What Does the Ancient City of Petra Have to Do With Prayer Direction?

What is all this information? What does it mean? Is it accurate or true?

Comment below and educate me!

From around 22 minutes to 31 minutes of this well produced documentary is the most stunning, impressive and devastating section…

Where we are taken on a visit to 11 ancient mosques, as far flung as China (!) and Iraq and Jerusalem… None of which point to either Jerusalem, or to Mecca in the deserts of southern Arabia (when supposedly according to Islamic sources, the direction of prayer changed from Jerusalem to Mecca in 624 AD).

From The Qibla Question, partial summary of the above:

And correspondingly from The Search for Mecca, regarding ancient mosques before 700s AD all aligned to Petra, not to the desert Mecca:

And why do Western territory mosques face neither Mecca or Jerusalem, but also not Petra?

For example, using Google Maps it is easily checkable and seen that Qasr Al-Mshatta (built around 730-750AD):


Clearly points to Petra, not Jerusalem:


And not Mecca:


Jerusalem to the left, Petra to the downleft, Mecca waaaay off to the downright. And Qasr Al-Mshatta very obviously points to the Petra direction. Clear and distinct that no mere ‘simple inaccuracy in aiming the layout’ could be the explanation.

More at ApoLogika: Why Did the First Muslims Pray Towards Petra?.

Some elaboration via Uncomfortable Questions for the Qur’an:

B2i. Qibla

Qibla was canonized (finalized) in the Qur’an in 624 towards Mecca (S.2:144, 149-150) Yet, Mosques uncovered between 650-705 do not have Qiblas facing Mecca.

Wasit in Iraq. Qibla points North instead of s.w.
Baladhuri stated that the Qibla in the first Kufan mosque (Iraq) faced West.
Fustat in Egypt. The Qibla points North-East towards Jerusalem instead of s.e.
Jacob of Odessa (Christian bishop) in 705 said Egyptian Muslims (Haggarenes) prayed towards Jerusalem, like Christians.
(Cook) Earliest evidence for direction of prayer (thus their sanctuary) points much further north than Mecca. In fact no mosques have been found from this period which face towards Mecca. Some Jordanian mosques also face north, while there are certain North African mosques (from much later) which face south.
“They didn’t know the direction.” Yet these were desert traders, caravaneers!

Muslims say: “Mecca was the center of the trading routes.”

Yet, Mecca was not on the trading route. It’s in a valley, no water, not like Taif, 100 miles away (cheaper to ship 1,250 miles than go by camel 50 miles).

And more from The Qur’an’s Archeological Evidence:

Consider the archaeological evidence which has been and is continuing to be uncovered from the first mosques built in the seventh century:

According to archaeological research carried out by Creswell and Fehervari on ancient mosques in the Middle East, two floor-plans from two Umayyad mosques in Iraq, one built at the beginning of the 8th century by the governor Hajjaj in Wasit (noted by Creswell as, “the oldest mosque in Islam of which remains have come down to us” – Creswell 1989:41), and the other attributed to roughly the same period near Baghdad, have Qiblas (the direction which these mosques are facing) which do not face Mecca, but are oriented too far north. The Wasit mosque is off by 33 degrees, and the Baghdad mosque is off by 30 degrees.

This agrees with Baladhuri’s testimony (called the Futuh) that the Qibla of the first mosque in Kufa, Iraq, supposedly constructed in 670 A.D., also lay to the west, when it should have pointed almost directly south.

The original ground-plan of the mosque of Amr b. al As, located in Fustat, the garrison town outside Cairo, Egypt shows that the Qibla again pointed too far north and had to be corrected later under the governorship of Qurra b. Sharik. Interestingly this agrees with the later Islamic tradition compiled by Ahmad b. al-Maqrizi that Amr prayed facing slightly south of east, and not towards the south.

If you take a map you will find where it is that these mosques were pointing. All four of the above instances position the Qibla not towards Mecca, but much further north, in fact closer possibly to the vicinity of Jerusalem. If, as some Muslims now say, one should not take these findings too seriously as many mosques even today have misdirected Qiblas, then one must wonder why, if the Muslims back then were so incapable of ascertaining directions, they should all happen to be pointing to a singular location; to an area in northern Arabia, and possibly Jerusalem?

We find further corroboration for this direction of prayer by the Christian writer and traveller Jacob of Edessa, who, writing as late as 705 A.D. was a contemporary eye-witness in Egypt. He maintained that the Mahgraye’ (Greek name for Arabs) in Egypt prayed facing east which was towards their Ka’ba. His letter (which can be found in the British Museum) is indeed revealing. Therefore, as late as 705 A.D. the direction of prayer towards Mecca had not yet been canonized.

According to Dr. Hawting, who teaches on the sources of Islam at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS, a part of the University of London), new archaeological discoveries of mosques in Egypt from the early 700s also show that up till that time the Muslims (or Haggarenes) were indeed praying, not towards Mecca, but towards the north, and possibly Jerusalem. In fact, Dr. Hawting maintains, no mosques have been found from this period (the seventh century) which face towards Mecca (noted from his class lectures in 1995). Hawting cautions, however, that not all of the Qiblas face towards Jerusalem. Some Jordanian mosques have been uncovered which face north, while there are certain North African mosques which face south, implying that there was some confusion as to where the early sanctuary was placed. Yet, the Qur’an tells us (in sura 2) that the direction of the Qibla was fixed towards Mecca by approximately two years after the Hijra, or around 624 A.D., and has remained in that direction until the present!

Thus, according to Crone and Cook and Hawting, the combination of the archaeological evidence from Iraq along with the literary evidence from Egypt points unambiguously to a sanctuary [and thus direction of prayer] not in the south, but somewhere in north-west Arabia (or even further north) at least till the end of the seventh century .

What is happening here? Why are the Qiblas of these early mosques not facing towards Mecca? Why the discrepancy between the Qur’an and that which archaeology as well as documents reveal as late as 705 A.D.?

Both the above are from master list at Pfander – Historical Critique.

Download a PDF summary with photos here. Or a few pages long PDF file here, that summarizes Dan Gibson’s research into the Petra/Mecca puzzle – starting with all the features of the holy city described by Islamic sources that Mecca doesn’t fulfill, and summarizing the timeline on pages 13-15; via The Mecca Question. Or read a webpage summary here.

Links related to the other arguments presented in the documentary:

Petra Proofs – Interactive map of Petra, with each feature linked to an Islamic quote about ‘Mecca’

The Qibla Question – Index page

And a well presented talk by Jay Smith on the historical, geographical, archaeological, manuscript – you name it! – evidence heavily related to all the above:

And more:

As summarized:

1) What the historical record is telling us who Muhammad actually was, including where he lived, and when?
2) Why his earliest biographies (Sira) and his sayings (Hadith) don’t appear for over 200 years after his death?
3) Why Mecca, where Muhammad lived, doesn’t appear until 741 AD, over 100 years after Muhammad’s death?
4) Why all the earliest mosques for the first 100 years are pointed (i.e. the Qibla) 600 miles too far north, towards Petra instead of Mecca?
5) Why all the earliest Qur’anic manuscripts don’t begin to appear until the 8th century, some 50-60 years after Muhammad; all with variants, and with corrections continuing well into the 9th century, a full 200 years after it was supposedly compiled complete and unchanged?

Feel free to comment below with your views or rebuttals to these arguments.

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