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King: The Petra fallacy The Petra fallacy - Early mosques do face the Sacred Kaaba in Mecca but Dan Gibson doesn't know how / Comparing historical orientations with modern directions can lead to false results

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Abstract

Dan Gibson claims that early mosques face Petra rather than Mecca. But he compares the mosque orientations with MODERN directions of Petra and Mecca. He does not realise that historical qibla directions cannot be the same as modern qibla directions. In fact, the easiest mosque orientations were not calculated at all, but relied on astronomical horizon phenomena, not least because the Kaaba itself is astronomically aligned.
King: The Petra fallacy
1 Dec 2018
The Petra fallacy
Early mosques do face the Sacred Kaaba in Mecca
but Dan Gibson doesn’t know how
David A. King
Professor of the History of Science
Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main
www.davidaking.academia.edu
©David A. King, 2018©
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Notes:
Dan Gibson’s book Early Islamic Qiblas (2017) prompted my reply “From
Petra back to Mecca: from pibla back to qibla(2017). His “Comparing two
qibla theories” (2018) has prompted the present response. The abundant
reliable publications on the determination of the sacred direction toward the
sacred Kaaba in Mecca are here listed for the first time.
To understand why this early mosque in Iraq was pulled down and rebuilt in
a different direction, read on ... , but rest assured, it all has nothing to do with
Petra.
Keywords: Islam, Kaaba, Ka’ba, Mecca, Makkah, La Mecque, qibla, !"#
$$$$$$$
% , sacred
geography, sacred direction, Petra, pibla, Nabataeans, astronomical
alignments, mosque orientations, archaeoastronomy, ethnoastronomy,
cardinal & solstitial directions, astronomical horizon phenomena,
trigonometry, geometry, qibla-maps, qibla-indicators, Dan Gibson, revisionist,
fallacy, Amod Jason Deus, A. J. Deus, Ottoman mosques, ... !
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Table of contents:
Introduction 5
Revisionist fascination with N. W. Arabia 8
Enter Dan Gibson with his Early Islamic Qiblas (2017) 11
Nabataean orientations before Gibson 11
Accurate mosque orientations towards Petra 12
Mosque orientation before Gibson 12
Some basics 14
Gibson’s “Comparing two qibla theories” (2018) 18
The orientation of the Kaaba 21
Gibson’s conclusions regarding orientations 22
Some individual mosques 23
Criticism of Gibson’s methodology 26
Why do we do this? 26
Critiques of critiques 28
Dan Gibson’s “qibla tool” 32
New light and new darkness on orientations of mosques in Anatolia and beyond 34
Suggestions for future research 35
Concluding remarks 38
. 39
Bibliography of books, articles and websites on historical qibla determinations 39
Early Western works 40
General works on Islamic astronomy (selected) 40
Islamic folk astronomy (selected) 41
Archaeoastronomy and ethnoastronomy 42
Selected works on the determination of the qibla 42
General 42
Jerusalem and Mecca 43
The orientation of the Kaaba 43
Islamic sacred geography 43
Studies of folk astronomical and legal texts on finding the qibla 44
Determination of the qibla by geometry or trigonometry 44
General overviews 44
al-Bīrūnī and his monumental work on mathematical geography 44
Methods to determine the meridian 45
The use of the magnetic compass 45
Qibla-methods proposed by individual Muslim scientists 45
Cartographical solutions 47
Instruments for finding the qibla 47
Lists of historical qibla-values* for different localities 47
Procedures for determine the meridian (incl. “the Indian circle”) 48
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Simple procedures for architects to lay out mosques 48
Orientations of mosques and religious architecture (by region) 48
General 48
Hejaz 49
Iran 49
Central Asia 49
Cairo 49
al-Andalus 50
The Maghrib 50
Turkey 51
The Balkans 51
Greece 51
Miscellania 51
Recent publications in languages other than English 51
Miscellaneous non-historical writings 52
Enter the revisionists 52
Dan Gibson and the aftermath 52
Excursus: The archaeoastronomical reality of Petra and Nabataea 53
A. J. Deus 53
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Introduction
!"#% &'()*+ ,'-)* ./ 01“ “What is between the east and the west is a qibla.”"
Statement attributed to the Prophet Muammad.
“The Kaaba is the qibla for the Sacred Mosque, the Sacred Mosque is the qibla for the
sacred precincts (of Mecca and it environs), and the sacred precincts are the qibla for
the inhabitants of the whole world from where the sun rises to where it sets.” Ibn
al-Qāṣṣ (ca. 975), !"#23* 4567 &089 , Kitāb Dalā’il al-qibla, quoted in King, World-Maps for
finding the direction of Mecca (1999), p. 749.
“The most significant characteristic of the mosque is the direction that it faces.” "
H. Masud Taj, “The influence of qibla in Islamic cities” (1999).
“None of the mosques which Gibson thinks were built facing Petra "
has anything to do with Petra, ... ”. "
DAK, “From Petra back to Makka” (2017).
For over 1,400 years, Islamic civilization has taken the orientation of sacred
space more seriously than any other civilization in human history. The sacred
direction towards the sacred Kaaba in Mecca is called qibla in the languages of
the Muslim commonwealth. The ways in which Muslims have determined
the qibla over the centuries constitute a complicated story, but several facts are
known:
The Arabs before Islam had an intricate system of what we now call
‘folk astronomy’ based on what one can see in the heavens.
The Kaaba has a rectangular base which is astronomically aligned; its
major axis points toward the rising of Canopus, the brightest star in the
southern sky, and its minor axis is defined by summer sunrise and winter
sunset. Its four corners point roughly in the cardinal directions.
The Muslims developed a sacred geography in which, over the
centuries, various schemes were developed in which segments of the
perimeter of the Kaaba corresponded to sectors of the world which had the
same qibla, defined in terms of astronomical risings and settings. The first
such schemes appear in Baghdad in the 9th century.
By the early 9th century, the Muslims had accessed the geographical
and mathematical knowledge of their predecessors, which meant that for the
first time they could calculate the qibla using (medieval) geographical
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coordinates and mathematical procedures. (Of course, this would not mean
that they could find the MODERN direction of Mecca.)
From the 7th to the 9th century and also occasionally thereafter until the
19th century, Muslims used astronomical alignments to lay out the qibla. From
the 9th century to the present Muslims have also used mathematical methods
to calculate the qibla.
Few people know anything about this these days. Indeed, most Muslims
think that all mosques face Mecca. Yet if they would investigate just a few
historical mosque orientations they would be surprised. For medieval
mosques face the Kaaba rather than Mecca. There is a subtle, but highly
significant difference. How can they ‘face’ a distant edifice that is not visible?
How these mosques actually ‘face’ the Kaaba is something we moderns have
to learn. And the matter of the qibla is not only about mosques: it is about
every Muslim at home and abroad, in life and in death, who follows the
prescriptions relating to the sacred direction of Islam.
*****
One of my concerns over the past 50 years has been to attempt to document –
mainly for the first time the ways in which Muslims over many centuries
have used astronomy in the service of their religion:
to regulate the lunar calendar through the sighting of the crescent;
to organize the times of the five daily prayers; and
to determine the qibla or sacred direction toward the Kaaba.
To do this I first read what my teachers Karl Schoy (1877-1925) and Ted
Kennedy (1912-2010) had written about these subjects using medieval Arabic
sources. Particularly important were Kennedy’s translations of and
commentaries on the writings of al-Bīrūnī, the greatest scientist in early
Islamic history, which dealt with the second and third of these topics.
I spent many years looking at thousands of medieval Arabic manuscripts and
hundreds of scientific instruments in libraries and museums around the
world. Since nobody had ever looked at most of these manuscripts for
centuries, I inevitably found things that were new. Some of my results took
some Muslim colleagues by surprise. Western colleagues are, I find, becoming
less and less interested in anything to do with classical Islamic Studies. And
that field is plagued by revisionists who think that no medieval Arabic texts
are trustworthy and who eagerly rewrite a chapter of Islamic history relying
instead on the ramblings of some early Christian bishop in Armenia (I
exaggerate, but not much).
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using geographical coordinates and trigonometric or geometric methods. But
the book focusses on the mathematical tables that were devised giving the
qibla as an angle in degrees and minutes to the local meridian for the whole
Muslim world; the geographical tables giving for the principal localities in
the Muslim world the qibla and distance to Mecca; and the cartographical
Mecca-centred grids which enable the user to read off the qibla and distance
to Mecca for any locality in the (classical and medieval) world.
None of these materials was known 50 years ago. And inevitably none of
them are mentioned in uninformed popular accounts of the qibla such as one
finds in Wikipedia. I never thought while preparing all my research that some
day someone would come along and announce that all early mosques are
oriented toward a location other than Mecca. No serious scholar, Muslim or
non-Muslim, would ever have thought that mosques might have been
deliberately oriented toward somewhere other than Mecca. If they had, they
would rightly be considered to be deranged.
Revisionist fascination with N. W. Arabia
“Lies can become truth, if we do not stop them.” Warning on
CNN international, Nov., 2018.
Some 50 years ago some over-enthusiastic London-based Arabists – John
Wansbrough and his students Michael Cook & Patricia Crone – came up with
the idea that Islam began not in Mecca but somewhere unspecified in N. W.
Arabia. This was a curious idea, not least because there were no obvious
potential sites. One of the principal and most convincing arguments for their
bold assertion was the ‘fact’ that the earliest mosques in Egypt and Iraq do
not face Mecca, but rather some locality in N. W. Arabia. Some 25 years ago I
pointed out to Michael Cook the folly of this assertion, explaining that the
earliest mosque in Egypt faces winter sunrise and the earliest mosque in Iraq
faces winter sunset; so, of course, these mosques do not face (the MODERN
direction of) Mecca. Nor were they deliberately aligned towards anywhere in
N. W. Arabia. They were deliberately aligned to face toward the Kaaba. Cook
reacted to this information by saying, most appropriately: “It’s a bit late”.
Yes, the earliest Muslims in Egypt and Iraq used winter sunset and winter
sunrise, respectively, for the qibla, not because they were stupid, but because
they were smart. How else to face an edifice they could not see: all savvy
ancient peoples have used astronomical alignments for one reason or another.
From al-Andalus to Central Asia early mosques were built in astronomical
directions later referred to as qiblat al-aāba or qiblat al-tābiʿīn, ”the qibla of the
first or second generations of Muslims”.
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My present intention is simple: it is to warn the unsuspecting reader that the
only other person ever to have written generally on the subject of mosque
orientations
(a) has no qualifications to correctly interpret the available data;
(b) has no understanding of the fact that MODERN directions from one
place to another cannot be used to investigate the reasons underlying the
orientation of PRE-MODERN architecture;
(c) seems oblivious to the fact that there is well-established discipline called
archaeoastronomy and has no understanding of astronomical alignments;
(d) has erred monumentally in his interpretation of mosques that were built
on pre-existing religious architecture or to fit with pre-Islamic city plans;
(e) has no understanding of how mosques were laid out over the centuries;
(f) has no control over any of the numerous medieval Arabic sources – legal,
astronomical, folk astronomical, and mathematical, geographical
relating to the determination of the qibla; and
(g) prefers to refrain from citing the vast existing bibliography on the subject.
Worse still, he
(g) has settled on a nice-enough locality, Petra, as the focus of early Islam
where in the early 7th century there were no Arabs, no Muslims, and no
Jews, and, in brief, there was not much going on.
And worse than that,
(h) both his activities in a field which he does not master and his false
conclusions have already contributed to somewhat dubious causes.
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A schematic representation of the fallacy propounded by Cook & Crone. They
observed that the earliest mosques in Egypt and Iraq appeared to be aligned
toward a place in N. W. Arabia rather than toward Mecca.
This, they wrongly thought, confirmed their theory that the origins of Islam were
somewhere in N. W. Arabia rather than in Mecca.
In fact, the mosques are aligned with the Kaaba in Mecca"
by means of astronomical horizon phenomena, namely, "
winter sunrise in Egypt and winter sunset in Iraq.
The first generation of Muslims knew what they were doing with regard to "
mosque orientations and later generations over many centuries developed"
remarkable and more sophisticated means for finding the sacred direction."
We moderns just have to learn how they dealt with the need to align mosques"
in the sacred direction toward the sacred Kaaba in Mecca. "
It is not something one can imitate or investigate with an iPhone,"
and no Google maps are going to help much.!
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winter sunrisewinter sunset
First mosque in IraqFirst mosque in Egypt
Kaaba
Imaginary
focus of
Muslim
worship,
situated in
N. W. Arabia
King: The Petra fallacy
1 Dec 2018
Enter Dan Gibson with his Early Islamic Qiblas (2017)
I refer to Dan Gibson, a Canadian amateur Near East archaeologist with no
formal academic training but with Christian missionary connections who has
convinced himself and wants to convince the world that Islam started in
Petra rather than Mecca and Medina.
He is certainly very creative: for example, he is able to find numerous implicit
references to Petra in the Qur’ān that nobody before him had ever noticed.
The prominent Arabist Arthur Jeffrey in his book The foreign vocabulary of the
Qur’ān (1938) documented numerous Aramaic words but I do not recall any
specifically Nabataean words. (One of my first papers at graduate school was
on the Aramaic loan-words in the Qur’ān for a course on Biblical Aramaic.)
The Nabataeans may have been Arabs, and they have left us inscriptions in
Nabataean, a dialect of Aramaic, but they spoke a form of Arabic. I leave this
to the specialists. The problem for Gibson is that by the early 7th century they
had left Petra.
Gibson claims to be able to interpret the orientations of any early mosque. He
presents as ‘proof’ of his Petra theory the ‘fact’ that a good number of the 50-
odd earliest mosques are oriented to within a degree or two with Petra in
sight, not Mecca. And, Gibson claims, the real Kaaba was originally in Petra
anyway. All this happily confirms his theory that Islam started in Petra, not
Mecca. This contradicts everything we know about early Islam and
contemporaneous Petra, let alone the sacred direction or qibla, but mainly
because it is based on the most obvious false premisses. Since Gibson has no
idea how the first generations of Muslims might have determined the
direction toward anywhere – Petra or Mecca – he compares the orientation of
mosques laid out well over 1,200-1,400 years ago with MODERN directions
toward Petra and Mecca.
Let me say at the outset that I believe that Gibson is sincere even though he is
misguided; he really believes what he has discovered is new and exciting,
substantiated by evidence which he is the first person to present. (Certainly
nobody before Gibson has presented this dazzling array of mosque
orientations.) But he cannot believe there is another explanation to all of his
orientations which does not involve Petra at all. As they say in new-speak, he
just doesn’t get it.
Nabataean orientations before Gibson
If Gibson is ill-informed about Muslim practice regarding orientations, he
appears to be quite clueless about earlier Nabataean practice in Petra and
elsewhere. He apparently does not know that even his favourite Nabataeans
used astronomical alignments – the cardinal and solstitial directions – for
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orienting their religious architecture and their tombs. Not a single historian of
Nabataean history, language, religion, architecture or culture has come out
with any item of information that would give credence to this breaking news
about Petra. Which of course brings us back to Cook & Crone and their
imaginary cradle of Islam in N. W. Arabia. Few would disagree that Petra is
the nicest place in the entire region. But in the early 7th century it had long
ceased to thrive and it appears to have been more or less deserted.
Accurate mosque orientations towards Petra
... Turkish architects were not smart enough to read an angle
off a table and draw a corresponding line on the ground [sic].”
Deus, p. 7.
“ ... none of the mosques by Mimar Sinan point to Mecca
[sic] ... .” Deus, p. 19.
To give credence to his Petra theory Gibson needs to rewrite the history of
science, a subject about which he is singularly uninformed. He wants us to
accept that when the first generation of Muslims expanded out of Petra (!)
they knew all about astrolabes (!) and spherical trigonometry (!) and the like.
When they wanted to build mosques around the world from al-Andalus to
China facing the Kaaba in Petra they used these advanced mathematical
techniques to calculate the pibla (my word) toward Petra and they were able
to do this to within a degree or two. In fact, the ‘real’ Muslims used simple
astronomical alignments to find the direction of the Kaaba, and there was no
need for any mathematical system. (However, as part of the Graeco-Roman
world, the Nabataeans long before the advent of Islam did have such devices
as sundials.)
Mosque orientation before Gibson
Gibson’s claim about Petra deliberately ignores everything that modern
scholarship has uncovered about the ways Muslims over the centuries have
determined the sacred direction. His first book Qur’ânic Geography (2011) had
not a single reference to any serious book or article on the qibla. His later
works have been padded with a few references to my works but they
deliberately omit any reference to five articles which presented an overview
of what was known before Gibson appeared on the scene:
“On the astronomical orientation of the Kaaba” (with Gerald S. Hawkins)
(1982);
Astronomical alignments in medieval Islamic religious archi-
tecture” (1982);
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The orientation of medieval Islamic religious architecture and
cities” (1995);
“The earliest Islamic mathematical methods and tables for finding the
direction of Mecca” (1996); and
“The sacred geography of Islam” (2005).
For myself, I am fairly confident that Islam started in Mecca and Medina, and
that all early mosques were deliberately aligned to face the astronomically-
aligned Kaaba in Mecca. These orientations were achieved by the early
Muslims with a considerable amount of success within the limits of their
capabilities, mainly using astronomical alignments or building on earlier
foundations that were inevitably also astronomically aligned. Later mosques
were aligned either in qiblas calculated from the available geographical data
using mathematical procedures, although the old procedures continued to be
used.
In each major centre in the medieval Islamic world there was a palette of
several qibla-directions accepted by one interest group or another. There
might be a qiblat al-aāba, a direction chosen by the first generation of
Muslims who settled in that locality, usually an astronomically-defined
direction, and favoured thereafter; there might be different directions
favoured by the individual legal schools; there might be a different
astronomically-defined direction that was favoured by some; and there could
be two mathematically-determined qibla-directions, one based on an
approximate methods and the other based on an exact procedure. The
modern qibla, based on accurate geographical data and derived by exact
mathematical methods, is irrelevant to the investigation of the motivation
behind the orientation of any historical mosque.
I consider it necessary to respond to Dan Gibson’s latest pronouncements for
three main reasons:
People seem to forget that the sacred direction in Islam is not toward
Mecca but toward the Kaaba in Mecca. There is a significant difference
between facing an edifice that one cannot see but which one knows is
astronomically aligned and facing a distant city. People need to be reminded
of this, because what was obvious to a medieval mind is not obvious to us
moderns. All of Gibson’s mosques are aligned toward the Kaaba in one way
or another. Since the 9th century, when mathematical geography and
mathematical methods became available, mosques have generally been
aligned toward Mecca, usually, but not always, using mathematical methods.
In major centres there was sometimes a palette of qibla-directions – covering
as much as a quadrant of the horizon used by different interest groups.
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Without knowing this, it is somewhat precarious to try to explain an early
mosque orientation.
The concept of the qibla is not just about legal scholars splitting hairs or
mathematicians performing calculations or architects building mosques, it is
about the millions and millions of faithful Muslims who for well over a
millennium over a large part of this planet have exercised their utmost to
pray towards the physical focus of their religion, a symbol of the presence of
their God. This they do or have done in their mosques, but also in their
homes and at work and whilst travelling. Also in death the faithful are laid to
rest in the same direction in which they have been praying during their lives.
No Muslim needs some ill-informed Besserwisser to announce to them that
they and their forefathers have been praying in the wrong direction for over a
millennium and that they should have been praying towards a city in Jordan
that has absolutely nothing to do with early Islam.
There are very few people – Muslims, non-Muslims and independents
who know anything about historical qibla determinations and even fewer
who would be able to counter Gibson’s ‘new’, basically absurd theories
which appear to rely on ‘scientific evidence’.
I am well aware of the potential damage Gibson has done / can do to
our field. But more seriously, Gibson’s writings are guaranteed to contribute
to Islamophobia amongst those who have no idea about the one and only
civilization which really took orientations seriously for over 1,400 years.
Some basics
Before we begin to lose the reader through technicalities we mention a few
basic notions that were self-evident to medievals but are not to some
moderns.
The heavens above the observer appear to rotate about a celestial axis defined
(more or less) by the Pole Star. The altitude of that star above the northern
horizon is a measure of the latitude of the locality.
The cardinal directions north & south are defined as the intersections on the
horizon with the meridian, the vertical circle passing through the Pole Star.
The cardinal directions east & west are defined on the horizon by the vertical
circle perpendicular to the first one. Or we may consider them as the points at
which the sun rises & sets at the equinoxes, the two days of the year when the
length of daylight equals the length of night.
The daily path of the sun is a circle perpendicular to the polar axis. At the
equinoxes this day-circle passes through the east & west points. At the
summer solstice, when the length of daylight is maximum, sunrise & sunset
are substantially (for convenience say about 30°) to the north of east & west.
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At the winter solstice, when the length of daylight is minimum, sunrise &
sunset are substantially to the south of east & west. Directions toward distant
localities can be envisaged as points on the local horizon.
However, before one can get involved with directions to distant localities it is
necessary to first determine the north-south line or meridian. By far the most
popular medieval procedure involved using the so-called “Indian circle”. On
a flat surface one erects a vertical gnomon at the centre of a circle of radius
similar to the length of the gnomon, and during the course of the morning
observes the shadow cast by the gnomon when the sun has reached a certain
altitude. One then repeats this during the afternoon when the sun has the
same altitude. The line bisecting the angle between the two shadows or,
equivalently, the line bisecting the line between the two intersections with the
circle is the meridian. More sophisticated methods were available if greater
accuracy was required. Using a magnetic compass to determine the meridian
was not a good idea. In the 15th century the deviation of magnetic north from
true north was measured by an Egyptian astronomer, but knowledge of this
complex issue remained limited until the introduction of modern geodetics.
The expression ‘astronomical alignments’ relates here to buildings whose
bases, mainly rectangular, are in the cardinal directions, or in directions
defined by the rising or setting sun at the solstices. These solar directions
conveniently divide each quadrant of the horizon into three roughly equal
parts. The risings and settings of various bright “qibla stars” might also be
involved.
To calculate the direction from any general locality toward another, specific
locality, one needs to know the longitudes and latitudes of both localities and
be familiar with an appropriate geometric procedure or trigonometric
formula. These can be exact or approximate, and are adequately dealt with
elsewhere. The latitudes used by medieval astronomers could be fairly
accurate but the longitudes less so. In all, the possibility of error confronted
mosque architects in determining the meridian, in determining the qibla using
erroneous geographical data$and approximate mathematical methods, and
more besides. None of this was necessarily their fault. But it should be
reasonably obvious to a savvy modern that the mosques they built centuries
ago, whilst they might face the qibla accepted at the time, will not be facing
the MODERN qibla, and that certainly is not their fault.!
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!
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South
Summer
Winter
Celestial
Pole
Horizon
North
Equinoxes
West
East
Zenith
Meridian /
Midday
!
"
Latitude
The sun’s paths above and below the horizon!
at the equinoxes and the solstices
King: The Petra fallacy
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Excursus: A formula for determining the pibla to Petra
The following is one of several equivalent modern formulae for finding for any
locality the direction of Petra, that is, the pibla p, from the longitudes and latitudes
of the locality (x,y) and of Petra (xP,yP) (with x = x ~ xP):
p(x,y) = arc cot { [ sin y cos x - cos y tan xP ] / sin x }.
Methods of aligning early mosques toward Petra within a degree or two necessarily
would have involved the equivalent of this level of sophistication, unless, of course,
the mosques were oriented by the methods of folk astronomy (alignments with
astronomical horizon phenomena) or, as Gibson suggests, by observing carrier
pigeons let loose in Petra.
A brilliant equivalent procedure to find the qibla to Mecca was derived by the
astronomer Habash in Baghdad ca. 850.
Habash’s analemma construction for finding the qibla, from which the modern
formula can be derived.
See further Kennedy & Id, “abash al-āsib’s analemma for the qibla” (1973)‚ &
King, World-Maps for finding the direction of Mecca (1999), p. 68.
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Gibson’s “Comparing two qibla theories” (2018)
In this rather desperate new article Dan Gibson attempts to compare what he
and I have written on the qibla or sacred direction in Islam and the orientation
of the earliest mosques (to ca. 800). He still seems to have no understanding
of anything I have ever written on the subject of the qibla so he is hardly
equipped to summarize my findings. He claims that I do not understand
what he has discovered, which is very far from the truth, because I like
numbers and can handle them (up to a point) and I can sometimes tell when
people have been misled by numbers, as is the case with Gibson. And
statistics are on my side this time.
Gibson has the audacity to present our respective credentials for conducting
such an investigation, and I admit to being somewhat tickled by this. He
modestly fails to mention the universities and subjects of his own “several
undergraduate degrees”. He states that he is assisted by “a small team of
fellow researchers with degrees in history, astronomy, engineering,
mathematics, and physics”, but it is a pity that none of these have saved him
from ignoring such fields, now well-documented, as ethnoastronomy and
archaeoastronomy, for this is where our investigations belong, as well as in
Islamic Studies and Nabataean Studies.
In discussing my credentials Gibson omits mention of the fact that my first
degree was in mathematics (1963), with a distinct penchant with respect to
statistics. My graduate studies in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures
and the History of Science came later (1972). In discussing my professional
experience Gibson simply omits the two decades (1985-2006) I spent as
director of one of the two leading centres in Europe of research on the history
of Islamic astronomy and mathematics (the other being the University of
Barcelona).
Gibson states that my “location of data” is my article “Qibla” in the
Encyclopaedia of Islam, the prestigious reference work on historical Islamic
Studies with articles each written by leading international authorities, kindly
adding “many books and articles on the subject” and referring to an old
website of mine. However, in that overview article “Qibla”, published in
1979, after presenting some of the methods and tables used by Muslim
astronomers over the centuries, I briefly discussed mosque orientation in a
few lines. Gibson is correct in stating that I have not personally measured
mosque orientations (except in Samarqand). However, in the 1970s I did
consult hundreds of published mosque plans in the library of the Institute of
Fine Arts in New York. Only a small minority of studies of individual
mosques or architectural complexes contained reliable statements concerning
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orientations and few plans had reliable indications of true north. I concluded
that to publish a survey of orientations based on such plans would not be
worthwhile (“Astronomical alignments”, p. 310).
The orientation of the Kaaba mentioned in medieval texts and confirmed by
satellite images, taking into consideration the surrounding skyline.
Canopus (4:;< , Suhayl) is the brightest star in the southern sky. The direction of the
rising of Canopus is conveniently perpendicular to the axis between summer
sunrise and winter sunset for the latitude of Mecca.
In pre-Islamic folklore the walls of the Kaaba were associated with the four
‘cardinal’ winds. Note that if one standing in front of the SW wall one is facing
(4#28<*, istaqbala) the =>#% qabūl wind, also called 0#? abā; in this position one is
facing summer sunrise with (formerly) fortunate Yemen (@A:3*, al-Yaman) "
on the right and ominous Syria (BC-3*, al-sha’m) on the left.
Some revisionists have claimed that the orientation of the Kaaba (with al-ijr!) may
have been altered on one of the several occasions when the edifice was rebuilt after
destructive floods. Revisionists have to be very innovative when confronted "
with an edifice that is as ancient as the Kaaba.
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summer
sunrise
Black Stone
rising of
Canopus
dabûr
sabâ’
or
qabûl
shamâl
janûb
N
S
WE
King: The Petra fallacy
1 Dec 2018
Various qibla-directions and mosque orientations accepted in medieval cities of "
(a) Córdoba, (b) Cairo, and (c) Samarqand. These include astronomical directions,
cardinal and solstitial, and qiblas determined by mathematical procedures.
In Córdoba there is no accurately-computed qibla attested, only one derived by an
approximate formula (113°), which competed with winter sunrise (120°). The
striking orientation of the Grand Mosque (150°) results from the street-plan of the
Roman suburb where it was built, and it is ‘parallel’ to the main axis of the Kaaba.
In the case of Cairo, the qibla of the Companions of the Prophet was winter sunrise
(117°) and in the 10th century the qibla of the astronomers (127°) started to become
popular. In some suburbs any direction between the rising and setting of the star
Canopus (156°/204°), favoured as a south indicator, was used.
In Samarqand the qibla of the Companions was toward winter sunset (240°) but the
qibla of the Shāfiʿīs was due south (since the Prophet had prayed due south in
Medina) and that of the anafīs was due west (since the road to Mecca left
Samarqand in a westerly direction).
Imagine trying to unravel this from mosque orientations alone. "
Fortunately, we have medieval texts which explain it all, DEFG .!
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The orientation of the Kaaba
It was the discovery of the astronomical alignment of the Kaaba – using
satellite images interpreted by Gerard Hawkins and a medieval Yemeni text
discovered by myself which in 1982 provided the key to the astronomical
alignments of numerous early mosques. Such astronomical alignments were
then confirmed not only by the mosques themselves but also by medieval
texts mentioning the different mosque orientations in individual cities,
notably, Córdoba, Cairo and Samarqand. These cities, with their mutually
independent astronomical traditions, reveal remarkably similar arrangements
of qibla-directions within a quadrant.
By 1987, when I published the Encyclopaedia of Islam article “Makka as centre
of the world”, as well as various articles on mosque orientations, I was able to
present the first explanation of the reasons certain mosques face in directions
that take us by surprise. Inevitably Gibson has never mentioned these
articles. Some of them are reprinted in the 1993 volume Astronomy in the
Service of Islam, which he now cites by title but does not mention its contents.
These texts show that a palette of different qibla directions was used in each
major centre, that is, a set of directions within a quadrant. For some legal
scholars discussing the way in which an individual should stand in prayer,
facing the Kaaba directly was optimal (!#FH
$$$
3* .
$$$
I , ʿayn al-Kaʿba) but any direction
within the appropriate quadrant (!
$$$
#
$$$
F
$$$
H
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
3* !
$$$
;
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
J , jihat al-Kaʿba) was acceptable.
Gibson for the first time now mentions the orientation of the major axis of the
Kaaba but he describes it as solstitial, whereas in fact it is aligned toward the
rising of Canopus, the brightest star in the southern sky: it is the minor axis
which faces winter sunset on one side and summer sunrise on the other. The
astronomical orientation of the Kaaba is a topic that has not yet attracted any
serious attention, either in the Muslim world or in the West.
Anybody who wants to understand mosque orientations should first
consider the Kaaba and the astronomical orientations of its rectangular base,
and then pose the question: how would one face an astronomically-aligned
sacred edifice in a distant location without much geographical knowledge
and with little or no mathematics? The answer for the early Muslims was
quite simple: one should face the same direction as one would when standing
in front of the Kaaba at that wall or corner which corresponds to the location
in question. No serious geography. No mathematics. It’s called tradition.
The corners of the Kaaba were named since time immemorial after the
directions they faced: Syria, Iraq, the Yemen and “the West”. A rich tradition
of sacred geography was developed over the centuries based on the notion of
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the alignments of the sacred edifice. Some 20 different schemes are now
known from Arabic and Persian manuscript sources – treatises on geography,
legal and practical texts on the qibla (!"#2
$$$$$
3* 4
$$$$$
567 K8
$$$$$
9 ), treatises on folk astronomy,
encyclopaedias – in which the world is divided into sectors about the Kaaba,
with the qibla for each sector defined in terms of astronomical risings and
settings. This newly-discovered material was surveyed for Islamicists in the
article “Makka as centre of the world” mentioned above, and was announced
mainly to receptive audiences of ethno- and archaeo-astronomers. The
Islamic tradition of orientation and sacred geography is the only aspect of
ethnoastronomy and archaeoastronomy in human history for which we have
documentation. Gibson would not like these manuscript sources of Islamic
sacred geography because they are “late”; in fact, they date from$the period
between the 9th and the 16th century, which for me is still early.
Gibson’s conclusions regarding orientations
Gibson’s investigations of the orientations of some 50-odd early mosques and
comparison of their orientations with the MODERN directions of Petra,
Jerusalem and Mecca, have revealed to him that there were four qiblas in early
Islam. In his words:
“Gibson believes that early mosques faced one of four different qiblas.
Originally they faced Masjid al-Haraam in Petra (Jordan). Then during a
century of disagreement they faced Mecca, as well as a place between
Mecca and Petra, and some were aligned to be parallel to a line drawn
between Mecca and Petra.”
So his first qibla”, attested for the majority of early mosques, is towards the
Masjid al-arām in Petra (!), which, according to him, is the original Kaaba
(!). I have labelled this direction pibla because it should not be confused with
the real qibla.
Other early mosques “during a(n imaginary) century of disagreement”, faced
Mecca, or a place between Mecca and Petra. If the mosques Gibson finds
facing toward (the MODERN direction of) Mecca do indeed face Mecca, then
it is by coincidence. To assert that mosques were deliberately built in between
two directions is extremely naïve but saves Gibson from admitting that he
does not know what is going on.
The fourth orientation is parallel to a line drawn between Mecca and Petra,
which I label fribla, for ‘frankly ridiculous’. There is no known historical
cultural tradition in which people aligned sacred buildings in a direction
between two directions to two different places. Here Gibson trips over
deliberate solstitial alignments, which for certain localities do indeed lie
cunningly between the local directions of Petra and of Mecca.
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Some individual mosques
I have no intention of commenting here on the orientations of numerous
mosques. I have done that already in “From Petra back to Mecca – From pibla
back to qibla” (2017), and I have seen how some of my pronouncements there
have been misunderstood and misrepresented and distorted. Further, I now
doubt that one can trust Gibson’s values for mosque orientations derived
from satellite maps. Also, I have found that the qibla-directions for various
cities given on different internet sites are not always the same. So I shall here
restrict comments to six (rather important) mosques, although later I shall
make some suggestions for serious research in the future.
Gibson claims that the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus faces (the MODERN
direction of) Petra not (the MODERN direction of) Mecca. He further claims
that it was deliberately laid out towards Petra, and accurately at that. He
overlooks the important fact that it was built on a Byzantine basilica which
had replaced a Roman temple that was cardinally aligned. This is why
it$appears to face Petra, since within the limits of the exercise, Petra is roughly
due south of Damascus. The Muslims built their Mosque and were surely
happy that it ‘faced’ the northern Syrian corner of the Kaaba, as indeed it
does. (Later, Muslim astronomers calculated the qibla in Damascus as about
30° E of S according to medieval geographical data.)
Similarly, the Mosque of ʿUmar in Jerusalem was built so that it is aligned in
a southerly direction like the Temple complex, which itself is roughly
cardinally aligned. Gibson claims the Mosque faces Petra, but in fact it is
happily facing roughly due south toward the Kaaba. (It was some time before
Muslim astronomers announced that the qibla in Jerusalem was about 45 E of
S according to medieval geographical data.)
The Mosque of Guangzhou in China, dated (by some) to 627 (but this is
legendary), is oriented at 292°. Gibson maintains that it was deliberately
aligned toward (the MODERN direction of) Petra at 295° rather than toward
(the MODERN direction of) Mecca at 285°. Since it faces (the MODERN
direction of) Petra to within 3°, Gibson thinks that those who built it must
have used a correct (mathematical?) procedure. More likely, it was oriented
toward summer sunset at about 295°. One should keep in mind that the
Mosque has been rebuilt several times, although tradition would probably
have dictated that the basic layout by Companions of the Prophet not be
changed. Also one can ask how Muslims from Petra might have reached
China before the death of the Prophet and built a mosque toward (the
MODERN direction of) Petra. This would be possible in a world of fantasy.
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Gibson believes they had ships; I have suggested flying carpets. I repeat that
the origins of this mosque are legendary.
The Grand Mosque in Sanaa, built in 705, is oriented at 334°. Now it
happens that, from Sanaa, (the MODERN direction of) Petra is at 334°, (the
MODERN direction of) Jerusalem is at 335°, and (the MODERN direction of)
Mecca is 326°. Does this mean someone calculated the direction of Petra and
got it right to the nearest degree? No it doesn’t, because the major axis of the
Mosque is ‘parallel’ to that of the Kaaba in Mecca (and it even has a miniature
Kaaba inside). Those who built the Mosque were perhaps thinking about
facing the south-eastern wall of the Kaaba, which they knew about, not about
facing “the rose-red city”, of which they had probably never heard.
The Great Mosque in Córdoba faces the deserts of Algeria rather than the
deserts of Arabia. Why? The suburb of Roman Corduba that was called
Colonia Patricia and which sloped down to the River Guadalquivir from the
cardinally-aligned central part of the city has only in the past 20 years been
excavated. The suburban orthogonal street pattern is now seen to be standard
Roman, with the minor axis solstitially aligned between summer sunrise and
winter sunset. We now see that the Mosque was built exactly in accordance
with that suburban street-plan. And that is why it faces a direction
perpendicular to the solstices. And that is very nice, not least because its
major axis is ‘parallel’ to the major axis of the Kaaba. Some medieval schemes
of sacred geography appropriately associate al-Andalus with the middle of
the NW wall of the Kaaba. (Later, Andalusī astronomers proposed different
qiblas, including winter sunrise and a direction derived by an approximate
geometric procedure.)
Several early mosques in the Maghrib from Morocco to Tunisia face the same
south south-easterly direction as the Mosque of Córdoba, thanks to the
Romans, and thanks to the alignments of the Kaaba, and thanks to the late
American Islamicist and historical geographer Michael Bonine, who
discovered this. So much for Gibson’s fribla, according to which the Mosque
was built so as to be parallel to an imaginary line between Petra and Mecca.
Gibson’s fribla is also imaginary.
The first Mosque at al-Wāsi in the province of al-‘Irāq was built in 706 and
later demolished; a second Mosque was erected between 1009 and 1155 in a
completely different direction, at about 50° further south. The first Mosque
faces about 245° and the second Mosque faces about 195°. K. A. C. Creswell,
the father of the history of Islamic architecture, wrote in the 1930s that the
first Mosque faced Jerusalem; Crone & Cook inevitably said it faced an
unidentified site in N. W. Arabia; Gibson now says it was first built
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deliberately facing “between Petra and Mecca’’. In fact, it faces winter sunset,
which was taken as the qibla by the first generations of Muslims in al-‘Irāq.
The second mosque was oriented in a qibla for Wāsi that had been derived by
someone familiar with (medieval) geographical coordinates and mathematics.
The orientation of the two mosques has never been previously explained in
modern times.
This plan of the first two mosques at Wāsi was published "
by the Iraqi archaeologist F. Safar in 1934.
It tells us all that we need to know in order to understand about the general
notions regarding early mosque orientations.
The first mosque there was erected in 706 towards winter sunset because that was
the qibla (or one of the qiblas) of the early Muslims. Clearly this seemed like a good
idea at the time and it was eminently sensible: the Kaaba was more or less in that
direction, and its N. E. Wall also faced winter sunset."
Thus the qibla-wall of the mosque was ‘parallel’ to the N. E. wall of the Kaaba.
A few centuries later a replacement mosque was built on the same site in the
direction that was computed for the local qibla using a mathematical formula and
the newly-available geographical data.
The modern qibla for Wāsi is irrelevant to any discussion of this situation, because
all this is not about ‘us’, it is about ‘them’.
The orientations of both the first and second mosques in Wāsi, like those of every
mosque from the 7th to the 21st century, have nothing to do with Petra.
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Criticism of Gibson’s methodology
My main complaint again Gibson’s methodology is that he believes with all
his heart that MODERN directions towards Petra and/or Mecca are
somehow relevant to our understanding of the orientations of early mosques.
There cannot be anybody on his team who knows about geography or
mathematics (or better, the history of those disciplines) and who could have
explained to him why this is problematic. The ancients and the medievals did
not have access to MODERN geographical coordinates. Nor did they have
access to exact procedures for finding the direction on one locality to another.
To use pre-modern coordinates in such an investigation is no task for an
amateur like Gibson. Whatever he might have used in the way of ancient
Greek (Ptolemaic) coordinates would be inaccurate – especially given that the
Greek value for the length of the Mediterranean was in error and the first
coordinates in Muslim sources appeared in Baghdad ca. 825.
Another problem I have with Gibson’s interpretations of this data is that he
desperately needs to rewrite the history of mathematical geography, albeit
with a cop-out:
... the early Muslims had methods of accurately calculating qiblas. Just
because we do not know for certain what method they used, does not
make it impossible or even improbable that they managed to do this.”
Elsewhere he has discussed all of the scientific means that must have been
available to the first generations of Muslims. Did his Arab Muslims from 7th-
century Petra (who didn’t exist anyway) really know about Ptolemy’s
geographical coordinates (with its incorrect value of the length of the
Mediterranean) as well as Greek and/or Indian trigonometry? Did they have
astrolabes? I doubt that they did, and certainly the first Muslim scientists
known to have proposed exact methods, geometrical and trigonometric, for
determining the qibla, date from ca. 825 (inevitably in Baghdad). Also, the
earliest surviving Islamic astrolabes, from the 8th and 9th centuries, have no
means whatsoever for finding the qibla anyway.
(The Wikipedia article “Qibla”, by the way, also does no justice whatsoever to
the Muslim scholars of yesteryear, ignoring all of their activities, let alone
their major achievements. The only medieval means of finding the qibla that is
mentioned is the astrolabe!)
Why do we do this?
At my advanced age I have no time to waste writing about crackpot theories
like that of Dan Gibson. Nevertheless, I feel I must write these few pages
trying to show how crazy and potentially dangerous they are. There is quite a
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lot of repetition in these pages but I cannot stress enough the inappropriate
procedures Gibson has used and the unfortunate and totally false conclusions
he has reached.
In the late 1980s I had a strong motive to try to understand medieval Islamic
orientations; it was purely academic, for I was constantly confronted with
historians of Islamic architecture writing such nonsense as: “this or that
mosque does not face Mecca properly” or “is not correctly aligned towards
Mecca”, or marking a mosque-plan with a directional indicator toward Mecca
on a qibla-wall when the mosque doesn’t face Mecca at all (by modern
standards). These colleagues had no idea about medieval qibla determinations
and would not want to hear about these from an outsider anyway. In fact, I
can count on the fingers of one hand those colleagues in the history of Islamic
architecture over the past 50 years who have even mentioned what scientific
and legal texts tell us about the qibla and mosque orientations. So my
colleagues in the history of Islamic art and architecture generally still tend to
write n’importe quoi (BL
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
9 M*) when confronted with a curious orientation and
continue to publish whole books about medieval cities or about architectural
complexes without mentioning orientations at all.
Gibson has an even stronger motive to push his Petra thesis. He concludes his
book Early Islamic Qiblas (2017) with the smug advice to Muslims to decide
for themselves whether they should carry on praying in (what he calls) the
false qibla toward Mecca or switch to the correct qibla toward Petra (which I
call pibla). There is another revisionist enthusiast in London, the English
popular historian Tom Holland, self-styled “leading writer on the ancient
world” (www.tom-holland.org), alas not well-versed in the development of
the prayer ritual in Islam, who has recently claimed that Muslims have been
praying at the wrong times for 1,400 years. This kind of ammunition is
extremely useful for those who campaign against Islam and Muslims.
An example of the way in which certain folk have been able to use Gibson’s
theory is the video entitled “The earliest mosques don’t face Mecca! Gibson’s
new research”. This features a conversation between a total innocent Al Fadi
and one Jay Smith. In the video Smith, “an assertive Christian evangelist,
apologist and polemicist”, talks about the way some early mosques, for
example, in India and China face (the MODERN direction of) Petra to within
a degree or two. But I myself showed in the 1980s that many mosques, not
just early ones, faced the Kaaba – not the city of Mecca using astronomical
alignments. This is because, as Gibson seldom mentions, and as Smith would
not want to know, the Kaaba itself is astronomically aligned and all mosques
are, by means that Gibson has not mastered, aligned towards it.
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There is no easy explanation of the orientation of medieval mosques. But we
have laid the foundations for understanding this complicated subject. Then
along comes Dan Gibson, completely untrained in Islamic studies,
mathematical geography, and the history of science, and measures the
orientation of some 50-odd early mosques using satellite images. His
conclusion is that their orientations all have some connection to Petra, not
Mecca. This would be completely new to Nabataean Studies, which he claims
to know something about, and no serious specialist on Nabataean culture is
claiming any such an Islamic connection for Petra. He simply does not realize
that these early mosques were not intended to face Mecca: they were
intended to face the sacred Kaaba in Mecca, a building whose rectangular
base is astronomically aligned. Since they had limited geographical
knowledge and no mathematical knowledge the earliest Muslims adopted a
very sensible expedient to enable them to face the Kaaba: they used
astronomical risings and settings.
Of course these early mosques do not face Mecca. They face the Kaaba,
according to the abilities and limitations of the time. They do not face Petra or
any other specific locality. No civilization before ca. 825 (when the Muslims
controlled both the geography and the mathematics) could orient edifices
toward a specific locality because no civilization had the means
geographical and mathematical – to do that. To assert as Gibson does, that the
Muslims in the 7th and 8th centuries could find the (MODERN) direction
toward Petra EXACTLY from places between al-Andalus and China is ill-
advised.
Critiques of critiques
Most people are either numerate, which means that they like numbers and
know how to handle them, or innumerate, in the sense that they don’t like
numbers and shy away from them. Such people shudder when confronted
with a direction such as 292°, because they have no idea that modern usage
measures directions from 0° clockwise to 360° = 0°; these people might prefer
to read 22° N of E. Now Gibson’s book is all about numbers, some real
(measurements of mosques) and some irrelevant (MODERN directions of
Petra and Mecca). Alas, most reviews of Gibson’s qibla extravaganza have
been made by people not well versed in numbers.
In the acknowledgements to his Early Islamic qiblas Gibson thanks two
scholars Rick Oakes and Ahmed Amine whom we shall mention below. (He
also thanks one of the leading archaeoastronomers of the Near East, and of
Petra, my colleague Juan Antonio Belmonte, who was even more surprised
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than I was to find his name in Gibson’s acknowledgements, for Gibson never
mentions ethno- or archaeoastronomy.)
It is important to consider Gibson’s approach to mosque orientations in light
of his methodology. For he uses MODERN geographical coordinates to
calculate directions of buildings to Petra or Mecca or Jerusalem when those
who erected these buildings did not have access to such coordinates. Nor did
they have EXACT mathematical procedures for calculating directions of one
place to another. So when Gibson writes that a given mosque faces (the
MODERN direction of) Petra, not (the MODERN direction of) Mecca, this is
not to be taken seriously. If I were to say this or that mosque faces Mecca not
Petra, that might be equally absurd. If either of us says that a given mosque
faces exactly Petra or Mecca so that those who built it must have had the
geographical and mathematical knowledge to determine the pibla / qibla
accurately, this would be nonsense. For mosques in the earliest period were
laid out in directions that were not calculated at all.
In my first critique of Gibson’s Petra thesis I deliberately stated that I would
not demonstrate his error for all of the mosques he had misinterpreted but
would present enough examples to demonstrate that not only are his
interpretations erroneous, but also that the whole idea of assessing the
“errors” of medieval orientations by comparing them with MODERN
directions is flawed. Some later commentators didn’t understand this.
Rick Oakes is an American scholar of theology concerned with the history of
the Qur’ān and of early Islam. He has posted his evaluation of my critique of
Early Islamic Qiblas on the blog of the International Qur’anic Studies
Association (IQSA), an outfit based in Atlanta claiming to be “devoted to the
study of the Qur’an from a variety of academic disciplines”. Oakes’ focus
here is not on the science, mathematics, or astronomy that was (or, rather, was
not) available to early Muslims, nor is it with how they could have pointed
any of their earliest mosques in any particular direction. But rather, he
naïvely focusses on the 17 mosques that Gibson says face (the MODERN
direction of) Petra. He does not argue whether or not they were pointed
toward (the MODERN direction of) Petra intentionally. He does not argue
that Gibson’s mosque orientation measurements are accurate, but that these
Gibson’s conclusions based on these orientations deserve confirmation or
refutation. He overlooks my refutation of all of them, so he repeats this
appeal from his non-critical review of Gibson’s first book:
“Gibson’s evidence is just begging for a response. Certainly, Gibson
deserves a thoughtfully-considered book that responds to his analysis of
the evidence with a different explanation.”
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I can feel only shame that my response was not “‘thoughtfully considered”;
maybe the present essay will help. Oakes begins by omitting that I first
published my review of Gibson on my own website and later on the Muslim
Heritage site. He writes that I “revised” my review after a petty response by
Gibson, when, in fact, I just removed a comment about his missionary
connection. Oakes then identifies five mosques whose orientations I did not
even mention: the Masjid al-qiblatayn in Medina and four other very minor
mosques I had never heard of. He seems so convinced about Gibson’s finding
that 17 early mosques point toward (the MODERN direction of) Petra that he
challenges other scholars to offer better explanations than that this was
deliberate. It all becomes a game: who gets it right and who gets it wrong.
Oakes correctly observes that my explanations of why the mosques in
Amman, Fustat, Jericho, and Khirbat al-Minya (only these!) are preferable to
Gibson’s explanation that they point toward (the MODERN direction of)
Petra. While he is correct in mentioning that I wrote that the Sanaa Mosque
points toward (the MODERN direction of) Petra, he missed the fact that this
does not mean that it was deliberately laid out to face Petra: I also said that
the axis of the Mosque was ‘parallel’ to the main axis of the Kaaba, so that the
qibla-wall is ‘parallel’ to the SE wall of the Kaaba. Oakes’ best quote about
mosques that were built in the cardinal directions is priceless:
“Jericho Khirbat al-Mafjar King says that “All of these mosques are
trying to tell us that they face south.” Nonetheless [!], (this mosque) faces
180°, only 1° away from Petra’s 181° [!].
“Khirbat al-Minya King says that “This complex was obviously
intended to face due south.” Nonetheless, it faces 183°, only 1° away
from Petra’s 182° [!].”
In brief, Oakes has unfortunately overlooked what I wrote about the
absurdity of using MODERN directions to investigate orientations of
buildings that were built well over 1,200 years ago and the folly of ignoring
cardinal and solstitial directions in interpreting orientations that were laid out
toward astronomical horizon phenomena or on pre-Islamic foundations that
were cardinally aligned. He is apparently ready to believe Gibson’s claims
about Petra if somebody can confirm them.
Another revisionist historian of early Islam, the French fundamentalist priest
Édouard-Marie Gallez, has fallen for Gibson’s thesis, as they say, ‘hook, line
and sinker’. He also fell for the nonsense that the first generations of Muslims
must have been scientifically advanced. He further believes implicitly in
Cook & Crone’s 1977 Hagarism thesis. His own pet people are the so-called
Judéo-Nazaréens, of whom most people, including perhaps even the
Hagarenes, have never heard. When he read my critique of Cook & Crone
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and Gibson on mosque orientations he went bananas and wrote an
outrageous and venomous rejoinder quite unworthy of a man of the cloth,
which in turn merited an appropriate response from an independent.
A rather curious book appeared in 2018. It was authored by Ahmed Amine,
an independent researcher trained in medicine and studying the history of
religions in late Antiquity. It is entitled L’islam de Petra ... and was intended as
a response to the thesis of Dan Gibson. The author had no prior knowledge of
the qibla or its determination in Islamic history but simply launched into
Gibson and his ‘findings’. He then discussed my criticism of Gibson’s
theories. It is clear that he had little understanding either of what Gibson had
been trying to do, or why I saw this as problematic. Sadly, Amine’s book will
probably be read with enthusiasm by unsuspecting French-speaking
Muslims, although it is incomprehensible without access to the original
writings of Gibson and myself, both in English and not properly explained by
Amine. Sadly also, such readers will not find any serious writings in French
(or any other language) on the determination of the qibla in past centuries
because these have been omitted from Amine’s bibliography. Some seven
pages of references contain an important article by Saifallah et al. and a few
lesser articles of mine, otherwise nothing whatsoever of consequence on the
qibla. Amine’s conclusion after 226 pages is that
“la thèse de Pétra demeure en l’état, comme une simple hypothèse de
travail qui nécessite des preuves supplémentaires plus décisives.”
Here a valuable opportunity has been lost, but one may well ask what was
the goal. Gibson’s Petra thesis, Amine is saying,
“remains at project stage like a simple working hypothesis which requires
additional and more decisive proofs”.
It was a mistake in the first place for the author (AA) to approach a book
based on totally false assumptions (DG) together with a harsh criticism
thereof (DAK) without any understanding of the subject at hand. And it was
a mistake for this author (DAK) to innocently try to help that author (AA) try
to understand anything. So be it.
But all is not lost. I can recommend the article by Mark Anderson of the
Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies: it is entitled “Is Mecca really the
birthplace of Islam?”.* This should be required reading for anyone interested
in the Petra fallacy. Anderson’s study considers seven of Gibson’s arguments
for Petra and the comparison ends with a score Mecca 7, Petra 0.
* Unfortunately I am reported to have said that the earliest Muslims “calculated” the qibla, whereas in
fact I had stated that they “determined” the direction of the Kaaba using astronomical alignments: they
calculated nothing.
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Dan Gibson’s “qibla tool”
Gibson’s publisher (CanBooks) has in the past few days (early November,
2018) released a new “Qibla Tool” (available at http://thesacredcity.ca/data/
index.html). At first sight, this is most useful and could put an end to some of
the often silly controversy that has been raging about early mosque
orientations. A Google Maps image of the whole medieval Muslim world
shows the location and orientation of all of the earliest mosques. Be careful,
though, for this is a two-dimensional representation of a substantial swathe of
the Earth’s surface. ‘Click-on’, rather confused insets then give further details.
Gibson explains that this tool uses the latest Google Maps, which he admits
sometimes is “not the best” and that it is not intended to be a highly accurate
investigative tool. Rather, he says, it is an illustrative tool, so users can
quickly view and compare various mosques, and make their own conclusions
about the patterns that Gibson sees in early mosque construction, the only
sensible conclusion being that Gibson is right and King is wrong, though, to
Gibson’s credit, this is nor stated.
What is obvious from the map is the following (remember it serves only early
mosques):
The map may show the orientations of mosques but producing the
principal axis of the mosques as straight lines halfway around the
world, nay, across the flat world, is in itself ridiculous and can only
lead to more confusion. This is not a map that preserves directions in
the way Gibson would like.
The overwhelming majority of early mosques in Jordan and Palestine
are astronomically aligned to face south.
The majority of early mosques in Syria are astronomically aligned to
face south.
Virtually all early mosques in al-Andalus and the Maghrib face a
curious direction around south south east.
The Mosque in Sanaa is aligned roughly north-north-west, ’parallel’ to
the mosques in al-Andalus and the Maghreb. How can that be?
There are not many early mosques in Egypt on the one hand and in
Iraq, Iran & Central Asia on the other with a clearly defined general
orientation.
The conclusions that can be drawn from these observations are the following:
The map will appeal to innumerate and cartographically innocent
revisionistas, who will think it proves Gibson’s theories.
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The map is guaranteed to confuse folk who have no idea about the
mathematics of cartography so that they will believe in the ‘directions’
they see on the map.
In Palestine the early Muslims favoured south for the qibla. (This makes
the mosques all seem as though they are facing Petra, which is not far
to the south.)
In Greater Syria the early Muslims favoured south for the qibla. South
means south or (for latitudes less than 36°) the rising or setting of
Canopus. (Their mosques appear to point between Petra and Mecca
because Syria is more to the east than Palestine and further from Petra
than Palestine.)
As already established by Michael Bonine in the 1990 & 2008 (Maghrib)
and myself in 2016 (Córdoba), the mosques in the Islamic West were
built in accordance with Roman city-plans that had their minor axis
solstitially aligned (summer sunrise and winter sunset). This was
considered acceptable by the Muslims because, as luck would have it,
the mosques are ‘parallel’ to the main axis of the Kaaba. (They are also
‘parallel’ to a line between Petra and Mecca, but, contra Gibson, this is
of no historical consequence.)
The solitary Mosque in Sanaa is aligned ‘parallel’ to the axis for the
Kaaba because people wanted that, not because there was any Roman
city. The qibla-wall of the Mosque is ‘parallel’ to the NW wall of the
Kaaba. (From Sanaa, Petra is sort of behind Mecca so the mosque
appears to be aligned towards both.)
We have to look more carefully at orientations in places like Egypt, Iraq
and Central Asia. I can recommend my studies on Cairo (1983/2004) &
and Samarqand (1984/2012) for a start. In each location, the cardinal
directions and winter sunrise and sunset played a significant role, and
for each locality there was more than one accepted qibla direction.
Only general observations are appropriate here because Gibson is using a
MODERN map. The directions it shows for mosques are supposedly
MODERN piblas or qiblas. As far as I know, for over 2,000 years nobody ever
calculated the direction toward Petra before Dan Gibson; what are shown on
his new “qibla tool” are, he thinks, the MODERN piblas. The problem with
Gibson’s new map is that his directional indicators show the orientations of
the mosques but do not point correctly at the places he would like them to
point because of the nature of the map projection and, inevitably, because of
the curvature of the earth. I love the way some of his straight lines indicating
mosque orientations swish across the world and end up in or around Petra or
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Mecca. Flat maps always have limitations of one sort or another. On a
rectangular Mercator map of the whole world the qibla in North America
appears to be toward south-east. However, when you fly out of New York’s
JFK Airport on Saudia towards Jedda you fly north-east over Greenland (or
what’s left of it), not towards the south-east as some folk might think. And
you probably eventually fly over Petra too. In the case of Gibson’s map,
parallels of latitudes and meridians (longitudes) are not shown; instead there
is an unlabelled square (orthogonal) grid which mysteriously does not
expand when one enlarges the map. Since the grid is orthogonal it does not
preserve direction (necessarily toward a central point). It is just as well for
Gibson that he has not included distant places (such as New York or
Guangzhou) on his map; he might be in for quite a surprise. In any case,
pictures speak louder than words, and Gibson’s map speaks louder than
mere numbers. Just be very careful how you use it.
New light and new darkness on orientations of mosques in Anatolia
and beyond
... Turkish architects were not smart enough to read an angle
off a table and draw a corresponding line on the ground [sic].”
Deus, “Monuments of Jihad”, p. 7.
“ ... none of the mosques by Mimar Sinan point to Mecca
[sic] ... .” Deus, “Monuments of Jihad”, p. 19.
In 2018 two studies appeared on the orientation of mosques in Anatolia (and
beyond). The first was an eminently sensible analysis of selected mosques of
major importance (ulu camis) based on sound historical criteria and the kind
of modern investigative methods now standard in archaeoastronomy. The
authors were Profs. Mustafa Yilmaz and Ibrahim Tiryakioglu from the
Department of Geomatics, Faculty of Engineering, Afyon Kocatepe
University in Afyonkarahisar, Turkey, and the title was “The astronomical
orientation of the historical Grand mosques in Anatolia”, published in an
academic journal. Unfortunately the authors were unaware of an Ottoman
table of the calculated qiblas for some 90 cities in the Ottoman Empire which I
published some 20 years ago, but nevertheless their study, being within the
context of the history of Islamic astronomy and mathematical geography as
well as qibla-determinations, is one that can be built upon and expanded.
The second ‘study’, by A. J. Deus, an economist by training, is a completely
off-the-wall attack on Turkish history based on a nutty idea that the diverse
mosque orientations in the world of the Ottoman Turks resulted from
deliberate attempts to align the mosques not toward (the MODERN direction
of) Mecca but (exactly, of course) toward (the MODERN directions of) the
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sites of contemporaneous Ottoman military campaigns in Ukraine, Iran,
Somalia, to Tunisia. Instead of places of worship the mosques, for Deus,
become N0/ O>I* – “monuments of jihad”. Oy veh!
Deus is inevitably innocent of any idea about Ottoman astronomy, astrology,
mathematics, geography, cartography, and instruments for finding the qibla,
and has no idea how the Ottoman astronomers actually determined the qibla
or how the Ottoman astrologers predicted events. Proof of this is his false
premises that they could compute accurately the (MODERN) direction of
Mecca if they wanted to, but they mainly did not, as well as that they were
able to compute the (MODERN) directions from the location of any mosque
toward Ottoman military hot-spots hundreds of miles away, whenever and
wherever they wanted to. They most certainly could do neither of these. To be
sure, as far as determining the qibla mathematically was concerned, their
favourite method was an approximate one anyway (this is well documented)
and their geographical data was not accurate, so if they came up with a
direction similar to the MODERN qibla it would be by chance. Deus has also
overlooked an Ottoman geographical table listing the qiblas for 90 cities in the
Empire, which I published in my book on Mecca-centred world-maps 20
years ago and which I have now published again on my academia.edu site.
Deus published his ‘study’ online “in collaboration with” a revisionist outfit
called “Inarah – Institute for Research on Early Islamic History and the
Koran” based in Saarbrücken, Germany, and known for some very strange
pronouncements about early Islam. If this is the best that Inarah (PQ0
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
R* , ināra,
‘enlightenment’, from Q>
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
R , nūr, ’light’) can do with mosque orientations, it is
rather sad but hardly surprising. Deus’ ‘study’ will doubtless be swallowed
whole by clueless revisionistas and other uninformed, innumerate souls. I
have addressed this outrageous and pernicious nonsense on my
academia.edu site. The principal monuments amongst Deus’ 200-odd
mosques can be interpreted with reference to the qibla that was accepted at
the time they were built (which is of course not the MODERN qibla), and they
all face the Kaaba in one way or another, but in ways that Deus shows
himself incapable of understanding. His overzealous, uninformed
revisionism is hardly what Ottoman mosques need.
Suggestions for future research
Fortunately nowadays one would not have to travel the length and breadth of
the Muslim world to have a new look at mosque orientations. What
concerned investigators might want to do in the future with the major
mosques of the medieval period (7th-15th centuries) is the following:
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(1) determine which mosques were built on the authority of the Prophet or
his Companions;
(2) determine which mosques were built on the foundations of, or in line
with pre-Islamic religious architecture which happened to be cardinally
aligned (such as in Jerusalem and Damascus);
(3) determine which mosques were built according to the street-plans of pre-
Islamic cities which happened to be solstitially aligned (such as Córdoba,
Tlemcen, Tunis, Kairouan);
(4) determine which mosques were built toward winter sunrise (taken as one
qibla-direction from Egypt to al-Andalus), and toward winter sunset
(taken as one qibla-direction from Iraq to Central Asia), or toward some
other astronomical horizon phenomenon;
(5) determine which mosques face more or less due south in Jordan and
Syria;
(6) determine which mosques face due west in India and due east in N.
Africa; and
(7) determine which mosques more or less due north in Yemen and E. Africa.
Mosques which do not conform to these norms can possibly be explained by
means of information on the local qibla in treatises on folk astronomy and
sacred geography (astronomically-defined directions) or treatises on
mathematical astronomy (qiblas calculated from available medieval
geographical data using exact or approximate mathematical methods). Local
topography or hydrography may also have played a role. In all such
investigations, no conclusions should be drawn based on qibla-directions
calculated from MODERN geographical data using some kind of EXACT
mathematical procedures. Also, measurements and calculations to the nearest
degree are adequate for investigative purposes; any attempt at greater
‘accuracy’ is unrealistic.
To any interested parties, I would recommend looking at the five articles
which I mentioned above, not least my article on the earliest mathematical
methods and tables for finding the qibla. I am confident that such simple
approximate methods had far more influence in mosque alignment than any
complicated exact methods and tables. But one cannot use any of these
without knowing what geographical coordinates were available over the
centuries. The complexity of Islamic geographical tables giving longitudes
and latitudes, and the basic reference work by E. S. & M. H. Kennedy,
Geographical coordinates of localities from Islamic sources (Frankfurt, 1987),
presents 14,000 sets of longitudes and latitudes from some 80 Arabic and
Persian astronomical and geographical sources.
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In investigating the orientation of a historical mosque it is important to take
into consideration the original surrounding street-plan and the various qibla-
directions that were favoured in that region at the time. Without such
information it is not a little arrogant to suppose that one can make any
sensible pronouncement regarding the reason behind the orientation of an
edifice that was built over a millennium ago. Woe betide anyone who claims
to explain any medieval mosque orientation without realizing how
complicated is the subject of orientations.
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Concluding remarks
“Every mosque in the world is a segment of a circle whose centre is the
Kaaba. The most significant characteristic of the mosque is the direction
that it faces. Hence it is the building’s abstract orientation and not its
most visible elements dome, minaret, mihrab, etc. that determines its
identity.’’ H. Masud Taj, “The influence of qibla in Islamic cities” (1999), p.
173 (emphasis is mine, and the intended audience are all those who work
on Islamic religious architecture ignoring its orientation and especially
those who compare mosque orientations with the modern directions of
Mecca and then spout nonsense).
As for the Kaaba, a symbol of the presence of God and the physical focal
point of Islam, nobody in its vicinity now could guess or test its astronomical
alignments because of all of the skyscrapers surrounding the Mosque
complex. And by 2019, according to numerous news reports in 2017, the
entire area around the Kaaba will supposedly be covered by a “retractable
roof”. These reports were inevitably neither confirmed nor denied by the
Saudi authorities. If they are true, then the Kaaba will sometimes no longer be
visible even from space. If they are not true, @STCU , so much the better.
Gibson thinks that Muslims should have been praying toward Petra for the
past millennium, as he thinks they did in the first two centuries of Islam. For
the time being, though, practicing Muslims can happily ignore Gibson’s
outrageous suggestion that they start praying towards Petra again. They also
don’t need to worry about Deus’ pronouncements that their mosques have
never been oriented toward Mecca.
This independent observer suggests that Muslims should simply carry on
praying towards the Kaaba as they have been doing for over 1,400 years.
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.
Bibliography of books, articles and websites on
historical qibla determinations
There is an enormous amount of literature in the Muslim sources on the
sacred direction or qibla toward the sacred Kaaba in Mecca. Here we are
concerned only with modern studies of historical literature which discussed
the ways in which one can actually determine the qibla. Essentially, the qibla
directions used in early times were often derived using astronomical horizon
phenomena such as the cardinal and solstitial directions – north, south, east &
and west, or summer or winter sunrise & sunset, or the risings and settings of
specific qibla-stars – as outlined in the little-known genre of folk astronomical
and legal literature labelled !"#2
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
3* 4
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
567 K8
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
9 , kutub dalā’il al-qibla, “books on the
(non-mathematical) means of finding the qibla“. The mathematically-derived
qiblas (9th century onwards) were calculated from medieval geographical
coordinates, using either simple approximate techniques or complicated
trigonometric or geometrical procedures. In most major centres there was a
palette of different qibla-directions favoured by one group or another,
documented in the medieval sources, which partly accounts for the wide
diversity of orientations of historical mosques in any given region.
Since the mathematically-derived qiblas depend on geographical coordinates,
the qibla directions derived by Muslims centuries ago with (by modern
standards, inaccurate) coordinates are obviously not going to be identical
with modern qibla directions such as one can now access for any location on
earth by means of the internet. If one is interested in investigating
orientations of historical mosques it is advisable to first try to understand
how Muslims dealt with the determination of the qibla, keeping in mind that
modern qibla-directions are less relevant than one might first think.
No general bibliography on qibla determinations has been prepared before.
The author will appreciate information on any relevant works that have
been inadvertently omitted.
References to specific medieval Islamic legal works on the qibla are to be
found in the writings of Neumann, Dallal, King, Rius, and Schmidl. See also
the article ibla (legal aspects)” by A. J. Wensinck in Encyclopedia of Islam,
2nd edn.
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Early Western works
The first modern scholar to turn his attention to mathematical qibla determinations
was the German historian of Islamic mathematics and astronomy Karl Schoy
(1877-1925), on whom see the obituary by J. Ruska in Isis 9 (1927), pp. 83-95. His
collected papers are available as Beiträge zur arabisch-islamischen Mathematik und
Astronomie, 2 vols., Frankfurt, 1988. The next was the American scholar Edward S.
Kennedy (1912-2009), the leading scholar of the history of Islamic astronomy in the
2nd half of the 20th century, on whom see the obituary and bibliography in Suhayl
International Journal for the History of the Exact and Natural Sciences in Islamic
Civilisation 9 (2009-2010), pp. 185-214. His collected papers are published in Studies
in the Islamic Exact Sciences, Beirut, 1983. It is planned to put this volume online as
well as his publications on various works by two of the most significant Muslim
scientists, al-Bīrūnī and al-Kāshī, as well as the monumental Geographical coordinates
of localities from Islamic sources.
For numerous writings by the two next generations of specialists in the history of
Islamic astronomy and mathematics on mathematical methods for finding the qibla
especially Richard P. Lorch, Julio Samsó, Jan P. Hogendijk, J. Lennart Berggren,
Ahmad Dallal and DAK see www.staff.science.uu.nl/~gent0113/islam/
qibla.htm.$Reprints by Variorum of various studies by DAK are the following:
Islamic Mathematical Astronomy (1986/1993); Islamic Astronomical Instruments
(1987/1995); Astronomy in the Service of Islam (1993); and Islamic Astronomy and
G e o g r a p h y ( 2 0 1 2 ) . A l l p ublicatio ns o f D A K a re a vai lable a t
davidaking.academia.edu.
This bibliography does not include the standard references to the primary
manuscript sources for the history of Islamic science, namely, the works of Heinrich
Suter, Carl Brockelmann, Charles A. Storey, Fuat Sezgin, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu et
al., & Boris A. Rosenfeld et al. See further https://ismi.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de (2018).
General works on Islamic astronomy (selected)
Carlo Alfonso Nallino, “[Islamic Astronomy]”, in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics,
James Hastings, ed., 12 vols., Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, vol. 12 (1921), pp. 88-101.
DAK, “Islamic astronomy”, in Christopher Walker, ed., Astronomy before the Telescope,
London: British Museum Press, 1996, pp. 143-174, repr. in Islamic Astronomy and
Geography, I, also available on www.muslimheritage.com/article/islamic-astronomy.
Robert G. Morrison, “Islamic astronomy and astrology”, in Robert Irwin, ed.,$New
Cambridge History of Islam, vol. 4, Cambridge, etc.: Cambridge University Press, 2010,
pp. 589-613.
Kennedy et al., Studies: E. S. Kennedy, Colleagues and Former Students, Studies in the
Islamic Exact Sciences, David A. King and Mary Helen Kennedy, eds., Beirut: American
University of Beirut, 1983.
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Kennedy Festschrift: From Deferent to Equant: Studies in the History of Science in the Ancient
and Medieval Near East in Honor of E. S. Kennedy, David A. King and George Saliba, eds.,
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 500 (1987).
DAK, “Science in the service of religion: The case of Islam”, impact of science on society
(UNESCO), no. 159 (1991), pp. 245-262 (available in several languages), repr. in
Astronomy in the Service of Islam, I, available at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/
0008/000885/088535eo.pdf.
– , In Synchrony with the Heavens – Studies in Astronomical Timekeeping and Instrumentation in
Islamic Civilization, vol. 1: The Call of the Muezzin, & vol. 2: Instruments of Mass
Calculation, Leiden, etc.,: Brill, 2004-05.
Clive N. Ruggles, ed., Handbook of archaeoastronomy and ethnoastronomy, 3 vols., New York,
etc.,: Springer, 2015, contains the following articles: King, “Astronomy in the service of
Islam”, pp. 181-196; Clemency Montelle, “Islamic mathematical astronomy‘‘, pp.
1909-1916; Tofigh Heidarzadeh, “Islamic astronomical instruments and observatories‘‘,
pp. 1917-1926 (more references below).
Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edn., 13 vols., Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1960-1980, especially articles
“Anwā(pre-Islamic calendrical system)”; “Asurlāb (astrolabe)”; “Hay’a (astronomy);
ibla (sacred direction)”; “Layl wa-nahār” (simple timekeeping); “Makka as centre of
the world” (sacred geography); “Mīāt” (astronomical timekeeping and times of
prayer)”; “Mizwala (sundials)”; “Rubʿ (quadrant)”; “Nudjūm” (star-lore); “Ru’yat al-
hilāl (lunar crescent visibility)”; “Shakkāziyya (universal projections)”; âsa (magnetic
compass)”; and “Zīdj (astronomical handbooks and tables)”.
BEA: Thomas Hockey et al., eds., The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, New York:
Springer, 2007, available at http://islamsci.mcgill.ca/RASI/BEA/ and now https://
ismi.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/biographies-list (2018) (This is the standard reference
work on the most significant Muslim astronomers.)
DSB: Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 14 vols. and 2 supp. vols., New York: Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1970-80. (Biographical articles are sometimes preferable to the
corresponding ones in BEA.)
Lennart Berggren, Episodes in the Mathematics of Medieval Islam, New York, etc.: Springer,
1986.
E. S. Kennedy & Mary Helen Kennedy, Geographical coordinates of localities from Islamic
sources, Frankfurt: IGAIW, 1987.
Islamic folk astronomy (selected)
There is no general survey. Various aspects are treated in the following works:
Paul Kunitzsch, Untersuchungen zur Sternnomenklatur der Araber, Wiesbaden: Otto
Harrassowitz, 1961.
, article “Ibn Qutayba”, in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, XI, pp. 246-247 (no article in
BEA!).
Fuat Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, VII: Astrologie Meteorologie und
Verwandtes, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1979, pp. 336-370.
Charles Pellat, articles “Anwā’” & “Layl wa-nahār”, in Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd edn.
Anton H. Heinen, Islamic cosmology: A study of as-Suyūtī’s al-Hay’a al-saniya fi-l-hay’a al-
sunnīya, Beirut, 1982 (a work for prime importance for understanding an independent,
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truly Islamic Arab cosmology, reviewed in Journal of the American Oriental Society 109
(1989), pp. 124-127).
Miquel Forcada, “Mīqāt en los calendarios andalusíes”, al-Qantara 11 (1990), pp. 59-69.
– , “Astrology and Folk Astronomy: The Mukhtasar min al-Anwāof Amad b. Fāris”,
Suhayl International Journal for the History of the Exact and Natural Sciences in Islamic
Civilisation 1 (2000), pp. 107-205
DAK, “Folk astronomy in the service of religion: The case of Islam”, in Clive L. N. Ruggles
& Nicholas J. Saunders, eds., Astronomies and Cultures, Niwot CO: University Press of
Colorado, 1994, pp. 124-138, and idem, “Applications of folk astronomy and
mathematical astronomy to aspects of Muslim ritual”, The Arabist (Budapest Studies in
Arabic), 13-14 (1995): 251-274.
, “A survey of arithmetical shadow-schemes for time-reckoning”, in idem, In Synchrony
with the Heavens, III: pp. 457-528, previously published in Oriens 32 (1990), pp. 191-249.
Petra G. Schmidl, Volkstümliche Astronomie im islamischen Mittelalter. Zur Bestimmung der
Gebetszeiten und der Qibla bei al-Abaî, Ibn Raîq und al-Fârisî, 2 vols., Leiden, etc.: Brill,
2007. (The first study of its kind, based on medieval Yemeni treatises on folk astronomy
compiled by legal scholars and astronomers.)
Daniel M. Varisco, “Islamic folk astronomy”, in Helaine Selin, ed., Astronomy across cultures
– The [!] history of non-western astronomy, Dordrecht, etc.: Kluwer, 2000, pp. 615-650.
Clive N. Ruggles, ed., Handbook of archaeoastronomy and ethnoastronomy, 3 vols., New York,
etc.,: Springer, 2015, contains the following articles (see also above): Petra G. Schmidl,
“Islamic folk astronomy”, pp. 1927-1934; Daniel Martin Varisco, “Folk astronomy and
calendars in Yemen”, pp. 1935-1940.
Danielle Adams, “Two Deserts – One Sky Arab star calendars”, at onesky.arizona.edu
(accessed 2018) (a new website featuring aspects of Arab star-lore in a visual and reader-
friendly fashion, at the same time respecting the original Arabic star-names).
Gerald R. Tibbetts, Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean before the coming of the Portuguese ... ,
(Oriental Translation Fund, N.S. XLII), London: The Royal Asiatic Society of Great
Britain and Ireland, 1971, repr. 1981. (It is often overlooked that Arab navigation is an
aspect of Islamic folk astronomy, not of Islamic astronomy, which is based on
observations and calculations.)
Archaeoastronomy and ethnoastronomy
Clive L. N. Ruggles, ed., Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy, 3 vols., New
York, etc.,: Springer, 2015. (A work of monumental importance covering many relevant
topics, with various chapters in Part II: Methods and Practices, and overviews by
experts on the situation in most parts of the world, although, alas for our present
purposes, Central and South Arabia are not covered.)
Selected works on the determination of the qibla
General
DAK, “The sacred direction in Islam: A study of the interaction of religion and science in
the Middle Ages”, Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 10 (1985), pp. 315-328.
– , “The determination of the sacred direction in Islam”, in World-maps for finding the
direction and distance to Mecca, Leiden: Brill & London: Furqan Foundation, 1999, ch. 2,
pp. 47-127.
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, “The sacred geography of Islam”, in Mathematics and the Divine – A Historical Study, T.
Koetsier and L. Bergmans, eds., Dordrecht: Elsevier, 2005, pp. 161-178, repr. in idem,
Islamic Astronomy and Geography, VIII.
Jerusalem and Mecca
M. S. M. Saifullah, M. Ghoniem, ʿAbd al-Rahman Robert Squires & M. Ahmed, “The Qibla
of early mosques: Jerusalem or Makkah?”’ (2001), available at www.islamic-
awareness.org/History/Islam/Dome_Of_The_Rock/qibla.html (consulted 2016).
Angelika Neuwirth, “From the Sacred Mosque to the Remote Temple – Sūrat al-Isrā
between text and commentary’’, in Jane Dammen McAuliffe & Barry D. Walfish &
Joseph W. Goering, eds., With Reverence for the Word – Medieval scriptural exegesis in
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 376-407.
Simon Shtober, ““Lā yajūz an yakūn fī al-ʿālam li-Llāhi qiblatayn”: Judaeo-Islamic
polemics concerning the qibla (625-1010)”, Medieval Encounters: Jewish, Christian and
Muslim Culture in Confluence and Dialogue 5 (1999), pp. 85-98.
Uri Rubin, “Between Arabia and the Holy Land: A Mecca-Jerusalem axis of sanctity”,
Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 34 (2008), pp 345-362.
The orientation of the Kaaba
Gerald S. Hawkins & David A. King, “On the astronomical orientation of the Kaaba”,
Journal for the History of Astronomy 13 (1982), pp. 102-109, repr. in idem, Astronomy in the
Service of Islam, XII (the first announcement, based on investigations of satellite images
by GSH & and medieval Arabic texts on folk astronomy by DAK).
DAK, “Faces of the Kaaba”, The Sciences (The New York Academy of Sciences) 22:5 (May/
June, 1982), pp. 16-20, and 22:6 (September, 1982), p. 2 (letter to the editor protesting an
inappropriate subtitle added without author’s knowledge).
Islamic sacred geography
DAK, “Makka. iv. As centre of the world [sacred geography and orientation of mosques]”,
The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edn., vol. VI, pp. 180-187, repr. in idem, Astronomy in the
Service of Islam, X.
– , “Some Ottoman schemes of sacred geography”, Proceedings of the II. International
Symposium on the History of Turkish and Islamic Science and Technology, Istanbul, 1986, 2
vols., Istanbul: Istanbul Technical University, 1986, I, pp. 45-57. (Helps explain the
orientation of Turkish mosques.)
Petra G. Schmidl & Mónica Herrera Casais, “The earliest known schemes of Islamic sacred
geography”, in A. Akasoy & W. Raven, eds., Islamic thought in the Middle Ages: Studies in
text, transmission and translation in honour of Hans Daiber, Leiden: Brill, 2008, pp. 275-300.
DAK, “The sacred geography of Islam”, in Mathematics and the Divine – A Historical Study,
T. Koetsier and L. Bergmans, eds., Dordrecht: Elsevier, 2005, pp. 161-178, repr. in Islamic
Astronomy and Geography, VIII.
See also Schmidl, Volkstümliche Astronomie, for detailed analysis of some Yemeni
schemes.
The following two works have very little to do with the sacred geography
discussed here:
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Annemarie Schimmel, “Sacred geography in Islam”, in Jamie Scott & P. Simpson-Housley,
eds., Sacred places and profane spaces: Essays in the geographics of Judaism, Christianity, and
Islam, New York Greenwood, 1991, pp. 163-175.
Thomas Jøhnk Hoffmann, “Dis/integrating the centre – Space, narrative, and cognition
with special reference to the hadjdj and the Ka’ba, Temenos 35-36 (1999-2000), pp. 25-38.
Studies of folk astronomical and legal texts on finding the qibla
DAK, “Al-Bazdawī on the qibla in early Islamic Transoxania”, Journal for the History of
Arabic Science 7 (1983/1986), pp. 3-38, repr. in idem, Islamic Astronomy and Geography, IX
(text, translation and analysis of a highly significant and informative Arabic text by the
late-11th-century judge and anafī legal scholar Abu ‘l-Yusr al-Bazdawī).
– , “Architecture and astronomy: The ventilators of medieval Cairo and their secrets”,
Journal of the American Oriental Society 104 (1984), pp. 97-133 (based in part on the most
significant legal work on the qibla, a treatise by al-Dimyāī, and historical records by al-
Maqrīzī – see below).
Mònica Rius Piniés, La Alquibla en al-Andalus y al-Magrib al-Aqsà, Barcelona: Institut “Millás
Vallicrosa” de Història de la Ciència Àrab, 2000. (This is the first investigation of
determination of the qibla in al-Andalus and the Maghrib in the light of medieval folk
astronomical and legal texts on the qibla.)
Petra G. Schmidl, Volkstümliche Astronomie im islamischen Mittelalter. Zur Bestimmung der
Gebetszeiten und der Qibla bei al-Asbahî, Ibn Rahîq und al-Fârisî, 2 vols., Leiden, etc.: Brill,
2007. (The first study of its kind, based on medieval Yemeni treatises on folk astronomy
compiled by legal scholars and astronomers.)
Ahmad Dallal, Islam, science, and the challenge of history, New Haven CT: Yale University
Press, 2010 (features the legal discussions surrounding the disputed mosque
orientations in Fez).
Andreas Neumann, “Die Orientierung in Gebetsrichtung (istiqbāl al-qibla) in der
islamischen Rechtswissenschaft. Entwurf eines Papers erstellt für Sonja Brentjes auf
Basis von Enzyklopädien des fiqh”, June, 2011, available at www.academia.edu/
29820776/ (accessed 2018) (not for beginners).
Determination of the qibla by geometry or trigonometry
General overviews
Karl Schoy, article ibla. ii. Astronomical aspects” in Encyclopedia of Islam, 1st edn.,
Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1913-38.
DAK, ibla. ii. Astronomical aspects”, in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, new edition, vol. V,
fascs. 79-80, Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1979, pp. 83-88, repr. in idem, Astronomy in the Service of
Islam, IX.
, “The sacred geography of Islam”, in Mathematics and the Divine – A Historical Study, T.
Koetsier and L. Bergmans, eds., Dordrecht: Elsevier, 2005, pp. 161-178, repr. in idem,
Islamic Astronomy and Geography, VIII.
al-Bīrūnī and his monumental work on mathematical geography
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(1962); Jamil Ali, transl., The Determination of the Coordinates of Cities ... by al-Bīrūnī,
Beirut: American University of Beirut Press, 1967; and E. S. Kennedy, A Commentary
upon al-Bīrūnī’s treatise Tadīd nihāyāt al-amākin – An 11th century treatise on Mathematical
Geography, Beirut: American University of Beirut Press, 1973. (This book, compiled in
Ghazna ca. 1025, is arguably the most significant work on the subject ever compiled, but
it was not widely circulated and survives in a unique manuscript. Published materials
on al-Bīrūnī are accessible through www.jphogendijk.nl/biruni.html.)
Methods to determine the meridian
E. S. Kennedy, The Exhaustive treatise on Shadows by Abu al-Rayān ... al-Bīrūnī Translation
and commentary, 2 vols., Aleppo: Institute for the History of Arabic Science, University of
Aleppo, 1976, II, pp. 135-172.
– , “Bīrūnī ’s graphical determination of the local meridian”, Scripta mathematica 24 (1959),
pp. 251-255, repr. in idem et al., Studies in the Islamic exact sciences, pp. 613-617.
– , “al-Bīrūnī on determining the meridian”, The Mathematics Teacher 56 (1963), pp. 635-637,
repr. in idem et al., Studies in the Islamic exact sciences, pp. 618-620.
The use of the magnetic compass
Petra Schmidl, “Two early Arabic sources on the magnetic compass”, Journal of Arabic and
Islamic Studies 1 (1997-98), pp. 81-132.
DAK, article āsa [= magnetic compass]” in Encyclopaedia of Islam, also idem, World-maps,
pp. 107-124, and In Synchrony with the Heavens, X: 94-101.
Qibla-methods proposed by individual Muslim scientists
An earlier list of relevant literature is on the website www.staff.science.uu.nl/
~gent0113/islam/qibla.htm by Robert van Gent.
DAK, “The earliest Islamic mathematical methods and tables for finding the direction of
Mecca”, Zeitschrift für Geschichte der arabisch-islamischen Wissenschaften 3 (1986), pp.
82-149, with corrections listed ibid. 4 (1987/88), p. 270, repr. in idem, Astronomy in the
Service of Islam, XIV (analyzes materials from the 8th and 9th centuries, including simple
approximate procedures and already sophisticated tables displaying the qibla as an
approximate function of longitude and latitude difference from Mecca).
– , King, “al-Khwârizmî and new trends in mathematical astronomy in the ninth century”,
Occasional Papers on the Near East (New York University, Hagop Kevorkian Center for
Near Eastern Studies) 2 (1983), 43 pp., esp. pp. 12-16.
– , “Too many cooks ... – A newly-rediscovered account of the first Islamic geodetic
measurements”, Suhayl International Journal for the History of the Exact and Natural
Sciences in Islamic Civilisation (Barcelona) 1 (2000), pp. 207-241, repr. in idem, Islam and
Science, IV, pp. 451-485, and E-X. (One of the objects of the exercise was to determine, for
the first time, the qibla at Baghdad.)
E. S. Kennedy & Yusuf ‘Id, “A letter of al-Bīrūnī: abash al-āsib’s analemma for the
qibla”, Historia Mathematica 1 (1973), pp. 3-11, repr. in Kennedy et al., Studies in the Exact
Sciences, pp. 621-629 (the first method associated with an individual astronomer)
Karl Schoy, “Abhandlung von al-Fal b. ātim al-Nairīzī: Über die Richtung der Qibla ... ”
Sitzungsberichte der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Math.-phys. Klasse, 1922, pp.
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55-68, repr. in idem, Beiträge zur arabisch-islamischen Mathematik, 2 vols., Frankfurt:
IGAIW, 1988, I, pp. 252-265.
Jan P. Hogendijk, “Al-Nayrīzī’s mysterious determination of the azimuth of the qibla at
Baghdad”, SCIAMVS 1 (2000), pp. 49-70.
Richard P. Lorch, “Nar ibn ʿAbdallāh’s instrument for finding the qibla”, Journal for the
History of Arabic Science 6 (1982), pp. 123-131.
Takanori Suzuki, “A solution of the qibla-problem by Abu ‘l-Qāsim Amad ibn
Muammad al-Ghandajānī, Zeitschrift r Geschichte der arabisch-islamischen
Wissenschaften 4 (1987/88), pp. 139-148.
Karl Schoy, “Abhandlung des … Ibn al-Haitam (Alhazen) über die Bestimmung der
Richtung der Qibla”, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 75 (1921), pp.
242-253, repr. in idem, Beiträge, I, pp. 230-241. (Ibn al-Haytham had two different
methods for finding the qibla.)
Ahmad Dallal, “Ibn al-Haytham’s universal solution for finding the direction of the qibla
by calculation”, Arabic Science and Philosophy 5 (1995), pp. 145-193. (This article describes
Ibn al-Haytham’s other method.)
Ali Moussa, “Mathematical methods in Abū al-Wafā’’s Almagest and the qibla
determinations”, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 21 (2011), pp. 1-56.
Kennedy, E. S., “Applied mathematics in the tenth century: Abū'l-Wafāʾ calculates the
distance Baghdad – Mecca”, Historia Mathematica 11 (1984), pp. 193–206.
– , E. S. Kennedy, A Commentary upon al-Bîrûnî's Kitâb Tahdîd nihayât al-amâkin, 1973, based
on the translation by Jamil Ali,$The Determination of the coordinates$of cities: al-Bîrûnî’s
[nihâyat] al-amâkin, 1966 (the most important single work on the qibla by the leading
scientist of medieval Islam).
J. Lennart Berggren, “A comparison of four analemmas for determining the azimuth of the
qibla”, Journal for the History of Arabic Science 4 (1980), pp. 69-80.
— , “The Origins of al-Bīrūnī’s “Method of the Zījes” in the theory of sundials”, Centaurus
28 (1985), pp. 1-16.
Julio Samsó & Honorino Mielgo, “Ibn Isāq al-Tūnisī and Ibn Muʿādh al-Jayyānī on the
qibla”, 25 pp., first published in Samsó, Islamic astronomy and medieval Spain, Aldershot &
Brookfield VT, 1994, VI.
Joan Carandell, “An analemma for the determination of the azimuth of the qibla in the
Risāla fī ʿilm al-ilāl of Ibn al-Raqqām”, Zeitschrift für Geschichte der arabisch-islamischen
Wissenschaften 1 (1984), pp. 61-72.
Jan P. Hogendijk, “The qibla table in the Ashrafī Zīj”, in Anton$von Gotstedter, ed., Ad
Radices: Festband zum fünfzighrigen Bestehen des Instituts für Geschichte der
Naturwissenschaften der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main, Stuttgart:
Franz Steiner, 1994, pp.$81-94.
Richard P. Lorch, “The qibla table attributed to al-Khāzinī”, Journal for the History of Arabic
Science 4 (1980), pp. 259-264, repr. in idem, Arabic Mathematical Sciences: Instruments,
Texts, Transmission, Aldershot & Brookfield VT: Ashgate, 1995.
Ahmad S. Dallal, An Islamic Response to Greek Astronomy: Kitāb Tadīl Hayʾat al-Aflāk of
Sadr al-Sharī‛a, Leiden, etc.: E. J.$Brill, 1995, esp. ch.$18 (pp.$296-309 & 448-451).
Randy K. Schwartz, “Al-qibla and the new spherical trigonometry: The examples of al-
Bīrūnī and al-Marrākushī”, Paper presented at Tenth Maghrebian Colloquium on the
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History of Arabic Mathematics (COMHISMA10), Tunis, Tunisia, May 31, 2010. (al-
Marrākushī’s method was not derived by spherical trigonometry.)
DAK, “al-Khalīlī’s qibla table”, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 34 (1975), pp. 81-122, repr. in
Islamic Mathematical Astronomy, XIII, also available at http://muslimheritage.com/
article/al-khalili-spherical-astronomy (describes a spectacular table from 14th-century
Damascus showing the qibla in degrees and minutes for each degree of longitude and
latitude in the entire Muslim world).
Glen Van Brummelen, “The numerical structure of al-Khalīlī’s tables”, Physis 28 (1991), pp.
667-697. (A brilliant investigation of al-Khalīlī’s universal auxiliary tables, concluding
with suggestions about the way he compiled his universal qibla table.)
, “Seeking the Divine on Earth: The direction of prayer in Islam”, Math Horizons 21:1
(Sept. 2013), pp. 15-17.
Cartographical solutions
Karl Schoy, “Die Mekka- oder Qiblakarte (Gegenazimutale mittabstandstreue Projektion
mit Mekka als Kartenmitte)” (1917) (the first European map preserving direction and
distance to Mecca at the centre).
DAK & Richard P. Lorch, Qibla charts, qibla maps, and related instruments’’, in J. B.
Harley & David Woodward, eds., History of Cartography, vol. 2, book 1: Cartography in
the traditional Islamic and South Asian societies, Chicago & London: University of Chicago
Press, 1992, pp. 189-205.
DAK, “Two Iranian world maps for finding the direction and distance to Mecca”, Imago
MundiThe International Journal for the History of Cartography 49 (1997), pp. 62-82 and 1
pl.
– , World-Maps for finding the direction and distance to Mecca: Innovation and tradition in
Islamic science, Leiden: Brill & London: Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, 1999,
xxix + 638 pp.
, “Safavid world-maps centred on Mecca – A third example and some new insights on
their original inspiration”, in idem, In Synchrony with the Heavens, VIIc: pp. 823-846.
Jan P. Hogendijk, “Three instruments for finding the direction and distance to Mecca:
European cartography or Islamic astronomy?”, text of a lecture available at
www.jphogendijk.nl/talks/qib.pdf (accessed 2018) (shows that the inspiration is
Islamic).
Instruments for finding the qibla
DAK & Richard P. Lorch, Qibla charts, qibla maps, and related instruments’’, in J. B.
Harley & David Woodward, eds., History of Cartography, vol. 2, book 1: Cartography in
the traditional Islamic and South Asian societies, Chicago & London: University of Chicago
Press, 1992, pp. 189-205.
King, World-Maps for finding the direction of Mecca, pp. 89-124, and idem, In Synchrony with
the heavens, I: 94-99. (On qibla-indicators in general.)
Lists of historical qibla-values* for different localities
DAK, World-Maps for finding the direction of Mecca, pp. 71-124 & 453-638. (Investigation of
tables by the 12th-century scientist al-Khāzinī for 250 localities derived from a world-
map based on the geographical tables of the 11th-century polymath al-Bīrūnī; the
monumental anonymous 15th-century Timurid geographical table from Kish with qiblas
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and distances to Mecca for 274 localities; and various smaller Egyptian, Syrian and
Iranian tables in manuscripts or engraved on instruments, as well as an Ottoman table
of qiblas for 90 localities – see below.)
– , “Mathematical geography in 15th-century Egypt – An episode in the decline of Islamic
science”, Islamic Thought in the Middle Ages – Studies in Text, Transmission and Translation,
in Honour of Hans Daiber, Anna Akasoy & Wim Raven, eds., (Islamic Philosophy,
Theology and Science, Texts and Studies, Hans Daiber, ed., vol. LXXV), Leiden &
Boston: Brill, 2008, pp. 319-344, repr. in idem, Islamic astronomy and geography, XII. (An
analysis of a 15th-century Egyptian geographical table for 425 localities.)
, “An Ottoman list of qibla-values for cities in the Ottoman Empire”, on
www.davidaking.academia.edu (2018) (serves 90 localities, previously published in
World-Maps ... ).
* The reader should keep in mind that modern qibla-values (based on modern
geographical coordinates) are different.
Procedures for determine the meridian (incl. “the Indian circle”)
Note: Determining the meridian or local north-south line is a prerequisite to laying
out the qibla.
E. S. Kennedy, The Exhaustive treatise on Shadows by Abu al-Rayān ... al-Bīrūnī Translation
and commentary, 2 vols., Aleppo: Institute for the History of Arabic Science, University of
Aleppo, 1976, II, pp. 135-172.
– , “Bīrūnī’s graphical determination of the local meridian”, Scripta mathematica 24 (1959),
pp. 251-255, repr. in idem et al., Studies in the Islamic exact sciences, pp. 613-617.
– , “al-Bīrūnī on determining the meridian”, The Mathematics Teacher 56 (1963), pp. 635-637,
repr. in idem et al., Studies in the Islamic exact sciences, pp. 618-620.
Jamil Ali, trans., The Determination of the Coordinates of Cities ... by al-Bīrūnī, pp. 255-256, and
E. S. Kennedy, A Commentary upon Bīrūnī’s Tadīd, pp. 214-215.
Simple procedures for architects to lay out mosques
Note: These existed in abundance, but no survey has been undertaken.
Jamil Ali, trans., The Determination of the Coordinates of Cities ... by al-Bīrūnī, pp. 255-256, and
E. S. Kennedy, A Commentary upon Bīrūnī’s Tadīd, pp. 214-215. (Six procedures for
Ghazna proposed by al-Bīrūnī.)
DAK, “The Ottoman mosques fallacy” (see below) (examples based on al-Bīrūnī).
Orientations of mosques and religious architecture (by region)
Note: Numerous works by historians of Islamic architecture leave out
mention of the qibla and mosque orientations altogether. Those who do not
but who ignore locally-accepted qibla-directions are not included here.
General
George Sarton, “Query: Orientation of the mihrab in mosques”, Isis 20 (1933), pp. 262-264,
see also ibid., 24 (1935), pp. 109-111; 34 (1942), p. 2; 35 (1944), p. 176; & 38 (1947), pp.
95-96. (An interesting exchange which took place before any serious work had been
done on the history of qibla determinations. Mainly concerned with the situation in the
Maghrib.)
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DAK, “Astronomical alignments in medieval Islamic religious architecture”, Annals of the
New York Academy of Sciences 385 (1982), pp. 303-312, repr. in Astronomy in the Service of
Islam, XIII.
, “The orientation of medieval Islamic religious architecture and cities”, Journal for the
History of Astronomy 26 (1995), pp. 253-274 (a new version is in In Synchrony with the
Heavens, VIIa: 741-771.
Suliman Bashear, “Qibla musharriqa and early Muslim prayer in churches”, The Muslim
World 81 (1991), pp. 267-282.
Michelina di Cesare, “A qibla mušarriqa for the first al-Aqà Mosque? A new stratigraphic,
planimetric, and chronological reading of Hamilton’s excavation, ... ”, Annali, Sezione
orientale 77 (2017) 66–96.
Robert G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam as others saw it – A survey and evaluation of Christian, Jewish
and Zoroastrian writings on early Islam, Princeton NT: Darwin Press, 1997, pp. 560-573 (a
fresh approach to the qibla in early Islam).
H. Masud Taj, “Facing the city: the influence of qibla on street-line orientation in Islamic
cities”, Proceedings of Symposium on Mosque Architecture, College of Architecture &
Planning, King Saud University, 1419H - 1999, 38 (1999), pp. 173-181.
Magdalena Pinker, “Supernatural motifs in chronicled descriptions of the foundation of
early Arabic-Islamic towns”, HEMISPHERES 32 (2017), pp. 79-90.
Hejaz
V. V. Bartold = Васи
́лий Влади
́мирович Барто
́льд = Wilhelm Barthold, “Zur Orientierung
der ersten muhammedanischen Moscheen”, Der Islam 18 (1929), pp. 245-250, repr. in
idem, Собрание сочинений = Collected works (Собрание сочинений, 9 vols., Moscow:
Oriental Literature Publishing House = Издательство Восточной литературы),
1963-1977, vol. 6 (1966), pp. 537-542.
Iran
Michael E. Bonine, “The morphogenesis of Iranian cities’’, Annals of the Association of
American Geographers 69 (1979): 208-224 (a study of singular importance).
Central Asia
DAK, “Al-Bazdawī on the qibla in early Islamic Transoxania”, Journal for the History of
Arabic Science 7 (1983/1986), pp. 3-38, repr. in idem, Islamic Astronomy and Geography, IX.
Cairo
Christel M. Kessler, “Mecca-oriented architecture and urban growth of Cairo”, in Atti del
terzo congresso di studi arabi e islamici (Ravello, 1-6 September 1966), Naples: Istituto
Universitario Orientale, 1967, p. 425.
– , ”Mecca-oriented urban architecture in Mamluk Cairo: The Madrasa-Mausoleum of
Sultan Shaʿban II”, in Arnold H. Green, ed., In Quest of an Islamic Humanism: Arabic and
Islamic Studies in Memory of Mohamed al-Nowaihi, Cairo: American University in Cairo
Press, 1984, pp. 97-108.
, “Mecca-oriented architecture within an urban context: On a largely unexplored
building practice of medieval Cairo”, in Antony Hutt, ed., Arab Architecture: Past and
Present, An exhibition presented by the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce at the Royal
Institute of British Architects, London, 1984, Durham: Centre for Middle Eastern and
Islamic Studies, University of Durham, 1983, pp. 13-20.
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– , “Mecca-oriented building in mediaeval Cairo”, in Focus on Arab Architecture, Past . . . and
Present, A Record of a Four-week Exhibition and Associated Functions, London, 24
January-17 February 1984, London: Arab-British Chamber of Commerce, 1984, pp.
44-52.
, “The ‘Imperious Reasons’ that flawed the minaret-flanked setting of Sulān asan’s
Mausoleum in Cairo -- Another note on medieval Cairene on-site planning according to
street-alignments and Mecca-orientations”, Damaszener Mitteilungen (German
Archaeological Institute, Damascus) 11 (1999), pp. 307-316, pls. 40-41.
DAK, “Architecture and astronomy: The ventilators of medieval Cairo and their secrets”,
Journal of the American Oriental Society 104 (1984), pp. 97-133; with a revised version in In
Synchrony with the Heavens, VIIb: 741-771) (the orientation of astronomically-aligned
medieval ventilators reveals the secret of the orientations of the street-plan of Fatimid
Cairo and Fatimid & Mamluk religious architecture in Cairo).
al-Andalus
DAK, “Some medieval values of the qibla at Cordova”, an appendix to “Three sundials
from Islamic Andalusia”, Journal for the History of Arabic Science 2 (1978), pp. 358-392,
esp. pp. 370-387, repr. in idem, Islamic astronomical instruments, XV.
Alfonso Jiménez, “La qibla extraviada’’, Cuadernos de Madīnat al-Zahrā' 3 (1991): 189-209
(an important study, the first of its kind for any region of the medieval Muslim world,
presenting the orientations of all surviving historical mosques in the Iberian Peninsula).
Mònica Rius Piniés, La Alquibla en al-Andalus y al-Magrib al-Aqsà, Barcelona: Institut “Millás
Vallicrosa” de Història de la Ciència Àrab, 2000. (This is the first investigation of
mosque orientations in al-Andalus and the Maghrib in the light of medieval folk
astronomical and legal texts on the qibla. The following three entries are representative
of a dozen articles by the same author.)
– , “La qibla des mosquées andalouses”, in Les Andalousies de Damas à Cordoue, Paris:
Institut du Monde Arabe, 2000, p. 205
– , “La alquibla de Madinat al-Zahra y otras mezquitas andalusíes”, in Catálogo de la
exposición El Esplendor de los Omeyas cordobeses, Granada: Fundación Legado Andalusī,
2001, pp. 424-430.
, “Qibla in the Mediterranean’’, in Ruggles, ed., Handbook of archaeoastronomy and
ethnoastronomy, 2015, pp. 1687-1694.
DAK, “The enigmatic orientation of the Great Mosque of Córdoba”, Suhayl International
Journal for the History of the Exact and Natural Sciences in Islamic Civilisation (2018), to
appear, preprint available on www.davidaking.academia since 2016 (shows how the
street-plan of the Roman suburb of Colonia Patricia influenced the layout of the Mosque
and how schemes of Islamic sacred geography confirmed that the Mosque was
appropriately oriented with respect to the NW wall of the Kaaba).
The Maghrib
Marcel Philibert, La Qibla et le mirāb. Differences constatées dans la direction des mosquées
maghrébines, raisons possibles, orientation par des procedés modernes, Algiers: privately
distributed, 1972 (inspired and valuable).
Michael E. Bonine, “The sacred direction and city structure: A preliminary analysis of the
Islamic cities of Morocco’’, Muqarnas 7(1990): 50-72 (fundamental).
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– , “Romans, astronomy and the qibla: urban form and orientation of Islamic cities of
Tunisia’’, in J. C. Holbrook & R. T. Medupe & J. O. Urama, eds., African
Cultural$Astronomy – Current Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy Research in Africa,
Berlin (?): Springer, 2008, pp. 145-178 (fundamental).
Mònica Rius Piniés, La Alquibla en al-Andalus y al-Magrib al-Aqsà, Barcelona: Institut “Millás
Vallicrosa” de Història de la Ciència Àrab, 2000. (This is the first investigation of
mosque orientations in al-Andalus and the Maghrib in the light of medieval folk
astronomical and legal texts on the qibla.)
Abbey Stockstill, “A tale of two mosques: Marrakesh’s Masjid al-Jami’ al-Kutubiyya”,
Muqarnas An Annual on the Visual Cultures of the Islamic World, Gülru Necipoğlu, ed.,
35 (2018): 65-82. (Marks a new era in the history of Islamic architecture.)
Turkey
Frank E. Barmore, “Turkish mosque orientation and the secular variation of the magnetic
declination”, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 44 (1985), pp. 81-98.
– , “Some Ottoman schemes of sacred geography”, Proceedings of the II. International
Symposium on the History of Turkish and Islamic Science and Technology, Istanbul, 1986, 2
vols., Istanbul: Istanbul Technical University, 1986, I, pp. 45-57. (Helps understand the
orientation of Turkish mosques.)
Mustafa Yilmaz & Ibrahim Tiryakioglu, “The astronomical orientation of the historical
Grand mosques in Anatolia (Turkey)”, Archive for History of Exact Sciences 72 (2018), pp.
565–590 (https://doi.org/10.1007/s00407-018-0215-1) (important).
The Balkans
Milutin Tadić & Zlatko J. Kovačić, “Orientation of the fifteenth and sixteenth century
mosques in the former Yugoslavia”, J. Geogr. Inst. Cvijic ( = Journal of the Geographical
Institute “Jovan Cvijić” SASA, (Belgrade) 66:1 (2016), pp. 1–17,
Greece
George Pantazis and Evangelia Lambrou, Investigating the orientation of eleven mosques
in Greece”, Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage 12:2 (2009), pp. 159-166.
Miscellania
Recent publications in languages other than English
Pierre Thuissier, “L’Islam et la science : le problème de la qibla”, La Recherche 18:185
(février 1987), pp. 252-255 (based entirely on DAK).
Jan P. Hogendijk, “Middeleeuws islamitische methoden voor het vinden van de richting
van Mekka”, Nieuwe Wiskrant 12:4 (1993), pp. 45-52.
DAK, “Kibla. Aspects astronomiques”, and “Makka. Comme centre du monde”, in
Encyclopédie de l’Islam, Leiden: Brill, 1955-2005.
– , “La science au service de la religion : le cas de l’Islam”, Impact : science et société
(UNESCO,$Paris) no. 159 (1991), pp. 283-302 (also available in English and several other
languages, but not Arabic; this French version available at http://unesdoc.unesco.org/
images/0008/000885/088535fo.pdf).
– , “Astronomie et société musulmane : qibla, gnomonique, mîqât”, in Rushdi Rashed, ed.,
in collaboration with Régis Morelon, Histoire des sciences arabes, 3 vols., Paris: Éditions
du Seuil, 1997, I, pp. 173-215.
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– , “Astronomie im Dienste des Islam”, in Anton von Gotstedter, ed., Ad radices Festband
zum fünfzigjährigen Bestehen des Instituts für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften Frankfurt
am Main, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1994, pp. 99-124.
– , “Astronomie und Mathematik als Gottesdienst: Das Beispiel Islam”, in Jochen Brüning
and Eberhard Knobloch, eds., Die mathematischen Wurzeln der Kultur Mathematische
Innovationen und ihre kulturellen Folgen, Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2005, pp. 91-123.
, “La scienza al servizio della religione: il caso dell’Islâm”, in Clelia Sarnelli Cerqua, &
Ornella Marra & Pier Giovanni Pelfer, eds., La civiltà islamica e le scienze, Atti del Simposio
Internazionale, Firenze, Palazzo Panciatichi, 23 Novembre 1991, Florence: CUEN, 1995, pp.
129-150.
– , BL
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% , Finding Qibla in Islam, translated into Persian by Hossein Nahid, Tehran,
1379 HS, 90 pp.
Miscellaneous non-historical writings
Mohammad Ilyas, A Modern Guide to astronomical calculations of Islamic calendar, times &
qibla, Kuala Lumpur: Berita Publishing, 1984, pp.$169-174.
, “Qibla and Islamic prayer times”, in: Helaine$Selin, ed., Encyclopaedia of the History of
Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures, Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1997,
pp.$834-836.
Denis Roegel, “An extension of al-Khalīlī’s qibla table to the entire world”, HAL archives
ouvertes.fr (research report) 2008, pp. 1-779, at <inria-00336090>. (Why?)
Waldo Tobler, “Qibla, and related, map projections”, Cartography and Geographic Information
Science 29 (2002), pp. 17-23.
S. Kamal Abdali, “The Correct Qibla” (1997), available at http://nurlu.narod.ru/qibla.pdf
(accessed 2018). (Deals mainly with the dichotomy on the qibla in North America
between those Muslims who favour south-east and those who favour south-west. Weak
on historical matters and on relevant bibliography.)
Enter the revisionists
Note: Recent works which investigate historical mosque orientations using
MODERN directions of Mecca inevitably come up with false conclusions. Here two
examples.
Dan Gibson and the aftermath
Dan Gibson, Qur’ânic Geography: a survey and evaluation of the geographical references in the
Qur’ân with suggested solutions for various problems and issues, Saskatoon, Canada:
Independent Scholars Press, 2011 (several reviewers, none informed about orientations).
– , Early Islamic Qiblas: A Survey of mosques built between 1AH/622 C.E. and 263 AH/876 C.E.
(with maps, charts and photographs), 296 pp., Vancouver BC: Independent Scholars Press,
2017 (several reviewers, none informed about orientations).
DAK, “From Petra back to Mecca From pibla back to qibla (2017), available at
www.davidaking.academia.edu, also www.muslimheritage.com/article/from-petra-
back-to-makka (critique of Gibson, Early Islamic Qiblas).
Gibson’s responses in 2017 to King: www.researchgate.net/publication/321708416, also
www.academia.edu/34514746/.
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Édouard-Marie Gallez’s critique (2017): “King et Khan : Crone et Cook ont-ils renié leur
travail ?”, at www.academia.edu/35454474/
DAK reply to Père Gallez: “Gibson & Gallez False piblas and fake calumnias - Did the
elusive “Judéo-Nazaréens” use astrolabes to negotiate the narrow Siq of Petra?” at
davidaking.academia.edu, currently (2018) at www.academia.edu/35868755/.
Rick Oakes, “Evaluation of Dr David King’s book review of Dan Gibson “Early Islamic
Qiblas”” (2018), available at www.academia.edu/37676717/.
Gibson, “Comparing two qibla theories (2018), at http://thesacredcity.ca/
Comparing%20Two%20Qibla%20Theories.pdf.
– , “Qibla Tool” (2018), available at http://thesacredcity.ca/data/index.html.
Mark Anderson, “Is Petra Islams true birthplaceor Mecca?, at https://
understandingislam.today/ui3/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/
Is_Petra_Islams_true_birthplace.pdf. (This should be required reading for anyone
interested in the subject. Unfortunately DAK is reported to have said that the earliest
Muslims “calculated” the qibla but this is what Gibson falsely claims for directions to
Petra, whereas in fact I had stated that they “determined” it. They calculated nothing.)
Ahmed Amine Khelifa, L’islam de Pétra : Réponse à la thèse de Dan Gibson présentation et
revue critique, privately published (www.ahmedamine.net), n.d. [2018] (problematic).
Video: Al Fadi & Jay Smith, “The earliest mosques don’t face Mecca! Gibson’s new
research (ca. 30 mins.), available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=0ZKcpDEEJnA (reveals the utility of Gibson’s ‘findings’ for certain interest groups).
DAK, “The Petra fallacy Early mosques do face the Sacred Kaaba in Mecca but Dan
Gibson doesn’t know how” (2018), available at www.davidaking.academia.
Excursus: The archaeoastronomical reality of Petra and Nabataea
Christine Dell’Amore, “Ancient city of Petra built to align with the Sun The Nabatean
culture erected the city to highlight solstices, equinoxes” (2014), https://
news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140317-petra-jordan-nabatean-sun-
civilization-ancient-culture/.
Tom Paradise & Christopher Angel, “Nabataean architecture and the Sun”, ArcUser
(esri.com) (Winter 2015), pp. 16-19, available at www.esri.com/esri-news/arcuser/
winter-2015/nabataean-architecture-and-the-sun.
Juan Antonio Belmonte & A. César González-García, “Petra and the Nabataeans”, in Clive
L. N. Ruggles, ed., Handbook of Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy, Springer, 2015, pp.
1813-1822.
& & Andrea Polcaro, “Light and Shadows over Petra: astronomy and landscape in
Nabataean lands”, Nexus Network Journal 15 (2013), pp. 487-501, available at
www.iac.es/proyecto/arqueoastronomia/media/Belmonteetal_Nexus_Preprint.pdf.
Liritzis & F. M. Al-Otaibi & B. Castro & A. Drivaliari, “Nabataean tombs orientation by
remote sensing: provisional results”, Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry 15:3
(2015), pp. 289-299 (on 32 tombs in Petra and Madā’in āli).
See also DAK, “Astronomical alignments”, pp. 307-307 and 312, nn. 10-11, for references to
literature on potential astronomical alignments in Central and Southern Arabia. These
references from almost 40 years ago need to be updated.
A. J. Deus
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A. J. Deus, “Orientation of structures in early islam” (2016), at www.academia.edu/
28103240/. (Reveals the author’s penchant for investigating historical orientations by
means of modern maps and geographical data, ignoring known medieval geographical
limitations and mathematical procedures.)
– , “Monuments of Jihad – The thought process of determining qibla orientations by
Turks”, at www.academia.edu/37688323/ (text), and “Raw Analysis Turkish Mosque
Orientations ‘Monuments of Jihad’”, at www.academia.edu/37688075/ (graphics), and
“Flipbook for Turkish Mosque orientations” (data flipped), at www.academia.edu/
37688045/, all accessed Nov., 2018. (Based on an illusion.)
DAK, “The Ottoman mosque fallacy – Places of worship facing the Kaaba or “Monuments
of Jihad”? A. J. Deus has got it all hopelessly wrong (Nov., 2018), on
davidaking.academia.edu.
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Book
Full-text available
The book describes two newly-rediscovered brass Mecca-centred world-maps with a highly sophisticated cartographical grid that preserves direction and distance to the centre. The maps date from the late 17th century and are clearly from Isfahan. (A similar grid was conceived in Europe in 1910.) The book establishes the background for the astronomy and cartography of 17th-century Isfahan and claims that the underlying mathematics cannot date from either contemporaneous Iran or Europe: it must belong to a centuries-old tradition. It has since been shown (by Prof. Jan Hogendijk) that the mathematics underlying the grids is described already in treatises on conic sections from 10th-century Baghdad and from 11th-century Isfahan. Also a third example has surfaced. (See In Synchrony with the Heavens, VIIc.)
Article
Full-text available
In the ancient civilizations, the sky has been observed in order to understand the motions of the celestial bodies above the horizon. The study of faiths and practices dealing with the sky in the past has been attributed to the sun, the moon, and the prominent stars. The alignment and orientation of constructions to significant celestial objects were a common practice. The orientation was an important component of the religious structure design. Religious buildings often have an intentional orientation to fix the praying direction. In Islam, a sacred direction (Qibla) towards Kaaba located in the courtyard in the Sacred Mosque in Mecca has been used for praying and fulfilling varied ritual tasks. Therefore, the mosques had then to orientate towards the Qibla direction, being designated by a focal niche in the Qibla-wall, wherever they were built on Earth. In this study, the orientations of the historical Grand mosques in Turkey are surveyed with regard to the folk astronomy derived from pre-Islamic Arabian sources, early traditions of the Islamic period, and geometric-trigonometric computation in mathematical astronomy inherited and developed mostly from Greek sources according to the Islamic view of the World geography.
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In this wide-ranging and masterful work, Ahmad Dallal examines the significance of scientific knowledge and situates the culture of science in relation to other cultural forces in Muslim societies. He traces the ways in which the realms of scientific knowledge and religious authority were delineated historically. The realization of a discrepancy between tradition and science often led to demolition and rebuilding and, most important, to questioning whether scientific knowledge should take precedence over religious authority in a matter where their realms clearly overlap. Dallal frames his inquiry around three concerns: What cultural forces provided the conditions for debate over the primacy of religion or science? How did these debates emerge? And how were they sustained? His primary objectives are to study science in Muslim societies within its larger cultural context and to trace the epistemological distinctions between science and philosophy, on the one hand, and science and religion, on the other. He looks at religious and scientific texts and situates them in the contexts of religion, philosophy, and science. Finally, Dallal describes the relationship negotiated in the classical (medieval) period between the religious, scientific, and philosophical systems of knowledge that is central to the Islamic scientific tradition and shows how this relationship has changed radically in modern times.
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Chapter
The Nabataeans built several monuments in Petra and elsewhere displaying decoration with a certain preference for astronomical motifs. A statistical analysis of the orientation of their sacred monuments demonstrates that astronomical orientations were often part of an elaborate plan and possibly reflect traces of the astral nature of Nabataean religion. Petra and other monuments in the ancient Nabataean kingdom demonstrate the interaction between landscape features and astronomical events. Among other things, the famous Ad Deir has revealed a fascinating ensemble of light and shadow effects, perhaps connected with the bulk of Nabataean mythology, while a series of suggestive solstitial and equinoctial alignments emanate from the impressive Urn Tomb, which might have helped bring about its selection as the cathedral of the city.