Manama: Qatar’s Endowments and Islamic Ministry has distanced itself from the controversy over wrong qibla directions in several small mosques.

However, it said that it was ready to cooperate with anyone seeking assistance to determine the right qibla when they build a mosque or seek to fix the direction. Qibla in Arabic refers to the direction a Muslim should face when offering prayers.

Most mosques contain a niche in a wall that indicates the qibla in the direction of the Holy Kaaba in the Grand Mosque of the sacred city of Makkah.

Under the qibla rule, Muslims, in a sign of unity, must orient themselves towards the Kaaba when they perform their prayers. However, in some mosques, especially in new shopping malls and at petrol stations, the qibla was determined in an approximate manner, sometimes resulting in an unwanted direction. “We are not in charge of the small mosques on private property,” Mohammad Hamad Al Kuwari, the head of mosques at the ministry said, following a string of complaints about “misguided qiblas” in small mosques.

“The wrong qibla direction is the responsibility of those who built the mosques. If it is a matter of few degrees, then it can be easily fixed. Otherwise, those who are in charge should address the religious authorities,” he said, quoted by Qatari daily Al Raya.

The ministry at times provides carpets, copies of the Quran, wall clocks and cleaning items, but the responsibility of the mosque remains with the owners of the area where it was erected, he said. “The ministry is the only authority that can determine whether the qibla direction is right and as such it should assume a greater role when new mosques are built, regardless of their size,” the report in the daily said.

“We hope that the ministry will have greater powers in dealing with mosques to ensure that they are appropriate for prayers.”