Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Using Google Maps to Locate Qibla

The Qibla is the direction that a Muslim faces during prayer. It is fixed as the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca.

Over the years a number of Qibla locators have been created with the Google Maps API. Most of them seem to follow the same basic pattern. They allow the user to select a location on the map and then use a polyline to show the direction towards Mecca from that point.

However some Qibla locators use rhumb lines and some Qibla Locators use a great circle, so two different Quibla locators may give completely different results for the direction to be faced. In the image above the left hand map uses a rhumb line to point towards Mecca and the right hand map uses a great circle.

I'm no expert on this but I think both approaches are acceptable to most Muslims. Nowadays it seems that the great circle is preferred as the method of finding the Qibla. However historical methods of finding Qibla, using sightings of the stars and sun, would tend to produce something closer to a rhumb line.

Great Circle Qibla Locators
Rhumb Line Qibla Locators 

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