© 1996 Research and Education Foundation
Introduction The art of asking questions is the very soul and substance of all scholarship and research. Asking questions is the only way to find out the Truth about any religion including Islam. We must always remember that Truth is never afraid of the spotlight of investigation. In order to find an answer to the topic of our dialogue, we must be willing to ask some very hard questions. We must probe deeply into the sources of Islam. We must be willing to let history and science answer our questions instead of blindly following the dictates of dogmatism. The Qur'an and Questions We recognize that this will be especially hard for Muslims because they are forbidden by the Qur'an to ask questions about their own faith! They are warned that if they start asking questions, they may lose their faith in Islam! O ye who believe! Ask not questions about things which if made plain to you, may cause you trouble. Some people before you did ask such questions, and on that account lost their faith." (Surah 5:101-102). In his famous commentary on the Qur'an, Maududi warns Muslims not to probe too deeply into Islam. The Holy Prophet himself forbade people to ask questions ...so do not try to probe into such things. The Meaning of the Qur'an, Maududi, vol. III, pgs. 76-77. The questions were not the problem. The answers "made plain" caused people to lose their faith in Islam. Whenever people tell you not to ask questions because if you find the answers you will lose faith in them, they are trying to hide something. Bukhari's Hadith tells us how Muhammad responded to those who asked him questions: The prophet was asked about things which he did not like, and when the questioner insisted, the Prophet got angry. (vol. 1, no. 92) The Prophet got angry and his cheeks or his face became red. (vol. 1, no. 91) "Allah has hated you...[for] asking too many questions." (vol. 2, no. 555; and vol. 3, no. 591) We must ask ourselves, "What kind of god is Allah who hates people for asking questions? This is not like the God of the Bible who encourages us to seek, to ask, and to knock! Why is Muhammad pictured as hating those who asked him questions? Why were people warned not to ask any questions? What is Islam trying to hide? Is Islam so weak that merely asking questions threaten to destroy it? Do Muslims assume that blind faith is the way to Islam?" The Freedom To Question Thankfully, we live in a wonderful country where we are free to ask all the questions we want. We are free to probe deeply into the sources of Islam, its god and its religious ceremonies until we find the answer. Indeed, any Muslim who fails to ask questions about the sources of the Qur'an and Islam will be guilty of blind fanaticism and gross ignorance. He should remember that if his religion is true, then there is nothing to fear from asking questions. The Infidel's Challenge According to the Qur'an, the infidels of Muhammad's day rejected the Qur'an because it was composed of old stories and myths. But the unbelievers say, "This is nothing but a lie which he has forged, and other have helped him do it ...Tales of the ancients, which he has caused to be written; and they are dictated before him morning and evening." (Surah 25:4-5) The accusation is quite clear: The Qur'an is not a "revelation" brought down out of heaven to Muhammad but it is a forgery composed of previously existing stories. The sources of the material found in the Qur'an was the main point of their accusation. The Qur'an's Response How did the authors of the Qur'an handle this accusation? Surprisingly, all they did was attack the character of those who made the accusation and then simply repeat that the Qur'an was brought down from heaven. In truth, it is they who have put forward an iniquity and a falsehood. (Surah 25:4) Say: "The Qur'an was sent down by Him who knows the mystery that is in the heavens." (Surah 25:6) In his commentary, Yusuf Ali states, 3058 In their misguided arrogance they say, "We have heard such things before: they are pretty tales which have come down from ancient times: they are good for amusement, but who takes them seriously?" 3059 The answer is that the Qur'an teaches spiritual knowledge of what is ordinarily hidden from men's sight, and such knowledge can only come from God to Whom alone is known the Mystery of the whole Creation. The question of the sources of the Qur'an is crucial to whether Islam is true or false. Why? The famous Muslim commentator Maududi explains, Apparently this is a weighty argument. For there can be no greater proof of the "fraud" of Prophethood than to specify its source. But it looks strange that no argument has been put forward to refute this charge except a mere denial, as if to say, "Your charge is an impudent lie: you are cruel and unjust to bring such a false charge against Our Messenger; for the Qur'an is the Word of Allah Who knows all the secrets in the heavens and the earth. The Meaning of the Qur'an, Maududi, vol. III, pgs. 178-179. The question of whether Islam derived its beliefs and ceremonies from heaven or from earth is crucial. If it obtained its god, its rites, and its doctrines from pre-existing pagan religions, then the claim that it was "brought down from heaven" falls to the ground. Foundational Principles 1. We can all agree on this common ground: the Qur'an is literature. 2. Our interpretation of the Qur'an is subject to the same rules of analysis and exegesis that govern the interpretation of any other piece of literature: grammar, syntax, literary context, historical context, and cultural context. 3. One literary rule is that when a book refers to things without explaining them to the readers, the author is assuming that these things are so well known that no explanation is needed. 4. The Qur'an refers to gods, people, places, and things which are nowhere explained or defined within the Qur'an itself. 5. The authors of the Qur'an assumed that everyone already knew of these things and thus no explanation was needed. 6. There are many passages in the Qur'an which would be unintelligible if we did not go outside of the Qur'an to the historical and cultural context of pre-Islamic Arabia. Such surahs as "The Blind Man" (80), "The Elephant" (105), etc. are unintelligible if recourse is not made to historical sources. 7. All scholars use pre-Islamic history to explain the contents of the Qur'an. 8. What kind of literature is the Qur'an? Is it rational discourse or historical narative? Is a book of songs or poems? What is it? The authors of the Qur'an tell us that it is primarily composed of "pretty stories." Indeed, if we removed all the "pretty stories" from the text of the Qur'an, it would be reduced to a few pages of threats and warnings. We relate to you the most pretty stories in what we reveal to you in this Qur'an. (Surah (12:3) 9. From where did these "stories"originate? Were they "brought down" from heaven or were they derived from old myths and legends? Many scholars are agreed that the stories found in the Qur'an were derived from the legends and myths of Arabs, Jews, Persians, and Christians. In other words, they did not come from heaven but from earth. Their source is not Allah but human story tellers. This is why many scholars view the Qur'an as a fanciful book of ancient tales. This will not come as a surprise to anyone who actually reads the Qur'an. It is primarily composed of old fables and myths which convolute the names, dates, events, and places of biblical and secular history into incoherent fantasies. Such fantastic stories as the youths in the cave, the she camel, the monkey people and the night journey are only faint garbled reflections of the original tales. Example: Yusuf Ali's translation and commentary on the Qur'an is well known and accepted all over the world. In his comments on the text, he traces the stories of the Qur'an back to the original Arab, Jewish, Persian or Christian legends from which they were derived. He does not deny the earthly sources of the Qur'an. Instead, he documents them! If the Qur'an is a confused and jumbled record of ancient "stories" drawn from the various nations conquered by the Arabs, this becomes the most serious threat to Islam's claim of divine revelation. Maududi was right. Once we identify the sources of the Qur'an, it is no longer a revelation. Yusuf Ali's Translation and Commentary Surah verse source of story 2 60 Jewish and Arab legends 65 Jewish legends 125 Arab legends 158 Arab legends 189 Arab legends 194 Arab legends 196 Arab legends 197 Arab legends 198 Arab legends 200 Arab legends 259 Jewish legend 3 49 Christian legend 7 65 Arab legends 73 Arab legends 85 Arab legends 11 59 Arab legends 18 9 Christian legend 110 Persian source 74 32 Arab legends 10. It is thus proper and appropriate to apply the question of sources to the god of Islam. Did Islam derive its god from revelation or from previously existing sources? General Questions Is it possible to believe that you are worshipping the true God when you are actually worshipping a false god? Yes. Do most religions have sacred books which claim that the God, gods or goddesses revealed in their books are true? Yes. Does merely claiming that you worship the true God prove that you are in fact worshipping the true God? No. Does the Qur'an claim that Allah is the true God? Yes. Is it possible that the Qur'an could be in error and thus Allah is a false god? Yes. Is it possible that Islam derived the name "Allah" from pre-Islamic sources? Yes. Specific Questions Does the Qur'an define the word "Allah"? No. Was the name "Allah" revealed for the first time in the Qur'an? No Does the Qur'an assume that its readers have already heard of "Allah"? Yes Should we look into pre-Islamic Arabian history to see who "Allah" was before Muhammad? Yes. According to Mulism tradition, was Muhammad born into a Christian family and tribe? No Was he born into a Jewish family or tribe? No What religion was his family and tribe? Pagans What was the name of his pagan father? Abdullah (Abd + Allah) Did Muhammad participate in the pagan ceremonies of Mecca? Yes Did the Arabs in pre-Islamic times worship 360 gods? Yes Did the pagans Arabs worship the sun, moon and the stars? Yes Yusuf Ali: pgs. 1619-1623 "The Forms of Pagan Worship." It will be noticed that the sun and the moon and the five planets got identified with a living deity, god or goddess, with the qualities of its own. Moon worship was equally popular in various forms...It may be noted that the moon was a male divinity in ancient India; it was also a male divinity in ancient Semitic religion, and the Arabic word for the moon (qamar) is of the masculine gender. On the other hand, the Arabic word for the sun (shama) is of the feminine gender. The pagan Arabs evidently looked upon the sun as a goddess and the moon as a god. If Wadd and Suwa represented Man and Woman, they might well represent the astral worship of the moon and the sun... The Pagan deities best known in the Ka'ba and round about Mecca were Lat, Uzza and Manat...They were all female goddesses. In his explanation of why the Qur'an swears by the moon in Surah 74:32, "Nay, verily by the Moon," Yusuf Alli comments, "The moon was worshipped as a deity in times of darkness"(fn. 5798, pg. 1644). Did the Arabs built temples to the Moon-god? Yes Did different Arab tribes give the Moon-god different names/titles? Yes What were some of the names/titles? Sin, Hubul, Ilumquh, Al-ilah. Was the title "al-ilah" (the god) used of the Moon-god? Yes Was the word "Allah" derived from "al-ilah?" Yes Was the pagan "Allah" a high god in a pantheon of deities? Yes. Was he worshipped at the Kabah? Yes. Was Allah only one of many Meccan gods? Yes Did they place a statue of Hubul on top of the Kabah? Yes. At that time was Hubul considered the Moon-god? Yes. Was the Kabah thus the "house of the Moon-god"? Yes. Did the name "Allah" eventually replace that of Hubul as the name of the Moon god? Yes. Did they call the Kabah the "house of Allah"? Did the pagans develop religious rites in connection with the worship of their gods? Yes. Did the pagans practice the Pilgrimage, the Fast of Ramadan, running around the Kabah seven times, kissing the black stone, shaving the head, animal sacrifices, running up and down two hills, throwing stones at the devil, snorting water in and out the nose, praying several times a day toward Mecca, giving alms, Friday prayers, etc.? Yes. Did Muhammad command his followers to participate in these pagan ceremonies while the pagans were still in control of Mecca? Yes (See Yusuf Ali, fn. 214, pg. 78). Did Islam go on to adopt these pagan religious rites? Yes. ...the whole of the [pagan] pilgrimage was spiritualized in Islam..." (Yusuf Ali: fn. 223 pg. 80). Were al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat called "the daughters of Allah"? Yes. Yusuf Ali explains in fn. 5096, pg. 1445, that Lat, Uzza and Manat were known as "the daughters of God [Allah]" Did the Qur'an at one point tell Muslims to worship al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat? Yes. In Surah 53:19-20. Have those verses been "abrogated" out of the present Qur'an? Yes. What were they called? "The Satanic Verses." Yes. Was the crescent moon an ancient pagan symbol of the Moon-god throughout the ancient world? Yes. Was it the religious symbol of the Moon-god in Arabia? Yes Were stars also used as pagan symbols of the daughers of Allah? Yes Did the Jews or the Christians of Arabia use the crescent moon with several stars next to it as symbols of their faith? No Did Islam adopt the pagan crescent moon and stars as it religious symbol? Yes. As Islam developed over the centuries, did it adopt pagan names, pagan ceremonies, pagan temples and pagan symbols? Yes Is it possible that most Muslims do not know the pagan sources of the symbols and rites of their own religion? Yes. Are they shocked to find out the true sources of their ceremonies and stories? Yes Can Islam be the religion of Abraham if it is derived from paganism? No What then is Islam? A modern version of one of the ancient fertility cults. Is the "Allah" of the Qur'an, the Christian God of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? No Do the Jews say that the Muslim "Allah" is their God too? No Then whose god is Allah? Paganism Documentation The following citations reveal that there is a general consensus among Islamic scholars that Allah was a pagan deity before Islam developed. He was only one god among a pantheon of 360 gods worshipped by the Arabs. Even if he was at times viewed as a "high god," this does not mean he was the one true God. The word Allah was derived from al-ilah which had become a generic title for whatever god was considered the highest god. Each Arab tribe used Allah to refer to its own particular high god. This is why Hubal, the Moon god, was the central focus of prayer at the Kabah and people prayed to Hubal using the name Allah "Historians like Vaqqidi have said Allah was actually the chief of the 360 gods being worshipped in Arabia at the time Mohammed rose to prominence. Ibn Al-Kalbi gave 27 names of pre-Islamic deities...Interestingly, not many Muslims want to accept that Allah was already being worshipped at the Ka'ba in Mecca by Arab pagans before Mohammed came. Some Muslims become angry when they are confronted with this fact. But history is not on their side. Pre-Islamic literature has proved this." G. J. O. Moshay, Who Is This Allah?, (Dorchester House, Bucks, UK, 1994), pg. 138. "Islam also owes the term "Allah" to the heathen Arabs. We have evidence that it entered into numerous personal names in Northern Arabia and among the Nabatians. It occurred among the Arabs of later times, in theophorous names and on its own." Ibn Warraq, Why I Am Not A Muslim, (Prometheus, Amherst, 1995) p. 42. "In any case it is extremely important fact that Muhammad did not find it necessary to introduce an altogether novel deity, but contented himself with ridding the heathen Allah of his companions subjecting him to a kind of dogmatic purification." Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, I:664. "The name Allah, as the Qur'an itself is witness, was well known in pre-Islamic Arabia. Indeed, both it and its feminine form, Allat, are found not infrequently among the theophorous names in inscriptions from North Africa." Arthur Jeffrey, ed., Islam: Muhammad and His Religion (New York: The Liberal Arts Press, 1958), p. 85. "Allah" is a proper name, applicable only to their [Arabs'] peculiar God." Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, I:326. "Allah" is a pre-Islamic name. . ." Encyclopedia of Religion, I:117. "Allah is found. . .in Arabic inscriptions prior to Islam." Encyclopedia Britannica, I:643. "The Arabs, before the time of Muhammad, accepted and worshipped, after a fashion, a supreme god called Allah." Encyclopedia of Islam, eds. Houtsma, Arnold, Basset, Hartman (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1913), I:302 "Allah was known to the pre-Islamic Arabs; he was one of the Meccan deities." Encyclopedia of Islam, ed. Gibb, I:406. "Ilah. . .appears in pre-Islamic poetry. . .By frequency of usage, al-ilah was contracted to allah, frequently attested to in pre-Islamic poetry." Encyclopedia of Islam, eds. Lewis, Menage, Pellat, Schacht (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1971), II:1093. "The name Allah goes back before Muhammed." The Facts on File: Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, ed. Anthony Mercatante (New York, The Facts on File, 1983), I:41. "The source of this (Allah) goes back to pre-Muslim times. Allah is not a common name meaning "God" (or a "god"), and the Muslim must use another word or form if he wishes to indicate any other than his own peculiar deity." Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics (ed. Hastings), I:326. "Allah was already known by name to the Arabs." Henry Preserved Smith, The Bible and Islam: or, The Influence of the Old and New Testament on the Religion of Mohammed (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1897), p. 102. "The name Allah is also evident in archeological and literary remains of pre-Islamic Arabia." Kenneth Cragg, The Call of the Minaret (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 31. "In recent years I have become increasingly convinced that for an adequate understanding of the career of Muhammad and the sources of Islam great importance must be attached to the existence in Mecca of belief in Allah as a "high god." In a sense this is a form of paganism, but it is so different from paganism as commonly understood that it deserves separate treatment." William Montgomery Watt, Muhammad's Mecca, p. vii. "The use of the phrase "the Lord of this House" makes it likely that those Meccans who believed in Allah as a high god - and they may have been numerous - regarded the Ka'ba as his shrine, even though there were images of other gods in it. There are stories in the Sira of pagan Meccans praying to Allah while standing besides the image of Hubal." William Montgomery Watt, Muhammad's Mecca, p. 39. "The customs of heathenism have left an indelible mark on Islam, notably in the rites of the pilgrimage (on which more will be said later), so that for this reason alone something ought to be said about the chief characteristics of Arabian paganism. The relation of this name, which in Babylonia and Assyrian became a generic term simply meaning 'god', to the Arabian Ilah familiar to us in the form Allah, which is compounded of al, the definite article, and Ilah by eliding the vowel 'i', is not clear. Some scholars trace the name to the South Arabian Ilah, a title of the Moon god, but this is a matter of antiquarian interest...it is clear from Nabataen and other inscriptions that Allah meant 'the god.' The other gods mentioned in the Quran are all female deities: Al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat, which represented the Sun, the planet Venus, and Fortune, respectively; at Mecca they were regarded as the daughters of Allah... As Allah meant 'the god', so Al-Lat means 'the goddess'." Alfred Guilaume, Islam, (Penguin, 1956) pgs. 6-7 "As well as worshipping idols and spirits, found in animals, plants, rocks and water, the ancient Arabs believed in several major gods and goddesses whom they considered to hold supreme power over all things. The most famous of these were Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, Manat and Hubal. The first three were thought to be the daughters of Allah(God) and their intercessions on behalf of their worshippers were therefore of great significance. Hubal was associated with the Semitic god Ba'l and with Adonis or Tammuz, the gods of spring, fertility, agriculture and plenty...Hubal's idol used to stand by the holy well inside the Sacred House. It was made of red sapphire but had a broken arm until the tribe of Quraysh, who considered him one of their major gods, made him a replacement in solid gold. In addition to the sun, moon and the star Al-Zuhara, the Arabs worshipped the planets Saturn, Mercury, and Jupiter, the stars Sirius and Canopus and the constellations of Orion, Ursa Major and Minor, and the seven Pleiades. Some stars and planets were given human characters,. According to legend, Al-Dabaran, one of the stars in the Hyades group, fell deeply in love with Al-Thurayya, the fairest of the Pleiades stars. With the approval of the Moon, he asked for her hand in marriage. " Khairt al-Saeh, Fabled Cities, Princes & Jin from Arab Myths and Legends, (New York: Schocken, 1985), p. 28-30. "Along with Allah, however; they worshipped a host of lesser gods and "daughters of Allah."" Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, I:61. "It must not be assumed that since Moslems worship one God they are very close to Christians in their faith. The important thing is not the belief that God is One, but the conception that the believers have of God's character. Satan also believes and trembles! As Raymond Lull, the first great missionary to Moslems, pointed out long ago, the greatest deficiency in the Moslem religion is in its conception of God. ...For as we know, Jehovah the God of the Bible, known both to Jews and Christians, is revealed much differently than Allah, the god of Islam." Howard F. Vos, Ed., Religions in a Changing World (Chicago, 1961), pp. 70,71. "Allah was the name of a god whom the Arabs worshipped many centuries before Muhammed was born." The World Book Encyclopedia, (Chicago, 1955), Vol. 1, p. 230. "But history establishes beyond the shadow of doubt that even the pagan Arabs, before Mohammed's time, knew their chief god by the name of Allah and even, in a sense, proclaimed his unity...Among the pagan Arabs this term denoted the chief god of their pantheon, the Kaaba, with its three hundred and sixty idols." Samuel M. Zwemer, The Moslem Doctrine of God (New York, 1905), pp. 24-25. "There is no corroborative evidence whatsoever for the Qu'ran's claim that the Ka'aba was initially a house of monotheistic worship. Instead there certainly is evidence as far back as history can trace the sources and worship of the Ka'aba that it was thoroughly pagan and idolatrous in content and emphasis." Gilchrist, The Temple, The Ka'aba, and the Christ (Benoni, South Africa, 1980), p. 16. "In pre-Islamic days, called the Days of Ignorance, the religious background of the Arabs was pagan, and basically animistic. Through wells, trees, stones, caves, springs, and other natural objects man could make contact with the deity... At Mekka, Allah was the chief of the gods and the special deity of the Quraish, the prophet's tribe. Allah had three daughters: Al Uzzah (Venus) most revered of all and pleased with human sacrifice; Manah, the goddess of destiny, and Al Lat, the goddess of vegetable life.. Hubal and more than 300 others made up the pantheon. The central shrine at Mekka was the Kaaba, a cube like stone structure which still stands though many times rebuilt. Imbedded in one corner is the black stone, probably a meteorite, the kissing of which is now an essential part of the pilgrimage." John Van Ess, Meet the Arab (New York, 1943, p. 29. "...a people of Arabia, of the race of the Joktanites...the Alilai living near the Red Sea in a district where gold is found; their name, children of the moon, so called from the worship of the moon, or Alilat." Gesenius Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, translated by Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1979), p. 367. "That Islam was conceived in idolatry is shown by the fact that many rituals performed in the name of Allah were connected with the pagan worship that existed before Islam. And today, millions of Moslems pray towards Mecca, where the famous revered black stone is located. 1. Before Islam Allah was reported to be know as: --the supreme of a pantheon of gods. --the name of a god whom the Arabs worshipped. --the chief god of the pantheon. --Ali-ilah, the god, the supreme. --the all-powerful, all-knowing, and totally unknowable. --the predeterminer of everyone's life) destiny). --chief of the gods. --the special deity of the Quraish. --having three daughters: Al Uzzah (Venus), Manah (Destiny), and Alat. --having the idol temple at Mecca under his name (House of Allah). --the mate of Alat, the goddess of fate. 2. Because the Ka'aba, the sacred shrine which contains the Black Stone, in Mecca was used for pagan idol worship before Islam and even called the House of Allah at that time. 3. Because the rituals involved with the Islamic Pilgrimage are either identical or very close to the pre-Islamic pagan idol worship at Mecca. 4. Because of other Arabian history which points to heathen worship of the sun, moon, and the stars, as well as other gods, of which I believe Allah was in some way connected to. This then would prove to us that Allah is not the same as the true God of the Bible whom we worship, because God never changes." M. J. Afshari, Is Allah The Same God As The God Of The Bible?, pgs. 6, 8-9 "If a Muslim says, "Your God and our God is the same," either he does not understand who Allah and Christ really are, or he intentionally glosses over the deep-rooted differences." Abd-Al Masih, Who Is Allah In Islam?, Villach, Austria, Light of Life, 1985, p. 36. "Sin.--The moon-god occupied the chief place in the astral triad. Its other two members, Shamash the sun and Ishtar the planet Venus, were his children. Thus it was, in effect, from the night that light had emerged....In his physical aspect Sin--who was venerated at Ur under the name of Nannar--was an old man with along beard the color of lapis-lazuli. He normally wore a turban. Every evening he got into his barque--which to mortals appeared in the form of a brilliant crescent moon--and navigated the vast spaces of the nocturnal sky. Some people, however, believed that the luminous crescent was Sin's weapon. But one day the crescent gave way to a disk which stood out in the sky like a gleaming crown. There could be no doubt that this was the god's own crown; and then Sin was called "Lord of the Diadem". These successive and regular transformations lent Sin a certain mystery. For this reason he was considered to be 'He whose deep heart no god can penetrate'... Sin was also full of wisdom. At the end of every month the gods came to consult them and he made decisions for them...His wife was Ningal, 'the great Lady'. He was the father not only of Shamash and Ishtar but also of a son Nusku, the god fire." Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, (New York, 1960), pp. 54-56. "Allah, the Supreme Being of the Mussulmans: 1. Before Islam. That the Arabs, before the time of Muhammed, accepted and worshipped, after a fashion, a supreme god called Allah,--''the Ilah, or the god, if the form is of genuine Arabic source; if of Aramaic, from Alaha, "the god"--seems absolutely certain. Whether he was an abstraction or a development from some individual god, such as Hubal, need not here be considered...But they also recognized and tended to worship more fervently and directly other strictly subordinate gods...It is certain that they regarded particular deities (mentioned in 1iii. 19-20 are al-'Uzza, Manat or Manah, al-Lat(?); some have interpreted vii, 179 as a reference to a perversion of Allah to Allat) as daughters of Allah (vi. 100; xvi, 59; xxxvii, 149; 1iii, 21); they also asserted that he had sons (vi. 100)..."There was no god save Allah". This meant, for Muhammed and the Meccans, that of all the gods whom they worshipped, Allah was the only real deity. It took no account of the nature of God in the abstract, only of the personal position of Allah. ...ilah, the common noun from which Allah is probably derived..." First Encyclopedia of Islam, E.J. Brill (New York, 1987), p. 302. "Islam for its part ensured the survival of these pre-Islamic constituents, endowed them with a universal significance, and provided them with a context within which they have enjoyed a most remarkable longevity. Some of these significant constituents, nomadic and sedentary, the pre-Islamic roots which have formed the persistent heritage, deserve to be noted and discussed... The pre-Islamic Pilgrimage in its essential features survives, indeed is built into the very structure of Islam as one of its Five Pillars of Faith." The Cambridge History of Islam, Vol. I, ed. P.M. Holt (Cambridge, 1970), p. 27 "The Quran (22.52/I) implies that on at least one occasion 'Satan had interposed' something in the revelation Muhammad received, and this probably refers to the incident to be described. The story is that, while Muhammad was hoping for some accommodation with the great merchants, he received a revelation mentioning the goddesses al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat (53.19), 20 as now found), but continuing with other two (or three) verses sanctioning intercession to these deities. At some later date Muhammad received a further revelation abrogating the latter verses, but retaining the names of the goddesses, and saying it was unfair that God should have only daughters while human beings had sons." The Cambridge History of Islam, Vol. I, ed. P.M. Holt (Cambridge, 1970), p. 37. "This notation at times might be very simple, as can be illustrated by such equations as the sun or winged sun for the sun-god (Sumerian, Utu; Akkadian, Shamash), a crescent moon for the moon-god (Nanna/Sin), a star for Inanna/Ishtar (the planet Venus), seven dots or small stars for the constellation Pleiades (of which seven are readily visible, our "Seven Sisters")..." Civilizations of the Ancient Near East, Vol. III, ed. Jack M. Sasson, (New York), p. 1841. "...the Ka'aba was dedicated to al-Llah, the High God of the pagan Arabs, despite the presiding effigy of Hubal. By the beginning of the seventh century, al-Llah had become more important than before in the religious life many of the Arabs. Many primitive religions develop a belief in a High God, who is sometimes called the Sky God...But they also carried on worshipping the other gods, who remained deeply important to them." Karen Armstrong, Muhammad, (New York: San Francisco, 1992) p. 69. "The cult of a deity termed simply "the god" (al-ilah) was known throughout southern Syria and northern Arabia in the days before Islam--Muhammad's father was named 'Abd Allah ("Servant of Allah")--and was obviously of central importance in Mecca, where the building called the Ka'bah was indisputably his house. Indeed, the Muslims shahadah attests to precisely that point: the Quraysh, the paramount tribe of Mecca, were being called on by Muhammad to repudiate the very existence of all the other gods save this one. It seems equally certain that Allah was not merely a god in Mecca but was widely regarded as the "high god," the chief and head of the Meccan pantheon, whether this was the result, as has been argued, of a natural progression toward henotheism or of the growing influence of Jews and Christians in the Arabian Peninsula...Thus Allah was neither an unknown nor an unimportant deity to the Quraysh when Muhammad began preaching his worship at Mecca." The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, ed. John L. Esposito, (New York, 1995), pp. 76-77. "The religion of the Arabs, as well as their political life, was on a thoroughly primitive level...In particular the Semites regarded trees, caves, springs, and large stones as being inhabited by spirits; like the Black Stone of Islam in a corner of the Ka'bah at Mecca, in Petra and other places in Arabia stones were venerated also...Every tribe worshipped its own god, but also recognized the power of other tribal gods in their own sphere...Three goddesses in particular had elevated themselves above the circle of the inferior demons. The goddess of fate, al-Manat, corresponding to the Tyche Soteira of the Greeks, though known in Mecca, was worshipped chiefly among the neighboring Bedouin tribes of the Hudhayl. Allat--"the Goddess," who is Taif was called ar-Rabbah, "the Lady," and whom Herodotus equates with Urania--corresponded to the great mother of the gods, Astarte of the northern Semites; al-'Uzza, "the Mightiest," worshipped in the planet Venus, was merely a variant form... In addition to all these gods and goddesses the Arabs, like many other primitive peoples, believed in a God who was creator of the world, Allah, whom the Arabs did not, as has often been thought, owe to the Jews and Christians...The more the significance of the cult declined, the greater became the value of a general religious temper associated with Allah. Among the Meccans he was already coming to take the place of the old moon-god Hubal as the lord of the Ka'bah...Allah was actually the guardian of contracts, though at first these were still settled at a special ritual locality and so subordinate to the supervision of an idol. In particular he was regarded as the guardian of the alien guest, though consideration for him still lagged behind duty to one's kinsmen." History of the Islamic Peoples, Carl Brockelmann, (New York), pp. 8-10. "The Romans and Abyssinians were identified with Christianity. Whole tribes and districts held up the banner of Judaism and waged war in its propagation. The Persian power was the exponent of fire-worship; and the Arabs in general were devoted to that native idolatry which had its center in the national sanctuary of the Kaaba...The religion most widely prevalent in Arabia, when Mohammed began life, was a species of heathenism or idol-worship, which had its local center in Mecca and its temple... According to a theory held by many, this temple had been sourceally connected with the ancient worship of the sun, moon and stars, and its circumambulation by the worshippers had a symbolical reference to the rotation of the heavenly bodies. Within its precincts and in its neighborhood there were found many idols, such as Hobal, Lat, Ozza, Manah, Wadd, Sawa, Yaghut, Nasr, Isaf, Naila, etc. A black stone in the temple wall was regarded with superstitious awe as eminently sacred...The attempt of the Mussulmans to derive it direct from a stone altar or pillar, erected by Abraham and his son Ishmael, in that identical locality, is altogether unsupported by history, and, in fact, flagrantly contrary to the Biblical record of the life of Abraham and his son. The pagan character of the temple is sufficiently marked by the statement of Mohammedan writers that before its purification by their Prophet, it contained no less than 360 idols, as many as there were days in their year; and that on its walls were painted the figures of angels, prophets, saints, including those of Abraham and Ishmael, and even of the Virgin Mary with her infant Son...Mohammed, with great practical insight and shrewdness, seized on this advantage and retained the heathen shrine of his native city as the local center of Islam. He sanctioned it by his own example as a place of religious pilgrimage for all his followers. Mohammed and Mohammedanism, S.W. Koelle, (London, 1889), p. 17-19. "According to D. Nielsen, the starting point of the religion of the Semitic nomads was marked by the astral triad, Sun-Moon-Venus, the moon being more important for the nomads and the sun more important for the settled tribes. Studies on Islam, trans., ed. Merlin L. Swartz, (New York, Oxford, 1981), p. 7. "One detail which already impressed the Greek authors was the role played by sacred stones,...The material object is not venerated for itself but rather as the dwelling of either a person being (god, spirit) or a force." Studies on Islam, ibid., p. 8. "The final divinity to be considered is Allah who was recognized before Islam as god, and if not as the only god at least as a supreme god. The Quran makes it quite clear that he was recognized at Mecca, though belief in him was certainly more widespread.. How is this to be explained? Earlier scholars attributed the diffusion of this belief solely to Christian and Judaic influences. But now a growing number of authors maintain that this idea had older roots in Arabia...If, therefore, Allah is indigenous to Arabia, one must ask further: Are there indications of a nomadic source? I think there are, based on a comparison of the beliefs of the nomads in central and northern Asia with those of northeastern Africa. Like the supreme being of many other nomads, Allah is a god of the sky and dispenser of rain." Studies on Islam, ibid., p. 12. "The ibex (wa'al) still inhabits South Arabia and in Sabean times represented the moon god. Dr. Albert Jamme believes it was of religious significance to the ancient Sabeans that the curved ibex horn held sideways resembled the first quarter of the moon." Wendell Phillips, Qataban and Sheba, Exploring the Ancient Kingdoms on the Biblical Spice Routes of Arabia (New York, 1955), p. 64. "The first pre-Islamic inscription discovered in Dhofar Province, Oman, this bronze plaque, deciphered by Dr. Albert Jamme, dates from about the second century A.D. and gives the name of the Hadramaut moon good Sin and the name Sumhuram, a long-lost city....The moon was the chief deity of all the early South Arabian kingdoms--particularly fitting in that region where the soft light of the moon brought the rest and cool winds of night as a relief from the blinding sun and scorching heat of day. In contrast to most of the old religions with which we are familiar, the moon god is male, while the sun god is his consort, a female. The third god of importance is their child, the male morning star, which we know as the planet Venus... The spice route riches brought them a standard of luxurious living inconceivable to the poverty-stricken South Arabian Bedouins of today. Like nearly all Semitic peoples they worshipped the moon, the sun, and the morning star. The chief god, the moon, was a male deity symbolized by the bull, and we found many carved bulls' heads, with drains for the blood of sacrificed animals." Qataban and Sheba, Wendell Phillips, (New York), p. 227. "Arabia in Muhammad's time was polytheistic in its conception of the cosmos and tribal in its social structure. Each tribe had its own god(s) and goddess(es), which were manifest in the forms of idols, stones, trees, or stars in the sky." Islamic Studies, A History of Religions Approach, 2nd Ed., Richard C. Martin, (New Jersey), p. 96. "The verses of the Qur'an make it clear that the very name Allah existed in the Jahiliyya or pre-Islamic Arabia. Certain pagan tribes believed in a god whom they called 'Allah' and whom they believed to be the creator of heaven and earth and holder of the highest rank in the hierarchy of the gods. It is well known that the Quraish as well as other tribes believed in Allah, whom they designated as the 'Lord of the House' (i.e., of the Ka'ba)...It is therefore clear that the Qur'anic conception of Allah is not entirely new." A Guide to the Contents of the Qur'an, Faruq Sherif, (Reading, 1995), pgs. 21-22. "II. The Religion of the Pre-Islamic Arabs The life of the pre-Islamic Arabs, especially in the Hijaz depended on trade and they made a trade of their religion as well. About four hundred years before the birth of Muhammad one Amr bin Lahyo bin Harath bin Amr ul-Qais bin Thalaba bin Azd bin Khalan bin Babalyun bin Saba, a descendant of Qahtan and king of Hijaz, had put an idol called Habal on the roof of the Kaba. This was one of the chief deities of the Quraish before Islam. It is said that there were altogether three hundred and sixty idols in and about the Kaba and that each tribes had its own deity...The shapes and figures of the idols were also made according to the fancy of the worshippers. Thus Wadd was shaped like a man, Naila like a woman, so was Suwa. Yaghuth was made in the shape of lion, Yauq like a horse and Nasr like a vulture..Besides Hodal, there was another idol called Shams placed on the roof of the Kaba...The blood of the sacrificial animals brought by the pilgrims was offered to the deities in the Kaba and sometimes even human beings were sacrificed and offered to the god... Besides idol-worship, they also worshipped the stars, the sun and the moon." Muhammad The Holy Prophet, Hafiz Ghulam Sarwar (Pakistan), p. 18-19. "The Beduin do not seem to have had much time for religion. They were realists, without a great deal of imagination. They believed the land was peopled by spirits, the jinns, who were often invisible but appeared also in animal form. The dead were thought to live on in a dim and ghostly state. Offerings were made to them and stelae and cairns of stones erected on their graves. Certain trees and stones (especially meteorites and those shaped to resemble human forms) housed spirits and divinities. Divinities dwelt in the sky and some were actually stars. Some were thought to be ancient sages made divine. The list of these divine beings, and above all the importance with which was regarded, varied from one tribe to the next; but the chief of them were to be found all over the peninsula. This was especially true of Allah, 'the God, the Divinity', the personification of the divine world in its highest form, creator of the universe and keeper of sworn oaths. In the Hejaz three goddesses had price of place as the 'daughters of Allah'. The first of these was Allat, mentioned by Herodotus under the name of Alilat. Her name means simply 'the goddess', and she may have stood for one aspect of Venus, the morning star, although hellenized Arabs identified her with Athene. Next came Uzza, 'the all-powerful'; whom other sources identify with Venus. The third was Manat, the goddess of fate, who held the shears which cut the thread of life and who was worshipped in a shrine on the sea-shore. The great god of Mecca was Hubal, an idol made of red cornelian...Homage was paid to the divinity with offerings and the sacrifice of animals and perhaps, occasionally, of human beings. Certain sanctuaries were the object of pilgrimage (hajj) at which a variety of rituals were performed, consisting notably of ceremonial processions around the sacred object. Certain prohibitions had to be observed during these rituals, such as in many cases abstention from sexual relations. Magic was common. People feared the evil eye and protected themselves with amulets." Mohammed, Maxime Rodinson, (New York), pgs. 16-17. "These and many other verses show clearly that the existence of a god called Allah and even his highest position among the divinities was known and acknowledged in Jahiliyyah, but He was, after all, but one of the gods. ..Was the Koranic concept of Allah a continuation of the pre-Islamic one, or did the former represent a complete break with the latter? Were there some essential--not accidental--ties between the two concepts signified by one and the same name? Or was it a simple matter of a common word used for two different objects? In order to be able to give a satisfactory answer to these initial questions, we will do well to remember the fact that, when the Koran began to use this name, there immediately arose serious debates among the Arabs of Mecca. The Koranic usage of the word provoked stormy discussions over the nature of this God between the Muslims and the Kafirs, as is most eloquently attested by the Koran itself. What does this mean from the semantical point of view? What are the implications of the fact that the name of Allah was not only known to both parties but was actually used by both parties in their discussion with each other? The very fact that the name of Allah was common to both the pagan Arabs and the Muslims, particularly the fact that it gave rise to much heated discussion about the concept of God, would seem to suggest conclusively that there was some common ground of understanding between the two parties. Otherwise there could have been neither debate nor discussion at all. And when the Prophet addressed his adversaries in the name of Allah, he did so simply and solely because he knew that this name meant something--and something important--to their minds too. If this were not so, his activity would have been quite pointless in this respect. As regards the 'basic' meaning of Allah, ... In pre-Islamic times each tribe, as a rule, had its own local god or divinity known by a proper name. So, at first, each tribe may have meant its own local divinity when it used an expression equivalent in meaning to "the God"; this is quite probable. But the very fact that people began to designate their own local divinity by the abstract form of "the God" must have paved the way for the growth of an abstract notion of God without any localizing qualification and then, following this, for a belief in the supreme God common to all the tribes. We meet with similar instances all over the world. ...Before the name [Allah] came into Islam, it had already long been part of the pre-Islamic system, and a considerably important part, too...the pagan concept of Allah, which is purely Arabian--the case in which we see the pre-Islamic Arabs themselves talking about "Allah" as they understand the word in their own peculiar way." God and Man in the Koran, Toshihiko Izutsu, (Tokyo, 1964), pp. 95-99, 103-104.
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