There are two stories here and only one is being reported.
The first story is that Indonesian Muslims have been praying in the wrong direction.
Muslims are supposed to face the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia during prayer and the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued an edict in March stipulating westward was the correct direction from the world’s most populous Muslim country.
“But it has been decided that actually the mosques are facing Somalia or Kenya, so we are now suggesting people shift the direction slightly to the north-west,” the head of the MUI, Cholil Ridwan, told Reuters. “There’s no need to knock down mosques, just shift your direction slightly during prayer.”
Right. Because, as we all know, prayers shouldn’t be bending along the way…
The second story — the one that’s not making headlines — is this one:
Ridwan said Muslims need not fear that their prayers have been wasted because they were facing the wrong way.
“Their prayers will still be heard by Allah,” he said.
So, to recap:
An Islamic leader has admitted that facing Mecca while you pray doesn’t make a damn bit of difference.
For what it’s worth, praying at all doesn’t make a difference since no one’s actually listening to you… but to throw in more superstitious nonsense on top of already superstitious nonsense is just plain ridiculous.
I’ve met plenty of Muslims who go out of their way to make sure they’re facing “the right direction” during prayer — are they going to stop worrying about that now? Doubtful. They’ll cling to the myth that facing Mecca matters.
That means you’ll be seeing this kind of image for a long time to come:
At least one Islamic worker seems to think you don’t need to do that:
“I don’t really worry about the praying direction,” said Riza Irwansyah, an office worker in Jakarta. “The important thing is I prayed to Allah and I believe He will listen, no matter which way I’m facing.”
Well, Allah’s not listening. But it’s nice to hear someone say the direction he faces has never concerned him.
(Thanks to Hector for the link)