According to Turkish media reports, congregants at a mosque in Turkey had been praying in the wrong direction for almost 40 years before their new imam realized the mistake.

The Daily Sabah reported that the mosque in Sugoren, in the western province of Yalova, had a major flaw in its construction that meant that the faithful Muslims (who are instructed to kneel in the direction of Mecca during prayer time) had misaligned themselves by about 33 degrees.

As reported by Hurriyet Daily News, who cited Demiroren News Agency, Mr Kaya was appointed as the new imam last year and following a rumour about the misalignment of a niche in the mosque’s wall that indicated the direction of Mecca.

Instead of immediately tearing down the niche, Mr. Kaya used a temporary measure to point people in the right direction – to place white tape arrows on the mosque’s carpet.

The imam told Demiroren News Agency:

“We have explained the situation to our congregation and most of them have reacted positively to our solution,”

Dr Mustafa Baig, Lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, explained the misalignment.

“It is important to emphasise that Muslims do not worship the Ka‘ba but it is the direction (or qibla) to which Muslims pray,” he said. “Worship is to Allah.”

“In the Qur’an it states: ‘Wherever you turn, there is the countenance of Allah (2:115).’ Moreover, the direction (or jiha) is determined by a 90 degree span and not at the exact angle of the Ka’ba.”

Dr Baig added:

“The Qur’an mentions: ‘Turn your face in the direction of the Sacred Mosque’ (2:149) and the word shatar in this verse has been defined as one of the four cardinal directions, giving a leeway of 45 degrees to either side of the Ka‘ba: in other any aspect of the forehead should be facing the Ka‘ba. In this particular case, the niche was ‘misaligned’ by 33 degrees so it is with the 45 degree limit.”

“Even in the event of praying outside the range of direction, the jurists stipulate that if one has made an effort to determine the direction of the qibla (where due diligence was made) then if later (after the prayer time has lapsed) it becomes known that the prayer direction was completely wrong, the prayer will be considered valid and need not repeated,”

“In this case, therefore, the previous prayers would not be considered invalid and the placement of the prayer niche is also not ‘wrong’, although they may want to reposition it in order to be facing in the exact direction of the Ka’ba.”

An architect will be given the task of redesigning the structure…

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