At midday today, the sun passes directly over the holiest point of Islam, the Ka’aba in Makkah, Saudi Arabia. The Ka’aba is the central part of the Grand Mosque and pinpoints the direction which Muslims – from around the world – face when offering their five daily prayers.
In the spirit of the Holy Month, we bring you more about this phenomenon, and as a bonus, we have included two methods which you can use to determine the accurate direction of the Qibla.
The Phenomenon Explained
This celestial phenomenon known as “zero shadow” occurs twice every year (May and July) at the Grand Mosque because of its location between the equator and the Tropic of Cancer. This year, the sun’s first direct passage over the Ka’aba in May will occur at approximately 2:18 PM on the 28th according to Pakistan local time.
Due to the earth’s naturally tilted axis, the sun passes over various geographical areas at 23.5 degrees North of the equator, called the Tropic of Cancer, and 23.5 degrees South of the equator, called The Tropic of Capricorn. However, during the equinox, the sun passes directly over places on the equator, one of which is the Ka’aba.
As the sun passes directly overhead, Islam’s holiest site will cast no shadow for a few moments.
As a matter of fact, last year, Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) issued a notification about this phenomenon:
How to Find Out the Exact Direction of the Qibla
The unique thing is that it can be used to find out the true direction of the Qibla from any location on earth, simply by facing the sun. According to researchers at King Abdul Aziz University, Riyadh, people can simply face the sun at the scheduled time (12:18PM Saudi time) and find out the direction of the Qibla with an accuracy of 100 percent.
If You Don’t Want to Blind Yourself
If you don’t want to affect your eyesight and still determine the accurate Qibla direction, there is a tried and tested method from the 12th century that you can still use today. Simply put a pen or stick vertically in an open field at or around the given time. At 2:18PM Pakistani time on the dot, the shadow of a vertical object will be exactly opposite to the Qibla.