For centuries Muslims have revered Mecca as the site of their holiest shrine, the Kaaba. However, in 1977 John Wansbrough, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook published books arguing for a radically different approach to Islam’s origins. Among other things, these revisionists contended that Mecca was not Islam’s birthplace, which they located somewhere in the Fertile Crescent. Though Crone and Cook later repudiated the theory advanced in their book, Crone at least held fast to the idea that Islam’s origins were likely in the Fertile Crescent, possibly in Nabatea.
Forty years later revisionism is still alive and well. Some scholars still promote the idea that the Kaaba was not originally in Mecca. Some say it was in or near Petra, while others refuse to speculate on the location. Their combined evidence was enough to convince popular historian and documentary filmmaker Tom Holland. Since Muslims everywhere pray facing Mecca, this view means they all naively face the wrong direction.
This short but elucidating paper by a Christian scholar, in refutation of Dan Gibson is quite informative and handy for Muslims engaging with Christians on this topic:
Click here to open or download the PDF file directly.