144: We certainly see you turning your face about in the sky. We will surely turn you to a qiblah of your liking: so turn your face towards the Holy Mosque, and wherever you may be, turn your faces towards it! Indeed those who were given the Book surely know that it is the truth from their Lord. And Allah is not oblivious of what they do.
149-150: Whencesoever you may go out, turn your face towards the Holy Mosque. Indeed it is the truth from your Lord, and Allah is not oblivious of what you do. And whencesoever you may go out, turn your face towards the Holy Mosque, and wherever you may be, turn your faces towards it, so that the people may have no argument against you, neither those of them who are wrongdoers.1 So do not fear them, but fear Me, that I may complete My blessing on you and so that you may be guided.
I do find it rather remarkable that a religion that venerates a single god so much puts so much emphasis on a specific mosque. In fact the reverence that Muslims hold for the Black Stone that is set in the Kabaa in itself feels rather strange. One would say it feels like a form of deity worship in itself, at least that is how I felt on my first reading of this section of Sura 2. However, this view is rebutted by Maulana Muhammad Ali in his commentary when he very specifically goes out of his way to say that the Black Stone and the Kabaa are in no way meant to be considered idols. To me it seems that the following commentary is going out of the way to try explain away an inconvenient polytheistic truth in the Koran "it must be remembered that the Ka‘bah has never been supposed by any Muslim to possess any Divine attribute" and "It should also be borne in mind that the famous Black Stone was not one of the Arab idols, nor can the kissing of it in performing the pilgrimage be looked upon as a remnant of idolatry. That Stone stands only as a monument:"
Personally, I do not care if Islam is polytheistic or monotheistic. However, after this reading I have to say I wonder if I can truly ever be convinced that Islam is truly monotheistic. Additionally, if I look at this issue in conjunction with the fact that Muhammad is treated like a god by most Muslims, to such a degree that even drawing a picture of the pedophile will lead to a death sentence, I can only come to the obvious conclusion that either 1) Islam is a polytheistic faith or 2) that every Muslim is an idolater according to the Koran.
The Koran is very specific in Sura 1 verse 2 and 5 in what it says about Allah.
2: All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds
5: You [alone] do we worship
As such we have to reason that if the Kabaa, Black Stone or Muhammed are held in such reverence that they are being praised, but that cannot be as all praise belongs to Allah. After all, even if we accept that the Hajj is not idoltary in some way, we have to wonder why drawing a picture envokes such rage. I guess Muslims will deny these observations and claim its not polytheistic worship, but that kind of response is only kept by madmen for their gods.
Interestingly, as the number of people attending the Hajj have increased over the years, it is no longer necessary to kiss the Black Stone (thereby emulating Muhammad) on every circle around the Kabaa. Apparently, Now all you need to do is point towards it. Truly amazing how these important parts of Islam, like the obligatory Hajj are diluted according to what is possible in reality.
I feel this post is rather short, but I think it is too important to dilute. See you next time.
The version of the Koran I am reading is the John Meadows Rodwell translation. An online version can be found at the al-quran.info website
Additionally, for commentary I am utilizing the commentary of Maulana Muhammad Ali which is available at muslim.org/english-quran/quran.htm