Author Topic: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011  (Read 9037 times)

Phill

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Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« on: December 16, 2011, 04:29:10 PM »

Dan Gibson in this recent book explores the Geography of the Qur'an and associated Islamic documents. The theory is that Petra was the original Islamic Holy Mecca rather than where it is today. The evidence is well documented and presented and is a must read for any serious person wishing to study the history of Islam. Dan Gibson lived with the Beduin and in the Middle East for many years and is associated with the http://nabataea.net/ website.

http://books.google.com.au/books/about/Quranic_Geography.html?id=d4P7tgAACAAJ&redir_esc=y


The below link provides a PDF of some chapters contained in the book.

http://searchformecca.com/meccaquestion.html

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2012, 07:38:21 AM »
Hi Dan, and welcome to the forum! :)
I went ahead and copy and pasted the PDF that Phil provided us into the following pages, so we could review it together.

The copy and pasted PDF follows

THE
MECCA
QUESTION


A review of section six of Qur'anic Geography
(Subtitled: A survey of the geographical references in the
Qur'an
, by Dan Gibson and published by Independent
Scholar's Press, 2011)

Jeremy Smyth


The Mecca Question
by Jeremy Smyth

Copyright © Jeremy Smyth, 2011
This booklet is copyrighted, but may be freely reproduced or distributed
in whole or in part, as long as credit is given to the author, Jeremy Smyth. It
may not edited or reproduced in such a way as to change or twist the meaning
of the original text. A copy of this review is being placed on various websites
on the internet so that future readers may check their copy's authenticity.
This review has been approved by Dan Gibson, the author of Qur'anic
Geography, and he has agreed that its contents are a just presentation of what
he presents in the last section of his book.

ISBN: 978-0-9867144-4-3

This book is intended to be distributed free of charge, and is provided so that
readers can understand some of the arguments contained in the book Qur'anic
Geography
. If you would like a copy of this book, please contact Independent
Scholars Press at their website: www.indipress.ca.

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2012, 07:39:13 AM »
INTRODUCTION

This booklet is a review of the last section of Dan Gibson's academic book:
Qur'anic Geography. The original book is 470 pages with over 170 illustrations,
time lines, and multiple appendices and bibliographies. It is available in hard
cover from Independent Scholars Press (http://www.indipress.ca) The original
book examines the various geographical references in the Qur'an with whole sections
given over to the People of 'Ad, the People of Thamud, Midian, Medina,
and Pre-Islamic Arabia. These sections are not referred to in this review.

Rather, this book addresses the final section of Qur'anic Geography which focusses
on the Holy City of Islam. It is in this section that Gibson presents his
findings that the city of Petra in Jordan was the first and original Holy City of
Islam and that it wasn't until several hundred years after the death of Muhammad,
that Abbasid rulers in Iraq endorsed the village of Mecca in Saudi Arabia
as Islam's holy city. At first, this theory sounds unbelievable, but Gibson presents
overwhelming archeological, literary and historical evidence to support his position.
While most people will never read the original academic study, it is hoped
that through this review, you will be introduced to the study, and better understand
what academics and Muslim scholars are wrestling with.

Dan Gibson, the author of Qur'anic Geography is a Canadian historian who has
spent a life-time studying the history of the Arabian peninsula. He is the author
of a dozen books, including The Nabataeans, Builders of Petra, as well as many
papers and articles. He may be reached through the forum at www.searchformecca.
com.

His website: http://nabataea.net has gained worldwide attention, both for its
scope and depth in presenting the early civilizations of the Arabian Peninsula.
After spending several decades in the Arabian peninsula Mr. Gibson and his family
reside in Canada where he continues to research and write.

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2012, 07:39:49 AM »
I

Every day, five times a 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 far off Mecca, and submit themselves
afresh to the religion of Islam. Every day, five times a 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, and the Qur’an is their scriptures
and the Ka’ba is their holy place.
For fourteen hundred years Muslims have prayed towards the Holy City
of Mecca without anyone questioning this act of faith… that is until now. The
book you are reading is a review of several chapters from an academic survey of
the geography of the Qur'an that was published in 2011 which claims that Petra,
a city in southern Jordan, and over a thousand kilometers north of Mecca,
was actually the original Holy City of Islam.
Most people are surprised to discover that the city of Mecca is mentioned
only once in the Qur'an (Sura 48). Qur'anic commentators have also traditionally
linked one reference to the Valley of Bekka (or “valley of the one who
weeps much”) in Sura 3:96 with Mecca as well. There are also references in the
Qur'an to the sacred place, the Ka’ba, and the house; terms which are universally
associated with Mecca today. Nevertheless, the Qur'an itself does not tell us in
so many words that the Ka’ba was located in Mecca. In this small booklet we
will take a brief look at Gibson's claim that archeology as well as early Islamic
writings all point to Petra, not Mecca as the Muslim's Holy City.
Muslim scholars see no reason to doubt what is commonly believed about
Mecca’s location, but in recent years, some historians have raised questions.
For example, Dr. Patricia Crone in her book Meccan Trade and the Rise of
Islam noted that the descriptions of Mecca in Islamic literature don’t seem to
match the present day location of Mecca. For instance early Islamic literature
describes the Holy City as the “mother of all cities.” This term brings to mind
either a large and impressive city or a city of great antiquity. In 2002 Gibson

1

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2012, 07:40:28 AM »
2

asked several leading Jordanian and Saudi archeologists about the archeological
record in and around Mecca. While not wishing to be quoted or named
publicly, they admitted that the Meccan archeological record before 900 AD is
basically non-existent. Gibson had expected them to defend the opinion that
ancient Mecca was a walled city with houses, gardens, public buildings and
temples. They shook their heads and said, “There was nothing like that there.”
The Holy City is also described as the “center of the trade route.” There are
numerous occasions where caravans are mentioned as coming and going from
the Holy City, and indeed Muhammad’s uncle Abu Talib was a merchant who
regularly sent caravans out on trading missions. While Muslims are adamant
that Mecca was the center of the trade route, modern historians give us a different
picture. Dr. Patricia Crone tells us:
“Mecca was a barren place, and barren places do not make natural halts, and
least of all when they are found at a short distance from famously green environments.
Why should caravans have made a steep descent to the barren lands of
Mecca when they could have stopped at Ta’if?
Most Muslims and some western scholars have imagined that the caravans
carried incense, spices, and other exotic goods, but according to research
by Kister and Sprenger, the age of frankincense was over and the Arabs now
engaged in a trade of leather and clothing; hardly items which could have
founded or maintained a commercial empire of international dimensions.
If the Holy City was such a large city, then it is strange that the name
Mecca is missing on early maps One would expect that a major merchant
city in Arabia would be mentioned in early times. Such maps never claimed
to show every village and settlement, but certainly sought to place significant
and famous cities. Surprising as it may seem, not one map before 900 AD even
mentions Mecca. This is 300 years after Muhammad’s death.
Over the years Gibson has gathered copies of many ancient maps of Arabia
and has diligently translated and transcribed them, but never once is Mecca
mentioned.
Added to this the Qur'an and the hadiths clearly speak of Mecca being in
a valley, and as having another smaller valley or stream next to the Ka’ba. This
is quite different from modern day Mecca which has been occasionally flooded
with spring runoff but contains no stream.
Over the years Gibson has spoken to pilgrims coming from Mecca. Some
of them have been vaguely dissatisfied with the geography around Mecca. The
Holy City is described as being surrounded by mountains where people could
look down into the city to see the Yemeni elephant attacking the Ka’ba. In
Mecca today the nearest small outcropping of rocks is half a kilometer away

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2012, 07:41:10 AM »
3
from the Ka’ba with a gradual slope to the top. There are no recorded fortifications
on this mountain. The rest of the mountains are more than three kilometers
away. Would an elephant even be visible at this distance? How much
of the battles could you actually see?
Many pilgrims have been disappointed with the two mountains called
Safa and Marwah. They are so small that today they are totally enclosed inside
of the mosque building. In the times before Islam two idols or places of worship
are described as being on top of each of these mountains. Today there is
no evidence of these idols, neither idol bases, inscriptions, walls, gates or stairs
to climb the mountain.
In Islamic literature Mount Hira faced the city and was located in the upper
part of Mecca. However, today Mount Hira is a considerable distance from
the Ka’ba and does not face the city.
In early Islamic literature Mecca is described as having a high and low side,
and a road from one side to the other. Today Mecca is located in a flat open
area, with low rocky mountains rising from the sand. There is no low or high
side, indicating to us that the early Islamic writers were speaking of some other
location and not the Mecca of today.
The old records tell us that grass grew in the original Holy City valley. It
is hard to believe that this was written about the Mecca we know today, as the
area around Mecca is completely desert sand where no grass grows naturally,
nor is there any evidence that the area was ever irrigated and able to support
grass and fields in the past.
Al Tabari relates the story of how ’Abdallah, the father of Muhammad
visited a wife whom he had in addition to Aminah. He had been working in
the soil and traces of soil were still on him when he invited her to lie with him.
She made him wait because of this. He went out, performed his ablutions,
washed off the clay which was on him and went to Aminah’s quarters instead.
And so Muhammad was conceived. R. B. Serjeant in his comments on Alfred
Guillaume’s translation of the same story in the Sirah is puzzled by this discrepancy
as the Arabic word used here specifically means a cultivated plot or
field, and refers to clay and loam. He then notes that there was no cultivable
land near Mecca. Once again, the ancient descriptions do not match Mecca is
Saudi Arabia.
Then there are references to both the districts of Mecca and trees in Mecca,
but the ancient village of Mecca left a very small archeological footprint and
didn’t have much for districts, let alone trees. There are also references to the
ancient Holy City having fruit trees and grapes growing in and around it.
Once again, it is hard to imagine this happening where Mecca is located today.

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2012, 07:41:48 AM »
4
The Holy City also produced large armies. Apparently Mecca had no trouble
raising large numbers of men to work large caravans and march in their
armies. Gibson documents how Mecca repeatedly raised hundreds of soldiers,
thousands of camels, and once over 10,000 Meccan soldiers who attacked
Medina. When one considers the number of soldiers and camels that the Meccans
could raise despite their losses in battles year after year, one would expect
the Holy City to be a large city. However, archeological evidence leads us to
believe that Mecca was a small place in a harsh environment. How then could
it have produced such armies?
Gibson points out that all of these things have caused archeologists and
historians to feel that there are major discrepancies between the ancient descriptions
of Mecca and what we know about Mecca's history.
It is also commonly accepted that Mecca was not just a major city, but
it was the focus of pilgrimages in Arabia long before the rise of Islam. While
there is little evidence of an early shrine at Mecca, Gibson points out that every
historian of Arabia knows that pilgrimages were always made to the Nabataean
city of Petra, which was known as the original haram or forbidden area of Arabia
where killing was not allowed.
So while there were several sacred places in Arabia, Petra stands out as the
main sacred places where burials also took place, making it the primary holy
place or forbidden sanctuary in ancient Arabia.
The Islamic historian Al Tabari, writing in 900 AD, notes that during the
days before Islam, there were two pilgrimages. The lesser was known as ’umrah.
He notes that ’Abd al-Muttalib (Muhammad’s grandfather) performed
’umrah on one occasion. This was at a time when the forbidden sanctuary in
the Islamic Holy City held many pagan idols, among them Hubal and Isaf
and Na’ilah. The Qur'an tells us that these pre-Islamic pagan pilgrimages were
known respectively as hajj and ’umrah, commonly called the greater and lesser
pilgrimage. These names continued from pre-Isalmic times into the Islamic era
and are the terms used today for the two yearly Islamic pilgrimages.
Gibson, however, points out that from ancient time the Arabian pilgrimage
was always to the religious center of Arabia, the forbidden sanctuary, the
holy burial city of Petra. It was in this city that the Nabataean Arab dead were
buried, and it was in this city that the living gathered to eat a ritual meal with
their extended family in the presence of their long departed ancestors. This
custom was part of the cultural and ethnic make-up of the Nabataeans, and
was the glue that held them, a nomadic merchant people, together as a society.
In Petra today visitors can see the feasting halls that are attached to many of
the tombs where family gatherings celebrated the living and the dead.

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2012, 07:42:25 AM »
5
Gibson also raises issues about the Muslim qibla. Today all mosques are
not only aligned to face the direction of prayer, but they all have an architectural
feature built in to emphasise it. The qibla is the direction of prayer that
all Muslims face, and every mosque today has a niche (mihrab) built in the qibla
wall to provide clear indication of the direction of Mecca. The very earliest
mosques however did not have the mihrab niche, as they were simply aligned
in such a way that when the faithful faced the qibla wall they automatically
faced the Holy City of Islam.
Christians today take little notice of the direction they might face when
praying. For them, God is present everywhere, and they are free to pray in
any direction. Jews also have no prescribed direction of prayer, although some
choose to face towards the temple site in Jerusalem based on the words of King
Solomon’s prayer when he dedicated the temple to Jehovah.
In Islam, it is universally understood that the qibla was changed and this
change is referred to in the Qur'an. The text of the Qur'an itself does not give
the name of the place to which prayer was originally made, nor does it name
the place to which it was switched, nor when the switch occurred. According
to Al Tabari writing in 920 AD, when the subject of qibla came up during
pre-Islamic days, Muhammad directed them to pray towards Syria. Gibson
documents that the Qur'an, early hadiths and early Islamic histories never say
that the qibla was towards Jerusalem. Mention of Jerusalem as the qibla doesn’t
appear in Islamic literature until over 300 years after Muhammad died. All of
the early records simply state that Muhammad prayed towards Syria. If he did
pray towards Jerusalem, it would seem strange that the records would not state
Jerusalem, since it was a known and important center at the time. Muhammad
continued with this original qibla until February 624 when Islamic sources
note that Muhammad changed the qibla towards Mecca.
Archeology backs up the changing of the qibla. There are many early
mosques that faced a direction other than Mecca. Gibson has carefully studied
these early mosques, providing details of their construction, their qiblas,
and often aerial or satellite photographs. He began his study of early mosques
thinking that the first handful of mosques built during Muhammad’s lifetime
would help him determine the original focus of Muhammad’s prayers. However,
he was shocked to discover that for over a hundred years after Muhammad’s
death, many newly constructed mosques continued to point to Syria. Using
these mosques he was able to draw lines on a map to discover where they intersected.
By examining the dates of the construction of these mosques, he also
realized that the Islamic date of February 624, during Muhammad’s lifetime
was incorrect as archeology clearly proved that the qibla was changed much

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2012, 07:44:10 AM »
later. Each of these mosques is fully documented in Gibson's academic book
Qur'anic Geography, and available from http://indipress.ca/feature.html.

(see PDF for image)

http://searchformecca.com/Mecca%20Question.pdf

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2012, 07:44:46 AM »
II
In the book Qur'anic Geography, Gibson lists as many early mosques as
he could find according to the date they were built, and indicates the direction
of their qibla. In some cases he provides aerial photographs which illustrate the
direction of Mecca and also the direction of the Petra region where he believe
the first Holy City existed.
For instance, in Saudi Arabia there is a mosque known as the Mosque
of the Two Qiblas. It is remembered as the place where a companion leading
prayers was told of the change of qibla. He did a 180 degree turn and he is
said to have been commanded to change the direction of prayer (qibla) from
Jerusalem to Mecca. Thus this mosque uniquely contained two prayer niches
(mihrabs). In 1987 the mosque was completely renovated, removing the old
prayer niche that faced north, but maintaining the one facing Mecca. When
the old mosque was torn down, the foundation stones of the earlier mosque
revealed that the original building faced north towards both Petra and Jerusalem
which were in almost exactly the same direction. Gibson believes that this
is the origin of the claim that the first qibla faced Jerusalem.
However, this is not the only mosque with two qiblas. The Mosque of
Fustat was built in 641 near Cairo. The original ground-plans of this mosque
shows that the qibla pointed east towards Petra, and was corrected some years
later. Gibson goes on to study over a dozen early Islamic mosques who's original
qibla pointed to Petra, not Jerusalem.
In the last section of Qur'anic Geography Gibson presents a 32 page illustrated
outline of Islamic History. Here he explains how the original qibla
was changed from Petra to Mecca during Ibn Zubayr’s rebellion in the Holy
City. He also documents the destruction the Ka’ba and its subsequent rebuilding.
Gibson then notes that it was just after this event that the mihrab mark
or niche was introduced into mosque design. It is said that during the reign of
the ’Uthman ibn Affan (644-656), the caliph ordered a sign to be posted on
the wall of the mosques at Medina so that pilgrims could now easily identify
7

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2012, 07:45:15 AM »
8
the direction in which to address their prayers. Gibson points out that this
is a strange development since up until this time there was no question as to
which direction the faithful should pray. The entire building always faced the
qibla. Now, however, a sign was provided in the older mosques. This seems to
indicate that a new qibla had been introduced.
Shortly after this the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina was renovated and
the governor commanded that a niche be made to designate the new qibla.
’Uthman’s sign was then placed inside this niche. Eventually, the niche came to
be universally understood as identifying the qibla direction, and was adopted
as a feature in other mosques. It is most interesting to notice that the mihrab
niche was developed right after the time Gibson suggests the qibla changed.
Evidently since there was confusion over which way to pray, older mosques
began to adopt the mihrab niche so that the faithful could pray in the new
direction.
Gibson tells us that a Time of Confusion began around 107 AH. During
the next hundred years new mosque began to point in different directions. For
instance, the mosques in the Hayr al-Gharbi and Hayr al-Sharqi palaces near
Palmyra Syria both have qiblas that point between Petra and Mecca.
But the Mushatta Mosque built in Jordan just after this still faced Petra.
The Mosque of al Mansur built a few years later in 754 AD clearly pointed to
Mecca.
The mosques in North Africa and Spain built during this period are completely
different. The foundation stones of the Ribat Fortress in Susa,Tunisia
were laid in 770 AD, with a qibla that pointed south rather than towards
Mecca or Petra. This was soon followed by the famous Great Mosque of Cordoba,
in 784 AD which like the Susa mosque pointed to neither Mecca nor
Petra but southward. Gibson suspects that since the Umayyad rulers in Spain
were at odds with the new Abbasid rulers in Iraq, they refused to use the same
qibla (Mecca), and yet felt that they could not point to the original Holy City
as the Black Stone was no longer there. A few years later the Great Mosques
of Kairouan and also the Great Mosque of Susa were constructed with qiblas
also facing south.
These mosques in Spain and North Africa have long puzzled historians,
but in order to understand them, Gibson claims we must consider what was
taking place in the Middle East at this time. After 133 AH (750 AD) the Abbasids
in Iraq defeated the Umayyads in Syria and established a new center of
Islamic rule in the city of Baghdad. From this point on, all the Middle Eastern
(Abbasid) mosques pointed to Mecca. In Spain and North Africa, the Umayyads
continued to rule, and the Muslim world was split into two, with Abbasids

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2012, 07:45:48 AM »
in the east, and Umayyads in the west. While the east was still struggling with
civil unrest and open rebellions, the Umayyads in the west were experiencing a
golden age with an expansion of learning, culture and architecture.
With the exception of a couple of mosques which were probably constructed
on the foundations of previous mosques, all new Abbasid mosques
faced Mecca from this point on, while the Umayyads in the west chose a different
qibla. Gibson aptly points out the North African and Spanish mosques
adopted a qibla that ran parallel to a line drawn between Petra and Mecca.

(see map image in PDF)

After presenting us with pages of archeological evidence that early mosques
faced Petra, Gibson turns to ancient literary sources. He begins by pointing
out early descriptions of Mecca which describe the city as having a high side
and a low side, something unknown in Mecca today. He also points out that
there are various references to two “thaniyas” or cracks in the rock through
which the prophet would enter the city. He also notes that these early descriptions
mention Mecca's city walls. Gibson aptly points out that Mecca today
does not have thaniyas or city walls. Petra on the other hand was built in a
valley. City walls crossed the valley to protect the city from attackers coming
down the valley. The city of Petra had both a high and low side and also had
two other entrances, both of them narrow cracks through the mountains. Today,
tourists enter the city of Petra through the crack known as the siq. The
other thaniya is on the far side of the colonnaded street and leads into the maze
of canyons which eventually empty out into Wadi Araba.
Gibson then take us to an ancient book known as the Zumurrud. While

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #12 on: January 17, 2012, 07:49:15 AM »
10

the text of this book has not survived to our times, we can surmise what was in
it from the writings of various later scholars who quoted it and argued against
it. The Zumurrud claims that Muhammad’s night journey from the Holy City
to Jerusalem was not a miracle because these two cities were close enough together
so that a person could go from one to the other and back in one night.
Muslim scholars have rejected the authenticity of the Zumurrud because of
statements like this. However, if the original Holy City of Islam was in fact
Petra, this description would have been absolutely correct. The distance from
Petra to Jerusalem is only 100 miles. While it would be a strenuous trip on a
horse, one could indeed travel from one to the other and back in one day. Years
later when Muslims scholars had forgotten the city of Petra, the writings of the
Zumurrud seemed totally absurd. Besides, by then Muhammad's overnight
journey to Jerusalem was accepted as a miracle.
During his study of Islamic literature, Gibson noted that mention of the
city of Petra was missing in all early Islamic literature. Since the Petra scrolls
create an overwhelming picture of Petra as a viable city with a functioning hinterland
throughout the sixth century, why is there no mention of Petra in any
early Islamic literature? There are records of people passing through the region
and armies marching through this area, but Petra is never mentioned. At the
very same time, non-Islamic literature mentions Petra, but never Mecca. There
is no mention of Mecca in any literature until 740 AD when it first appears in
the Continuatio Byzantia Arabica.
If Petra was the first Islamic Holy City before the Black Stone was moved
to Mecca, then would it not make sense that later editors would eliminate
every mention of Petra? Is it possible that the descriptions of Petra were transferred
to Mecca in Arabia, and thus every mention of Petra was removed from
Islamic literature?
Qur'anic Geography also traces the origins of the Black Stone, demonstrating
that such a stone was the focus of worship in ancient times. Maximus
of Tyre speaks of it as does the Suda Lexicon, which places it in Petra, not
Mecca.
Besides providing us with over a dozen literary proofs that point to Petra
as being the Holy City of Mecca, Gibson also provides seventeen historical
proofs. These include large stones that marked out the sacred area around the
Holy city; present in Petra but missing in Mecca. The god Dushara is mentioned
as being worshiped in Mecca, while Dushara was almost exclusively
worshiped in Petra. Gibson also points to references of games of chance being
played in the Holy City, and points to dozens of ancient game boards being
found at Petra.

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2012, 07:51:02 AM »
11
Gibson goes on to demonstrate that Petra is north of Medina and Mecca
is to the south. He then points out that during the Battle for Medina, the
Quraysh armies from Mecca always attacked Medina from the north, and during
the Battle of the Trench, Medina was defended by a trench between two
mountains on the north side of the city. Also, Muslim armies marching out of
Medina to attack the Holy City always marched north from Medina towards
Petra rather than to the south toward Mecca.
The movements of several people are then traced demonstrating that during
the life of Muhammad only the city of Petra fits the description of their
travels.
Early descriptions of the battle for Mecca raise many troubling points. The
Muslim armies march north from Medina, attacking the Byzantine armies in
southern Jordan. After their initial defeat they decide to attack the Holy City.
Here the Muslim literature asks us to believe that the Muslim armies marched
all the way down the Arabian Peninsula to attack Mecca before returning all
the way to the north to again fight the Byzantine armies.
Gibson writes “Consider the distances the armies had to march. Medina to
Mu’ta (in Jordan) is about 900 kilometers, taking the most direct route. Mu’ta
to Mecca is another 1,200 kilometers. Travel from Mecca to northern Arabia is
another 1000 kilometers. In total this would be 3,100 kilometers across some of
the most difficult terrain in the world: rugged mountains, burning deserts, and
waterless plains.” Using maps, Gibson demonstrates the awkwardness of these
claims.
Gibson then tackles a troubling description of Mecca found in the writings
of Al Tabari where the Muslim army quietly approaches the Holy City
through a maze of canyons before attacking the walled gardens of Mecca. He
then provides photos of the canyons south of Petra and describes a route that
aptly fit this description.
As we mentioned Qur'anic Geography points out that Muslims believe
that ancient Mecca was a major city on the caravan routes between the kingdoms
of Arabia. However, history does not prove this to be so. One would
think that kingdoms like those in Yemen, which are immediately south of
present day Mecca, and those north of Mecca would substantiate Mecca’s existence,
but this is not the case as historians and archeologists can date many
small kingdoms north and south of Mecca, but they cannot find any reference
to the city of Mecca which supposedly existed in the region for thousands of
years!
Gibson then examines the claims that Muslim army officers in Iraq decided
to make a quick pilgrimage to the Holy City while their armies marched

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #14 on: January 17, 2012, 07:51:30 AM »
12
to the next city. Traditional history has us believe that they traveled over 3000
kilometers to Mecca rather than 1500 kilometers to Petra and back. Since
dates are provided for the journey, Gibson demonstrates that the men would
not have had sufficient time to make the trip to present day Mecca, but Petra
was within range if they directly crossed the desert. He then spends several
pages describing how this journey would have taken place, and where the ancient
water reservoirs were located in the desert to make it possible.
All of this evidence clearly points to Petra as being a more probably location
of Islam's Holy City that Mecca. Gibson claims that Islamic history makes
more sense if we read Petra instead of Mecca for all history prior to 700 AD.

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #15 on: January 17, 2012, 07:51:59 AM »
III
So how did it happen that the qibla direction switched from Petra to Mecca
at such a late date? Qur'anic Geography explains for us the second Islamic
civil war: In 683 AD, 64 years after the founding of Islam, ’Abdallah ibn al-
Zubayr declared himself caliph in the Holy City. This was in opposition to the
Umayyad rulers in Damascus, who reacted strongly and sent an army against
the Holy City. The Syrians fought against Ibn al-Zubayr and his companions
in the Holy City until word reached them that the caliph in Damascus had
died. Members of the Umayyad family who were with the army wanted to return
to Damascus as well. Using the events that happened and the dates given
to us, it is hard to imagine that these armies traveled from Mecca in Arabia
back to arrive in Damascus only forty days after the caliph died.
Al Tabari tells us that Ibn al-Zubayr demolished the Ka'ba sanctuary until
he had leveled it to the ground, and then he dug out its foundation. He then
placed the Black Stone onto a wooden cradle in a strip of silk.
The following year (65 AH) Ibn Zubayr claimed he discovered the real
foundation stones that Abraham laid. Gibson believes that this discovery was
made at Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Ibn Zubayr may have chosen a remote place in
Arabia to distance himself from the Umayyad powers in Damascus and built a
new Ka’ba sanctuary there. During this time the Umayyads in Damascus were
involved with internal strife as several caliphs died, one after the other.
In 68 AH there were four distinct groups that went on pilgrimage, each
under different banners because four factions were fighting in the civil war If
the stone was indeed moved, then this would explain why there were different
pilgrimages to different locations. In 69 AH there was a revolt in Damascus
itself, further diverting attention from the problems in the Holy City.
Gibson points out that Al Tabari provides us with several pages of history
for each year during this period but when he comes to 70 AH all he tells us is
that Ibn Zubayr purchased large numbers of horses, camels and baggage, leading
Gibson to assume that some of Zubayr's people moved to Mecca where
13

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #16 on: January 17, 2012, 07:52:29 AM »
14
they now placed the Black Stone in the new Ka’ba sanctuary.
In 71 AH there were further rebellions in parts of Arabia. The city of
Kufa rebelled and joined Ibn Zubayr in promoting the new qibla. They tell
Ibn Zubayr that they are now the people who turn to the same qibla as them.
In 73-74 AH the Syrian armies surrounded the Holy City of Petra and
destroyed the inner part of the city using a trebuchet. In the city of Mecca
there is no evidence of trebuchet stones ever being used against the city, or
even city walls over which a trebuchet would have thrown stones. However, in
Petra, archeologists have uncovered hundreds of trebuchet stones which were
hurled into the central courtyard in front of the Temple of Dushara. Gibson
claims that by using the fallen roof tiles from the nearby Great Temple, it is
possible to date the fortified area and stones to sometime after the earthquake
of 551 AD. The area was later covered in rubble from the earthquake of 713
AD. Gibson glibly asks us “Is it not an amazing coincidence that a tebuchet was
used against Petra at exactly the same time as the one mentioned by al-Tabari as
being used against Mecca?”
Sometime Around 82 AH the Umayyad court and mosque buildings in
Amman were built facing Mecca. This is the earliest record of the new qibla being
used in architecture. Strangely there are no recorded pilgrimages between
83 and 87 AH. It seems that the qibla direction was contested during this
time, so that no one could agree on where the pilgrimage should go to. Should
it go to the ruined buildings in Petra or to the new Ka'ba which housed the
Black Stone in Arabia?
Around this time mosques started hanging a sign on the wall to indicate a
new qibla direction. Gibson notes that this year the qibla wall was changed in
the mosque in Medina, under the authority of the governor who said it must
be changed even if people argued against it. Then in 89 AH the mihrab niche
was instituted in new mosques to denote the new direction of prayer.
Gibson introduces us to the recorded earthquakes in the Middle East during
this period and notes that in 94 AH an earthquake destroyed much of
Petra and the city was abandoned. He believes that after this time Mecca in
Arabia became the focal point of worship, deemed approved by God, due to
the divine action seen in the earthquake. He notes that the new mosques in
Umayyad Spain pointed their qibla in a line parallel to a line drawn between
Petra and Mecca. Some years after this, in 122 AH the Continuatio Byzantia
Arabica contains the first mention of Mecca. Then in 128 AH another earthquake
destroyed buildings in Syria and Jordan, and Gibson claims that all
hope of returning the Black Stone to the Holy City was lost.

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #17 on: January 17, 2012, 07:53:03 AM »
15
Some years later in 132 AH the Abbasids began to rule from Iraq. Since
the city of Kufa in Iraq had adopted the Mecca qibla very early on, all mosques
after this time faced Mecca in Saudi Arabia and all Qur'ans written in the
Kufic script contain verses in Sura 2 referring to the change of the qibla. Gibson
returns to the issue of the qibla change being mentioned in Sura 2 at the
end of his book when he provides a list of early Qur'ans and their contents. He
points out that if the qibla did not change until 70 years after the Hijra, then
it comes as no surprise that the very early Qur'ans did not include these verses.

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #18 on: January 17, 2012, 07:53:47 AM »
IV
Qur'anic Geography has a very interesting chapter on early Islamic navigation
which explains how distance was measured in pre-Islamic times and
how the stars were used to find precise locations and directions, thus allowing
Muslim architects to accurately determine the qibla direction.
This is followed by a study of how the Abbasid rulers may have reconstructed
Islamic history. These rulers encouraged Islamic scholars to compile
histories of what happened during the founding of Islam, some 200 years
earlier. Gibson points out that these reconstructions were introduced into a
literary vacuum.
For instance, he documents a letter from Caliph ’Umar to Amrou, the
leader of the Muslim armies who had just taken Alexandria. Amrou asked the
caliph what to do with the thousands of manuscripts that he found in warehouses
in Egypt. The caliph replied:
“As for the books you mention, here is my reply. If their content is in accordance
with the book of Allah, we may do without them, for in that case the book
of Allah more than suffices. If, on the other hand, they contain matter not in accordance
with the book of Allah, there can be no need to preserve them. Proceed
then and destroy them.”
Gibson claims the remnants of the Great Library of Alexandria were then
burned. He notes that another 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. Ibn al-Qifti writes
that “the number of baths was well known but I have forgotten it. They say,
that it took six months to burn all that mass of material.” Eutychius tells us
that there were four thousand baths that received books from the Alexandrian
library.
Another record of the exchange between the Muslim General Amrou and
the Egyptian patriarch can be found in Patrologia Orientalis. A further Syriac
manuscript also attests to this, and was published with commentary in the
Journal Asiatique in 1915.
This burning of books, however, did not start in Egypt, but was begun in
16

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #19 on: January 17, 2012, 07:54:18 AM »
17
Persia. When Caliph ’Umar’s armies marched against the city of Ctesiphon,
the capital of the Sassanian Empire in early January 637 AD the palaces and
the Great Library at Ctesiphon were burned.
Another example of book burning can be seen when the Muslim invaders
reached India some years later. This time the library of Nalanda, the most
renowned repository of Buddhist knowledge in the world at the time with its
collection of hundreds of thousands of volumes was set aflame and burned.
Even Christian churches were to suffer damage. The “Edict of Yazid,” issued
by the Umayyad caliph Yazid II in 722-723 AD ordered the destruction
of all visible Christian images within the territory of the caliphate. In presentday
Jordan there is ample archaeological evidence that church mosaics were
removed or covered at this time. One can only surmise that the city of Petra is
today bereft of all inscriptions because of the actions of zealous Muslims during
Yazid’s reign.
In the end, the only book to survive in Arabia was the Glorious Qur'an.
However, even here historians have struggled. It seems that most of the Qur'an
was retained in 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 two difficulties. First,
the accuracy of the memories of the individuals involved must be perfect. In
the case of the Qur'an, arguments arose over 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
had 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 who had memorized the Qur'an were killed.
Chaliph ’Uthman compiled a written version of the Qur'an in his day and
sent one copy to each Muslim province. He then commanded that all other
Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole
copies, be burned. This means that during the life of Caliph ’Umar, only five
or six copies of the complete Qur'an existed in all of Arabia.
Thus the Abbasid writers had few if any documents to oppose them when
they re-created Islamic history. Most of the Quraysh tribe who were knowledgeable
about the early days had long since died, or now lived on the fringes
of the empire. Any of the old Qur'ans in existence could be fully accepted,
and the owners convinced that what they had was only a partial copy of the
Qur'an. The Abbasids could publish “full” versions of the Qur'an that con-

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #20 on: January 17, 2012, 07:54:47 AM »
18
tained all of the verses, including the new ones about the change of qibla. In
this way, older versions of the Qur'an would still be revered, but the newer
versions would have the added verses, such as Sura 2.143-145 which tells us
that the qibla was changed during Muhammad's lifetime.
Gibson then chooses four Abbasid writers to demonstrate what happened
during this period. First is Ibn Hisham who begins the practice of editing past
writings. He edits the earlier work known as: Sirat Rasul Allah (The Life of
Muhammad) correcting grievous errors and making the book more politically
correct for his day.
Following Hisham, Bukhari began collecting traditions and sayings of
Muhammad that he thought were trustworthy. All together he collected over
300,000 accounts but he only included 2,602 in his book, discarding the rest
as not trustworthy. Around the same time, other Muslim scholars also recognized
the complete literary vacuum surrounding the beginnings of Islam, and
they gathered and vetted what people said about Muhammad. Thus, much of
our record of early Islam was edited by the later Muslim writers who gathered
these saying and traditions (hadiths).
This was followed by Al Tabari, a Muslim historian who lived from 839 to
923 AD. Al Tabari wrote Islamic history according to the hadiths and traditions
that had come down to him. Years later Yaqut compiled a geography of
Islam as there was confusion over the location of various places. Writing many
hundred years after the founding of Islam, he tried to interpret the ancient
locations according to the sayings and traditions of his day.
From these four representative writers (many more are mentioned in appendices
A and B of Qur'anic Geography) we can see that these historians
wrote many years after the events they described, interpreting them according
to the politically correct views of their day.
But, you might argue, wouldn’t someone object? While there were objections,
one must remember that the Abbasids based their rule on the authority
of being connected to members of Muhammad’s family. Second, the Quraysh
tribe was disbanded to the far reaches of the empire. Many of those in Arabia
had been killed in the rebellions. Added to this, in Baghdad there were many
Islamic scholars who supported the “new” Qur'an and the Meccan location.
Who was to argue? The Abbasids seemed to encourage not only the study of
religion but the study of all knowledge. In the years that followed, scores of
scholars emerged and Baghdad became a world-renowned center of learning.
However, there was one group in Arabia, closer to Mecca who taught
that the pilgrimage to Mecca was all wrong. They rebelled and took control

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #21 on: January 17, 2012, 07:55:27 AM »
19
of Bahrain’s capital Hajar, and also al-Hasa which became the capital of their
new Qarmatian State. These Qarmatians tried to stop Muslims from going to
Mecca for the pilgrimage. They so vehemently opposed pilgrimages to Mecca
that eventually they began ambushing caravans and massacring pilgrims. Then
in 929 AD they sacked Mecca, desecrated the Well of Zamzam with corpses
of pilgrims, and removed the Black Stone. With the Black Stone in captivity
the pilgrimages halted, and Islam was in crisis. However in 952 AD the Abbasids
agreed to pay a huge sum for the return of the Black Stone. When they
received it back, it had been broken into several pieces.
After a defeat at the hands of the Abbasids in 976 the Qarmatians focused
on internal issues and slowly their status was reduced to that of a local power.
Gibson admits that his research has some problems. Since many of the
manuscripts were adjusted to be “politically correct” he has the problem of
trying to determine what the texts might have originally contained. In effect,
he had to read back into the text to discover places where the editors neglected
to make changes. For instance, if the original direction of prayer was towards
Petra but was later moved to Mecca in the south of Arabia, the later writers
and editors had to find ways of editing earlier manuscripts to remove all the
references to Petra and make them all refer to Mecca. One example of this was
the introduction of Jerusalem as the direction of the earlier qibla. This idea is
found mostly in later writings after Abbasid writers began to do their work,
and never in the early writings. Even the term ’Al-Aqsa was later applied to
Jerusalem to give it some credit as the earlier focus of the qibla. So researchers
today have the difficult job of trying to read into texts what they originally
contained before later editors tried to ’improve’ them according to what was
politically or religiously correct at the time.
For example, Gibson points to a problem in Bukhari’s writings where he
says the first qibla was towards Sham, the Arab name for Damascus, which
means “north” but a few lines later says the first qibla was towards Jerusalem.
A few pages later Bukhari clearly identifies Damascus as being “Sham.”
Gibson believes that the first qibla pointed towards Petra, and that this
was called “Syria” by most Arabs, because Petra was a city in the Roman province
of Syria. It would be similar to saying one prayed towards Ontario in one
sentence and then towards Toronto in another. In this case either Bukhari or
perhaps a later unnamed editor inserted Jerusalem into the text, but failed to
change the earlier reference to Sham (Damascus).
Gibson concludes his book this way: One of the main arguments against the
Holy City of Islam being in Petra in northern Arabia and then changed to southern
Arabian during the closing years of the Umayyad Dynasty is that the Qur'an

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #22 on: January 17, 2012, 07:56:01 AM »
20
indicates that this change took place during Muhammad’s lifetime. These verses are
in Sura 2:142-147. Note that the Qur'an does not say where the previous qibla
pointed to, it only tells us that the qibla was changed towards the Sacred Mosque.
It also admits that the change of the qibla was momentous to all except those guided
by Allah.
If the Qur'an is the exact word of Allah and a duplicate of the original one
is in heaven, then it cannot be changed or corrected. All Muslims everywhere understand
from these verses that the qibla was changed during Muhammad’s life
time. Islamic scholars several hundred years after Muhammad’s death inform us
that the original qibla pointed to Jerusalem. They insist that when Muhammad
received the revelation of Sura 2 that he stood in the Medina mosque, and turned,
and faced south instead of north (towards Syria). The Qur'an however, gives us no
clue as to the direction of the old qibla, or even of the new qibla, except that it is
towards the sacred mosque. ...
... Al Muwatta 14:7 states: Yahya related to me from Malik from Yahya ibn
Sa’id that Sa’id ibn al-Musayyab said, “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless
him and grant him peace, prayed towards the Bayt al-Maqdis for sixteen months
after arriving in Medina. Then the qibla was moved, two months before the battle
of Badr.”
All of this stands in contrast to the archeological, historical and literary evidence
that indicates the qibla changed seventy years after the Hijra, and that this
change was gradually accepted over the next one hundred years. There are also
strong indicators that later writers tampered with sacred texts and constructed new
histories that supported their theories. What really happened twelve hundred years
ago in Arabia? When comparing the geography presented to us by the Abbasid writers
with archeological evidence as well as literary and historical records, something
doesn’t match up.
The only conclusion I come to is that Islam was founded in northern Arabia in
the city of Petra. It was there that the first parts of the Qur'an were revealed before
the faithful were forced to flee to Medina. Thus, the prophet Muhammad never
visited Mecca, nor did any of the first four rightly guided caliphs. Mecca was never
a centre of worship in ancient times, and was not part of the ancient trade routes
in Arabia. All down through history the Arabs made pilgrimages to the holy sites
in the city of Petra, which had many ancient temples and churches. It was in Petra
that 350 idols were retrieved from the rubble after an earthquake and set up in a
central courtyard. It was in Petra that Muhammad directed the destruction of all
the idols except one, the Black Stone. This stone remained in the Ka’ba in Petra
until it was later taken by the followers of Ibn al-Zubayr deep into Arabia to the
village of Mecca for safe keeping from the Umayyad armies. And today it is to this

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #23 on: January 17, 2012, 07:57:19 AM »
21
stone that Muslims face, rather than to their holy city and the qibla that Muhammad
gave them.
I see no other way of interpreting the facts I discovered, be they archeological,
historical, or literary. But these are my personal conclusions. I am open to learning
more, and discovering what really took place in ancient Arabia.

If you want to study this subject further, please purchase a copy of
Qur'anic Geography, as it is complete with references, footnotes, photos,
charts, satellite images, time lines, bibliographies, and more. It will be interesting
to see the responses from western as well as Islamic scholars as they study
and seek to answer the material presented in Gibson's book.

Peter

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Re: Qur'anic Geography by Dan Gibson 2011
« Reply #24 on: January 17, 2012, 08:32:09 AM »
Qur'anic commentators have also traditionally
linked one reference to the Valley of Bekka (or “valley of the one who
weeps much”) in Sura 3:96 with Mecca as well.

Dan, are you aware of how they come up with that?