Why face the east in prayer

The practice of praying while facing the east is not only an ancient custom, but it is also not limited to just one religion. Many religions share this custom of praying while facing the east and since the religions are scattered all over the world, the practice is seen in all parts of the world. However, though the practice may be similar, the reasons for which they pray while facing the east, often differ from one religion to another. Let us discuss a few of the reasons in regard to the respective religions now.

After the holy temple of the Jews in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, the Jewish people moved to different parts of Europe over the years. Now, the Jews who live in Europe pray towards the east because that is the direction in which Jerusalem lies if one is in Europe. It is mandatory in Jewish religion that one prays towards Jerusalem because that is where their temple used to be and they consider it the holiest of all the places on earth. One must understand that a Jew living in a different geographic location from which Jerusalem does not fall towards the east, will not be praying towards the east but towards the direction that Jerusalem is from his/her location.

The Islamic people or the Muslims pray while facing the east because they are directed by Islam to pray towards Mecca, the holiest place on the earth for Muslims. Mecca is the place from which Mohammed, their prophet, was banished in 622, but he returned and converted it in 630. It is a custom to make a trip to Mecca at least once in a lifetime for every Muslim, but even when you are not there, you are supposed to pray towards it.

Even in Christianity, the same practice of praying towards the east is observed but the exact reason is hard to pinpoint because there are more than just one theory regarding the tradition. Many believe that the Christian sects, who still pray in this direction, must have adopted it from the Jews. Some on the other hand, associate the practice with the fact that the sun rises in the east. However, there is no direct Christian dogma that necessitates praying towards the east, but most people seem unwilling to break the tradition.