While researching the history of the Arabian Peninsula, Dan Gibson of nabataea.net noticed that a number of early mosques did not point to Mecca. He carefully plotted the qibla direction of these mosques and discovered that they pointed to the ancient city of Petra. Surprised, he began to check more mosques, plotting their qibla direction and noting the dates of their construction. That is when he made the amazing discovery that for the first hundred years of Islamic history ALL mosques pointed to Petra. Not Mecca! Not Jerusalem!
You can check his research using the computer program Goggle Earth. Make sure Google Earth is installed on your computer and then download the following three files. It will place yellow markers on Petra, and also on two of the handful of early mosques that do not point to Mecca.You can then use the ruler tool to draw a line between Petra and these buildings to check their orientation. The book provides more examples and explains how the qibla direction was indicated in different architectural designs during different periods of Islamic history. Download the following three small files and save them on your desktop. Then click on them and mark them on Google Earth using the small pin.
Now click on the ruler and draw a line between the Petra and Anjar to see which direction the buildings are facing.
Then do the same with Qasr al Mushatta and check which way the buildings are oriented. There are many more examples in the book with further information on when these buildings were built and that they pointed to Islam's Holy City.
How is it possible that the early mosques faced the Petra region? Gibson discovered in Islamic historical records that during the 2nd Islamic civil war the Ka'ba (The Holy Place of Islam) was destroyed by a trebuchet and was later rebuilt. He believes that the original Ka'ba was in the Petra region and that after it was destroyed the rebels moved the Black Stone deep into Arabia to keep it from their Umayyad enemies. There they constructed a new Ka'ba, and the two cities who opposed the Umayyads (The Holy City and the city of Kufa in Iraq) then used this as their qibla direction for prayer. It is recorded that they both prayed towards the same qibla (direction). Once the Umayyads were defeated the Iraqi's declared that the true qibla was to be towards Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
This book is filled with historical, archeological and literary indicators that strongly point towards Petra, not Mecca as being the founding place of Islam.
But there is more to this book than just a study of Mecca. Gibson believes that four times in the history of the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabs united and burst forth from the deserts conquering other nations. The first is described in the Qur'an as the people of 'Ad. The Bible describes these as an alliance of tribes led by the Edomites, living in the land of 'Uz. The Egyptians described them as Hyksos, or shepherd kings who invaded Egypt. By combining these three identities together, Gibson sees evidence of this powerful alliance from archeological remains in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen and Oman. In the end the Egyptians crush the alliance and the remaining tribes disperse and become small, isolated tribes in the desert.
Eventually Arabia unites again, this time under the leadership of the Midianites. The Qur'anic and the Biblical records clearly remember when the tribes united under Midianite leadership and challenged the nations outside of the peninsula. This time they meet their defeat in the Levant.
Many centuries later, the tribes of Ishmael take leadership, this time under the direction of the Nabataean tribe, descendants of the eldest son of Ishmael. This empire would be different, for the backbone of this empire was trade not military force. The Qur'an calls them the people of Thamud, meaning after 'Ud. The Jews called them Nabataeans, and the Romans simply refer to them as Arabs. In 106 AD the northern part of their kingdom was absorbed into the Roman Empire and eventually they faded from view.
It was not until 600 AD that the Arabian Peninsula was again united, this time under the flag of Islam. Once again the tribes of Arabia burst from the deserts challenging the surrounding nations. This time they will not be easily defeated, and their armies march to China in the east, Spain in the west, and Vienna in the north.
This book contains many references, as well as some useful appendices including a 32 page time line of Islamic history from 550 AD - 1095 AD, and a 20 page annotated selected bibliography of early Islamic sources in chronological order from 724 AD - 1100 AD plus a list of many early Qur'anic manuscripts. Over 470 pages, highly illustrated with index. Hard cover.