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Offline Adil Husain

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Why should we face towards the Kaaba(mecca) while praying ?
« on: September 28, 2012, 02:48:47 PM »
Sometimes i feel uncomfortable before starting the prayer because of this doubt in my mind.

Why should we bow and prostrate in a specific direction which directs towards a house built up of stones/bricks?

'I must strive for reformation of myself and the world'

Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Why should we face towards the Kaaba(mecca) while praying ?
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2012, 03:28:16 PM »
Dear Adil.

Peace to you.

It would not have been difficult for God to refer to the Ka'aba as a house of stones and bricks, when a contraption that Prophet Noah built was simply referred to a thing made of planks (dhati alwahin) and nails (wadusurin) 54:13. Clearly it is not the constituent components of the Ka'aba which bears any significance to the religion of Islam whatsoever, but the purpose of directed contemplation.

We hear our Lord and we obey "...So turn your face in the direction of the sacred Mosque and wherever ye are, turn your faces in that direction" (2:144) [1] & [2]

Those that whisper into the breast of mankind only seek to cause discord and coerce our mind to focus on the insignificant and at the expense of wider purpose. Let us seek refuge in God from these voices in whatever guise they may reach us and may God help us always to remain cognizant of them. (41:36)

From my humble perspective and with respect, the doubt is misplaced and a mere distraction. Let us all remember the more important, overarching purpose of prayer, God willing.

I hope that helps,
Joseph


Related Articles:

[1] THE QIBLA CHANGE
http://quransmessage.com/articles/qibla%20FM3.htm
[2] IS MAKKAH THE ORIGINAL LOCATION FOR THE MASJID AL-HARAM?
http://quransmessage.com/articles/original%20sanctuary%20FM3.htm
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell

Offline Passerby

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Re: Why should we face towards the Kaaba(mecca) while praying ?
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2012, 03:30:48 PM »
Sometimes i feel uncomfortable before starting the prayer because of this doubt in my mind.

Why should we bow and prostrate in a specific direction which directs towards a house built up of stones/bricks?

Salaams,

I asked the same question on another site.  It resulted in a long thread about the word qiblah and it's actual meaning.  Not sure if I can post the link here...

The Qur'an states: 2:143 We see the shifting of your face towards the heaven; We will thus
set for you a focal point that will be pleasing to you: “You shall set
yourself towards the Restricted Temple; and wherever you may
be, you shall all set yourselves towards it.”


 But then in 2:177 it says: Piety is not to turn your faces towards the east and the west.... 

I was confused...if piety is not about what direction we face, then why the directive to face the Restricted Temple in prayer?

Then it was pointed out to me that no where was the word "salaat" used in any of those ayats...

So the conversation continues... :)

Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Why should we face towards the Kaaba(mecca) while praying ?
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2012, 04:34:26 PM »
Dear Passerby / all

Salamun Alaikum

In my humble opinion, implicit verses of the Quran are best interpreted in the light of explicit verses. I find those that interpret the Quran in reverse fashion, i.e. by ignoring explicit verses at the expense of pursuing implicit verses (3:7) cause interpretive tension which results in considerable confusion.

In my humble opinion, verses 2:144-45 makes it absolutely clear that the Quran recognised that different directions for prayer (qibla) would co-exist without compromising the need for a direction (shatra).

"...they would not follow your direction of devotion / prayer (Arabic: Qiblah); nor are you going to follow their Qiblah; nor indeed will they follow each other's Qiblah..." (2:145).
 
So piety is clearly not about direction but sincere devotion. Verse 2:177 simply confirms that aspect and there is no warrant for the restrictive interpretation that this statement negates a need for a qiblah.

Furthermore, some raise the possible presence of ‘intra’ differences with the Arabic phrase “'wa ma ba'duhum bitabi'in qiblata ba'din' in verse 2:145 which seems to suggest that between the People of the Book there were different Qiblahs.

Whether there were differences between Jews and Jews or Christians and Christians ('intra' differences), the Quranic text does not elucidate. However, this also cannot be ruled out.

I have discussed this aspect in a related post.

http://quransmessage.com/forum/index.php?topic=92.0

Another contention raised against the traditional understanding of ‘qiblah’ is with verse 10:87 and where the term ‘qiblatan’ is used in conjunction with the houses in Egypt during Prophet Moses’s mission.  The contention usually rests on the faulty premise that expects God to instruct the original house of Prophet Abraham to be used as a direction of prayer and not houses in Egypt. Also it is contended that houses in Egypt could not have been used as places of worship as the verse implies when the word 'qiblatan' is used to describe them.  Hence the traditional understanding of the term 'qiblah' is rejected.

There are two main problems with this contention:

  • An apparent unwarranted disregard is made of the term ‘qiblah’ which not only carries the nuance of a direction of worship but more importantly, a place of worship. The term ‘shatr’ (2:144) would have sufficed if the only intended meaning was ‘direction’. Clearly with the usage of both ‘shatr’ and ‘qiblah’ in the same verse (2:144), the term 'qiblah' carries a wider meaning which is beyond mere ‘direction’ and which verse 10:87 elucidates as also a place of worship. This is often not appreciated.
  • There is no warrant for the expectation of a particular designated ‘qiblah’. It is clear from the Quran that different qiblah's existed as directions for prayer or places for prayer. There is also no conclusive warrant for the assertion that the original house that Prophet Abraham built with his son was the same Ka'aba in Makkah [1]. So if different places of worship can co-exist, Makkah being one of others, there is no warrant to assume that a particular 'qiblah' was assigned for the whole of mankind for eternity. God does what He wills especially given the specific requirements of a people.

Therefore, verse 2:144 makes it clear that the sacred mosque was to be taken as not only the new direction of prayer but also the place of devotion for the new believing community. I have also argued the reinstitution of Abrahamic rites at the sacred mosque in section 8 of article [1] below.

I hope that helps God willing.

Regards,
Joseph.

Related Article:

[1] PROPHET ABRAHAM'S (pbuh) ORIGINAL SANCTUARY - AT MAKKAH (MECCA) OR BAKKAH (BACA)?
http://quransmessage.com/articles/makkah%20bakkah%20FM3.htm

'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell

Offline Adil Husain

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Re: Why should we face towards the Kaaba(mecca) while praying ?
« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2012, 05:11:57 PM »
Peace on you ,

Dear Joseph ,


What are the benefits of  facing towards a particular direction during our prayers (especially while praying alone) ?
'I must strive for reformation of myself and the world'

Offline Joseph Islam

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Re: Why should we face towards the Kaaba(mecca) while praying ?
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2012, 05:44:12 PM »
Peace Adil.

The Quran does not elucidate. I personally find the common ground of purpose (including logistical benefits in congregation) and spiritual unity between believers as plausible reasons behind the physical symbolic act but I do not seek an explanation if the Quran has not deemed it necessary to impart it. As I am sure you will appreciate, Quranic silence on the matter does not negate the requirement for a qiblah especially given the explicit verses I have respectfully already shared.

God makes it clear in the Quran that he has assigned a particular direction ‘shatr’ for believers (2:144).

Regards,
Joseph.
'During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act' 
George Orwell

Offline Wakas

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Re: Why should we face towards the Kaaba(mecca) while praying ?
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2012, 03:42:20 PM »
Salaam Adil,

You ask a good question.

In my opinion, the traditional understanding of the "change in qiblah" verses is riddled with problems.

I am currently writing an article on it. I will link to it here in due course.

Offline Saba

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Re: Why should we face towards the Kaaba(mecca) while praying ?
« Reply #7 on: September 29, 2012, 04:26:33 PM »
Not a personal comment against you br. Wakas but I am personally in general quite fed up of people highlighting in their opinion 'problems' with 'traditional understandings' yet what they offer in return is often more of a mess than the traditional understanding and does less to reconcile quranic verses with major gaping holes! But anything is passed off in the name of 'progression' these days or 'work in progress'. This is what puts me right off many quranist literature and forums which like a sister recently wrote on this forum is a 'chore'  (passerby) to read!  >:( I like the approach br. Joseph takes with his articles which only argues against the traditional understanding when it absolutely does not make sense overall with the Quran while always trying to offer a better alternative without making a complete mess of the Arabic language and inventing new meanings of words.  My two cents! Saba

Offline Wakas

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Re: Why should we face towards the Kaaba(mecca) while praying ?
« Reply #8 on: September 29, 2012, 07:21:56 PM »
salaam Saba, all,

Quote
I am personally in general quite fed up of people highlighting in their opinion 'problems' with 'traditional understandings' yet what they offer in return is often more of a mess than the traditional understanding and does less to reconcile quranic verses with major gaping holes!

I agree. Personally, if I do write about an alternative, a key aim would be to have it make more sense than what I was critiquing. And of course having it make sense within the Arabic language etc.  However, always proposing an alternative is not a requirement to engage in such discussion. My method can be read here:
http://www.quran434.com/study-method.html

In the article I am writing (part 3 of my series on SuJuD, about 'al masjid al haram') I will offer an alternative that fits better in my view.

However, since it might be a week or two till I finish it, God Willing, I can post what I have written on the "change of qiblah" verses, for people to ponder over if they wish:


Quote
Abbreviations:
AMAH = al masjid al haram
AQ = al quran

The following is a list of the problems regarding this traditional explanation:

1) It is entirely an interpretation based on external sources (i.e. traditions). The terms "kaabah", "mecca", "AMAH", "turn your wajh/face/consideration", "masjid" etc are NEVER discussed elsewhere in AQ involving a specific physical direction, nor is an example given of anyone performing salat in a particular direction. Some cite 4:102 but please see part 1 of this series for its analysis.

2) The word "qiblah" does not clearly mean "prayer direction" in any AQ occurrence, nor does the root QBL in any form.

3) All traditional commentators translate the only other occurrence of the specifc noun "qiblah" (apart from these verses) in 10:87 as "oratories / places of worship" not "prayer direction". The likely reason is that to do so would make little sense as 10:87 says "...and make your houses a qiblah...". Further, they turn it into a plural here, whilst elsewhere it is singular.

4) In addition to 2:142, the following verses also clearly imply turning to a specific direction is irrelevant, e.g. 2:115 says "for God is the east and the west so wherever you turn so there is God's wajh/presence/consideration...", 2:177 "...it is not righteousness that you turn your wujuh/faces/considerations towards/qibala the east and the west...". Note the similar words used "turn/walla", "wherever/ayna", "wajh/face/consideration", and these messages (the only ones of their kind) are only found in chapter 2, and the only times verb form 2 of "turn" is used in chapter 2 are 2:115, 2:142-150, 2:177. Some commentators explain this away by saying there was no prayer direction initially, and later this was abrogated, and so on. However, note that in terms of sequence, this same message is given prior to AND after the "change of qiblah" verses. Interestingly, some traditional commentators accept that any direction is not special, and the only thing that makes it special is God having imposed it, no other reason.

5) The verses do not say turn in the direction of the "Kaabah", but AMAH. One may ask then, what does one do once inside AMAH or next to it.

6) The verses do not say turn your wajh DURING salat, this is an inserted interpretation. In fact, it explicitly says "wherever you are" / "wherever thou start or come forth", implying no limitation, and if so, this would make it impossible to face one direction all the time.

7) Technically, it is impossible to face an object on a spheroid (i.e. earth) if you are a long distance away from it. One actually faces a random point in space, and even if one were to draw a line on the earth's surface in a direction towards the intended object being even one degree off can result in being many miles away from the object. Thus, it is actually near impossible to do, unless in close proximity to the object, so if one wishes to take this interpretation, one must accept facing one direction is symbolic only.

8 ) Note how 2:141 clearly implies the past is the past, but according to the traditional understanding the verses which follow are about resuming the qiblah of Abraham et al. Seems a mixed message.

9) The reason given for the apparent change in qiblah is "not will be for the people against you debate", and "that I may complete My favour upon you and so that you may be guided". The traditional commentators try to explain these away using traditions, see Al Jalalayn (altafsir.com), ibn Kathir (qtafsir.com), Asad (quranix.net). Interestingly, traditional Islamic history shows that their relations with the Jewish tribes of Medina only worsened after this point - potentially contradicting the reasoning offered in AQ.

10) 2:145 says "...nor will they follow each other's qiblah..." - a much missed point is the fact that the traditional understanding of "qiblah" as "prayer direction" requires the people of the book to have a minimum of TWO different "qiblah" or "prayer directions" in order to make sense logically, i.e. Jews pray one direction, Christians pray another. I did not find a commentator who explained this away. It is possible they did not realise this. However, there is apparently some evidence to suggest early Christians prayed facing east, and Jews faced Jerusalem, thus satisfying the two-minimum criteria. To me the context of this suggests people can have many qiblah, even their own individual qiblah, i.e. more than two.

11) If these verses were revealed in Medina, as alleged, then the direction of Jerusalem from there is clearly north-west, not west.

12) If facing the cuboid called "Kaabah" pleased the messenger, as implied in 2:144, then it should be noted it was full of idols at the time, as even accepted in traditional sources. They allege that since it was the first house dedicated to worship, built by Abraham, this was more important than the fact it was filled with idols and a pagan symbol, hence "pleased".

13) IF the cuboid called "Kaabah" was also the qiblah of Abraham, as agreed upon by traditionalists, then it should be noted prophets Moses and Jesus (who came after Abraham) were NEVER recorded, in any source, as visiting it nor facing it during prayer. This would be extremely unusual. Thus, the explanation sometimes given is that Jerusalem was the legitimate qiblah for Moses/Jesus, and then the original qiblah (i.e. cuboid called Kaabah) was restored with the final revelation, i.e. Quran. This requires us to believe for some reason God changed it, then restored it, and now seemingly assigns blame to the people of the book for not accepting this change. Can we really blame them for not changing, as this explanation is tantamount to God being the source of confusion, which is unacceptable in my view. Further, it is implied in 2:146 that some of the people of the kitab/book know that this change is the truth, implying in their own scriptures somewhere this qiblah is mentioned or that their qiblah will be superseded by a future messenger etc - if so, where is this information? Perhaps further research needs to be done in this area.

14) AMAH as a building likely did not exist at the time, as admitted by traditional sources, and refers to the area/site (see Encyclopaedia of Quran, volume 3, p77). How this was delineated is anyone's guess. Please note some commentators regard AMAH as Mecca in some verses, e.g. 9:28.

15) As is clear from the last part of 2:144, the only requirement for knowing the true "qiblah" is to be given the decree/scripture from our Lord. There is no requirement to have a compass or to consult a geographical map to know the true "qiblah" from our Lord.

16) IF the Jerusalem qiblah was appointed by God, then indirectly implies the messenger was dissatisfied with such a qiblah when 2:144 says "...We see thy face/consideration shifting in the sky..." and "...that will please thee...", i.e. was the messenger dissatisfied with a command from God?

17) The use of masculine suffix pronoun "hu/it" in these verses is somewhat problematic, as IF "it" refers to AMAH as a physical building then it seems odd (e.g. they recognise it/AMAH as they recognise their sons). Tafsir Al Jalalayn states the "it" in 2:146 refers to Muhammad, Ibn Kathir says it could be Muhammad or Kaabah but unfortunately for him the latter is a feminine noun so it cannot be that. Perhaps Ibn Kathir meant AMAH. Some translators imply the "it" refers to the qiblah but again, this is a feminine noun (see the use of feminine "ha/it" in 2:143 for confirmation of this). For me, the variance is telling. It should be strongly noted that in AQ Abraham is never said to have built AMAH, nor is it explicitly mentioned in his presence, thus for the people of the writ/decree to link this to Abraham and recognise AMAH as the truth is somewhat difficult.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to state with certainty what the masculine pronoun "hu" refers to, but in my humble opinion, the flow and logic of the verses suggest it=AMAH, especially considering the usage of "it is the truth from your Lord" in 2:144, 2:147 and 2:149.

18) 2:145 would imply that if the messenger were to follow their qiblah after these revelations then he would be a wrongdoer and following their desires, yet he was apparently following it previously. Is there a precedent for this in AQ, i.e. doing X is allowed then a future revelation clearly changes doing X to desires/wrongdoing? Not to my knowledge.

19) The expression "turn + wajh", is used in 6:79 and rendered as "I shall turn my face to the One who created the heavens and the earth..." but explained as "making his religion and works sincere" (e.g. Ibn Kathir), likely because this was prior to the alleged building of the cuboid called "Kaaba", thus to render it as a physical direction when such a place did not exist would be problematic for Traditionalists, yet they take this same phrase to mean physical directional command here. Also see "wajh" in 'Verbal Idioms of Quran' by Mustansir Mir. This shows that this phrase does have a link to mindset/sincerity/intention/approach/etc even in traditional sources. The phrase is also used in 28:22 (albeit "turn" is verb form 5 not 2) and likely denotes an actual physical turning of one's face, but uses the Arabic word "tilq'aa" for "towards" not "shatra (in the direction)" like these verses. Perhaps "til'qaa" is more appropriate for a physical turning towards, also see 7:47.  It is somewhat peculiar "shatra" is used, rather than the more common "ila/to" for example, IF it did mean a physical face turning towards/to something.
As a side note, also recall how in part 2 it was shown the phrase "aqim wajh" had no link to a physical face or directional command.

20) IF it was a reference to turning towards another direction in prayer, then to me, it seems odd that in 2:142 it states the foolish (al sufahau) will ask "what has turned them from..." when this seems like a reasonable question to ask. Think about it, if you were there as an observer, and a group prayed towards X then Y for about 18 months (as the traditional story goes) then back to X again, wouldn't you ask "why" also? If so, you are of the foolish ones according to the traditional understanding.


It is fairly thorough. Feel free to share your thoughts on it.

Offline Saba

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Re: Why should we face towards the Kaaba(mecca) while praying ?
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2012, 08:59:15 PM »
Salam Wakas, Thanks

Your opening sentence struck me as a major problem which I find is the approach typical of Quranists.  You say
Quote
"It is entirely an interpretation based on external sources (i.e. traditions)"
. Why is something a problem just because it is traditional???? Can traditionalists not be right about anything or any aspect of the language they have passed onto us?

Then you say
Quote
"The terms "kaabah", "mecca", "AMAH", "turn your wajh/face/consideration", "masjid" etc are NEVER discussed elsewhere in AQ involving a specific physical direction,"
  Why does it need to be? Are you saying that the Quran needs to provide a dictionary of its own words? Wasn't the Quran revealed to people who already spoke the Arabic language?

What is a lexicon? Is it not a traditional source of interpretation? Saba

Offline Wakas

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Re: Why should we face towards the Kaaba(mecca) while praying ?
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2012, 10:05:45 PM »
w/salaam Saba,

Thanks for the feedback, but I hope you read past the first point!

And as to your question: nowhere did I state nor imply what you seem to imply with your questions. However, with regard to the gist of your objections, if an understanding cannot be understood on its own, i.e. using Quran (and by "using Quran" I also mean its guidance with regards to method/verification/etc) then this is problematic.

Further, if such an understanding requires finessing of word meanings, its grammar, no supporting Quranic evidence of any kind for any of its key terms, suspension of logic, awkward application etc then it is almost certainly a wrong understanding.

Analysis is simply a matter of putting evidence on the table, so to speak, then weighing it up. That is my aim. You may think some things do not matter, or are a "major problem", others might disagree with you, hence I prefer to point it out and put it on the table for all to see. If you, or others, disagree, each to their own.

Of course, if you, or anyone, has answers to the points, feel free to put it on the table.


Offline Saba

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Re: Why should we face towards the Kaaba(mecca) while praying ?
« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2012, 11:02:10 PM »
Salaam br. Wakas. Surely what is put on the table must be worth it for someone to pay any attention to it and spend time on it. But you must accept that credibility can be lost  in the first few paragraphs when major claims are made which seem like they have been used as the basis of the whole analysis.

You said:

Quote
And as to your question: nowhere did I state nor imply what you seem to imply with your questions. However, with regard to the gist of your objections, if an understanding cannot be understood on its own, i.e. using Quran (and by "using Quran" I also mean its guidance with regards to method/verification/etc) then this is problematic.

I simply don't agree with this if I understand your point correctly. The Quran is not a dictionary nor does it expect to be understood on its own. First ...the Quran was given to a people who knew the language and expected them to understand the words clearly. It did not invent a new language. It seems you are expecting the Quran to provide you meanings of words. Also there are many stories in the Quran that seem to suggest that the people knew the backgrounds of them. So how can the Quran simply be understood on its own without any external source explaining the meaning of the language?

So unless I can resolve this issue with you have presented on the 'table' with your help, I simply cannot give your analysis any further thought.

However I look forward to your explanations. Saba

Offline Wakas

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Re: Why should we face towards the Kaaba(mecca) while praying ?
« Reply #12 on: September 30, 2012, 11:41:31 AM »
w/salaam,

Once again, let me repeat, nowhere did I state nor imply what your questions seem to imply. I guess I will have to be more clear:

Quote
It seems you are expecting the Quran to provide you meanings of words.

Wrong. I do not expect such a thing. Nowhere have I ever said such a thing. What I do expect however is for a chosen meaning of a word, e.g. "sujud=prostration" to fit into the Quran occurrences and if it does not fit sometimes then there should be a sound reason for it, not an arbitrary reason such as "my view of word X does not work here, thus word X means something else here".

Quote
So how can the Quran simply be understood on its own without any external source explaining the meaning of the language?


Once again, I have never said such a thing, nor implied it. In fact, I have repeatedly said to the contrary. It seems you did not care to read the link I gave you: http://www.quran434.com/study-method.html

Quote
29:20, 3:137, 3:190-191, 45:3-4 - knowledge of archaeology/biology/physics/history/sciences/philosophy etc will all help to better understand it.

One can use any external source to understand Quran, e.g. classical arabic dictionaries, even Traditional Hadith, but one cannot use them to outrank Quran or in a way that goes against its principles/guidance/criteria regarding how to understand it etc. The Quran is the ultimate criterion.

The alternative to the above linked approach is an arbitrary one, i.e. you think a word means X here, but it can mean Y there, Z there etc - you have absolutely no way of determining if you are selecting meanings based on whim/desire or sound reason/evidence, and are not using a method that is systematic/robust/falsifiable. Such a method to me is unacceptable, and not the precision/logic par excellence I have experienced with Quran. Let us assume the author of Quran is God, is God not a master of relaying guidance to us in a way that is precise, verifiable, logical, coherent etc? Yes/No.

Whatever answer one chooses will determine how they approach Quran.

Offline Saba

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Re: Why should we face towards the Kaaba(mecca) while praying ?
« Reply #13 on: September 30, 2012, 12:20:16 PM »
Salam br. Wakas. Thank you for your response. So I have a simple question for you. What is the meaning of 'qiblah' in your opinion? It is a simple question. Thanks Saba

Offline HOPE

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Re: Why should we face towards the Kaaba(mecca) while praying ?
« Reply #14 on: September 30, 2012, 08:05:45 PM »
Salaam Wakas and all,

Read your article, you raise good questions that I am not qualified to answer.  I agree with you that those who are not located in Arabia should not need a compass to determine the direction.  Since I can never determine my location, I always take refuge in God's ayah 2:115 and hope He accepts what I'm saying is a reflection of my heart.

 shatra almasjidi alharami  What does shatra mean?  Does it mean a piece of  or a major component of something?
"Hope is like a bird that senses the dawn and carefully starts to sing while it is still dark"