Spiritual Directions

Brass Compasses, Iran, 1800-75. V&A Museum No: 574-1878; 762-1998; 307-1887

Brass Compasses, Iran, 1800-75. V&A Museum No: 574-1878; 762-1998; 307-1887

These beautiful brass compasses on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum reminded me of the importance of direction within Islamic Prayer. These compasses would have been used to establish the direction of the Ka’bah in Mecca, or the Qiblah. The cases contain engravings of the coordinates for Mecca from different cities in the Islamic world.

This feature of Islamic prayer is a very clear example of a spiritual or religious geography. In this case, there is a very literal connection between location and faith. These compasses hint at the efforts that individual Muslims most undertake to perform their faith. The requirement of regular prayer necessitates that each person must have an awareness of directions in their daily lives. As a geographer, this rich connection between belief and location is fascinating.

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