11. Religion of Pagan Arabia
RELIGION OF PAGAN ARABIA
The Islamic sources do tell us that the pre-Islamic Arabs were mushriks (polytheists) �addicted� to worshipping numerous idols. But they do not inform us as to what those idols symbolized. The Qur�ãn (2.257, 259; 4.52; 53.19; 71.21) mentions some idols but only to denounce them. We reproduce below what Ibn Ishãq writes about them:
�They say that the beginning of stone worship among the sons of Ishmael was when Mecca became too small for them and they wanted more room in the country. Everyone who left the town took with him a stone from the sacred area to do honour to it. Wherever they settled they set it up and walked round it as they went round the Ka�ba. This led them to worship what stones they pleased and those which made an impression on them. Thus as generations passed they forgot their primitive faith and adopted another religion for that of Abraham and Ishmael. They worshipped idols and adopted the same errors as the peoples before them. Yet they retained and held fast practices going back to the time of Abraham, such as honouring the temple and going round it, the great and little pilgrimage, and the standing on �Arafa and Muzdalifa, sacrificing the victims, and the pilgrim cry at the great and little pilgrimage, while introducing elements which had no place in the religion of Abraham. Thus, Kinãna and Quraysh used the pilgrim cry: �At Thy service, O God, at Thy service! At Thy service, Thou without an associate but the, associate Thou hast. Thou ownest him and what he owns.� They used to acknowledge his unity in their cry and then include their idols with God, putting the ownership of them in His hand�
�The people of Noah had images to which they were devoted. God told His apostle about them when He said: �And they said, Forsake not your gods; forsake not Wudd and Suwã� and Yaghûth and Ya�ûq and Nasr. And they had led many astray.�
�Among those who had chosen those idols and used their names as compounds when they forsook the religion of Ishmael-both Ishmaelites and others-was Hudhayl b. Mudrika b. Ilyãs b. MuDar. They adopted Suwã� and they had him in RuhãT; and Kalb b. Wabra of QuDã�a who adopted Wudd in Dûmatu�l-Jandal�
�An�um of Tayyi� and the people of Jurash of MadhHij adopted Yaghûth in Jurash.
�Khaywãn, a clan of Hamdãn, adopted Ya�ûq in the land of Hamdãn in the Yaman.
�Dhû�l-Kalã� of Himyar adopted Nasr in the Himyar country.
�Khaulãn had an idol called �Ammanas in the Khaulãn country�
�The B. Milkãn b. Kinãna b. Khuzayma b. Mudrika b. Ilyãs b. MuDar had an image called Sa�d, a lofty rock in a desert plain in their country�
�Daus had an idol belonging to �Amr b. Humama al-Dausî.
�Quraysh had an idol by a well in the middle of the Ka�ba called Hubal. And they adopted Isãf (or Asãf) and Na�ila by the place of Zamzam, sacrificing beside them�
�Every household had an idol in their house which they used to worship. When a man was about to set out on a journey he would rub himself against it as he was about to ride off: indeed that was the last thing he used to do before his journey; and when he returned from his journey the first thing he did was to rub himself against it before he went in to his family�
�Now along with the Ka�ba the Arabs had adopted Tawãghît, which were temples which they venerated as they venerated the Ka�ba. They had their guardians and overseers and they used to make offerings to them as they did to the Ka�ba and to circumambulate them and sacrifice at them. Yet they recognized the superiority of the Ka�ba because it was the temple and mosque of Abraham the friend (of God).
�Quraysh and the B. Kinãna had al-�Uzzã in Nakhla, its guardians and overseers were the B. Shaybãn of Sulaym, allies of the B. Hãshim�
�Al-Lãt belonged to Thaqîf in Tã�if, her overseers and guardians being B. Mu�attib of Thaqîf.
�Manãt was worshipped by al-Aus and al-Khazraj and such of the people of Yathrib as followed their religion by the seashore in the direction of al-Mushallal in Qudayd.
�Dhû�l-KhalaSa belonged to Daus, KhaTh�am, and Bajîla and the Arabs in their area in Tabãla�
�Fals belonged to Tayyi� and those hard by in the two mountains of Tayyi�, Salmã and Aja�.
�Himyar and the Yamanites had a temple in San�ã called Ri�ãm.
�RuDã� was a temple of B. Rabî�a b. Ka�b b. Sa�d b. Zayd b. Manãt b. Tamîm�
�Dhû�l-Ka�abat belonged to Bakr and Taghlib the two sons of Wã�il and Iyãd in Sindãd��
Hishãm bin Muhammad al-Kalbî (d. AD 819) wrote a whole book, Kitãb al-ASnãm, describing what tribe worshipped what idol, at what place, and in what manner. But he did not know what those idols stood for. F. Krenkow comments: �From the description of the idols worshipped by the pre-Islamic Arabs, enumerated by Ibn al-Kalbî, the word Sanam appears to apply to objects of very varying character. Some were actual sculptures like Hubal, Isãf and Nãi�la; so were the other idols set up round the Ka�ba� Others were trees like al-�Uzzã and many were mere stones like al-Lãt. Stones are well-known as objects of worship by the Semites in general and the traditionist al-Dãrimî states early in the first chapter of his Musnad that in the time of paganism the Arabs, whenever they found a stone remarkable for its shape, colour or size, set it up as an object of worship. Ibn al-Kalbî states that the Arabs were not content with setting up stones for idols, but even took such stones with them on their journeys��
This portrait of the pagan Arabs as primitive fetishists would have remained fixed for all time to come but for the non-Islamic sources which have been studied in recent times. The discovery of numerous inscriptions, particularly in South Arabia, has forced even Muslim scholars to revise their opinion to a certain extent. Shaikh Inayatullah writes:
�These Arabian deities, which were of diverse nature, fell into different categories. Some of them were personifications of abstract ideas, such as jadd (luck), sa�d (fortunate, auspicious), riDã� (good-will, favour), wadd (friendship, affection), and manãf (height, highplace). Though originally abstract in character, they were conceived in a thoroughly concrete fashion. Some deities derived their names from the places where they were venerated. Dhu al-KhalaSah and Dhu al-Shara may be cited as examples of this kind.
�The heavenly bodies and other powers of nature, venerated as deities, occupied an important place in the Arabian pantheon. The sun (shams, regarded as feminine) was worshipped by several Arab tribes and was honoured with a sanctuary and an idol. The name �Abd Shams, �Servant of the Sun,� was found in many parts of the country. The sun was referred to by descriptive tides also, such as shãriq, �the brilliant one.� The constellation of the Pleiades (al-Thurayya), which was believed to bestow rain, also appears as a deity in the name �Abd al-Thurayya. The planet Venus, which shines with remarkable brilliance in the clear skies of Arabia, was revered as a great goddess under the name of al-�Uzza, which may be translated as �the Most Mighty.� It had a sanctuary at Nakhlah near Mecca. The name �Abd al-�Uzza was very common among the pre-Islamic Arabs. The Arabian cult of the planet Venus has been mentioned by several classical and Syriac authors.�
The pre-Islamic Arab religion was, however, far more profound. As in the case of every pagan people, the pagan Arabs perceived divinity in everything in their environment, terrestrial as well as celestial. This will become clear as we take up the Arab Gods and Goddesses, one by one. Here we want to mention that the Minaeans, the Sabaeans and the Nabataeans worshipped more of less the same divinities, mostly under the same, though sometimes differing, names.
�First of all,� writes H. Hommel, �as regards the religion of the South Arabians, as we find it in their inscriptions, it is a strongly marked star-worship, in which the cult of the moon-god, conceived as masculine, takes complete precedence of that of the sun, which is conceived as feminine. This is shown in the clearest fashion by the stereotyped series of gods (Minaean: �Athar, Wadd, Nakruh, Shams; HaDramawtic: �Athar, Sîn, Hol, Shams; Qata-bãnian: �Athar, �Amm, Anbai, Shams; Sabaean: �Athar, Hawbas, Al-mãku-hû, Shams); here we find throughout, a. �Athar (the planet Venus conceived as masculine� as symbol of the sky) the god of the heavens mentioned first, b. Wadd or as the case may be, Sîn, �Amm or Hawbas the real chief god i.e. the moon; c. Nakruh (the planet Saturn or Mars), or Hol, Anbai (messenger of the gods, Nebo) or Almãku-hû, his (the moon�s) servant or messenger, and finally, d. Shams, the daughter of the moon-god to whom women may have appealed by preference and who therefore stands at the end of the whole enumeration. Besides these, a certain part was played by a great Mother-goddesses, the mother and consort of the moon-god conceived as a personified lunar station, the Minaean Athirat, who was called Harimtu among the Sabaeans and who was in all probability universally known as Ilãt (e.g. as a component part in names of persons, also in the shortened form Lãt). We may also mention various lesser �Athar deities (confined later to the part played by Venus as morning or evening star), and among the West Sabaeans Ta�lab, a god of the bow who also bears merely the epithet Dhû Samawî �lord of the heaveans�, and to whom especially camels (ibil) are ,sacred (hence in Midian but probably in South Arabia Habul or Hubal etc.). It is a particularly favourite mode of thought to conceive the two chief aspects of the moon (waxing and waning moon) as twin deities, in which connection sometimes the one and sometimes the other phase is specially favoured according to the locality��
He continues: �In North West Arabia from Mekka onwards to Petra and further onwards to the Syrian desert (Palmyra) and the Hawrãn, the same ideas prevailed, partly even appearing under the old names partly with new designations. Here we have especially to do with the cults of Mekka and of the whole Hidjãz shortly before Muhammad (al-Lãt and Hubal, in certain cases also al-Lãt, and Wudd, in addition al-�Uzzã, a feminine form of� Aziz-Lãt, the goddess of death Manãt, a god RuDã and others) and at an earlier period the still more important cult of the Nabataeans. Among the latter also we find the moon divided into twin deities: Dhû Sharã (�He of the mountain�) and his Kharishã (the sun); the former especially in Petra and Habul (or Hubal) and his consort Manawãt; further also the Mother-goddess Ilãt and a god A�araã (�he with the white mark on his forehead,� originally perhaps only an epithet of Dusares)��
He concludes: �But we may point out in conclusion that in all probability the Greeks borrowed from Arabian incense merchants their Apollo and his mother Leto as also Dionysos and Hermes, in the same way as they took their additional letters Phi, Chi and Psi from the South Arabian alphabet� This would seem to prove definitively that South Arabian civilization with its gods, incense altars, inscriptions, forts and castles must have been in a flourishing condition as early as the beginning of the first millennium BC.�
Being at par with
or even superior to the Greek pantheon, the Arab pantheon acquires a prestige
which is seldom conceded to it except by scholars who have studied the
subject. One reason is that the literature in which the Greek Gods and
Goddesses figure has survived to a large extent, while the pre-Islamic
Arab literature has disappeared more or less completely, so much so that
even specialists find it difficult to believe that the pagan Arabs had
any literature at all. Secondly, the Renaissance in Europe has restored
the prestige of the Greek heritage, while people who feel the same pride
in the pre-Islamic Arab heritage have yet to come foreward.
The Pagan Arab Pantheon
Now we can take
up, in greater detail, individual Arab Gods and Goddesses, starting with
the one who presided over the pantheon.
The name Allãh has become so much identified with Islam as to rule out any suspicion that he was the Great God of the pagan Arabs. �Allãh, in the Safã inscriptions, Hallãh, �the god�, enters into the composition of numerous personal names among the Nabataeans and other Northern Arabs of an early period e.g. Zaid Allãhî, �increase of God� (that is increase of the family through the son given by God), �Abd Allãhî, and so forth. Among the heathen Arabs Allãh is extremely common, both by itself and in theophorous names. Wellhausen cites a large number of passages in which pre-Islamic Arabs mention Allãh as a great deity; and even if we strike out certain passages (for instance on the ground that the text has been altered by Muhammadan scribes) so many still remain over, and so many more which are above suspicion can without difficulty be found, that the fact is clearly established. Moreover, Allãh forms an integral part of various idiomatic phrases which were in constant use among the heathen Arabs. Of special importance is the terminology of the Qur�ãn, which proves beyond all doubt that the heathen Arabs themselves regarded Allãh as the Supreme Being. The Nabataen inscriptions mention repeatedly the name of a deity accompanied by a title �Alãhã, �the god�.�
The Qur�ãn (13.17;29.61, 63;41.24;39.39; 43.87) itself provides ample evidence that the pre-Islamic Arabs regarded Allãh as �the creator and supreme provider� and �assigned to him a separate position distinct from that of all other deities (6.137).� Here it becomes difficult �to distinguish between their views and the interpretation of their views adopted by Muhammad, especially their vocabulary and that of Muhammad. It will be seen, then, that whatever may have been the origin of the names applied, the religion of Mecca in Muhammad�s time was far from simple idolatry.� Both sides seem to say the same things about Allãh. �But though the name was the same for the Meccans and for Muhammad, their conception of the bearer of the name must have differed widely. The Meccans evidently had in general no fear of him; the fear of Allãh was an element in Muhammad�s creed� The Meccans did not hesitate to disregard him and to cultivate the minor gods; Muhammad knew him as a jealous and vindictive sovereign who would assuredly judge and condemn in the end��
It is significant that while the sources, Islamic as well as others, mention idols of many Gods and Goddesses in the Ka�ba and elsewhere, they nowhere mention an idol of Allãh. The only explanation is that every God and Goddesses was seen by the pagan Arabs as representing Allãh who could be prayed to through any one of them. In fact, the Meccans pointed out to Muhammad (Qur�ãn 6.149; 37.68) that �Allãh had never forbidden them to worship other gods with him.� Ibn Ishãq reports that �Abdu�l-Muttalib �stood by Hubal praying to Allah.� The Qur�ãn is never tired of saying that those whom the idolaters associate with Allah will not intercede for them on the last day. For the pagan Arabs, however, Allãh is no other than his associates; he is them and they are he. Of course, the pagans have no notion of the last day when alone Allãh will visit them; instead, they are aware of him every moment of their lives. He is present not in some high heaven but in and around them, in many names and forms. The character which the Qur�ãn assigns to Allãh must have looked like a prison-house to the pagan Arabs; their Allãh could not be contained in concepts created by the external and shallow mind of man, nor was he helplessly dependent upon the services of a prophet.
The pagan poets �had already developed in Arabic a vivid power of wielding descriptive epithets vis-a-vis Allãh.� Many of the ninety-nine names (Asmã�al-Hûsnã) which Muslim theologians mention, can be found in pagan poetry. Most probably, Allãh had many more names, may be a thousand, in the pagan parlance. It has been characteristic of pagan spirituality everywhere that it adorns with numerous names and forms whatever it adores. Muhammad retained only those names which did not offend his monotheism, and dropped the rest. He also added names which did not square with the pagan perception of Allãh but which went very well with the Allãh of his conception. Al-MuTakabbir, the Haughty, looks like one such name. Al-Muntaqîm, the Avenger, is another. The most typical of Muhammad�s contributions, however, is al-Mughnî, the Enricher, that is, by means of booty which includes, we may remember, the women and children of those who become victims of Jihãd. Small wonder that one of the names of Muhammad�s Allãh is al-Zãrr, the Distresser. We find that the Qur�ãn (58.11) uses the same name for Satan. As we shall see, that is exactly what Allãh came to mean in the doctrine as well as the history of Islam.
The two names, ar-RaHmãn, the Compassionate, and al-RaHîm, the Merciful, are the most frequent in Muhammad�s usage. They stand at the head of every Sûra of the Qur�ãn except one. There is nothing intrinsically offensive in these names when applied to Allãh. In fact, they are more appropriate for the Allãh of the pagan Arabs than for the Allãh of Islam. Yet the Meccans found them the most objectionable. Muhammad had tacked them to Allãh while dictating to �Ali the draft of the treaty at Hudaybiya. The Meccan representative protested and had them dropped. �Then the apostle,� narrates Ibn Ishãq, �summoned �Ali and told him to write �In the name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful.� Subayl said �I do not recognize this; but write �In thy name, O Allah.� The apostle told him to write the latter and he did so.� This was not the only occasion when the Meccans showed their repugnance for these names. They had all along accused Muhammad of importing alien names and imposing them upon Allãh. To them these names were Jewish and the Jews had been in league with Muhammad so far as Arabia�s ancient religion and culture were concerned. They saw these names as symbols of the new-fangled creed which Muhammad was trying to foist on them. On the other hand, Muhammad insisted on using these names because, in his mind, they embodied all that he stood for.
�Traditions assign two hundred names to Muhammad.�
It seems that the Prophet grew in size at the expense of Allãh who
was made to look smaller and smaller. That was quite in keeping with the
Prophet�s own image of himself. He was out to block everyone else�s access
to Allãh while proclaiming himself as Habîb Allãh,
an-Nabî, ar-Rasûl and Khãtim al-Anbiyã.
So it was no more sufficient that one believed in Allãh; one had
also to believe in Muhammad as the only channel through which Allãh�s
will could be known. It was inevitable that, in due course, the Prophet
became more important than the contrived god in whose name he spoke.
There were other
deities �whose titles themselves seem to designate them as occupying a
position of supreme importance in the eyes of the worshippers.� Al-Malik,
�the King,� was the name of such a deity. �In the days of Islãm,
al-Malik became one of the epithets of Allãh, and hence the
name �Abd al-Malik survives among Muhammadans.�
Ba�l or Ba�al
�The divine title
Ba�l or Ba�al, �the lord,� which was very common among the Northern Semites,
survived among the Arabs of the Sinai Peninsula in the form al-Ba�lû
which occurs in their inscriptions together with the proper names �Abd
al-Ba�lî, Aus al-Ba�lî, �gift of the Lord,� and Garm
al-Ba�lî, probably �act of the Lord.� A trace of the worship
of this god may be found in Sharaf al-Ba�l, the name of a place
between Medina and Syria. The Arabs of later times were not aware that
any such deity had existed, but certain phrases in their language clearly
prove that he had once been known. Thus the term �soil of Ba�l�
or simply �Ba�l� is applied to land which does not require irrigation,
but has an underground water supply, and therefore yields fruit of the
best quality. In this case the god seems to be regarded
as the lord of the cultivated land� Again, the verb ba�la and other
derivatives of Ba�l mean �to be bewildered,� properly �to be seized
by the god Ba�l�.�
�Among the Northern Arabs of early times, particularly in the region of Safã, the word El, �God,� was still very commonly used as a separate name of the Deity. It is true that it does not actually occur except in compound proper names of persons, Wahb El, and many others. Some of these such as Wahbîl, �gift of El,� Abdîl, �Servant of El,� appear among the Arabs of a later age but at least in certain cases they must have been borrowed from the Sabaean language, while in other cases they are restricted to the extreme north of Arabia. It may be added that the divine name Iayãl, which occurs once in an ancient verse, is possibly a plural of majesty formed from El; Uwãl is a variation of the same name.
names commonly used in dynasties, or distinguished families, who originally
came from districts where Sabaean or some other peculiar dialect of southern
Arabia was spoken, had naturally a tendency to spread among the Arabs in
�The Sun-god who
according to Strabo (784) was held in especial honour by the Nabataeans,
is very probably to be identified with Allãt� We have already
seen that the sun is properly feminine in Arabic and in most other Semitic
languages; hence the name Allãt which so far as we can judge
means simply �the Goddess,� is particularly suited in this case.� The Greek
historian, Herodotus, mentions an Arabian Goddess named Alilãt.
�That Alilãt is identical with Allãt, a goddess frequently
mentioned, has long been an acknowledged fact. References to Allãt
were found in several Nabataean inscriptions; in one of them she is called
the �Mother of Gods.� Moreover, proper names compounded with Allãt
appear both among the Nabataeans and the Palmyrenes� Among the later Arabs
this goddess was no less venerated. In the Qur�ãn (liii.50) she
is one of the three daughters of Allãh. She is also mentioned occasionally
in poetry. Thus one poet says: �I swear to him, in the presence of the
throng, by the salt, by the fire, and by Allãt who is the greatest
of all.� Of the names compounded
with Allãt, which were widely diffused, some at least must be of
considerable antiquity �The cult of the goddess flourished,
in particular, at the sanctuary of Tã�if, a town to the east of
Mecca; the tribe of Thaquîf, who dwelt in that district spoke of
her as the �mistress�,� that is, al-Rabba.
Among the Lihyan, a branch of the Hudhail, settled in the country north-east
of Mecca, Allãt was worshipped �alongside typically Arab� deities.
�Some Arabian deities were originally personifications of abstract ideas� Time in the abstract was popularly imagined to be the cause of all earthly happiness and especially of all earthly misery. Muhammad in the Qur�ãn (Sûra xlv. 23) blames the unbelievers for saying, �It is Time that destroys us.� Her main sanctuary was a black stone among the Hudailîs in Qudaid, not far from Mecca on the road to Medina near a bill called Mushallal. She was however worshipped by many Arab tribes, primarily the Aws and Khazradj in Yathrib. In Mecca she was very popular along with the goddesses al-Lãt and al-�Uzzã; the three (according to the Qur�ãn) were regarded as Allãh�s daughters, and in a weak moment Muhammad declared their worship permitted (cf. Sûra liii. 19 sqq.)� According to Ibn al-Kalbî, she was the oldest deity whose worship gave rise to that of the others, because names compounded with Manãt occur earlier than other theophoric names. Another view is found in Ibn Hishãm, p.145, where �the two daughters of �Uzzã are Manãt and al-Lãt.� As an independent deity we find her in the Nabataen inscriptions of al-Hidjr� Manãt is connected in a peculiar way by some writers with the great hadjdj, for we are told that several tribes including the Aws and Khazradj assumed the ihrãm at the sanctuary of Manãt and on conclusion of the rites cut their hair and dropped the ihram��
The character of the Goddess can be inferred from her name. In Arabic manîya (plural, manãya) means �the alloted, fate, doom of death, destruction�. Manãt, therefore, was primarily the Goddess of Time. �The poets are continually alluding to the action of Time (dahr, zamãn) for which they often substitute �the days,� or �nights.� Time is represented as bringing misfortune, causing perpetual change, as biting, wearing down, shooting arrows that never miss the mark, hurling stones, and so forth� Occasionally we come across such passages as the following: �Time has brought woe upon him, for the days and the (alloted) measure (qadar) have caused him to perish.� Various expressions are used by the poets in speaking of the �portion� alloted to them or the goal that is set before them� Once we meet with the phrase �till it be seen what the Apportioner shall apportion to thee� (mã yamnî laka �lamãnî), which apparently refers to a god� The word here translated �apportion� originally means �to count�, hence to �reckon� a thing to someone��
is also the Goddess of Death. �Manîya appears in poetry as driving
a man into the grave, piercing him with an arrow, handing to him the cup
of death, lying in ambush for him, receiving him as a guest (when he is
about to die), and so forth. Not unfrequently the possessive suffix is
added, �when my Manîya overtakes me,� �his Manîya has come
upon him,� and the like��
Her name means �the Most Mighty.� She was a Goddess of the Sabaeans who, in due course, became popular all over Arabia. She embodied the cult of the planet Venus. �The Syrian poet Issac of Antioch, who lived in the first half of the 5th cent., bears witness to the worship of �Uzzã by the Arabs of that period; in another passage he identifies �Uzzã with the planet Venus� The Arabian cult of the Venus is mentioned like-wise by Ephrahim Syrus (who died in AD 373), by Jerome, Theodret, and later still by Evagrius� As early as the 2nd cent. or thereabout, references to a priest of this goddess occur in two Sinaitic inscriptions� Another Sinaitic inscription mentions the name �Abd al-�Uzzã which at a later time, just before the rise of Islam, was extremely common among the Arabs� �Uzzã figures in the Qur�ãn (Sûra liii. 19) as one of the three great goddesses of Mecca, who were supposed to be daughters of Allãh. That Muhammad himself offered sacrifices to her in his younger days is expressly stated by tradition�
�Kuthrã which probably means �die Most Rich,� the name of an idol destroyed by order of Muhammad, is perhaps only another title of �Uzzã. We also read of a man call �Abd Kuthrã, belonging to the tribe of Tai, in the very centre of Arabia. Here the absence of the definite article proves that the name Kuthrã is ancienl�
Another poet is known to have sworn by the Sa�ida (Blessed) �Uzzã. As as-S�ida is known to be the name of a Goddess worshipped at Medina, it is inferred that she was �Uzzã. �She was especially associated with the GhaTafãn but her principal sanctuary was in the valley of the Nakhla on the road from Tã�if to Mecca� It consisted of three samura (acacia) trees in one of which the goddess revealed herself� From these centres her cult spread among a number of Beduin tribes, the Khuzã�a, Ghanm, Kinãna, Balî, Thakîf and especially the Quraish, among whom she gradually acquired a predominant position� Here she formed with al-Lãt and Manãt a trinity in which she was the youngest but came in time to overshadow the others� When in the year 3, Abû Sufyãn set out to attack Muhammad he took the symbols of al-�Uzzã and al-Lãt with him. That of the two al-�Uzzã was the more important as the patron deity of Mecca is shown from Abû Sufyãn�s war cry: al-�Uzzã is for us and not for you�
cult disappeared after this [destruction of her sanctuary], as did the
numerous proper names, combinations of al-�Uzzã, while the masculine
counterpart �Abd al-�Azîz remained because �Azîz was one
of the names of Allãh��
�The Sun (Shams, construed as feminine) was honoured by several Arabian tribes with a sanctuary and an idol. The name �Abd Shams, �servant of the Sun,� is found in many parts of the country. In the North we meet with the name Amrishams, �man of the Sun��
�For the worship of the rising Sun we have the evidence of the name �Abd ash-Sharîq, �servant of the Rising One�� In the extreme South there was a God called DharîH or DhirrîH, which appears likewise to denote the rising Sun� Once we meet the name �Abd Muharriq; here Muharriq, �the Burner,� may perhaps be another title of the Sun-god. The Muharriq who is mentioned as the ancestor of certain royal houses admits of a similar explanation.�
of the Qur�ãn is named Ash-Shams. The word �shams� survives in Muslim
He was an ancient Arab deity. �According to the Arab tradition he was a god who owned a reserved grazing ground (Himã) among the Dawsites with a hollow in which the water trickled down from the rocks, which is in agreement with the fact that the name �Abd Dhu �l-Sharã is found in this tribe. According to al-Kalbî also, this deity was worshipped among the related Banu �l-Hãrith� We meet with Dh �l-Sharã (Dusares) on more historical ground as a the chief god of the Nabataeans in whose inscriptions from Petra, the land east of Jordan and as far as al-Hidjr, he is often mentioned. His chief sanctuary was in Petra where a large black, quadrangular stone was dedicated to him in a splendid temple. He had another important sanctuary in Soada which was called Dionysias after him. His festival was celebrated here in August which is certainly connected with the fact that he was identified with Dionysos as the god of fertility, particularly of the vintage. In Petra and Elusa, on the other hand, his festival, according to Epiphanius, fell on the 25th day of December on which day �the virgin called Kkhbou in Arabic and Dusares born of her were worshipped with Arabic hymns�� It naturally reminds one of the Arabic ka�ab �a young maiden with breasts developed�; but it is also possible to connect it with ka�b �cube� (cf, the Ka�ba at Mecca) according to which interpretation the god was thought to have been born from the stone.�
��But there were several places called ash-Sharã, and the difficulty of determining with which of them the god was originally connected is increased by the fact that his cult goes back to very early times. The localities which bear this name appear to have been moist and rich in vegetation; such a spot, in the midst of a sterile country like Arabia, easily became a centre of worship.� The fact that underneath his idol �stood a golden pedestal, and the whole sanctuary blazed with gold and votive offerings�, as also the fact that his festival fell �about the time of the winter solstice�, establish his �connexion with Sun-worship�. He was the �patron of luxuriant vegetation�, which further emphasism his �character as a Sun-god.�
�Another god who appears to have been named after a place is Dhu �l-Halasa or Dhu �l-HulaSa. He was greatly venerated at a place in the noth of Yemen, apparently the district now called �Asir. Between his sanctuary and the sanctuary at Mecca there existed a certain amount of rivalry.
�From a grammatical point of view, the gods Dhu �l-Kaffain, �He who has two hands,� and Dhu�r-rijl, �He who has a foot,� must be classed with the two forgoing ones. Perhaps these names may have been originally applied to sacred stones, which by means of rude carving were made to bear a partial resemblance to the human form.�
God with a similar name was Dhu �l-KhabSa who was worshipped by al-Azd
or al-Asd, �a widely ramified family of tribes� among which �the al-Aws
and al-Khazradj of Medina and the Khuzã�a in and around Mecca were
counted.� They were worshippers of Manãt. The same tribe living
in the mountains of Sarãt worshipped an idol named �Ã�im.
�The constellation of the Pleiades (ath-Thuraiyã) which was supposed to bestow rain, appears as a deity in the name �Abd ath-Thuraiyã; the name �Abd Najm refers also to the Pleiades, for the latter are often called simply an-Najm, �constellation.��
�The word �thuraiyã� is a dimunitive of �tharwã� which means �existing in plenty�� The constellation is so called because rain at its rising at the dawn brings tharwã i.e. great plenty. In any case, from early times the Pleiades have been credited with great influence on weather and the processes of nature dependent upon it� The constellation is also regarded as a diadem with jewels and it is mentioned in countless passages in the poets��
The word �thuraiyã�
survives in the name Suraiya which is still common among Muslims everywhere.
Sûra liii of the Qur�ãn is named An-Najm. Najm and
Najmã are also components of Muslim names.
was an �ancient Arabian thunder-god who shot hail from his bow and then
hung the latter on the clouds.� We meet him in the
�combination Qaus QuzaH�, the bow of QuzaH, meaning the rainbow.
QuzaH was also �the name of a certain spot, within the sacred territory
of Mecca, where pilgrims were accustomed to kindle fire.�
The Islamic lore is not quite logical about this God. He is described as
a shaiTãn (devil) and also as an angel who looks after the
clouds. The rainbow becomes Allãh�s bow, bow of the prophet of Allãh,
bow of the heavens, bow of the clouds, signs of heaven, etc., and the word
loses its association with a God.
��also pronounced Wudd or Udd i.e. �friendship,� �affection,� was according to the Qur�ãn (Sûra lxxi. 22) a god worshipped by the contempories of Noah. But it would be a mistake to conclude that his worship was obsolete in Muhammad�s time, for we have sufficient evidence to the contrary. The poet Nãbigha says once, �Wadd greet thee!� There was a statue of this god at Dûma, a great oisis in the extreme North of Arabia. The name �Abd Wadd occurs in a number of wholly distinct tribes� As we are told that his statue had a bow and arrows attached to it we might be tempted to imagine that he was a kind of Eros, and this would imply a foreign origin. But though the root WDD means �to love,� �to feel affection� for an object, it is never used in a sexual sense. Moreover the statue in question bore not only a bow and arrows, but likewise a sword and lance from which hung a flag; the god was also fully clad and therefore does not look like a copy of the Greek Eros.�
Ch. Muhammad Ismail mentions an inscription which he saw in the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, Bombay, in 1921. It was on one of the stones �brought from Aden by Colonel H.F. Jacob of the Indian Army, who was for a long time at Aden�� The language of the inscription was �what may be called Himyaritic though Sabaean and South Arabic are also names given to it�. Ch. Ismail read the inscription as saying, �The House No. 2 of Father Wadd�, and commented: �Wadd was a god worshipped by the Arabs who often wore talismans bearing the name Wadd. The word itself is derived from wudd which means love. It was opposed to Nakruh, the god of hatred.�
The name of this
God survives in Al-Wadûd, one of the ninety-nine names of
Allãh meaning �the Loving One� (Qur�ãn, xi. 92; lxxv. 14).
She was a Goddess
who symbolized �goodwill� or �favour�. �The commentary on a term in which
the name is mentioned informs us that RuDã was worshipped in the
shape of an idol by the great tribe of Tamîm. The proper name �Abd
RuDã is found among several Arab tribes. To the nature of the
deity in question the name supplies no clue� The remarkable fact that in
the abovementioned verse RuDã is construed as feminine (whereas
this grammatic form would normally be masculine), naturally suggests that
at that period, about the time of Muhammad, people still realized that
RuDã was merely an epithet applied to a goddess who properly bore
some other name. But against this hypothesis, it
may be urged that the name is of considerable antiquity, as is proved by
the Palmyrene inscriptions, where it occurs separately in the form �RSU,
and in theophorous proper names as RSU� The RDU of the Safã inscriptions
seems to denote the same deity.�
It was the name
of a deity venerated by various Semitic people. The word occurs in Nabataean
inscriptions in the form Gaddã. �But
since we meet the proper name �Abd al-Jadd in a few cases� and since
the noun judd, �luck,� remained in current use among the Arabs,
it is more natural to regard the Nabataean Gaddã as an Aramaized
form of the native Arabic al-Gadd (al-Jadd).�
The name is used in the Qur�ãn (lxxii. 3) in the sense of �greatness�
In Arab astronomy
it is the common name for small groups of stars in the constellations Pegasus,
Aquarius and Capricorn which augur good fortune. That is what the God Sa�d
stood for. �According to a certain verse and statements of the commentator,
Sa�d was the name given to a rock not far from Jidda, to which divine honours
were paid. Moreover, we meet the name �Abd Sa�d
in quite a different part of Arabia, to the north-east. At an earlier period
a man�s name which seems to be compounded with Sa�d occurs in the inscriptions
of Safã.� Three of Muhammad�s leading
companions were named Sa�d- Sa�d ibn Abî Waqqãs, Sa�d ibn
Mu�az and Sa�d ibn �Ubãdah. The name seems to have survived, though
in an abbreviated form, in the title of the thirty-eighth Sûra of
The name means �height�, or �high place�. �That Manãf was worshipped as a god is proved by the testimony of a verse, and is confirmed by the occurrence of a name �Abd Manãf which was especially common at Mecca and among the neighbouring tribe of Hudhail.� The word Mãnaphis is found in an ancient inscription from the Haurãn and seems to be derived from Manãphios, the name of this God.
��It is said that one of Muhammad�s ancestors-the pedigree being Muhammad b. �Abd Allãh b. �Abd al-MuTTalib b. Hãshim b. �Abd Manãf-received this name because his mother consecrated him to Manãf, who was then the chief deity of Makka.
�� Ibn Kalbî knows nothing of its whereabouts except that menstruating women were bound to keep themselves at a distance from it.
name does not occur either in the Qur�ãn or in classical hadith.
It derives from a root n-w-f, which in several Semitic languages
conveys the meaning of �being elevated�.�
was �One of the idols of ancient Arabs, mentioned in the Qur�ãn,
Sûrah lxxi. 23. it was an idol which, as its name implies, was worshipped
under the form of an eagle.� Muhammad
made this God a contemporary of Noah. �But it is to be noticed that the
Sabaeans like-wise had a god called Nasr��
The name �Abd
�Auf was quite common among the Arabs. �Auf means �the great bird of
prey�. The word is not found in this form in the Arab language at present.
But �the verb �afã, which is derived from it, means �to wheel in
the air,' as birds of prey are wont to do.� The
word �has, in particular, the sense of augurium, and it may be that
the name of the god did not refer to the bird but to the omen drawn from
it; in this case �Auf would be a synonymous of Sa�d.�
�The god Yagûth, whose name evidently means �helper,� was according to the Qur�ãn (Sûra lxxi. 23), another of the deities worshipped in the days of Noah� We find no trace of this god in early times� But at a later period we hear of a god Yagûth, whose idol was an object of contention among the tribes of Yemen, and the name �Abd Yagûth occurs in various part of Arabia, even in the tribe of Taghilib on the north-eastern frontier.�
the shape of a lion.�
Ya�uq and Suwã�
The idol of Ya�uq �"was in the form of a horse, and was worshipped in Yemen. (Bronze images of this idol are found in ancient tombs and are still used as amulets)�
�Suwã�, in the form of a woman, was said to be from antidiluvian times��
�The name of the
god Ya�uq, who is mentioned in the Qur�ãn together with Yagûth,
probably means �the Preserver�; his cult seems to have been confined to
Yemen. Suwã�, who is also included among gods worshipped by Noah�s
contemporaries (Sãrû lxxi. 20), was apparently of no
great importance. He had a sanctuary at a place in the territory of the
Hudhail, but none, so far as we know, elsewhere. The
meaning of his name is altogether obscure. Neither Suwã� nor Ya�uq
seems to occur in the theophorous proper names. It is hardly necessary
to remark that the transferring of all these Arabian deities to the age
of Noah was a fantastic anachronism due to Muhammad himself.�
�Hubal was worshipped at Mecca; his idol stood in the Ka�ba, and appears to have been in reality, the god of that sanctuary� It would be unsafe to trust the descriptions of the idol in question which are given by writers of a later period; there is reason, however, to believe that the god had a human form. We may likewise accept as historical the statement that near him were kept divining arrows, used for the purpose of ascertaining his will or forecasting future events. It is related that the idol was brought by �Amr b. LuHai from Ma�ãb (Moab), a tradition which may contain some elements of truth, for we have independent evidence indicating that the god was known in the North. He seems to be mentioned in a Nabataean inscription at Hejr; and the tribe of Kalb, who dwelt in the Syrian Desert, used the name of Hubal as the name of a person or clan; the same tribe� used in like manner the names of Îsãf and Nã�ila, two other deities peculiar to Mecca. Moreover, �Amr b. LuHai is the representative of the Huzã�a, a tribe who, according to tradition, occupied the sacred territory of Mecca before it passed into the hands of the Quraish. The assertion that�Amr introduced the worship of idols into Mecca for the first time is, of course, utterly incredible. But the hypothesis that Hubal was a late importation from a foreign country is further supported by the fact that we hear nothing of him in other parts of Arabia, and even at Mecca personal names compounded with Hubal were unknown. When the Meccans gained a victory over the Prophet in the immediate neighbourhood of Medina, their leader shouted, �Hurrah for Hubal!� Thus they regarded him as the natural enemy of the God preached by Muhammad.�
�Another tradition indeed relates that Hubal was an idol of Banû Kinãna, worshipped also by the Quraish, and had been placed in the Ka�ba by Khuzaima b. Mudrika wherefore it used to be called Hubal Khuzaima. It is further related that the idol was of red carnelian, in the form of a man; the Quraish replaced the right hand which was broken, by a golden one��
�Hubal was in the form of a man and came from Syria; he was the god of rain and had a high place of honour.�
�An idol, the God of the Moon��
�It is remarkable that there is no distinct allusion to the idol in the whole of the Qur�ãn.�
�The learned Dr.
Pocock� derives the name from the Hebrew habba�l or habbe�l
and suggests� the appropriateness of havel, �vanity!� Among the
Arabs, Hubal seems to have had a double character, in which respect he
resembled the Syrian idol Baal (properly, Ba�al), who was regarded both
as the founder of the Babylonian empire, and as the sun personified as
a deity. The opinion that Hubal was the same as the Babylonian or Syrian
idol Ba�al or Bêl, or synonymous with it, is in fact supported by
the testimony of the Arabian authorities, who relate that it was originally
brought from Syria or Mesopotamia. Of course, the Arabian writers do not
maintain that Hubal was identical with Ba�al: they admit, however, that
it was an astronomical deity, which Ba�al also is believed to have been-whose
designation, by the way, like that of �the sun� among ourselves, always
appears with the article-�Habba�al�. Further, Herodotus
(and after him, Rawlison) held the opinion that Hubbal was �the Jupiter
of the Arabians�-presumably because he was believed to have the power of
Isãf and Nã�ila
Muslim tradition says that �They were a man and woman of Jurhum-Isãf b. Baghy and Nã�ila d. Dîk-who were guilty of sexual relations in the Ka�ba and so God transformed them into two stones.�
the tradition is a fabrication. As pointed out above, the tribe of Kalb
in the Syrian Desert worshipped both of them as deities along with Hubal.
The idols �stood near Mecca on the hills of Safa and Mirwa; the visitation
of these popular shrines is now a part of the Muslim pilgrimage�� They
were no doubt �two sacred stones, but the origin of their names is so far
He was an ancient
God of the pagan Arabs. �He must have early disappeared as a deity, for
al-Kalbî does not mention him in his Kitãb al-ASnãm
and he is not given in the various passages in Arab literature that give
lists of the gods of the Djahilîya. But that he was at one time worshipped
as a god may be deduced with considerable certainty from the tribal name
�Abd al-Qais and from the well-known personal and tribal name Imru� al-Qais.�
The name of a God mentioned in the Nabataean inscription from al-Hijr �can
hardly be other than an Aramaic adaptation of al-Qais�
who �had a sanctuary in al-Hijr in which copies of documents used to be
deposited.� The word �qais� carries several meanings in the dictionaries.
De Goeje �has deduced the meaning �Lord� from al-Hamdãnî,
��The name of a divinity of pre-Muhammadan Arabia, or better an epithe, the meaning of which (diminutive of aqSar, �he who has a stiff neck� or perhaps simply �the short�) seems to indicate an idol in a human shape. All that we know of the god (whose real name is un-known) goes back to the references to him by Ibn al-Kalbî, Kitãb al-ASnãm followed by Yãqût, Mu�djam� Al-UqaiSir was worshipped by the tribes of QuDã�a, Lakhm, Djudhãm, �Amila and GhaTafãn living on the plateau of the Syrian Desert. Verses in old poets quoted by Ibn al-Kalbî mention stones (anSãb) put up around the sacred place, the �garments� (athwãb), the ditch (djafr) into which were thrown the offerings, the cries and chants of the pilgrims�
Wellhausen notes, the expressions used in the verses which Ibn al-Kalbî
quotes in connection with al-UqaiSir must refer to a sanctuary as well
as to an idol. We might then suppose that the epithet reflects the squat
form of the building. It is worthwhile recalling that the name Uqaisir
is also applied to a tribe, to individuals and even to a sword.�
learn about this God from a Palmyrene and a Nabataean inscription. He is
�the Companion of the people�, �the kind god who rewards (or who is grateful),
and who drinks no wine�, that is, �to whom no libations of wine are offered.�
��was the virgins