Did the Meccans Believe in Allah as the Most High?

Addressing the Claims of Muslim Polemicists On the Issue of Allah and Hubal

Sam Shamoun

Islamic Awareness seeks to address my claim that the hadith regarding Abu Sufyan crediting Hubal with his victory over the Muslims demonstrates that the pre-Islamic pagans considered that their gods were equal to, if not greater than, Allah.(1)

After citing specific narrations which refer to Abu Sufyan crediting Hubal for his victory over the Muslims at the battle of Uhud, the Islamic Awareness team (IA) writes:

One can see clear facts emerging. Firstly, the Quraysh worshipped Hubal and al-‘Uzza (among other deities not stated here); the Muslims, on the other hand, worshipped Allah. Secondly, to the statement of Abu Sufyan ascribing superiority to Hubal, Prophet Muhammad replied that Allah was more Majestic and more Glorious. (M S M Saifullah & ‘Abdullah David, Is Hubal The Same As Allah?; source)

They also say that:

Thirdly, the dead of the pagan Quraysh in the Battle of Uhud who worshipped Hubal, al-‘Uzza among other gods are in the hell [sic], whereas the dead who worshipped Allah are in heaven [sic]. Fourthly, the worshippers of Allah are not equal to the worshippers of Hubal. Since the Christian missionaries have a habit of using a syllogism even though there are clear statements refuting their position, let us note the following syllogism.

  1. Hubal was worshipped by the Quraysh; Allah was worshipped by the Muslims.
  2. The worshippers of Hubal are in hell; the worshippers of Allah are in heaven.
  3. Therefore, Hubal was not Allah.

In their overzealousness to refute the "missionaries" the team of Saifullah and David (SD) fail to see how their statements prove that the Quran is in error. Their comments presuppose that the Quraysh worshiped Hubal and al-Uzza in contrast to Muslims who worshiped Allah, which contradicts the claim of the Quran that the pagans also worshiped Allah. The Quran even says that their reason for worshiping other gods was so that they could get closer to Allah:

Say: Unto Whom (belongeth) the earth and whosoever is therein, if ye have knowledge? They will say: Unto Allah. Say: Will ye not then remember? Say: Who is Lord of the seven heavens, and Lord of the Tremendous Throne? They will say: Unto Allah (all that belongeth). Say: Will ye not then keep duty (unto Him)? Say: In Whose hand is the dominion over all things and He protecteth, while against Him there is no protection, if ye have knowledge? They will say: Unto Allah (all that belongeth). Say: How then are ye bewitched? S. 23:84-89

Surely pure religion is for Allah only. And those who choose protecting friends beside Him (say): We worship them only that they may bring us near unto Allah. Lo! Allah will judge between them concerning that wherein they differ. Lo! Allah guideth not him who is a liar, an ingrate. S. 39:3

And verily, if thou shouldst ask them: Who created the heavens and the earth? they will say: Allah. Say: Bethink you then of those ye worship beside Allah, if Allah willed some hurt for me, could they remove from me His hurt; or if He willed some mercy for me, could they restrain His mercy? Say: Allah is my all. In Him do (all) the trusting put their trust. S. 39:38

How, then, can the authors intimate that the Quraysh were not also worshiping Allah?

They continue:

Commenting on the above tradition, the Christian missionaries say:

Unlike the verse in the Quran, this one does mention Hubal by name and suggests that he was distinct from Allah. Again, Muhammad transforming Allah from a pagan deity into the sole universal God, a transformation which was different from any similarly named deity, can account for why Sufyan viewed Hubal as a different god altogether.

Furthermore, this tradition actually poses problems for the Muslims since it implies that the pagans such as Abu Sufyan did not view Allah as the supreme god, but one of many rival gods. Sufyan attributes his victory over Muhammad and his god to Hubal and Uzza, suggesting that at least in his mind these gods were equal, if not superior, to Allah. Sufyan obviously felt that Allah could be challenged and defeated, which means that these pagans didn't see Allah as the unrivaled and supreme Deity as both the Quran and Islamic traditions claim.

It is hard to see how this tradition poses "problems" for Muslims. In fact, this tradition clearly refutes the missionaries' claim that Allah and Hubal were identical. Furthermore, Abu Sufyan, the chieftain of the Quraysh, became a Muslim in 8 AH just a few days before the liberation of Makkah, after a personal council with the Prophet.[15] He swallowed his pride and admitted that:

By God, I thought that had there been any God with God, he would have continued to help me.[16]

In other words, Hubal and al-‘Uzza which Abu Sufyan had proclaimed as gods neither assisted nor helped him to defeat the Muslims. He then accepted Allah as the one, supreme God beside whom there exists no other god. Furthermore, he was also personally involved in the smashing of the idol of Allat, one of the so called daughters of Allah.[17] It must also be added that if the idol of Hubal which occupied the Ka‘bah in Makkah represented the image of Allah, then why did Muhammad order it to be destroyed? He could easily have left the statue as it was and justified it as the image of Allah, thus making it far easier for those transitioning from polytheism to monotheism. History records this never happened, rather Muhammad ordered all the idols destroyed. It is not difficult to see why this is the case if one pays attention to the Islamic sources, especially those which inform us directly about the life and times of Muhammad. Consider the following. The most supreme delight in the afterlife is the ability to see Allah. Anticipating this humbling and blissful moment is a source of immense joy and happiness for all the believers.[18] We find narrated in the Sahih of al-Bukhari the following report:

On the authority of Abu Huraira: The people said, "O Allah's Apostle! Shall we see our Lord on the Day of Resurrection?" The Prophet said, "Do you have any difficulty in seeing the moon on a full moon night?" They said, "No, O Allah's Apostle." He said, "Do you have any difficulty in seeing the sun when there are no clouds?" They said, "No, O Allah's Apostle." He said, "So you will see Him, like that. Allah will gather all the people on the Day of Resurrection, and say, 'Whoever worshipped something (in the world) should follow (that thing),' so, whoever worshipped the sun will follow the sun, and whoever worshiped the moon will follow the moon, and whoever used to worship certain (other false) deities, he will follow those deities...

The importance of Prophet Muhammad's exposition cannot be underestimated. He is describing the single most pleasurable moment of the people of Paradise. Equally though we are reminded of the fate of those who worshipped other than God alone. It is amply clear the idol Hubal and those who worshipped him along with other false deities and their followers, are clearly distinguished from Allah and the worshippers of Allah – on this juncture Islamic tradition is very clear.[19]

The authors’ assertions raise several more problems for them to contend with. First, the writers have confused a question of fact with a question of relevance since Abu Sufyan’s conversion is irrelevant to the issue of his initially believing that Hubal and Uzza could rival Allah in battle.

The second problem with the authors’ statements is that there is nothing stated by Abu Sufyan which denies that the pagans initially believed that their gods were equal to and rivaled Allah. If anything, his purported statements actually substantiate the view that they didn’t consider Allah to be the unrivaled sovereign of all. Abu Sufyan’s conclusion that Allah alone is god in light of the failure of his gods to help him assumes that he initially believed that these idols were at the very least Allah’s equals and could in fact help the pagans defeat Allah and the Muslims in battle.

Note how this works out:

Thirdly, SD have highlighted another contradiction within the Islamic corpus. Recall that they cited a report that said Abu Sufyan came to the conclusion that the gods worshiped by the Meccans, which included the goddess al-Uzza, do not exist. This narrative contradicts other traditions which claim that Muhammad believed that these gods do exist and actually sent one of his followers to kill one of them!

In this year, five nights before the end of Ramadan, Khalid al-Walid destroyed al-‘Uzza in the lowland of Nakhlah. Al-‘Uzza was an idol of the Banu Shayban, a subdivision of Sulaym, allies of the Banu Hashim. The Banu Asad b. ‘Abd al-‘Uzza used to say it was their idol. Khalid set out for it, and then he said, "I have destroyed it." [The Messenger of God] said, "Did you see anything?" "No," said Khalid. "Then," he said, "go back and destroy it." So Khalid returned to the idol, destroyed its temple, and broke the idol. The keeper began saying, "Rage, O ‘Uzza, with one of thy fits of rage!"–whereupon a naked, wailing Ethiopian woman came out before him. Khalid killed her and took her jewels that were on her. Then he went to the Messenger of God and gave him a report of what happened. "That was al-‘Uzza," he said, "and al-‘Uzza will never be worshiped [again]."

According to Ibn Humayd – Salamah – Ibn Ishaq, who said: The Messenger of God sent Khalid b. al-Walid to [deal with] al-‘Uzza, who was at Nakhlah. She was a temple venerated by the tribes of Quraysh, Kinanah, and all Mudar. Her keepers were of the Banu Shayban, a division of the Banu Sulaym, allies of the Banu Hashim. When the master of the temple heard that Khalid was coming to deal with al-‘Uzza, he hung his sword on her and climbed the mountain near which al-‘Uzza was located. As he went up he said:

O ‘Uzza, attack with an attack that hits no vital place,
against Khalid! Throw down thy veil, and gird up thy train!
O ‘Uzza, if today thou wilt not slay Khalid,
bear a swift punishment, or become a Christian!

Having reached al-‘Uzza, Khalid destroyed her and returned to the Messenger of God. (The History of al-Tabari: The Victory of Islam, translated by Michael Fishbein [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1997], Volume 8, pp. 187-188; bold emphasis ours)

In light of the foregoing, how could Abu Sufyan deny the existence of these gods when even his own prophet believed that these beings do exist?

This leaves the IA team with one of two options. They either must accept that these reports refute the claim of the Quran that the pagans believed Allah was the supreme sovereign god over all, since they actually thought that there were other gods who could rival him, which would introduce another problem that is discussed here: http://answering-islam.org/Quran/Contra/allah_high_god.html

Or they must concede the possibility that these Islamic narratives are not recounting actual history but are reading back into Muhammad’s time later theological and polemical views.

Yet to opt for the second view means that these Islamic references cannot be submitted as evidence against the position that Hubal, the chief god of Mecca and the Quraysh, was actually the pre-Islamic Allah.


(1) SD try to refute the position that Hubal is none other than the false god Baal, the response to which can be found here: http://www.studytoanswer.net/islam/hubalallah.html

What makes this denial rather amusing is that it directly contradicts the position of another Muslim dawagandist Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi (a.k.a. M.E.N.J.), one whom they feature as a co-author in their reply to Robert Morey’s moon god theory (*). In his response to me, M.E.N.J candidly admits that Hubal is Baal:

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 In The Worship of Pre-Islamic Arab Consciousness; source; capital and underline emphasis ours)

It is rather amazing that this propagandist can so readily admit that Hubal is Baal and of Moabite import, both of which are contested by his fellow propagandists. Perhaps he can help enlighten his Islamic cohorts to see these facts which have always been known, since they obviously didn’t know them!

Responses to Islamic Awareness
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page