Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Why is clockwise clockwise and the tawaf counter-clockwise?

Taken by Arif on 4th March 2013
I was asked these questions by a PhD mathematic student (from Pakistan) when I was a first year engineering student at Monash in 1982.
 
Why is clockwise clockwise and not counter clockwise? Why do we circumambulate the Kaabah in a seemingly counter-clockwise fashion? Or if I were to use his words, anti clockwise manner.
 
I guess he must have been a tutor with the mathematics department and most likely I was in a math workshop or something.
 
Perhaps not. The muslim community was not too big a community at Monash, so we tend to know each other, especially if one were to frequent the Religious Centre for your daily solah. It is a convenient place for us to do our duty and perhaps meet friends for a break there. It is convenient as it is just next to the Student Union.
 
But I digress.
 
So why clockwise is clockwise and NOT anti-clockwise? Who 'invented' the clock or watch as we knew it today? Who decided the convention of clockwise and counter-clockwise?
 
In other words, someone could have decided then that clockwise is anti-clockwise and anti-clockwise is clockwise, if you know what I mean. The answer to that question is simply not because that's the way it is!
 
Actually I have been looking for a watch that would do just that, but to no avail. I have tried finding them everywhere, except the internet of course. That may be the reason why I did not find them in the past twenty years.

My dream watch - so that it follows the tawaf convention
Some may quote the Summerians, The Babylonians and what not as having their religious rituals in clockwise fashion. They seems to notice that the shadow of their ownself moves from left too right, and it seems that way too for the sun-dials. This article even argues that since most of our civilization is Northern-based, if one were to track the sun's movement, it would be clockwise.
 
As this article rightly question on the reasons on why the muslims would circummabulate the Kaabah seven times in the counter clockwise position, and why people lost in the wilderness tend to drift to the left and why baseball runners and racers tend to travel in the counter-clockwise manner.
 
A theory has been advanced by R.G. Haliburton in his Festival of the Dead, (1863) that the Semites---a people speaking similar languages, from which both Jews and Muslims descend---originated in Africa, south of the Equator, and therefore their "sunwise" direction is counter-clockwise.The circumambulation of the Sacred Rock in Jerusalem, however, is clockwise.
 
I disagreed with Haliburton as in the end, the circummabulation of the Sacred Rock in Jerusalem is clockwise.
 
That is what this friend of mine was trying to tell me thirty years ago. He rests his case.
 
 

1 comment:

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