There is a video doing the rounds on social media which, it is claimed, shows a Shia man in Mecca praying towards Karbala:
#Makkah – This Shia is praying towards Karbala and the #Kabah is behind him!
The response is entirely predictable; each time the video is reposted on Twitter or Facebook, a new barrage of rabidly inflammatory sectarian remarks follow. Few seem willing to ask obvious questions, such as is the claim accurate or true?
Of course this claim has a back-story, brought to life by the Saudi Al-Arabiya and Israel National News websites late in 2013, which reported the musings of Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri Al-Maliki, as a doctrinal schism. Personally I don’t know why people of influence insist on making ambiguous statements that can easily be misconstrued or misrepresented by others, but it’s pretty clear that he was speaking in spiritual terms. To my knowledge, no Shia Muslim actually prays towards Karbala in the physical sense.
But that will not deter those intent on promoting sectarian divisions by posting and reposting a video of dubious providence online. The social media generation seems not to care about truthfulness, accuracy or reliability — those Quranic maxims once so important. Nowadays “Verify it!” is always far from the mind. The pursuit of truth has been displaced by propaganda.
The first time I encountered the video, I suggested that the individual seen praying in the wrong direction was just a confused old man. But the next time I encountered it, my Obsessive-Compulsive urge to investigate everything got the better of me. I am too much a cynic to believe even half of what I read or see online. Friends hate me for it, I’m sure, but I just can’t help it.
So began my ten-minute investigation: what was that building in the background at the end of the video? I started with a Google Image search of buildings around the Kaaba. A satellite view of the Kaaba via Google Maps followed. One building looked very similar to the building in the video, so I zoomed in and clicked on various photos of it. It was an entirely convincing match.
If I am not mistaken, the building in the background at the end of the video is the Dar Al-Tawhid InterContinental hotel. Unfortunately for those claiming that the video shows a Shia man praying towards Karbala, this would mean he’s actually praying more in the direction of Jeddah, or Sudan, or Brazil. Completely the wrong direction for anywhere in Iraq.
Could it be then that my initial supposition was correct? A confused old man, possibly from South Asia, who’s used to praying to a Qibla of 256 degrees? Could his prayer mat with built-in compass be at fault? Could he be missing mental faculties? Could that just be where his flying carpet landed? Could there be another reason for this man’s mistaken actions? Could he be given another excuse? I hope so, because at times I’ve been know to pray in the wrong direction by accident too.
On social media these days people seem all too ready to share anything and everything, regardless of its accuracy or truth. It’s a sorry reflection on our state; a people supposedly concerned about verifying the accuracy of information that comes to us. A people supposedly concerned about the truth. It’s a tragedy. Who knows who will be harmed as a result of misinformation so readily shared?