Hubal, the moon god of the Kaba

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Hubal, the moon god of the Kaba:

What is quite certain is that the Pagan Arabs in Mecca worshipped a moon god called Hubal at the Kabah. Hubal was the Lord of the Kabah, being the highest ranking god of the 360 gods worshipped in the Kabah. Now here is the amazing thing. Allah was also worshipped as the Lord of the Kabah. Yet, Allah was never represented by any idol of physical nature. To suggest the polytheistic Arabs never created an idol to represent Allah is simply unreasonable and unbelievable. We suggest rather, that Hubal was who the Pagan Arabs addressed their prayers to Allah through. In other words, Allah was Hubal. Muhammad came along and smashed the idol of Hubal and now the Arabs had no idol of Allah to pray through any more and Hubal was forgotten. There are stories in the Sira of pagan Meccan praying to Allah while standing beside the image of Hubal. (Muhammad's Mecca, W. Montgomery Watt, Chapter 3: Religion In Pre-Islamic Arabia, p26-45) We suggest that Arabs stood beside Hubal and prayed to him, referring to him as Allah.

  1. "II. The Religion of the Pre-Islamic Arabs The life of the pre-Islamic Arabs, especially in the Hijaz depended on trade and they made a trade of their religion as well. About four hundred years before the birth of Muhammad one Amr bin Lahyo bin Harath bin Amr ul-Qais bin Thalaba bin Azd bin Khalan bin Babalyun bin Saba, a descendant of Qahtan and king of Hijaz, had put an idol called Hubal on the roof of the Kaba. This was one of the chief deities of the Quraish before Islam. It is said that there were altogether three hundred and sixty idols in and about the Kaba and that each tribes had its own deity...The shapes and figures of the idols were also made according to the fancy of the worshippers. Thus Wadd was shaped like a man, Naila like a woman, so was Suwa. Yaghuth was made in the shape of lion, Yauq like a horse and Nasr like a vulture.. Besides Hubal, there was another idol called Shams placed on the roof of the Kaba...The blood of the sacrificial animals brought by the pilgrims was offered to the deities in the Kaba and sometimes even human beings were sacrificed and offered to the god... Besides idol-worship, they also worshipped the stars, the sun and the moon." (Muhammad The Holy Prophet, Hafiz Ghulam Sarwar (Pakistan), p 18-19, Muslim)
  2. Among the gods worshiped by the Quraysh, the greatest was Hubal, this on the expert testimony of Ibn al-Kalbi: "The Quraysh had several idols in and around the Ka'ba. The greatest of these was Hubal. It was made, as I was told, of red agate, in the form of a man with the right hand broken off It came into the possession of the Quraysh in this condition, and they therefore made for it a hand of gold.... It stood inside the Ka'ba, and in front of it were seven divinatory arrows. On one of these was written the word "Pure," and on another "associated alien." Whenever the lineage of a new-born was doubted, they would offer a sacrifice to Hubal and then shuffle the arrows and throw them. If the arrows showed the word "Pure," the child would be declared legitimate and the tribe would accept him. If, however, the arrows showed "associated alien," the child would be declared illegitimate and would reject him. The third arrow had to do with divination concerning the dead, while the fourth was for divination about marriage. The purpose of the three remaining arrows has not been explained. Whenever they disagreed concerning something, or proposed to embark upon a journey, or undertake some other project, they would proceed to Hubal and shuffle the divinatory arrows before it. Whatever result they obtained they would follow and do accordingly. (Ibn al-Kalbi, Book of Idols 28-29 = Ibn al-Kalbi 1952: 23-24) (The Hajj, F. E. Peters, p 3-41, 1994)
  3. "Before Muhammad appeared, the Kaaba was surrounded by 360 idols, and every Arab house had its god. Arabs also believed in jinn (subtle beings), and some vague divinity with many offspring. Among the major deities of the pre-Islamic era were al-Lat ("the Goddess"), worshiped in the shape of a square stone; al-Uzzah ("the Mighty"), a goddess identified with the morning star and worshiped as a thigh-bone-shaped slab of granite between al Talf and Mecca; Manat, the goddess of destiny, worshiped as a black stone on the road between Mecca and Medina; and the moon god, Hubal, whose worship was connected with the Black Stone of the Kaaba. The stones were said to have fallen from the sun, moon, stars, and planets and to represent cosmic forces. The so-called Black Stone (actually the color of burnt umber) that Muslims revere today is the same one that their forebears had worshiped well before Muhammad and that they believed had come from the moon. (No scientific investigation has ever been performed on the stone. In 930, the stone was removed and shattered by an Iraqi sect of Qarmatians, but the pieces were later returned. The pieces, sealed in pitch and held in place by silver wire, measure about 10 inches in diameter altogether and several feet high; they are venerated today in patched-together form.)" (The Joy of Sects, Peter Occhigrosso, 1996)
  4. It is not related that the Black Stone was connected with any special god. In the Ka'ba was the statue of the god Hubal who might be called the god of Mecca and of the Ka'ba. Caetani gives great prominence to the connection between the Ka'ba and Hubal. Besides him, however, al-Lat, al-`Uzza, and al-Manat were worshipped and are mentioned in the Kur'an; Hubal is never mentioned there. What position Allah held beside these is not exactly known. The Islamic tradition has certainly elevated him at the expense of other deities. It may be considered certain that the Black Stone was not the only idol in or at the Ka'ba. The Makam Ibrahim was of course a sacred stone from very early times. Its name has not been handed down. Beside it several idols are mentioned, among them the 360 statues. (First Encyclopedia of Islam, E.J. Brill, 1987, Islam, p. 587-591)
  5. All the accumulation of heathendom, which had gathered round the Ka'ba, was now thrust aside. 36o idols are said to have stood around the building. When touched with the Prophet's rod they all fell to the ground. The statue of Hubal which `Amr b. Luhaiy is said to have erected over the pit inside the Ka'ba was removed as well as the representations of the prophets. (First Encyclopedia of Islam, E.J. Brill, 1987, Islam, p. 587-591)
  6. Towards the end of the fifth century, perhaps, a strong man by the name of Qusayy succeeded either by force or trickery in gaining control of the temple. He belonged to the tribe of Quraysh, an assemblage of several clans which, through him, supplanted the Khuza'a. There may be some foundation of truth in the story that Qusayy had travelled in Syria, and had brought back from there the cult of the goddesses al- 'Uzza and Manat, and had combined it with that of Hubal, the idol of the Khuzaca. It has been suggested that he may actually have been a Nabataean. (Mohammed, Maxime Rodinson, 1961, translated by Anne Carter, 1971, p 38-49)
  7. The Ka'ba at Mecca, which may have initially been a shrine of Hubal alone, housed several idols; a number of others, too, were gathered in the vicinity. (Mohammed, Maxime Rodinson, 1961, translated by Anne Carter, 1971, p 38-49)
  8. The use of the phrase 'the Lord of this House makes it likely that those Meccans who believed in Allah as a high god-and they may have been numerous-regarded the Ka'ba as his shrine, even though there were images of other gods in it. There are stories in the Sira of pagan Meccan praying to Allah while standing beside the image of Hubal. (Muhammad's Mecca, W. Montgomery Watt, Chapter 3: Religion In Pre-Islamic Arabia, p26-45)
  9. The temple was evidently at the centre of a cult involving idol worship. The presiding deity was Hubal, a large carnelian statue kept inside the temple; 36o other idols were ranged outside. The three goddesses described in the Quran as the 'daughters of Allah' - Allat, 'Uzza and Manat - were also worshipped in the vicinity. (Islam in the World, Malise Ruthven, 1984, p 28-48)
  10. 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 (kdhin, 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. (History Of The Arabs, Philip K. Hitti, 1937, p 96-101)
  11. The statue of Hubal was inside the building during the Age of Barbarism, but the ritual performed there was the Abrahamic one of circumcision. (The Hajj, F. E. Peters, p 3-41, 1994)
  12. Amr ibn Luhayy brought with him (to Mecca) an idol called Hubal from the land of Hit in Mesopotamia.59 Hubal was one the Quraysh's greatest idols. So he set it up at the well inside the Ka'ba and ordered the people to worship it. Thus a man coming back from a journey would visit it and circumambulate the House before going to his family, and he would shave his hair before it. Muhammad ibn Ishaq said that Hubal was (made of) cornelian pearl in the shape of a human. His right hand was broken off and the Quraysh made a gold hand for it. It had a vault for the sacrifice, and there were seven arrows cast (On issues relating to) a dead person, virginity and marriage. Its offering was a hundred camels. It had a custodian (hajib). (Azraqi 1858: 73-74) Finally, among the pictures that decorated the interior of the Ka'ba in pre-Islamic days, there was one, as Azraqi says, "of Abraham as an old man." But because the figure was shown performing divination by arrows, it seems likely that it was Hubal. The suspicion is strengthened by the fact that when Muhammad finally took over the sanctuary, he permitted the picture of Jesus to remain but had that of "Abraham" removed with the dry comment, "What has Abraham to do with arrows?"" Has Hubal depicted as "Abraham the Ancient" anything to do with the "Ancient House," as the Ka'ba is often called? Or, to put the question more directly: Was it Hubal rather than Allah who was "Lord of the Ka'ba"?" Probably not. The Quran, which makes no mention of Hubal, would certainly have raised the contention. Hubal was, by the Arabs' own tradition, a newcomer to both Mecca and the Ka'ba, an outsider introduced by the ambitious Amr ibn Luhayy, and the tribal token around which the Quraysh later attempted to construct a federation with the surrounding Kinana, whose chief deity Hubal was. Hubal was introduced into the Ka'ba, but he never supplanted the god Allah, whose House it continued to be. (The Hajj, F. E. Peters, p 3-41, 1994)
  13. "According to a theory held by many, this temple had been sourceally connected with the ancient worship of the sun, moon and stars, and its circumambulation by the worshippers had a symbolical reference to the rotation of the heavenly bodies. Within its precincts and in its neighborhood there were found many idols, such as Hubal, Lat, Ozza, Manah, Wadd, Sawa, Yaghut, Nasr, Isaf, Naila, etc. A black stone in the temple wall was regarded with superstitious awe as eminently sacred" (Muhammad and Muhammadanism, S.W. Koelle, 1889, p. 17-19)
  14. 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 Emanuel, Israel, etc., rather than the Bapal of the northern semites proper, which was the Sun. Similarly, under Mohammed's tutelage, the relatively anonymous Ilah became Al-Ilah, The God, or Allâh, the Supreme Being. (Southern Arabia, Carleton S. Coon, Washington, D.C. Smithsonian, 1944, p.399)
  15. The more the significance of the cult declined, the greater became the value of a general religious temper associated with Allah. Among the Meccans he was already coming to take the place of the old moon-god Hubal as the lord of the Ka'bah...Allah was actually the guardian of contracts, though at first these were still settled at a special ritual locality and so subordinate to the supervision of an idol. In particular he was regarded as the guardian of the alien guest, though consideration for him still lagged behind duty to one's kinsmen." (History of the Islamic Peoples, Carl Brockelmann, p 8-10)
  16. At Mekka, Allah was the chief of the gods and the special deity of the Quraish, the prophet's tribe. Allah had three daughters: Al Uzzah (Venus) most revered of all and pleased with human sacrifice; Manah, the goddess of destiny, and Al Lat, the goddess of vegetable life. Hubal and more than 300 others made up the pantheon. The central shrine at Mekka was the Kaaba, a cube like stone structure which still stands though many times rebuilt. Imbedded in one corner is the black stone, probably a meteorite, the kissing of which is now an essential part of the pilgrimage." (Meet the Arab, John Van Ess, 1943, p. 29.)
  17. "As well as worshipping idols and spirits, found in animals, plants, rocks and water, the ancient Arabs believed in several major gods and goddesses whom they considered to hold supreme power over all things. The most famous of these were Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, Manat and Hubal. The first three were thought to be the daughters of Allah (God) and their intercessions on behalf of their worshippers were therefore of great significance. Hubal was associated with the Semitic god Ba'l and with Adonis or Tammuz, the gods of spring, fertility, agriculture and plenty...Hubal's idol used to stand by the holy well inside the Sacred House. It was made of red sapphire but had a broken arm until the tribe of Quraysh, who considered him one of their major gods, made him a replacement in solid gold." (Fabled Cities, Princes & Jin from Arab Myths and Legends, Khairt al-Saeh, 1985, p. 28-30.)
  18. This was especially true of Allah, 'the God, the Divinity', the personification of the divine world in its highest form, creator of the universe and keeper of sworn oaths. In the Hejaz three goddesses had pride of place as the 'daughters of Allah'. The first of these was Allat, mentioned by Herodotus under the name of Alilat. Her name means simply 'the goddess', and she may have stood for one aspect of Venus, the morning star, although hellenized Arabs identified her with Athene. Next came Uzza, 'the all-powerful', whom other sources identify with Venus. The third was Manat, the goddess of fate, who held the shears which cut the thread of life and who was worshipped in a shrine on the sea-shore. The great god of Mecca was Hubal, an idol made of red cornelian. (Mohammed, Maxime Rodinson, 1961, translated by Anne Carter, 1971, p 16-17)
  19. Sacred times and places also seem to have been respected for the most part. The Qur'an has many references to Pagans Praying to their 'Partner-gods' (shuraka') -a matter to be discussed later-and there is a report of Abu Sufyan Praying to the god Hubal at Uhud. (Muhammad's Mecca, W. Montgomery Watt, Chapter 3: Religion In Pre-Islamic Arabia, p26-45)
  20. Each state or tribe had had its own moon god under a national or local name. The temples had been centres of religious life, and the priests of the moon gods had normally provided oracle services. Pilgrimage had been performed to certain temples of the moon gods, with rituals similar in many details to those of the pre-Islamic and Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. (Britannica, Arabia, History of, p 1045, 1979)
  21. South Arabian deities. In the official cults of the South Arabian kingdoms, the devotees venerated most highly a triad of deities that were astral in character: the moon god, the sun goddess, and the god equated with the planet Venus. Each of these deities bore a variety of names, depending on the region, or on a particular attribute of the divinity. Chief among the triad was the moon god, who was the protector of the principal cities. ... the people of Hadramawt the offspring of Sin (the name of the moon god in ancient Babylonia). In each region other names of the moon god appear, derived from aspects of the lunar cycle or other attributes. (Britannica, Arabian Religions, p1057, 1979)
  22. Despite the prominence of the name elsewhere among Semitic peoples, the god Il (EI) appears to play a comparatively minor role in the South Arabian inscriptions. Some modem scholars have sought to explain this circumstance by equating Il with the moon god, but this opinion has not prevailed. (Britannica, Arabian Religions, p1057, 1979)
  23. HUBAL, the name of an idol, which was worshipped at Mecca in the Ka`ba but otherwise is only known from a Nabataean inscription (Carp. Inscr. Semit., ii. n". 189 = Jaussen et Savignac, Afission Archiol. en Arabie, i. 169, 170) where it is mentioned along with Dushara and Manutu. It is thus probable that the tradition according to which `Amr b. Luhaiy [q. v.] brought the idol with him from Moab or Mesopotamia, is correct in retaining a memory of the foreign, to be more accurate Aramaic, origin of Hubal, although the substance of the tradition is otherwise quite legendary. The name cannot be explained from the Arabic for the etymologies in Yakut etc. condemn themselves, but Pocock's supposition that Hubal is equivalent to [Hebrew] although defended by Dozy, is hardly better founded. Another tradition indeed relates that Hubal was an idol of the Banu Ki-nana, worshipped also by the Kuraish, 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 Kuraish replaced the right hand which was broken, by a golden one; it was the custom to consult the idol by divination with arrows; this was done for example by `Abd al-Muttalib with reference to his son `Abd Allah, etc. We learn nothing further about the cult of this idol and the legends are quite worthless for the comprehension of the real nature of the deity. After the conquest of Mecca Hubal shared the lot of all other idols and the image was removed from the Ka'ba and destroyed.(First Encyclopedia of Islam, E.J. Brill, 1987, Hubal)
  24. Hubal, an Arabian god whose worship was fostered in Mecca by the Khuza'i 'Amr b. Luhayy [q.v.] in the first half of the 3rd century A.D. Represented at first by a baetyl, like most of the Arab deities, it was later personified, with human features, by a statue made of cornelian, with the right arm truncated (cf. Judges III, 15, XX, 16) and which the Kuraysh's are said to have replaced by a golden arm (al-Azraki, Akhbar Makka, ed. Wustenfeld, Leipzig 1858, 74). It was from a town with thermal springs (hamma) that it was apparently brought to the Hidjaz. Having come there to bathe in the waters and thereby being cured of a serious illness, `Ainr b. Luhayy, it is said, had taken back this statue with him. (The Encyclopaedia Of Islam, New Edition, Edited By B. Lewis, V. L. Menage, Ch. Pellat And J. Schacht, 1971, HUBAL page 536)
  25. Having asked the local inhabitants what was the justification of their idols, `Amr b. Lullayy is said to have received the following reply: .. these are the lords (arbab) whom we have chosen, having [simultaneously] the form of the celestial temples (al-hayakil al-`ulwiyya) and that of Human beings. We ask them for victory over our enemies and they grant it to us; we ask them for rain, in time of drought, and they give it to us". In the Ka'ba, Hubal must have preserved this original character of a stellar deity; but his most characteristic role was that of a cleromantic divinity. Indeed, it was before the god that the sacred lots were cast. The statue stood inside the Ka'ba, above the sacred well which was thought to have been dug by Abraham to receive the offerings brought to the sanctuary (al-Azraki, 31). Another Somewhat surprising fact indicates a connection with Abraham: in the mural paintings of the pre-islamic Ka'ba, Hubal, represented as an old man holding arrows, seems to have been assimilated with Abraham (al-Azraki, III). (The Encyclopaedia Of Islam, New Edition, Edited By B. Lewis, V. L. Menage, Ch. Pellat And J. Schacht, 1971, HUBAL page 536)
  26. The earliest mention of the name Hubal occurs in a Nabataean inscription (CIS, ii, 198), in which it appears as an associate of Manawat. According to al-Azraki (73), its cult was the best organized in the Ka'ba: a hadjib guarded the idol; he received the offerings and sacrifices that were brought; he shook the arrows of divination before it. When a Meccan returned from travelling, he used to go to give thanks to the god before going to his own home. In the field of popular piety at least, it eclipsed the other deities in the Meccan pantheon, to such an extent that there has been some speculation whether the unanimity regarding this cult did not help to prepare the way for Allah. (The Encyclopaedia Of Islam, New Edition, Edited By B. Lewis, V. L. Menage, Ch. Pellat And J. Schacht, 1971, HUBAL page 536)
  27. "the Ka'aba was dedicated to al-Ilah, the High God of the pagan Arabs, despite the presiding effigy of Hubal. By the beginning of the seventh century, al-Ilah had become more important than before in the religious life many of the Arabs. Many primitive religions develop a belief in a High God, who is sometimes called the Sky God...But they also carried on worshipping the other gods, who remained deeply important to them." (Karen Armstrong, Muhammad, (New York: San Francisco, 1992) p. 69.)

    Written by Brother Andrew


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