Allah as a lunar deity

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Minarets of Kul Sharif Mosque in the Kazan Kremlin, Russia

The postulation that Allah (the name of God in Islam) historically originates as a moon god (who was worshipped in pre-Islamic Arabia) originates in early 20th-century scholarship.

The idea was first proposed by archeologist Hugo Winckler in 1901, when he identified the pre-Islamic Allah with another pre-Islamic Arabian deity known as Hubal, which he referred to as a lunar deity. More recent scholars have rejected this view, partly because it is speculation but also because they believe a Nabataean origin would have made the context of South Arabian beliefs irrelevant.[1]

It was widely propagated in the United States in the 1990s, first via the publication of Robert Morey's pamphlet The Moon-god Allah: In Archeology of the Middle East (1994), eventually followed by his book The Islamic Invasion: Confronting the World's Fastest-Growing Religion (2001). Morey argued that "Allah" was the name of a moon goddess in pre-Islamic Arabic mythology, the implication being that "Allah" as the term for God in Islam implies that Muslims worship a different deity than the Judeo-Christian one. The use of a lunar calendar and the prevalence of crescent moon imagery in Islam is said by some to be the origin of this hypothesis.[2]

Joseph Lumbard, a professor of classical Islam, has stated that the idea is "not only an insult to Muslims but also an insult to Arab Christians who use the name 'Allah' for God."[3]

Evidence adduced[edit]

Etymology[edit]

The word Allah 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.[4]

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.[5]

Hebrew words for God include El and Eloah.[6] 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'.[7]

The word "Allah" is used by Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews in Arabia.[8] It was also used by pre-Muslim Arab monotheists known as hanifs.[9]

Scholarly views[edit]

Before Islam, the Kaaba contained a statue representing the god Hubal.[10][11] On the basis that the Kaaba was also Allah's house, Julius Wellhausen considered Hubal to be an ancient name for Allah.[12][13][14] The 20th-century scholar Hugo Winckler in turn claimed that Hubal was a moon god, [15] though others have suggested otherwise. David Leeming describes him as a warrior and rain god,[16] as does Mircea Eliade.[17]

More recent authors emphasise the Nabataean origins of Hubal as a figure imported into the shrine, which may have already been associated with Allah.[16] 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."[18]

Joseph Lumbard, a professor of classical Islam, has stated that the idea is "not only an insult to Muslims but also an insult to Arab Christians who use the name 'Allah' for God."[19]

Christian proponents[edit]

Robert Morey's book The Moon-god Allah in the Archeology of the Middle East claims that Al-‘Uzzá is identical in origin to Hubal, whom he asserts to be a lunar deity.[20] 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 a moon god.[21] 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."[22]

However, recent research from various sources have proven that the "evidence" used by Morey was of the statue retrieved from an excavation site at Hazor, of which there is no connection to "Allah" at all.[23] In fact, Bible scholar and mission strategist Rick Brown openly disagrees with this approach and said:

Those who claim that Allah is a pagan deity, most notably the moon god, often base their claims on the fact that a symbol of the crescent moon adorns the tops of many mosques and is widely used as a symbol of Islam. It is in fact true that before the coming of Islam many "gods" and idols were worshipped in the Middle East, but the name of the moon god was Sîn, not Allah, and he was not particularly popular in Arabia, the birthplace of Islam. The most prominent idol in Mecca was a god called Hubal, and there is no proof that he was a moon god. It is sometimes claimed that there is a temple to the moon god at Hazor in Palestine. This is based on a representation there of a supplicant wearing a crescent-like pendant. It is not clear, however, that the pendant symbolizes a moon god, and in any case this is not an Arab religious site but an ancient Canaanite site, which was destroyed by Joshua in about 1250 BC. ... If the ancient Arabs worshipped hundreds of idols, then no doubt the moon god Sîn was included, for even the Hebrews were prone to worship the sun and the moon and the stars, but there is no clear evidence that moon-worship was prominent among the Arabs in any way or that the crescent was used as the symbol of a moon god, and Allah was certainly not the moon god's name.[24]

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.[25]

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.[26]

The Quran itself forbids moon worship in Quran 41:37[27][28]

"Do not prostrate to the sun or to the moon, but prostrate to Allah, who created them."

Muslim views and response[edit]

Most branches of Islam teach that Allah is the name in the Quran used for God,[29] and is the same god worshipped by the members of other Abrahamic religions such as Christianity and Judaism (29:46).[30] Mainstream Islamic thought holds that the worship of Allah was passed down through Abraham and other prophets, but 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.[31] 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.[32] Allah was thought to have had sons[33] and that the local deities of al-ʿUzzā, Manāt and al-Lāt were his daughters.[34] The Meccans possibly associated angels with Allah.[35][36] Allah was invoked in times of distress.[36][37] Muhammad's father's name was ʿAbd-Allāh meaning "the slave of Allāh".[36]

The Quran itself condemns moon worship. Muslim scholars cite the 37th verse of Sura Fussilat as proof against the moon god claim: "And among His signs are the night and the day and the sun and the moon; do not make obeisance to the sun nor to the moon; and make obeisance to Allah Who created them, if Him it is that you serve."[38]

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 pagans who worship a moon god or goddess, a belief energetically disseminated by some Christian activists."[39] 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".[40]

Farzana Hassan sees these views as an extension of long-standing Christian claims that Muhammad was an impostor and deceiver, and has stated: "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."[41]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ T. Fahd, Le Panthéon De L'Arabie Centrale A La Veille De L'Hégire, 1968, op. cit., pp. 102–103; T. Fahd, "Une Pratique Cléromantique A La Kaʿba Preislamique", Semitica, 1958, op. cit., pp. 75–76.
  2. ^ A History of Pagan Europe. Prudence Jones, Nigel Pennick. Psychology Press, 1995. ISBN 0415091365 p. 77
  3. ^ "Scholarly Pursuits: Joseph Lumbard, classical Islam professor". BrandeisNOW. Brandeis University. December 11, 2007.
  4. ^ A. Jeffrey, Islam: Mohammed and His Religion, Liberal Arts Press. 1958. ASIN B000IXMTE4 p. 85
  5. ^ Studies on Islam. Merlin L. Swartz. University Press, 1981. ISBN 0195027167 p. 12
  6. ^ Maimonides. Mishneh Torah, Yesodei ha-Torah §6:2.
  7. ^ Alfred Guillaume. Islam. Penguin 1990 ISBN 0-14-013555-3 pp.7
  8. ^ Merriam-Webster. "Allah". Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on 2014-04-20. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  9. ^ Timothy C. Tennent, Theology in the Context of World Christianity, Zondervan, 2009.
  10. ^ F. Hommel, First Encyclopedia of Islam, eds. M.T. Houtsma, T.W. Arnold, R. Basset, and R. Hartmann, Vol. 1, pp. 379–380
  11. ^ C. Glassé, The New Encyclopedia of Islam, p. 185
  12. ^ J. Wellhausen, Reste Arabischen Heidenthums. pp.75
  13. ^ The idea of idolatry and the emergence of Islam: from polemic to history. Cambridge studies in Islamic civilization. Gerald R. Hawting. Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 0521651654 p. 112
  14. ^ also mentioned in Meccan trade and the rise of Islam, Patricia Crone, Gorgias Press LLC, 2004, ISBN 1593331029 pp. 185–195
  15. ^ Hugo Winckler: "Arabisch, Semitisch, Orientalisch: Kulturgeschichtlich-Mythologische Untersuchung", 1901, W. Peiser: Berlin, p. 83.
  16. ^ a b David Adams Leeming, Jealous gods and chosen people: the mythology of the Middle East, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 121.
  17. ^ Eliade, Adams, The Encyclopedia of religion, Volume 1, Macmillan, 1987, p. 365.
  18. ^ Patricia Crone, "Meccan Trade And The Rise Of Islam", 1987, pp. 193–194."
  19. ^ "Scholarly Pursuits: Joseph Lumbard, classical Islam professor". BrandeisNOW. Brandeis University. December 11, 2007.
  20. ^ The Moon-god Allah in the Archeology of the Middle East. Newport, PA : Research and Education Foundation, 1994
  21. ^ Jack G. Shaheen, Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture, Centre For Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University Occasional Papers, p. 8.
  22. ^ Donald E. Schmidt, The folly of war: American foreign policy, 1898-2005, Algora, 2005, p. 347.
  23. ^ Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi, "The Mysterious Statue at Hazor: The “Allah” of the Muslims?, in Bismika Allahuma, October 15, 2005
  24. ^ R. Brown, "Who Is "Allah"?", International Journal of Frontier Missions, 2006, Volume 23, No. 2, p. 79.
  25. ^ Francis E. Peters, Muhammad and the origins of Islam, SUNY Press, 1994, p. 109.
  26. ^ A. Guillaume, The Life Of Muhammad: A Translation Of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, 2004 (18th Impression), op. cit., p. 386.
  27. ^ Juan Eduardo Campo (ed.). "moon". Encyclopedia of Islam. p. 479.
  28. ^ "Tafsir Ibn Kathir – 53:19 – English". quran.com. Retrieved 2021-05-21.
  29. ^ Under the "Allah" entry, Ontology of Quranic Concepts in The Quranic Arabic Corpus, retrieved July 16, 2017
  30. ^ F.E. Peters, Islam, p. 4, Princeton University Press, 2003
  31. ^ L. Gardet, Allah, Encyclopaedia of Islam
  32. ^ See Qur'an 37:158)
  33. ^ See Qur'an (6:100)
  34. ^ See Qur'an (53:19–22; 16:57; 37:149)
  35. ^ See Qur'an (53:26–27)
  36. ^ a b c Gerhard Böwering, God and his Attributes, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
  37. ^ See Qur'an 6:109; 10:22; 16:38; 29:65)
  38. ^ Shakir, M. H. "Ha Mim". The Koran. University of Michigan. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  39. ^ Gregory Starrett, "Islam and the Politics of Enchantment", Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, May 2009, vol. 15. S222–S240.
  40. ^ Shaheen, Jack G (1997). "Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture" (PDF). p. 9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-24.
  41. ^ Farzana Hassan Shahid, Farzana Hassan, Prophecy and the fundamentalist quest: an integrative study of Christian and Muslim apocalyptic religion, McFarland, 2008, p. 17

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