One of the peculiar things about Muslims is that they have to pray in a particular direction: toward the Kaaba in Mecca. It is also the direction that the faces of dead Muslims point towards, and the direction that the head of an animal is supposed to be aligned with when slaughtered.
It wasn't always that way, though. Originally Muslims prayed toward Jerusalem. But then, for no apparent reason, Allah told Muhammad to start praying toward a black cube-shaped building in Mecca (the Kaaba). The Kaaba, according to Islamic tradition, was the first building on earth. Built by Adam and re-built later by Abraham and Ishmael, the Kaaba is the direction that all Muslims pray toward five times day, and is the holy site that all Muslims are supposed to visit once in their lifetime.
It's all complete bullshit, of course. There was no Adam to build the Kaaba. Abraham probably didn't exist either, but if he did, he didn't visit Mecca. The stories in Islam are as messed up as they are made up. But that doesn't stop 1.3 billion people from believing them.
Allah changed the holy direction in verse 2:143-144 of the Quran. And he blathers on about it in the rest of the verses in this section of Surah 2.
And We appointed the qiblah which ye formerly observed only that We might know him who followeth the messenger, from him who turneth on his heels. In truth it was a hard (test) save for those whom Allah guided. ... We have seen the turning of thy face to heaven (for guidance, O Muhammad). And now verily We shall make thee turn (in prayer) toward a qiblah which is dear to thee. So turn thy face toward the Inviolable Place of Worship, and ye (O Muslims), wheresoever ye may be, turn your faces (when ye pray) toward it. 2:143-4
But Allah, of course, knew that there would be scoffers (like me) that would complain about Muhammad's arbitrary change of holy directions.
The foolish of the people will say: What hath turned them from the qiblah which they formerly observed? Say: Unto Allah belong the East and the West. He guideth whom He will unto a straight path. 2:142
Yeah, Allah guides whoever the hell he wants on a straight path. And once in a while he changes the direction of the path for no reason whatsoever.
Allah is Responsive, Aware. Arbitrary.
- Bogging the Quran
- Surah 2:159-189 -- Hiding the Quran, cursing unbelievers, eating pork, retaliating, the death tax, and Ramadan sex