Goddess of might, protection and love
A temple relief at nearby Khirbet et-Tannur
|Major cult center||Mecca|
Al-ʻUzzā (Arabic: العزى al-ʻUzzā [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. 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-ʻUzzā, 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-‘Uzzá 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 cult images reminiscent of pre-Islamic practices.
He sent Khalid ibn Al-Walid during Ramadan 630 AD (8 AH) to a place called Nakhlah, where the goddess al-ʻUzzā was worshipped by the tribes of Quraish and Kinanah. The shrine's custodians were from Banu Shaiban. Al-ʻUzzā was considered the most important goddess in the region.
Khalid set out with 30 horsemen to destroy the shrine. It appears that there were two statues of al-ʻUzzā, one real and one fake. Khalid first located the fake and destroyed it, then returned to the Prophet to report that he had fulfilled his mission. "Did you see anything unusual?" asked the Prophet. "No," replied Khalid. "Then you have not destroyed al-‘Uzzá," 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 temple of al-ʻUzzā. The custodian of the temple of al-‘Uzzá 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 Abyssinian woman who stood in his way and wailed. Khalid did not stop to decide whether this woman might be there to seduce him or to protect the image, 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 image, and returning to Mecca, gave the Prophet an account of what he had seen and done. Then the Prophet said, "Yes, that was al-ʻUzzā; and never again shall she be worshiped in your land."
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 used to name their children "‘Abdu l-ʻUzzā". Furthermore, al-ʻUzzā 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 used 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 Book of Idols, but he annotates this much-argued term in a footnote as "lit. Numidean cranes."
Each of the three goddesses had a separate shrine near Mecca. The most prominent Arabian shrine of al-ʻUzzā 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. 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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|Religions of the|
ancient Near East
|Pre-Islamic Arabian deities|
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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. Another view is that these kings were culpable of idolatry and drew the attention of Ezekiel.
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 seraph 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. ʻUzzā 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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- Ibn Ishaq Sirat Rasul Allah, pp. 165–167.
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- Ibn al-Kalbi, trans. Faris (1952), pp. 16–23.
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- Hitti (1937), pp. 96–101.
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- Davidson (1967), pp. xiii, xxiv.
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- Davidson (1967), p. 4.
- Ambros, Arne A. (2004). A Concise Dictionary of Koranic Arabic. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag. ISBN 978-3-89500-400-1.
- Burton, John (1977). The Collection of the Qur'an (the collection and composition of the Qu'ran in the lifetime of Muhammad). Cambridge University Press.
- Davidson, Gustav (1967). A Dictionary of Angels: Including the Fallen Angels. Scrollhouse. ISBN 978-0-02-907052-9.
- Finegan, Jack (1952). The Archeology of World Religions. Princeton University Press. pp. 482–485, 492.
- Hitti, Philip K. (1937). History of the Arabs.
- Ibn al-Kalbī, Hisham (1952). The Book of Idols, Being a Translation from the Arabic of the Kitāb al-Asnām. Translation and commentary by Nabih Amin Faris. Princeton University Press. LCCN 52006741.
- Kitab al-Asnam in the original Arabic
- Peters, F. E. (1994). The Hajj: The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places. Princeton University Press.
- al-Tawil, Hashim (1993). Early Arab Icons: Literary and Archaeological Evidence for the Cult of Religious Images in Pre-Islamic Arabia (PhD thesis). University of Iowa. Archived from the original on 2005-01-20.
- 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.
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