Is Muhammad CLEARLY in the Bible? (Q 2:146)


I just wanted to highlight my latest YT video, ‘Is Muhammad CLEARLY in the Bible? (Q 2:146)

In this video I consider the more popular Muslim interpretation of Q 2:146, that Jews and Christians should be able to clearly recognise Muhammad (rather than that they should be able to recognise the direction of prayer towards Mecca). I lay this case out as strongly as I can, before explaining why I disagree.

Please do share your thoughts and comments either here or on the YT video itself 🙂



Categories: Islam

61 replies

  1. I shut off when he brought up Dan Gibson.

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    • The vast majority of the video is not about that. One does not at all need to buy into the Petra hypothesis to watch and interact with these videos.

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      • For a “steel man “ ethos I am sorry but that does not cut it.

        Seriously Dan Gibson ?!

        Trust me there is a lot more to say about your articles but that just shows me your low polemic standards.

        Dan Gibson to me is a like a Muslim using the Gospel of Barnabas.

        So you don’t think Gibson is a charlatan?

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      • Michael Lecker spends a lot of his time in his review attacking minor issues and individual problems in Dan Gibson’s ‘Qur’anic Geography’ (NB: I think his ‘Early Islamic Qiblas’ is worth reading before his ‘Qur’anic Geography’). However he ends his review thus:

        ‘Admittedly the question of qibla is a thorny one and solid research will probably
        lead to new results. (One has to bear in mind that in most cases a qibla directed to
        Petra is also one directed to Jerusalem). But research will have to be based on the
        wealth of evidence found in the primary sources that are now more accessible than
        ever before’

        I agree – the question of qibla is indeed ‘a thorny one’. Let us wait and see what ‘new results’ emerge from ‘solid research.’ All I want is for Gibson’s claims about the qiblas of certain mosques to receive full scrutiny, not for every one of his arguments to be accepted.

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    • Feel free to comment on my blog posts to highlight where you disagree. I would love to discuss them with you.

      I’ve read a lot about Dan Gibson’s hypothesis, and David King’s response to him. I think Rick Oake’s summary of their dispute is helpful, higlighting that King doesn’t actually respond to a lot of Gibson’s individual arguments.

      No I don’t think he is a charlatan. I think his theory has enough plausibility to warrant further academic scrutiny, particularly his claims about early qiblas (which scholars have noted previously).

      Anyway, the vast majority of the video has nothing to do with Dan Gibson. I hope you can appreciate the rest of the video which, for what its worth, goes out of its way to try and lay out the popular Muslim interpretation as best I can, before then trying to provide a reasonable critique.

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      • What is it with this evangelical stream of polemics masquerading as academia? Personally I have no idea how that reference you cited addresses the preposterous theory. What next Dan Brubaker as a viable textual critic?

        Shall we have fun ? As a start what do you think of Gibson’s dating of the mosque in China? Oh boy, do I have a long list of great questions.

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      • Sure, let’s talk about Gibson.

        Yeah I think the dating of the mosque in China is very debatable, and not a strong foundation. I don’t put much weight on it at all – but Gibson’s theory doesn’t depend on that.

        There are individual things that Gibson says that can be criticised – this is true with a lot of academic works. But the question is whether his overall argument stands – putting aside China, are there enough early mosques that point further north than Mecca? Have actual academics pointed out things that suggest early Islam may have been originally located further north? Those are the big questions.

        As for the first of those questions, my answer is ‘I want more work to be done on this.’ Gibson investigates a number of mosques and talks about their qiblas. Some of their qibla directions I have been able to cross-check against other academic investigations, and they seem to be approximately correct. And so the fundamental question rises: ‘Why are they pointing further north than Mecca?’

        The issue of evidence for a more northern milieu has been discussed in the academic field. I like Nicolai Sinai’s perspective – he personally opts for the traditional location in Mecca, modern-day Saudi Arabia, he lists some of the arguments for reconsidering a different geographical origin of Islam and says ‘The conventional placement of the genesis of the Qur’an in today’s Mecca and Medina is thus by no means beyond reasonable doubt.’ (Sinai, 2017, The Qur’an: a historical-critical introduction, p. 59).

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  2. Hello Richard!
    I think a key point must be said about this subject. From a Qur’anic perspective torah & injīl ≠ a bible necessarily. And for that matter, even the bible agrees with Qur’ān in this point. Not to mention Arabia and its history. And the fact that some people among jews and christians converted to Islām in the time of the prophet peace be upon him, and they testified to the truthfulness of Qur’ān and the messanger peace be upon him, and the fact that Qur’ān recorded their testimony.

    But leave that aside for a moment !
    Tell us…! Given the fact that you believe in the bible, and it is the only scripture for you which has not been corrupted, could you point out where in the hebrew bible we can find this
    “Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said.” ?

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  3. Hello Abdullah,

    Thank you for your comment 🙂

    I often use the ‘Bible’ as a short-hand for the Torah and the Gospel. Also, when Muslims try to find Muhammad in the Bible, they often go all over, outside of the Pentateuch and 4 Gospels (e.g. Isaiah 42, Song of Solomon 5:16).

    But at least the Torah and the Gospel, the Qur’an seems to still think Jews and Christians have this (e.g. Q 7:157).

    I don’t doubt that some Jews or Christians converted to Islam. They may have even (from my perspective) misunderstood some passages and claimed Muhammad was in them. However I don’t think a Muslim can make a good case that Muhammad is actually in the Torah or the Gospel.

    To answer your question:

    1) The entire sacrificial system teaches that forgiveness of sins requires sacrifice. Jesus does this for us.
    2) Isaiah 52:13-53:12 says that someone would suffer and die for the forgiveness of other people. It also implies that after his death he will be raised up again. Also that the Jewish people would reject him.
    3) Daniel 9:26 says that the anointed one (Messiah) would die. The following verses say that the city would be destroyed, which matches the Romans destroying Jerusalem in AD 70.
    4) Zechariah 12:10 ’10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit[a] of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.’ Notice that God is speaking, says he is the one that would be pierced (even though it is also referred to as ‘him’ – the Trinity?!). Their repentance towards the one they have pierced will result in forgiveness of sins (Zechariah 13:1).
    5) Also, the Messiah is the Son of David (I can give you quotes if you like but I don’t think I need to). I was listening to a talk recently which very interestingly pointed out that David spent years suffering and in exile, before he was exalted. This parallels the Davidic Messiah Jesus.

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    • Thanks Richard!

      “They may have even (from my perspective) misunderstood some passages and claimed Muhammad was in them.”

      Qur’ān answers you “Is it not a sign for them that the scholars of the Children of Israel recognized it?” (Q 26:197)
      Those were not just laymen! They were scholars! If you read the Sīrah (biography) of Abdullāh ibn Salām for example, you would definitely find it far away from a man who was just “misunderstanding passages.”!
      And I do not need to remind you that the historical biographies of men in Isām is very well documented if you are familiar with Islāmic tradtions. His son was a transmitter of hadith by the way. The same thing with Salmān the Persian( a Christian convert to Islām.)

      “To answer your question”
      You know that was not an answer for my question at all. At least according to the standards you’re tteating Qur’ān with in your video.

      May Allah guide us all to His straight path and the truth.

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    • Good point, I hadn’t thought about Q 26:197. From the Qur’an’s perspective, Muhammad is mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel (Q 7:157), and so of course the Qur’an is going to speak well of, and perhaps call ‘learned’, the ones who say that they do indeed recognise Muhammad. Whether this actually means they were men who were the most knowledgeable in their community, I don’t think we can get that from this verse.

      For example, if a Christian says ‘The smartest Muslims become Christian’, this isn’t actually a historical proof that every Muslim with a PhD or high IQ becomes a Christian. It means, ‘Ah they became a Christian! That means they’re smart, good for them. Only the foolish could fail to see that Christianity is true.’ Muslims tell me frequently that the Qur’an is a rhetorical text and can’t always be taken literally – that may apply here.

      I’m aware of stories about Abdullah ibn Salam – we are going to have to disagree on the historical reliability of the Sirah and the Hadith, which is a huge topic that we can’t cover in this blog post.

      I thought that was an answer to your question – I do not in fact ‘know that was not an answer for [your] question at all.’

      The standards I’m treating the Qur’an with is doing my best to interpret it fairly in its own context, both immediate and broader, as well as keeping an eye on Muslim commentaries. I believe that one cannot find Muhammad in the Torah or Gospel using a fair exegesis. By contrast, I believe the case for a suffering Messiah in the OT is stronger, through the passages I have indicated.

      You may disagree with me, which is fine, but I’m doing my best to be sincere and follow the truth as I see it. I am not trying to dodge your question.

      May God indeed guide us to his truth, whatever that may be

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  4. Remember, you claim to have read up on Dan Gibson. Right so this

    “Yeah I think the dating of the mosque in China is very debatable, and not a strong foundation. I don’t put much weight on it at all – but Gibson’s theory doesn’t depend on that.”

    Well, that isn’t the point. What kind of academic would even contemplate using this as a primary source of material data in the first century A.H.? This isn’t a one off by the way. Let’s list a few more mosques that he claims points to Petra.

    These mosques, debatable for use as primary sources in the first century A.H.?

    A- Masjid al-Qiblatayn

    B- Fustat Egypt (I have a lot to say about this one!)

    C- “Bibi Samarkand” Mosque

    I am willing to go through every example he provides to show how preposterous his theory is but we see a pattern here. This is your archaeological “field data”!

    “There are individual things that Gibson says that can be criticised – this is true with a lot of academic works. But the question is whether his overall argument stands”

    The mosques are not individual things. He uses the mosque in China as one of the sources for the first century A.H.! The Samarkand one a petty “individual thing”? Also, I would be careful about the review of Lecker. There are things in there that are not so petty.

    “As for the first of those questions, my answer is ‘I want more work to be done on this.’ Gibson investigates a number of mosques and talks about their qiblas. Some of their qibla directions I have been able to cross-check against other academic investigations, and they seem to be approximately correct. And so the fundamental question rises: ‘Why are they pointing further north than Mecca?’”

    Have you now. References please? Mosques not precisely pointing to Mecca in the first two centuries A.H. is a different issue and a lot of academic stuff has been published on it. We are specifically talking about you defence of Gibson’s silly Petra theory.

    “The issue of evidence for a more northern milieu has been discussed in the academic field. I like Nicolai Sinai’s perspective – he personally opts for the traditional location in Mecca, modern-day Saudi Arabia, he lists some of the arguments for reconsidering a different geographical origin of Islam and says ‘The conventional placement of the genesis of the Qur’an in today’s Mecca and Medina is thus by no means beyond reasonable doubt.’ (Sinai, 2017, The Qur’an: a historical-critical introduction, p. 59).”

    Yes I know and perhaps there are Muslims who have read the same academic literature out there. I fail to see how this quote from Sinai really weighs in when we are talking about primary data. A quote saying that it isn’t “beyond reasonable doubt” is hardly up there when we are talking about primary evidence.

    The onus is on you to use primary data in the first century A.H. to show that Petra was the site of the primary Muslim sanctuary.

    Are you ready my friend?

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    • A while ago, but let me do my best to brush up on it and answer your questions.

      So on the Guangzhou mosque, he does note his hesitation, saying he ‘found it challenging to determine if the builders rebuilt on the original foundations.’ (EIQ, 2017, p. 20). But IF it is, then its relevant that the direction is close to Petra, and that the original foundation is arguably early. Scholars all the time use weaker pieces of evidence if they think it fits into a pattern supported by stronger evidence. But I get the impression that his idea of a mosque being in China that early is quite debatable.

      For al-Masjid al-Qiblatayn, I didn’t think it was controversial (Muslims also accept), that it used to face north? Muslims would say towards Jerusalem. Gibson (EIQ, 2017, 17) simply notes that it pointed somewhere north, without giving precise degrees – he says the original qiblah would have been either towards Petra or Jerusalem.

      For the Fustat mosque facing east, Gibson (EIQ, 2017, 30) cites Creswell, al-Maqrizi and Crone-Cook. Hoyland also cites Maqrizi and Ibn Duqmaq. Jacob of Edessa also says that the Muslims of Egypt prayed towards the east. The references that King (2019, p. 356) provides regarding this mosque, by contrast, are ‘medieval sources’, which he does not give.

      For the “Bibi Samarkand”, Gibson (EIQ, 2017, 94) says it was ‘probably built on the location of a much earlier mosque established by Arab traders traveling along the Silk Route.’ He writes:

      ‘I believe it is safe to say that the qibla [not clear if he just means the newer mosque or the original one] did not face Mecca. The locals acknowledge this anomaly and have a quaint legend stating that the Hanafi who used the mosque prayed due west, and the Shafi’i who used the same mosque prayed due south. In the end they agreed on a qibla between the two. Since the mosque’s qibla points to Petra it is more plausible that the mosque was built on the site of an earlier mosque whose qibla already faced Petra.’ The satellite image he uses shows (assuming Gibson’s use of satellite data is fundamentally reliable) that it is clearly much more towards Petra (misses by 1.78 degrees) than Mecca (misses by 21.86 degrees). The principle of embarrassment and the local tradition suggests there may be some truth to the idea that people were indeed aware it does not point towards Mecca. Could this just be a building error? Yes, it could be. But it can also fit into a broader cumulative case about Petra.

      King’s (2019, 359) response is that ‘the mosque is a careless 8 degrees off due west, which the Hanafi school of religious law took as the qibla’. While this is in itself a reasonable supposition, one theory can explain an 8 degree variation but effectively thinks a mere 2 degree deviation from Petra is coincidental. One of course has to consider the other data too (King says he ‘published a medieval text on the different qiblas used in Samarqand and measured some of the mosque orientations.’, though he does not specify what those mosque orientations are). But just on this data point, it fits Gibson’s theory better.

      Also, for what it’s worth, the Samarkand mosque is mentioned quite late on in Gibson’s book. Given that he starts with the earlier mosques, this suggests that this mosque (even if the direction is potentially original) is hardly being frontloaded as highly significant.

      Now, I’ve addressed your mosques (and I look forward to your response in turn). I wonder your thoughts on these mosques (and I am quoting Rick Oakes’s review):

      ‘For three Levantine mosques, King says that “These orientations of 190-195 are not so easily explained”. Saying that the orientation is not so easily explained is not very different from offering no comment. Since these three mosques point to within 4° of Petra, but 11-15° west of due south, Petra seems the better explanation:
      6. Hama-Jāmi’ Hama al-Kabīr-This mosque faces 194°, only 1° away from Petra’s 193°.
      7. ‘Anjar-‘Anjar Palace Mosque-This mosque faces 191°, 4° away from Petra’s 187°.
      8. Amman Airport-Mushatta Palace-This mosque faces 195°, 4° away from Petra’s 199°.’

      ‘There are two mosques for which Dr. King proposes reasonable interpretations. While reasonable, they are not so compelling that Gibson’s interpretation does not remain in contention
      11. Jerusalem-Al-Aqsa Mosque-King says that “It is clearly oriented along with al-masjid Haram al-sharif complex, which is off the cardinal directions by 10.” Nonetheless, it faces 170°, only 3° away from Petra’s 173°.

      12. Samarkand- King says that “The mosque is a careless 8° off due west, which the Hanafī school of religious law took as the qibla.” Nonetheless, it faces 262°, only 2° away from Petra’s 264°.
      Dr. King explicitly agrees with Gibson about the qibla on one mosque:
      13. San’a-Grand Mosque-Dr. King says that “He is correct in that the mosque points at Petra.”’

      ‘Both Jericho and Khirbat point to within 1° of Petra and to within 3° of due south. On page 3 of his book, Gibson states that “By this time the Arabic language had evolved so that the word qibla not only referenced the direction of prayer, but now also referred to the direction south. For example, southern Lebanon becomes qiblat-lubnān.” So, Gibson can no more easily dismiss the possibility that these two mosques are facing south than King can dismiss the possibility that they are pointing to Petra.
      14. Jericho-Khirbat al-Mafjar- King says that “All of these mosques are trying to tell us that they face south.”
      Nonetheless, it faces 180°, only 1°away from Petra’s 181°.
      15. Khirbat al-Minya- King says that “This complex was obviously intended to face due south.” Nonetheless, it faces 183°, only 1° away from Petra’s 182°.’

      Regarding Lecker’s review, I’ve read it again just now. A number of the points are comparatively minor quibbles. Some are major, but only undercut a handful of Gibson’s many circumstancial pieces of evidence (and let me be clear, I would not defend all of Gibson’s arguments – most I’m in no position to evaluate, and some may well be false). But the review doesn’t really touch upon, and seems to concede, that ‘Admittedly the question of qibla is a thorny one’.

      In terms of qiblas I’ve just been reading through Gibson’s work and some of the mosques are actually still intact from the originals – you can actually see the original ruins. Assuming that Gibson is fundamentally getting his satellite calculations right, we can work out their original directions. And the ones I’ve just looked at are clearly more towards Petra than Mecca (Qasr Humeina, Khirbat al-Minya, Khirbat al-Mafjar, ‘Anjar Palace Mosque, Mushatta Palace).

      Here is an extract from my work which discusses this issue of mosque directions, and trying to verify Gibson’s data:

      ‘King’s strongest warning came on p. 355 (see above), where he gave an example of where he considered Gibson’s measurements to be inaccurate (Tunis). And indeed, there is a discrepancy between Gibson’s 154° to Michael E. Bonine’s (2008) 145° (cited via King 2019-2019, 360). However, Gibson’s other measurements in the Maghrib are closer to Bonine: Gibson has Qayrawan at 151° (147° for Bonine) and the Great Mosque neighbouring the Ribāṭ at Sousse at 162° (163°). Gibson (Gibson 2017a, 41) is (only) at slight disagreement with Safar (1945, 20, 29, n. 8, cited via Hoyland 2019, 443) concerning the Wāsiṭ mosque, with 235° and 231° degrees from north respectively.

      Given the similarity in these measurements, and King’s seemingly tacit admission of the possibility of accurate measurements from satellite data (364-365), we ought to be open-minded regarding Gibson’s data, while still longing for greater academic confirmation of these figures. His data will be more significant in those instances where a margin of error is of less significant, where, for example, a mosque is significantly more aligned towards Petra rather than Mecca (e.g. Qaṣr Humeina, 7.33° from Petra yet 133.02° from Mecca. Gibson 2017a, 34-35).’

      I should note that ‘King’s seemingly tacit admission of the possibility of accurate measurements from satellite data (364-365)’ is only part of what he says; he also cautions elsewhere against its potential unreliability. I’ve written on the different things King says about this, but I’ll save that for another comment or post.

      I gave the Sinai quote in response to your statement ‘evangelical stream of polemics masquerading as academia’. I was trying to point out that questioning the origins of Islam, whether they might be other than its present location, is an academic discussion. That was all. Yes, absolutely, let’s focus on the primary data! 😀

      I am ready my friend to learn from you. I am not an expert in archaeology, and if you can correct any of the points or explain the data above better, please do. I’ve said for a while I just want Dan Gibson to have a fair hearing because my review of the primary evidence and secondary literature suggests he might be onto something. If his ideas can clearly be debunked, then I’ll stop referring to it.

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      • Btw I may not reply tomorrow (as it’s Sunday). Take care, I look forward to picking this up on Monday if you’ve replied by then (no pressure though)

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      • Sorry about the delay in replying but a bit busy this week. Hopefully over the next couple of days

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      • “So on the Guangzhou mosque, he does note his hesitation, saying he ‘found it challenging to determine if the builders rebuilt on the original foundations.’ (EIQ, 2017, p. 20). But IF it is, then its relevant that the direction is close to Petra, and that the original foundation is arguably early. Scholars all the time use weaker pieces of evidence if they think it fits into a pattern supported by stronger evidence. But I get the impression that his idea of a mosque being in China that early is quite debatable.”

        I really, really fail to see how you can take a man seriously when he even contemplates this as evidence. There is no “IF” here. There is no arguably earlier foundation that goes back to the seventh century. This is quackery at the highest order. Would you even contemplate that the Gospel of Barnabas arguably has early attestation in the third century! To say it is “quite debatable” is an understatement.

        “For al-Masjid al-Qiblatayn, I didn’t think it was controversial (Muslims also accept), that it used to face north? Muslims would say towards Jerusalem. Gibson (EIQ, 2017, 17) simply notes that it pointed somewhere north, without giving precise degrees – he says the original qiblah would have been either towards Petra or Jerusalem.”

        So we have no evidence whatsoever that this site points to Petra. The historical context is Jerusalem and we have no coordinates. So how in the world can this even claim to be possible proof for it pointing to Petra? This is a literary source and isnt even archaeological! So now you need to show me how there is literary chronological progression in the SPECIFIC narrations related to the initial qibla called Jerusalem along with this bizarre conspiracy or amnesia to hide or forget that the original “embarrassing” reality that pointed to Petra! Have you familiarity in using Islamic literary sources or do you naively brush them aside as later compilations that hide a black hole of historical data? This conveniently allow one to construct any preposterous unfalsifiable narratives related to Islam in the 7th and 8th century.

        “For the Fustat mosque facing east, Gibson (EIQ, 2017, 30) cites Creswell, al-Maqrizi and Crone-Cook. Hoyland also cites Maqrizi and Ibn Duqmaq. Jacob of Edessa also says that the Muslims of Egypt prayed towards the east. The references that King (2019, p. 356) provides regarding this mosque, by contrast, are ‘medieval sources’, which he does not give.”

        Wait one second sir! So again we have the use of literary sources! Where are the coordinates to Petra? How late are these sources? (I have my own take and I am not dismissive per se) As you know Hoyland cites these sources and I still think, honestly, provides a far more reasonable historical analysis of this literary attestation. What is utterly bizarre is this. These sources are far more sparse in the literary sources in comparison to the evident reality that Mecca was the birthplace of Islam! So my question is this. If you are going to be ultra skeptical about Islamic literary sources in general, how in the world are you going to trace these accounts historically. Please do not use the “criteria of embarrassment”! (Oh sorry you actually do!)

        Let’s look at Jacob of Edessa shall we?

        “The Jews who live in Egypt, as likewise Mahgraye there, as I saw with my own eyes and will now set out for you, prayed to the east, and still do, both people – the Jews towards Jerusalem, and the Mahgraye towards the Kʿabah (K‘bt’). And those Jews who are in the south of Jerusalem pray to the north; and those in Babylonia and nhrt’ and bwst’ pray to the west. And also the Mahgraye who are there pray to the west, towards the Ka‘ba; and those who are to the south of the Ka‘ba pray to the north, towards the place. So from all this it is clear that it is not to the south that the Jews and Mahgraye here in the regions of Syria pray, but towards Jerusalem or Kʿabah, the patriarchial places of their races.”

        So Jacob is talking about this account from different places. So in an eastern direction from, perhaps, Alexandria. Jacob isnt saying that it is exactly the same eastern vector as is evident by the fact that we are talking about two different places (contra early Crone). So one could be north east and the other south east. In fact there could be large “standard error” here in relation to the individual assessment by Jacob ( He is talking in a rough sense. How would you assess it? What are his exact measurements? (That to me seems an anachronistic point) )

        There is also the question of the underlying cause of this reality. Remember Gibson has ridiculous claims of accuracy in this period, as you well know and quote naively!

        In a nutshell, these literary sources are equivocal and provide no specific reason why his Petra fable can explain them better. Remember we don’t have many mosques from the 7th and 8th century that supposedly intentionally point to Petra! We have a very limited data sample. This is already three mosques knocked out of his data sample.

        “For the “Bibi Samarkand”, Gibson (EIQ, 2017, 94) says it was ‘probably built on the location of a much earlier mosque established by Arab traders traveling along the Silk Route.’ He writes:

        ‘I believe it is safe to say that the qibla [not clear if he just means the newer mosque or the original one] did not face Mecca. The locals acknowledge this anomaly and have a quaint legend stating that the Hanafi who used the mosque prayed due west, and the Shafi’i who used the same mosque prayed due south. In the end they agreed on a qibla between the two. Since the mosque’s qibla points to Petra it is more plausible that the mosque was built on the site of an earlier mosque whose qibla already faced Petra.’ The satellite image he uses shows (assuming Gibson’s use of satellite data is fundamentally reliable) that it is clearly much more towards Petra (misses by 1.78 degrees) than Mecca (misses by 21.86 degrees). The principle of embarrassment and the local tradition suggests there may be some truth to the idea that people were indeed aware it does not point towards Mecca. Could this just be a building error? Yes, it could be. But it can also fit into a broader cumulative case about Petra”

        Are you actually reading what you write? I love this use of the phrase “quaint legend”. Now Gibson is an expert in early Hanafi Fiqh! Care to provide evidence that this is a quaint legend and not related to positions in the early Shafi and Hanafi and school! Are Shafi and the early Hanafi texts also retrospectively placed in the mouths of the founders? Why is this important? Well why don’t you give me the actual date of the current mosque in”Bibi Samarkand”. Personally I am just going to ignore the embarrassing use of the principle of embarrassment.

        Now the fascinating mathematical wonder! 1.78 degrees off from Samarqand to Petra! So tell me how in the world do we have such precise accuracy in this period? Care to share the folk astronomy or the planar geometry that allows for such precision? Remember the current mosque is copying a mythical earlier foundation ?7th century that pointed to Petra. It, supposedly, being established by Arabs travelling along the Silk Road.

        There is a lot more to say about the other mosques you have brought up. I will address in this in the second part.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Unitarian,

        Thank you for your thoughts, just to say I’m going to wait for your second part (I presume this is what you want me to do) when you get a chance to post that. No rush at all, and I look forward to discussing this further with you

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      • I am going to start simply and assume his figures for now. So our dear Friend, let’s look at the supposed “accuracy” of these mosques

        Jerich- Khirbat al-Mafjar and Khirbat al-Minya points to within point to within 1° of Petra !

        Samarkand supposedly (and we have talked about this before ) 2° of Petra!

        Hama-Jāmi’ Hama al-Kabīr (and this one is just laughable! Will come back to it later) points to within 1° of Petra!

        Let’s start with these three. Are we assuming again 7th century foundations that point to Petra. Perhaps early 8th century?

        Ok now show me how one can one get such accuracy given the distances to Petra from these mosques. Now we have at our disposal planar geometry and folk astronomy. Remember we don’t have very accurate data regarding the curvature of the Earth and I would love to see some evidence of advanced spherical trigonometry that gives this precision.

        So let me get this straight. You are actually claiming that folk astronomy and basic planar geometry gives this type of accuracy? Yes?

        Just need to confirm this.

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      • I’ve not looked into the Guangzhou mosque, and as I say I put little weight on it. Fine, let’s dismiss it entirely.

        If you interpret the Qiblatain mosque on its own, of course it’s easier to say it points to Jerusalem. It’s only in light of mosques with more evidence that they point to Petra that one might wonder the same about the Qiblatain mosque.

        In terms of later Islamic literary sources, they can be very useful but like any historical document, we must interpret them in light of any potential biases.

        Literary sources and archaeological evidence can complement one another, there is no problem here to my mind. The more evidence from different categories that converge, the better.

        In terms of the lateness of Maqrizi and Ibn Duqmaq, this isn’t necessarily a problem. If a late source has a remembrance that people used to face in a certain direction which doesn’t match up with later standards, the principle of embarrassment suggests we may well be dealing with primitive material. What’s wrong with the principle of embarrassment from your perspective?

        Jacob of Edessa is early (d. 708 CE). I’m not an expert in all of these sources, and never claimed to be – I generally accept the dates that historians arrive at. These can be based on internal or external features of texts. If you know of a good reason that Jacob of Edessa did not die 708 CE, or evidence that he did not write what is attributed to him (specificially the passage in question), please do let me know.

        Sure there is potential imprecision in Jacob’s language, and I agree that he is not necessarily speaking precisely of 90 degrees to the right when facing due north. He is not claiming to be that precise. Nonetheless, he speaks of east and west, not south east or south west. And again, the argument about Petra isn’t solely on the basis of texts like this – it’s by looking at a range of sources and archaeological evidence and reading them together. The specific precision towards Petra isn’t from Jacob of Edessa, nor from the Qiblatain mosque, but from the mosques which more precisely do seem to point towards Petra, which hopefully we will discuss below.

        I don’t quote Gibson’s claims of mosque directions naively at all. I repeatedly warn the reader that IF he is correct, then this is worth paying attention to. I then actually cross check his directions where I am able to, and find them broadly (though not perfectly) corroborated.

        I agree, certain sources on their own can be equivocal. Hence the need to interpret them in light of more precise data points.

        Perhaps it is related to those positions on those madhhabs, I would need to look more precisely into that. Even if so, the mosque evidence still stands.

        According to Gibson, the mosque was rebuilt in 1399. Given that it seems to point accurately towards Petra and is a long way off Mecca, it is a plausible hypothesis that it was built on the original foundations. This is especially so if other early mosques did in fact point to Petra, which is the most important point for us to consider.

        I’ve said before I don’t know exactly how they did it – I am not a mathematician nor a scientist. Gibson puts forward some theories; I have no idea if they’re right. But if they actually did accurately point to Petra, that suggests they may have had methods, even if we don’t know what they were. Also, my theory doesn’t actually require that they can point towards Petra with absolute precision, but only that they approximately do so. Some mosques will inevitably vary within that range, some pointing very closely and some less closely but still more towards Petra than Mecca. In other words, the absolute precision of a few mosques can be down to chance, but within the framework that they are still intending to point in Petra’s general direction.

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      • ‘Are we assuming again 7th century foundations that point to Petra. Perhaps early 8th century?’

        ‘Jerich- Khirbat al-Mafjar and Khirbat al-Minya points to within point to within 1° of Petra!’

        Yes, we are assuming early 8th century ruins that were never rebuilt. The site is in ruins, and I am not aware that it was ever rebuilt, other than a later mihrab that was added.

        Archnet (http://archnet.org/sites/4136) also speaks of it as being Umayyad and abandoned in 744. I have no reason to disagree.

        In fairness I would need to know more about this particular mosque to know whether the mihrab was definitely added later, as is Gibson’s theory. If mihrabs were first introduced (as we know them) in early 8th century CE, I don’t know how quickly they became the norm. Nor do I know how normal it would have been to not built your complex facing Mecca, including the large mosque room, but to have a qiblah niche pointing at a different angle. Though Khirbat al-Minya does seem to suggest that the mosque orientation went along with the structure as a whole. So basically I can understand Gibson’s interpretation here, but I think there is some room for doubt. I would like to know more about this. King might seem to go along with Gibson’s calculation here, but that may just be for the sake of argument.

        Khirbat al-Minya also was never rebuilt – again we can see the ruins.http://archnet.org/sites/5574 suggests people were later using the site, but I see nothing about them rebuilding it or rebuilding it differently.

        If we’ve talked about Samarkand before then no need to go back.

        Hama-Jāmi’ Hama al-Kabīr – Gibson says ‘The Syrian Antiquities Department then rebuilt the mosque according to the original Umayyad design.’ It is true that it was built on the site of previous religious buildings, and so perhaps it is simply following their directions. However, if the qiblah was important to Muslims one might have thought that would take precedence. Particularly if it points to Petra, which Gibson claims it does. http://archnet.org/sites/3497 does talk about renovations, though renovations often do not involve changing the fundamental foundations and directions that a building faces. If it still does face Petra and not Mecca, this suggests that the original direction may well have been kept.

        In fairness Archnet does talk about evidence of pre-Islamic features on some of the walls. This suggests that although the building has not been substantially changed, it may just reflect a direction not chosen by Muslims but by those before them. So perhaps this is a weak piece of evidence.

        I discussed the issue of accuracy in my comment above that I’ve just made, so do check that out.

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      • Just to add to this on Jami Hama al’Kabir – even though it is weaker than I originally realised, the Muslims still chose to keep the original directions, even though they could have knocked down the walls and started again. Now it’s plausible they might have done that so they could point towards the Qiblah more accurately, but its also plausible they didn’t feel that it was necessary and so kept the site as it was.

        It’s still interesting that the site points towards Petra. Perhaps this led them to keep the existing site, because it already happened to point there? Maybe, but who knows.

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  5. No problem, I might take today off too 🙂

    No rush, there’s a lot of things to discuss above

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  6. Here is a good refutation of Dan Gibson which illuminates why so many buildings had imprecise qiblahs….

    Below is a key excerpt….

    “Ancient towns were often planned along these axes, so when the early Muslims built mosques in conquered settlements, or reclaimed churches or ruins, or built extensions along existing settlements, the qiblah might be claimed for whichever wall made the most sense.

    In this case, no mathematics have gone into determining the qiblah: it’s just that the town or complex ‘faces’ four ways at once, and one of these is more credible as ‘facing’ Mecca than the others.”

    Ian D. Morris

    The convergence of qiblahs on Petra *within a few degrees’ accuracy* demands a level of scientific competence that the earliest Muslims simply didn’t have.

    Gibson tries to grant the earliest Muslims this kind of accuracy. He argues (wrongly) that Chinese astronomy was borrowed from the Nabataeans. He fabulates a method of counting longitudes with poetry. He appeals to technologies or theories that were available to *later* Muslims.

    Gibson even claims that homing pigeons could be released at a site, pointing the way home to Petra. How this would have worked in practice is left to our imagination.

    So what’s the deal with all these faulty qiblahs?

    The earliest mosques weren’t aligned using coordinates, as Gibson assumes: that came later, when the science progressed. Instead we find a range of practical solutions.

    Ancient peoples may not have had GPS, but they were able to work out cardinal directions. On the equinoxes, the sun rises exactly to the East and sets exactly to the West.

    Likewise, during the summer and winter solstice, the rising and setting sun can be used to plot the intercardinal directions: NW, SW, NE, SE.

    Polaris, the ‘North Star’, points North, and the star Canopus points South at the middle of its nightly journey.

    Ancient towns were often planned along these axes, so when the early Muslims built mosques in conquered settlements, or reclaimed churches or ruins, or built extensions along existing settlements, the qiblah might be claimed for whichever wall made the most sense.

    In this case, no mathematics have gone into determining the qiblah: it’s just that the town or complex ‘faces’ four ways at once, and one of these is more credible as ‘facing’ Mecca than the others.

    This choice is of course complicated by the fact that the builders didn’t have a bird’s-eye view of the world (unlike Gibson), so the choice to point (say) West rather than South may be arbitrary: if the main road to Mecca leads from the West gate, the qiblah may point there too.

    Importantly, the Ka‘bah itself is aligned astronomically: the SW wall faces very accurately the southernmost setting-point of the moon. Medieval scholars were unsure about the significance of its alignment, but they understood that it was somehow deliberate.

    Since the Ka‘bah is aligned astronomically, you could reproduce its alignment to face in the same direction as if you were standing right in front of it.

    The result would be a qiblah pointing not toward Mecca, but parallel to the Ka‘bah’s line of sight.

    This is a neat solution. If you can’t point to the Ka‘bah itself, at least you can pray in the same direction as if you were at the Ka‘bah. Some mosques in the far West of the conquered territories – a long way from home! – preferred this solution.

    Gibson, not knowing this, reasons that the qiblah is parallel to a line between Petra and Mecca. This is, however, very odd historically (are there any similar orientations in the ancient world?) and quite unnecessary: the mosques are trying to reproduce the Ka‘bah’s orientation.

    The imprecision of these qiblahs also left a mark in legal discussions, where medieval scholars argued that anything facing in the right ‘quadrant’ was acceptable.

    A thorough study of the earliest qiblahs, informed by tradition and ‘folkloric astronomy‘, is still to be desired. It would make a hell of a dissertation.

    Unfortunately, most historians of Early Islam (myself included) don’t have the scientific training to take it on. This has left a gap in the field, which Gibson – a total amateur – has tried to fill.

    King has done his best, in retirement, to lay out an alternative vision for the early qiblah: one that speaks to ancient, nonscientific ways of thinking about space. I am extremely grateful to him, and I hope we can build on his observations.

    It might be too strong to call Gibson a fraud, because I remain convinced in his sincerity. But he is thoroughly incompetent, not worth listening to—not a scholar, but a distraction from scholarship.

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    • Hi Omer,

      I am aware that this is the major counter-argument to Gibson’s idea. It’s interesting that King’s alternative thesis about things like cardinal directions was criticised by Hoyland years before the whole Gibson controversy arose as being fundamentally anachronistic, based on later Islamic sources.

      The other problem with the theory is that it has less explanatory power. IF, and I stress again that this is a massive IF and the thing I want scholars to look into, Gibson’s coordinate for the mosques are correct, then it is fundamentally coincidental that so many of the mosques point so closely towards Petra, when King’s thesis wouldn’t actually require this – it would just require them to be aligned in certain directions which often wouldn’t necessarily be towards Petra. If we mix together different theories, such as pre-existing Roman street plans as well as cardinal alignments, then this alternative theory becomes more ‘ad-hoc’ than Gibson’s theory, and so once again is less compelling.

      Having read many of King’s rebuttals to Dan Gibson, he effectively thinks that if the mosques do point closely to ‘Petra’ this is just coincidental. I find that a hard pill to swallow.

      PS: Ian Morris’ graphic has a picture of the NAfrican and the Cordoba mosques. Both myself and Rick Oakes concede that Gibson’s theory is at its weakest when it comes to NAfrican and Cordoba mosques. He has an alternative theory about them trying to replicate the line between Petra and (modern day) Mecca, but this in itself seems a bit ad-hoc. It may genuinely be the case with these mosques that they’re following a different scheme, such as pointing south.

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      • Hi Omer,

        I forgot to add – on the matter of how the Arabs navigated and knew directions, I am not an expert on this matter. IF his measurements are reliable, however, and I have conceded this is a big IF, then we either have to say its a coincidence that they seem to point towards Petra, or they did in fact have ways of working out direction very precisely even though we do not know how they did this. There are lots of things about the past that we don’t know. Gibson provides a number of theories – how convincing they are I’m not in a position to say. The fundamental argument that Arabs would have needed a way to precisely track directions to find cisterns and find their way in a desert of shifting sand does lend some credibility to the idea that they must have been excellent with directions.

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  7. “I forgot to add – on the matter of how the Arabs navigated and knew directions, I am not an expert on this matter. ”

    This one is just brilliant! You know there are 8th-9th century texts that talk about how Muslims did it. Are they part of the conspiracy to hide the magie alien technology that produced such amazing results. Technology that bypassed methods in the major empires , with their mathematics in immediate late antique period.

    Let’s talk about Gibson’s theories. Pigeons. Problem? Let’s start with that one.

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    • Sure, but as Hoyland points out, the problem is knowing whether those are actually what was used by the earliest Muslims, or whether those are later ways of working things out retrospectively applied to the past.

      I do not wish to discuss individual theories – I am not a mathematician or a scientist, and I do not know ways of working out directions. If an individual such as yourself or King thinks it would have been fundamentally impossibel for 7th or 8th century Muslims to work out the direction of Petra with any degree of precision, then you are entitled to reject Gibson’s theory.

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      • “Sure, but as Hoyland points out, the problem is knowing whether those are actually what was used by the earliest Muslims, or whether those are later ways of working things out retrospectively applied to the past.“

        I think we are yet again going down the route of references that are not read well. First Lecker and now Hoyland. I suggest you go back and read him again.

        “I do not wish to discuss individual theories – I am not a mathematician or a scientist, “

        Well, if you are taken in by Gibson I would wonder about your ability to deal with early Islamic sources as well .

        So apart from the fact that you don’t understand the methods used in working out directions, that you don’t understand Hanafi Fiqh in the 8th-9th century (“local tradition”), that you are not reading relevant references well, that you even contemplate that the mosque in China has seventh century foundations (which makes me wonder about your analysis of material data in this period), that you think one degree precision from Samarkand is plausible!

        Apart from that (and I have a o much more to say about Gibson) and in that context one may consider Gibson’s theory plausible.

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    • ‘I think we are yet again going down the route of references that are not read well. First Lecker and now Hoyland. I suggest you go back and read him again.’

      I wasn’t appealing to Lecker just then. As for Hoyland, you’re right, I should be more careful as to what he is actually saying. He takes specific issue with King’s theories as being anachronistic, but yes he does think we can learn from early literary sources that they tried to face in the general direction of the Ka’bah, and had ways of doing so. I guess I’m trying to extend his scepticism about King’s medieval sources further backwards; if Gibson is right that originally they tried to point to Petra early on but that this changed, then we might read even 8th and 9th century sources as being guesses, reconstructions after the fact, to try and explain why mosques haven’t always pointed towards Mecca.

      ‘Well, if you are taken in by Gibson I would wonder about your ability to deal with early Islamic sources as well .’ – I’m not fully sold on Gibson’s thesis – I have repeatedly said I want more thought to be given to it, especially if his fundamental data on certain early mosques is correct. His theory could be wrong, I accept that. In terms of early Islamic sources, I’m actually more conservative than some Christians dealing with Islam. I’m pretty conservative when it comes to the dating and text of the Qur’an, the existence of and important of Muhammad as Prophet. I would want to do isnad and matn analysis of a hadith before just throwing it out as unreliable. I think my openness to Gibson’s theory is actually quite exceptional in terms of my openness to unusual ideas.

      Agreed I have not spent time looking at the 8th-9th century Fiqh materials. The question is, if Gibson is right about the EARLIER archaeological data, can we then read the earlier data in light of the later? And once again, all I’m saying is I think this is interesting and I want people to look into the archaeological data. What people do with that is up to them.

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      • And just as a reminder about how this started, I made a few seconds brief comment in a video that largely is about another topic! I do not claim to be an expert on the issue of the qiblah. Academics are allowed to wonder about how one topic might relate to another topic without being an expert in that other field.

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  8. “The fundamental argument that Arabs would have needed a way to precisely track directions to find cisterns and find their way in a desert of shifting sand does lend some credibility to the idea that they must have been excellent with directions.”

    You do entertain me Richard. So writing that the Arabs needed to find cisterns in shifting sands makes them so amazing that they can get to with 1.78 degrees from Samarkand.

    And I quote, this

    “…lend some credibility to the idea that they must have been excellent with directions.”

    How in the most bizarre parallel universe is this even contemplated as proof given the historical context of the seventh century!

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    • Maybe they could be that precise, I don’t know.

      But I have also made the point (and to be fair I hadn’t made this point until just today) that actually one doesn’t need to believe that they could work out a direction within 1 degree of accuracy. If one believes they had a way of working things out with, say, 5 to 10 degrees of accuracy, then its plausible that you will get a range of mosque directions within that, some of which might coincidentally be extremely close.

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      • “If you interpret the Qiblatain mosque on its own, of course it’s easier to say it points to Jerusalem. It’s only in light of mosques with more evidence that they point to Petra that one might wonder the same about the Qiblatain mosque.
        In terms of later Islamic literary sources, they can be very useful but like any historical document, we must interpret them in light of any potential biases.”

        But I dispute your use of the other mosques as well. So we agree the Qiblatain mosque on its own provides no evidence for the nutty Petra conspiracy. I really have no idea what you mean by this loose use of “potential bias”. Maybe you should read up on Mark Goodacre and his commentary on the naïve use of criteria like this. Have you done an Isnad matn analysis of all the traditions that talk about Jerusalem? Have you even attempted to assign a chronological progression of themes using even a resemblance of a consistent methodology? Have you even attempted to show using the literary sources how Petra disappeared and a conspiracy of Jerusalem was put in its place? Saying a generic term “bias” on its own is generally useless when one does detailed analysis of the sources. Clearly you haven’t. Please I beg you sir, do not bring in the likes of Melchert and Cook for Isnad Matn analysis.

        “Literary sources and archaeological evidence can complement one another, there is no problem here to my mind. The more evidence from different categories that converge, the better.”
        It would help if you could actually understand the processes involved in the use of archaeological data. Clearly you don’t because you wishing up imaginary lost 7th century foundations that no archaeological dig has published and taking the junk of Gibson seriously.

        “In terms of the lateness of Maqrizi and Ibn Duqmaq, this isn’t necessarily a problem. If a late source has a remembrance that people used to face in a certain direction which doesn’t match up with later standards, the principle of embarrassment suggests we may well be dealing with primitive material. What’s wrong with the principle of embarrassment from your perspective?”

        Are you actually serious now? My issue with your sloppy use of the principle of embarrassment is its ahistorical context, (we literally have nothing! No memory of anything of the sort anywhere!), the assumed uniformity of people’s intentions, desires, in a region that stretches from Samarkand to Spain in creating this absolute amnesia, a pattern of embarrassment that is unique even against embarrassing things like the assassination of Uthman, the civil wars, the Umayyad abuse of the fourth Caliph, the theological conflict with the Khawarij, the accusations against Aisha etc etch (a very long list of embarrassing things that we seem to have records of), an embarrassment that is actually hard to pin down as an embarrassment that would be so uniform(why would all the early Muslims be embarrassed by the original sanctuary being Petra if their Prophet ordered it? I assume you believe he exists yes? Please don’t tell me you are a fan of Jay Smith (Ottoman conspiracy man to edit 7th century Quranic manuscripts) and Robert Spencer!), an embarrassment that is underpinned by unfalsifiable conspiracy theories (after all the conspiracy is absolute. We have nothing), an embarrassment that is covered by other embarrassing themes (see for example the discussion on Fustat), an embarrassment that violates basic mathematics, etc… I could go on if you wish.

        “Sure there is potential imprecision in Jacob’s language, and I agree that he is not necessarily speaking precisely of 90 degrees to the right when facing due north. He is not claiming to be that precise. Nonetheless, he speaks of east and west, not south east or south west.”

        So the Kaaba and Jerusalem from Alexandria are East in the same way? Try doing that with the other regions Jacob talks about and get Petra within 1 degree or even 5 degree precision. If they are not East in the same way how shall we describe the deviation from the “absolute” east when we say East to the Kaaba and east to Jerusalem? What is Jacob’s “standard of error” then?

        “and again, the argument about Petra isn’t solely on the basis of texts like this – it’s by looking at a range of sources and archaeological evidence and reading them together.”

        Yeah but Gibson’s range of sources are just laughable. He can’t deal with Islamic sources, clearly has no reasonable grasp of Arabic that is relevant, has bizarre views on the textual criticism when it comes to the manuscripts related to the works of Tabari (want to pass that one on with some experts on Tabari?), has no idea about Mathematics at all. I can go on and on and on

        “According to Gibson, the mosque was rebuilt in 1399. Given that it seems to point accurately towards Petra and is a long way off Mecca, it is a plausible hypothesis that it was built on the original foundations. This is especially so if other early mosques did in fact point to Petra, which is the most important point for us to consider.”

        What?! References please for this original foundation! Look at the date 1399!

        “Also, my theory doesn’t actually require that they can point towards Petra with absolute precision, but only that they approximately do so. Some mosques will inevitably vary within that range, some pointing very closely and some less closely but still more towards Petra than Mecca. In other words, the absolute precision of a few mosques can be down to chance, but within the framework that they are still intending to point in Petra’s general direction.”

        But you have no idea how the direction is calculated or how methods where used in, well, let’s say 8th century for now. Define “general”. Tell me about the “standard error” in relation to the supposed “uniform” method used from Samarkand to Yemen and tell me when “general” becomes “coincidental”. Because I can list you a good number of mosques in the 8th century that “generally” point to Mecca. See Hoyland, you know the person you haven’t actually read that well. (What is he disputing when it comes to King? You need to be exact).

        “If one believes they had a way of working things out with, say, 5 to 10 degrees of accuracy, then its plausible that you will get a range of mosque directions within that, some of which might coincidentally be extremely close.”

        So Dan’s 1-2 degree precision form Samarkand to Yemen isnt plausible now? Like I said you should read up a bit more on the methodology and the Mathematics required for such precision.

        Then you bring up a a new range, say “5 to 10 degrees of accuracy”. If that is the case do you ignore the extreme precession of Gibson now? How did you get this range of error? How do you know that the Muslims generally adopted this mechanism? What is the magic number that rules out other “general” intentions? Why do you assume that Muslims didn’t use folk astronomy for certain mosques? Why assume that Muslims didn’t have a general flexibility with the direction? (Yes the narrations related to this go back quite early. Trust me I have done the research on them). What about mosques that are built on earlier non-Muslim foundations. How do we know that they didn’t allow certain structures to remain because of the general flexibility? What about mosques that have significant patronage? Perhaps they are more accurate because of this? So we have many contexts that relate to why mosques point in the direction they do.

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      • ‘Maybe you should read up on Mark Goodacre and his commentary on the naïve use of criteria like this.’ Yep, that would be a good thing to do when I have the time.

        ‘Have you done an Isnad matn analysis of all the traditions that talk about Jerusalem? Have you even attempted to assign a chronological progression of themes using even a resemblance of a consistent methodology? Have you even attempted to show using the literary sources how Petra disappeared and a conspiracy of Jerusalem was put in its place?’ – Nope, I have never claimed to. I do not claim to be an expert on this topic. There is tons more than I could learn about this. But in the meantime, I’m just saying ‘Huh, if Gibson’s data is correct, we should try and incorporate this into our hypotheses’.

        Okay your lengthy paragraph – yes of course this is a big field and there are lots of things I could look into and we could discuss. We cannot do that now or on a blogsite.

        ‘What?! References please for this original foundation! Look at the date 1399!’ – I explained why I think its plausible that it reflects the original foundations, because it doesn’t match Mecca, and if they were rebuilding it from scratch you might have thought it would point more towards Mecca. Once again we are going to have to disagree on the principle of embarrassment, which is fine.

        You are right, I need to be more careful in how I use Hoyland.

        Forgive me there are some comments you say that if I don’t respond to them, it’s because I feel I’ve given my answer before and we’re fundamentally going to have to agree to disagree.

        ‘So we have many contexts that relate to why mosques point in the direction they do.’ – Yes absolutely, but if you can see a pattern from different mosques in different places converging, then this helps you filter out the signal from the noise.

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  9. Question to Richard: what percent of early mosques faced Petra?

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    • That’s a good question. To answer that properly I would need to go through all of the early mosques listed by Gibson, assess whether I agree that they pointed to Petra, and then crunch the numbers. That’s a project I don’t have time for right now, but maybe another time. In the meantime, I recommend you enjoy our discussion above on individual mosques 🙂

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      • Take a guess.

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      • Okay well to take a guess – going off Dan Gibson’s mosques that he lists (EIQ, pp. 6-7) and let’s look at the first 100 years as that’s a nice tidy period. Within that I’ve got 8 mosques pointing to Petra (I disagree with Dan on a couple of them), 2 towards Mecca, and 6 in between. These are the mosques where we have some way of getting at the original direction. So only 50% point towards Mecca, 37% in-between (which Gibson also has a theory for, that these were people who didn’t want to choose between Mecca and Petra), and then 12.5 percent for Mecca. It’s interesting too that according to Gibson’s list there’s a shift – within this hundred years at first they’re all towards Petra, then some towards between, and only at the end of the hundred years do you get any towards Mecca.

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  10. “But I have also made the point (and to be fair I hadn’t made this point until just today) that actually one doesn’t need to believe that they could work out a direction within 1 degree of accuracy. If one believes they had a way of working things out with, say, 5 to 10 degrees of accuracy, then its plausible that you will get a range of mosque directions within that, some of which might coincidentally be extremely close.”

    Sorry re-read this and a slight red herring on my part. So we have a mysterious uniform method (unless you think different methods can be used to get such accuracy) that aims to be exact but has a standard of error of 5-10 degrees. Odd that, because it isn’t just coincidental that we get exact precision with one mosque here or there.Let’slook at the 13 mosques he claims points to Petra in his book “Early Islamic Qiblas”.

    The numbers.

    2.81 degrees (China!)

    .61 degrees (Hama)

    .35 degrees (San’a Yemen)

    .8 degrees ( Khirbat al Minya Israel)

    .59 degrees (Jericho Israel)

    .58 degrees (Bowhar Oman)

    1.55 degrees (Sumail Oman)

    1.78 degrees (Smarkand)

    So eight out of 13 mosques with alien technology precision!

    So that is a large sample of his early data don’t you think?

    The question remains and to be honest, you just popped out the standard error of 5-10 degrees arbitarliy in your head. How did you come up with this figure and what is the historical context for the methodology that created it?

    In the book it is actually upto 7.33 degrees. (that is just one mosque!)

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    • Sure I did come up with 5-10 degrees out of my head, it seemed like perhaps a reasonable standard of deviation. But I don’t know, I’m not a mathematician.

      Thank you for compiling the data again, yes you make a good point, he does claim they are very precise doesn’t he. But again, I want to see these degrees fact checked against other academic works. If they are in fact this precise, then we either have to say (a) it’s a coincidence that they point so closely to Petra, even though they don’t intend to, or (b) they had some precise way of working out directions, even if we’re not sure exactly what it was (and Gibson has theories, but I have no idea if they’re true or not). Either option is quite amazing.

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      • Btw we clearly disagree about method, and I don’t think its fruitful to keep going over those same points.

        Where I have learnt the most from our dialogue is in discussing individual mosques. You helped me to realise that one of the mosque directions is weaker than I realised (Hama-Jāmi’ Hama al-Kabīr). If you would like to do that for any of the other early mosques that Gibson claims points to Petra, I’m all ears. You’ve moved my position on one, perhaps you can on others as well.

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      • Qasr Humeina is quite an interesting one – if Gibson is right about the primary data, its only 7 degrees off Petra but 133 degrees off Mecca! Completely different direction. Your thoughts on this one?

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      • It isn’t amazing at all. Your just duped by his junk.

        Let’s look at his supposed “golden egg”

        What do you think Qasr Humeima is ? Do you actually think the whole complex is a mosque ? How did the charlatan Gibson use this site to get his ridiculous numbers? What markers did he use ?

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      • ‘What do you think Qasr Humeima is ? Do you actually think the whole complex is a mosque ? How did the charlatan Gibson use this site to get his ridiculous numbers? What markers did he use ?’

        A qasr is a palace or a fortress. No I’m not saying the whole complex is a mosque, but when the whole complex is built in a rectangular shape and points in a certain direction, and it seems like it points to Petra, it looks like its done on purpose.

        Some mosques he’s been to, I don’t know if he’s been to this one. He claims to use satellite technology to work out the direction. If you have evidence that his coordinates are fundamentally off, please do share.

        Whatever one thinks of the precise numbers on this one, it is very evident simply from a photo that it is much more towards Petra than Mecca, given that they are in completely different directions.

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  11. “Yes absolutely, but if you can see a pattern from different mosques in different places converging, then this helps you filter out the signal from the noise.“

    But there is no pattern. Gibson’s numbers are questionable. The reason why I gave you those numbers to start off with is to let the alarm bells ring.

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  12. “A qasr is a palace or a fortress. No I’m not saying the whole complex is a mosque, but when the whole complex is built in a rectangular shape and points in a certain direction, and it seems like it points to Petra, it looks like its done on purpose.“

    Well it was a residence for “royality”. Why assume that whole complex has to point in any direction? Also where is the mosque in this complex? Outside the complex? Which part of the complex would form the relevant marker to point to Petra? Has their been development in the complex? As such how does it affect the dating?

    Also you claim some form of “intention” or “purpose”. I don’t see how the material data shows that for a “palace” for royalty. See this is the problem. Because of the quackery of Gibson we have absolute amnesia. I don’t even know what “embarrassing “ or “intention or “purpose” means for a community that one can make up anything about. ( we know nothing at all about them)

    I mean I could make even wilder claims . What kind of rituals are they doing? What does it even mean to pray ? Why assume any connection with “later” tradition?

    I suggest you check the actual academic references for this site. Unfortunately we are now going down the road of Hoyland and Lecker yet again

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I can arbitrarily shoot off arrows from any part of the complex. What does it mean for a rectangular complex as a “whole” to “point” in a certain direction. That is extremely imprecise and can mean absolutely nothing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Let’s start here with the Qasr

      https://maxvanberchem.org/en/scientific-activities/projects/archeology/11-archeologie/54-humeima-excavation-project

      Now see Gibson’s take. Can send quite a few references on this site if you wish.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, some good points and questions above.

        Why assume the qasr as a whole points somewhere? Well if in fact the direction does line up with Petra, and that we see the same to be true with other(s), then this suggests they may be intending to point to Petra. In terms of pointing, I didn’t think it was that hard to figure out – you follow the lines from the longer sides (left and right in the diagram), or you choose a 90 degree angle from the front and back wall.

        Once again, on its own one could suggest that the Qasr complex doesn’t intend to point anywhere. But if it, and other sites, do in fact happen to point towards Petra, then we should be open to the possibility that this is intentional.

        Thank you for the reference, I did read it but I still think these points stand. But if any other references shed further light, please do send 🙂

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  14. “Thank you for the reference, I did read it but I still think these points stand. But if any other references shed further light, please do send”

    You haven’t read it properly. Like you haven’t read Hoyland or Lecker properly.

    From Gibson

    “The Abbasid qasr was identified in 1993. It is a rectangular structure (ca. 61 x 50 m) consisting of a large trapezoidal courtyard surrounded by rooms fronting the court, which also acted at the prayer area until later a small mosque (ca. 5.7 m sq.) was constructed outside the southwest corner”

    Note what he says about the mosque!

    Now what do they actually say ?

    “Two structures had been identified during the 1992 and 1993 seasons in Field: a large rectangular structure (61 x 50 m) centered around a trapezoidal court; a small rhomboidal structure with bonded niche on the south side, located just southeast of the rectangular structure. Ceramic evidence indicated that both were erected in the early eighth century C.E. and therefore probably in association with one another. The rectangular structure was labeled a qasr and the rhomboidal one a mosque because of typological similarities to other Umayyad-period qusur with extra mural mosques (al-Hallabat, Jabal Seis, Qastal, al-Risha, Umm al-Walid and al-Zabib). Since historical texts relate that the Abbasid family built a qasr and masjid at Humeima during the Umayyad period, in the decades before their rise to power, and given the absence of any other pertinent structures at Humeima, the complex was attributed to the Abbasid family”

    Missed the mosque?! Look at how Gibson misquotes the excavation report and look at the direction of the mosque!

    He falsely claims a supposed chronology. Want more ?

    “Why assume the qasr as a whole points somewhere? Well if in fact the direction does line up with Petra, and that we see the same to be true with other(s), then this suggests they may be intending to point to Petra. In terms of pointing, I didn’t think it was that hard to figure out – you follow the lines from the longer sides (left and right in the diagram), or you choose a 90 degree angle from the front and back wall.”

    This is just terrible. Why assume those markers for the Qasr ? Why assume that you follow the longer side ?! I could say that you can follow the lines of the other walls. What about the internal “walls”. Maybe a section the Qasr was the place they could have prayed .

    Again this is a Qasr. Anything and I mean anything that assumes Muslims should align a palace in a certain way ?

    Like

  15. To emphasis how you haven’t even bothered reading it properly

    I quote from the report

    “Ceramic evidence indicated that both were erected in the early eighth century C.E. and therefore probably in ASSOCIATION with one another”

    This is crucial! There are other reasons and irony is just funny. How far is the site from Petra ?

    Like

  16. So let’s recap on your recent referencing. You haven’t read Hoyland(m and Lecker properly(missed crucial points), missed crucial details in the archaeological report glossed over Gibson’s misuse of the source and haven’t read the primary source that Reynolds uses for the Khidr interaction. Important because it affects your argument.

    I am starting to sense a pattern here. There are other ones as well lol.

    Like

  17. Forgive me – I did read the article but I should have clarified what my thoughts were, and why I thought my point still stands.

    I did notice that they thought the mosque was early eighth century, but I just didn’t find their argument conclusive. My reasoning was, I thought it was generally agreed that it is precisely in this time period that they introduced the qiblah, early eighth century? And so I thought it would therefore make sense that the seperate building might have been built around that time to demonstrate the direction, but not necessarily at exactly the same time as the first building. So I did read it, but I just didn’t find it as convincing as you did.

    Again, there is an interpretative point. If we only have this mosque, fair enough, you can say they’re both built at exactly the same time, and that the mosque points to Mecca. Or, if Gibson is right that the qasr as a whole and other sites point to Petra, then one can see the smaller mosque building as built approximately at the same time, but not necessarily as exactly the same time.

    Remind me what I missed in Lecker?

    Remind me what I missed in Gibson?

    By the way, I may well have missed things. For the multiple time of having said this, this wasn’t my main point in the video, I do not claim to be an expert in this. I am looking at these mosques and trying to be fair with the data and learn from what you are telling me, and I am grateful for our discussion (although I would prefer it to be a bit less ad hominem) and the sources you are sharing, but I do not pretend to be spending hours and hours digging into all the data.

    I plead guilty to relying on Reynolds (although I do admit in the original article that I did this) for one of the multiple examples I give, and I have made this even clearer having updated the article.

    Like

  18. “I did notice that they thought the mosque was early eighth century, but I just didn’t find their argument conclusive. My reasoning was, I thought it was generally agreed that it is precisely in this time period that they introduced the qiblah, early eighth century?”

    What do you mean it is generally agreed that the Qiblah was introduced in the early 8th century? That is the whole point of our dispute! Still, the Qasr was built in the early 8th century so I really don’t see any reason why the mosque isnt really an extension of this complex. I really don’t see any reason why you don’t see it to be convincing. Other than this circular reasoning any other proof? Have you got any alternative dating scheme for the associated material data that was found in the mosque and the complex? Odd that this is standard for the associated academic literature on the site. Any alternative way to date the early ceramics? Do you want more material data?

    So let’s break it down. Are you claiming the complex (Qasr) was built in the 7th century and the mosque in the 8th century to correct the alignment?

    Are you claiming that the complex was built in the early 8th century and the mosque shortly after that in the same period to correct it? This would seem rather ad hoc. I mean I could then just claim that they are built in association with each other.

    But let’s recap on on my position. I reasonably think that the mosque was built as an extension of the complex for the worshipers in the Qasr. It was part of the same project in the early 8th century. The academic sources claim this, the material data associated with the dig is consistent with this and there is no clear indication that we have a mosque inside the Qasr. Furthermore there is NO evidence IN ANY SOURCE ANYWHERE that the alignment of palaces had any religious signifiance. You are literally making this up and imposing an anachronistic intention that did not exist. Let me guess the criteria of embarrassment for this as as well ?

    Furthermore the mosque isn’t too far from Petra and points away from it! So ironically this is proof agains the Petra theory on this site! You call this an “interpretation”. I assume you think that it is, at the very least, reasonable. As such this site does not provide proof for the Petra theory. It does not stand on it’s own. You have to rely on “patterns” made up by Gibson for other sites.

    There is plenty more to talk about in this site.

    As such this site along with the utterly nutty China one, the Fustat one, the Masjid al Qiblatayn one do not provide proof for your quacky Richard Carrier like theory. Next one? Shall we discuss other palace complexes?

    I am knocking them off one by one.

    Now choose another site for me please.

    “Remind me what I missed in Lecker?”

    This below

    “Michael Lecker spends a lot of his time in his review attacking minor issues and individual problems in Dan Gibson’s ‘Qur’anic Geography’”

    Lecker has a good amount to say about MAJOR issues in theory

    “Remind me what I missed in Gibson?”

    His misuse of sources. Do you believe he misuses sources? Please say no 😉

    Also don’t forget your use of Hoyland.

    “although I would prefer it to be a bit less ad hominem”

    Fair enough

    “I do not pretend to be spending hours and hours digging into all the data.”

    It doesn’t take much digging trust me! Gibson’s theory is junk.

    Like

    • ‘What do you mean it is generally agreed that the Qiblah was introduced in the early 8th century?’ Sorry, I meant the introduction of the mihrab in the early 8th century. I thought this was well agreed. I believe there are also source(s) that talk about the redirection of orientations around that time too.

      ‘Other than this circular reasoning any other proof?’ Well, I wouldn’t speak of circular reasoning, but what fits best with the rest of the mosques (and as our discussions show, that is debatable). Additionally, and seperate from circular reasoning, if the qasr complex does in fact point to Petra as Gibson claims, then we have to factor this into our theory somehow.

      I’m not disputing the ceramics evidence – I wasn’t aware of this before and I’m grateful to you bringing it to my attention. But my impression with the nature of such evidence is that it typically gives you a time-window of decades (or longer). And the piece itself talks about early 8th century. And my point about the mihrab introduction and reorientation of some mosque qiblas at that time is that a lot can happen in a few decades, particularly in the early 8th century.

      ‘Are you claiming that the complex was built in the early 8th century and the mosque shortly after that in the same period to correct it? This would seem rather ad hoc. I mean I could then just claim that they are built in association with each other.’ – Well indeed, so we would have to interpret this mosque in light of the other mosques, and if the qasr does actually point to Petra, explain why that might be so.

      Let me say that at this point I would not say that I believe in Gibson’s theory. I don’t actually remember if I said I believed in it in the video above, though I definitely did say that my reading of the Qur’an would help to support it. At this point I need to refresh myself with the mosques, dig deeper into them, and perhaps get a nice spreadsheet with different mosques and whether they converge in a particular direction.

      However, since you are kindly offering to talk through them with me, I will take you up on the offer (if you are still willing). Shall we talk about Khirbat al-Minya next? This is an interesting one in that it seems to be the original structure, and if Gibson’s calculations are right, the whole thing points towards Petra. It’s also potentially important in that if the whole structure points towards Petra, and other entire structures such as the one at Qasr Humeina, then we might start to see a pattern.

      ‘Lecker has a good amount to say about MAJOR issues in theory’ – okay I think this is a matter of perspective. Let me clarify – from my perspective, and what I think is most potentially persuasive about Gibson’s theory, is the qiblah evidence, and Lecker acknowledges that this question ‘is a thorny one and solid research will probably lead to new results.’ He also points out that in many instances a qiblah towards Jerusalem will also be close in the direction of Petra as well. However he doesn’t fundamentally undermine Gibson’s measurements, which, if accurate, are more towards Petra than Jerusalem. Also, in terms of the number of critiques on individual data points that he makes, these may well be good points, but Gibson makes so many that aren’t addressed, that they need investigating as well. Not saying I buy them, but the jury is still out on them.

      I’m sure he makes mistakes, but I wouldn’t want to think he intentionally misuses things. Happy to discuss that if it’s relevant directly to the qiblah; if it’s on other matters, I’d rather we stick with the discussion we’re having on qiblahs of early mosques.

      ‘Also don’t forget your use of Hoyland.’ – Yes, I should have been more cautious in how I was using him. Thank you for reminding me.

      ‘It doesn’t take much digging trust me! Gibson’s theory is junk.’ – fair enough, and maybe with a few more of our back and forths you can knock out the remaining mosques and convince me. I’m not there yet – right now I don’t know, I just know I need to spend more time on this.

      Like

  19. Once again I do want to say that I’m not just trying to be polite – I genuinely am appreciating your time talking to me about this. I do appreciate the chance to learn

    Like

  20. “I’m not disputing the ceramics evidence – I wasn’t aware of this before and I’m grateful to you bringing it to my attention. But my impression with the nature of such evidence is that it typically gives you a time-window of decades (or longer). And the piece itself talks about early 8th century. And my point about the mihrab introduction and reorientation of some mosque qiblas at that time is that a lot can happen in a few decades, particularly in the early 8th century.”

    You are assuming that palaces NEED to be orientated in Muslim beliefs. Where do you get this assumption from ? ANY Muslim ANYWHERE that ever believed this? There is no such thing as orientations for Muslim palaces. Even on this assumption, why assume the NORTHERN wall. I can take the arrow from the SOUTHERN wall in the opposite direction. I could take sections in the Qasr and say the mosque was there and send an arrow from there. Note even Gibson assumes a section IN the Qasr served as a mosque. Now that is saying something.

    The Mihrab being introduced in the early 8th century is really a red herring. After all, this structure along with the mosque is from the early 8th century. So why bring it up in your reasoning?

    This time-window that you are randomly using is quite silly really. They can be built in association with each other. They can be built very soon after each other as part of the construction process, with the palace being built first. The mosque could be built before the palace as part of the construction process.

    Yet you randomly choose a northern wall of a Qasr with an anachronistic intention, assume a decade or so and then, to take it further and apply the criteria of embarrasment!

    We also know that it was related to an INDIVIDUAL Abbasid family. So why would a personal building for a family that is noble (not part of the Umayyad dynasty) have a conspiracy where the whole Qasr is supposed to point to Petra (with a non existent section i.e. the mosque also supposedly pointing north). The same family then decides to build a mosque that points to Mecca after to hide this fact? There was NO mosque in the Qasr as Gibsons claims. Interestingly your next example shows typical structures in sections of palaces that do serve as mosques. Oddly that is absent too!

    Let me repeat. This criteria of embarrasment applies to an INDIVIDUAL Abbasid family for a site that according to Gibson ” was abandoned around 750 A.D”

    Furthermore this is a site in “seclusion” outside the towns and villages and intended for privacy.

    You are applying the criteria of embarrassment to that ! Why would you even think this was part of the intention of this individual Abbasid family? Now apply this through out the Islamic empire and you can see how simplistic your argument is when you use the criteria in this simplistic way. Humans don’t act like this and suppress in uniform intention to create absolute conspiracies.

    GIven all of the above, it is far more likely that the mosque was built in ASSOCIATION with the complex for the individual use of an Abbasid family in the Umayyad period. As such, given the relatively short distance from Petra this site provides proof AGAINST the Petra theory.

    This site provides no evidence whatsoever for Gibson’s quack theory.

    “Shall we talk about Khirbat al-Minya next? ”

    Yes let’s talk about this site next. I will post details of this site on the next post.

    Like

    • ‘You are assuming that palaces NEED to be orientated in Muslim beliefs.’ I’m not saying they NEED to, but if they in fact do seem to, then maybe they are on purpose.

      I would have intuitively thought, like an arrow, one points with the longer sides, but maybe this isn’t necessary. But if either wall direction seems to point somewhere, then that’s something we can pay attention to.

      My point is that around this time there is a move to be more precise and to reorient through purpose built architectural features (i.e. the mihrab). It would not be surprising that as part of this greater precision and/or reorientation a seperate mosque building might be built, to clarify/reorient the direction of prayer. Also, and I am struggling to understand the piece here and perhaps you could help me, I get the sense that the mihrab was original to this purpose built mosque. Which suggests that the mosque as a whole could be part of this clarification/reorientation effort.

      There was no obvious mosque building in the main qasr complex, sure. However Muslims haven’t always used purpose built mosque buildings – they could have prayed in one of the rooms or the courtyard, particularly if the whole complex does indeed point to Petra. Again, if it really does point to Petra, this is worth noting, especially if other sites do as well. I understand a lot of your individual points that Gibson’s interpretation doesn’t have to be the only explanation (indeed from your perspective it is a very weak one). It could well be that the mosque was built at the same time. But I just can’t get away from the point that if the complex as a whole seems to point to Petra, and other places do too, then we may want to interpret other data-points in light of that.

      Like

  21. Note another silly thing! Remember the ridiculous claimed anachronistic precision that is claimed by Gibson. You know roughly 1-2 degrees! Odd this, the Mosque pointing to Mecca doesnt have this exact accuracy! So did the construction workers forget the amazing alien technology here when the Mosque was created soon after in the early 8th century? lol

    Sure Petra is nearby but given wide knowledge of this alien technology by the mosques I listed before, it is a bit odd as well. Was that part of the conpsiracy as well? Ha Ha!

    Like

    • Is this now the Khirbat al-Minya mosque? Because yes Gibson does claim 0.8 degrees deviation from Petra for that one. If you’re contrasting that with the ‘later’ (so Gibson claims) mosque in Qasr Humeina, where do you have the degrees for that one? Also, they’re different sites and so probably different builders with different skill levels. And there’s always some individual variation between different projects.

      Like

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