Permalink
  8. ahmad wrote:

    So that you’ll talk about how Muslims practice
    The Freedom of Thought in Islam
    Islam means everything to prove with reason
    What is God Most High or the Holocaust, all must be proven in Islam because reason
    America is in need of attention wedge pray to God
    The prayer of devotion
    The unity of all Muslims to prayer
    Because all Muslims to Mecca every day at different times of the Center of the Earth
    With a single language (Arabic) with their god they chant
    By the grace of God
    That all people will pray

    Monday, January 27, 2014 at 7:19 am | Permalink

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