Islam’s Misdirected Mosques

One of the basic facts that most people know about Islam is that Muslims pray while facing Mecca. Muslims believe that this is mandated in the Qur’an where Allah instructs the faithful to pray in the direction of the ‘sacred mosque’ (cf. Qur’an 2:142-145, 149-150). Muslim commentators on this text are unanimous that this can only refer to the mosque (with the Ka’aba at its center) in Mecca that is still the focus of all Muslim prayer. Since this statement is in the Qur’an itself, and is dated to 624 CE by Muslim scholars, we can assume that all mosques built during the Islamic conquests would have had qiblas (prayer directions) pointing towards Mecca. The problem, from an Islamic perspective, is that this is simply not the case. Many ancient mosques have been excavated and the floor plans of the oldest among them do not align with an orientation towards Mecca. The map below shows just how widespread the ‘misalignment’ of all the earliest mosques that have been excavated are.

So what is going on here? At the very least we should consider the probability that early Islam had an alternative focus for devotion, much further to the north. This would inevitably mean that modern Muslims are misdirecting their prayers. Most people would dismiss such an idea as beyond preposterous but could I respectfully ask you to consider the evidence as laid out in my book The Mecca Mystery – Probing the Black Hole at the Heart of Muslim History’?