Allah as a lunar deity
This article may lend undue weight to certain ideas, incidents, or controversies. (August 2021)
The word 'Allah' is a common Arabic term for "The God" (as opposed to 'ilah', any god), and is widely used by Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews and also found in Arabic translations of the Bible.
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.
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's ideas were features in cartoonist and publisher Jack Chick, who drew a fictionalised cartoon story entitled "Allah Had No Son" in 1994.
Morey argues 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. 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."
Do not prostrate to the sun or to the moon, but prostrate to Allah, who created them.
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.
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'.
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. The Quran emphasises that the moon is a sign of God, not itself a god.
Crescent moon imagery
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. 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.
Franz Babinger alludes to the possibility that the crescent was adopted from the Eastern Romans, noting that the crescent alone has a much older tradition also with Turkic tribes in the interior of Asia. Parsons considers this unlikely, as the star and crescent was not a widespread motif in the Eastern Roman Empire at the time of the Ottoman conquest.
Turkish historians tend to stress the antiquity of the crescent (not star-and-crescent) symbol among the early Turkic states in Asia. 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.
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.
Arabian idol Hubal
Before Islam, the Kaaba contained a statue representing the god Hubal, which was thought by the locals to have powers of divination. The claim draws 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 "Allah" and the mythological identity of Hubal.
More recent authors emphasise the Nabataean origins of Hubal as a figure imported into the shrine, which may have already been associated with Allah. 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."
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. 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. 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."
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. 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.
Michael Abd El Massih, the Director of Arabic Bible Outreach, echoes the same point and asserts that:
It is an unproven theory, so it may well be false. Even if it turns out to be true, it has little bearing on the Muslim faith since Muslims do not worship a moon god. That would be blasphemy in Islamic teachings. If we use the moon-god theory to discredit Islam, we discredit the Christian Arabic speaking churches and missions throughout the Middle East. This point should not be discounted lightly because the word Allah is found in millions of Arabic Bibles and other Arabic Christian materials. The moon-god theory confuses evangelism. When Christians approach Muslims, they do not know whether they need to convince them that they worship the wrong deity, or to present them the simple Gospel message of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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.
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. The miracle of the splitting of the moon shows that God is not the moon, but has power over it. 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.
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."
Muslim views and response
Most branches of Islam teach that Allah is the name in the Quran used for God, and is the same god worshipped by the members of other Abrahamic religions such as Christianity and Judaism (29:46). 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. 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. Allah was thought to have had sons and that the local deities of al-ʿUzzā, Manāt and al-Lāt were his daughters. The Meccans possibly associated angels with Allah. Allah was invoked in times of distress. Muhammad's father's name was ʿAbd-Allāh meaning "the slave of Allāh".
- وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ اللَّيْلُ وَالنَّهَارُ وَالشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ لَا تَسْجُدُوا لِلشَّمْسِ وَلَا لِلْقَمَرِ وَاسْجُدُوا لِلَّهِ الَّذِي خَلَقَهُنَّ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ
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.
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." 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". Muslim reactions to the allegation are also widespread online.
Farzana Hassan sees these views as an extension of long-standing Christian claims that Muhammad 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.
- Ancient Semitic religion
- Arabian mythology
- El (deity)
- Sin (mythology)
- "Allah in The Bible". www.islam101.com. Retrieved 2021-03-13.
- "Islam Guide: Some Basic Islamic Beliefs". www.islam-guide.com. Retrieved 2021-03-13.
- 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.
- Jack T. Chick, "Allah Had No Son", Chick Publications (1994)
- A History of Pagan Europe. Prudence Jones, Nigel Pennick. Psychology Press, 1995. ISBN 0-415-09136-5 p.77
- "Scholarly Pursuits: Joseph Lumbard, classical Islam professor". BrandeisNOW. Brandeis University. December 11, 2007.
- Juan Eduardo Campo (ed.). "moon". Encyclopedia of Islam. p. 479.
- "Tafsir Ibn Kathir - 53:19 - english". quran.com. Retrieved 2021-05-21.
- A. Jeffrey, Islam: Mohammed and His Religion, Liberal Arts Press. 1958. ASIN: B000IXMTE4 pp. 85
- Studies on Islam. Merlin L. Swartz. University Press, 1981. ISBN 0-19-502716-7 pp.12
- Maimonides. Mishneh Torah, Yesodei ha-Torah §6:2.
- Alfred Guillaume. Islam. Penguin 1990 ISBN 0-14-013555-3 pp.7
- Merriam-Webster. "Allah". Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on 2014-04-20. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
- Timothy C. Tennent, Theology in the Context of World Christianity, Zondervan, 2009.
- Hilal - Oxford Islamic Studies Online
- Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi, What is the Significance of the Crescent Moon in Islam?, in Bismika Allahuma, October 12, 2005
- Star and crescent
- 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 Archived 2016-03-22 at the Wayback Machine, 11 March 2001
- "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
- Parsons, John Denham (2007). The Non-Christian Cross. BiblioBazaar. 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.
- "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
- Lord Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire, Morrow Quill Paperbacks, 1977, pp 23-24
- F. Hommel, First Encyclopedia of Islam, eds. M.T. Houtsma, T.W. Arnold, R. Basset, and R. Hartmann, Vol. 1, pp. 379-380
- C. Glassé, The New Encyclopedia of Islam, p. 185
- J. Wellhausen, Reste Arabischen Heidenthums. pp.75
- 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 0-521-65165-4 pp.112
- also mentioned in Meccan trade and the rise of Islam, Patricia Crone, Gorgias Press LLC, 2004, ISBN 1-59333-102-9 pp.185-195
- Hugo Winckler: "Arabisch, Semitisch, Orientalisch: Kulturgeschichtlich-Mythologische Untersuchung", 1901, W. Peiser: Berlin, p. 83.
- David Adams Leeming, Jealous gods and chosen people: the mythology of the Middle East, Oxford University Press, 2004, p.121.
- Eliade, Adams, The Encyclopedia of religion, Volume 1, Macmillan, 1987, p.365.
- Patricia Crone, "Meccan Trade And The Rise Of Islam", 1987, pp. 193-194."
- Peters, Francis E. (1994b), Muhammad and the Origins of Islam, SUNY Press, p. 107, ISBN 978-0-7914-1875-8
- Zeitlin, Irving M. (2007), The Historical Muhammad, Polity, p. 33, ISBN 978-0-7456-3999-4
- The Moon-god Allah in the Archeology of the Middle East. Newport, PA : Research and Education Foundation, 1994
- Jack G. Shaheen, Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture, Centre For Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University Occasional Papers, p. 8.
- Donald E. Schmidt, The folly of war: American foreign policy, 1898-2005, Algora, 2005, p.347.
- Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi, "The Mysterious Statue at Hazor: The “Allah” of the Muslims?, in Bismika Allahuma, October 15, 2005
- R. Brown, "Who Is "Allah"?", International Journal of Frontier Missions, 2006, Volume 23, No. 2, p. 79.
- Michael Abd El Massih, "The word Allah and Islam", in Arabic Bible Outreach Ministries
- Francis E. Peters, Muhammad and the origins of Islam, SUNY Press, 1994, p.109.
- A. Guillaume, The Life Of Muhammad: A Translation Of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, 2004 (18th Impression), op. cit., p. 386. 
- "Reply To Robert Morey's Moon-God Allah Myth: A Look At The Archaeological Evidence". www.islamic-awareness.org.
- Under the "Allah" entry, Ontology of Quranic Concepts in The Quranic Arabic Corpus, retrieved July 16, 2017
- F.E. Peters, Islam, p.4, Princeton University Press, 2003
- L. Gardet, Allah, Encyclopaedia of Islam
- See Qur'an 37:158)
- See Qur'an (6:100)
- See Qur'an (53:19-22; 16:57; 37:149)
- See Qur'an (53:26-27)
- Gerhard Böwering, God and his Attributes, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
- See Qur'an 6:109; 10:22; 16:38; 29:65)
- Shakir, M. H. "Ha Mim". The Koran. University of Michigan. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
- Gregory Starrett, "Islam and the Politics of Enchantment", Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, May 2009, vol. 15. S222-S240.
- Shaheen, Jack G (1997). "Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture" (PDF). p. 9. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-03-24.
- Sami Zaatari, "Muslims don't Worship a Moon God: Refuting the Moon God allegation". In Muslim Responses, 10 July 2017
- "Dismantling the Moongod Theory". In etori.tripod.com, 10 July 2017
- Ijaz Ahmad. "Allah The Moon God: Myth or Reality?" In Calling Christians, 1 August 2012
- Shabbir Ally. "Reply To Dr. Robert Morey's Moon-God Myth & Other Deceptive Attacks On Islam". In Islamic Awareness, 13 April 2000
- Farzana Hassan Shahid, Farzana Hassan, Prophecy and the fundamentalist quest: an integrative study of Christian and Muslim apocalyptic religion, McFarland, 2008, p.17
- Islamic Awareness, Reply To Robert Morey's Moon-God Allah Myth: A Look At The Archaeological Evidence Retrieved 21 October 2012
- Bismika Allahuma, Do Muslims Worship Allah The Moon God? Retrieved 8 July 2017