Prayers: Correct direction of qiblah

Q473 :It has been discovered in our country that the direction of the qiblah in many mosques was incorrect by a few degrees. An expert made it clear to people that they must amend their direction. Some people are confused and still maintain the old direction, while others have stopped coming to the mosque. [A mosque is built in that direction with the management and imam continuing the practice of leading prayer in the old direction.] Some argue that a difference of a few degrees did not matter much! Please comment.

A473 : If this man who has declared the need to amend the direction of your mosque is truly an expert in this particular area and he is well known in your community as being a man of honesty and integrity, then you must follow his advice. People need not worry about their past prayers. Those prayers are correct and valid, since the people had done their best to demarcate the direction of the qiblah [and then if there is a difference of a few degrees it will not matter as it was done with best of intentions; without knowledge of being in the wrong]. I am amazed that people should worry about amending the direction, if they are sure that the man's knowledge is sound. It is their duty to make sure that everything related to their prayer is done correctly. The old direction is not sacrosanct. The proper direction is the correct one which is most probably the new one, if the man is really an expert in this field. I will give you an example. If you are offering prayer in a place where the direction of the qiblah is not marked and you could not determine it in any way, you need only try with whatever means you have at your disposal to determine correct direction. If you cannot then you start your prayer facing the direction you think may be correct. If during your prayer someone familiar with the place enters the room and finds you facing the wrong direction, he should tell you how to amend your direction, suggesting that you turn so many degrees to your right or to your left. You should follow his instructions immediately without stopping your prayers, even if he tells you to turn 180 degrees, i.e. facing the opposite direction, you should do so and continue your prayer, not repeating any part of it. Although this may happen just before you have finished, your prayer is correct and valid. If you do not respond to his instructions, then your prayer becomes invalid. Your original direction was chosen when you did not know which way to face. Once information has been received, you should act on it.

Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )