Al-Lat

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Allāt with a palm branch and lion from the Ba‘alshamîn temple in Palmyra, first century AD.

Allat, also spelled Allatu, Alilat, Allāt, and al-Lāt (Arabic: اللات‎‎  pronounced [ælˈlæːt]) is the name of a goddess worshipped in pre-Islamic Arabia. Together with Manāt and al-‘Uzzá, she was one of the three chief goddesses of Mecca. Her name, which is Arabic for the Goddess appears to indicate that she was the pre-Islamic consort of Allah, and therefore the Arabic equivalent of Elat or Asherah, the traditional consort of the Semitic god El. In older sources, she is identified with the Sumerian goddess Ereshkigal. The Greeks equated her with Athena and Aphrodite.[1]

The shrine and temple dedicated to al-Lat in Taif was demolished on the orders of Muhammad, during the Expedition of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, in the same year as the Battle of Tabuk[2] (which occurred in October 630 AD).[3][4] The destruction of the idol was a demand by Muhammad before he would allow any reconciliation to take place with the tribes of Taif, who were under his siege.[5]

Descriptions[edit]

Allāt-Minerva. Statue of the 2nd century AD from As-Suwayda, Syria. National Museum of Damascus

Especially in older sources, Allat is an alternative name of the Mesopotamian goddess of the underworld,[6][7] now usually known as Ereshkigal. She was reportedly also venerated in Carthage under the name Allatu.[8]

The Nabataeans of Petra and the people of Hatra also worshipped her, equating her with the Greek Athena and Tyche and the Roman Minerva. She is frequently called "the Great Goddess" in Greek in multi-lingual inscriptions.[9] According to Wellhausen, the Nabataeans believed al-Lāt was the mother of Hubal (and hence the mother-in-law of Manāt).

The Greek historian Herodotus, writing in the 5th century BC, considered her the equivalent of Aphrodite:

The Assyrians call Aphrodite Mylitta, the Arabians Alilat [Greek spelling: Ἀλιλάτ], and the Persians Mithra.[10]

In addition that deity is associated with the Indian deity Mitra. This passage is linguistically significant as the first clear attestation of an Arabic word, with the diagnostically Arabic article al-. The Persian and Indian deities were developed from the Proto-Indo-Iranian deity known as Mitra. According to Herodotus, the ancient Arabians believed in only two gods:

They believe in no other gods except Dionysus and the Heavenly Aphrodite; and they say that they wear their hair as Dionysus does his, cutting it round the head and shaving the temples. They call Dionysus, Orotalt; and Aphrodite, Alilat.[11]

Bas-relief: Nemesis, Allāt and the dedicator. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon

In the Qur'an, she is mentioned along with al-‘Uzzá and Manāt in Sura 53:19–23. The tribe of ʿād of Iram of the Pillars is also mentioned in Sura 89:5–8, and archaeological evidence from Iram shows copious inscriptions devoted to her for the protection of a tribe by that name.[12]

Al-lāt is also explicitly attested from early Islamic records discussing the pre-Islamic period. According to the Book of Idols (Kitāb al-ʾAṣnām) by Hishām ibn al-Kalbi, the pre-Islamic Arabs believed Al-lāt resided in the Kaʿbah and also had an idol inside the sanctuary:

Her custody was in the hands of the Banū Attāb ibn Mālik of the Thaqīf, who had built an edifice over her. The Quraysh, as well as all the Arabs, venerated al-Lāt. They also used to name their children after her, calling them Zayd al-Lāt and Taym al-Lāt. [...] Al-Lāt continued to be venerated until the Thaqīf embraced Islam, when Muhammad dispatched al-Mughīrah ibn-Shu‘bah, who destroyed her and burnt her temple to the ground.[13][14][15]

Demolition of statues and shrine[edit]

Roman temple of Allāt, Palmyra, Syria

The shrine and temple dedicated to al-Lat in Taif, was demolished by Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, on the orders of Muhammad, during the Expedition of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, this occurred in the same year as the Battle of Tabuk[2] (which occurred in October 630 AD[3] ). Muhammad sent Abu Sufyan with a group of armed men in order to destroy the Idol al-Lat (also referred to as al-Tagiyyah) that was worshipped by the citizens of Taif.[4] The destruction of the idol was a demand by Muhammad before any reconciliation could begin with the citizens of Taif who were under siege and suffering from a blockade by the Banu Hawazin, led by Malik, a convert to Islam who promised to continue the war against the city which was started by Muhammad in the Siege of Taif in a pre-emptive strike.[5]

Appearances in modern literature[edit]

In Frank Herbert's Dune series, Al-Lat is the name given to the earth's sun.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Strong's Hebrew and Aramaic Dictionary of Bible Words
  • Georgii Wilhelmi Freytagii : Lexicon Arabico-Latinum. Librairie du Liban, Beirut, 1975.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Egerton Sykes, Who's Who: Non-Classical Mythology, Oxford University Press, 1993.
  2. ^ a b Tabari, Al (25 Sep 1990), The last years of the Prophet (translated by Isma'il Qurban Husayn), State University of New York Press, p. 46, ISBN 978-0887066917 
  3. ^ a b Hawarey, Dr. Mosab (2010). The Journey of Prophecy; Days of Peace and War (Arabic). Islamic Book Trust. Note: Book contains a list of battles of Muhammad in Arabic, English translation available here, and archive of page here
  4. ^ a b Muir, William (August 1878), The life of Mahomet (Full free digitized version), Kessinger Publishing Co, p. 207 
  5. ^ a b Muir, William (August 1878), The life of Mahomet (Full free digitized version), Kessinger Publishing Co, p. 205 
  6. ^ The Dawn of Civilisation, by: Gaston Maspero
  7. ^ «A History Of Art In Chaldæa & Assyria» Georges Perrot, Professor in The Faculty of Letters, Paris; Member of The Institute, and Charles Chipiez. New York, 1884.
  8. ^ Encyclopedia of Gods, Michael Jordan, Kyle Cathie Limited, 2002
  9. ^ Healey, John F. (2001). "4". The Religion of the Nabataeans: A Conspectus. Religions in the Graeco-Roman World. 136. Boston: Brill. pp. 107–119. ISBN 90-04-10754-1. 
  10. ^ Histories I:131
  11. ^ Histories III:8
  12. ^ Healey, John F. "4". The Religion of the Nabataeans: A Conspectus. Religions in the Graeco-Roman World. 136. Boston: Brill. p. 111. ISBN 90-04-10754-1. 
  13. ^ Faris 1952, pp. 14–15.
  14. ^ Oxfordislamicstudies.com
  15. ^ Mify narodov mira 1984. Article: Allat

External links[edit]