The German commerce raider, Admiral Scheer, sank a British merchantman which was crewed with Lascars, the generic name given to anyone from South Asia including British India. All of these crewmen happened to be Muslims.
This alarmed the German sailors who thought the men were going to commit mass suicide by jumping into the sea. A shouted explanation from the watch officer on the bridge, a man with long experience sailing the world, told the sailors to stand easy. The Lascars were Muslims, the officer explained, and were simply making the first of five ritual prayers toward Mecca. To do this properly, Muslims must face east.
But the Lascars had been below decks for some hours and confused about compass points. Most of the men had spread out their mats and were kneeling facing west. Just before they began praying, a bridge messenger interrupted them. With the compliments of the officer of the watch, he politely indicated that ‘east’ was in the opposite direction from where they were actually facing.
The men waved and shouted their thanks to the Officer of the Watch who waved back and wished them “good praying.”
(Source: Pocket Battleship: the Story of the Admiral Scheer by Admiral Theodor Krancke and H.J. Brennecke)