The Pagan Origins of the Name of the Islamic deity

Pagan Origins of the Name “Allah

The word “Allah” comes from the compound Arabic word, al-ilah. Al is the definite article “the” and ilah is an Arabic word for “god”, i.e. the god. We see immediately that (a) this is not a proper name but a generic name rather like the Hebrew El (which as we have seen was used of any deity; and (b) that Allah is not a foreign word (as it would have been if it had been borrowed from the Hebrew Bible) but a purely Arabic one. It would also be wrong to compare “Allah” with the Hebrew or Greek for G-D (El and Theos, respectively), because “Allah” is purely an Arabic term used exclusively in reference to an Arabic deity.

The Encyclopedia of Religion says: “‘Allah’ is a pre-Islamic name … corresponding to the Baylonian Bel” (ed. James Hastings, Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1908, I:326).

I know that Muslims will find this hard to believe so I am now going to make many citations and present the archaeological evidence to prove conclusively that is true. Though this data will be painful for many of our readers, it is necessary to face the truth. Facts are facts, and unless you are willing to desert all logic, reason and common sense, and the evidence of your eyes, they must be faced.

  • “Allah is found … in Arabic inscriptions prior to Islam” (Encyclopedia Britannica, I:643) 
  • “The Arabs, before the time of Mohammed, accepted and worshipped, after a fashion, a supreme god called allah” (Encyclopedia of Islam, eds. Houtsma, Arnold, Basset, Hartman; Leiden: E.J.Brill, 1913, I:302) 
  • “Allah was known to the pre-Islamic Arabs; he was one of the Meccan deities” (Encyclopedia of Islam, ed. Gibb, I:406) 
  • Ilah … appears in pre-Islamic poetry … By frequency of usage, al-ilah was contracted to allah, frequently attested to in pre-Islamic poetry” (Encyclopedia of Islam, eds. Lewis, Menage, Pellat, Schacht; Leiden: E.J.Brill, 1971, III:1093) 
  • “The name Allah goes back before Muhammed” (Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, “The Facts on File”, ed. Anthony Mercatante, New York, 1983, I:41) 
  • The origin of this (Allah) goes back to pre-Muslim times. Allah is not a common name meaning “G-D” (or a “god”), and the Muslim must use another word or form if he wishes to indicate any other than his own peculiar deity” (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, ed. James Hastings, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1908, I:326)

Scholar Henry Preserved Smith of Harvard University stated:

  • “Allah was already known by name to the Arabs” (The Bible and Islam: or, the Influence of the Old and New Testament on the Religion of Mohammed, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1897, p.102)

Dr. Kenneth Cragg, former editor of the prestigious scholarly journal Muslim World and an outstanding modern Western Islamic scholar, whose works were generally published by Oxford University, comments:

  • The name Allah is also evident in archaeological and literary remains of pre-Islamic Arabia” (The Call of the Minaret, New York: OUP, 1956, p.31)

Dr. W. Montgomery Watt, who was Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Edinburgh University and Visiting Professor of Islamic Studies at College de France, georgetown University, and the University of Toronto, has done extensive work on the pre-Islamic concept of Allah. He concludes:

“In recent years I have become increasingly convinced that for an adequate understanding of the career of Muhammad and the origins of Islam great importance must be attached to the existence in Mecca of belief in Allah as a “high god”. In a sense this is a form of paganism, but it is so different from paganism as commonly understood that it dererves separate treatment” (Mohammad’s Mecca, p.vii. See also his article, “Belief in a High God in pre-Islamic Mecca”, Journal of Scientific Semitic Studies, vol.16, 1971, pp.35-40)Caesar Farah in his book on Islam concludes his discussion of the pre-Islamic meaning of Allah by saying:

“There is no reason, therefore, to accept the idea that Allah passed to the Muslims from the Christians and Jews” (Islam: Beliefs and Observations, New York: Barrons, 1987, p.28)According to Middle East scholar E.M.Wherry, whose translation of the Koran is still used today, in pre-Islamic times Allah-worship, as well as the worship of Baal, were both astral religions in that they involved the worship of the sun, the moon, and the stars (A Comprehensive Commentary on the Quran, Osnabrück: Otto Zeller Verlag, 1973, p.36).

“In ancient Arabia, the sun-god was viewed as a female goddess and the moon as the male god. As has been pointed out by many scholars as Alfred Guilluame, the moon god was called by various names, one of which was Allah (op.cit., Islam, p.7)

“The name Allah was used as the personal name of the moon god, in addition to the other titles that could be given to him.

“Allah, the moon god, was married to the sun goddess. Together they produced three goddesses who were called ‘the daughters of Allah’. These three goddesses were called Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Manat.

“The daughters of Allah, along with Allah and the sun goddess were viewed as “high” gods. That is, they were viewed as being at the top of the pantheon of Arabian deities” (Robert Morey, The Islamic Invasion, Eugene, Oregon, Harvest House Publishers, 1977, pp.50-51). The Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend records:

“Along with Allah, however, they worshipped a host of lesser gods and “daughters of Allah” (op.cit., I:61).It is a well known fact archaeologically speaking that the cresent moon was the symbol of worship of the moon god both in Arabia and throughout the Middle East in pre-Islamic times. Archaeologists have excavated numerous statues and hieroglyphic inscriptions in which a crescent moon was seated on the top of the head of the deity to symbolise the worship of the moon-god. Interestingly, whilst the moon was generally worshipped as a female deity in the Ancient Near East, the Arabs viewed it as a male deity.

In Mesopotamia the Sumerian god Nanna, named Sîn by the Akkadians, was worshipped in particular in Ur, where he was the chief god of the city, and also in the city of Harran in Syria, which had close religious links with Ur. The Ugaritic texts have shown that there a moon deity was worshipped under the name yrh. On the monuments the god is represented by the symbol of the crescent moon. At Hazor in Palestine a small Canaanite shrine of the late Bronze Age was discovered which contained a basalt stele depicting two hands lifted as if in prayer to a crescent moon, indicating that the shrine was dedicated to the moon god.

The worship of stellar deities, instead of HaShem, was always a temptation faced by the Israelites (Dt.4:19; Jer.7:18; Am.5:26; Ac.7:43). But HaShem is at the zennith of the heavens (Job 22:12).

“The Quraysh tribe into which Mohammad was born was particularly devoted to Allah, the moon god, and especially to Allah’s three daughters who were viewed as intercessors between the people and Allah.

“The worship of the three goddesses, Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Manat, played a significant rôle in the worship at the Kabah in Mecca. The first two daughters of Allah had names which were feminine forms of Allah.

“The literal Arabic name of Muhammad’s father was Abd-Allah. His uncle’s name was Obied-Allah. These names reveal the personal devotion that Muhammad’s pagan family had to the worship of Allah, the moon god” (op.cit., Morey, p.51).History proves conclusively that before Islam came into existence, the Sabbeans in Arabia worshipped the moon-god Allah who was married to the sun-goddess. We have also seen that it was a matter of common practice to use the name of the moon-god in personal names in Muhammad’s tribe. That Allah was a pagan deity in pre-Islamic times is incontestible. And so we must ask ourselves the question: why was Muhammad’s god named after a pagan deity in his own tribe?

It is an undeniable fact that an Allah idol was set up at the Kabah along with all the other idols of the time. The pagans prayed towards Mecca and the Kabah because that is where their gods were stationed. It made sense to them to face in the direction of their god and pray since that is where he was. Since the idol of their moon god, Allah, was at Mecca, they prayed towards Mecca.

As we have seen, and as is acknowledged amongst all scholars of Middle Eastern religious history, the worship of the moon-god extended far beyond Allah-worship in Arabia. The entire fertile crescent was involved in moon-worship. The data falls neatly in place and we are able therefore to understand, in part, the early success Islam had amongst Arab groups that had traditionally worshipped Allah, the moon-god. We can also understand that the use of the crescent moon as the symbol of Islam, and which appears on dozens of flags of Islamic nations in Asia and Africa, and surmounts minerets and mosque roofs, is a throwback to the days when Allah was worshipped as the moon-god in Mecca.

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