Etiquette Related to the Qibla
The sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is to respect and revere the prayer direction (qibla). This is indicated in several ahadith, such as the following:
“When one of you stands in his prayer, he is in close conversation with his Lord or his Lord is between him and his qibla. Therefore no one should spit in the direction of his qibla” [Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-Salah]
“When any of you goes to relieve himself, he should not face the qibla nor turn his back on it. He should face the east or west.” [Sahih Bukhari, Kitab al-Wudu]
These ahadith demonstrate the sunnah of being mindful of the qibla, as it is the noblest of directions. Just as Muslims should observe proper etiquette with the Qur’an, we should also aim to observe proper etiquette with the qibla as well.
This etiquette entails that one faces the qibla when doing honorable and praiseworthy actions: doing wudhu, making dua, reciting the Qur’an, sacrificing animals, etc. It is similarly recommended to sleep on one’s right side while facing the qibla.
This etiquette also entails that one does not face the qibla in situations where one is exposing oneself: such as when relieving oneself, taking a bath, or having sexual relations. It is similarly recommended to avoid having one’s back or pointing one’s feet to the qibla.
Building a Home Around These Principles
Given the above principles, the following recommendations could be made with regard to structuring one’s home:
1. Toilets and showers should be perpendicular to the qibla direction. (If the qibla is North, then the toilets and showers are facing East-West). This way, one is neither facing the qibla nor turning one’s back on it while relieving oneself or taking a bath.
2. Sinks, on the other hand, should be positioned such that one is directly facing the qibla when doing wudhu.
3. Bedrooms should be designed such that a bed can be placed perpendicular to the qibla direction. The bed should be positioned so that someone sleeping on their right side will be facing the qibla.
4. If one is making a dedicated prayer room, all seating arrangements and prayer rugs should be oriented toward the qibla. This will ensure that people are facing the qibla not only while they are praying, but also while they are sitting for dhikr, dua, or Qur’an recitation.
5. If one has a study area, one could also orient the desk such that one is facing the qibla when studying, reading, or doing work.
With the proper intention, facing the qibla while even doing mundane tasks can result in greater reward from Allah. This is in addition to any reward one gets for showing reverence for the qibla, which is praiseworthy in itself. As Allah says in the Qur’an: “Whoever exalts the signs of Allah, indeed that is from the piety of hearts” [22:32].
*Keep in mind that “facing” the qibla means pointing in its general direction. So if the qibla is to the North, “facing it” would include the directions of North, Northeast, and Northwest as well.
It is also important to remember that this endeavor is not meant to be excessively difficult. Remember that Allah tells us that He intends for us ease, not hardship (2:185) and that He does not burden a soul with more than it can bear (2:286). So while it is important to observe proper etiquette with the qibla, it is not expected of you to incur tremendous costs and labor to do so.
Unlike in earlier times, many Muslims nowadays use bathrooms with fixed toilets and sinks. Oftentimes, they do not have a say as what directions the toilets and sinks face. As such, it is understandable that many Muslims cannot deliberately observe the proper etiquette regarding the qibla, although it is still recommended for them to do what they can.
However, if you are able to design your home with the qibla in mind without undue hardship, then insha’Allah this little effort will result in a lifetime of reward for consistently observing proper etiquette with this noble direction.