Imam Discovers Worshippers Have Been 'Praying in Wrong Direction' for Almost Four Decades

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Muslim worshippers pray and circumambulate around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca. Worshippers at a mosque in Turkey have been praying in the wrong direction for 37 years. BANDAR ALDANDANI/AFP/Getty Images

Worshippers have been praying in a mosque in a small village in Turkey for 37 years mistakenly thinking they were facing the right direction.

The Quran states that Muslims must perform their prayers five times a day in the direction of the qibla, facing the Kaaba, the building at the center of Islam's holiest mosque in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca.

There had been suspicions and rumors for years in the village of Sugoren in Yavlova in the west of Turkey, that the mosque's mihrab, which is the niche facing Islam's holiest site, had been put in the wrong place when it was built in 1981.

It took an incoming imam, Isa Kaya, to take the plunge and report his concerns to the mufti's office in Yavlova which dispatched a team to examine the site.

It found that the niche had been misaligned by as much as 33 degrees. However instead of tearing the mosque down and starting again, a makeshift solution involved arrows made of white tape being placed on the mosque's white carpet to direct the worshippers the right way. An architect will later redesign the structure.

"We have explained the situation to our congregation and most of them have reacted positively to our solution," the imam told Demiroren News Agency, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

There appears to be some leeway in accuracy when it comes to Muslims facing Mecca during prayers. The idea of there being a tolerance of 45 degrees either way was posed on the Islamic question and answer website

But one respondent wrote that "during the days of the Prophet they did not have the means for accurate direction finding that we have today, but that did not stop them from praying."

Prayers five times a day, known as the salat, form part of the Five Pillars of Islam. Adherents do not need to pray in a mosque, but they do need to be recited while facing Mecca.