Qibla indicator

Qibla indicator, comprising a round brass box with a hinged lid and an inset magnetic compass. An invocation of Imam Ja'far (al-) Sadiq, the sixth Shiite Imam (died AD 765) is given in the centre of the inside of the lid as 'ya imam Ja 'far (al-) Sadiq' (O Imam ja'far, the sincere). All sides of the box are covered with inscriptions in Arabic, consisting of lists of 151 places with their longitudes, latitudes, 'inirafs' and 'jihas'.

The compass has a blued steel needle with an open circle to indicate North. It is surmounted by a brass pyramidal pivot and a glass plate covers all. A brass ring over the rim of the compass carries a degree circle numbered in 'abjad' numerals and the cardinal points are marked. The folding triangular gnomon is supported by a decorative open-work motif. The lid of the box is secured by a hook fastener.

This is a typical example of the common circular qibla indicator, with lists of places with their longitudes, latitudes, 'inhirafs' and 'jihas', and a magnetic compass. While astrolabes, quadrants and sundials are to be found both in Europe and the Islamic world, the qibla indicator is a purely Islamic instrument. The instrument serves the user to determine the correct 'qibla' - the direction to which Muslims turn in prayer to face the Ka'ba in Mecca.

For more information regarding this dial please refer to the OUP & NMM catalogue, 'Sundials at Greenwich', pp364-366.

Object Details

ID: AST0443
Collection: Astronomical and navigational instruments
Type: Qibla indicator
Display location: Display - Traders Gallery
Creator: Unknown
Date made: 18th century
Exhibition: Traders: The East India Company and Asia
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Measurements: Overall: 17 x 75 mm

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