Is the Quran An Implicit Endorsement and Continuation of Arab Paganism?

Sam Shamoun

Historical and cultural Background

The Holy Bible clearly condemns the worship of the heavenly constellations:

"And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven." Deuteronomy 4:19

"If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst." Deuteronomy 17:1-7

"if I have looked at the sun when it shone, or the moon moving in splendor, and my heart has been secretly enticed, and my mouth has kissed my hand, this also would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges, for I would have been false to God above." Job 31:26-28

"Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hephzibah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them." 2 Kings 21:1-3

"And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven. He burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron and carried their ashes to Bethel. And he deposed the priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to make offerings in the high places at the cities of Judah and around Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and the moon and the constellations and all the host of the heavens." 2 Kings 23:4-5

"At that time, declares the LORD, the bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of its officials, the bones of the priests, the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be brought out of their tombs. And they shall be spread before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and served, which they have gone after, and which they have sought and worshiped. And they shall not be gathered or buried. They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground. Death shall be preferred to life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family in all the places where I have driven them, declares the LORD of hosts." Jeremiah 8:1-3

As does the Quran:

Among His Signs are the Night and the Day, and the Sun and the Moon. Adore not the sun and the moon, but adore God, Who created them, if it is Him ye wish to serve. S. 41:37

Furthermore, the Holy Bible expressly prohibits swearing by the gods of the pagan nations, which naturally means that one cannot swear by the heavenly objects worshiped by them such as the sun, moon etc.

"Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them," Joshua 23:7

The believers are not to even mention the names of these gods!

"Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips." Exodus 23:13

"The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips." Psalm 16:4

The hadith also forbids Muslims from swearing by the idols of pagans:

Abd al-Rahman b. Samura reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Do not swear by idols, nor by your fathers. (Sahih Muslim, Book 015, Number 4043)

As we shall shortly see, some of the idols worshiped by the Meccans included the sun, moon, stars etc., which means that the above statement is also forbidding Muslims from swearing by these objects.

Muhammad, in agreement with God’s true Word the Holy Bible, insisted that believers only swear by God:

Narrated Ibn 'Umar:
Allah's Apostle met 'Umar bin Al-Khattab while the latter was going with a group of camel-riders, and he was swearing by his father. The Prophet said, "Lo! Allah forbids you to swear by your fathers, so whoever has to take an oath, he should swear by Allah or keep quiet." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 78, Number 641)

Moreover, according to the Holy Bible swearing by anyone or anything besides the true God is a form of idolatry, the sin of ascribing equal partners to God from among his creatures. Note what the Holy Scriptures say:

"When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, … Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument." Hebrews 6:13, 16

God swears by himself precisely because there is no one or nothing equal to or greater than he. What this means is that to swear by anything other than the true God is to make that object equal to, if not greater than, God himself.

In light of the above, it is crucial to know the history of pagan worship that existed and which was prevalent during Muhammad’s time in and around Arabia. For that we turn to the late Quranic translator and commentator Abdullah Yusuf Ali:

5. To revert to the worship of the heavenly bodies… A few individual stars did attract the worshippers’ attention, e.g. Sirius the Dog-star, the brightest fixed star in the heavens, with a bluish tinge in its light… It is probably Sirius that is referred to as the fixed star in the Parable of Abraham (vi. 76). With regard to the fixed stars in their myriads, the astronomers turned their fancy to devising Groups or Constellations. But the moving "stars," or planets, each with its own individual laws of motion, stood out to them personified, each with a motion and therefore will or influence of its own. As they knew and understood them, they were seven in number, viz. : (1) and (2) the moon and the sun, the two objects which most closely and indubitably influence the tides, the temperatures, and the life on our planet; (3) and (4) the two inner planets, Mercury and Venus, which are morning and evening stars, and never travel far from the sun; and (5), (6), and (7) Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, the outer planets, whose elongations from the sun on the ecliptic can be as wide as possible. The number seven became itself a mystic number, as explained in n. 5526 to lxv. 12.

6. It will be noticed that the sun and the moon and the five planets got identified with a living deity, god or goddess, with characteristics and qualities of its own…

7. Moon worship was equally popular in various forms. I have already referred to the classical legends of Apollo and Diana, twin brother and sister, representing the sun and the moon. The Egyptian Khonsu, traversing the sky in a boat, referred to the moon, and the moon legends also got mixed up with those about the god of magic, Thoth and the Ibis. In the Vedic religion of India the moon-god was Soma, the lord of the planets, and the name was also applied to the juice which was the drink of the gods. It may be noted that the moon was a male divinity in ancient India; it was also a male divinity in ancient Semitic religion, and the Arabic word for the moon (qamar) is of the masculine gender. On the other hand, the Arabic word for the sun (shams) is of the feminine gender. The pagan Arabs evidently looked upon the sun as a goddess and the moon as a god.

8. Of the five planets, perhaps Venus as the evening star and the morning star alternately impressed itself most on the imagination of astro-mythology. This planet was in different places considered both male and female… Mercury is a less conspicuous planet, and was looked upon as a child in the family, the father and mother being the moon and the sun, or the sun and the moon (according to the sex attributed to these divinities), or else either the sun or the moon was the father and Venus the mother (the sexes being inter-changeable in the myths)…

10. These cross-currents and mixtures of nature-worship, astral-worship, hero-worship, worship of abstract qualities, etc., resulted in a medley of debasing superstitions which are summed up in five names, Wadd, Suwa‘, Yaguth, Ya‘uq, and Nasr, as noted in paragraph 3 above… If Wadd and Suwa‘ represented Man and Woman, they might well represent the astral-worship of the moon and the sun… On the other hand, it is possible that the worship of Jupiter and Venus itself got mixed up with the worship of the sun-moon pair… Further, it may be that Nasr (the vulture, falcon, hawk, or eagle, the Egyptian Horus) also represents a solar myth, mixed up with the cult of the planets…

11. It may be noted that the five deities mentioned here to represent very ancient religious cults are well-chosen. They are not the names of the deities best known in Mecca, but rather those which survived as fragments of very ancient cults among the outlying tribes of Arabia, which were influenced by the cults of Mesopotamia (Noah’s country). The Pagan deities best known in the Kaba and round about Mecca were Lat, ‘Uzza, and Manat. (Manat was also known round Yathrib, which afterwards became Medina.) See liii. 19-20. They were all female goddesses. Lat almost certainly represents another wave of sun-worship; the sun being feminine in Arabic and in Semitic languages generally. "Lat" may be the original of the Greek "Leto", the mother of Apollos the sun-god (Encyclopedia of Islam, I, p. 380). If so, the name was brought in prehistoric times from South Arabia by the great Incense Route (n. 3816 to xxxiv. 18) to the Mediterranean. ‘Uzza probably represents the planet Venus. The origin of Manat is not quite clear, but it would not be surprising if it also turned to be astral. The 360 idols established by the Pagans probably represented the 360 days of an inaccurate solar year. This was the actual "modern" Pagan worship as known to the Quraysh contemporary with our Prophet… (Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an: Translation and Commentary, Appendix XIII. Ancient Forms of Pagan Worship, pp. 1620-1622; bold and underline emphasis ours)

{Sidenote: If Ali is correct that Allat represents the sun then one wonders what did Allah represent (i.e. perhaps the moon)? As one professor noted regarding the phrase ilah, from which Allah originates:

The god Il or Ilah was originally a phase of the Moon God, but early in Arabian history the name became a general term for god, and it was this name that the Hebrews used prominently in their personal names, such as Emanu-el, Israel, etc., rather than the Ba'al of the northern Semites proper, which was the Sun. Similarly, under Mohammed's tutelage, the relatively anonymous Ilah BECAME Al-Ilah, The God, or Allah, the Supreme Being. (C. S. Coon, "Southern Arabia, A Problem For The Future", Papers Of The Peabody Museum Of American Archaeology And Ethnology, 1943, Volume 20, p. 195; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Another source says:

Allah. Islamic name for God. Is derived from Semitic El, and originally applied to the moon; he seems to have been preceded by Ilmaqah, the moon god. ("Allah" in E. Sykes, Everyman's Dictionary Of Non-Classical Mythology [J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., London, E. P. Dutton & Co. Inc., New York, 1961] p. 7; underline emphasis ours)

For more on this issue please consult the following link:}

The hadith corroborates Ali’s statement that the Kaba housed 360 deities or idols:

Narrated Abdullah bin Masud:
Allah's Apostle entered Mecca (in the year of the Conquest) and there were three-hundred and sixty idols around the Ka’ba. He then started hitting them with a stick in his hand and say: ‘Truth (i.e. Islam) has come and falsehood (disbelief) vanished. Truly falsehood (disbelief) is ever bound to vanish.’ (17.81) ‘Truth has come and falsehood (Iblis) can not create anything.’ (34.49) (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 244)

Noted historian of the Arabs Philip K. Hitti wrote that:

The religion of South Arabia was in its essence a planetary astral system in which the cult of the moon-god prevailed. The moon, known in Hadramawt as Sin, to the Minaeans as Wadd (love or lover, father), to the Sabaens as Almaqah (the health-giving god?) and to the Qatabanians as ‘Amm (paternal uncle), stood at the head of the pantheon. He was conceived as a masculine deity and took precedence over the sun, Shams, who was his consort. ‘Athar (Venus, corresponding to the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, Phoenician ‘Ashtart), their son, was the third member of the triad. From this celestial pair sprang the many other heavenly bodies considered divine. The North Arabian al-Lat, who figured in the Koran, may have been another name for the sun-goddess. (Hitti, History of the Arabs from the Earliest Times to the Present, new preface by Walid Khalidi [Palgrave Macmillan, 2002; ISBN: 0-333-63142-0 paperback, revised tenth edition], pp. 60-61)


The Bedouin’s beliefs centered upon the moon in whose light he grazed his flocks. Moon-worship implies a pastoral society, whereas sun-worship represents a later agricultural stage. In our own day the Moslem Ruwalah Bedouins imagine that their life is regulated by the moon, which condenses the water vapours, distills the beneficent dew on the pasture and makes possible the growth of plants. On the other hand the sun, as they believe, would like to destroy the Bedouins as well as all animal and plant life. (Ibid, pp. 97-98)

Hitti is followed by Wendell K. Phillips:

The moon was the chief deity of all the early South Arabian kingdoms - particularly fitting in that region where the soft light of the moon brought the rest and cool winds of the night as a relief from the blinding sun and scorching heat of day. In contrast to most of the old religions with which we are familiar, the Moon God is male, while the Sun God is his consort, a female. The third god of importance is their child, the male morning star, which we know as the planet Venus. Phillips, Qataban And Sheba: Exploring Ancient Kingdoms On The Biblical Spice Routes Of Arabia [Victor Gollancz Ltd.: London 1955], p. 69)


The spice route riches brought them a standard of luxurious living inconceivable to the poverty-stricken South Arabian Bedouins of today. Like nearly all the Semitic peoples, they worshipped the moon, the sun, and the morning star. The chief god, the moon, was a male deity symbolized by the bull, and we found many carved bull's heads, with drains for the blood of sacrificed animals. (Ibid, p. 204)

Thus, the pagans at Mecca during Muhammad’s time worshiped the sun, the moon along with the planets and stars. This explains why the Meccans ran around the Kaba and between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times, as well as throwing seven stones at Mina; they did this in veneration of these seven heavenly objects!

It is rather interesting that Muhammad adopted these very pagan practices as part of the rites of the pilgrimage that Muslims must perform at least once in their lifetime (provided they can afford it). As one author stated:

According to al-Shahrastani, (d. 1153), an opinion prevalent among the Arabians was that the circumambulation of the Kaaba originally symbolized the motion of the planets (Rodwell, 1915, p. 455)… The number seven, one quarter of the number of days in a lunar month, is a lunar number. Herodotus mentions the use of the seven stones by the Arabs when taking solemn oaths. The historian Masudi (d. 956) records an old belief that the Kaaba was dedicated to seven heavenly bodies. In pre-Islamic times the Kaaba was to be circumambulated seven times, keeping the Kaaba on the left, the sinistral feminine side. The pilgrim had to run between the hills of Safa and Marwa seven times. Seven stones were thrown by each pilgrim at Mina, and so on. Some of these practices, as we have seen, have lasted to the present day. (Benjamin Walker, Foundations of Islam: The Making of a World Faith [Peter Owen Publishers, London & Chester Springs, 1998], pp. 46,47; underline emphasis ours)

More on Muhammad adopting pagan practices below.

The author further adds that:

Like other peoples of the ancient world, the Arabs worshiped natural objects like the heavenly bodies, stones, trees and wells. The Sabians were star-worshippers, the people of Himyar worshipped the sun, the tribes of Asad and Kinana the moon. The Kaaba is thought to have been dedicated to the Great Goddess, or to a lunar deity… The three goddesses Allat, Ozza and Manat presided over the moon, the planet Venus and Sirius (the Dog Star) besides other celestial bodies. The Koran refers to Allah as Lord of ‘Sirius.’ (53:50).

The patron deities of many pagan tribes were associated with stones. The Arab reverence for the Black Stone was a form of litholatria or stone worship, a kind of fetishism found in all parts of the world, in which stones of strange shape, size or colour were regarded as sacred. Such stones were touched, stroked or kissed by the worshipper, who thereby acquitted some of a stone’s holiness by contagion.

The Nabatean god Dhu Shara and the sun-god Elogabal of Emesa (now Homs, Syria), on the Orontes, both had the form of a black stone. (The Emesa stone was smashed by the Muslims when they took the town in AD 636, lest it be equated with their own, and the leading Christians living there were exiled). (P. 46)


It is interesting to find, as a curiosity of symbolism, how far the esoteric concept of the Feminine pervaded Arab life and belief. As in many other religions of the Ancient Middle East, there was a strong feminine bias in the early religion of Arabia. This seems to have centred principally on the worship of the underlying feminine principle, like the Great Goddess common to several ancient mythologies.

Female deities like Allat, Ozza and Manat predominated in importance over male. Even the sun-deity Shams was treated as female by some Arab tribes. The moon… though often ruled by a god, was regarded as the feminine orb par excellence.

The Kaaba was first erected to provide a suitable sanctuary for the Black Stone, which is believed to have been a token of the Great Goddess. The name ‘Kaaba’ itself, traditionally said to be derived from a word for ‘cube’, is more accurately traced back to the ancient word kaab, meaning ‘virgin’, cognate with the Old Semitic root QBA meaning female pudenda. Even today the border surrounding the Black Stone is shaped like a vulva, while the shrine itself is set in an ovoid space. John of Damascus (d. 749), who lived in the capital of the Arab empire, connected the word ‘Kaaba’ with Kubar, or the Star of Aphrodite.

Another symbol of the Great Goddess was the full lunar orb, and the moon-goddess was one of the deities to whom the Kaaba was dedicated. In fact the mystical association of things lunar with important events in Arab or Islamic annals has been remarked on by more than one writer, as if the moon were guiding the destinies of the Arab people. For example, the most critical battle in Muhammad’s career occurred at a place called Badr, which means ‘full moon’ (Frieling, 1978, p. 48)… Muhammad forbade the use of any metal but silver, the moon metal, for signet rings. Pigeons, like doves, are the birds of the Great Goddess. They abound in the Kaaba, and no one may kill them there or in any other part of the sacred city.

The preferred Muslim colour, green, associated with the vegetation rites, was the favoured colour of the Great Goddess. The standard (liwa) of the early Muslim armies was green in colour, and sometimes triangular in shape (Hughes, 1977, p. 607), again suggesting the female. As white became the colour of the Omayyids, and black of the Abbasids, so green became the colour of the Fatimids, the descendants of the Prophet. (Pp. 47-48)

With the foregoing in mind we can now move on to the next section.

Allah Swears by the Gods of the Pagans

It is truly amazing that the god of Islam has no problem naming certain surahs after pagan deities, such as surah an-Nasr (110), one of the false gods supposedly worshiped during the time of Noah according to the Quran:

And they have said (to each other), 'Abandon not your gods: Abandon neither Wadd nor Suwa', neither Yaguth nor Ya'uq, nor Nasr'; - S. 71:23

Other surahs include ash-Shams (the Sun, 91), an-Najm (the Star, 53), al-Buruj (the Constellations, 85) and at-Tariq (the Morning Star, 86). As writer Benjamin Walker noted:

It is known that the chapters (suras) of the Koran were named and arranged in their present form only after Muhammad’s death … and it is possible that the ‘rememberers’ of the Koranic text, or those who helped the compilers, gave certain chapters their titles from words in the text that were the same as the names of the pagan gods. Thus, Tarik, a stellar deity, is preserved in the title of Sura 86; Nasr, a deity of Himyar, lives on in the title of Sura 110; Shams, a solar deity often personified as a goddess and widely worshiped in the Middle East, is the title given to Sura 91… (Op. cit., p. 43)

Moreover, Allah even has no problem swearing by these pagan gods! Here are some references where Allah swears by the heavenly constellations:

By the Star when it goes down, - S. 53:1

So verily I call to witness the planets - that recede, S. 81:15

By the heaven, and At-Tariq (the night-comer, i.e. the bright star); S. 86:1 Hilali-Khan

According to Islamic commentators, at-Tariq is the morning star which the pagans worshiped:

And from his narration on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that he said concerning the interpretation of Allah's saying (By the heaven and the Morning Star): '(By the heaven and the Morning Star) He says: Allah swears by the heaven and the morning star (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ‘Abbs; source; underline emphasis ours)

In these next references Allah swears by the sun and the moon:

By the Sun and his (glorious) splendour; By the Moon as she follows him; S. 91:1-2

Nay, verily: By the Moon, S. 74:32

The Islamic exegetes admit that Allah is swearing by the very object worshiped as a god!

(Nay, by the Moon) Allah swore by the moon (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ‘Abbs; source)

… (1) The moon, next after the sun, is the most striking luminary to our sight. Its reflected light has for us a greater mystery than the direct light of the sun, which looks to us like pure fire. The moon was worshipped as a deity in times of darkness… (A. Yusuf Ali, fn. 5798, p. 1644; bold and italic emphasis ours)

Allah even prides himself on being the Lord of Sirius, the Dog-star which Yusuf Ali stated was worshiped by the pagans!

That He is the Lord of Sirius (the Mighty Star); S. 53:49

Ali wasn’t the only Islamic commentator to admit that the pagans worshiped Sirius:

and that it is He Who is the Lord of Sirius - this is a star [lying] beyond [the constellation of] Gemini, which was worshipped in the time of pagandom (jahiliyya); (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; underline emphasis ours)

(And that He it is Who is the Lord of Sirius) which was worshipped by Khuza'ah; (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn ‘Abbs; source; underline emphasis ours)


<And that He is the Lord of Ash-Shi`ra.> Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah and Ibn Zayd said about Ash-Shi`ra that it is the bright star, named Mirzam Al-Jawza' (Sirius), which a group of Arabs used to worship. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; source; underline emphasis ours)

The Dilemma of Allah Swearing by Pagan Gods

Allah’s swearing by objects which pagans took to be gods is an express violation of the commands given by God in the Holy Bible. As we saw in the first section, the Scriptures explicitly forbid anyone from swearing by anything besides the true God, let alone swearing by the very things worshiped as deities by unbelieving nations. Allah’s swearing even violates his own instructions as given in the Quran and through Muhammad!

Moreover, swearing by these created things implies that they are just as great, if not greater than God (at least according to the Holy Bible). This means that Allah has basically committed the sin of association through his swearing by the very things that he himself supposedly created (we say supposedly since we do not believe that Allah of the Quran is the true God).

By doing this, Allah has basically provided justification for the unbelievers taking these created things as objects worthy of their worship. After all, if even Allah swears by the heavenly host then why not the people? And if these objects are so important that Allah swears by them then why shouldn’t the pagans worship them? Doesn’t this smack of outright paganism?

It shouldn’t surprise us that such traces of paganism can still be found in the Quran since, as was already noted earlier, many of the Islamic rites are nothing more than rehashed paganism. In fact, Muhammad himself had no problem attending the Kaba and performing the same rites as the pagans at a time when it still housed the 360 idols!

And when the apostle of God had finished his period of seclusion and returned (to Mecca), in the first place he performed the circumambulation of the Ka'ba, as was his wont. While he was doing it, Waraqa met him and said, ‘O son of my brother, tell me what thou hast seen and heard.’ (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Karachi Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth Impression 1995), p. 107; bold emphasis ours)

Yusuf Ali noted regarding Q. 2:196 that:

When this was revealed, the city of Mecca was in the hands of the enemies of Islam, and the regulations about the fighting and the pilgrimage came together and were interconnected… (Ali, p. 78, fn. 214; bold and italic emphasis ours)

As if this wasn’t bad enough, at this time the pagans would perform the rites of the pilgrimage in the nude!

Narrated Abu Huraira:
On the Day of Nahr (10th of Dhul-Hijja, in the year prior to the last Hajj of the Prophet when Abu Bakr was the leader of the pilgrims in that Hajj) Abu Bakr sent me along with other announcers to Mina to make a public announcement: "No pagan is allowed to perform Hajj after this year and no naked person is allowed to perform the Tawaf around the Ka'ba." Then Allah's Apostle sent 'Ali to read out the Surat Bara'a (At-Tauba) to the people; so he made the announcement along with us on the day of Nahr in Mina: "No pagan is allowed to perform Hajj after this year and no naked person is allowed to perform the Tawaf around the Ka'ba." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 8, Number 365)

Narrated Abu Huraira:
In the year prior to the last Hajj of the Prophet when Allahs Apostle made Abu Bakr the leader of the pilgrims, the latter (Abu Bakr) sent me in the company of a group of people to make a public announcement: "No pagan is allowed to perform Hajj after this year, and no naked person is allowed to perform Tawaf of the Kaba." (See Hadith No. 365 Vol. 1) (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 26, Number 689)

What this means is that people were running naked at the Kaba right until the time of Muhammad’s last pilgrimage!

Now contrast this with the attitude of the Jews as reported in the Sira literature:

… They [the rabbis] told that the sole object of the tribe was to destroy him and his army. ‘We know of no other temple in the land which God has chosen for Himself, said they, and if you do what they suggest you and all your men will perish.’ The king asked them what he should do when he got there, and they told him to do what the people of Mecca did: circumambulate the temple, to venerate and honour it, to shave his head, and to behave with all humility until he had left its precincts. The king asked why they too should not do likewise. They replied that it was indeed the temple of their father Abraham, but the idols which the inhabitants had set up round it, and the blood which they shed there, presented an insuperable obstacle. They are unclean polytheists, said they - or words to that effect. (Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, pp. 8-9; bold and italic emphasis ours)

Despite the Jews allegedly claiming that Abraham had built the Kaba they still refused to make a pilgrimage there due to all the idols contained therein which defiled it. And yet Muhammad, who is supposed to be God’s final prophet, had no hesitation running around a structure littered with abominable objects detested by the true God during a time when people were running around naked!

In fact, the Jews weren’t the only ones who refused to venerate this pagan shrine:

One day when the Quraysh had assembled on a feast day to venerate and circumambulate the idol which they offered sacrifices, this being the feast which they held annually, four men drew apart secretly and agreed to keep their counsel in the bonds of friendship. They were (i) Waraqa b. Naufal b. Asad b. ‘Abdu’l-‘Uzza b. Qusayy b. Kilab b. Murra b. Ka‘b b. Lu’ayy; (ii) ‘Ubaydullah b. Jash b. Ri’ab b. Ya‘mar b. Sabra b. Murra b. Kabir b. Ghanm b. Dudan b. Asad b. Khuzayma, whose mother was Umayma d. ‘Abdu’l-Mutalib; (iii) ‘Uthman b. al-Huwayrith b. Asad b. ‘Abdu’l-‘Uzza b. Qusayy; and (iv) Zayd b. ‘Amr b. Nufayl b. ‘Abdu’l-‘Uzza b. Abdallah b. Qurt b. Riyah b. Razah b. Adiyy b. Ka‘b b. Lu’ayy. They were of the opinion that their people had corrupted the religion of their father Abraham, and that the stone they went round was of no account; it could neither hear, nor see, nor hurt, nor help. ‘Find for yourselves a religion,’ they said, ‘for by God you have none.’ So they went their several ways, seeking Hanafiya, the religion of Abraham. (Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, pp. 98-99; bold and underline emphasis ours)

These comments are eerily similar to what Umar, Muhammad’s second companion and second caliph, said about kissing the black stone:

Narrated 'Abis bin Rabia:
'Umar came near the Black Stone and kissed it and said "No doubt, I know that you are a stone and can neither benefit anyone nor harm anyone. Had I not seen Allah's Apostle kissing you I would not have kissed you." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 26, Number 667)

Now let us assume for argument’s sake that Abraham did built the Kaba, shouldn’t Muhammad have followed the example of the Jews and these four men and refrained himself from getting near it until it had been cleared of its idols and detestable practices?

Yet instead of ridding himself of all of these pagan practices Muhammad contented himself with adopting most of them. After all, Muhammad fasted when the pagans fasted:

Narrated 'Aisha:
'Ashura' (i.e. the tenth of Muharram) was a day on which the tribe of Quraish used to fast in the pre-lslamic period of ignorance. The Prophet also used to fast on this day. So when he migrated to Medina, he fasted on it and ordered (the Muslims) to fast on it. When the fasting of Ramadan was enjoined, it became optional for the people to fast or not to fast on the day of Ashura. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 172)

And performed the same procedures that the pagans did for their gods:

Narrated 'Urwa:

I asked 'Aisha: "How do you interpret the statement of Allah, ‘Verily! (the mountains) As-Safa and Al-Marwa are among the symbols of Allah, and whoever performs the Hajj to the Ka'ba or performs 'Umra, it is not harmful for him to perform Tawaf between them (Safa and Marwa.)’ (2.158). By Allah! (It is evident from this revelation) there is no harm if one does not perform Tawaf between Safa and Marwa." 'Aisha said, "O, my nephew! Your interpretation is not true. Had this interpretation of yours been correct, the statement of Allah should have been, ‘It is not harmful for him if he does not perform Tawaf between them.’ But in fact, this divine inspiration was revealed concerning the Ansar who used to assume lhram for worshipping an idol called "Manat" which they used to worship at a place called Al-Mushallal before they embraced Islam, and whoever assumed Ihram (for the idol), would consider it not right to perform Tawaf between Safa and Marwa.

When they embraced Islam, they asked Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) regarding it, saying, "O Allah's Apostle! We used to refrain from Tawaf between Safa and Marwa." So Allah revealed: ‘Verily; (the mountains) As-Safa and Al-Marwa are among the symbols of Allah.’" Aisha added, "Surely, Allah's Apostle set the tradition of Tawaf between Safa and Marwa, so nobody is allowed to omit the Tawaf between them." Later on I ('Urwa) told Abu Bakr bin 'Abdur-Rahman (of 'Aisha's narration) and he said, "I have not heard of such information, but I heard learned men saying that all the people, except those whom 'Aisha mentioned and who used to assume lhram for the sake of Manat, used to perform Tawaf between Safa and Marwa…" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 26, Number 706)

Narrated 'Asim:

I asked Anas bin Malik: "Did you use to dislike to perform Tawaf between Safa and Marwa?" He said, "YES, as it was of the ceremonies of the days of the Pre-lslamic period of ignorance, till Allah revealed: ‘Verily! (The two mountains) As-Safa and Al-Marwa are among the symbols of Allah. It is therefore no sin for him who performs the pilgrimage to the Ka'ba, or performs 'Umra, to perform Tawaf between them.’" (2.158) (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 26, Number 710)

Basically, Muhammad did nothing more than to take the pagan practises of his ancestors, minus the idols and running in the nude, and repackaged them as sacred rites instituted by the true God of Abraham. Yusuf Ali implicitly admits as much when he says:

After the Pilgrimage in Pagan times, the pilgrims used to gather in assemblies in which the praises of ancestors were sung. As the whole of the pilgrimage rites were spiritualised in Islam, so this aftermath of the Pilgrimage was also spiritualised. It was recommended for the pilgrims to stay on two or three days after the pilgrimage, but they must use them in prayer and praise to God. See ii. 203. (Ali, fn.223, p. 80; bold and italic emphasis ours)

Author Benjamin Walker is rather blunt about Islam’s pagan rites:

Most of the pre-Islamic Arab tribes followed a lunar calendar, which Muhammad retained and which Muslims still use. Friday, a day dedicated to the moon in many pagan communities, was the day appointed for public assembly (juma) among the ancient Arabs, and was subsequently adopted as the ‘sabbath’ of the Muslims. The first day of the Muslim era was a Friday… Basically, the religion of Abraham as preached by Muhammad signified the worship of one God, and Muhammad did not interfere with any of the time-honoured elements of native paganism where these did not entail polytheism or idolatry [sic]. He was careful not to undermine the foundations of the original Arab faith, and made substantial concessions to his pagan contemporaries. Where change was needless he made none.

He altered nothing in the pre-Islamic calendar system or in the sacred months of the pagan Arabs, and they still remain (9:5). Mecca, the sacred city of pagan worship, continued to be the ‘mother of the city’ (42:5) and the spiritual focus of the new faith, and remains central in prayer and pilgrimage of all Muslims.

The deity proclaimed by Muhammad was given a local name, ‘Allah’ – the name of the supreme deity of the Arabs, pagan and non-pagan, before Islam. The deity was also given a local habitation in the Kaaba. The Koran urges Muslims to ‘worship the Lord of this House’ (106:3) – the ‘House’ meaning the Kaaba – and at no time did Muhammad make any attempt to alter the status of the pagan fane.

He also retained, almost intact, all the old pagan ceremonies, and to this day the rites of the Kaaba hang like an incongruous shroud around the living faith of Islam. And then the great iconoclast, who sought to banish idolatry root and branch, made the near veneration of the Kaaba fetish – a black stone worshiped by the ancient Arabs – the central rite of the Muslim pilgrimage… The historian Abul Fida (d. 1331) writes: ‘The Arabs of the time of ignorance [before Islam] used to do things which the religion of Islam has adopted.’… (Walker, Foundations of Islam, pp. 48, 51-52, 54; underline emphasis ours)

Thus, if Muhammad could adopt pagan practices and worship with the pagans around the Kaba while it still housed 360 idols, it shouldn’t surprise us that his god would swear by objects which the unbelievers worshiped and venerated as deities besides Allah.

When all is said and done this much remains abundantly clear: much to the dismay of Muslims, Islam is nothing more than rehashed paganism masquerading itself as Abrahamic monotheism. The evidence provided by the Quran and the Islamic source material makes it rather hard for Muslims to escape the fact that Arab paganism has left an indelible mark on the religion of Islam.

Unless noted otherwise, all quranic verses taken from the Abdullah Yusuf Ali version.

Further Reading

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