Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Egyptian Pantheon

Ancient Egypt has provided the world with one of the best recognized and most intricate pantheons in existence; one which continues to fascinate and influence even today, some 5100 years beyond its emergence from prehistory. This page is intended as a reference guide for students of Egyptian mythology. When completed, it will hopefully be a compilation of all the known deities of the pharaonic Egyptians. The format will consist of a Name and a description of the divinity. The description will include areas of authority, attributes, images, appearance, and selected comments or stories which might help characterize the divinity better. As I implied above, this is an ongoing work which, at the moment, is incomplete. I most certainly solicit comments and contributions; if you have additional information for me (or complaints, for that matter), I ask only that you try to supply documentation in support of what you have to say.

A note on names. A number of Egyptian divinities are now known by the most recent version of their name or, especially, a Greek transcription of that name. Nevertheless, earlier versions in the native language exist, and where there is a significant difference I have tried to provide a note on the original form, while retaining the most common form for familiarities sake. Such notes must be viewed as somewhat tentative, because of the nature of the ancient Egyptian language. Like all Semitic tongues, Egyptian was written without vowel signs, leaving later transcribers to guess at what words sounded like, or utilize foreign (usually Greek) versions of those words to form an idea of their true pattern.

A note on animal iconography. The Egyptian divinities are well-known for being portrayed with the heads and visages of various beasts. The relationship between the divinities and such creatures is complex, and beyond the scope of this article. Nevertheless, it should be noted that these creatures were not necessarily the only animals sacred to the God or Goddess they are connected with, or that they were the exclusive figure used to image the divinity - in some cases the God or Goddess claimed more than one animal, and in some cases the God or Goddess was portrayed with any of several different creatures faces. Even so, in most cases a particular creature was almost always used to image a divinity, and I have provided a note indicating what beast icon was utilized commonly or exclusively.

This article is intended as a catalogue, hopefully reasonably complete, of known Egyptian God-forms. The information here is necessarily brief; a full accounting of all these entities would be a massive book in its own right. What is included here is:

a Name (original form of the Name), (beast icon),any important epithets or sobriquets that are associated with the Name, and a basic description of spheres of influence, attributes, and/or descriptive stories.

Amaunet (Serpent) One of the eight Primal Beings of the Ogdoad, being paired with Amon as co-spirits of Hidden Powers. She is a fertility Goddess, and is considered a protectress of the nation, especially during times of royal succession.

Ammut (Crocodile) Eater of souls, she is the final destination for those whose hearts have been found weighted down with guilt in the Hall of the Two Truths.

Amon (Amun) (Serpent) One of the eight Primal Beings of the Ogdoad, being paired with Amaunet as co-Spirits of Hidden Powers. Spoken of as being omnipresent but concealed, the source of mystery and enigma.Regarded as a creator deity, and Lord of the Sun, he is also a source of masculine vitality and sexual energy. His cult rose to great prominence, being only briefly eclipsed by Aten in the 14th century BCE. Often combined with Ra to form the solar divinity Amon-Ra, in late classical times He also became synchretized with the Roman Jupiter to a certain degree.

Anubis (Inupu) (Jackal) Protector and Patron of mortuaries, and overseer of the judgement of the dead in the Hall of the Two Truths; He is also the guide and presiding spirit of the embalming process in particular and the journey of departed souls to their final destiny in general.

Anukis (Anuket) (Gazelle) Goddess of the Lower Nile, connected fertility of the fields, and also with birth, and midwifery.

Apepi (Serpent) The eternal enemy of Amon-Ra, and the personification of evil and malignancy. Mythologically He plays out His role by attempting to prevent the Solar Boat's passage across the sky. Thus, He is also a patron of Shadow and Darkness.

Apis (Bull) The intermediary between the Human and Divine worlds, son of Isis and the living incarnation of Ptah. He appeared on earth in successive incarnations as a bull, entirely black save for a small white spot on the forehead, and dwelling in His temple at Memphis in great state. Each successive bull was mummified and buried in the royal necropolis at Saqqara.

Aten (none) The solar disc, as distinct from Amon-Ra (Lord of the Sun). He is portrayed as a Hand extending from a radiant solar disc, never by humanoid or animal imagery. The cult of Aten dates back to the late 3rd millenium BCE, but the pinnacle of His influence was felt in the 14th century when a political rivalry between the priesthoods of Amon and Aten culminated in the establishment (1346 BCE) of Aten as a genuinely monotheistic cult (all the other divinities being suppressed) during the reign of Akhnaten (1350-1334 BCE). Following the death of Akhnaten, the cult of Aten was in turn suppressed (although not outlawed as such), most of his temples and all of His influence being destroyed.

Atum (Human) A Solar deity, a self-created Primordial Being who in turn created Su and Tefnut. Often combined with Ra, under the style of Atum-Ra, He is the Aspect of the sun as it sets in the west.

Banebdjedet (Ram) Consort of Hatmehet, He is a fairly obscure Deity whose best-known tale involves His (unsuccessful) mediation between Horus and Seth.

Bastet (Cat) A female Aspect of the Sun God, usually Ra, sometimes Amon, either of whom She is ascribed as being the daughter of in various texts. She personifies the retributive element of the Sun, and is seen as the bringer of divine vengeance to Amon-Ra's enemies. In early times She was portrayed as having the head of a lioness, but later images show the smaller ancestor of today's housecat. She was Patroness of domestic cats, and in that role continues today to enjoy a certain vogue among New-Age believers. See also, Mafdet.

Benu (Heron) A solar deity, usually considered an aspect of Atum and, like Him, self-created in Primordial times. His function seems to have been connected with rebirth in the afterlife. That, and His avian character, may have influenced later cultures, especially Hellenic, in the development of the Phoenix story.

Bes (Humanoid) A grotesque-appearing dwarf, but of protective and benign character. He is a male Guardian of womankind in childbirth, and also is a Ward against dangerous creatures of all sorts; his ugliness is a primary attribute in frightening evil away.

Buto (Wadjet) (Cobra) A solar Goddess, the personification of Ra's retributive power and, as such, an Aspect of the cleansing and purifying power of the sun's heat. She is regarded as a primary defender of authority, especially royal, and She is a tutelary Goddess of Lower Egypt. She also has some connections with maternal powers, in that She is considered the wetnurse of Horus, as well as the mother of Nefertum.

Geb (Human) An Earth-God, normally depicted in a green hue (note a parallel with the Green Man), He is a Lord of vegetation and the vitality of the soil. He is also a Patron of herbalism, and is considered a healer. Son of Su and Tefnut, brother and consort of Nut, father of Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nephthys.

Hapy (Nile Goose (two-headed)) God of the Nile, and director of the annual innundation, without which the Nile civilization could not endure. As such, He is a fertility figure and, in fact, is often portrayed androgynously.

Hatmehet (Fish) Consort of Banebdjedet, She is the Guardian and Patron of fishermen and the fishing industry.

Hathor (Cow) Daughter of Ra, and Goddess of love and sexuality; She was considered the mother of all the Pharoahs, and Royal princesses automatically were Her priestesses by birth. Enormously popular, She has many and diverse functions, including oracular knowledge of every childs destiny, and a patronage of music and dance. One of the few Egyptian divinities to transcend the culture, She found favour in the Graeco-Roman world as well, where Her image affected to one degree or another contemporaneous imagery of Aphrodite.

Hauhet (Serpent) One of the eight Primal Beings of the Ogdoad, being paired with Heh as co-Spirits of Infinity.

Heh (Frog) One of the eight Primal Beings of the Ogdoad, being paired with Hauhet as co-Spirits of Infinity.

Heket (Frog) A Goddess concerned with birth, particularly with alleviating the dangers and pain of the birth process.

Heretkau (Human) Cthonic mortuary Goddess concerned with protection of souls in the afterlife. Images often associate Her as a servant or assistant to Isis.

Hesat (Cow) Goddess of pregnancy and Source of nursing milk (the "beer of Hesat"). The mother of Anubis.

Horus (Haru) (Falcon) Son, posthumously, of Osiris by Isis, and symbol of divine vengeance. Mythologically He is the originator of the Egyptian state and it's first sovereign, the land of which He wrested from Seth when He avenged the slaughter of Osiris. Successive Pharaohs were regarded as the Earthly incarnations of Horus. Thus, Horus represents the core of national and dynastic stability, and as such is the divine Source of sovereignty.

Isis ('Aset) (Human, sometimes Hawk) Daughter of Geb and Nut, sister and consort of Osiris, mother of Horus. An enormously popular and enduring figure in the pantheon, Isis is one of the few Egyptian divinities to find widespread worship outside of Egypt as well. She is to Her people the female Aspect of national stability and sovereignty, as well as being a primary symbol of nurturance and motherhood. During Osiris' battles with Seth, She twice restored him, impregnating herself upon his remains to give birth to His heir and avenger, Horus. Regarded as paramount in magical power, Her Name figured in all manner of incantations, especially those of healing. To the Ptolomaic and Roman worlds, She became an important symbol of divine sanction for rebirth and reincarnation, and several mystery cults were formed around her tale. Iconography portraying Her with the infant Horus strongly influenced contemporary images of the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus.

Kauket (Serpent) One of the eight Primal Beings of the Ogdoad, being paired with Kek as co-Spirits of Darkness.

Kek (Frog) One of the eight Primal Beings of the Ogdoad, being paired with Kauket as co-Spirits of Darkness.

Khenty-Imentiu (Wolf) A lesser war God, associated with Osiris in His battles, also seen as pilot of the Solar Boat.

Kheper (Scarab) An Aspect of Ra, the divinity responsible foir maintaining the sun's course across the sky.

Khnum (Ram) Craftsman and especially potter among the Gods. He created life upon His potter's wheel at the command of the Primal deities.

Khonsu (Human, sometimes Falcon) Moon God. Originally regarded as the child of Amon and Mut, in the Late Kingdom He is often referenced as the offspring of Sebek and Hathor. Aside from His strong lunar association, He was also a divinity invoked in exorcisms and in rites of healing.

Mafdet (Cat) Goddess of judicial authority and divine patroness of executions. She is normally shown bearing, or leaping up onto a gallows, and She is also spoken of as a functionary within the Hall of Two Truths. See also Bastet.

Ma'at (Human) Goddess of law, truth, and cosmic order. She personifies the scales in the Hall of Two Truths upon which Osiris weighs the heart of deceased souls for it's burden of guilt. Every Pharoah was considered the "Beloved of Ma'at", and in that sense She is the pillar around which orderly society can flourish.

Min (Human) The male divinity most closely concerned with sexuality and male virility. A son of Isis, He represents the vigour of each successive Pharoah. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, He is also a Patron of mines as well.

Montu (Hawk) A war God, originating in Upper Egypt, and synchretized with Ra to a strong degree.

Mut (Human sometimes Lion) Tutelary Goddess of Thebes and a parallel to Sakhmet. At times considered the consort of Amon-Ra and mother of Khonsu.

Naunet (Serpent) One of the eight Primal Beings of the Ogdoad, being paired with Nun as co-Spirits of Emptyness.

Nefertum (Lion) Regarded in Lower Egypt as the son of Buto, He is a lesser primordial being, and personifies the Blue Lotus of Ra.

Nehebukau (Serpent) A minor God of healing, specifically a protector against snakebite and scorpion sting.

Neith (Cow) A primordial Goddess, self-created and self-creating; in some tales She is the Tracer of the Nile's course and the foundress of the city of Sais, established when She brought the Nile to the sea. She has many functions in addition; one of the most prevalent is that of Patroness of the Loom, and of spinning.

Nekhbet (Vulture) Tutelary Goddess of Upper Egypt, regarded as a protectress and ministrant to childbirth.

Nephthys (Nebhet) (Human)Youngest daughter of Geb and Nut, and often regarded as the consort of Seth. She is also sometimes considered the mother of Anubis. Her primary function is that of mortuary protectress, in which role She serves as guide to the spirits of deceased Pharoahs

Nun (Frog) One of the eight Primal Beings of the Ogdoad, being paired with Naunet as co-Spirits of Emptyness.

Nut (Human) An Aerial Goddess of sky and wind, daughter of Su and Tefnut, Sister and consort of Geb, mother of Osiris and Isis, Seth and Nephthys. She is the arching vault of the heavens, Her body sparkling with starlight. Through Her mouth the Sky-boat of the Sun passes each evening, from her vulva the it re-emerges and the day is reborn each morning. She retains some weatherworking functions; the thunder is Her voice. She is the special Patroness of the Pharoahs in their transition from Horus to Osiris.

The Ogdoad A collection of eight Primal Beings who emerged out of Chaos to define the universe and begin the flow of time. See Amaunet, Amon, Hauhet, Heh, Kauket, Kek, Naunet, and Nun.

Onuris (Anhuret) (Human) A warrior God with solar aspects, considered by some as an aspect of Ra, especially as an image of the active principal of solar power against enemies. He is also a patron of hunters and the chase.

Osiris (Ausar) (Human) Eldest child of Geb and Nut, posthumous father of Horus, Osiris is the most widely known and most deeply revered of the pantheon. He represents, first and foremost, the Path of Destiny, and the Life beyond life. He is the Judge of departed souls in the Hall of Two Truths, and He is the general guardian, guide, and ruler of the afterworld of departed spirits. The ancient Egyptians were obsessed with the problem of what occurs in the way of an afterlife and what the ultimate spiritual destiny of mankind is. Thus Osiris represents the promise of eternal life and the triumph of order and meaning over chaos. Defeated by his nemesis (and younger brother) Seth, He rises once again in an eternal cycle symbolized in the material world by the cyclical rising of the Nile and in the astral world by the passage of Amon-Ra, the holy sun and the cyclical appearances of Sothis, the star Sirius. Osiris is thus Friend, Saviour, and ultimate master of mankind. In Egyptian Royal tradition, as each Pharoah is the living incarnation of Horus in life, so in death they are transfigured into Osiris.

Ptah (Human) A primary creator divinity, Patron of Memphis and the focus of a powerful priesthood there. He is said to be self-creating and self-creative, bringing the Primal Chaos (in this version represented by Nun) into order and form by the sound of His voice. Additionally, He is patron to all the crafts and sciences, inspiring both practical invention and fine art. He is the consort of Sekhmet and presumably the father of Nefertum.

Ra (Hawk) One of the primary solar dieties, often (especially in later times) conflated with Amon to form the composite solar entity Amon-Ra. Ra is in essence the spirit of the sun in it's glory and fullest strength, a noontide divinity embodying heat, light, and majesty. He was not especially popular, in that He represents the retributive and lightning swift blaze of power, striking down enemies with his gaze alone. The phrase, often encountered in Egyptian religious and magickal writings, "Eye of Ra", represents His pitiless and omnipresent knowledge of all beneath the sun.

Sarapis (Human or Bull) A very late addition to the Egyptian pantheon, He emerged out of early Ptolomaic thought as a conflation of Osiris with Apis, representing the fertility of the land with the sanctity and promise of an immortal afterlife. His cult became a fixture during Roman times, and competed with both Mithraism and early Christianity for a predominant role in the Empire as a whole.

Satet (Human) Consort of Khnum and mother of Anukis, She was tutelary Goddess of the Nubian frontier, in the far south of Upper Egypt.

Sebek (Crocodile) Son of Neith, Consort of Hathor, father of Khonsu. He represents the power and strength of the Pharoahs, and is a Patron of all reptilian forms. He is occasionally conflated with Seth, and in rare instances is regarded as the Source and personification of Evil.

Sepa (Centipede) A minor protector divinity, called upon to defend against wild animals and evil spirits. He is also associated with the necropolis, and is regarded as a helper of Osiris and Anubis within the mortuary.

Seker (Hawk) A lord of Darkness and Shadow, and the divine essence of burial and decay. He is thus connected with an aspect of the cycle of rebirth.

Sekhmet (Lion) Daughter of Ra and consort of Ptah, She is a war goddess and a divine Aspect of the power and majesty of the Pharoah against vhis enemies.

Seshet (Human) Goddess of scribes, of writing, of history (and thus the orderly flow of time), and the special Patroness of libraries and archives. She is regarded as the foundress of temples and halls of worship, and She retains a considerable aura of magickal patronage, in that writing was a secret system of knowledge known only to an elite few. Not surprisingly, She is the consort of Thoth.

Seth (Composite Creature) Child of Geb and Nut, sibling of Osiris, Isis, and Nephthys. Seth is a complex figure who seems in the main to be adversarial in nature. The most typical mythologies have Him at war with his brother Osiris, a war in which He defeats Osiris but is in turn defeated by Osiris' heir, Horus. Nevertheless, it needs to be pointed out that several times during the Pharoanic period in Egypt His cult was widespread and highly honoured, supplanting on occasion the identification of the Pharoah with Horus/Osiris. His beast imagery is also unusual, being composed of diverse elements culled from several sorts of creatures; the usual image is that of rather long-snouted, stiff-eared beast that vaguely reminds one of a wolf or aardvark.

Sia (Human) Divine Patron of sense perception. Child of Ra, He accompanies His father on the Sky Boat which bears the sun along it's course.

Sothis (Sopdet) (Human) The star Sirius, which appears above the horizon at just the time of the summer inundation of the Nile. Thus, She is Herald and Harbinger of this most vital seasonal occurance.

Su (Human) Primordial divinity created by Atum or, in some mythologies Ptah. As Consort to His sister Tefnut, He is the ancestor of all the remaining Gods and Goddesses through their offspring Geb and Nut. He is an aerial divinity, and a lord of the sky.

Taurt (Hippopotamus) Goddess of childbirth and Protectress of womankind, a very commonly represented and popular divinity amonmg the ordinary folk of Egypt.

Tefnut (Lioness, sometimes the Uraeus Serpent) Primordial divinity created by Atum or, in some mythologies Ptah. As Consort to Her brother Su, She is ancestress of all the remaining Gods and Goddesses through their offspring Geb and Nut. Her primary Attribute is as Patroness of water.

Thoth (Djehuti) (Ibis) Tutelary divinity of knowledge and understanding. He is Patron to scribes, and protector of archives, as well as being the inspiration for all knowledge-based arts and sciences. He is said to have created writing for the use of mankind. Regarded as scrupulously honest, He is the scribe of the Hall of Two Truths, recording the deeds and accounts of each soul facing judgement, as well as taking a hand in judging. He has lunar associations, and is the Consort of Seshet.

The Hall of the Two Truths

As mentioned above, the ancient Egyptian culture was obsessed with the idea of an eternal life beyond death, and the need to avoid absolute personal extinction. As a result, the culture exerted enormous resources in the direction of mortuary science, embalming, and the development of theological and philosophical underpinnings of a belief in the migration of a soul from the material world toTuat, the spiritual world. Preservation of the physical body was paramount, for without a home, the soul wandered and would be lost forever. Magickal formulae which revealed the passwords and spells required to gain admittance to the afterworld needed to be learned, so Books of the Dead which revealed such lore were deposited with the corpse. From the 18th Dynasty (15th-14th century BCE), a standardized belief in otherworldly Judgement took center stage. In this notion, each soul had to approach the Hall of Two Truths, hear their deeds pronounced by Thoth, and have their hearts weighed by Osiris upon the scales of Ma'at, all in the presence of 42 Judges. If their hearts were light with purity, sobeit; but if they were heavy with guilt, then the fires of the pit and the tender ministrations of Ammut would be their lot. What follows is a list of those 42 Judges, together with translation of the name in instances where I know it. That there are, in fact, 45 names in the list should surprise no-one; the Egyptian religion is very old, and differences in interpretation by various scribes do creep in given an active period of some 3500 years.

Aati; Ahi; Amkhaibitu (Eater of Ghosts); Amsnef (Eater of Blood); Anaf (Bringer of His Arm); Anhotep; Anty; Arimabef; Basty; Fenty; Hai (Phallus); Heptshet; Herfhaf (He With His Face Behind Him); Heriuru (Chief of the Great Ones); Hetchabehu; Kenemty; Khemy; Maa-Anuf; Maatifemkhet (He Whose Two Eyes Are as Fire); Maatifemtes (He Whose Two Eyes Are as Knives); Neba; Neb Heru (Lord of Faces); Neb Nebu (Lord of Lords); Nehaher; Nehebnefert; Nekhenu; Qerty; Rerty; Sekheriu; Sertiu; Setqesu (Bone-Breaker); Shetkheru; Taret; Tchesertep; Temsep; Teni; Thenemy; Thenret; Tutu; Uamemty; Uatchnesert (Green Flame); Usekhnemmet (He of the Long Stride); Utunesert; Uturekhit.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Did the ancient Greeks recognize a system of seven "energy centers" comparable to the chakras?

The Parts of the Soul - A Greek System of Chakras

This essay resulted from an attempt to find a Greek system of "energy centers" corresponding to the chakras of Eastern philosophy. Such a correspondence would help illuminate Greek mysticism and reveal some of the foundations of the Western Magical Tradition. This goal might seem to be a shallow exercise in analogies, but there are reasons to expect a substantial correspondence. First, the Eastern and Greek systems evolved out of a common Indo-European culture, so one would expect genetic correspondences; these connections were likely maintained over the millennia, since we know the Middle East mediated continual cultural transfer with both the West and East. Second, there is a certain degree of objectivity in the system of chakras, as reflected in the physical body, which would lead to correspondences even in the absence of cultural contact. The consequence of these two factors is a significant uniformity in ideas about the Spirit and its connection to the Body across the Eurasian continent, and even beyond, as documented, for example, in Onians's Origins of European Thought.

How would we know a Greek system of chakras if we saw it? The standard I have used is that (1) they should be approximately seven energy centers; (2) they should be approximately located where the chakras are located; (3) they should have approximately the same "functions" as the chakras.

It's worth keeping in mind that the chakra system best known in the West, with seven chakras, is not the only system; some have more than fourteen (Eliade, 243-5; Murphy, 156). Therefore, we should not expect an exact correspondence of number, since certain energy centers might or might not be counted depending on their strength or the "kind" of energy they concentrate. Furthermore, different systems differ in their exact placement of the chakras, so likewise we should not expect an exact correspondence in a Greek system. Nevertheless, it will be apparent that the Greek system corresponds closely to the system of seven chakras.

My principal source has been Onians, especially Part I and Part II (chh. 1-7), but the overall structure is described in Plato's account of the "Parts of the Soul" in the Timaeus (69c-73d), which probably embodies Pythagorean doctrine. In the following I've numbered the energy centers from the top down with Roman numerals, since this accords better with Platonic doctrine; however, the chakras are conventionally numbered from the bottom up, for which I've (appropriately) used Hindu numbers (so-called Arabic numbers).


The Crown of the head (Gk. koruphe, Lat. vertex). Plato said the humans stand upright because of the connection between the Heavens and the Soul in their brains. People with especially great power in their heads were represented with a nimbus, a halo of flames, around their head (attested as early as the 3rd cent. BCE in Greece). This center corresponds to Chakra 7 (at the crown of the head), called Sahasrara, which means "thousand (-petaled)," an appropriate description of a nimbus.


The Brain (Gk. enkephalos, Lat. cerebrum), which contains the psuche (Gk.) or genios (Lat.). (I use the old Latin spelling "genios" to avoid confusion with the English "genius." The genios is sometimes called the anima.) In Homeric times the psuche was taken to be the "Vital Spirit" or Life Principal (the mind or consciousness was placed in IV, the chest), corresponding to Skt. asu. The later view, which is found in Plato and corresponds better to the Eastern system (cf. Skt. atman), is that the brain is the center of rational thought, the Intellectual center. In both Homer and Plato the psuche is considered the immortal part of the Soul. The physical substance corresponding to psuche was marrow (medulla), especially the cerebrospinal fluid of the brain and spine, but also in other parts of the body (see below). For this reason departed souls were thought to appear as snakes, which are all brain and spine. Scalp and facial hair were considered physical emanations of the psuche, and so the hair, scalp and chin were considered sacred (hence the dedication of locks and the touching of the chin or beard in supplication). This center corresponds to Chakra 6 (at the brow), called Ajna, which means "authority or command," an appropriate name for the rational faculty, which Plato said "controls and restrains" the lower faculties; Onians calls it the Executive function.


The Neck (Gk. trachelos, dere; Lat. collum), which Plato called the "isthmus or boundary" between the Superior, Divine or Immortal Soul and the Inferior or Mortal Soul. He said that it allows communication between the two, but prevents the Lower Soul from "polluting" the Higher. This center corresponds to Chakra 5 (in the throat), called Visuddha, which means "purgation or purity," that is, "the purging of the merely animal, physical system" (Campbell, 165).


The Heart and Lungs (Gk. phrenes, Lat. cor), which contain the thumos (Grk.) or animus (Lat.), which is the Higher part of the Mortal Soul. In Homeric times the thumos was the Conscious Spirit, the vehicle of Thought and Feeling (cf. Skt. manas). Later, it was restricted to feeling, emotion, passion and especially spirit, courage and anger - the Affective function. This center corresponds to Chakra 4 (at the heart), called Anahata, which means "not hit" (referring to the mystical sound). This chakra is associated with prana (Skt.) - vital breath, vital spirit (Campbell, 164), as are the phrenes with pneuma (Gk.) or spiritus (Lat.) - breath, spirit. Campbell (164-5) says, "This is the aspiration, then, of spiritual striving," and "the birth of the spiritual as opposed to the merely physical life," and likewise the phrenes are associated with spirit, as opposed to the lower parts, which are associated with physical needs and desires.

The "little foyer" (the Red Lotus of Eight Petals with the Kalpa Tree) below the Heart Chakra corresponds to the diaphragm, which Plato called the "midriff partition" separating the two parts of the Mortal Soul (associated with Spirit and Desire, respectively).


The Belly (Gk. gaster, Lat. abdomen), between the diaphragm and navel, is the site of the Lower Part of the Mortal Soul, which is the Appetitive Soul, which we share with the lower animals and plants; its function is nutrition and it is the source of Desire (both Nutritional and, by most accounts, Sexual). This center corresponds to Chakra 3 (at the navel), called Manipura, which means "city of the shining jewel," and its function is "aggressive: to conquer, to consume, to turn everything into oneself" (Campbell, 159-60), which is a good description of the Appetitive Soul.


The Gonads (Gk. gonades, Lat. genitalia), representing the Procreative function. The "marrow," the stuff of which psuche or genios was made, was the Life Essence; Plato says that in it is made "the bonds of life which unite the Soul with the Body." This marrow or sap is passed down the spine, concentrated in the gonads, and is the source of the life of the offspring. In particular, semen was considered a kind of cerebrospinal sap. This center corresponds to Chakra 2, called Svadhisthana, which means "her favorite resort," an apt name for "the cakra of sexuality" (Campbell, 144).


The Sacrum or Holy Bone (Gk. hieron osteon, Lat. os sacrum), that is, the base of the spine. Because this was a center of concentration of the Life Force, Middle Eastern people believed that the entire body could be regenerated from this bone, and Onians (p. 208) conjectures that its potency may account for "kiss of shame" (osculum infame) of the Witches and Templars (and perhaps the Cathars and Waldenses). This center corresponds to Chakra 1, called Muladhara, which means "root base," which Campbell (p. 144) associates with "hanging on to life" and a "reactive psyche," so in both cases we have the grossest form of the Life Force.

Similarly, the Spine was called the Holy Tube (hiera surinx), which recalls the Sushumna (Spine), which is likewise considered a channel (nadi). Likewise the Egyptian Ded Pillar, which represents the spine, was a symbol of Life. I have not, however, found Greeks correspondents to the Ida and Pingala nadis.


The above are the "central" energy concentrations of Greek philosophy, and it is apparent that they correspond closely to the familiar seven chakras. The Greeks also recognized "peripheral" energy concentrations in the hands, thighs and knees (which have a large concentration of "marrow"). This explains the sacrifice of thigh bones, the use of the hand (especially the right hand) to exercise executive power, and clasping the knees when beseeching. (The knee - Gk. gonu, Lat. genu - was especially associated with the Life Force - genios - and with procreation or "generation"; cf. genital, genetic, gonad, etc.) So far as I know, corresponding chakras are not recognized in Eastern thought.

As a general rule of thumb, Spirit, of one sort or another, is most concentrated where the flesh is thinnest (Timaeus 75a), thus, in the head, chest, sacrum, knees and hands.

Campbell, Joseph. (1990). Transformations of Myth Through Time. New York: Harper & Row.
Eliade, Mircea. (1969). Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, tr. Willard R. Trask. Bollingen Series LVI. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Mead, G. R. S. (1967). The Doctrine of the Subtle Body in Western Tradition. Theosophical Publishing House.
Murphy, Michael. (1992). The Future of the Body: Explorations Into the Further Evolution of Human Nature. New York: Jeremy Tarcher/Putnam.
Onians, Richard Broxton. (1951). The Origins of European Thought About the Body, the Mind, the Soul, the World, Time, and Fate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Poortman, J. J. (1978). Vehicles of Consciousness: The Concept of Hylic Pluralism. Vols. 1-4. Theosophical Publishing House.

John Opsopaus


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Indigenous Religion Of Arabia And The Pagan Arab Pantheon


The Islamic sources do tell us that the pre-Islamic Arabs were mushriks (polytheists) “addicted” to worshipping numerous idols. But they do not inform us as to what those idols symbolized. The Qur’ãn (2.257, 259; 4.52; 53.19; 71.21) mentions some idols but only to denounce them. We reproduce below what Ibn Ishãq writes about them:

“They say that the beginning of stone worship among the sons of Ishmael was when Mecca became too small for them and they wanted more room in the country. Everyone who left the town took with him a stone from the sacred area to do honour to it. Wherever they settled they set it up and walked round it as they went round the Ka‘ba. This led them to worship what stones they pleased and those which made an impression on them. Thus as generations passed they forgot their primitive faith and adopted another religion for that of Abraham and Ishmael. They worshipped idols and adopted the same errors as the peoples before them. Yet they retained and held fast practices going back to the time of Abraham, such as honouring the temple and going round it, the great and little pilgrimage, and the standing on ‘Arafa and Muzdalifa, sacrificing the victims, and the pilgrim cry at the great and little pilgrimage, while introducing elements which had no place in the religion of Abraham. Thus, Kinãna and Quraysh used the pilgrim cry: ‘At Thy service, O God, at Thy service! At Thy service, Thou without an associate but the, associate Thou hast. Thou ownest him and what he owns.’ They used to acknowledge his unity in their cry and then include their idols with God, putting the ownership of them in His hand…1

“The people of Noah had images to which they were devoted. God told His apostle about them when He said: ‘And they said, Forsake not your gods; forsake not Wudd and Suwã‘ and Yaghûth and Ya‘ûq and Nasr. And they had led many astray.’

“Among those who had chosen those idols and used their names as compounds when they forsook the religion of Ishmael-both Ishmaelites and others-was Hudhayl b. Mudrika b. Ilyãs b. MuDar. They adopted Suwã‘ and they had him in RuhãT; and Kalb b. Wabra of QuDã‘a who adopted Wudd in Dûmatu’l-Jandal…

“An‘um of Tayyi’ and the people of Jurash of MadhHij adopted Yaghûth in Jurash.

“Khaywãn, a clan of Hamdãn, adopted Ya‘ûq in the land of Hamdãn in the Yaman.

“Dhû’l-Kalã‘ of Himyar adopted Nasr in the Himyar country.

“Khaulãn had an idol called ‘Ammanas in the Khaulãn country…2

“The B. Milkãn b. Kinãna b. Khuzayma b. Mudrika b. Ilyãs b. MuDar had an image called Sa‘d, a lofty rock in a desert plain in their country…

“Daus had an idol belonging to ‘Amr b. Humama al-Dausî.

“Quraysh had an idol by a well in the middle of the Ka‘ba called Hubal. And they adopted Isãf (or Asãf) and Na’ila by the place of Zamzam, sacrificing beside them…3

“Every household had an idol in their house which they used to worship. When a man was about to set out on a journey he would rub himself against it as he was about to ride off: indeed that was the last thing he used to do before his journey; and when he returned from his journey the first thing he did was to rub himself against it before he went in to his family…

“Now along with the Ka‘ba the Arabs had adopted Tawãghît, which were temples which they venerated as they venerated the Ka‘ba. They had their guardians and overseers and they used to make offerings to them as they did to the Ka‘ba and to circumambulate them and sacrifice at them. Yet they recognized the superiority of the Ka‘ba because it was the temple and mosque of Abraham the friend (of God).

“Quraysh and the B. Kinãna had al-‘Uzzã in Nakhla, its guardians and overseers were the B. Shaybãn of Sulaym, allies of the B. Hãshim…

“Al-Lãt belonged to Thaqîf in Tã’if, her overseers and guardians being B. Mu‘attib of Thaqîf.4

“Manãt was worshipped by al-Aus and al-Khazraj and such of the people of Yathrib5 as followed their religion by the seashore in the direction of al-Mushallal in Qudayd.6

“Dhû’l-KhalaSa belonged to Daus, KhaTh‘am, and Bajîla and the Arabs in their area in Tabãla…

“Fals belonged to Tayyi’ and those hard by in the two mountains of Tayyi’, Salmã and Aja’.

“Himyar and the Yamanites had a temple in San‘ã called Ri’ãm.

“RuDã’ was a temple of B. Rabî‘a b. Ka‘b b. Sa‘d b. Zayd b. Manãt b. Tamîm…

“Dhû’l-Ka‘abat belonged to Bakr and Taghlib the two sons of Wã’il and Iyãd in Sindãd…”7

Hishãm bin Muhammad al-Kalbî (d. AD 819) wrote a whole book, Kitãb al-ASnãm,8 describing what tribe worshipped what idol, at what place, and in what manner. But he did not know what those idols stood for. F. Krenkow comments: “From the description of the idols worshipped by the pre-Islamic Arabs, enumerated by Ibn al-Kalbî, the word Sanam appears to apply to objects of very varying character. Some were actual sculptures like Hubal, Isãf and Nãi’la; so were the other idols set up round the Ka‘ba… Others were trees like al-‘Uzzã and many were mere stones like al-Lãt. Stones are well-known as objects of worship by the Semites in general and the traditionist al-Dãrimî states early in the first chapter of his Musnad that in the time of paganism the Arabs, whenever they found a stone remarkable for its shape, colour or size, set it up as an object of worship. Ibn al-Kalbî states that the Arabs were not content with setting up stones for idols, but even took such stones with them on their journeys…”9

This portrait of the pagan Arabs as primitive fetishists would have remained fixed for all time to come but for the non-Islamic sources which have been studied in recent times. The discovery of numerous inscriptions, particularly in South Arabia, has forced even Muslim scholars to revise their opinion to a certain extent. Shaikh Inayatullah writes:

“These Arabian deities, which were of diverse nature, fell into different categories. Some of them were personifications of abstract ideas, such as jadd (luck), sa‘d (fortunate, auspicious), riDã’ (good-will, favour), wadd (friendship, affection), and manãf (height, highplace). Though originally abstract in character, they were conceived in a thoroughly concrete fashion. Some deities derived their names from the places where they were venerated. Dhu al-KhalaSah and Dhu al-Shara may be cited as examples of this kind.

“The heavenly bodies and other powers of nature, venerated as deities, occupied an important place in the Arabian pantheon. The sun (shams, regarded as feminine) was worshipped by several Arab tribes and was honoured with a sanctuary and an idol. The name ‘Abd Shams, ‘Servant of the Sun,’ was found in many parts of the country. The sun was referred to by descriptive tides also, such as shãriq, ‘the brilliant one.’ The constellation of the Pleiades (al-Thurayya), which was believed to bestow rain, also appears as a deity in the name ‘Abd al-Thurayya. The planet Venus, which shines with remarkable brilliance in the clear skies of Arabia, was revered as a great goddess under the name of al-‘Uzza, which may be translated as ‘the Most Mighty.’ It had a sanctuary at Nakhlah near Mecca. The name ‘Abd al-‘Uzza was very common among the pre-Islamic Arabs. The Arabian cult of the planet Venus has been mentioned by several classical and Syriac authors.”10

The pre-Islamic Arab religion was, however, far more profound. As in the case of every pagan people, the pagan Arabs perceived divinity in everything in their environment, terrestrial as well as celestial. This will become clear as we take up the Arab Gods and Goddesses, one by one. Here we want to mention that the Minaeans, the Sabaeans and the Nabataeans worshipped more of less the same divinities, mostly under the same, though sometimes differing, names.

“First of all,” writes H. Hommel, “as regards the religion of the South Arabians, as we find it in their inscriptions, it is a strongly marked star-worship, in which the cult of the moon-god, conceived as masculine, takes complete precedence of that of the sun, which is conceived as feminine. This is shown in the clearest fashion by the stereotyped series of gods (Minaean: ‘Athar, Wadd, Nakruh, Shams; HaDramawtic: ‘Athar, Sîn, Hol, Shams; Qata-bãnian: ‘Athar, ‘Amm, Anbai, Shams; Sabaean: ‘Athar, Hawbas, Al-mãku-hû, Shams); here we find throughout, a. ‘Athar (the planet Venus conceived as masculine… as symbol of the sky) the god of the heavens mentioned first, b. Wadd or as the case may be, Sîn, ‘Amm or Hawbas the real chief god i.e. the moon; c. Nakruh (the planet Saturn or Mars), or Hol, Anbai (messenger of the gods, Nebo) or Almãku-hû, his (the moon’s) servant or messenger, and finally, d. Shams, the daughter of the moon-god to whom women may have appealed by preference and who therefore stands at the end of the whole enumeration. Besides these, a certain part was played by a great Mother-goddesses, the mother and consort of the moon-god conceived as a personified lunar station, the Minaean Athirat, who was called Harimtu among the Sabaeans and who was in all probability universally known as Ilãt (e.g. as a component part in names of persons, also in the shortened form Lãt). We may also mention various lesser ‘Athar deities (confined later to the part played by Venus as morning or evening star), and among the West Sabaeans Ta’lab, a god of the bow who also bears merely the epithet Dhû Samawî ‘lord of the heaveans’, and to whom especially camels (ibil) are ,sacred (hence in Midian but probably in South Arabia Habul or Hubal etc.). It is a particularly favourite mode of thought to conceive the two chief aspects of the moon (waxing and waning moon) as twin deities, in which connection sometimes the one and sometimes the other phase is specially favoured according to the locality…”11

He continues: “In North West Arabia from Mekka onwards to Petra and further onwards to the Syrian desert (Palmyra) and the Hawrãn, the same ideas prevailed, partly even appearing under the old names partly with new designations. Here we have especially to do with the cults of Mekka and of the whole Hidjãz shortly before Muhammad (al-Lãt and Hubal, in certain cases also al-Lãt, and Wudd, in addition al-‘Uzzã, a feminine form of… Aziz-Lãt, the goddess of death Manãt, a god RuDã and others) and at an earlier period the still more important cult of the Nabataeans. Among the latter also we find the moon divided into twin deities: Dhû Sharã (‘He of the mountain’) and his Kharishã (the sun); the former especially in Petra and Habul (or Hubal) and his consort Manawãt; further also the Mother-goddess Ilãt and a god A‘araã (‘he with the white mark on his forehead,’ originally perhaps only an epithet of Dusares)…”

He concludes: “But we may point out in conclusion that in all probability the Greeks borrowed12 from Arabian incense merchants their Apollo and his mother Leto as also Dionysos and Hermes, in the same way as they took their additional letters Phi, Chi and Psi from the South Arabian alphabet… This would seem to prove definitively that South Arabian civilization with its gods, incense altars, inscriptions, forts and castles must have been in a flourishing condition as early as the beginning of the first millennium BC.”13

Being at par with or even superior to the Greek pantheon, the Arab pantheon acquires a prestige which is seldom conceded to it except by scholars who have studied the subject. One reason is that the literature in which the Greek Gods and Goddesses figure has survived to a large extent, while the pre-Islamic Arab literature has disappeared more or less completely, so much so that even specialists find it difficult to believe that the pagan Arabs had any literature at all. Secondly, the Renaissance in Europe has restored the prestige of the Greek heritage, while people who feel the same pride in the pre-Islamic Arab heritage have yet to come foreward.

The Pagan Arab Pantheon

Now we can take up, in greater detail, individual Arab Gods and Goddesses, starting with the one who presided over the pantheon.


The name Allãh has become so much identified with Islam as to rule out any suspicion that he was the Great God of the pagan Arabs. “Allãh, in the Safã inscriptions, Hallãh, ‘the god’, enters into the composition of numerous personal names among the Nabataeans and other Northern Arabs of an early period e.g. Zaid Allãhî, ‘increase of God’ (that is increase of the family through the son given by God), ‘Abd Allãhî, and so forth. Among the heathen Arabs Allãh is extremely common, both by itself and in theophorous names. Wellhausen cites a large number of passages in which pre-Islamic Arabs mention Allãh as a great deity; and even if we strike out certain passages (for instance on the ground that the text has been altered by Muhammadan scribes) so many still remain over, and so many more which are above suspicion can without difficulty be found, that the fact is clearly established. Moreover, Allãh forms an integral part of various idiomatic phrases which were in constant use among the heathen Arabs. Of special importance is the terminology of the Qur’ãn, which proves beyond all doubt that the heathen Arabs themselves regarded Allãh as the Supreme Being. The Nabataen inscriptions mention repeatedly the name of a deity accompanied by a title ‘Alãhã, ‘the god’.”14

The Qur’ãn (13.17;29.61, 63;41.24;39.39; 43.87) itself provides ample evidence that the pre-Islamic Arabs regarded Allãh as “the creator and supreme provider” and “assigned to him a separate position distinct from that of all other deities (6.137).” Here it becomes difficult “to distinguish between their views and the interpretation of their views adopted by Muhammad, especially their vocabulary and that of Muhammad. It will be seen, then, that whatever may have been the origin of the names applied, the religion of Mecca in Muhammad’s time was far from simple idolatry.” Both sides seem to say the same things about Allãh. “But though the name was the same for the Meccans and for Muhammad, their conception of the bearer of the name must have differed widely. The Meccans evidently had in general no fear of him; the fear of Allãh was an element in Muhammad’s creed… The Meccans did not hesitate to disregard him and to cultivate the minor gods; Muhammad knew him as a jealous and vindictive sovereign who would assuredly judge and condemn in the end…”15

It is significant that while the sources, Islamic as well as others, mention idols of many Gods and Goddesses in the Ka‘ba and elsewhere, they nowhere mention an idol of Allãh. The only explanation is that every God and Goddesses was seen by the pagan Arabs as representing Allãh who could be prayed to through any one of them. In fact, the Meccans pointed out to Muhammad (Qur’ãn 6.149; 37.68) that “Allãh had never forbidden them to worship other gods with him.”16 Ibn Ishãq reports that ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib “stood by Hubal praying to Allah.”17 The Qur’ãn is never tired of saying that those whom the idolaters associate with Allah will not intercede for them on the last day. For the pagan Arabs, however, Allãh is no other than his associates; he is them and they are he. Of course, the pagans have no notion of the last day when alone Allãh will visit them; instead, they are aware of him every moment of their lives. He is present not in some high heaven but in and around them, in many names and forms. The character which the Qur’ãn assigns to Allãh must have looked like a prison-house to the pagan Arabs; their Allãh could not be contained in concepts created by the external and shallow mind of man, nor was he helplessly dependent upon the services of a prophet.

The pagan poets “had already developed in Arabic a vivid power of wielding descriptive epithets vis-a-vis Allãh.”18 Many of the ninety-nine names (Asmã’al-Hûsnã) which Muslim theologians mention, can be found in pagan poetry. Most probably, Allãh had many more names, may be a thousand, in the pagan parlance. It has been characteristic of pagan spirituality everywhere that it adorns with numerous names and forms whatever it adores. Muhammad retained only those names which did not offend his monotheism, and dropped the rest. He also added names which did not square with the pagan perception of Allãh but which went very well with the Allãh of his conception. Al-MuTakabbir, the Haughty, looks like one such name. Al-Muntaqîm, the Avenger, is another. The most typical of Muhammad’s contributions, however, is al-Mughnî, the Enricher, that is, by means of booty which includes, we may remember, the women and children of those who become victims of Jihãd. Small wonder that one of the names of Muhammad’s Allãh is al-Zãrr, the Distresser. We find that the Qur’ãn (58.11) uses the same name for Satan. As we shall see, that is exactly what Allãh came to mean in the doctrine as well as the history of Islam.

The two names, ar-RaHmãn, the Compassionate, and al-RaHîm, the Merciful, are the most frequent in Muhammad’s usage. They stand at the head of every Sûra of the Qur’ãn except one. There is nothing intrinsically offensive in these names when applied to Allãh. In fact, they are more appropriate for the Allãh of the pagan Arabs than for the Allãh of Islam. Yet the Meccans found them the most objectionable. Muhammad had tacked them to Allãh while dictating to ‘Ali the draft of the treaty at Hudaybiya. The Meccan representative protested and had them dropped. “Then the apostle,” narrates Ibn Ishãq, “summoned ‘Ali and told him to write ‘In the name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful.’ Subayl said ‘I do not recognize this; but write ‘In thy name, O Allah.’ The apostle told him to write the latter and he did so.”19 This was not the only occasion when the Meccans showed their repugnance for these names. They had all along accused Muhammad of importing alien names and imposing them upon Allãh. To them these names were Jewish and the Jews had been in league with Muhammad so far as Arabia’s ancient religion and culture were concerned. They saw these names as symbols of the new-fangled creed which Muhammad was trying to foist on them. On the other hand, Muhammad insisted on using these names because, in his mind, they embodied all that he stood for.

Incidentally, “Traditions assign two hundred names to Muhammad.”20 It seems that the Prophet grew in size at the expense of Allãh who was made to look smaller and smaller. That was quite in keeping with the Prophet’s own image of himself. He was out to block everyone else’s access to Allãh while proclaiming himself as Habîb Allãh, an-Nabî, ar-Rasûl and Khãtim al-Anbiyã. So it was no more sufficient that one believed in Allãh; one had also to believe in Muhammad as the only channel through which Allãh’s will could be known. It was inevitable that, in due course, the Prophet became more important than the contrived god in whose name he spoke.


There were other deities “whose titles themselves seem to designate them as occupying a position of supreme importance in the eyes of the worshippers.” Al-Malik, ‘the King,’ was the name of such a deity. “In the days of Islãm, al-Malik became one of the epithets of Allãh, and hence the name ‘Abd al-Malik survives among Muhammadans.”21

Ba‘l or Ba‘al

“The divine title Ba‘l or Ba‘al, ‘the lord,’ which was very common among the Northern Semites, survived among the Arabs of the Sinai Peninsula in the form al-Ba‘lû which occurs in their inscriptions together with the proper names ‘Abd al-Ba‘lî, Aus al-Ba‘lî, ‘gift of the Lord,’ and Garm al-Ba‘lî, probably ‘act of the Lord.’ A trace of the worship of this god may be found in Sharaf al-Ba‘l, the name of a place between Medina and Syria. The Arabs of later times were not aware that any such deity had existed, but certain phrases in their language clearly prove that he had once been known. Thus the term ‘soil of Ba‘l’ or simply ‘Ba‘l’ is applied to land which does not require irrigation, but has an underground water supply, and therefore yields fruit of the best quality. In this case the god seems to be regarded as the lord of the cultivated land… Again, the verb ba‘la and other derivatives of Ba‘l mean ‘to be bewildered,’ properly ‘to be seized by the god Ba‘l’.”22


“Among the Northern Arabs of early times, particularly in the region of Safã, the word El, ‘God,’ was still very commonly used as a separate name of the Deity. It is true that it does not actually occur except in compound proper names of persons, Wahb El, and many others. Some of these such as Wahbîl, ‘gift of El,’ Abdîl, ‘Servant of El,’ appear among the Arabs of a later age but at least in certain cases they must have been borrowed from the Sabaean language, while in other cases they are restricted to the extreme north of Arabia. It may be added that the divine name Iayãl, which occurs once in an ancient verse, is possibly a plural of majesty formed from El; Uwãl is a variation of the same name.23

“The names commonly used in dynasties, or distinguished families, who originally came from districts where Sabaean or some other peculiar dialect of southern Arabia was spoken, had naturally a tendency to spread among the Arabs in general.”24


“The Sun-god who according to Strabo (784) was held in especial honour by the Nabataeans, is very probably to be identified with Allãt… We have already seen that the sun is properly feminine in Arabic and in most other Semitic languages; hence the name Allãt which so far as we can judge means simply ‘the Goddess,’ is particularly suited in this case.” The Greek historian, Herodotus, mentions an Arabian Goddess named Alilãt. “That Alilãt is identical with Allãt, a goddess frequently mentioned, has long been an acknowledged fact. References to Allãt were found in several Nabataean inscriptions; in one of them she is called the ‘Mother of Gods.’ Moreover, proper names compounded with Allãt appear both among the Nabataeans and the Palmyrenes… Among the later Arabs this goddess was no less venerated. In the Qur’ãn (liii.50) she is one of the three daughters of Allãh. She is also mentioned occasionally in poetry. Thus one poet says: ‘I swear to him, in the presence of the throng, by the salt, by the fire, and by Allãt who is the greatest of all.’ Of the names compounded with Allãt, which were widely diffused, some at least must be of considerable antiquity …The cult of the goddess flourished, in particular, at the sanctuary of Tã’if, a town to the east of Mecca; the tribe of Thaquîf, who dwelt in that district spoke of her as the ‘mistress’,”25 that is, al-Rabba.26 Among the Lihyan, a branch of the Hudhail, settled in the country north-east of Mecca, Allãt was worshipped “alongside typically Arab” deities. 27


“Some Arabian deities were originally personifications of abstract ideas… Time in the abstract was popularly imagined to be the cause of all earthly happiness and especially of all earthly misery. Muhammad in the Qur’ãn (Sûra xlv. 23) blames the unbelievers for saying, ‘It is Time that destroys us.’ Her main sanctuary was a black stone among the Hudailîs in Qudaid, not far from Mecca on the road to Medina near a bill called Mushallal. She was however worshipped by many Arab tribes, primarily the Aws and Khazradj in Yathrib.28 In Mecca she was very popular along with the goddesses al-Lãt and al-‘Uzzã; the three (according to the Qur’ãn) were regarded as Allãh’s daughters, and in a weak moment Muhammad declared their worship permitted (cf. Sûra liii. 19 sqq.)… According to Ibn al-Kalbî, she was the oldest deity whose worship gave rise to that of the others, because names compounded with Manãt occur earlier than other theophoric names. Another view is found in Ibn Hishãm, p.145, where ‘the two daughters of ‘Uzzã are Manãt and al-Lãt.’ As an independent deity we find her in the Nabataen inscriptions of al-Hidjr… Manãt is connected in a peculiar way by some writers with the great hadjdj, for we are told that several tribes including the Aws and Khazradj assumed the ihrãm at the sanctuary of Manãt and on conclusion of the rites cut their hair and dropped the ihram…”29

The character of the Goddess can be inferred from her name. In Arabic manîya (plural, manãya) means “the alloted, fate, doom of death, destruction”. Manãt, therefore, was primarily the Goddess of Time. “The poets are continually alluding to the action of Time (dahr, zamãn) for which they often substitute ‘the days,’ or ‘nights.’ Time is represented as bringing misfortune, causing perpetual change, as biting, wearing down, shooting arrows that never miss the mark, hurling stones, and so forth… Occasionally we come across such passages as the following: ‘Time has brought woe upon him, for the days and the (alloted) measure (qadar) have caused him to perish.’ Various expressions are used by the poets in speaking of the ‘portion’ alloted to them or the goal that is set before them… Once we meet with the phrase ‘till it be seen what the Apportioner shall apportion to thee’ (mã yamnî laka ’lamãnî), which apparently refers to a god… The word here translated ‘apportion’ originally means ‘to count’, hence to ‘reckon’ a thing to someone…”30

She is also the Goddess of Death. “Manîya appears in poetry as driving a man into the grave, piercing him with an arrow, handing to him the cup of death, lying in ambush for him, receiving him as a guest (when he is about to die), and so forth. Not unfrequently the possessive suffix is added, ‘when my Manîya overtakes me,’ ‘his Manîya has come upon him,’ and the like…”31


Her name means ‘the Most Mighty.’ She was a Goddess of the Sabaeans who, in due course, became popular all over Arabia. She embodied the cult of the planet Venus. “The Syrian poet Issac of Antioch, who lived in the first half of the 5th cent., bears witness to the worship of ‘Uzzã by the Arabs of that period; in another passage he identifies ‘Uzzã with the planet Venus… The Arabian cult of the Venus is mentioned like-wise by Ephrahim Syrus (who died in AD 373), by Jerome, Theodret, and later still by Evagrius… As early as the 2nd cent. or thereabout, references to a priest of this goddess occur in two Sinaitic inscriptions… Another Sinaitic inscription mentions the name ‘Abd al-‘Uzzã which at a later time, just before the rise of Islam, was extremely common among the Arabs… ‘Uzzã figures in the Qur’ãn (Sûra liii. 19) as one of the three great goddesses of Mecca, who were supposed to be daughters of Allãh. That Muhammad himself offered sacrifices to her in his younger days is expressly stated by tradition…

“Kuthrã which probably means ‘die Most Rich,’ the name of an idol destroyed by order of Muhammad, is perhaps only another title of ‘Uzzã. We also read of a man call ‘Abd Kuthrã, belonging to the tribe of Tai, in the very centre of Arabia. Here the absence of the definite article proves that the name Kuthrã is ancienl”32

Another poet is known to have sworn by the Sa‘ida (Blessed) ‘Uzzã. As as-S‘ida is known to be the name of a Goddess worshipped at Medina, it is inferred that she was ‘Uzzã. “She was especially associated with the GhaTafãn but her principal sanctuary was in the valley of the Nakhla on the road from Tã’if to Mecca… It consisted of three samura (acacia) trees in one of which the goddess revealed herself… From these centres her cult spread among a number of Beduin tribes, the Khuzã’a, Ghanm, Kinãna, Balî, Thakîf and especially the Quraish, among whom she gradually acquired a predominant position… Here she formed with al-Lãt and Manãt a trinity in which she was the youngest but came in time to overshadow the others… When in the year 3, Abû Sufyãn set out to attack Muhammad he took the symbols of al-‘Uzzã and al-Lãt with him. That of the two al-‘Uzzã was the more important as the patron deity of Mecca is shown from Abû Sufyãn’s war cry: al-‘Uzzã is for us and not for you…

“Her cult disappeared after this [destruction of her sanctuary], as did the numerous proper names, combinations of al-‘Uzzã, while the masculine counterpart ‘Abd al-‘Azîz remained because ‘Azîz was one
of the names of Allãh…”33


“The Sun (Shams, construed as feminine) was honoured by several Arabian tribes with a sanctuary and an idol. The name ‘Abd Shams, ‘servant of the Sun,’ is found in many parts of the country. In the North we meet with the name Amrishams, ‘man of the Sun’…

“For the worship of the rising Sun we have the evidence of the name ‘Abd ash-Sharîq, ‘servant of the Rising One’… In the extreme South there was a God called DharîH or DhirrîH, which appears likewise to denote the rising Sun… Once we meet the name ‘Abd Muharriq; here Muharriq, ‘the Burner,’ may perhaps be another title of the Sun-god. The Muharriq who is mentioned as the ancestor of certain royal houses admits of a similar explanation.”34

Sûra 91 of the Qur’ãn is named Ash-Shams. The word “shams” survives in Muslim names also.


He was an ancient Arab deity. “According to the Arab tradition he was a god who owned a reserved grazing ground (Himã) among the Dawsites with a hollow in which the water trickled down from the rocks, which is in agreement with the fact that the name ‘Abd Dhu ‘l-Sharã is found in this tribe. According to al-Kalbî also, this deity was worshipped among the related Banu ’l-Hãrith… We meet with Dh ’l-Sharã (Dusares) on more historical ground as a the chief god of the Nabataeans in whose inscriptions from Petra, the land east of Jordan and as far as al-Hidjr, he is often mentioned. His chief sanctuary was in Petra where a large black, quadrangular stone was dedicated to him in a splendid temple. He had another important sanctuary in Soada which was called Dionysias after him. His festival was celebrated here in August which is certainly connected with the fact that he was identified with Dionysos as the god of fertility, particularly of the vintage. In Petra and Elusa, on the other hand, his festival, according to Epiphanius, fell on the 25th day of December on which day ‘the virgin called Kkhbou in Arabic and Dusares born of her were worshipped with Arabic hymns’… It naturally reminds one of the Arabic ka‘ab ‘a young maiden with breasts developed’; but it is also possible to connect it with ka‘b ‘cube’ (cf, the Ka‘ba at Mecca) according to which interpretation the god was thought to have been born from the stone.”35

“…But there were several places called ash-Sharã, and the difficulty of determining with which of them the god was originally connected is increased by the fact that his cult goes back to very early times. The localities which bear this name appear to have been moist and rich in vegetation; such a spot, in the midst of a sterile country like Arabia, easily became a centre of worship.” The fact that underneath his idol “stood a golden pedestal, and the whole sanctuary blazed with gold and votive offerings”, as also the fact that his festival fell “about the time of the winter solstice”, establish his “connexion with Sun-worship”. He was the “patron of luxuriant vegetation”, which further emphasism his “character as a Sun-god.”36

“Another god who appears to have been named after a place is Dhu ’l-Halasa or Dhu ’l-HulaSa. He was greatly venerated at a place in the noth of Yemen, apparently the district now called ‘Asir. Between his sanctuary and the sanctuary at Mecca there existed a certain amount of rivalry.

“From a grammatical point of view, the gods Dhu ’l-Kaffain, ‘He who has two hands,’ and Dhu’r-rijl, ‘He who has a foot,’ must be classed with the two forgoing ones. Perhaps these names may have been originally applied to sacred stones, which by means of rude carving were made to bear a partial resemblance to the human form.”37

Another God with a similar name was Dhu ’l-KhabSa who was worshipped by al-Azd or al-Asd, “a widely ramified family of tribes” among which “the al-Aws and al-Khazradj of Medina and the Khuzã‘a in and around Mecca were counted.” They were worshippers of Manãt. The same tribe living in the mountains of Sarãt worshipped an idol named ‘Ã’im.38


“The constellation of the Pleiades (ath-Thuraiyã) which was supposed to bestow rain, appears as a deity in the name ‘Abd ath-Thuraiyã; the name ‘Abd Najm refers also to the Pleiades, for the latter are often called simply an-Najm, ‘constellation.’”39

“The word “thuraiyã” is a dimunitive of “tharwã” which means ‘existing in plenty’… The constellation is so called because rain at its rising at the dawn brings tharwã i.e. great plenty. In any case, from early times the Pleiades have been credited with great influence on weather and the processes of nature dependent upon it… The constellation is also regarded as a diadem with jewels and it is mentioned in countless passages in the poets…”40

The word “thuraiyã” survives in the name Suraiya which is still common among Muslims everywhere. Sûra liii of the Qur’ãn is named An-Najm. Najm and Najmã are also components of Muslim names.


He was an “ancient Arabian thunder-god who shot hail from his bow and then hung the latter on the clouds.” We meet him in the “combination Qaus QuzaH”, the bow of QuzaH, meaning the rainbow.41 QuzaH was also “the name of a certain spot, within the sacred territory of Mecca, where pilgrims were accustomed to kindle fire.”42 The Islamic lore is not quite logical about this God. He is described as a shaiTãn (devil) and also as an angel who looks after the clouds. The rainbow becomes Allãh’s bow, bow of the prophet of Allãh, bow of the heavens, bow of the clouds, signs of heaven, etc., and the word loses its association with a God.


“…also pronounced Wudd or Udd i.e. ‘friendship,’ ‘affection,’ was according to the Qur’ãn (Sûra lxxi. 22) a god worshipped by the contempories of Noah. But it would be a mistake to conclude that his worship was obsolete in Muhammad’s time, for we have sufficient evidence to the contrary. The poet Nãbigha says once, ‘Wadd greet thee!’ There was a statue of this god at Dûma, a great oisis in the extreme North of Arabia. The name ‘Abd Wadd occurs in a number of wholly distinct tribes… As we are told that his statue had a bow and arrows attached to it we might be tempted to imagine that he was a kind of Eros, and this would imply a foreign origin. But though the root WDD means ‘to love,’ ‘to feel affection’ for an object, it is never used in a sexual sense. Moreover the statue in question bore not only a bow and arrows, but likewise a sword and lance from which hung a flag; the god was also fully clad and therefore does not look like a copy of the Greek Eros.”43

Ch. Muhammad Ismail mentions an inscription which he saw in the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, Bombay, in 1921. It was on one of the stones “brought from Aden by Colonel H.F. Jacob of the Indian Army, who was for a long time at Aden…”44 The language of the inscription was “what may be called Himyaritic though Sabaean and South Arabic are also names given to it”. Ch. Ismail read the inscription as saying, “The House No. 2 of Father Wadd”, and commented: “Wadd was a god worshipped by the Arabs who often wore talismans bearing the name Wadd. The word itself is derived from wudd which means love. It was opposed to Nakruh, the god of hatred.”45

The name of this God survives in Al-Wadûd, one of the ninety-nine names of Allãh meaning “the Loving One” (Qur’ãn, xi. 92; lxxv. 14).


She was a Goddess who symbolized ‘goodwill’ or ‘favour’. “The commentary on a term in which the name is mentioned informs us that RuDã was worshipped in the shape of an idol by the great tribe of Tamîm. The proper name ‘Abd RuDã is found among several Arab tribes. To the nature of the deity in question the name supplies no clue… The remarkable fact that in the abovementioned verse RuDã is construed as feminine (whereas this grammatic form would normally be masculine), naturally suggests that at that period, about the time of Muhammad, people still realized that RuDã was merely an epithet applied to a goddess who properly bore some other name. But against this hypothesis, it may be urged that the name is of considerable antiquity, as is proved by the Palmyrene inscriptions, where it occurs separately in the form ‘RSU, and in theophorous proper names as RSU… The RDU of the Safã inscriptions seems to denote the same deity.”46


It was the name of a deity venerated by various Semitic people. The word occurs in Nabataean inscriptions in the form Gaddã. “But since we meet the proper name ‘Abd al-Jadd in a few cases… and since the noun judd, ‘luck,’ remained in current use among the Arabs, it is more natural to regard the Nabataean Gaddã as an Aramaized form of the native Arabic al-Gadd (al-Jadd).”47 The name is used in the Qur’ãn (lxxii. 3) in the sense of ‘greatness’ and ‘majesty’.


In Arab astronomy it is the common name for small groups of stars in the constellations Pegasus, Aquarius and Capricorn which augur good fortune. That is what the God Sa‘d stood for. “According to a certain verse and statements of the commentator, Sa‘d was the name given to a rock not far from Jidda, to which divine honours were paid. Moreover, we meet the name ‘Abd Sa‘d in quite a different part of Arabia, to the north-east. At an earlier period a man’s name which seems to be compounded with Sa‘d occurs in the inscriptions of Safã.”48 Three of Muhammad’s leading companions were named Sa‘d- Sa‘d ibn Abî Waqqãs, Sa‘d ibn Mu’az and Sa‘d ibn ‘Ubãdah. The name seems to have survived, though in an abbreviated form, in the title of the thirty-eighth Sûra of the Qur’ãn.


The name means ‘height’, or ‘high place’. “That Manãf was worshipped as a god is proved by the testimony of a verse, and is confirmed by the occurrence of a name ‘Abd Manãf which was especially common at Mecca and among the neighbouring tribe of Hudhail.” The word Mãnaphis is found in an ancient inscription from the Haurãn and seems to be derived from Manãphios, the name of this God.49

“…It is said that one of Muhammad’s ancestors-the pedigree being Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allãh b. ‘Abd al-MuTTalib b. Hãshim b. ‘Abd Manãf-received this name because his mother consecrated him to Manãf, who was then the chief deity of Makka.

“… Ibn Kalbî knows nothing of its whereabouts except that menstruating women were bound to keep themselves at a distance from it.

“The name does not occur either in the Qur’ãn or in classical hadith. It derives from a root n-w-f, which in several Semitic languages conveys the meaning of ‘being elevated’.”50


It was “One of the idols of ancient Arabs, mentioned in the Qur’ãn, Sûrah lxxi. 23. it was an idol which, as its name implies, was worshipped under the form of an eagle.”51 Muhammad made this God a contemporary of Noah. “But it is to be noticed that the Sabaeans like-wise had a god called Nasr…”52


The name ‘Abd ‘Auf was quite common among the Arabs. ‘Auf means “the great bird of prey”. The word is not found in this form in the Arab language at present. But “the verb ‘afã, which is derived from it, means ‘to wheel in the air,' as birds of prey are wont to do.” The word “has, in particular, the sense of augurium, and it may be that the name of the god did not refer to the bird but to the omen drawn from it; in this case ‘Auf would be a synonymous of Sa‘d.”53


“The god Yagûth, whose name evidently means ‘helper,’ was according to the Qur’ãn (Sûra lxxi. 23), another of the deities worshipped in the days of Noah… We find no trace of this god in early times… But at a later period we hear of a god Yagûth, whose idol was an object of contention among the tribes of Yemen, and the name ‘Abd Yagûth occurs in various part of Arabia, even in the tribe of Taghilib on the north-eastern frontier.”54

“Yagûth had the shape of a lion.”55

Ya‘uq and Suwã‘

The idol of Ya‘uq “"was in the form of a horse, and was worshipped in Yemen. (Bronze images of this idol are found in ancient tombs and are still used as amulets)…

“Suwã‘, in the form of a woman, was said to be from antidiluvian times…”56

“The name of the god Ya‘uq, who is mentioned in the Qur’ãn together with Yagûth, probably means ‘the Preserver’; his cult seems to have been confined to Yemen. Suwã‘, who is also included among gods worshipped by Noah’s contemporaries (Sãrû lxxi. 20), was apparently of no great importance. He had a sanctuary at a place in the territory of the Hudhail, but none, so far as we know, elsewhere. The meaning of his name is altogether obscure. Neither Suwã‘ nor Ya‘uq seems to occur in the theophorous proper names. It is hardly necessary to remark that the transferring of all these Arabian deities to the age of Noah was a fantastic anachronism due to Muhammad himself.”57


“Hubal was worshipped at Mecca; his idol stood in the Ka‘ba, and appears to have been in reality, the god of that sanctuary… It would be unsafe to trust the descriptions of the idol in question which are given by writers of a later period; there is reason, however, to believe that the god had a human form. We may likewise accept as historical the statement that near him were kept divining arrows, used for the purpose of ascertaining his will or forecasting future events. It is related that the idol was brought by ‘Amr b. LuHai from Ma‘ãb (Moab), a tradition which may contain some elements of truth, for we have independent evidence indicating that the god was known in the North. He seems to be mentioned in a Nabataean inscription at Hejr; and the tribe of Kalb, who dwelt in the Syrian Desert, used the name of Hubal as the name of a person or clan; the same tribe… used in like manner the names of Îsãf and Nã’ila, two other deities peculiar to Mecca. Moreover, ‘Amr b. LuHai is the representative of the Huzã‘a, a tribe who, according to tradition, occupied the sacred territory of Mecca before it passed into the hands of the Quraish. The assertion that’Amr introduced the worship of idols into Mecca for the first time is, of course, utterly incredible. But the hypothesis that Hubal was a late importation from a foreign country is further supported by the fact that we hear nothing of him in other parts of Arabia, and even at Mecca personal names compounded with Hubal were unknown. When the Meccans gained a victory over the Prophet in the immediate neighbourhood of Medina, their leader shouted, ‘Hurrah for Hubal!’ Thus they regarded him as the natural enemy of the God preached by Muhammad.”58

“Another tradition indeed relates that Hubal was an idol of Banû Kinãna, worshipped also by the Quraish, and had been placed in the Ka‘ba by Khuzaima b. Mudrika wherefore it used to be called Hubal Khuzaima. It is further related that the idol was of red carnelian, in the form of a man; the Quraish replaced the right hand which was broken, by a golden one…”59

“Hubal was in the form of a man and came from Syria; he was the god of rain and had a high place of honour.”60

“An idol, the God of the Moon…”61

“It is remarkable that there is no distinct allusion to the idol in the whole of the Qur’ãn.”62

“The learned Dr. Pocock… derives the name from the Hebrew habba’l or habbe’l and suggests… the appropriateness of havel, ‘vanity!’ Among the Arabs, Hubal seems to have had a double character, in which respect he resembled the Syrian idol Baal (properly, Ba‘al), who was regarded both as the founder of the Babylonian empire, and as the sun personified as a deity. The opinion that Hubal was the same as the Babylonian or Syrian idol Ba‘al or Bêl, or synonymous with it, is in fact supported by the testimony of the Arabian authorities, who relate that it was originally brought from Syria or Mesopotamia. Of course, the Arabian writers do not maintain that Hubal was identical with Ba‘al: they admit, however, that it was an astronomical deity, which Ba‘al also is believed to have been-whose designation, by the way, like that of ‘the sun’ among ourselves, always appears with the article-‘Habba‘al’. Further, Herodotus (and after him, Rawlison) held the opinion that Hubbal was ‘the Jupiter of the Arabians’-presumably because he was believed to have the power of sending rain…”63

Isãf and Nã’ila

Muslim tradition says that “They were a man and woman of Jurhum-Isãf b. Baghy and Nã’ila d. Dîk-who were guilty of sexual relations in the Ka‘ba and so God transformed them into two stones.”64

Obviously the tradition is a fabrication. As pointed out above, the tribe of Kalb in the Syrian Desert worshipped both of them as deities along with Hubal. The idols “stood near Mecca on the hills of Safa and Mirwa; the visitation of these popular shrines is now a part of the Muslim pilgrimage…”65 They were no doubt “two sacred stones, but the origin of their names is so far unexplained.”66


He was an ancient God of the pagan Arabs. “He must have early disappeared as a deity, for al-Kalbî does not mention him in his Kitãb al-ASnãm and he is not given in the various passages in Arab literature that give lists of the gods of the Djahilîya. But that he was at one time worshipped as a god may be deduced with considerable certainty from the tribal name ‘Abd al-Qais and from the well-known personal and tribal name Imru’ al-Qais.” The name of a God mentioned in the Nabataean inscription from al-Hijr “can hardly be other than an Aramaic adaptation of al-Qais” who “had a sanctuary in al-Hijr in which copies of documents used to be deposited.” The word “qais” carries several meanings in the dictionaries. De Goeje “has deduced the meaning ‘Lord’ from al-Hamdãnî, Djazîrat al-‘Arab.”67


“…The name of a divinity of pre-Muhammadan Arabia, or better an epithe, the meaning of which (diminutive of aqSar, ‘he who has a stiff neck’ or perhaps simply ‘the short’) seems to indicate an idol in a human shape. All that we know of the god (whose real name is un-known) goes back to the references to him by Ibn al-Kalbî, Kitãb al-ASnãm followed by Yãqût, Mu‘djam… Al-UqaiSir was worshipped by the tribes of QuDã‘a, Lakhm, Djudhãm, ‘Amila and GhaTafãn living on the plateau of the Syrian Desert. Verses in old poets quoted by Ibn al-Kalbî mention stones (anSãb) put up around the sacred place, the ‘garments’ (athwãb), the ditch (djafr) into which were thrown the offerings, the cries and chants of the pilgrims…

“As Wellhausen notes, the expressions used in the verses which Ibn al-Kalbî quotes in connection with al-UqaiSir must refer to a sanctuary as well as to an idol. We might then suppose that the epithet reflects the squat form of the building. It is worthwhile recalling that the name Uqaisir is also applied to a tribe, to individuals and even to a sword.”68

Shai al-Qaum

We learn about this God from a Palmyrene and a Nabataean inscription. He is “the Companion of the people”, “the kind god who rewards (or who is grateful), and who drinks no wine”, that is, “to whom no libations of wine are offered.”69


“…was the virgins’ idol and young women used to go around it in procession, hence its name.”70


The deities listed in the foregoing few pages may sound too many to minds under the spell of monotheism. The fact, however, is that they are far too few and represent only what has been salvaged by modern scholarship form the extensive ruins caused by Islam. For the pagan Arabs, the whole of their homeland was honeycombed with temples and sanctuaries housing hundreds of divinities with as many Names and Forms. Every household had its ancestral deities which were joined by those brought in by the brides. Every locality, every oasis, every grove had its own presiding deity. So also every tribal territory. Finally, the national temple, the Ka‘ba at Mecca, had as many as three hundred and sixty deities, the Names and Forms of which remain unknown except in the case of a few. “It seems that in course of time the various Arab tribes had brought in their gods and placed them in the Ka‘ba, which had consequently acquired the character of the national pantheon for the whole of Arabia.”71

The more pertitent point in the present context, however, is that the pagan Arabs were fully satisfied with their ancestral religion and felt no need for a replacement. Of course, they were not in the business of saving souls and civilizing other people, which is what has come to count in the history of religion. But that is a “fault” inbuilt in the very genius of paganism. “Occupied with the reform of their own lives and the righting of actual wrongs, these persons made no noise and being earnest did not suppose that the replacement of one cult for another would make men virtuous; and Mohammed himself had occasion to draw a contrast between the conduct of his pagan and that of his believing son-in-law, greatly to the disadvantage of the latter. So far as the religious sentiment requires gratification, there is no evidence to show that paganism had faded to gratify it. We gather from the inscriptions of the pagan Arabs that a wealth of affection and gratitude was bestowed upon their gods and patrons.”72 In the pagan spiritual tradition people are expected to be “busy with themselves”, that is, busy in improving their own morals by purifying their own consciousness. The prophetic tradition, on the other hand, harangues people to be “busy with the others”, that is, saving other people from sin, infidelity, and the eternal hell-fire. That is why the prophetic tradition abounds in missions and da‘was, crusades and jihãds.

It is often pointed out that no pagan Arab came foreward with a philosophical defence of his religion when it was assailed by Muhammad. The only defence which every pagan put up for his religion was that it was the religion of his forefathers and, as such, hallowed by time and tradition. A deeper reflection goes to show that this was indeed a very strong defence. What the monothesists dismiss as polytheism and idol-worship are natural to the normal human psyche. Moreover, honouring that which was honoured by one’s ancestors keeps one rooted in one’s history and culture. Cults which encourage one to denounce one’s ancestors as barbarians or infidels, and one’s past history as an age of ignorance, render one rootless and make one into a menace to one’s neighbours. The Bible provides ample evidence of the normal people reverting to polytheism and idol-worship again and again, and the persistent and violent wars which the prophets had to wage for reimposing Jehovah on them. In any case, a religion stands in need of a philosophical defence only when it is already on a course of decline, and an inner dissatisfaction starts gnawing at the heart of its more perceptive adherents. There is no evidence that the pagan Arabs were suffering from such a psychosis on the eve of Islam. The confidence with which they spurned Muhammad’s message and ridiculed his superior claims leaves little doubt that Arab paganism was still in a state of good health. Though not so the environment in which this paganism lived and breathed. The mental disorder glorified as monotheism was present in an epidemic form, not only all around it but also in its very midst. Arab paganism was blissfully ignorant of what monotheism meant and the mischief it intended for a society which permitted it to spread.


1 Ibid., op. cit., pp. 35-36. The word “God” in this passage and those that follow is a translation of the word “Allãh” The references to Abraham and Ishmael and their mode of worship at the Ka‘ba may be ignored in the light of what we have stated above. The Ka‘ba was a temple of the pagan Arabs who had never heard of Abraham or Ishmael or their religion.

2 Ibid., p. 36.

3 Ibid., p. 37.

4 Ibid., p. 38.

5 It was renamed Medina when Muhammad migrated to it.

6 Ibid., pp. 38-39.

7 Ibid., p. 39.

8 Plural of Sanam. Dictionaries and commentaries on the Qur’ãn define it as “an object which is worshipped besides God”, being a thing made of wood, stone or metal.

9 First Encyclopaedia of Islam, op. cit., Vol. VII, p. 147.

10 Shaikh Inayatullah, op. cit., p. 128.

11 First Encyclopaedia of Islam, op. cit., Vol. 1. p. 379. References to similar Gods of other nations, mentioned in parentheses, have been left out.

12 This theory of borrowing Gods in the case of pagan spiritual traditions does not mean much because the pagan psyche throws up spontaneously the same symbols everywhere.

13 Ibid., p. 380.

14 Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Third Impression, Edinburgh, 1955, Vol. I, p. 664.

15 First Encyclopaedia of Islam, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 302.

16 Ibid.

17 Ibn Ishãq, op. cit., p. 67. Allãh of the pagan Arabs reminds us of the Devãdhideva, the God of Gods, in the Hindu spiritual tradition.

18 First Encyclopaedia of Islam, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 303. Pagan epithets of Allãh remind us of the Sahasranãma-s in praise of many Hindu Gods and Godesses.

19 Ibn Ishãq, op. cit, p. 504.

20 Cyril Glasse, The Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam, London, 1989, p. 279.

21 Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, op. cit., p. 664

22 Ibid. See also the last para under Hubal in this section.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid., Footnote.

25 Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, op. cit., p. 661.

26 First Encyclopaedia of Islam, op. cit., Vol. VI, p. 1088.

27 Ibid., Vol. V, p. 27. Allãt, reminds us of Aditi, the Mother of Gods in the Vedic pantheon.

28 This city became known as Medina after Muhammad migrated to it from Mecca in AD 622. It remained his seat till his death in AD 632. Later on, it was the capital of the Caliphate till ‘Alî moved to Kufa.

29 Ibid., op. cit., Vol. V, p. 231.

30 Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, op. cit., p. 661.

31 Ibid., One is reminded of the Hindu concept of Kãla which stands for both Time and Death, and parallel verses can be found in Hindu literature. We also know of Hindu temples dedicated to Mahãkãla.

32 Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, op. cit., p. 660.

33 First Encyclopaedia of Islam, op. cit., Vol. VIII, p. 1069.

34 Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, op. cit., p. 660.

35 First Encyclopaedia of Islam, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 965.

36 Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, op. cit., p. 663.

37 Ibid.

38 First Encyclopaedia of Islam, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 530-31.

39 Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, op. cit., p. 660.

40 First Encyclopaedia of Islam, op. cit., Vol. VIII, p. 740.

41 Ibid., op. cit., Vol. IV, p. 833.

42 Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, op. cit., p. 661. He reminds us of Indra of the Vedic pantheon in one of his roles.

43 Ibid., p. 662.

44 A Himyaritic Inscription’, article by Ch. Muhammad Ismail in Indian Antiquary, Vol. LVI (February, 1927), p. 21.

45 Ibid., p. 22.

46 Ibid.

47 Ibid.

48 Ibid.

49 Ibid.

50 First Encyclopaedia of Islam, op. cit., Vol. V, p. 227.

51 Thomas Patrick Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, First Published 1885, New Delhi Reprint 1976. p. 431.

52 Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, op. cit., p. 663. He reminds us of GaruDa in the PurãNas.

53 Ibid.

54 Ibid.

55 S.M. Zwemer, The Influence of Animism in Islam, New York, 1920, p. 5.

56 Ibid.

57 Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, op. cit., p. 663.

58 Ibid., pp. 663-64. Pagan spiritual traditions elsewhere are also known to have borrowed or exchanged idols. No idol is foreign to the pagan psyche.

59 First Encyclopaedia of Islam, op. cit, Vol. III, p. 327.

60 S.M. Zwemer, op. cit., p. 5.

61 Cyril Glasse, op. cit p. 160.

62 Thomas Patrick Hughes, op. cit., p. 181.

63 The Oracle of Hubal’, article in Indian Antiquary. Vol. XII, (January, 1883), p. 5.

64 Ibn Ishãq, op. cit., p. 37.

65 S.M. Zwemer, op. cit., p. 6.

66 First Encyclopaedia of Islam, op. cit., Vol. III, p. 527. Hindu iconography is familiar with Mithunas. Gods and their Consorts, worshipped together.

67 Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 651. There is considerable inscriptional evidence from South India about the Hindu practice of making various types of agreements in the temples, thus invoking the Gods and Goddesses as witnesses.

68 Ibid., Vol. VIII, p. 993.

69 Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethcis, op. cit., p. 663.

70 S.M. Zwemer, op. cit., p. 6.

71 Shaikh Inayatullah, op. cit., p. 130.

72 D.S. Margoliouth, op. cit., p. 25.

SITA RAM GOEL, "Hindu Temples, What happened to them", Chapter Eleven