Holy City of Mecca: What if 1.6 Billion Muslims Were Praying in the Wrong Direction?

Holy City of Mecca: What if 1.6 Billion Muslims Were Praying in the Wrong Direction?

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Five times a day, every day, over a billion Muslims bow down and recite a prayer to Allah, given to them by Muhammad, their prophet. Every day, five times a day, they face a Black Rock in the Holy City of Mecca, and submit themselves afresh to the religion of Islam. Every day, they bow as a corporate group all around the world, to express their solidarity as followers of Islam, for whom Muhammad is their prophet, the Qur'an is their scripture, and Mecca is their Holy City. However, as archeological discoveries are beginning to point to a different story, scholars are seriously examining and challenging the fact about the founding of Islam. And if they are right, how will it affect Muslims today? We have tools at our disposal that have never been available before.

Modern technology is allowing us to reconstruct the opening years of Islam and to understand things that have puzzled historians for years. All over the world, universities, museums, and libraries are putting ancient books and writings on the Internet for scholars to access. Now, we can check these ancient manuscripts with just a few clicks of a mouse.

Today, both academics and amateurs alike can accurately check via satellite locations and details that would previously have taken huge expensive effort and can share them instantly around the world via social media and academic forums. So, now for the very first time, a whole new era of research surrounding the founding of Islam is coming to light, and we can piece together what really happened in Arabia 1500 years ago. Writer and historian Dan Gibson has lived most of his life in the Middle East. He has extensively researched the peoples and places of the ancient world before Islam. I first came to Arabia in my early 20s, and I've spent more than 30 years exploring every corner of this amazing part of the world, piecing together evidence for a radical new theory which I believe will change our understanding of the past. Years of study have led me to the conclusion that Islam began somewhere other than where the conventional history suppose, and that in early Islamic writings, there are clues and references that reveal the hidden truth about the Mecca mystery.

Back in 2002, I had occasion to visit a conference on Nabataean studies organized here by the Al-Hussein Bin Talal University. During the conference, I had occasion to speak with leading archeologists from Saudi Arabia and from Jordan. I asked them specifically about the archeological record in Mecca. While not to wishing to be named or quoted, they admitted that there was no archeological record in Mecca before 800 AD. I had expected them to defend the opinion that Mecca was a walled city with houses and gardens and public buildings and temples. They said, "No, there was nothing like that there."

Did you know that the name Mecca is mentioned only once in the whole Qur'an? Muslim scholars link other names with Mecca, names such as the Forbidden Gathering Place, or the Holy House, or the Place of Becca or weeping. All of these terms are universally associated with Mecca today. Nevertheless, the Qur'an itself does not tell us in so many words that these all refer to Mecca.

Muslim scholars see no reason to debate this. But in recent years, some historians have raised questions. They have noted that Mecca was a barren place and not located on the ancient caravan route. People have imagined that the caravans carried incense, spice and other exotic goods, but according to recent research, by the time of Muhammad, the age of frankincense was now long over, and the Arabs engaged in a trade of leather and clothing, hardly items that could have sustained the large city that was described as the mother of all cities and the center of the trade route. Look at this map. Where do all the trade routes intersect? There are three places in northern Arabia that could be described as the center of the trade route.

What is interesting is that Mecca was not even a stopping place because it was not even located on the caravan route. In this film, we will find out why there is a total lack of archeology in Mecca from the time of the Prophet Muhammad, why descriptions of Mecca do not tally with the landscape, and how an early Islamic civil war altered the truth about Islam. While Muslims all over the world believe that their holy city and their founding leaders all lived in Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Dan Gibson believes the evidence actually points elsewhere. During my studies of Arabian history, I've come across evidence that points not to Mecca but to northern Arabia as the founding place of Islam. Up until now, no one has ever questioned that Mecca was the Holy City of Islam. Every Muslim believes that he should pray towards the Black Rock in Mecca, but years of study and countless trips to all parts of the Arabian Peninsula have led me to a radical new understanding of Islamic history.

I believe that in the process of understanding Islamic history, a fundamental error has been made. It wasn't a deliberate falsehood, it was just a misunderstanding of what happened during the founding years of Islam. So later, Islamic writers corrected what they thought was an error in earlier histories when it was actually the truth. Is it possible that over a billion people who followed the religion of Islam misunderstand how and where their religion began? And if so, what implications does this evidence have for the average Muslim who wants to follow the instructions of Muhammad, his prophet? We are going to have to examine a time in history and a setting that few of us understand. For centuries, the histories of the classical world and Middle East empires have been discussed, but little effort has been given to the history of Arabia.

This ignorance is true, not just of the West, but also of the Arabs themselves. The prophet Muhammad was born in 570 AD, at a time and a place that few people today really know about. His grandfather and his father were Nabataean merchants and, in fact, Muhammad himself married a merchant woman. One day, Muhammad was meditate in the cave and an angel visited him.

The angel taught him words of praise to Allah. Later, his wife convinced Muhammad that it really had been an angel and he was, in fact, called to be a prophet of God. During his lifetime, he had many visits from the same angel, and each time, there was a new revelation. These revelations from the whole of the lifetime of Muhammad become gathered together to what we know today as the Qur'an. Adel i-Shemari studied Islam at the Islamic College in Kuwait. Over the years, he and Dan have formed a good friendship and have often found themselves drawn into deep discussion about faith and its history.

Muhammad and his followers suffered persecution, so he and a few of his followers fled to Medina. Now that city actually converted to Islam and Muhammad established a government there. And in fact, we can date the Muslim calendar from this period of time. Shortly after this, his followers started attacking caravans, growing in power, growing in number, until eventually more and more people joined them to the point where they became an expanded military presence, in fact, threatened the whole of Arabia.

Muhammad gave his vision of taking Islam to the entire world. However, he died unexpectedly. And at that point, disputes broke out, leading to civil wars. But despite these differences and these divisions, there was the continued dream of expanding the faith to the whole of the world.

Eventually, much of North Africa or in Central Asia became under the control of Islam. And today, Islam is the second largest of the world's religions. Today, all over the Middle East, when construction companies want to dig for a foundation, there should be someone present from the Ministry of Antiquities. It doesn't matter if you're in Jerusalem, Damascus, or Amman, Jordan, wherever you dig, the chances are, you will expose an ancient site of some sort. In the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, developers are digging all over, putting up great buildings, hotels and high-rises, but to the surprise of archeologists, there are no ruins of a great and ancient city on the Mecca. The city where Muhammad was born was a major city.

It had no trouble in raising large numbers of men to work caravans and march in its armies. Not only did it have a significant population, but it was also an agricultural city. The Prophet Muhammad would go forth for his affairs and journey far afield until he reached the glens of Mecca and the beds of its valleys. Aisha, Muhammad's wife, mentioned that one of the men was longing for Mecca.

Would that I but stay overnight in a valley filled with various kinds of grass. When we came to Mecca, we saw a town blessed with water and trees, and delighted with it, we settled there. Al Bukhari speaks of a prisoner who is eating grapes while he was chained in and he says, "This was not the time of fruit in Mecca." It's hard to believe that these things were written about Mecca. The area around Mecca is all rocks and desert. Mecca averages less than 10 centimeters of rain per year.

With its extremely hot temperatures and barren conditions, this is scarcely enough to grow any vegetation at all, let alone grow enough food to support a large population. Yet the Holy City of Islam is described as having fields with trees and grass and soil. But there's no cultivatable land near Mecca. It doesn't match the ancient descriptions. Even the Shaq mentions that the people of Mecca were reluctant to cut down trees in the sacred area. The presence of trees and plants in ancient times can be easily tested by the presence of spores and pollen in undisturbed ancient soil.

To date, there is no record of trees having ever existed in ancient Mecca. Another puzzle is that the city of Mecca is missing on all early maps of Arabia. One would expect that a major merchant city would be mentioned on early maps.

But not one shows Mecca before the time of Islam. Over the years, I have gathered copies of many ancient maps of Arabia. I have diligently translated them. But never once did I find Mecca mentioned on a map before Islam. Did you know that the name Mecca does not appear in any literature prior to 740 AD? That's 120 years after the founding of Islam. Don't you find it puzzling that for the first 120 years of Islamic history, none of the surrounding nations knew anything about the existence of Mecca? How could a major city, a city that could raise thousands of men in its army, a city that had agriculture, trees, grass, fruit and grapes, be missed by other nations? How could a major city with walls, temples, and public buildings not be found in the annals of other nations, especially if it was a merchant city that undertook trade with all the nations around it? And most puzzling of all is that when we go to the physical location of this ancient city, we find that there is no early archeological record.

It was an insignificant location, not even on a trade route. Many historians today have come to the conclusion that the accounts of the founding of Islam are all myths. Obviously, there is a great discrepancy between what Islamic records tell us and what the archeologists have been finding.

So the conclusion they draw is that the Islamic records are just fabricated myths. In my years of study, I have become convinced that the early records are not myths, but that they refer to another location that fits all of these descriptions. I believe that Muhammad was born and raised in another place, and that Muslims are facing the wrong direction when they pray.

According to commonly accepted Islamic history, the Ka'ba was a major shrine in the city of Mecca and the focus of pilgrimage in Arabia. A good starting place might be studying the pilgrimage before the founding of Islam. This Umra before Muhammad was at a time when the focal point of Arabian pilgrimage was to a place known as the Forbidden Gathering Place. This location held many pagan idols.

In order for us to understand what was happening in pre-Islamic Arabia, we need to understand the importance of holy places in ancient Arabia. From ancient times, Middle Eastern religions have equated gods with regions rather than being universal. Modern readers of history have long been influenced by Greek and Roman concepts of the pantheon of gods and have failed to realize the significance that the ancient Arabs applied to gods of specific regions. In the eyes of the ancient Arabs, there were gods who lived in Mesopotamia, gods who lived in Egypt, and gods who lived in Greece, and so on.

Arab merchants passing through an area would respect the local gods. They were not opposed to gods of different places. What they were opposed to was the representation of a god in human or animal form. They prefer to use geometric shapes.

For instance, here is a god in the shape of a block. That one over there is shaped as a triangle. Each of these gods were considered local gods, and must be respected when passing through their territory.

Such a view of religion naturally leads to accepting territories and locations as being sacred to specific gods. Thus, the area around the temple, such as a particular valley or remote desert location, could be considered as sacred. It would have a precinct where people could gather, even with their enemies, and be safe, because violence was forbidden in the sacred precincts.

When tourists enter the majestic beauty of Wadi Rum here in southern Jordan, they're so often taken up with the exquisite beauty of this valley on the rugged mountains, that they miss a temple dedicated to the goddess Lat, or al-Lat as some call her. This Nabataean temple had a sacred area. It was located in front of the temple with the mountains marking off the sacred area.

Before Islam, Arabs were divided into many groups. They worshiped different gods and often fought amongst themselves over tribal issues. The one thing that held them together was the pilgrimage to a common ancient meeting place. The Qur'an calls this Masjid al-Haraam, or the Forbidden Gathering Place. Masjid means gathering, and is translated mosque today.

Before Islam, there were no mosques, so the Masjid was simply a gathering place. The Forbidden Gathering Place was a sacred place of refuge and security, where regular activities ceased and violence was forbidden, or Haraam. The concept of Haraam or forbidden is very strong in Islam. Allah has made Mecca a sacred sanctuary and it was a sanctuary before, and will be so after.

None is allowed to uproot its shrubs, or cut its trees, or hunt its game. So we have two descriptions of the original Holy City of Islam. It was a Haraam place where killing was forbidden, and it was the focus of the pilgrimage for many centuries before the founding of Islam. Now, look here. Much of the graffiti found throughout the Negev in southern Jordan was written by people on pilgrimage to the ancient city of Petra in southern Jordan. Thousands of people scratched their names and messages on rocks as they made their way to Petra for pilgrimage.

This creates a problem for us. Mecca is unknown in maps and literature before and during the rise of Islam. The descriptions such as the center of the trade route, the mother of all cities, and the focal point of the ancient pilgrimage, do not fit. How can we solve this? The answer to that comes from Islam itself. In Islam, it is universally understood that the Qibla is towards Mecca in Saudi Arabia. No one questions the direction of the Qibla today.

However, the Qur'an tells Muslims they have a Qibla. The text of the Qur'an does not give the name of the city to which prayer was originally made. It only mentions Masjid al-Haraam, or the Forbidden Gathering Place. Muslims believe they originally prayed towards Jerusalem. According to Islamic sources, in 624 AD, Muhammad changed the Qibla to Mecca. Muhammad revealed this in Sura 2 of the Qur'an.

Thus, we appointed the Qibla to you. Indeed, it was a momentous change, except to those guided by Allah. Allah would never make your faith of no effect. Now shall we turn you to a Qibla that shall please you. Turn then your face in the direction of the Mashjad Al Haraam; wherever you are, turn your faces in that direction.

As a historian of the Arabian Peninsula, I've always been interested in finding the location of the original Qibla. What direction did Muhammad pray towards before the Qibla was changed? Was it Jerusalem, as some claim? Was it Syria, as some claim? Or was it some other direction? If we were to do this study 100 years ago, it would require an incredible amount of work and research. We would have to travel the world searching ancient sites to find the earliest mosques in Islam. Now, in a few moments, we can do what used to take a lifetime.

Google Earth lets us look down on sites from space. And websites like ARCHNET can combine the research of hundreds of students and professors. We can examine structures based on various criteria. We choose Islamic buildings, arrange them by date into a chronological list, then determine when they were constructed, check their Qibla direction by using Google Earth, and collate this to determine when the Qibla direction changed towards Mecca. This will give us solid data to work with.

Now, determining the Qibla direction is not an exact science. Some of the early mosques like this one are not exactly square. So researchers need to find the Qibla wall and project to 90 degrees from that wall. Because early buildings were not square, we cannot use the side walls or the back walls.

This is the mihrab of an old mosque. The early Arabs set the Qibla direction using the stars and they were very accurate. The best way to determine the Qibla direction is to visit the mosque and use an actual accurate GPS unit. Not every mosque can be used for this study. Many of them were totally reconstructed over time, so much so that it is no longer possible to determine their original Qibla direction. However, a number of mosques survive.

For instance, there is a mosque called the Mosque of the two Qiblas in Medina. Islamic history tells us that it was in this very mosque that the companion leading prayers was told of the Qibla change, so he turned around and started praying towards Mecca. The question is where did he originally face? Muslims have a ready answer. He prayed towards Jerusalem.

Now today the Mosque of the Two Qiblas faces Mecca. But in 1987, the mosque was completely torn down so it could be rebuilt. During the construction process, the old foundation was revealed. And they discovered that it did have a Qibla wall that did indeed face north, generally towards Jerusalem. And so Muslims believe, originally, the Qibla was towards Jerusalem.

There is a simple way that this can be put to the test. If we go to the earliest mosques that were built where we can identify their direction of prayer, we can plot them on a map, and see if their lines converge. We'll find one of three things. They all point in different directions. They all point to Jerusalem, or they all point to another location.

After the Mosque of the Two Qiblas in Saudi Arabia, there are a further 11 early surviving mosques that we can research. These are located in China, Egypt, southern Jordan, Lebanon, central Jordan, Yemen, Israel, Iraq, Jerusalem, West Bank, and lastly, Lebanon. So, if we go in the order that they were built, the second surviving mosque was built in Guangzhou, China. Guangzhou is the modern name for what was known as the city of Canton. When Marco Polo reached this city in 1300 AD, he discovered over 100,000 Arab and Persian merchants living there. You see, the Arabs have been trading with the Chinese for hundreds and hundreds of years.

This is all well-documented. And so Abu Waqqas, an uncle of Muhammad, traveled to China on a trade mission. And according to Chinese manuscripts, he built a mosque for the Arabs in Canton in 627 AD, or six years after the founding of Islam. I personally examined this mosque and used the GPS unit to determine the mosque's Qibla direction. What I found was surprising.

This mosque does not face Mecca. It faces 12 degree north of Mecca, meaning that it does not face Jerusalem either. Its Qibla passes south of Jerusalem. The next mosque was built in 641 AD, about 20 years after the founding of Islam, in the town of Fustat, just outside of Cairo. This mosque was rebuilt and enlarged several times so that today the original foundation is no longer evident. However, a description of the original ground plan of the mosque survives, and the Islamic records tell us that the first Qibla pointed east, and later had to be corrected towards the south, towards Mecca.

The next surviving Islamic building is the Umayyad Palace built here at Humayma in southern Jordan. Around 700 AD or about 80 years after the founding of Islam, the Abbas family built a large manor house here. This house had no special mosque area. Rather, the faithful would line up here in the courtyard to pray.

This house has a Qibla direction, but it is not towards Jerusalem. The following year, a new mosque was built in Baalbek in Lebanon. Notice that its Qibla does not point to Mecca. One year later, the Umayyads built a large and impressive mosque here on the citadel in Amman, Jordan. This mosque points south. Mecca is over there.

A couple of years after this, in 705 AD, or 84 years after the founding of Islam, Muslims constructed the Great Mosque of Sana'a in the capital city of Yemen. While this mosque points in the general direction of Mecca, it actually points to the west of Jerusalem. The following year, in 706 AD, the Umayyad Muslim rulers built Khirbat al-Minya, a large palace complex in Israel on the shores of Galilee.

This palace complex had a specific room used as a mosque. According to the inscriptions set into a gateway, it was built 87 years after the founding of Islam by the Muslim ruler al-Walid. This building and its mosque do not face Jerusalem.

That same year, the Muslims also built the Wasid Mosque in Iraq. Originally, archeologists claim that this mosque pointed to Jerusalem. However, further research has shown that this mosque points south of Jerusalem. The next mosque is the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem itself. This mosque is not the temple dome but rather the old mosque to the south of the dome.

This mosque is already in Jerusalem, but it also has a Qibla, and it does not point to Mecca. The next mosque we come to was built in 724 AD, 103 years after the founding of Islam. This is the Khirbat al Mafjar Mosque near Jericho in the Jordan Valley.

This palace was built near the end of the Umayyad Dynasty. By looking at the floor plan, we can see that the palace and its mosque faced south, rather than towards Mecca. That same year, a mosque was built at Anjar, about 58 kilometers from Beirut.

It was built near the end of the Umayyad period and no more than 30 years later, it fell into ruins and eventually was abandoned. Since it was never rebuilt, we can easily determine the Qibla direction which does not point towards Mecca or Jerusalem. Now, let's put this all together onto one map. The result is amazing. During the first 100 years of Islam, 100% of all the surviving mosques we have located so far face a spot in southern Jordan, rather than Mecca. From north, south, east, and west, mosques all face towards one spot.

This isn't some small error in determining the Qibla direction. They all specifically point to just one place. Directly under this point is the ancient city of Petra. This is a city that is well-known to us today. It is a popular tourist site. Tourists come from all over the world to marvel at the great temples and the monuments in this city.

Could it be that Petra is the mother of all cities described in the Qur'an? It was the focus of the ancient Arab pilgrimage. So could Petro also be the birthplace of Muhammad, and the founding city of Islam? Every good Muslim tells me that Muslims used to pray towards Jerusalem. They know this because Bukhari tells them this. And I agree, Bukhari says it was Jerusalem.

But Bukhari is writing some 200 years after Muhammad, and is writing more than a hundred years after the Qibla change took place. So he's not an eyewitness. He's just collecting what people are remembering. And he actually notes several conflicting ideas that were circulating at the time. While some people were offering morning prayer at Quba', a man came to them and said, "A Quranic order "has been revealed to Allah as a puzzle tonight, "that he should face the Ka'ba at Mecca, "so you, too, should turn your faces towards it." At that moment, their faces were towards Syria, and on hearing this, they turned towards the Ka'ba at Mecca.

I believe that originally, Muhammad, while living in Medina, prayed north towards Petra which was in the Roman province of Syria. By the time Bukhari was collecting his stories, people had forgotten Petra, and everyone remembered that their great grandparents prayed towards Syria. Those who bring up the argument about Becca raise an interesting point. I agree that in Islamic literature, the name Becca is synonymous with the first Holy City of Islam. When Muhammad was a young man, the people decided to rebuild the Ka'ba. In the rubble, they found several building blocks with inscriptions written in Syria, the language of the Nabataeans.

They found a Jew who could translate it for them. I am Allah, the Lord of Becca. I created it on the day that I created heaven and earth and formed the sun and moon, and I surrounded it with seven pious angels.

It will stand whilst its two mountains stand as a blessing to its people with milk and water. The word Becca is an ancient Semitic word which means to weep or lament. If a location was assigned the title Becca, it would mean the place of weeping. The name Becca has never been used of Jerusalem. It appears only once in the Bible in Psalm 84. Here it is used in reference to a valley of weeping, but the Qur'an also speaks of a valley of weeping, where Hagar was weeping over Ishmael.

The Qur'an places this story in Becca, which is the early name for the place where the Ka'ba was built. Surely, this location was not Jerusalem, which is built on top of the mountain, and not in a valley. I think the answer is quite simple. There were many major earthquakes in Petra, such as the one in 551 AD, only 19 years before Muhammad was born.

We are told that during that earthquake, much of Petra was destroyed. Petra could have been called the valley of Becca because so many people were killed over so many years from all the earthquakes. If Petra is the Holy City of Islam, then there should be evidence of Muhammad's tribe, the Quraysh, around Petra. If Dan Gibson can find Muhammad's tribe, it will greatly support his theory that Muhammad was from the Petra region and not from Mecca.

Long ago, this was known as the city of Hawara, or Humayma as it is known today. Archeologists have uncovered a farmhouse belonging to the Abbasid family and a mosque built some time later. When the Muslims of Iraq defeated the Umayyads of Damascus, they wanted a member of Muhammad's family to support and legitimize their revolt.

And so they came here to Humayma, 27 miles from Petra. It was here that they found Muhammad's family and the Quraysh tribe. They didn't go to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, or Medina, they came here to Humayma, 27 miles outside of Petra. It was here that they found the Quraysh tribe and the family of Muhammad, not in Saudi Arabia. So far, we have discovered that the early mosques of Islam all faced the ancient city of Petra. But does the city of Petra fit the Islamic descriptions of the original Holy City of Islam? There is a story told by all of the early biographers of Muhammad.

It concerns Abdullah, Muhammad's father. He was working in the field one day and he came home with dirt on his hands. He went into his first wife and said, "Lie with me." But she refused because he was dirty.

So he went out, washed off the soil, went into his next wife, Aminah. She conceived and in this way, Muhammad was born. What is important to us about this story is that all of the early writers used the same word for the dirt on Abdullah's hands. They all used an Arabic word for soil, especially the soil of a cultivated plot or field. The problem is there is no cultivatable land near Mecca. However, when we come to Petra, we discover that Petra had water, fields, and trees.

According to archeologists, there were private and public gardens, as well as running water brought into the city through aqueducts and clay pipes. Archeologists have described fruit trees, grapes and gardens existing in ancient Petra. Even today, there are cultivated plots of land between Petra and Al-Beidha, which is five kilometers away. By analyzing ancient soil, researchers have discovered that only 100 years ago, the hills around Petra were covered with trees, including oak, juniper, pistachio, and carob. Not only did the Holy City have trees and fields, it was also a walled city. Ibn Ishaq says, "And they surrounded him "by the walls of Mecca."

Now this is very puzzling because Mecca had no city walls. Some think perhaps this was a house in Mecca. But Ibn Ishaq specifically says, the walls of Mecca.

But Mecca was not a walled city. So what about Petra? Petra was built in a valley. On either side of the valley were large mountains with cliffs. These cliffs were as good as city walls. So the people of Petra built walls from one mountian cliff to the other mountain cliff both on this side of the valley and also on the other side of the valley.

So Petra had city walls. Another distinctive feature in Petra is that it contains a very unique stream. Now usually, you have a valley with mountains on one side, mountains on the other, and a stream running down the center of the valley.

But in this case, long ago, earthquakes cracked these mountains, so that there is a crack in that mountain, water runs through that crack, across the valley, and out the crack in the other side. The Nabataeans built a colonnaded street from one mountain to the other mountain and beside it was a rain watercourse. Let's go down there. Now in Islam, one of the duties of the pilgrims is to go seven times between two mountains called Marwah and Safa. What is interesting is that Bukhari tells us that Muhammad chose to do this running in the rain watercourse between the two mountains.

But there are problems. Safa and Marwah are just small rocks. Today, they're housed right inside of the mosque building.

As you can see on this shrine, there was no rain watercourse between these two rocks. But here in Petra, the description fits exactly from one mountain to the other. There are four ways into the Petra basin. Since Petra is in a valley, one could enter from either end of the valley.

During the year of the contest of Mecca, the prophet entered Mecca through its upper part. But there are also other ways of entering Petra. The ancient records tell us that the Holy City could be entered and exited by a crack in the rocks.

In Arabic, this is called a thaniya. Al Bukhari mentions this several times. Allah's Apostle used to enter Mecca from the high thaniya and used to leave Mecca from the low thaniya. The prophet went on advancing till he reached the thaniya through which one would go to them.

That is the people of Quraysh. There are two thaniya entrances. One of these is the famous siq that tourists pass through to enter the city. The other is on the far side of the colonnaded street and leads into a maze of canyons that eventually empty out into Wadi Araba below the Dead Sea.

Petra also has many temples. Over here is what is known today as the Temple of the Winged Lions, or the temple to Al-Uzza. Behind me is what is known as Qasr al-Bint today or the temple to the god Dushara. This short chain of mountains here was the home to the god and here in the very heart of the mountains is the temple to this god, al-Dushara. Now, Ibn Hisham relates to us a very interesting story.

It's very early in Islamic history. Only a few people have converted to Islam at this time. One of those was a man known as al-Tufail bin Amr of Mecca. He accepted Islam on one of his journeys. And once he returned home to Mecca, his wife also decided to accept Islam.

Al-Tufail then tells his wife to go to the Temple of Dushara and cleanse herself there. In the sacred area, there was a trickle of water where she could wash herself. She did this and returned home and learned about Islam.

Did this story take place in Mecca, a thousand kilometers away, where there is no temple to Dushara? Or did it take place here in Petra? If it did, then Dushara's temple is there. She would have come down to this temple, washed herself, and gone home. Is there a temple to Dushara in Mecca in Saudi Arabia? No, there are no temples, no cracks in the rock, no water stream, no city walls, no grass, no trees, nothing. It's all here in Petra. And for the first 100 years, every mosque in the entire Islamic world pointed here to Masjid al-Haraam, the Forbidden Gathering Place. Here, in Petra.

There is no other city in the world that fits this description so perfectly. Now, al-Khattab had so harassed Zayd that he forced him to withdraw to the upper part of Mecca and he stopped in the Mountain of Hira facing the town. It's interesting to note that in this account, Mount Hira is located in the upper part of Mecca.

If you go to Mecca today, the cave of Hira doesn't face the city. But here in Petra, the high side of the city is north of the colonnaded street, and the low part of the city is south of the colonnaded street. In effect, the city was divided in half by the colonnaded street.

If Petra is the Holy City of Mecca, then the cave where Muhammad received his first revelation should be located there. The ancient records say that the cave faced the town, and that it was low down since Muhammad tried to climb the mountain to throw himself off. If that's the case, I think I know just the spot. But we'll have to go over there. Here in this cave, we can see where there are many various god blocks.

Up there is a large crescent symbol. This is just the sort of cave where young men would go to contemplate the meaning of life. The descriptions and location of this cave are just like the ancient records describe it, just outside of the city, the entrance facing the city, and evidence that people spent time here in religious worship and meditation.

I think that this is one of the holiest spots for all of Islam. And it's here, in Petra. The Qur'an commands every Muslim to face the Forbidden Gathering Place when they pray. Now, the Forbidden Gathering Place wasn't a building. It was much more than this. It was a large area marked out with special stones.

These stones marked the boundary around the sacred area. No killing was allowed inside this area, even birds were not killed. Now, what kind of stones would you need to mark out such an area? If you had just small round stones, they would be lost among the other stones of the desert. They must have been larger stones, and there should have been something special about them, so that you knew for certain that this was the boundary of the sacred area.

Today in Mecca, there are no special boundary stones. Historians have long wondered what these marker stones might have looked like, but they seem to have been lost in the years that have passed since then. Or perhaps they were never there. If Petra is the original Holy City of Islam, then, of course, the special stones wouldn't be in Mecca.

They would be in Petra. Now there's a feature about Petra that's absolutely fascinating. Whenever tourists come to this city, they pass by a number of square-cut stones known as the jinn rocks. This is a fanciful name given to them by the local Bedouin. What is interesting is that there are more 20 of these large square stones marking all of the entrances of the city. Is it possible that these mark out the forbidden sanctuary? Perhaps that's why they're not located in Mecca.

If that is true, then Masjid al-Haraam, or the forbidden sanctuary, would have been located here. And if it was located here, then the Ka'ba would have been located here as well. But it's not, because a man named Ibn Zubayr moved it. So far, in this program, we have been examining the direction of prayer that Muslims originally faced. As we've seen, all of the mosques constructed during the first hundred years of Islam pointed to Petra.

By using the two mosques on the Amman citadel, Dan Gibson has determined the approximate years when the Qibla direction changed. Does Islamic history give us any clues as to why the direction of prayer might have changed? If we look into Islamic history, at this exact time, we come face-to-face with the Second Islamic Civil War. At this point in history, the governor in the Holy City was Abdullah Ibn Zubayr. He was particularly unhappy. In his eyes, the Holy City was the most important city of Islam, the mother of all cities, but the Umayyad rulers chose Damascus as the new capital city, and a lot of people were unhappy with the corruption and the in-fighting in Damascus.

So in 683 AD, about 64 years after the founding of Islam, Ibn Zubayr declared himself caliph in the Holy City and that started the Second Islamic Civil War. The Umayyads reacted strongly and sent an army against the Holy City. Ibn Zubayr then did a shocking thing.

He destroyed the Ka'ba, the ancient Holy Shrine of Islam. Ibn Zubayr then demolished the Ka'ba sanctuary until he had leveled it to the ground and dug out its foundation. Then he placed the Black Stone beside it in a wooden stand, in a strip of silk. The Umayyads fought against Zubayr and his companions, but after 40 days, news arrived that the ruling Caliph in Damascus had died.

Now the Umayyad generals insisted that the battle wasn't over, but that they must return to Damascus so that a new caliph could be established. The members of the Umayyad Royal Family had come to the battle as well, and they insisted that they must return to Damascus onto the protection of the entire army, so the whole army marches off. The problem we face here is one of timing. The Islamic records are quite clear, that when the caliph died, his 13-year-old son ruled in his place.

Al-Tabari, Volume 20 tells us specifically that his son survived only 40 days after his father died before he, too, was killed. During this time, the armies from the Holy City returned to Damascus. Now, a slow-moving army would have taken many days to cover the 1,400-kilometer trek across the desert from Mecca in Saudi Arabia to Damascus in Syria. If the army could move at 20 miles a day, it still would have taken them 43 days. When you add up the time the messenger took to bring the message, the time it took for the army to decide to return and get mobilized, and the 43-day march, there is simply not enough time.

Mecca is too far away to be believable. However, if the Holy City was Petra, then the distances would all be drastically reduced. This problem of distances plagues Islamic history again and again. Mecca in Saudi Arabia is simply too far removed to fit many of the stories in early Islamic history.

Now, with the lull in the war, Ibn Zubayr had time to rebuild his defenses and prepare for the return of the Umayyad army. Now, I want to show you something. Here are some of the volumes of Al-Tabari's history of Islam. Al-Tabari managed to collect a massive amount of material that he writes about what happened during each year of Islamic history.

He devotes whole chapters, sometimes two chapters to every year. But then something strange happens. The battle for the Holy City takes place over several years, but Year 70 of Islamic history is of great importance. Now, notice Al-Tabari spends 15 pages describing what happens in Year 69.

And he spends 27 pages describing what happens in Year 71. But where is Year 70? Look at this. For Year 70, Al Taburi only records a few lines of text. Did he not find any more information for this year? Or did later editors censor this year from Al-Taburi's record? Only a few lines, but what he records gives us a few tantalizing details. It tells us that Mus'aeb Ibn Zubayr, apparently a brother of Abdullah, brings supplies to the Holy City. Were these supplies military equipment? No, it says he brought many horses and camels.

I believe that this is the year that the followers of Ibn Zubayr moved south from Petra to the deserts of Arabia to find a place where they could hold out against the Umayyad forces. All details of this year have been removed from Al-Taburi's history, but we know that they obtained many horses and camels which would have no other purpose than to move many of the people out of the city. This lull in the work continued into the next year, so Ibn Zubayr took advantage of the break to undertake a religious project. He decided to rebuild the Ka'ba. But Al-Taburi does not tell us where the new Ka'ba was constructed.

Was it in Petra? Or was it in a new safer location in faraway Mecca? I believe that the new Ka'ba was built in Saudi Arabia, and that the Black Rock was moved there for safekeeping so even if Ibn Zubayr lost the Holy City, he still had the rock and a new Ka'ba. After a new caliph was established, the Umayyad army returned. This time the army was bigger, and the Umayyads brought large weapons of war with them, among them, a stone-throwing machine called a manjanik. The war between Ibn-Zubayr and al-Hajjaj took place six months and 17 nights in the hollow of Mecca. Yousaf bin Mjak said, "I saw the manjanik "with which stones were being hurled.

"The sky was thundering and lightning, "and the sound of the thunder and lightning "rose above that of the stones "so that it mastered." During the fighting, Ibn Zubayr took refuge in a ruined building beside the Ka'ba. And this began another battle which completed the destruction of the Ka'ba area of the Holy City. Eventually, Ibn Zubayr lost the battle, but the cause was taken up by those in the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia, and by the city of Kufa in Iraq.

I believe that during this time, the Islamic world was thrown into contention. Should they pray towards Petra? Or should they pray towards Mecca? The great Islamic Empire had divided into two. Originally, the Umayyads rule from Damascus, and they prayed towards Petra. But they were defeated in battle and now the eastern part of the empire was ruled by the Abbasids, who all constructed their mosques facing towards Mecca. It was during this exact time that we see a change in mosque construction. Before this, every new mosque constructed faced Petra.

But now for the first time, some of the new mosques began to face Mecca in Saudi Arabia. But the problem still existed, what do you do with the old mosques? They were built facing Petra. It was during this time that mosques began hanging a sign on the wall to indicate the direction of prayer. It was said in the reign of Uthman that the caliph ordered that signs be posted to the walls of the mosques in Medina.

This was so that the pilgrims could easily identify the direction to which they needed to address their prayers. Now this is a very interesting development, because up until this time, mosques were built so tthe faithful had only to face the Qibla wall and they face the Holy City. Why would you need to introduce a sign, unless the direction of prayer had changed? Around this time, around 89 years after the founding of Islam, a niche was suddenly introduced into mosque structure to denote the direction of prayer. This niche was added to older buildings and also incorporated into newer buildings. Today, the niche is standard in every mosque, but it wasn't originally.

There was no niche until the Qibla direction changed. In the civil war, the Umayyads still prayed towards Petra. But the rebels in the Holy City in Medina and in Kufa chose to pray towards the new Qibla in Saudi Arabia. When the armies of Kufa met ibn Zubayr, Bujayr ibn Abdallah al Musli spoke. "Praise be to God who has tested us with chuckles "and tested you by your forgiving us. "Ibn Zubayr, we are people who turn "to the same Qibla as you."

What a strange phrase. "We're the people who turn to the same Qibla as you." Muslim historians argue that this means the same Qibla as every other Muslim. But now that we have uncovered evidence of the change of Qibla at this very time, this phrase takes on special significance.

The people of Kufa join with Ibn Zubayr in accepting his Qibla. This is key to understanding much of what takes place later. Even though Ibn Zubayr is eventually killed and seems to lose the civil war, the city of Kufa plays a major role in the development of the new Abbasid Dynasty and Kufa becomes a theological center and a place for copying Qur'ans.

In the Islamic world, things were a mess. Not only were Muslims divided politically, they were divided religiously. Obeying the wishes of Allah as revealed by the Prophet Muhammad was at the very heart of Islam. Should you obey Muhammad and the Qur'an and face towards the Forbidden Gathering Place in Petra? Or should you pray towards the Sacred House and the Black Rock which is in Saudi Arabia? So far, Dan Gibson has plotted the existing mosques from the first century of Islam, and they all point to Petra in Jordan. So, what about the mosques of the second century of Islam? Do they all point to Petra as well? Here is where things start to get interesting.

During my studies, I discovered that the mosques built during the second century of Islam point in different directions. This is what I call the time of confusion. 102 years after the founding of Islam, the mosque of Uma was constructed in southern Syria in the ancient city of Bosra. As you can see, the mosque's orientation does not point towards Mecca. But clearly, it does not point to Petra either. Five years later, the ruling Muslims built a palace in the Syrian desert known as Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbi.

This is a drawing of the floor plan of the palace and the mosque in the corner of the complex. The whole complex seems to face somewhere between Petra and Mecca. A couple of years later, Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi palace was built about a hundred kilometers north of Palmyra.

If we examine the ground plan of the palace buildings, we notice that the palace and its mosque don't seem to align to either Mecca or Petra. Once again, it points in between. Is it possible that something had happened which made the builders not want to choose either Petra or Mecca, so they pointed the Qibla between the two? We can see from the map that the Qibla points exactly between the two cities.

It is not a slight error in calculation but a deliberate avoiding of both Petra and Mecca. So, we must find an answer elsewhere to explain that change. 109 years after the founding of Islam, a mosque was built in Banbhore, Pakistan. Like all of the other mosques of the period, it had only a Qibla wall without a niche. This mosque, however, pointed towards Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Here, we have the very first mosque that we can identify as pointing to Mecca.

There may have been others built that no longer exist but this mosque is significant because it's the earliest surviving mosque that we can truly say faced Mecca in Saudi Arabia. And what is astounding is that it was built about 100 years after the death of Muhammad. This is very late for Muslim historians, and it is going to cause traditional Islamic history all kinds of trouble. One of the most important buildings in our study is found here on the citadel of Amman, Jordan. This Umayyad Palace was built about 122 years after the founding of Islam.

Now, if you remember, we looked at an Umayyad mosque built over here. This mosque points directly towards Petra. But when they built the palace, its Qibla direction was directly towards Mecca, so clearly, the Qibla direction changed sometime between the construction of those buildings and the construction of this palace. This will help us determine how and when the Qibla direction changed. Remember, it was during the construction of this palace that the name Mecca first appears in literature anywhere.

The next major mosque that was constructed was built 32 kilometers south of Amman, Jordan. This was known as the Mushatta Palace and Mosque and it was built in 743 AD. As you can see, it was a very large and impressive Umayyad Palace with the mosque located in the southern part of the structure facing Petra.

Indeed, the entire complex faces Petra. What makes this interesting is that it seems that Islam is now split into several groups. There were the traditionalists who built their mosques, like this one, facing Petra. But there were reformers whose mosques face Mecca. And there were others who were not in either group and they refused to select either of those Qiblas.

During this time, a significant change took place in Islamic history. The Umayyad rulers of Islam in Damascus were defeated by the Abbasids of Kufa. In 754 AD, al-Mansoor, the new caliph, commissioned the construction of a brand new eastern capital, choosing Baghdad in Iraq as his site.

The new city was built on a spectacular design Rather than the haphazard shape common to most Middle Eastern cities, this city was built in a great circle. The designers went out to a brand new area and used ashes to draw out the city plan on the ground prior to construction. The city, which was completed in 767 AD was two kilometers in diameter. As you can see on this drawing, the main mosque of the city had no niche indicating the direction of prayer. That was to come later.

One wall was used as a Qibla wall, and that wall pointed directly to Mecca, as would all of the other mosques built from now on by the Abbasid rulers. If this is all true, then the Prophet Muhammad and the first four rightly-guided caliphs in Islam, and the following Umayyad rulers who ruled Islam from Damascus, all prayed towards the city of Petra. But late in the Umayyad reign, something happened that caused the builders to change the direction of their mosques.

Some pointed to Petra, some to Mecca, and some chose to be neutral and point between the two. This created a problem for the western half of Islam. The people in the West was still loyal to the earlier Umayyads. So the Islamic world is now split into two. The Abbasid rulers in Iraq controlled the eastern part of the empire, and the Umayyad rulers control North Africa and Spain.

This is an important time in Islamic history because the Umayyads in Spain now blossom in culture and begin to build beautiful and impressive buildings. The builders in Spain had a problem. Traditionally, Umayyads all prayed towards Petra. But as we're going to see, something devastating happened, resulting in future mosques no longer facing that direction.

Their enemies, the Abbasids, now pray towards Mecca in Saudi Arabia, so they don't want to choose that direction of prayer. So what should the Umayyads do? As I examine the mosques built by the Spanish Umayyads, I discover the most surprising development. These builders chose neither Petra nor Mecca. Now, as we have seen, some of the builders in the Middle East chose to point their Qiblas between the two cities.

But the builders in North Africa and Spain decided to do something completely different. Over the years, historians have always been puzzled by these mosques. Their Qiblas seem to point towards somewhere in South Africa, but all of the African and Spanish mosques point to slightly different places.

It all seems very confusing. However, when plotted on a map, we can see that the mosques of North Africa and Spain all have Qiblas that are parallel to a line drawn between Petra and Mecca. So rather than choosing Petra or Mecca, they chose to make their Qiblas parallel to a line drawn between the two cities. If you're still not convinced, I wanna show you something else. Do you remember when we discussed the Second Islamic Civil War? Ibn Zubayr barricaded himself in the Holy City, and the Umayyad Syrian army surrounded him and kept him there for four months.

During the month of October, the Syrians brought a catapult up to the city walls where they lobbed rocks right into the holy places of Islam. How is this possible? Normally, people live behind the city walls. A catapult would simply smash down people's houses.

But in this case, it said the catapult hit the holy places of Islam right in the center of the city. How is this possible? Well, here in Petra, there is a unique feature. Petra had city walls, in the north and in the south, the city walls crossed the valley. But in the north, the city walls did not go all the way to the canyon, because there was a watercourse running along the canyon. I believe Syrians brought their catapult up the dry river course, right to the place where they could lob rocks into the very heart of the city, hitting the Ka'aba and the holy places of Islam. Archeologists from Brown University have been digging here in Petra for many years.

Their project was to excavate what is known as the Great Temple area. As they uncovered the temple, Dan was amazed to find evidence that supported his theory. One of the interesting features of this building is that people built defenses here against attack. See, here in this doorway, they closed it in so they could defend themselves. This happened sometime after the earthquake of 551 AD.

We can date the defenses of here by the roofing tiles that were used in the construction of these defenses. However, there are no recorded battles in Petra during this time. So we know this happened during the founding years of Islam. But this is not the only evidence we have. During the excavations, the archeologists uncovered over 400 catapult stones. These stones are buried in about the right place at exactly the right time.

This is an extremely strong indication that the battle took place here, and that the first original Ka'ba was close to this location. So, Islam was divided between the traditionalists and the reformers. The traditionalists prayed towards Petra in Jordan, and the reformers prayed towards Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and others deliberately choosing a middle path. How were they ever going to solve this dilemma? Petra, the city of weeping, suffered a fatal calamity.

Massive earthquakes shook the Petra region, destroying buildings, temples, and houses. The damage was so bad that the city was never rebuilt again. The evidence for that first Ka'ba is gone now. The catapult stones destroyed much of it. Ibn Zubayr destroyed the rest. In 713, an earthquake destroyed the dam that diverts the water around Petra, so every year, floodwaters washed away whatever evidence was left.

So, with the memory of Petra fading from view, the chroniclers of Islamic history, writing some 150 years later, would never mention it by name. In time, the memories of these two locations became merged into one, that of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. From now on, all Qiblas would point here. It wasn't until modern archeological tools, satellite photos, and the Internet allowed the networking of historians, academics and scholars around the world to start piecing together a different picture.

In order to understand the events that influenced the writing of Islamic history, we need to recognize several things. First, it is my belief there was a literary vacuum in the early Islamic empire created by zealous Muslims who destroyed books and manuscripts, erased inscriptions, burned libraries, and destroyed all literature except the Qur'an, which was mostly bits and pieces of what people remembered of the revelations that Muhammad gave. This destruction of written material by the Islamic forces has been well-documented. One piece of evidence is a letter from 640 AD from the Caliph to General Amr, the leader of the Muslim armies in Egypt, who asked the Caliph what should he do with the thousands of manuscripts he found in warehouses in Alexandria. The Caliph's answer has been recorded and known for centuries. As for the books you mention, here is my reply.

If their content is in accordance with the revelations of Allah, we may do without them, for in that case, the revelations of Allah more than suffice. If, on the other hand, they contain matter not in accordance with the revelations of Allah, there can be no need to preserve them. Proceed then and destroy them. The Muslim writer, Ibn al-Qifti, tells us that the books were distributed to the public baths of Alexandria where they were used to feed the stoves which kept the baths comfortably warm. They say it took six months to burn all that massive material. Eutychius, the patriarch of Constantinople, recorded that there were 4,000 baths that received books from the Alexandria library.

This burning of books, however, did not start in Egypt, but four years earlier in Persia. Caliph Umar's army met with the Persian armies in the Battle of Qadisiyya in the year 636 AD. In early January 637, the Muslim advanced guard reached the outskirts of Ctesiphon, and laid siege to the city for two months. Eventually, the city fell, and the Muslims occupied it. During the fighting, the palaces and the library at Ctesiphon were deliberately burned.

In the end, the only book that managed to survive in Arabia was the Glorious Qur'an. When it comes to the history of the Qur'an, historians have struggled. It seems that most of the Qur'an was retained in an oral fashion rather than written form. While the Arabs were great memorizers and had the ability to retain the entirety of the Qur'an, the retention of materials in an oral tradition suffers from several difficulties. First, the accuracy of the memories of the individuals involved must be perfect. In the case of the Qur'an, arguments arose over the various verses, how they should be rendered and if they should or should not be included in the whole.

Second, the problem of transferring knowledge from the learned to the novice is often a difficult step. In the case of the Qur'an, most of the men who memorized the sayings of Muhammad were also warriors. As is often the case, warriors die in battle and their knowledge of the Qur'an perished with them. This is amply illustrated in the Battle of Yamama when an estimated 450 men wh

2023-07-24 13:32

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