The 2001 Commentaries

Moon Worship in the Pre-Islamic Middle East

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(Contributed by a reader, and edited)

Hundreds of millions of devout Muslims around the world use the title “Allah” to refer to God Almighty. However, the origin of the word is surprising.

Archaeologists have unearthed a large number of artifacts in which a deity with a crescent moon on top of its head symbolized worship of an Arabian moon god. The name of the Moon-god was ‘Sin,’ but his title was Al-iIah, which means ‘the deity,’ because he was above all the other gods. The word ‘Al-iIah’ eventually morphed into the word ‘Allah’. The term ‘Allah’ was in common use before Muhammad was born.

This is a surprise to many, as most Muslims and non-Muslims are under the impression that ‘Allah’ is an Islamic name for the Jewish and Christian God Yahweh/Jehovah. Yet that’s not how it was used originally.

Archaeological evidence

According to archaeological and historical records, before Mohammed arrived, “Allah” was a title given to the Arabian moon god who married the sun goddess. Together they had three daughters who were also goddesses. They were called, Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Manat (the first two names are feminine forms of ‘Allah’). Archaeologists have found temples to the Moon-god throughout the Middle East. Evidence shows that worship of the moon-god was in full swing even during the Christian era (see photo gallery).

The worship of these three goddesses played a major part in the worship at the Kabah in Mecca. The ancient pagan moon-worshipers prayed toward Mecca and the Kabah, because that is where their gods were stationed, as was the image of the moon-god. Also, the pagan moon worshipers used ‘Allah’ in the names they gave to their children.

The Quraysh tribe (to which Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was born) was particularly devoted to the moon god, Allah. They were especially devoted to Allah’s three goddess daughters who were viewed as intercessors between the people and Allah. This may explain why both Muhammad’s father (Abd-Allah) and uncle (Obied-Allah) had ‘Allah’ as part of their names, showing the devotion that Muhammad's family had to the worship of the moon god.

Islam arrives

This worship of the moon god extended far beyond Arabia to the entire Fertile Crescent. This may help to explain the early success of Islam among Arab groups. Converts could continue many of their traditions and rituals as before, even keeping the title ‘Allah’. They may have also kept the symbol of the worship of the moon god, the crescent moon.

Yes, the symbol of Islam often seen today was used to worship the moon in pre-Islamic times. Indeed, some Imams have tried to persade their fellow Muslims to give up the symbol, partly because of its likely pagan origin and partly because they see it as a form of idolatry. Yet a crescent moon sits atop most mosques, and is on the flags of Islamic nations. Also, the fasting month of Ramadan is widely understood to have pre-Islamic origins, and it’s interesting to note that it begins and ends with the appearance of – not a full moon, nor a new moon, but a crescent moon.

While hundreds of millions of devout Muslims in modern times believe that Islamic rituals and doctrines are of a heavenly origin, archaelogical evidence shows that suggests that many Islamic rituals and beliefs began with pagans, centuries before Muhammad, Jesus, or Abraham.

For more information:

Christians, Jews, Moslems, and the Bible

Is There a Burning Hell?

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