Al-‘Uzzá (Arabic: العزى al-ʻUzzá [al ʕuzzaː]) was one of the three chief goddesses of Arabian religion in pre-Islamic times and was worshiped by the pre-Islamic Arabs along with Allāt and Manāt. Al-‘Uzzá was also worshipped by the Nabataeans, who equated her with the Greek goddess Aphrodite Ourania (Roman Venus Caelestis). A stone cube at aṭ-Ṭā’if (near Mecca) was held sacred as part of her cult. She is mentioned in the Qur'an Sura 53:19 as being one of the goddesses that people worshiped.
Al-‘Uzzá, like Hubal, was called upon for protection by the pre-Islamic Quraysh. "In 624 at the 'battle called Uhud', the war cry of the Qurayshites was, "O people of Uzzā, people of Hubal!" Al-ʻUzzá also later appears in Ibn Ishaq's account of the alleged Satanic Verses.
Destruction of temple
Shortly after the Conquest of Mecca Muhammad began aiming at eliminating the last idols reminiscent of pre-Islamic practices.
He sent Khalid ibn Al-Walid in Ramadan 8 A.H. to a place called Nakhlah, where there was a goddess called Al-‘Uzza worshipped by Quraish and Kinanah tribes. It had custodians from Banu Shaiban.
Khalid had to destroy Uzza, the most important of the goddesses. He set out with 30 horsemen.
It appears that there were two Uzzas, the real Uzza and a fake. Khalid first located the fake and destroyed it, then returned to the Prophet to report completion of duty. " Did you see anything unusual?" asked the Prophet. "No." Replied Khalid. " Then you have not destroyed Uzza" , said the Prophet. "Go again."
Angry at the mistake that he had made, Khalid once again rode to Nakhla, and this time he found the real Uzza temple. The custodian of the temple of Uzza had fled for his life, but before forsaking his goddess he had hung a sword around her neck in the hope that she might be able to defend herself. As Khalid entered the temple, he was faced by an unusual naked dark woman who stood in his way and wailed. Khalid did not stop to decide whether this devious woman was there to seduce him or to protect the idol, so he drew his sword in the name of Allah and with one powerful stroke the woman was cut in two. He then smashed the idol, and returning to Makkah, gave the Prophet an account of what he had seen and done. Then the Prophet said, "Yes, that was Uzza; and never again shall she be worshipped in your land."
The first known mention of al-‘Uzzá is from the inscriptions at Dedan, the capital of the Lihyanite Kingdom, in the fourth or third century BC. She had been adopted alongside Dushara as the presiding goddess at Petra, the Nabataen capital, where she assimilated with Isis, Tyche, and Aphrodite attributes and superseded her sisters. During the 5th century Christianity became the prominent religion of the region following conquest by Barsauma.
Cult of al-‘Uzzá
Over her [an Arab] built a house called Buss in which the people used to receive oracular communications. The Arabs as well as the Quraysh were wont to name their children "‘Abdu l-‘Uzzá". Furthermore, al-‘Uzzá was the greatest idol among the Quraysh. They used to journey to her, offer gifts unto her, and seek her favours through sacrifice.
- The Quraysh were wont to circumambulate the Ka‘bah and say,
This last phrase is said to be the source of the alleged Satanic Verses; the Arabic term is translated as "most exalted females" by Faris in the text, but he annotates this much-argued term in a footnote as "lit. Numidean cranes."
The Kitāb al-Aṣnām offers additional detail on the "three exalted cranes" ibn Isḥaq says were deleted from the Qur'an: "These were also called "the Daughters of Allah" and were supposed to intercede before Allah."
Each of the three goddesses had a separate shrine near Mecca. The most prominent Arabian shrine of al-‘Uzzá was at a place called Nakhlah near Qudayd, east of Mecca towards aṭ-Ṭā’if; three trees were sacred to her there (according to a narration through al-'Anazi Abū-‘Alī in the Kitāb al-Aṣnām.)
She was the Lady ‘Uzzayan to whom a South Arabian offered a golden image on behalf of his sick daughter, Amat-‘Uzzayan ("the Maid of ‘Uzzayan")
‘Abdu l-‘Uzzá ["Slave of the Mightiest One"] was a favourite proper name during the advent of Islam. (Hitti 1937). The name al-‘Uzzá appears as an emblem of beauty in late pagan Arabic poetry quoted by Ibn al-Kalbī, and oaths were sworn by her
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Al-‘Uzzá's presence in South Arabia has been thoroughly effaced by time but her presence has not been obliterated far north at Petra of the Nabataeans, who had deities with Arabian names early in their history, whom they later associated with Hellenistic gods, al-‘Uzzá becoming associated with Isis and with Aphrodite. Excavations at Petra since 1974 have revealed a temple, apparently dedicated to Isis/al-‘Uzzá, now named after some carvings found inside, the Temple of the Winged Lions (Hammond). Inscriptions record the name of al-‘Uzzá at Petra.
A fragment of poetry by Zayd ibn-'Amr ibn-Nufayl, quoted in the "Book of Idols", suggests that al-‘Uzzá had two daughters: "No more do I worship al-‘Uzzá and her two daughters. (Arabic: فلا العزى أدين ولا ابنتـيهـا.)"
Muhammad Mohar Ali writes (2002):
The Arabs had developed a number of subsidiary Ka‘bāt (tawaghit) at different places in the land, each with its presiding god or goddess. They used to visit those shrines at appointed times, circumambulate them and make sacrifices of animals there, besides performing other polytheistic rites. The most prominent of these shrines were those of al-Lāt at Ta'if, al-‘Uzzá at Nakhlah and al-Manāt near Qudayd. The origins of these idols are uncertain. Ibn al-Kalbī says that al-Lāt was "younger" ('ahdath) than al-Manawat, while al-‘Uzzá was "younger" than both al-Lāt and al-Manawat. But though al-‘Uzzá was thus the youngest of the three; it was nonetheless the most important and the greatest (‘azam) idol with the Quraysh who, along with the Banū Kinānah, ministered to it.
Uzza the Garden
According to Easton's Bible Dictionary, Uzza was a garden in which Manasseh and Amon were buried (2 Kings 21:18, 26). It was probably near the king's palace in Jerusalem, or may have formed part of the palace grounds. Manasseh may probably have acquired it from someone of this name.
As an Angel
In Judaic and Christian lore Uzza has been also used as an alternative name for the angel Metatron in the Sefer ha-heshek. More commonly he is referred to as either the seraphim Semyaza or as one of the three guardian angels of Egypt (Rahab, Mastema, and Duma) that harried the Jews during the Exodus. As Semyaza in legend he is the seraph tempted by Ishtahar into revealing the explicit name of God and was thus burned alive and hung head down between heaven and earth as the constellation Orion. In the 3rd book of Enoch and in the Zohar he is one of the fallen angels punished for cohabiting with human women and fathering the anakim. ‘Uzzā is also identified with Abezi Thibod ("father devoid of counsel") who in early Jewish lore is also used as another name for Samael and Mastema referring to a powerful spirit who shared princedom of Egypt with Rahab and opposed Moses to eventually drown in the Red Sea.
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- Gustav Davidson, A Dictionary of Angels: Including the Fallen Angels, Scrollhouse, 1967 ISBN 0-02-907052-X pg. 4
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- Hammond, Philip, "An Isisian Model for The Goddess of the 'Temple of the Winged Lions' at Petra (Jordan)". 1985
- Hitti, Philip K. History Of The Arabs, 1937, pp 96–101
- Kitab al-Asnam in the original Arabic
- Peters, F. E., The Hajj: The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places. Princeton University Press 1994
- al-Tawil, Hashim, "Early Arab Icons: Literary and Archaeological Evidence for the Cult of Religious Images in Pre-Islamic Arabia", PhD dissertation, University of Iowa, 1993 
- Ibn al-Kalbī; (author) and Nabih Amin Faris (translator & commentary) (1952): The Book of Idols, Being a Translation from the Arabic of the Kitāb al-Asnām." Princeton University Press. US Library of Congress #52006741
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Easton, Matthew George (1897). "article name needed". Easton's Bible Dictionary (New and revised ed.). T. Nelson and Sons.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Al-Uzza.|
- "Those Are The High Flying Claims": A Muslim site on Satanic Verses story
- Nabataean pantheon including Uzza
- Quotes concerning 'Uzza from Hammond and Hitti