This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.Towards the end of Paul's ministry, he journeys back to Jerusalem where, upon finding him worshiping in the temple, the Jewish people laid hands on him for they believed that he had defiled the temple. "The Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, 'Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people and the Law and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.'" (Acts 21:27-28) The religion of the Jews had devolved into a religion of laws, things, places, and works. In the same way, Islam is not only a religion of works but also a religion of places and things. The most holy of these places and things is the holy temple in Mecca, the Kaaba. Muhammad describes the Kaaba as not only the most holy place to worship but also the first temple established by, and to, God.
"The first House [temple] established for the people [mankind] was that at Bekka, a place holy, and a guidance to all [human] beings." (Koran 3:90)Muhammad describes the Kaaba as as place of worship for all people, not only the Muslims, and, in fact, people worshiped at the Kaaba long before the founding of Islam as a religion. Living in Mecca, Muhammad was well aware of the worship at the Kaaba long before he received his first revelation from God. Muhammad believed that it was Abraham who built the Kaaba at the direction and commissioning of God.
"And when We settled [assigned] for Abraham the place of the House: 'Thou shall not associate with Me anything. And do thou purify [cleanse] My House for those that shall go [in procession] about it and those that stand, for those that bow and prostrate themselves [in worship]." (Koran 22:27)
"Therein are clear signs -- the station [standing place] of Abraham, and whosoever enters it is in security. It is the duty of all men towards God to come to the House a pilgrim, if he is able to make his way there." (Koran 3:91)It must be clearly understood that there is no evidence in either the Jewish or Christian scriptures that Abraham was ever directed by God to build the Kaaba or that he ever built any temple in which to worship God. In fact, there is no mention in either of these scriptures of the Kaaba at all. The first time we see any mention in the Jewish scriptures of the desire to build God a house is when King David sought to build a temple to God. God refused his offer saying his son, Solomon, would build His house. God remarks to David, "Are you the one who should build Me a house to dwell in? For I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the sons of Israel from Egypt, even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle. Wherever I have gone with all the sons of Israel, did I speak a word with one of the tribes of Israel, which I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, 'Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?'" (2 Samuel 7:5-7) God clearly states that, as late as the reign of King David, He had no established house of worship nor had He ever asked anyone to build Him such as house, not even Abraham!
Muhammad believed that the Kaaba was to be the focus of worship and that, when ever you prayed, you were to turn your face and heart towards its site in Mecca.
"Turn thy face towards the Holy Mosque; and wherever you are, turn your faces towards it." (Koran 2:139)
"From whatsoever place thou issuest, turn thy face towards the Holy Mosque; and wherever you may be, turn your faces towards it, that the people may not have any argument against you, excepting the evildoers of them" (Koran 2:145)
This is an interesting commands since, nearly two thousand years before, Solomon made Jerusalem the focus of our worship and attention. "That Your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, toward the place of which You have said, 'My name shall be there,' to listen to the prayer which Your servant shall pray toward this place. Listen to the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place; hear in heaven Your dwelling place; hear and forgive." (1 Kings 8:29-30) If the Kaaba had truly preceded the temple built by Solomon, would he not, in obedience to God, directed the people's attention to the most holy temple in Mecca? However, Solomon seems completely oblivious to any other temple to God; any other temple worthy of the prayers and attention of the people of God other than the one he had built in Jerusalem.
However, Muhammad believed that the Kaaba in Mecca was the place God had chosen for His most holy temple; a place built by Abraham and a place for people to journey to to offer their prayers, offerings, and ornaments.
"And when We appointed the House to be a place of visitation for the people, and a sanctuary, and: 'Take to yourselves Abraham's station for a place of prayer.' And We made covenant with Abraham and Ishmael: 'Purify My House for those that shall go about it and those that cleave to it, to those who bow and prostrate themselves.'" (Koran 2:119)
"God has appointed the Kaaba, the Holy House, as an establishment for men, and the holy month; the offering, and the necklaces" (Koran 5:98)
However, the Jewish scriptures are clear that the place people were to journey to to appear before God was Jerusalem and not Mecca. "Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses" (Deuteronomy 16:16) and it is clear that He has chosen Jerusalem for His place to dwell. "but I have chosen Jerusalem that My name might be there." (2 Chronicles 6:6) God never chose anywhere else in all the Jewish scriptures to place His name, as a resting place for His presence, other than Jerusalem.
Beyond all this, it is important to understand, that with the coming of Christ, God no longer see places as sacred or common; He no longer has special places towards which we are to offer our prayers or before which we are to appear to worship Him. The woman Jesus met by the well said to Him, "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." (John 4:20) yet Jesus' response was, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:21-24)
God is no longer worshiped in temples, He is no longer found in places. There are no places that are more holy than others; no places that are sacred to God. Where ever we are is holy and where ever we are God is there because now we are the true temples of God. Paul says, "For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, 'I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'" (2 Corinthians 6:16)
Muhammad, thinking the Kaaba was special, believed that the judgment of God was upon anyone who would seek to destroy it, prevent people from journeying to it, or hindered anyone trying to approaching it.
"Those who disbelieve, and bar [seduce others] from God's way and the Holy Mosque that We have appointed equal unto men, alike him who cleaves to it [abides therein] and the tent-dweller [stranger], and whosoever purposes [seeks impiously] to violate it wrongly, We shall let him taste a painful chastisement [a grievous punishment]." (Koran 22:25-26)
However, Paul rightly understands that now people are the temples of God and His judgment is on those who would seek to harm them. "Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are." (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) God is not concerned with buildings but with people. God has not chosen to place His name and presence within temples but within people. Since we are now the temple of God, for what reason should we journey to some physical building since it is a mere shadow of the true and living temples of God? Why should I journey to find the presence of God when His presence already resides within me? What more need have we of temples? None!