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|Religions of the ancient Near East|
|Pre-Islamic Arabian deities|
Arabian mythology is the set of ancient, pre-Islamic beliefs held by the Arab people. Prior to Islam, the Kaaba of Mecca was covered in symbols representing the myriad demons, djinn, demigods, or simply tribal gods and other assorted deities which represented the polytheistic culture of pre-Islamic Arabia. The shrine was dedicated to the god Hubal and also contained images the three chief goddesses Al-lāt, Al-‘Uzzá, and Manāt. Many of the physical descriptions of the pre-Islamic gods are traced to idols, especially near the Kaaba, which is believed to have contained up to 360 of them.
Allah in pre-Islamic Arabia
In pre-Islamic Arabia, including Mecca, Allah was probably used to refer by the polytheistic Arabs to a creator god or a supreme deity in their polytheistic pantheon. It was not used for a sole divinity as Allah is considered to be in Islam. The concept of Allah may have been vague in the Meccan religion. Muhammad's father's name was ʿAbd-Allāh meaning "the slave of Allāh". Pre-Islamic Christians, Jews and the monotheistic Arabs called Hanifs used the term Bismillah ("in the name of Allah") and the name Allah to refer to their supreme deity in Arabic stone inscriptions centuries before Islam.
The three chief goddesses of Meccan religion were Al-lāt, Al-‘Uzzá, and Manāt. Each was associated with certain domains and had shrines with idols located near Taif which were destroyed on orders of Muhammad. Allāt (Arabic: اللات) or Al-lāt was the goddess associated with the underworld. Al-‘Uzzá (Arabic: العزى) "The Mightiest One" or "The Strong" was an Arabian fertility goddess. She was called upon for protection and victory before war. Manāt (Arabic: مناة) was the goddess of fate; the Book of Idols describes her as the most ancient of all these idols. An idol of Manāt was erected on the seashore in the vicinity of al-Mushallal in Qudayd, between Medina and Mecca. The Aws and the Khazraj, as well as the inhabitants of Medina and Mecca and their vicinities, venerated Manāt and performed sacrifices before her idol, including offering their children. Pilgrimages of some Arabs, including the Aws, Khazraj, Yathrib and others, were not considered completed until they visited Manāt and shaved their heads.
Hubal (Arabic: هبل) was one of the most notable gods in Mecca where an image of him was worshipped at the Kaaba. The sanctuary was dedicated to Hubal, who was worshipped as the greatest of the 360 idols the Kaaba contained, which probably represented the days of the year. An idol of Hubal, said to have been near the Kaaba, is described as shaped like a human with the right hand severed and replaced with a golden hand. Manaf (Arabic: مناف), was another god of Meccans. He was related to women and menstruation.
- Wadd (Arabic: ود) was a god of love and friendship. Snakes were believed to be sacred to Wadd.
- Amm (Arabic: أم) was a moon god worshipped in ancient Qataban. He was revered as in association with the weather, especially lightning.
- Ta'lab (Arabic: تألب) was a god worshipped in southern Arabia, particularly in Sheba and also a moon god. His oracle was consulted for advice.
- Dhu'l-Halasa (Arabic: ذو الحلاس) was an oracular god of south Arabia. He was venerated in the form of a white stone.
- Al-Qaum (Arabic: القوم) was the Nabataean god of war and the night, and also guardian of caravans.
- Dushara (Arabic: ذو الشرى) was a Nabataean god, his name meaning "Lord of the Mountain"
- Jinn (also called djinn or genies, Arabic: جن jinn) are supernatural creatures which possess free will, and can be either good or evil. In some cases, evil genies are said to lead humans astray.
- Marids (Arabic: مارد mārid) are often described as the most powerful type of jinn, having especially great powers. They are the most arrogant and proud as well. Like every jinn, they have free will yet could be compelled to perform chores. They also have the ability to grant wishes to mortals, but that usually requires battle, and according to some sources imprisonment, rituals, or just a great deal of flattery.
- Ifrits (Arabic: عفريت ‘ifrīt) are infernal jinn, spirits below the level of angels and devils, noted for their strength and cunning. An ifrit is an enormous winged creature of fire, either male or female, who lives underground and frequents ruins. Ifrits live in a society structured along ancient Arab tribal lines, complete with kings, tribes, and clans. They generally marry one another, but they can also marry humans. While ordinary weapons and forces have no power over them, they are susceptible to magic, which humans can use to kill them or to capture and enslave them. As with the jinn, an ifrit may be either a believer or an unbeliever, good or evil, but he is most often depicted as a wicked and ruthless being.
- A Nasnas (Arabic: نسناس nasnās) is "half a human being; having half a head, half a body, one arm, one leg, with which it hops with much agility". It was believed to be the offspring of a demon called a Shiqq and a human being.
- Ghouls (Arabic: غول ghūl) are desert-dwelling, shapeshifting demons that can assume the guise of animal, especially hyenas. They lure unwary travellers into the desert wastes to slay and devour them. These creatures also prey on young children, rob graves, drink blood, and eat the dead, taking on the form of the one they previously ate. Because of the latter habit, the word ghoul is sometimes used to refer to an ordinary human such as a grave robber, or to anyone who delights in the macabre.
- Bahamut (Arabic: بهموت Bahamūt) is a vast fish that supports the earth. It is sometimes described as having a head resembling a hippopotamus or elephant.
- Karen Armstrong (2000,2002). Islam: A Short History. p. 11. ISBN 0-8129-6618-X. Check date values in:
- Zeki Saritopak, Allah, The Qu'ran: An Encyclopedia, ed. by Oliver Leaman, p. 34
- L. Gardet, Allah, Encyclopaedia of Islam, ed. by Sir H.A.R. Gibb
- Gerhard Böwering, God and his Attributes, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, ed. by Jane Dammen McAuliffe
- Hitti, Philip Khouri (2002). History of the Arabs. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 800. ISBN 9780333631423.
- Book of Idols
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- The Dawn of Civilisation, by: Gaston Maspero
- Tawil 1993
- Hommel, First Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. 1. p. 380
- The Book of Idols (Kitāb al-Asnām) by Hishām Ibn al-Kalbī
- Robert Irwin The Arabian Nights: a Companion (Penguin, 1994)
- "ghoul". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved January 22, 2006.
- Borges, Jorge Luis (2002). The Book of Imaginary Beings. London: Vintage. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0-09-944263-9.
- The Book of Idols (Kitāb al-Asnām) by Hishām Ibn al-Kalbī
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