The controversy of Qibla from North America surfaces from time to time. One group
of people favors the direction of South-East, and another group favors North-East. Now the question is whether South-East
is correct or North-East is correct. Those who favor South-East are mislead by looking at the flat map with an argument that
Makkah is south and East of North America. The fallacy is that the earth is not a flat plane; it is more like a sphere floating
in space of three dimensions. North Pole is a point from where every direction is South; there is no East or West from there.
If you take a globe and stretch a thread from Alaska to Makkah, you will see that the thread passes through or close by North
Pole. So, the Qibla from Alaska will be towards North.
The above map is a true projection of the globe keeping Makkah at the center of
projection. This projection allows us to draw a line from any place to Makkah and note the angle from the longitude lines.
That gives the Qibla from North. For example, take Alaska, and draw a line from Alaska to Makkah (as shown by blue line).
You will see that the line passes through North Pole, so the Qibla from Alaska is due North. Curved lines on this map
are longitude lines and they all meet at South and North Poles. They are not like latitude lines that are parallel to each
other and do not meet. Take another example, Miami. The green line from Miami to Makkah makes an angle of about 56 degrees
from the longitude line that goes to North Pole. So, the Qibla from Miami is 56 degrees to East from North.
If that is confusing, then let us think that there is a very high minaret over
Kabah, so high that it reaches the sky. Everyone would agree that if we can see that minaret, facing to that is the direction
of Qibla. Now, Allah (SWT) has provided that imaginary minaret in the form of the sun being at the top of that minaret. It
has been observed for centuries that there are two days in a year (May 28 and on July 16) when sun comes exactly overhead
Kabah at the local noon time. Muslims in many distant countries for centuries used to wait for these dates, in the hope to
see which direction is the sun and then set the orientation of the mosques.
It has been observed that around noon time of Makkah, it is about 6 am in Nova
Scotia, Canada and Maine, USA. The sun rises in those locations as it comes overhead Makkah at local noon time. Facing the
sun on those two dates around 6 am gives the correct direction of Qibla from North America. Those who had observed this confirmed
that they saw the sun in North East direction at the specified time and date. Therefore, it is correct to say that Qibla
from North America is generally North-East, except from Alaska and California where it is close to North direction.
The actual direction of the sun observed verifies with the angle calculated using
Spherical Trigonometry for calculating the direction from one point to another. For the 48 contiguous states of USA, the Qibla
is some angle between North and East; the angle varies from location to location. The precise value of what angle from North
one should turn to face the Qibla can be calculated from Spherical Trigonometry, using Great Cirlce concept or shortest distance
theory, assuming the earth is a sphere. The fact that the earth is a geoid (ellipsoid flattened at the poles) affects the
results in negligible and practically immeasurable quantities.