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Why do Muslims face east in their prayers?

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Muslims pray their 5 daily prayers towards the east, towards the city of Makkah, and more specifically, towards the Kaaba. The Kaaba is a small cubical structure, which is called the sacred house (bayt al-haram) and also refered to as the sacred mosque (masjid al-haram). The prayer direction towards the kaaba, is known as the Qibla, which basically means the prayer direction of the Muslims.

So why do Muslims pray east and towards the kaaba? There are some notable misconceptions from non-Muslims concerning the prayer direction. For example some believe that Muslims are in fact directly praying to the kaaba, the cubical structure. This is not the case, while Muslims pray towards the kaaba, they are not praying to the kaaba. Another misconception is that Muslims believe that Allah literally dwells-lives inside the kaaba, and this again is not the case, Muslims do not believe that Allah lives inside the structure.

In regards to the kaaba, as Muslims we believe it was the first house of worship, built by the Prophet Adam (pbuh), after then we believe the worship site was restored by the prophets Abraham and his son Ishmael (peace be upon them both). In Islam the sanctuary of the kaaba in the city if Makkah, is considered to be the holiest site in Islam, and it’s because of these reasons that it is considered to be holy, not because we believe that Allah lives in the kaaba or because we pray to the kaaba.

So why does God command the Muslims to all face towards the kaaba when praying? The reason behind this is down to unity, in sharing the same focal point of prayer, it is meant to show a major unity amongst the Muslims. Indeed, when one thinks of it, it is a very impressive feature that you have more than 1 billion Muslims, no matter where they are, all praying in the same direction.

Something that should also be clarified, is that it is only in the Muslim prayers that Muslims are to face towards the east, for example if a Muslim simply wants to supplicate to God, known as ‘dua’ in Islam, he/she doesn’t have to be facing towards the east for that. 

 

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