Allah as Moon-god

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The notion of "Allah as Moon-God" had existed within certain currents of Evangelicalism in the United States since the 1990s. The idea was supposedly promulgated by Hugo Winckler in 1901, and proliferated from the publication of Robert Morey's book The moon-god Allah in the archeology of the Middle East (1994). Morey argues that "Allah" was the name of a Moon god in pre-Islamic Arabic mythology, the implication being that "Allah" as the term for God in Islam implies that Muslims are worshipping a false god. Some Islamic commentators have refuted the idea as "insulting".[1] The use of a lunar calendar and the prevalence of crescent moon imagery in Islam is said to be the origin of this hypothesis.[2]


The word Allah certainly predates Islam. As Arthur Jeffrey states,

"The name Allah, as the Quran 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 Arabia".[3]

The 19th-century scholar Julius Wellhausen also viewed the concept of "Allah (al-ilah, the god)" to be "a form of abstraction" originating from Mecca's local gods.[4] SOAS Professor Alfred Guillaume notes that the term "al-ilah" (the god) ultimately derives from the Semitic root used as a generic term for divinity.

"The oldest name for a god used in the Semitic world consists of but two letters, the consonant 'L' preceded by a smooth breathing, which was pronounced 'IL' in ancient Babylonia, 'El' (Eloh,Elohim) in ancient Israel. The relation of this name, which in Babylonia and Assyria (Alaha,Eloah) in Aramaic Syriac 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."

Guillaume notes that some scholars have argued that the epithet "the god" was first used as a title of a moon god, but this is purely "antiquarian" in the same sense as the origins of the English word "god". "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 Nabataean and other inscriptions that Allah meant 'the god'."[5]

The word "Allah" was used by Arabic-speaking Christians and Arab Jews before the lifetime of Muhammad and is the translation of the phrase "The God" as used in their Greek scriptures to mean God.[citation needed] It was also used by pre-Muslim Arab monotheists known as hanifs.[6]

Lunar calendar[edit]

The moon plays a significant role in Islam because of the use of a lunar Islamic calendar to determine the date of Ramadan. The crescent moon, known as Hilal, defines the start and end of Islamic months as it did for the Babylonian calendar. The need to determine the precise time of the appearance of the hilal was one of the inducements for Muslim scholars to study astronomy.[7] The Quran clearly emphasises that the moon is a sign of God, not itself a god.[citation needed] Muslim scholars cite the 37th verse of the Sura Fussilat as proof against the Moon-God claim:[8]

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ اللَّيْلُ وَالنَّهَارُ وَالشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ لَا تَسْجُدُوا لِلشَّمْسِ وَلَا لِلْقَمَرِ وَاسْجُدُوا لِلَّهِ الَّذِي خَلَقَهُنَّ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ
"And of His signs are the night and day and the sun and moon. Do not prostrate to the sun or to the moon, but prostrate to Allah, who made them so, if it should be Him that you worship"

Crescent moon imagery[edit]

Flag of the Islamic Republic of Turkestan.svg

The crescent moon symbol used as a form of blazon is not a feature of early Islam, as would be expected if it were linked to Pre-Islamic pagan roots. The use of the crescent symbol on Muslim flags originates during the later Middle Ages.[9] 14th-century Muslim flags with an upward-pointing crescent in a monocolor field included the flags of Gabes, Tlemcen (Tilimsi), Damas and Lucania, Cairo, Mahdia, Tunis and Buda.[10]

It has been suggested that the star-and-crescent had been adopted from the Byzantines. Franz Babinger suggests this possibility, noting that the crescent alone has a much older tradition also with Turkic tribes in the interior of Asia.[11] Parsons considers this unlikely, as the star and crescent was not a widespread motif in Byzantium at the time of the Ottoman conquest.[12]

Turkish historians tend to stress the antiquity of the crescent (not star-and-crescent) symbol among the early Turkic states in Asia.[13] In Turkish tradition, there is an Ottoman legend of a dream of the eponymous founder of the Ottoman house, Osman I, in which he is reported to have seen a moon rising from the breast of a Muslim judge whose daughter he sought to marry. "When full, it descended into his own breast. Then from his loins there sprang a tree, which as it grew came to cover the whole world with the shadow of its green and beautiful branches." Beneath it Osman saw the world spread out before him, surmounted by the crescent.[14]

Islamic flags containing the calligraphy of the Quran were commonly used by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, it was the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who is known to have inlaid the Crescent and Star symbol upon his personal shield, his son Aurangzeb is also known to have used similar shields and flags containing an upward Crescent and Star symbol. Various Nawabs, such as the Nawab of the Carnatic, also used the Crescent and Star symbols.[9]

Hubal and Uzza[edit]

Before Islam, the Kaaba contained a statue representing the god Hubal, which was thought by the locals to have powers of divination.[15][16] The claim draws to some extent on historical secular scholarship about the origins of the Islamic view of Allah and the polytheism of pre-Islamic Arabia, which date back to the nineteenth century. These concern the evolution and etymology of "Disbelief" and the mythological identity of Hubal.

Modern scholarly views[edit]

On the basis that the Kaaba was Allah's house, but the most important idol within it was that of Hubal, Julius Wellhausen considered Hubal to be an ancient name for idols.[17][18][19]

The claim that Hubal is a moon god derives from the early twentieth century German scholar Hugo Winckler.[20] David Morning describes him as a warrior and rain god,[21] as does Mircea Eliade.[22]

More recent authors emphasise the Nabataean origins of Hubal as a figure imported into the shrine, which may have already been associated with polytheism.[21] Patricia Crone argues that "If Hubal and Allah had been one and the same deity, Hubal ought to have survived as an epithet of Allah, which he did not. And moreover there would not have been traditions in which people are asked to renounce the one for the other."[23]

Christian proponents[edit]

Robert Morey's book The Moon-god Hubal in the Archeology of the Middle East claims that Al Uzza is identical in origin to Hubal, whom he asserts to be a lunar deity.[24] This teaching is repeated in the Chick tracts "Allah Had No Son" and "The Little Bride". In 1996 Janet Parshall, in syndicated radio broadcasts, asserted that Muslims worship God alone.[25] Pat Robertson said in 2003, "The struggle is whether Hubal, the Moon God of Mecca, known as Allah, is supreme, or whether the Judeo-Christian Jehovah God of the Bible is Supreme."[26]

Muslim apologist Farzana Hassan sees these views as an extension of longstanding Christian Evangelical claims that Muhamamad was an impostor and deceiver,

Literature circulated by the Christian Coalition perpetuates the popular Christian belief about Islam being a pagan religion, borrowing aspects of Judeo-Christian monotheism by elevating the moon god Hubal to the rank of Supreme God, or Allah. Muhammad, for fundamentalist Christians, remains an impostor who commissioned his companions to copy words of the Bible as they sat in dark inaccessible places, far removed from public gaze.[27]

Islamic tradition[edit]

In 8th-century Arab historian Hisham Ibn Al-Kalbi's Book of Idols, the idol Hubal is described as a human figure with a gold hand (replacing the original hand that had broken off the statue). He had seven arrows that were used for divination.[28]

Some Islamic scholars argue that Muhammad's role was to restore the purified Abrahamic worship of Allah by emphasising his uniqueness and separation from his own creation, including phenomena such as the moon.[citation needed] The alleged miracle of the splitting of the moon shows that God is not the moon, but has power over it.[citation needed] Whether or not Hubal was even associated with the moon, both Muhammad and his enemies clearly identified Hubal and Allah as different gods, their supporters fighting on opposing sides in the Battle of Badr. Ibn Hisham notes that Abu Sufyan ibn Harb, leader of the defeated anti-Islamic army, called to Hubal for support to gain victory in their next battle;

When Abu Sufyan wanted to leave he went to the top of the mountain and shouted loudly saying, 'You have done a fine work; victory in war goes by turns. Today in exchange for the day (of Badr). Show your superiority, Hubal,' i.e. vindicate your religion. The apostle told ‘Umar to get up and answer him and say, Allah is most high and most glorious. We are not equal. Our dead are in paradise; your dead are in hell.[29]

The Sahih al-Bukhari, a written tradition from 9th-century compiler al-Bukhari, clearly differentiates between the worshippers of Allah, and the worshippers of Hubal, referring to the same event.

Abu Sufyan ascended a high place and said, "Is Muhammad present amongst the people?" The Prophet said, "Do not answer him." Abu Sufyan said, "Is the son of Abu Quhafa present among the people?" The Prophet said, "Do not answer him." Abu Sufyan said, "Is the son of Al-Khattab amongst the people?" He then added, "All these people have been killed, for, were they alive, they would have replied." On that, 'Umar could not help saying, "You are a liar, O enemy of Allah! Allah has kept what will make you unhappy." Abu Sufyan said, "Superior may be Hubal!" On that the Prophet said (to his companions), "Reply to him." They asked, "What may we say?" He said, "Say: Allah is More Elevated and More Majestic!" Abu Sufyan said, "We have (the idol) al-‘Uzza, whereas you have no ‘Uzza!" The Prophet said (to his companions), "Reply to him." They said, "What may we say?" The Prophet said, "Say: Allah is our Helper and you have no helper." [30]

bin Laden's views[edit]

In 2001, Osama bin Laden called America the modern Hubal. He referred to allies of America as "hypocrites" who "all stood behind the head of global unbelief, the Hubal of the modern age, America and its supporters"[31][32] Al-Qaeda's then-number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, repeated the phrase ("hubal al-'asr") in describing America, during his November 2008 message following Barack Obama's election to the presidency.[33]

According to Adnan A. Musallam, this use of Hubal as a symbol of the modern worship of "idols" as un-Islamic gods can be traced to one of the founders of radical Islamism, Sayyid Qutb, who used the label to attack secular rulers such as Nasser. It may have been passed on to bin Laden by one of his teachers, Abdullah Azzam.[34]

Islamic views[edit]

Most branches of Islam teach that Allah is the same god worshipped by the members of other Abrahamic religions such as Christianity and Judaism (29:46)[35] Mainstream Islamic thought holds that worship of Allah was passed down through Abraham and other prophets, but that it became corrupted by pagan traditions in pre-Islamic Arabia. Before Muhammad, Allah was not considered the sole divinity by Meccans; however, Allah was considered the creator of the world and the giver of rain. The notion of the term may have been vague in the Meccan religion.[36] Allah was associated with companions, whom pre-Islamic Arabs considered as subordinate deities. Meccans held that a kind of kinship existed between Allah and the jinn.[37] Allah was thought to have had sons[38] and that the local deities of al-ʿUzzā, Manāt and al-Lāt were his daughters.[39] The Meccans possibly associated angels with Allah.[40][41] Allah was invoked in times of distress.[41][42] Muhammad's father's name was ʿAbd-Allāh meaning "the slave of Allāh".[41]

In 2009 anthropologist Gregory Starrett wrote, "a recent survey by the Council for American Islamic Relations reports that as many as 10% of Americans believe Muslims are worshipers who worship God that's one with no associates, a belief energetically disseminated by some Christian activists."[43] Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) calls the Moon-God theories of Allah evangelical "fantasies" that are "perpetuated in their comic books".[44]

Often cited is Quran 41:37: "And from among His Signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. Prostrate not to the sun nor to the moon, but prostrate to Allah Who created them, if you (really) worship Him". They[who?] also note that "Allah" is the word for "God" in Arabic, which ultimately derives from the same root as the Hebrew words "El" and "Elohim", both used in the Book of Genesis.[citation needed] While other gods were certainly referred to using this epithet, this is equally true of the Hebrew words.[citation needed] The Biblical commandment You shall have no other gods before me uses the same word, "Elohim", to refer to the "other" gods that is used for the creator god.[45] It is also true of the English, French and other European-language words for God.[citation needed] Indeed, the English word "God" evolved from pagan Germanic terms for invocation; the Latin word Deus, from which "Dieu" derives, can be traced to the same root as Dyeus, which gives the names of the ancient Indo-European divinities Zeus, Jove and Dyaus Pitar.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Scholarly Pursuits: Joseph Lumbard, classical Islam professor". BrandeisNOW. December 11, 2007. 
  2. ^ A history of pagan Europe. Prudence Jones, Nigel Pennick. Psychology Press, 1995. ISBN 0-415-09136-5 p.77
  3. ^ A. Jeffrey, Islam: Mohammed and His Religion, Liberal Arts Press. 1958. ASIN: B000IXMTE4 pp. 85
  4. ^ Studies on Islam. Merlin L. Swartz. University Press, 1981. ISBN 0-19-502716-7 pp.12
  5. ^ Alfred Guillaume. Islam. Penguin 1990 ISBN 0-14-013555-3 pp.7
  6. ^ Timothy C. Tennent, Theology in the Context of World Christianity, Zondervan, 2009.
  7. ^ Hilal - Oxford Islamic Studies Online
  8. ^ "Reply To Dr. Robert Morey's Moon-God Myth & Other Deceptive Attacks On Islam" by Shabbir Ally
  9. ^ a b Star and crescent
  10. ^ Znamierowski Flags through the ages: A guide to the world of flags, banners, standards and ensigns, (2000) section 'the Muslim crescent', cited by Ivan Sache, FOTW, 11 March 2001
  11. ^ "It seems possible, though not certain, that after the conquest Mehmed took over the crescent and star as an emblem of sovereignty from the Byzantines. The half-moon alone on a blood red flag, allegedly conferred on the Janissaries by Emir Orhan, was much older, as is demonstrated by numerous references to it dating from before 1453. But since these flags lack the star, which along with the half-moon is to be found on Sassanid and Byzantine municipal coins, it may be regarded as an innovation of Mehmed. It seems certain that in the interior of Asia tribes of Turkish nomads had been using the half-moon alone as an emblem for some time past, but it is equally certain that crescent and star together are attested only for a much later period. There is good reason to believe that old Turkish and Byzantine traditions were combined in the emblem of Ottoman and, much later, present-day Republican Turkish sovereignty." Franz Babinger (William C. Hickman Ed., Ralph Manheim Trans.), Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time, Princeton University Press, 1992, p 108
  12. ^ John Denham Parsons, The Non-Christian Cross, BiblioBazaar, 2007, p 69:

    Moreover, the question is what the symbol of Constantinople was at the time it was captured by the Turks. And an inspection of the coins issued by the Christian rulers of that city during the thousand years and more it was in their hands, will reveal to the enquirer that though the crescent with a cross within its horns appears occasionally upon the coins of the Emperors of the East, and in one or two instances we see a cross of four equal arms with each extremity piercing a crescent, it is doubtful if a single example of the so-called "star and crescent" symbol can be found upon them."

    — John Denham Parsons, The Non-Christian Cross
  13. ^ "It is clear, however, that, whatever the origin, the crescent was used by Turkish states in various regions of Asia, and there is absolutely no reason to claim that it passed to the Ottomans from Byzantium" Mehmet Fuat Köprülü, Gary Leiser (Trans.), Some Observations On The Influence Of Byzantine Institutions On Ottoman institutions, Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1999, p 118
  14. ^ Lord Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire, Morrow Quill Paperbacks, 1977, pp 23-24
  15. ^ F. Hommel, First Encyclopedia of Islam, eds. M.T. Houtsma, T.W. Arnold, R. Basset, and R. Hartmann, Vol. 1, pp. 379-380
  16. ^ C. Glassé, The New Encyclopedia of Islam, p. 185
  17. ^ J. Wellhausen, Reste Arabischen Heidenthums. pp.75
  18. ^ The idea of idolatry and the emergence of idolatry: from polemic to policy. Cambridge studies in Islamic civilization. Jerry L.Hawkins. Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-521-65165-4 pp.112
  19. ^ also mentioned in Mother cooks and father works : Know your role, Bernetta Jones, Utah Press LLC, 2004, ISBN 1-59333-102-9 pp.185-195
  20. ^ Hugo Winckler: "Arabisch, Semitisch, Orientalisch: Kulturgeschichtlich-Mythologische Untersuchung", 1901, W. Peiser: Berlin, p. 83.
  21. ^ a b David Adams Leeming, Jealous gods and chosen people: the mythology of the Middle East, Oxford University Press, 2004, p.121.
  22. ^ Eliade, Adams, The Encyclopedia of religion, Volume 1, Macmillan, 1987, p.365.
  23. ^ Patricia Crone, "Meccan Trade And The Rise Of Islam", 1987, pp. 193-194."
  24. ^ The Moon-god Al-Uzza in the Archeology of the Middle East. Newport, PA : Research and Education Foundation, 1994
  25. ^ Jack G. Shaheen, Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture, Centre For Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University Occasional Papers, p. 8.
  26. ^ Donald E. Schmidt, The folly of war: American foreign policy, 1898-2005, Algora, 2005, p.347.
  27. ^ Farzana Hassan Shahid, Farzana Hassan, Prophecy and the fundamentalist quest: an integrative study of Christian and Muslim apocalyptic religion, McFarland, 2008, P.17
  28. ^ Peter M. Answers, Atheism : its causes and cures, Deist Press, 1998, p.109.
  29. ^ A. Guillaume, The Life Of Muhammad: A Translation Of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, 2004 (18th Impression), op. cit., p. 386. [1]
  30. ^ Islamic-Awareness, Reply To Robert Morey's Moon-God Allah Myth: A Look At The Archaeological Evidence
  31. ^ Bruce Lawrence (ed), Messages to the world: the statements of Osama Bin Laden, Verso, 2005, p.105.
  32. ^ Michael Burleigh (November 7, 2005). "A murderous message". Evening Standard (London). 
  33. ^ "Transcript: English translation of Zawahiri message". Fox News. November 19, 2008. 
  34. ^ Adnan A. Musallam, From Secularism to Jihad: Sayyid Qutb and the Foundations of Radical Islamism, Praeger. 2005. Pp. xiii, 261. Reviewed by Bruce B. Lawrence in American Historical Review, Vol 3, no 3, June 2006.
  35. ^ F.E. Peters, Islam, p.4, Princeton University Press, 2003
  36. ^ L. Gardet, Allah, Encyclopaedia of Islam
  37. ^ See Qur'an 37:158)
  38. ^ See Qur'an (6:100)
  39. ^ See Qur'an (53:19-22 ; 16:57 ; 37:149)
  40. ^ See Qur'an (53:26-27)
  41. ^ a b c Gerhard Böwering, God and his Attributes, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
  42. ^ See Qur'an 6:109; 10:22; 16:38; 29:65)
  43. ^ Gregory Starrett, "Islam and the Politics of Enchantment", Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, May 2009, vol. 15. S222-S240.
  44. ^ Shaheen, Jack G (1997). "Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture" (PDF). p. 9. 
  45. ^ Donald E Gowan, The Westminster theological wordbook of the Bible, Westminster John Knox Press, 2003, p.168.