First of all, let us go back in history and learn
more about gods of many nations at that time :
'Ilumquh of the Sabeans
Sheba is the Hebrew spelling of Saba, the name of an
ancient southwest Arabian kingdom roughly corresponding to the
modern territory of Yemen, originally settled by Semites from
western or central Arabia during the middle of the 2nd millennium
BC. Excavations at Ma'rib, its capital, during the 20th century have
revealed an imposing temple to the moon god.
Temple of 'Ilumquh at Marib Yemen, Sabean Moon Bull,
Incense Holder Aksum, Moon and Orb of Venus Sabean
wall frieze (Doe).
"The South Arabians before Islam were polytheists
and revered a large number of deities. Most of these were astral in
concept but the significance of only a few is known. It was
essentially a planetary system in which the moon as a masculine
deity prevailed. This, combined with the use of a star calendar by
the agriculturists of certain parts, particularly in the Hadramaut,
indicates that there was an early reverence for the night sky.
Amongst the South Arabians the worship of the moon continued, and it
is almost certain that their religious calendar was also lunar and
that their years were calculated by the position of the moon. The
national god of each of the kingdoms or states was the Moon-god
known by various names: 'Ilumquh by the Sabaeans, 'Amm and 'Anbay by
the Qatabanians, Wadd (love) by the Minaeans, and Sin by the
Hadramis". The term 'God is Love' is characteristic of Wadd
(Briffault 3/85). 'the Merciful' ascribed to Allah is also South
The sun-goddess was the moon's consort; she was
perhaps best known in South Arabia as Dhat Hamym, 'she who sends
forth strong rays of benevolence'. Another dominant deity was the
male god known as Athtar corresponding to Phoenician Astarte (Doe
25). Pritchard (61) claims their pantheon included the the moon god
Sin etc., Shams (Shamash) and Athtar or Astarte as in the Semitic
trinity, however it would appear that the sun was female as the
Canaanite Shapash who figures in Ugarit myth alongside Athtar
The earliest temple known is the Mahram Bilquis or
Harem of the Queen of Sheba, previously called the Awwam the temple
of the Moon God 'Ilumquh which dates from around 700 BC, although
its lower levels may be substantially older. Sabean moon worship
extended through a long period of time to around 400 AD when it was
overtaken be rescendent Judaism and Christianity around a century
From the 4th century AD, Christian bishops made
notable conversions of the Kings of Himyar , Aksum and of Ethiopia
generally. Narjan, an ancient pagan pilgrimage spot in a fertile
valley on the trade route became a Christian stronghold. Medina
became a centre of Jewish influence. Christianity and Judaism
entered into competition in Arabia, encouraged by the Persians. In
522, King Dhu Nawas Yusaf "Lord of Curls" became the last elected
Himyar king, descendent of a Jewish hero, who made war on the
Christians. He offered the citizens of Naryan the choice of Jewry or
death. When they refused he burned them all in a great trench.
Afterwards Narjan as named "the trench". In response the Ethiopians
overcame them and Abraha made San'a a Christian pilgrimage point
which rivalled Mecca. This led to an expeditionary force of
Christians to try to destroy the Ka'aba. In turn Persia invaded and
for a short time the country became a Persian satrapy. This confused
situation laid the seeds for the emergence of Islam.
Bilqis the Sun-worshipper of Islam
Bilquis was the Queen of the Sabeans in Solomons
time. Pre-Islamic poetry describes Solomon as a king of universal
kingdom of men, djinn and winds etc. nine angels stand before him.
He built the castle al-Ablaq near Taima.
"The great civilization of South Arabia was little
known to the Arabs of Muhammad's time [although] any of the Arab
tribes of Muhammad's day still had a tradition that they had lived
in South Arabia before taking to the desert when the old
civilization declined." Some tribes retained a memory of being
settled there before conditions worsened, apparently connected with
the Marib dam bursting and a return to nomadic life. Restorations
were know to have been carried out in 450 and 542 which puts a final
date on the demise (Pritchard 1974 88).
Sura 34:15 states: "Certainly there was a sign for
Saba in their abode; two gardens on the right and the left; eat of
the sustenance of your Lord and give thanks to Him: a good land and
a Forgiving Lord! But they turned aside, so We sent upon them a
torrent of which the rush could not be withstood, and in place of
their two gardens We gave to them two gardens yielding bitter fruit
and (growing) tamarisk and a few lote-trees."
Sura 27:15-44 relates many of the episodes already
found for example in the Targum Sheni, a further indication of the
familiarity Muhammad had with details of Jewish literature outside
the Pentateuch. Rather than Bilqis being portrayed as a demon,
Solomon is portrayed as a great man of God and master of the Djinn
to whom Bilquis submits in acknowledgement of al-Llah. The story of
the Hoopoe is told. The people of Sheba are said to be
sun-worshippers. Her throne is disguised and placed before her as a
test. She says "It is like it' evasively. As she walks on to the
palace: 44 "She though it a pool and uncovered her legs. Solomon
said 'It is a place paved with glass.' She sadi 'I have wronged
myself to God, Lord of the worlds, with Solomon I make submission.'
Moon and Sun deities surmounted by the Eagle.
Al-Uzza as Moon Goddess commands the Zodiac surmounted by the moon
and carrying a moon staff. The temple of Manatu at Petra.
Dionysian tragic mask with dolphins. Grape freeze
(centre). Aretas IV and Shaqilat II (Glueck).
Al-Lat, al-Uzza and Duchares: the Deities of Nabatea
A second prominent Arab culture had sprung up from
Southern Sinai around 600 BC and from around 400 BC in the land of
the Edomites in Jordan. The Nabateans had a close relationship with
the Edomites as they each claim a female line of descent from
Ishmael, through Bashemath one of the three wives of Esau and her
sister Nabaioth respectively (Browning 32), conditions favourable to
integration. This also gave the Edomites descent from Isaac through
Esau. The son of Esau and Bashemath was Ruel the Midianite father in
Law of Moses.
The Nabateans migrated from Arabia as shepherds and
caravan traders who benefited from horse breeding and settled
adaptably to form rich irrigated productive land with a prominent
trade, centred on the previously unpopulated area round Petra - 'a
rose red city half as old as time'. During the time of Jesus,
Nabatea was an independent Kingdom with influence spreading to
Damascus. Herod was involved in hostilities with Aretas IV the King
of Nabatea because Herodias displaced Aretas's daughter as Herod's
wife. Although they were annexed by the Romans they continued to be
a significant Arab power to the time of Muhammad.
Herodotus says of the Arabs: "They deem no other to
be gods save Dionysus and Heavenly Aphrodite ... they call Dionysus
Orotalt and Aphrodite Alilat" (Negev 101). In Sumeria Allatu or
'goddess' is an epithet of Ereshkigal the chthonic goddess of the
underworld. Like El and al-Llah which simply means god, al-Lat
'goddess' could be identified with many female deities, and indeed
Allat is identified with Aphrodite-Venus (Negev 112). It is said
that when Allat became the goddess of the Nabateans, she bacame
al-Uzza the 'mighty one' as she evolved from a local deity into a
patron of an expanding culture (Browning 47). We have seen that
al-Uzza is also referred to in connection with the Bedouins at
Harran (Green T 62).
Horned stele with Qos-allah, Seal attributed to
Edomite Qaush, Djin block (Glueck, Browning).
Nabatean inscriptions in Sinai and other places
display widespread references to names including Allah, El and Allat
(god and goddess) , with regional references to al-Uzza, Baal and
Manutu (Manat) (Negev 11). Allat is also found in Sinai in South
Arabian language. Allah occurs particularly as Garm-'allahi - god
dedided (Greek Garamelos) and Aush-allahi - 'gods covenant' (Greek
Ausallos). We find both Shalm-lahi 'Allah is peace' and Shalm-allat,
'the peace of the goddess'. We also find Amat-allahi 'she-servant of
god' and Halaf-llahi 'the successor of Allah'.
A stele is dedicated to Qos-allah 'Qos is Allah' or
'Qos the god', by Qosmilk (melech - king) is found at Petra (Glueck
516). Qos is identifiable with Kaush (Qaush) the God of the older
Edomites. The stele is horned and the a seal from Edomite Tawilan
near Petra identified with Kaush displays a star and crescent
(Browning 28), both consistent with a moon diety. It is conceivable
the latter could have resulted from trade with Harran (Bartlett
194). There is continuing debate about the nature of Qos (qaus -
bow) who has been identified both with a hunting bow (hunting god)
and a rainbow (weather god) although the crescent above is alsao a
bow. There is no reference to Qos in the Old Testament, but Seir is
one of the domains of Yahweh, suggesting a close relationship. His
attributes in inscriptions include knowing, striking down, giving
and light (Bartlett203). Attempts have been made to also explain the
existence of this scarab in the light of trade with Harran for which
evidence has been found in cuneiform tablets (Bartlett 194).
The Nabateans had two principal gods in their
pantheon, and a whole range of djinns, personal gods and spirits
similar to angels. These deities were Dhu Shara, or Duchares and
al-Uzza. Duchares means Lord of Shera (Seir), a local mountain and
thunder god who was worshipped at a rock high place as a block of
stone frequently squared, just as Hermes was the four-square god.
Suidas in the tenth century AD described it as a 'cubic' black stone
of dimension 4x2x1 (Browning 44). All the deities male and female
were represented as stones or god-blocks.
The treasury at Petra. Al-Uzza as grain goddess and
as Mari the sea goddess crowned by dolphins.
Duchares was a Zeus-like mountain deity of Jebel
Shara, with associations with sacred kingship whose rites took a
prominent place in the scheme of worship. Notably King Obodas became
Zeus Oboda (Negev 111). He is described on a dam inscription as
'Dushara the god of Gaia' (Negev 107). He was celebrated as a god of
immortality celebrated by a Dionysian tragic mask of death, in which
its wearer became united with him, thus escaping the limitations of
the mortal span (Glueck 242). He is surrounded by dolphins as was
Al-Uzza was a deity of springs and water, as befits
a fertility goddess, and as such she would have been reverenced in
Petra with particular devotion" (Browning 47). Manathu (the Manat of
Islam) was the patron goddess of Petra, being Fortuna having a
similar role to Semitic Gad (Browning 48). As Moon Goddess Tyche she
was also Fortune holding a cornucopia of overflowing fruit.
The Nabateans originally were tent-dwelling
shepherds renowned, like their fellow tribe the Recchabites, for
eschewing houses, planted crops or wine, in their case on penalty of
death (Negev 101), a sentiment shared by Muhammad, who looked with
contempt upon the Kuryshites and Ansari "for they employ themselves
with sowing seeds" ... "The divine glory is among the shepherds,
vanity and impudence among the agricultural peoples" (Briffault
However agricultural settlement brought changes and
the Greek period produced a hybrid culture. Al-Uzza became
identified with Atargatis-Aphrodite and Duchares with Dionysus.
Freezes including grape vines are prominent, consistent with
Dionysian rites, which Browning (47) concedes may have become the
"pornographic pop concerts which came to debase the once-glorious
cult of Dionysos." Glueck (166) is even more forthright: "Rich food
in plenty and strong wine without stint helped bring the deities and
ther worshippers into fervid relationship. Bar-Hebraeus quoted Psalm
12:8 of Nabatean women "the wicked walk on every side while vileness
is exhalted among the sons of men". The scope and nature of the
temples supports both males and females being worshippers of the
The Nabateans, like the Harranians, followed a
complex system of astral worship, involving the sun and moon and
seven major planets, in which in her varying forms, the Goddess
represented Venus and the Moon (Glueck 453). As Moon Goddess she is
identifiable with Tyche, Selene and Atargatis-Artemis of Hierapolis.
Selene was worshipped in the new and full moon. She stands prima
inter pares at the centre of the main dieties of the Nabatean
pantheon the seven planets and the zodiac, although sometimes
displaced by Zeus. The snake twined eagle is shown in at least one
relief standing above both the sun and moon at Jebel Druze. However
the fertility goddess, who was also in her aspects the
dolphin-crowned Sea Goddess (Aphrodite-Mari) of seafarers and the
Moon Goddess clearly dominates the sculptures at Khirbet Tannur, the
outstanding Nabataean high sanctuary, archetypal of the biblical
high places (Glueck).
Women played a significant role in Nabatean society.
Aretas IV was on coinage with Shaqilat I, while Malichus II was
alongside Shaqilat II. "Married women could bequeath and hold
property and genealogy was sometimes traced through the maternal
line. Pagan temples, whether inside or outside the Nabataean kingdom
were dedicated to both Dushara and Allat or to localized equivalents
of Zues Hadad and Atargatis. Indeed in general, Atargatis seems to
have outranked her consort by far" (Glueck 166).
National Star and Crescent Symbols of the Islamic
Allah and his three Daughters of Destiny
The Nabatean findings are consistent with the idea
that Sin is also the progenitor of the ancient Arabian high God
al-Llah, which like El simply means God, who is still represented by
the crescent moon. It has already been noted that the star and
crescent of Islam is prefigured both in the coinage of Harran and
the symbolic relationship between the crescent moon of Sin and the
evening star of Ishtar, seen also among the Sabeans.
Muhammad's very purpose was to return to the God of
Abraham, recognising the tension between the Christians and the Jews
indicated things had gone awry with both Moses and Jesus. Had the
monotheistic heritage not become so dominant in Arabia in the
century before Muhammad, he might well have remained true to the
ancient Moon deity which had been the God of the Arabs since time
immemorial and was the true source of al-Lah.
Just as it was diminished by Yahweh, the moon was
made subservient by Muhammad. "The moon had descended from heaven
and had bowed down doing homage to Muhammad. He was transfigured in
its rays, which penetrated his garment and filled his body with
light" (Briffault v3 78).
Sura 29.61 "And if you ask them,
Who created the heavens and the earth
and made the sun and the moon subservient,
they will certainly say, Allah."
Muhammad is concerned to deny that Abraham would
worship the sun, moon or Ishtar. Sura 6.75 And thus did We show
Ibrahim the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and that he might
be of those who are sure. So when the night over-shadowed him, he
saw a star; said he: Is this my Lord? So when it set, he said: I do
not love the setting ones. Then when he saw the moon rising, he
said: Is this my Lord? So when it set, he said: If my Lord had not
guided me I should certainly be of the erring people. Then when he
saw the sun rising, he said: Is this my Lord? Is this the greatest?
So when it set, he said: O my people! surely I am clear of what you
set up (with Allah). Surely I have turned myself, being upright,
wholly to Him Who originated the heavens and the earth, and I am not
of the polytheists."
However polytheists did not make such a literal
identification. The image or astronomical form a deity was symbolic
- a realization of their nature. As we have seen, the followers of
the high moon god perceived the deity in very much the same terms
Muhammad describes al-Llah., even questioning whether a mere human
prophet can act as an intermediary with the cosmic godhead. The
ancients all knew the sun and moon rose and set. Some were very
Nevertheless, Muhammad does read considerable
significance into the Moon. He swears three times by the Moon in the
Koran. They reasons are serious - hell and the disbvelievers:
Sura 74.32 "I swear by the moon,
And the night when it departs,
And the daybreak when it shines;
Surely it (hell) is one of the gravest
Sura 84.16 But nay! I swear by the sunset redness,
And the night and that which it drives on,
And the moon when it grows full,
That you shall most certainly enter one state after
But what is the matter with them that they do not
And when the Qur'an is recited to them they do not
The prophet cites the moon rending asunder:
Sura 54: The Moon
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent the Merciful.
The hour drew nigh and the moon did rend asunder.
And if they see a miracle they turn aside and say:
Transient magic. And they call (it) a lie,
and follow their low desires;
and every affair has its appointed term.
"Many of the Arab tribes of Muhammad's day still had
a tradition that they had lived in South Arabia before taking to the
desert when the old civilization declined." The term ascribed above
to Allah - "the Merciful" ar-Rahman originates from South Arabia,
(Pritchard 89) suggesting that Allah, the ancient male deity
worshipped at the Ka'aba long before the lifetime of Muhammad, has a
direct link with 'Ilumquh, the Arabic Moon God of the Sabeans.
The moon aligning with the sun in a solar eclipse
signifies the day of ressurection:
Sura 75.6 He asks: When is the day of resurrection?
So when the sight becomes dazed,
And the moon becomes dark,
And the sun and the moon are brought together,
Man shall say on that day: Whither to fly to?
By no means! there shall be no place of refuge!
With your Lord alone shall on that.day be the place
In Sura 2.189 the prophet sets off the new crescent
moon as a sacred period: "They ask you concerning the new moon. Say:
They are times appointed for (the benefit of) men, and (for) the
pilgrimage." The month-long fast of Ramadan begins and ends with the
new moon. The Arabic calendar is exclusively lunar, ignoring the
solar cycle completely. There are 12 lunar months of alternate 30
and 29 days, closely averaging the 29 d 12.7 h lunar cycle, making
the year only 354 days long, so the months move backward through all
the seasons and complete a cycle every 32 1/2 years, emphasizing the
pivotal position of the moon in the Arabic consciousness.
Sura 25.61 "Blessed is He Who made the
constellations in the heavens
and made therein a lamp and a shining moon.
And He it is Who made the night and the day to
follow each other
for him who desires to be mindful or desires to be
"The moon was the 'protector of women', and was
associated with a feminine counterpart". Allah was originally paired
with his daughters - the banat al-Lah.. "This Arabian goddess was
triune, being also known as the three Holy Virgins". The Manat
consisted of al-Lat "the goddess", Q're (possibly Kore) the Virgin,
and al-Uzza the 'powerful one' (Briffault). Al-Uzza was the moon.
Manat was bringer of good and bad luck, just as the Greek Moria the
three fates and the Arabic term mana.
Occhigrosso (1996) affirms the moon God association
and the astronomical basis of the black stone: "Before Muhammad
appeared, the Kaaba was surrounded by 360 idols, and every Arab
house had its god. Arabs also believed in jinn (subtle beings), and
some vague divinity with many offspring. Among the major deities of
the pre-Islamic era were al-Lat ("the Goddess"), worshiped in the
shape of a square stone; al-Uzzah ("the Mighty"), a goddess
identified with the morning star and worshiped as a
thigh-bone-shaped slab of granite between al Talf and Mecca; Manat,
the goddess of destiny, worshiped as a black stone on the road
between Mecca and Medina; and the moon god, Hubal, whose worship was
connected with the Black Stone of the Kaaba. The stones were said to
have fallen from the sun, moon, stars, and planets and to represent
cosmic forces. The so-called Black Stone (actually the color of
burnt umber) that Muslims revere today is the same one that their
forebears had worshiped well before Muhammad and that they believed
had come from the moon. (No scientific investigation has ever been
performed on the stone. In 930, the stone was removed and shattered
by an Iraqi sect of Qarmatians, but the pieces were later returned.
The pieces, sealed in pitch and held in place by silver wire,
measure about 10 inches in diameter altogether and several feet
high; they are venerated today in patched-together form.)"
"The Quraysh had settled in Mecca towards the end of
the fifth century. Their ancestor Qusayy, had settled in the Meccan
valley beside the Sanctuary. Legend has it that Qusayy had travelled
in Syria and brought the three goddesses al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat
to the Hijaz and enthroned the Nabatean god Hubal in the Ka'aba. In
a campaign that combined trickery and force, the Quraysh managed to
take control of Mecca and expel the Khuza'ah, its guardian tribe who
were considered to have failed their sacred trust" (Armstrong 1991).
There are several difficulties with this legend. We have seen that
al-Uzza and before her al-Lat have a considerable history as Arab
deities, stretching all the way back to Sumeria."
Hubal, in al-Kalbi's 'Book of Idols (Faris 23), is
described as a red-agate statue of a male figure. One passage of
al-Kalbi suggests however more of an identification with forms of
arrow oracle known throughout the Near East, which are more
consistent with Persian influence: "In front of [the idol] were
seven divination arrows ". To make a decison or resolve a conflict
"they would proceed to the idol and shuffle the divination arrows
before it." In Exekiel 21:21 it is noted "For the King of Babylon
stands at the parting of the ways he shakes the arrows, he consults
the teraphim, he looks at the liver". Such oracles, the urim and
tummim were also a vehicle of the Torah (Snaith 146).
Nevertheless, the Ka'aba was a sacred sanctuary
which displayed tolerance to many paths, containing no less than 360
images and many pictures including those of Jesus and Mary. It was
the sacred rule that the faithful should have access to the
sanctuary without discrimination and there should be no conflict
within 10 miles. The seven circumambulations and the 360 images
appear to be related to worship of the seven planets of the
Babylonian system and the 360 days of the Sumerian calendar, which
was also shared by the Hebrew jubilees calendar. Each Arab tribe had
their protecting star from among the Houses of the Moon (Briffault
3/81). The Ka'aba appears to be aligned for lunar and stellar
observation. Another noted Ka'aba was sited at Najran, the
previously mentioned site of the trench massacre, which was probably
in pre-Christian times of similar fame to Mecca. The remains of this
Ka'aba contain an inscription to Wadd 'Ab the Moon God of the
The hajj itself was originally an Autumn rite
apparently persecuting the dying sun to bring on the winter rains.
Pilgrims would rush in a body to the hollow of Muzdalifa, the abode
of the Thunder God, make an all-night vigil on the plain by Mt.
Arafat, hurl pebbles at the three sacred pillars of Mina and offer
an animal sacrifice" (Armstrong 1991 62).
One should pause to consider the following fact: The
Ka'aba was holy ground and a great measure of the holiness was its
religious tolerance. The Ka'aba was a place where all the faithful
could assemble to honour a time-immemorial tradition. All forms of
violence between any parties were forbidden in Mecca for four months
during the hajj. The worshippers of al-Llah, al-Lat and even the
Christian Arabs could all come together at the Ka'aba. If the hands
of Allah and Allat could again be united across the Ka'aba, as are
the hands of particle and wave in the physical universe, the world
could know eternal peace.
Al-Lat had a shrine at Taif, which was in a cooler
and more fertile part of the Hijaz, and al-Uzza had one Naklah to
the south east of Mecca and that Manat, the fateful one had her
shrine at Qudayd on the Red Sea coast (Armstrong 1991). As Mecca had
the Ka'aba, so these places were also centres of pilgrimage, as
described in detail by al-Kalbi (Faris).
"The banat al-Llah may well simply have been 'divine
beings'. They were represented in their shrines not by a
personalised statue or portrait but by large standing stones, rather
like the fertility symbols used by the Canaanites which are so often
described in the Bible. When the Arabs venerated these stones they
were not worshipping them in any crude, simplistic way but were
seeing them as a focus of divinity. It has also been suggested that
these three goddesses were related to the Semitic fertility
goddesses Anat and Ishtar, so their cultus may have begun before the
Arabs adopted the nomadic life, while they were still farmers and
living on the land. The Arabs may not have worshipped al-Lat,
al-Uzza and Manat in a personalised way, but ... they felt very
passionate about the shrines of the banat al-Lah " (Armstrong 1991).
The banat al-Lah were overthrown by Muhammad, along
with other pagan deities. Tabari quotes an early tradition of about
seventy years after the prophet's death. ... "As long as he preached
the cult of al-Llah, with its concern for the poor and needy,
everybody in Mecca had been ready to accommodate this reformed cult
of the old High God. But once he affirmed that the worship of
al-Llah must preclude the worship of all the other ancestral gods,
the Quraysh 'rebutted him with vehemence, not approving what he
said, and aroused against him those who had followed him, except
those whom God kept safe and they were few in number'. Overnight,
Islam became a despised minority sect."
The historians Ibn Sa'd and Tabari (who quotes two
versions) mention the satanic verses. In one the prophet is
approached by Qur'ash to make a deal and persuaded to utter the
verses in return for promise of admission to Mecca's inner circles.
In the other, the prophet genuinely tries to find a place for the
goddesses without compromising his monothesim. "When the apostle saw
that his people had tumed their backs on him and he was pained by
their estrangement from what he brought them from God, he longed
that there should come to him from God a message that would
reconcile his people to him. One day, Tabari says, while he was
meditating in the Ka'aba, the answer seemed to come in a revelation
that gave a place to the three 'goddesses' without compromising his
Sura 53.19 "Have you then considered the Lat and the
And Manat, the third, the last?
these are the exhalted birds [gharaniq]
whose intercession is approved"
According to this version of the story, the Quraysh
were delighted with the new revelation, which in al-Kalbi's words
was the traditional invocation made by the Qura'sh to the goddesses
as they circumambulated the Ka'aba (Faris 17). The gharaniq were
probably Numidian cranes which were thought to fly higher than any
other bird. Muhammad, may have believed in the existence of the
banat - al-Llah as he believed in the existence of angels and jinn,
was giving the 'goddesses' a delicate compliment, without
compromising his message. ... The Quraysh spread the good news
throughout the city: 'Muhammad has spoken of our gods in splendid
fashion. He alleged in what he recited that they are the exalted
gharaniq whose intercession is approved" (Armstrong 1993 112).
Muhammad later removed these verses because he was
later told by Gabriel they were "Satan inspired". The rejection of
the Manat led to the historic conflict with the Qur'ash which
resulted in the flight to Medina.
Sura 53.19 "Have you then considered the Lat and the
And Manat, the third, the last?
What! for you the males and for Him the females!
This indeed is an unjust division!
They are naught but names which you have named,
you and your fathers;
Allah has not sent for them any authority.
They follow naught but conjecture and their low
This statement comes the very line after the
Prophet's sole report of his night journey down the axis Mundi, very
possibly under the inspiration of isfand. It would thus appear that
the Prophet has a vision on the sacred plant which directly led him,
by contrast, to perceive the idols as mere wood and stone.
He continues in this vein specifically disclaiming
"53.26 And how many an angel is there in the heavens
whose intercession does not avail at all
except after Allah has given permission to whom He
pleases and chooses.
Most surely they who do not believe in the hereafter
name the angels with female names."
A hint of the reversal of the satanic verses can be
gleaned in the following passage:
"We sent not ever any Messenger
or Prophet before thee, but that Satan
cast into his fancy, when he was fancying:
but God annuls what Satan casts, then
God confirms his signs."
When he abolished the idols of the old religion,
Muhammad, whose dominating ideal was to unite all Arabian tribes
into a single political body bound by a common cult, felt it to be
undesirable or impracticable to do away with the most sacrosanct
object or symbol of the old religion". Briffault (3/79) notes
"Al-Kindy says that Al-Uzza was the moon, her chief shrine being the
Ka'aba at Mecca, where she was worshipped in the form of a sacred
stone, ... the very stone which the pilgrims to this day visit Mecca
to kiss". In doing so the pilgrims recite Caliph Omar's warning
declaration : "I know well that you are a stone that can neither do
good nor evil, and unless I had seen the prophet , on whom be prayer
and the blessings of god kiss you, I would not kiss you".
The identity of the Black Stone with the Great
Goddess and with the moon is recognised bythe Hulama - the
rationalist school of Islam (Briffault 3/80). "As in most other
shrines in Semitic and also in Greek lands, the aniconic stone of
the deity stood by a sacred spring, or well, the Zemzem, whose
sacred waters are drunk by all good Muslims. It is noted above the
al-Uzza was the goddess of springs. She was also represented in-the
form of three samura palms, which stood, and still stand, by her
stone" (Briffault). Legend says the sacred stone fell as a meteorite
(Armstrong 1991), although it has also been suggested to be of
volcanic origin (Browning).
The guardians are still called the Beni Shaybah, or
sons of the old woman (Briffault 3/80). Popular tradition relates
how Abraham, when he founded the Ka'aba brought the ground from an
old woman to which it belonged. She however consented to part with
it only on the condition that she and her descendents should have
the key of the place in their keeping" (Briffault). The Hajira or
'sudden departure' although applied to the events following 622
bears the same name as Hajira (Hagar) , who discovered the spring of
Zam Zam flowing by Ishmael's foot when searching for water for him
after the 'sudden departure' of Ibrahim (Shad 48).
Al-Quba Medina, the first Mosque crowned by the
The sacred stone of the Ka'aba - the "Navel of the
A Minaret at the Ka'aba crowned by the crescent
Muhammad then mounted a singular rejection of the
daughters of al-Lah. Muhammad was offered a pact of mutual religious
toleration between Allah and Allat which was entirely in keeping
with the holy place it was: "the Muslims could go on worshipping
al-Lllah in their religion, and the others could go on worshipping
al-Lat al-Uzza and Manat. In response Muhammad recited the Sura of
Sura 109 "Say O unbelievers, I serve not what you
and you are not serving what I serve,
Nor am I serving what you have served.
To you your religion and to me my religion!"
The attitude of the other side is frankly portrayed
by Muhammad: 23.24 "And the chiefs of those who disbelieved from
among his people said: 'He is nothing but a mortal like yourselves
who desires that he may have superiority over you, and if Allah had
pleased, He could certainly have sent down angels. We have not heard
of this among our fathers of yore: He is naught but a man
Circumstances became steadily worse. A ban was
imposed which led to much hardship. Khadja died. Muhammad was asked
a difficult question by Abu Lahab: "Would Muhammad's father have
gone to hell because he was a pagan?" (Armstrong 1991 136). Muhammad
ended up having to retreat to Medina. It is significant that of the
pilgrims to Mecca from Medina in 622, 73 of the men, but only 3 of
the women were followers of the Prophet (Armstrong 1991 149).
The subsequent rise of jihad after the Pledge of War
at the hajj of 622 resulted later in the notorious souk of Medina in
which 700 Jews were needlessly beheaded, only to end in a historic
compromise - the Haj, the ancient pilgrimage to the sacred stone,
would continue if Mecca accepted Islam. Thus the beheading of 700
Jews was unnecessary and jihad was not fulfilled.
"When Muhammad overthrew the old religion of Arabia,
he was not strong enough to defy and offend the immemorial sentiment
of the Arab people. The divine mission of the prophet was reconciled
with the old religion by Islam receiving the sanction of the
immemorial deity" (Briffault v3 78).
His first attempt to return to Mecca was met with
stiff opposition for which he displayed prophetic forebearance. He
agreed to reconciliation, not war at Hudaybiyah. He displays his
considerable knowledge of Jewish tradition when he invokes the
Sakina or Spirit of Tranquillity - Armstrong says: "The sakina it
will also be recalled, seems to be related to the Hebrew Shekhinah,
the term for God's presence in the world""
"It is He who sent down the sakina
into the hearts of the believers,
that they might add faith to their faith."
(Armstrong 1991 224)
Muhammad's second return to the Ka'aba was the
Lesser Pilgrimage negotiated through the treaty at Hudaybiyah. "The
huge crowd of pilgrims in their white garments filed slowly into
their holy city, led by Muhammad riding on Qaswa, and the valley
resounded with their cry: 'Here I am at your service, 0 God!' When
he reached the Ka'aba, Muhammad dismounted and kissed the Black
Stone, embracing and stroking it, and then began to make the
circumambulations followed by the whole pilgrim body."
On his next return to Mecca, he came in triumph. "He
rose, performed the ritual ablutions and offered the prayer. Then,
mounted on Qaswa, he rode round the Ka'aba seven times, touching the
Black Stone each time and crying 'al-Llahu Akbar!' The shout was
taken up by his 10,000 soldiers and soon the whole city resounded
with the words that symbolised the final victory of Islam. Next
Muhammad turned his attention to the 360 idols around the shrine:
crowded on to their roofs and balconies, the Quraysh watched him
smash each idol while he recited the verse: 'the truth has come, and
falsehood has vanished'. Inside the Ka'aba the walls had been
decorated with pictures of the pagan deities and Muhammad ordered
them all to be obliterated, though it is said that he allowed
frescoes of Jesus and Mary to remain. Eventually Islam would forbid
the use of all imagery in its worship because it distracts the mind
from God by allowing it to dwell on purely human symbols of the
divine (Armstrong 1991).
The notion that idols are powerless by comparison
with the true divine source is a very materialistic perspective.
Christianity has continued to be steeped in every form of idol
worship in the understanding that images of Jesus and Mary are
merely metaphors for the transcendent deity. It is precisely in this
sense that the idols of Sin and Ishtar and the other astral and
chthonic deities were worshipped. Moreover, monotheistic religion is
itself spiritually idolatrous because it thrusts compulsively one
fixed image of the transcendent, particularly as a male creator with
a jealous reactive ego who punishes the unbeliever and upholds a
strict unchanging rule of order. Although 'the Tao that can be told
is not the countless Tao', extending this truth to a tabu against
forming an image of the transcendent on pain of death is idolatory
of the most tryanical sort, contrasting sadly with the tradition of
spiritual tolerance for which the ancient Ka'aba stands.
Of course it was easy for the Prophet with the
conscious vision of isfand to portray the stone and wooden idols as
inert, but to say that force of political revolution made these
deities powerless is a worldly and profane argument.
The facts are that each temple was demolished or
burned to the ground, and the priests and priestesses put to the
sword. Indeed when the banu-Umahmah were slaughtered for defending
dhu-al-Khalasah which stood half way to Sana, a certain woman cried
"The banu-Umamah, each wielding his spear,
Were slaughtered at al-Waliyah, their abode;
They came to defend their shrine only to find
Lions with brandished swords clamouring for blood.
The women of Khath'am were then humiliated
by the men of Ahmas and debased".
It is said by al-Bukhari that the Prophet himself
said: "This world shall not pass away until the buttocks of the
women of Daws wiggle [again] around the dhu-al-Khalasah and they
worship it as they were want to do [before Islam]" (Faris 32).
A measure of Muhammad's limited knowledge of the
ancient traditions of the Arab deities is gained from the fact that
the Qur'an states that the Queen of Sheba was converted to the true
god from the sun-worship of her people (Pritchard 1974 14), while
all the evidence at Marib suggests that the Moon God, the very
source of the crescent of Islam, was always the predominant deity.
Sura 27.22 "I have brought to you a sure information
from Sheba. Surely I found a woman ruling over them, and she has
been given abundance and she has a mighty throne: I found her and
her people adoring the sun instead of Allah, and the Shaitan has
made their deeds fair-seeming to them and thus turned them from the
way, so they do not go aright. That they do not make obeisance to
Allah, Who brings forth what is hidden in the heavens and the earth
and knows what you hide and what you make manifest: Allah, there is
no god but He: He is the Lord of mighty power."
Had Hilkiah not entered into his "discovery" of the
Deuteronomic revision, and Arabia not been subjected to two paternal
montheistic religions Judaism and Christianity, vying for
ascendancy, Islam might well have become a religion of peace and
harmony between man and woman and included the missing principle of
fertility upon which the future of the world now depends.