List of pre-Islamic Arabian deities

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Deities formed a part of the polytheistic religious beliefs in pre-Islamic Arabia, with many of the deities' names known.[1] Formal pantheons are more noticeable at the level of kingdoms, of variable sizes, ranging from simple city-states to collections of tribes.[2] The Kaaba alone was said to have contained up to 360 idols of many gods and goddesses.[3] Tribes, towns, clans, lineages and families had their own cults too. Christian Julien Robin suggests that this structure of the divine world reflected the society of the time.[2]

A large number of deities did not have proper names and were referred to by titles indicating a quality, a family relationship, or a locale preceded by "he who" or "she who" (dhū or dhāt).[2]


Alphabetical list[edit]

Name Image Description
'Amm 'Amm is the moon god of Qataban. His attributes include the lightning bolts. Amm is served by the judge-god Anbay and has the Semitic goddess Asherah as his consort. Qatabanians are also known as Banu Amm, or "children of Amm".
'Athtar South Arabian - Fragment of a Frieze with an Ibex and Oryxes - Walters 2138.jpg 'Athtar is the god associated with the planet Venus and was the most common god to south Arabian cultures.
'Awf 'Awf is a deity whose name means "the great bird", suggesting a totemic origin.[4]
A'im A'im is a god who was worshipped by the Azd of al-Sarah.[5]
A'ra A'ra is a north Arabian tutelary god known from inscriptions in Bosra. The name implies a holy place or an altar, but its Arabic root also means "to dye". It is implied that many sacrifices (which may include children) were offered to the idol, staining it with blood.[6]
Abgal Abgal is a tutelary god worshipped by nomads, including bedouins,[7] and a tutelary god of the Arabs of the Palmyra region. His name is found in inscriptions dating to the times of the Palmyrene Empire, but none in Palmyra itself.[8]
Abirillu Abirillu is a god mentioned in an Assyrian inscription.[9]
Almaqah Panel Almaqah Louvre DAO18.jpg Almaqah was the chief-god of the Sabaeans. Associated with the bull's head and vines, he was regarded as the progenitor of the Sabaeans, and his worship spread to the Ethiopian kingdoms of Dʿmt and Kingdom of Aksum.
Amm-Anas Amm-Anas is a god worshipped by the Khawlin. According to the Book of Idols, the Khawlin would offer a portion of their livestock property and land products and give one part to Amm-Anas and the other to God.[10] While no epigraphic evidence of this god is known, the existence of Amm-Anas cannot be ruled out as his name is present in the personal name of a Khawlanite leader.
Anbay Anbay is a god of justice worshipped in Qataban, alongside Haukim, as gods of "command and decision".
Arsu
Ashar Ashar is one of the nomadic gods of the Arabs during the Palmyrene Empire period, along with Azizos, Ma'n, Abgal, Sa'd, and Mun'im.
Asira Asira is named in an inscription listing the deities of Tayma.
Atarquruma Atarquruma is a god worshipped by the Qedarites mentioned in an Assyrian inscription.[9] He probably originated as a form of Athtar, who in Saba was associated with Kurum, thought to be a hypostasis or a consort of Athtar.
Atarsamain Atarsamain is a deity of uncertain gender, worshipped among the Qedarites, and was associated with Venus.
Athtar Shariqan Athtar Shariqan is a form of Athtar who was invoked as an avenger against enemies. The word "Shariqan" means "the Eastern One". The worship of this god has spread to the Central Arabian kingdom of Kindah, where his name appears in Qaryat al-Fawt.
Bajir Bajir is a minor god of the Azd.
Basamum Basamum is a god worshipped in South Arabia whose name may be derived from Arabic basam, or balsam, a medicinal plant, indicating that he may be associated with healing or health.[11][12] One ancient text relates how Basamum cured two wild goats/ibexes.[11]
Dai Dai is named in an Assyrian inscription.[9]
Datin Datin is a god primarily known from inscriptions in northern Arabia, but his function is unknown.[13]
Dhat-Badan Dhat-Badan is a goddess of the oasis, worshipped in tree-circled pools.
Dhat Anwat Dhat Anwat is a tree deity worshipped by the Quraysh.
Dhu al-Kaffayn Dhu al-Kaffayn is, according to the Book of Idols, a god worshipped by the Daws, specifically the banu-Munhib ibn-Daws. His name means "he of the two palms".[14]
Dhu-Ghabat
Dhu-Samawi Dhu-Samawi, literally "the Heavenly One", is a god who probably originated from northern Arabia, but also found worship in south Arabia. The Bedouin would offer votive statuettes of camels, to ensure well-being of their herds. The Amir tribe also worshipped this god, and in inscriptions Dhu-Samawi was regarded as the "god of Amir".
Dhul Khalasa Dhul Khalasa is a god worshipped by the Bajila and the Khatham tribes, and was reportedly worshipped as a "god of redemption". His temple became known as the Kaaba of Yemen.
Dushara Dhushara.JPG Dhu al-Shara/Dushara is a mountain god worshipped primarily by the Nabataeans as their chief-god, and also by the Banū al-Hārith ibn-Yashkur ibn-Mubashshir clan of the Azd. Probably originating as an aspect of Ruda, he is associated with the Sun and the planet Mercury.
Al-Fals Al-Fals is a god who, according to the Book of Idols, is associated with animals, and that animals roaming in the territory of his idol would become a property of the god.[15] Primarily worshipped by the Tayy tribe, his idol and sanctuary was said to be located on the Jabal Aja.[15]
Haubas Haubas is an oracular deity of the Sabaeans. The deity's gender varies from area to area; in places where the deity is female, she is regarded as the consort of Athtar.
Haukim Haukim is a god of law and justice, worshipped alongside Anbay as gods of "command and decision".
Hawl Hawl was probably a moon god, as his name may have alluded to the lunar cycle. He was worshipped in Hadhramawt.
Hilal Hilal is a god of the new moon.
Hubal Hubal is a god associated with divination. His idol stood in the Kaaba, and his rituals were in the form of throwing divination arrows before the idol, in cases of virginity, death and marriage.[16] He is worshipped by many tribes, including the Quraysh, who controlled access to the idol. Hubal's name also appears in a Nabataean inscription in Mada'in Saleh, along with Dushara and Manat.
Isaf and Na'ila Isaf and Na'ila are a pair of deities, a god and a goddess, whose cult was centered near the Well of Zamzam. Islamic tradition gave an origin story to their idols; a couple who were petrified by Allah as they fornicated inside the Kaaba.
Al-Jalsad
Kahl Kahl is the patron god of the Kindah kingdom whose capital was Qaryat al-Faw.[17] The town was called Dhat Kahl after him. His name appears in the form of many inscriptions and rock engravings on the slopes of the Tuwayq, on the walls of the souk of the village, in the residential houses and on the incense burners.
Al-Kutbay Al-Kutbay is a god of writing worshipped by the Nabataeans.
Al-Lat Allat Palmyra RGZM 3369.jpg Al-Lat is a goddess associated with fertility and war. Her cult was spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula and as far as Palmyra. She was equated with Athena, the Greek goddess of war. In the Hejaz region, she was especially worshipped by the Banu Thaqif of Ta'if, and she was also worshipped by the Nabataeans of North Arabia. There is also evidence of her worship in South Arabia and Qedar, with her name being attested in inscriptions. In Islamic tradition, her worship was ended with the destruction of her shrine in Ta'if.
Manaf Manaf is a god, described by Muslim scholar At-Tabari as "one of the greatest deities of Mecca", although little information is available about him. It is said that women would keep his idol away during menstruation. Some scholars suggest that Manaf might be a solar god.[18]
Manāt Madain Saleh.jpg Manāt is the goddess of fate, destiny and death. In Nabataean and Latin inscriptions she was known as Manawat. She is an ancient goddess, predating both Allāt and Al-'Uzzá. She was associated with Dushara and Hubal, and was equated with the Greek goddess Nemesis. She became the chief goddess of both the Banu Aws and Banu Khazraj, the two polytheistic tribes of Yathrib (Medina). In Islamic tradition, her worship was ended with the destruction of her shrine in the shore of al-Qudayd.
Mun'im Mun'im, rendered in Greek as Monimos, is one of the nomadic gods of the Arabs during the Palmyrene Empire period, along with Azizos, Ma'n, Abgal, Sa'd, and Ashar.
Nasr Nasr is a god worshipped by the Himyarites and, according to the Book of Idols, was worshipped in a place called Balkha.[19] The tribe of Rabi`ah worshipped the god Nasr.[20]
Nuha Nuha is a goddess associated with the Sun. She was also associated with emotions, as described in various inscriptions in Najd, Saudi Arabia.
Nuhm
Qaynan Qaynan is a Sabaean god, and based on etymology, might be a god of smiths.
Quzah Quzah is a weather and a mountain god, as well as a god of the rainbow, worshipped by the people of Muzdalifah. His attribute is the bow and arrows of hailstones.[21] He was probably syncretized with the Edomite god Qos and became known as qaws quzah.[22]
Ruda Ruda is an important solar god in North Arabia. He is named in an Assyrian inscription as Ruldaiu and is frequently mentioned in Thamudic and Safaitic inscriptions. Dushara may have originated as a form of Ruda.
Sa'd Sa'd is a god of fortune worshipped by the Banu Kinanah tribe. His idol was a tall stone situated in the desert, and animals were sacrificed there for blessings.
Sa'd Another god by the name of Sa'd is worshipped by the nomads of Palmyra along with Abgal, Ashar and others.
Salm
Shams Shams/Shamsum is a female solar deity, possibly related to the Canaanite Shapash and the broader middle-eastern Shamash. She was the dominant goddess of the Himyarite Kingdom, and possibly still revered in some form by the Bedouin for several centuries afterward.[23][24][25][26]
Shay al-Qawm Shay al-Qawm is the god associated with war and the night worshipped by the Nabataeans. He is described as a god "who drinks no wine, who builds no home". The Lihyanites also worshipped him.
Shingala Shingala was named in an inscription listing the deities of Tayma.
Su'ayr Su'ayr is an oracular god of the 'Anazzah tribe.
Suwa' Suwa' is a god worshipped by the Hudhayl tribe.
Syn Syn was the chief-god of the Hadhramites. His role is disputed; while he may be connected to the Moon, and by extension, the Semitic god Sin (Sumerian Nanna), his symbol is the eagle, a solar symbol.
Ta'lab Bm 139443.jpg Ta'lab is a moon god primarily worshipped by the Sum'ay, a Sabaean federation of tribes, and he was also associated with pastures. He had an important temple in Riyam.
Theandrios Theandrios is the Greek name of a god worshipped by the Arab tribes of Mount Hermon.
Al-Uqaysir Al-Uqaysir is a god whose idol stood in Syria. According to the Book of Idols, his adherents include the tribes of Quda'a, Banu Lakhm, Judhah, Banu Amela, and Ghatafan. Adherents would go on a pilgrimage to the idol and shave their heads, then mix their hair with wheat, "for every single hair a handful of wheat."[27]
Al-‘Uzzá Nabataean betyl 1.JPG Al-'Uzzá is a goddess associated with might, protection and love. Equated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite, she was an important goddess of the Nabataeans, and a temple dedicated to her was set up at Petra. In the Hejaz, she became the chief goddess of the Quraysh, and a shrine housing three trees once stood in Nakhla. In pre-Islamic poetry, she was invoked as a symbol of beauty. In South Arabia, she was known as Uzzayān and she was associated with healing. In Islamic tradition, her worship was ended with the destruction of her shrine in Nakhla.
Wadd Wadd is the national god of the Minaeans and he was also associated with snakes. According to the Book of Idols, the Kalb worshipped him in the form of a man and is said to have represented heaven, and his idol reportedly stood at Dumat al-Jandal.
Al-Ya'bub Al-Ya'bub is a god that belonged to the Jadilah clan of Tayy, who according to the Book of Idols abstained from food and drink before him.[28] It is said that the clan originally worshipped a different idol until the tribe Banu Asad took it away from them.[28]
Ya'uq Ya'uq is a god worshipped by the Khaywin.
Yaghūth Yaghūth is a god worshipped by the Madhhij, a Qahtanite confederation. The people of Jurash in Yemen also worshipped him.
Yatha Yatha is a god associated with salvation. His name means "Savior".

Foreign deities[edit]

Statue of Al-Lat-Minerva from As-Suwayda, Syria.

Arabians, through contact with other cultures, also worshipped foreign deities, as this was the case in eastern Arabia, Nabataea, and many others.

Other Semitic deities[edit]

Palmyra was home to an Arab population, who arrived there in the late first millennium BC. The pantheon of Palmyra included mostly northwestern Semitic/Canaanite deities, with the addition of Mesopotamian deities and Arab deities, as well as local deities, which include Aglibol, Yarhibol and Malakbel. At Palmyra, a temple dedicated to Al-Lat was set up by a citizen Taimarsu of Palmyra circa 123-164 AD.[29]

In Arabia itself, the Lihyanites were said to have also worshipped Aglibol. Worship of Bel, Nabu and Shamash was evidently practiced in Eastern Arabia, brought into the region by merchants and visitors. In Islamic tradition, according to Ibn Ishaq, the god Hubal himself was brought into Mecca by a tribe leader named Amr ibn Luhayy, and according to al-Azraqi, the image was imported from Mesopotamia.

Greco-Roman deities[edit]

Through contact and influence, some local deities became identified with Greco-Roman deities, such as Al-Lat with Athena (or in Herodotus' case, Aphrodite), Al-'Uzza with Aphrodite Ourania, and Manat with Nemesis. Cults and temples of Arabian deities also found their way outside the peninsula, such as Dushara (Latin: Dusares) in Italy. An altar dedicated to Wadd (known in Greek as Oaddos) and various other Minaean deities evidently existed in the Greek island of Delos.

Egyptian deities[edit]

Bes, an Egyptian god, may have been worshipped in Arabia, as representations of a dwarf-god resembling him were found in the peninsula.

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Hoyland 2002, p. 139.
  2. ^ a b c Robin, Christian Julien, "South Arabia, Religions in Pre-Islamic", in McAuliffe 2005, pp. 87
  3. ^ Armstrong, Karen (2000). Islam: A Short History. p. 11. ISBN 0-8129-6618-X.
  4. ^ Hitti 2002, p. 101.
  5. ^ al-Kalbi 1952, p. 35.
  6. ^ Jordan 2014, p. 26.
  7. ^ Jordan 2014, p. 1.
  8. ^ Teixidor 1979, p. 81.
  9. ^ a b c Hoyland 2002, p. 134.
  10. ^ al-Kalbi 1952, p. 37.
  11. ^ a b Lurker 2015, p. 56.
  12. ^ Jordan 2014, p. 47.
  13. ^ Jordan 2014, p. 72.
  14. ^ al-Kalbi 1952, p. 32.
  15. ^ a b al-Kalbi 1952, p. 51.
  16. ^ Peters 1994, p. 109.
  17. ^ Hoyland 2002, p. 40.
  18. ^ Coulter & Turner 2013, p. 305.
  19. ^ al-Kalbi 1952, p. 10.
  20. ^ John F. Healey, Venetia Porter. Studies on Arabia in Honour of G. Rex Smith. Oxford University Press. p. 93
  21. ^ Jordan 2014, p. 260.
  22. ^ Teixidor 2015, p. 90.
  23. ^ J. F. Breton (Trans. Albert LaFarge), Arabia Felix From The Time Of The Queen Of Sheba, Eighth Century B.C. To First Century A.D., 1998, University of Notre Dame Press: Notre Dame (IN), pp. 119-120.
  24. ^ Julian Baldick (1998). Black God. Syracuse University Press. p. 20. ISBN 0815605226.
  25. ^ Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions, 1999 - 1181 páginas
  26. ^ J. Ryckmans, "South Arabia, Religion Of", in D. N. Freedman (Editor-in-Chief), The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 1992, Volume 6, op. cit., p. 172
  27. ^ al-Kalbi 1952, p. 42.
  28. ^ a b al-Kalbi 1952, p. 54.
  29. ^ Trombley 1993, p. 145.

Sources[edit]

  • Becking, Bob; Horst, Pieter Willem van der (1999), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 9780802824912
  • Coulter, Charles Russel; Turner, Patricia (2013), Encyclopaedia of Ancient Deities, Routledge, ISBN 1135963908
  • Hitti, Phillip K. (2002), History of The Arabs (Revised ed.), Macmillan International Higher Education, ISBN 9781137039828
  • Hoyland, Robert G. (2002), Arabia and the Arabs: From the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam, Routledge, ISBN 1134646348
  • Jordan, Michael (2014), Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Infobase Publishing, ISBN 1438109857
  • al-Kalbi, Ibn (1952), Book of Idols, Being a Translation from the Arabic of the Kitāb al-Asnām (Translation and Commentary by Nabih Amin Faris), Princeton University Press
  • Lurker, Manfred (2015), A Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Devils and Demons, Routledge, ISBN 9781136106200
  • Peters, Francis E. (1994), Muhammad and the Origins of Islam, SUNY Press, ISBN 9780791418758
  • Teixidor, Javier (2015) [1977], The Pagan God: Popular Religion in the Greco-Roman Near East, Princeton University Press, ISBN 9781400871391
  • Teixidor, Javier (1979), The Pantheon of Palmyra, Brill Archive, ISBN 9004059873
  • Trombley, Frank R. (1993), Hellenic Religion and Christianization: C. 370-529, BRILL, ISBN 9789004096240