Hubal and Allah Revisited

Addressing one Muslim Polemicist’s Denials

Sam Shamoun

Muslim writer and polemicist MENJ has undertaken the task of responding to my article regarding the identity of Allah as Hubal in pre-Islamic Arabia. The readers can see our discussion of this issue here, and MENJ’s response here.

MENJ ends up actually proving my arguments, despite his thinking that he is refuting them! Note for instance what he says regarding the place from where the Meccans received their idol of Hubal:

Regarding the nature of Hubal, it has been ascertained that traditionally, the idol is Moabite in origin. Martin Lings states as follows:

So 'Abd al-Muttalib continued to dig without any actual move being made to stop him; and some of the people were already leaving the sanctuary when suddenly he struck the well's stone covering and uttered a cry of thanksgiving to God. The crowd reassembled and increased; and when he began to dig out the treasure which Jurhum had buried there, everyone claimed the right to share in it. 'Abd al-Muttalib agreed that lots should be cast for each object, as to whether it should be kept in the sanctuary or go to him personally or be divided amongst the tribe. This had become the recognised way of deciding an issue of doubt, and it was done by means of divining arrows inside the Ka'bah, in front of the Moabite idol Hubal... [3]

Hence it has always been known that the idol Hubal is a Moabite import (i.e. Baal), hence demolishing another of the missionary's accusations. Hitti seems to concur with the Moabite origins of Hubal by stating that:

Hubal (from Aram. for vapour, spirit), evidently the chief deity of al-Ka'bah, was represented in human form. Beside him stood ritual arrows used for divination by the soothsayer ( kahin, from Aramaic) who drew lots by means of them. The tradition in ibn-Hisham, which makes 'Amr ibn-Luhayy the importer of this idol from Moab or Mesopotamia, may have a kernel of truth in so far as it retains a memory of the Aramaic origin of the deity. At the conquest of Makkah by Muhammad Hubal shared the lot of the other idols and was destroyed. [4]

How was this postulated to be the one and the same with Allâh is no doubt a mystery that only the missionaries are capable of understanding! Further, it is also admitted by Hitti that Hubal shared the fate of the other idols which were destroyed at the conquest of Makkah.


First, we are truly thankful to MENJ for agreeing that not only did Hubal come from Moab but that he was actually Baal. He has basically confirmed our analysis that Hubal and Baal are one and the same deity! In fact, we had already quoted the above citations in our article which MENJ now tries to use against us. Therefore, since we basically agree that Hubal was a Moabite idol corresponding to Baal, how then does MENJ’s agreement with our own stated position demolish our arguments?

Interestingly, even though MENJ mentions Hitti he didn’t even bother addressing what I had quoted from him:

Allah (allah, al-ilah, the god) was the principal, though not the only, deity of Makkah. The name is an ancient one. It occurs in two South Arabic inscriptions, one a Minean found at al-'Ula and the other Sabean, but abounds in the form HLH in the Lihyanite inscriptions of the fifth century B.C. Lihyan, which evidently got the god from Syria, was the first center of the worship of this deity in Arabia. The name occurs as Hallah in the Safa inscriptions five centuries before Islam and also in a pre-Islamic Christian Arabic inscription found in umm-al-Jimal, Syria, and ascribed to the sixth century. The name of Muhammad's father was 'Abd-Allah ('Abdullah, the slave or worshiper of Allah). The esteem in which Allah was held by the pre-Islamic Makkans as the creator and supreme provider and the one to be invoked in time of special peril may be inferred from such koranic passages as 31:24, 31; 6:137, 109; 10:23. Evidently he was the tribal deity of the Quraysh. (History of the Arabs from the Earliest Times to the Present, revised tenth edition, new preface by Walid Khalidi [Palgrave Macmillan, 2002; ISBN: 0-333-63142-0 paperback], pp. 100-101; underlined emphasis ours)

Hitti affirms that Allah was the Quraysh’s tribal deity. We also cited Ibn Kathir who agreed that Hubal was the chief god of Muhammad’s family:

Ibn Ishaq stated, "It is claimed that when ‘Abd al-Muttalib received such opposition from Quraysh over the digging of zamzam, he vowed that if ten sons were born to him who grew up and protected him, he would sacrifice one of them for God at the ka‘ba."

Eventually he had ten sons grown up whom he knew would give him protection. Their names were al-Harith, al-Zubayr, Hajl, Dirar, al-Muqawwim, Abu Lahab, al-‘Abbas, Hamza, Abu Talib, and ‘Abd Allah. He assembled them and told them of his vow and asked them to honour his pledge to God, Almighty and All-glorious is He. They obeyed, and asked him what he wanted them to do. He asked each of them to take an arrow, write his name on it and return to him.

They did so and went with them inside the ka‘bato the site of THEIR god HUBAL, where there was the well in which offerings to the ka‘ba would be placed. There, near Hubal, were seven arrows which they would use for divining a judgement over some matter of consequence, a question of blood-money, kinship, or the like. They would come to Hubal to seek a resolution, accepting whatever they were ordered to do or to refrain from." (The Life of the Prophet Muhammad (Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya), Volume I, translated by professor Trevor Le Gassick, reviewed by Dr. Ahmed Fareed [Garnet Publishing Limited, 8 Southern Court, south Street Reading RG1 4QS, UK; The Center for Muslim Contribution to Civilization, 1998], pp. 125-126; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Now notice MENJ’s candid admission:

Hence it is clear that there is nothing in the missionary diatribe that "seriously damages the Muslim claim regarding Allâh in pre-Islamic times being the same God of Abraham" nor does the missionary reliance on Psalms and circular reasoning is "evidence linking Allâh with Hubal". As we have already noted before, Hubal was the principal idol of the Quraysh, as was Al-Lât the principle idol of the Tâ'ifans. Despite their declination into idolatry, it is amazing, as one scholar remarks [5] , that the Quraysh have never lost sight of Allâh as the Supreme Lord of the Universe. What is obviously clear from the evidence we have presented is that it is the worship of Hubal that was later imported into the present beliefs of the Makkans who had earlier already acknowledged the existence of Allâh as the Only God. Indeed, Islam has identified itself with the other Semitic religions (Judaism and Christianity) and called upon them in these words:

"Say [O Prophet] : 'O People of the Book! Let us come together on a fair and noble principle common to both of us, never to worship or serve aught but God, never to associate any other being with Him, and never to take one another as Lords besides God." (Qur'ân, 3:64)

This is indeed the religio naturalis of which Islam asserts as first principle that all mankind are endowned [sic] with this innate religiousity.

Note that MENJ agrees that Hubal was the principle idol of the Quraysh. Now what tribe did Muhammad belong to? You guessed it, the Quraysh. Did Ibn Kathir say that the god of Muhammad’s family was Hubal? Yes he did. Did Hitti claim that Hubal was the chief deity of the Kabah and also that Allah was the tribal (implying chief) deity of the Quraysh? You bet. Can we therefore draw a valid inference from all of the above and conclude that Allah was the title or name of the chief Meccan deity, Hubal? Indeed we can. After all, you cannot have two chief gods, since chief means the head, the first, the premiere, the most prominent of the pantheon. Has MENJ said anything that essentially refutes this? Not even close.

MENJ accuses me of using circular reasoning, and calls into question my appeal to the Psalms, specifically Psalm 83. Yet when it suits his purpose MENJ considers Psalms to be a valid source of information, or as a sufficient basis to argue for the correctness of a specific position. In one of his articles, Muhammad Mohar Ali quotes the Psalms in support of Mecca being known in Bible times:

Last but not least, the name of Makka, which is also called Bakka in the Qur'an (Q. 3:96), finds mention in the Psalm of David, together with the well too. Thus Psalm 84:6 says:

"Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools."

'Baca' in the above passage is clearly Bakka of the Qur'an, and the well spoken of is the well of Zamzam. It is also noteworthy that ancient works on history and geography make mention of floods being caused at Makka by occasional heavy rains, a feature not quite unknown even in modem times -thus completing the identification with Makka- "the rain also filleth the pools."

Thus, despite some obvious discrepancies in the description of the Genesis, it is in consonance with all the essential features in the Qur'anic and Islamic accounts; and they combined prove that Hajar and Isma'il were settled at Makka, according to the Divine plan and provision. (Source)

If the Psalms are good enough to validate Islam, then they are also good enough to expose it. If one can appeal to the Psalms to support Muhammad then one can also legitimately appeal to them to refute Muhammad. MENJ wants to have his cake and eat it too.

MENJ claims that in his article on Ar-Rahman he addresses the points I raised regarding this name in my paper. We highly encourage our readers to go there and see for themselves how MENJ doesn't address anything I said regarding Ar-Rahman. He tries to refute the connection between the Syrian pagan deity named Rimmon and Rahman, something which I never even claimed. What I did claim was that Ar-Rahman was a name or title of a god worshiped in south Arabia, and I even based some of this on what official Muslim sources stated. Does MENJ wish to contest the accuracy of those Muslim citations? I used these quotes to essentially prove that there were other deities which were given or had the very specific names that Muhammad gave to his deity. This establishes that names such as Allah, Ar-Rahman etc., could be used in a broader context to refer to a whole host of different deities. To therefore say that the Meccan Arabs worshiped the same Deity that Jews and Christians worshiped just because they all used the same word Allah, or ar-Rahman, is a gross fallacy.

More importantly, MENJ has again managed to contradict himself. In one of his articles (Worshiping the Same or a Different God?) he argued tooth and nail that Jews, Christians, and the pagans were not worshiping the same God of the Quran since their conceptions of the Deity differed:

It should be noted that if a religion's concept of God is incorrect even though there are some elements of truth in its conception of God, then Muslims will neither worship that God nor will the disbelievers worship our different concept of God (or otherwise it will negate their religion). The Qur'ân never stated that any other religion's concept of God is completely correct. This is clearly noted in 'âyah 4:36, "...worship Allâh and join none with Him in worship".

The so-called "second problem" generated by the missionaries is the claim that the above sûrah contradicts verses such as:

"...our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender." (Q. 29:46)

To make things clear, the missionary is really claiming that his interpretation of 'âyah 29:46 is in contradiction. Therefore, in order to arrive at the correct interpretation it is very important that we do not look at verses in a vacuum, and divorce it from the context -- 'âyahs 3:64 and 5:74 informs us that there is something false about the Christians' understanding of God, and that they have too many gods in their belief (Trinity). This "God is One" has been clearly defined and excludes the Trinity or "sons of God".

Therefore, 'âyah 29:46 is not stating that the Christians have a correct understanding of God in this verse or the correct number of Gods and Muslims share in that understanding. That is a false and twisted interpretation…

Here we see God directly addressing both the Jews and Christians (with special reference to the latter). Notice how the phrase "Allâh (God) is one" is being used here to condemn the Christian understanding of God (Trinity, Sonship, Divinity of Christ), and also, to correct the false Christian understanding of the Christians but emphatically stating "for Allâh is (the only) One Ilâh! Therefore, if Christians believe that Jesus is God, part of a Trinity, or has a Sonship with God, they obviously do not belive[sic] in one God as defined by the Qur'ân. Therefore, it is clear that when the Qur'ân pronounces "God is One" to the Christians it is not agreeing with the Christian concept of God, rather it goes on the offensive in condemning and correcting their beliefs.

But he now claims that all these groups did worship the same supreme God of all, Allah, which means that he was wrong for arguing that they didn’t. {1} What MENJ is basically saying is that just because the same name is used this doesn’t mean that the same God is in view, that the people are not necessarily worshiping the same Deity. Likewise, just because Muhammad claimed that Allah wasn’t Hubal, or the one supreme God of all, doesn’t mean that in pre-Islamic times Allah wasn’t being used for Hubal or any other deity for that matter.

MENJ takes a stab at my comments regarding Muhammad differentiating Hubal from Allah:

It is interesting to note that despite the propagation of this ridiculous theory that Allâh = Hubal, the missionary still feel it fit to put up the following "disclaimer" in his Addendum section:

Hence, even if the Quranic mention of Baal turns out to be a reference to Hubal, this would only show that Muhammad disassociated Allah from Hubal by turning the former into the true universal God.

It is an obvious escape tactic for someone who was never sure about the "position" of Hubal in the worship of pre-Islamic consciousness and wanted to leave the back door open if anything "disastrous" happens to the theory he propagates. Well, the disaster has certainly arrived!

Does this even constitute as a reply, simply brushing aside my analysis as irrelevant or as an escape tactic? What is obvious, at least to us, is that MENJ has tried to use evasion tactics in order to avoid dealing with the valid inferences and logical conclusions drawn from the Islamic data itself. In the process, he has also managed to contradict one of his own papers denying that Allah of Islam is the same or identical to the Allah worshiped by Jews, Christians or the pagan Arabs. If he can admit that Allah can be used for wrong conceptions of Deity, which is just another way of saying for different gods, then he should be able to concede the possibility that in pre-Islamic times Allah was used for Hubal, the chief god of Mecca.


{1} In the same article where he denied that Jews, Christians and the pagans worshiped the same Deity proclaimed by Muhammad, MENJ catches himself. He seems to have realized the problem of his stated position in light of the clear teachings of the Quran that Muhammad was claiming to be worshiping the same God that all these groups were worshiping. He states:

The author of the Qur'ân is pronouncing to the Christian that GOD IS ONE! It is completely irrelevant as to what the Christians already believed about their God, it means nothing to the author of the Qur'ân in 'âyah 29:46 because the Qur'ân is telling them what is the truth. Nevertheless, it is admitted that the Christians do worship this God but they worship this God in tandem with additional partners ('âyahs 3:64, 5:74). (underline emphasis ours)

Thus, MENJ is forced to admit that the Quran acknowledges that Christians do worship the same God of the Muslims, even though he tried to disprove this point earlier in his discussion. Their only problem, he claims, is that they added gods or partners to the one true God, but their acknowledgement of the one God which they worshiped was correct.

So now which is it? Do the Christians not worship the same God, or do they in fact worship the same Deity proclaimed by Muhammad? If they do not worship the same Deity then MENJ will basically be conceding my argument that the word Allah can function as a generic noun applicable to any deity worshiped by any group. This also makes my argument that Allah was used for Hubal tenable. If he claims that the Christians do worship the same Deity then he basically proves that the Quran was wrong for claiming that the disbelievers do not worship what Muhammad worshiped, since they all were worshiping Allah according to the Quran. Either way, MENJ is left with problems.

For more on this, please consult the following articles:

Worshipping the Same or a Different God?
Do They In Fact Worship the Same Deity or Not?
Worshipping the Same or a Different God?

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