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16. Who Started Islam: Abraham or the Arabs?
Chapter 3. Did Abraham visit Mecca?

3.6. In what directions have Muhammad and the early Muslims performed their prayers?

When Muslims perform their prayer duties, they have to face the Qibla, i.e. a special direction of prayer. The first Qibla was in the direction of Bayt al-Maqdis (the house of the Sanctuary, i.e. the place where the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem stood before its destruction, its rebuilding and final destrcution in 70 AD), the second Qibla, which is the currently required Qibla for Muslims, is in the direction of Bayt Allah (the house of Allah, i.e. the Ka'ba in Mecca, which Abraham supposedly built / or rebuilt), and finally the place where this change of Qibla took place, the mosque of Muhammad in Medina, is called the mosque of the two Qiblas. In this mosque Muhammad and the Muslims first started out by praying in the direction of the Temple of God in Jerusalem and during their prayer time Muhammad is said to have received the verse about the change of Qibla and then he and the Muslims with him in that mosque in Medina changed their direction of prayer by 160° (from North to South) to the new Qibla in Mecca. This change of the Qibla took place in Rajab of 2 AH (= January of 624 AD) after the revelation of Sura al-Baqara 2:144.

This change of Qibla gives rise to the following perplexing questions: Why did Muhammad and the Muslims pray facing Jerusalem (in Palestine) for nearly 14 years after Muhammad received his first revelation (around 610 AD), if Allah knew all along that his house was in Mecca all those years and Muslims should have been praying in that direction? Why did Allah not command Muhammad to pray in the direction of Mecca from the beginning of his career as a prophet? Was Allah misleading Muhammad in his earlier years as a prophet by not pointing out to him this wrong Qibla? Or did Muhammad choose the first Qibla to please the Jews and thus draw them to Islam? Is the change of the Qibla connected with Muhammad's disappointment with some Jews of Medina (the Banu Quyanuqa'), who were shortly afterward not willing to help him fight against his enemies from Mecca in the Battle of Badr (in Ramadan 2 AH = March 624 AD) and therefore Muhammad fought against them immediately after his victory at Badr, banishing these Jews as dissidents from Medina (also in Ramadan 2 AH = March 624 AD)? These questions are very difficult to answer within the context of the Koran and of Islam. They make the notion of Abraham having started Islam, even when restricting one's attention exclusively to the sources of Arab Islam, even more difficult to defend after all of what we have seen so far. But there is one more level of difficulties, to which we now turn.

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