The prohibition of facing the qiblah when answering the call of nature is backed up with evidence in the authentic hadiths, but the prohibition here is based on the fact that the act itself is detested, not forbidden, according to the most correct view on this issue. At the sa
me time, the prohibition is related to answering the call of nature in open areas where there is no intervening object between a person and the qiblah. As for toilets in modern buildings, there is nothing wrong in facing the qiblah, especially if it is difficult to change the position of these toilets.
Sheikh Mahmoud Ashur, an Azharite scholar, states: “Imam Muslim and others quoted Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying: ‘When one relieves himself, he should neither face the qiblah nor turn his back to it’.
This hadith implies the sacredness of the qiblah, in the sense that no one should face it or turn his back to it when answering the call of nature. This is a preferable thing, not an obligation, meaning that violation of this injunction incurs no sin. The evidence for this is that Allah’s Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did not follow it permanently. The scholars of hadith (Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah and At-Tirmidhi) narrated on the authority of `Abdullah Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that he said: ‘One day I went to the house of Hafsah – `Abdullah’s sister, the Mother of the Believers – and I saw the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) relieving himself while turning his back to the qiblah‘.
There is a consensus among Muslim scholars that the prohibition of facing the qiblah or putting behind one’s back while answering the call of nature, as well as its being considered a detested act, applies only to open areas or in the desert where there are no walls or fixed partitions. But if there are walls, then there is neither prohibition nor detestation.
It is widely known that toilets in modern cities are separated from the rest of the house. Consequently, the hadith does not apply to such houses. This is emphasized by what Abu Dawud, Ibn Khuzaimah and Al-Hakim narrated through a good chain of transmission (Isnad), as written in Fat-hul Barri, that ‘Ibn `Umar got down from his riding camel and faced the qiblah while answering the call of nature, so Marwan told him: Isn’t this prohibited? Ibn `Umar said: It is prohibited in open areas, but if there’s something between you and the qiblah, then there is no problem.’