The Quran’s Historicity
Had he done that he would have found that the Greek trade between India and the Mediterranean was entirely maritime after the first century. One needs only to look at a map to understand why. It made little sense to ship goods across such distances by land when a water-way was available close by. According to Ms. Croone, in Diocletian’s Rome it was cheaper to ship wheat 1,250 miles by sea than to transport it fifty miles by land. Why would the traders ship their goods from India by sea, and unload it at Aden where it would be put on the backs of camels to trudge 1,250 miles across an inhospitable desert ?
Had Lammens researched his sources correctly he would have also found that the Greco-Roman trade with India collapsed by the third century AD, so that by Muhammad’s time there was not only no overland route, but no Roman market to which the trade was destined. Ms. Croone also points out that, had Lammens taken the time to study the early Greek sources, he would have discovered that the Greeks to whom the trade went had never heard of a place called Mecca . If it was such an important place, certainly those to whom the trade was going would have noted its existence. Yet, WE FIND NOTHING, though the Greeks refer to the towns of Ta’if and Yathrib (later Medina ), as well as Khaybar in the north. The unmentioned of Mecca is indeed troubling for the historicity of a city whose importance lies at the center of the nascent Islam.
There is even some confusion within the Islamic tradition as to where exactly Mecca was initially situated. According to the research by J. van Ess, in both the first and second civil wars, there are accounts of people proceeding from Medina to Iraq , via Mecca , yet the town is situated south-west of Medina and Iraq is north-east. Thus the sanctuary for Islam, according to these traditions was at one time north of Medina , which is the opposite direction from where Mecca stands today !
We are thus left in a quandary. Not only the documentary evidence contradicts its dating between Arabs and Jews, but the cornerstone city of Islam is unidentified until much later.
History never takes place in a vacuum. Let’s see what archaeology tells us concerning the Quran.
According to it, the prayer’s direction was finalized towards Mecca for all Muslims in or around 624. But the archaeological evidence, which has been and is continuing to be uncovered from the first mosques built in the 7th century, by archaeologists Creswell and Fehervari concerning two Umayyad mosques in Iraq and one near Baghdad, had Qiblas not facing Mecca but oriented too far north. The Wasit mosque is off by 33 degrees, and the Baghdad mosque by 30 degrees. This agrees with Balahhuri’s testimony (called the Futuh) that the Qibla of the first mosque in Kufa, Iraq, supposedly constructed in 670 lay to the west, while it should have pointed almost directly south.
The Amr b. al As mosque outside Cairo in Egypt shows also that the Qibla again pointed too far north and had to be corrected by the governor Qurra b. Sharik. All above instance position the Qibla not towards Mecca but much further north, possibly to the vicinity of Jerusalem .
We find further corroboration for this direction of prayer by the Christian writer and traveller Jacob of Edessa, who, writing as late as 705 was a contemporary eye-witness in Egypt . He maintained that the Mahgraye (Greek name for Saracens) in Egypt prayed facing east and not south or south-east. His letter (still found in the British Museum ) is indeed revealing. Therefore, as late as 705, the direction of prayer towards Mecca had not yet been canonized.
According to Dr. Hawting, from SOAS (school of Oriental and African Studies in London), new archaeological discoveries also show that up till that time the Muslims (or Hagarenes from Hagar) were indeed praying not towards Mecca but facing north possibly Jerusalem. Yet the Quran tells us (in sura 2) that the direction of the Qibla was fixed towards Mecca by approximately two years after the Hijra, or around 624, and has remained in that direction until the present. What is happening here? Why are the Qiblas of these early mosques not facing towards Mecca ? This discrepancy goes as late as 705. Let’s look this time in Jerusalem itself.