List of pre-Islamic Arabian deities

There were many deities in pre-Islamic Arab religion, with the Kaaba alone said to have contained up to 360 idols of many gods and goddesses.[1] The following is a list of deities worshipped in pre-Islamic Arabia.

Triad of goddesses

Image Name Description
Al-Lat

(اللات‎)

Allat is a goddess associated with fertility and war. Her cult was spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula and as far as Palmyra. She was equated with Athena, the Greek goddess of war. In the Hejaz region, she was especially worshipped by the Banu Thaqif of Ta'if, and she was also worshipped by the Nabataeans of North Arabia. There is also evidence of her worship in South Arabia and Qedar, with her name being attested in inscriptions. In Islamic tradition, her worship was ended with the destruction of her shrine in Ta'if.
Al-‘Uzzá

(العزى‎)

Al-'Uzzá is a goddess associated with might, protection and love. Equated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite, she was an important goddess of the Nabataeans, and a temple dedicated to her was set up at Petra. In the Hejaz, she became the chief goddess of the Quraysh, and a shrine housing three trees once stood in Nakhla. In pre-Islamic poetry, she was invoked as a symbol of beauty. In South Arabia, she was known as Uzzayān and she was associated with healing. In Islamic tradition, her worship was ended with the destruction of her shrine in Nakhla.
Manāt

(مناة‎)

Manāt is the goddess of fate, destiny and death. In Nabataean and Latin inscriptions she was known as Manawat. She is an ancient goddess, predating both Allāt and Al-'Uzzá. She was associated with Dushara and Hubal, and was equated with the Greek goddess Nemesis. She became the chief goddess of both the Banu Aws and Banu Khazraj, the two polytheistic tribes of Yathrib (Medina). In Islamic tradition, her worship was ended with the destruction of her shrine in the shore of al-Qudayd.

Other deities

Other deities were more private in nature, only being worshipped by specific tribes, clans, and so on.

Name Known associated tribes/peoples Description
A'im Azd A'im is a god who was worshipped by the Azd of al-Sarah.[2]
A'ra Nabataeans A'ra is a tutelary god known from inscriptions in Bosra.
Abgal Abgal is a tutelary god worshipped by nomads, including bedouins,[3] and a tutelary god of the Arabs of the Palmyra region. His name is found in inscriptions dating to the times of the Palmyrene Empire, but none in Palmyra itself.[4]
Abirillu Qedarites Abirillu is a god mentioned in an Assyrian inscription.[5]
Al-Fals Tayy Al-Fals is a god associated with animals, and according to the Book of Idols, animals roaming in the territory of his idol would become a property of the god.[6] Primarily worshipped by the Tayy tribe, his idol and sanctuary was said to be located on the Jabal Aja.[6]
Al-Jalsad Kindites
Al-Kutbay Nabataeans Al-Kutbay is a god of writing worshipped by the Nabataeans.
Almaqah Sabaeans Almaqah was the chief-god of the Sabaeans. Associated with the bull's head and vines, he was regarded as the progenitor of the Sabaeans, and his worship spread to the Ethiopian kingdoms of Dʿmt and Kingdom of Aksum.
Al-Uqaysir Quda'a, Banu Lakhm, Judhah, Banu Amela, Ghatafan Al-Uqaysir is a god whose idol stood in Syria. According to the Book of Idols, adherents would go on a pilgrimage to the idol and shave their heads, then mix their hair with wheat, "for every single hair a handful of wheat."[7]
Al-Ya'bub Tayy Al-Ya'bub is a god that belonged to the Jadilah clan of Tayy, who according to the Book of Idols abstained from food and drink before him.[8] It is said that the clan originally worshipped a different idol until the tribe Banu Asad took it away from them.[8]
Amm Qatabanians Amm is the moon god of Qataban. His attributes include the lightning bolts. Amm is served by the judge-god Anbay and has the Semitic goddess Asherah as his consort. Qatabanians are also known as Banu Amm, or "children of Amm".
Amm-Anas Khawlin Amm-Anas is a god worshipped by the Khawlin. According to the Book of Idols, the Khawlin would offer a portion of their livestock property and land products and give one part to Amm-Anas and the other to God.[9] While no epigraphic evidence of this god is known, the existence of Amm-Anas cannot be ruled out as his name is present in the personal name of a Khawlanite leader.
Anbay Qatabanians Anbay is a god of justice worshipped in Qataban, alongside Haukim, as gods of "command and decision".
Ashar Ashar is one of the nomadic gods of the Arabs during the Palmyrene Empire period, along with Azizos, Ma'n, Abgal, Sa'd, and Mun'im.
Asira Lihyanites Asira is named in an inscription listing the deities of Tayma.
Atarquruma Qedarites Atarquruma is a god worshipped by the Qedarites mentioned in an Assyrian inscription.[5] He probably originated as a form of Athtar, who in Saba was associated with Kurum, thought to be a hypostasis or a consort of Athtar.
Atarsamain Qedarites Atarsamain is a deity of uncertain gender, worshipped among the Qedarites, and was associated with Venus.
Athtar Sabaeans, Minaeans, Himyarites, Kindites Athtar is the god associated with the planet Venus in many South Arabian cultures. Related to the West Semitic Attar, Athtar was associated with thunderstorms and rain.
Athtar Shariqan Athtar Shariqan is a form of Athtar who was invoked as an avenger against enemies. The word "Shariqan" means "the Eastern One". The worship of this god has spread to the Central Arabian kingdom of Kindah, where his name appears in Qaryat al-Fawt.
Bajir Azd Bajir is a minor god of the Azd.
Basamum Basamum is a god worshipped in South Arabia whose name may be derived from Arabic basam, or balsam, a medicinal plant, indicating that he may be associated with healing or health.[10][11] One ancient text relates how Basamum cured two wild goats/ibexes.[10]
Dai Qedarites Dai is named in an Assyrian inscription.[5]
Datin Datin is a god primarily known from inscriptions in northern Arabia, but his function is unknown.[12]
Dhat-Badan Dhat-Badan is a goddess of the oasis, worshipped in tree-circled pools.
Dhat Anwat Quraysh Dhat Anwat is a tree deity worshipped by the Quraysh.
Dhu al-Kaffayn Daws (banu-Munhib ibn-Daws) Dhu al-Kaffayn is, according to the Book of Idols, a god worshipped by the Daws, specifically the banu-Munhib ibn-Daws. His name means "he of the two palms".[13]
Dhu-Ghabat Lihyanites
Dhu-Samawi Bedouin, Amir Dhu-Samawi, literally "the Heavenly One", is a god who probably originated from northern Arabia, but also found worship in south Arabia. The Bedouin would offer votive statuettes of camels, to ensure well-being of their herds. The Amir tribe also worshipped this god, and in inscriptions Dhu-Samawi was regarded as the "god of Amir".
Dhul Khalasa Bajila, Khatham Dhul Khalasa is a god worshipped by the Bajila and the Khatham tribes, and was reportedly worshipped as a "god of redemption". His temple became known as the Kaaba of Yemen.
Dushara Nabataeans, Azd (Banū al-Hārith ibn-Yashkur ibn-Mubashshir) Dhu al-Shara/Dushara is a mountain god worshipped primarily by the Nabataeans as their chief-god, and also by the Banū al-Hārith ibn-Yashkur ibn-Mubashshir clan of the Azd. Probably originating as an aspect of Ruda, he is associated with the Sun and the planet Mercury.
Haubas Sabaeans Haubas is an oracular deity of the Sabaeans. The deity's gender varies from area to area; in places where the deity is female, she is regarded as the consort of Athtar.
Haukim Qatabanians Haukim is a god of law and justice, worshipped alongside Anbay as gods of "command and decision".
Hawl Hadhramites Hawl was probably a moon god, as his name may have alluded to the lunar cycle. He was worshipped in Hadhramawt.
Hilal Hilal is a god of the new moon.
Hubal Quraysh, Nabataeans Hubal is a god associated with divination. His idol stood in the Kaaba, and his rituals were in the form of throwing divination arrows before the idol, in cases of virginity, death and marriage.[14] He is worshipped by many tribes, including the Quraysh, who controlled access to the idol. Hubal's name also appears in a Nabataean inscription in Mada'in Saleh, along with Dushara and Manat.
Isaf and Na'ila Isaf and Na'ila are a pair of deities, a god and a goddess, whose cult was centered near the Well of Zamzam. Islamic tradition gave an origin story to their idols; a couple who were petrified by Allah as they fornicated inside the Kaaba.
Kahl Kindites Kahl is the patron god of the Kindah kingdom whose capital was Qaryat al-Faw.[15] The town was called Dhat Kahl after him. His name appears in the form of many inscriptions and rock engravings on the slopes of the Tuwayq, on the walls of the souk of the village, in the residential houses and on the incense burners.
Manaf Quraysh, Hudhayl, Tamim Manaf is a god, described by Muslim scholar At-Tabari as "one of the greatest deities of Mecca", although little information is available about him. It is said that women would keep his idol away during menstruation. Some scholars suggest that Manaf might be a solar god.[16]
Mun'im Mun'im, rendered in Greek as Monimos, is one of the nomadic gods of the Arabs during the Palmyrene Empire period, along with Azizos, Ma'n, Abgal, Sa'd, and Ashar.
Nasr Himyarites Nasr is a god worshipped by the Himyarites and, according to the Book of Idols, was worshipped in a place called Balkha.[17]
Nuha Qedarites Nuha is a goddess associated with the Sun. She was also associated with emotions, as described in various inscriptions in Najd, Saudi Arabia.
Nuhm Muzaynah
Nukhay Nukhay is probably a solar god and is named in Thamudic and Safaitic inscriptions.
Qaynan Sabaeans Qaynan is a Sabaean god, and based on etymology, might be a god of smiths.
Quzah People of Muzdalifah Quzah is a weather and a mountain god, as well as a god of the rainbow, worshipped by the people of Muzdalifah. His attribute is the bow and arrows of hailstones.[18] He was probably syncretized with the Edomite god Qos and became known as qaws quzah.[19]
Ruda Qedarites, Thamudic and Safaitic Bedouin Ruda is an important solar god in North Arabia. He is named in an Assyrian inscription as Ruldaiu and is frequently mentioned in Thamudic and Safaitic inscriptions. In Safaitic inscriptions Ruda is a goddess. Dushara, the chief-god of the Nabataeans and a minor god of the Kalb, may have originated as a form of Ruda. Ruda was also worshipped in Palmyra as Arsu.
Sa'd Kinanah Sa'd is a god of fortune worshipped by the Banu Kinanah tribe. His idol was a tall stone situated in the desert, and animals were sacrificed there for blessings.
Sa'd Arab nomads of Palmyra Another god by the name of Sa'd is worshipped by the nomads of Palmyra along with Abgal, Ashar and others.
Salm
Shams Sabaeans, Himyarites, Tamim Shams is the sun goddess in many South Arabian cultures. She was also worshipped by the Tamim.
Shay al-Qawm Nabataeans Shay al-Qawm is the god associated with war and the night worshipped by the Nabataeans. He is described as a god "who drinks no wine, who builds no home". The Lihyanites also worshipped him.
Shingala Lihyanites Shingala was named in an inscription listing the deities of Tayma.
Su'ayr 'Anazzah Su'ayr is an oracular god of the 'Anazzah tribe.
Suwa' Hudhayl Suwa' is a god worshipped by the Hudhayl tribe.
Syn Hadhramites Syn was the chief-god of the Hadhramites. His role is disputed; while he may be connected to the Moon, and by extension, the Semitic god Sin (Sumerian Nanna), his symbol is the eagle, a solar symbol.
Ta'lab Sabaeans (Sum'ay) Ta'lab is a moon god primarily worshipped by the Sum'ay, a Sabaean federation of tribes, and he was also associated with pastures. He had an important temple in Riyam.
Theandrios Theandrios is the Greek name of a god, worshipped by the Arab tribes of Mount Hermon.
Wadd Minaeans, Kalb Wadd is a moon-god who probably originated from northern Arabia. In southern Arabia, he became the national god of the Minaeans and he was also associated with snakes. The Kalb worshipped him in the form of a man and is said to have represented heaven, and his idol reportedly stood at Dumat al-Jandal.
Ya'uq Khaywin Ya'uq is a god worshipped by the Khaywin.
Yaghūth Madhhij, people of Jurash Yaghūth is a god worshipped by the Madhhij, a Qahtanite confederation. The people of Jurash in Yemen also worshipped him.
Yatha Sabaeans, Himyarites Yatha is a god associated with salvation. His name means "Savior".

Foreign deities

The Arabs, through contact with other cultures, also worshipped foreign deities, as this was the case in eastern Arabia, Nabataea, and many others.

Other Semitic deities

Palmyra was home to an Arab population, who arrived there in the late first millennium BC. The pantheon of Palmyra included mostly northwestern Semitic/Canaanite deities, with the addition of Mesopotamian deities and Arab deities, as well as local deities, which include Aglibol, Yarhibol and Malakbel. At Palmyra, a temple dedicated to Al-Lat was set up by a citizen Taimarsu of Palmyra circa 123-164 AD.[20]

In Arabia itself, the Lihyanites were said to have also worshipped Aglibol. Worship of Bel, Nabu and Shamash was evidently practiced in Eastern Arabia, brought into the region by merchants and visitors. In Islamic tradition, according to Ibn Ishaq, the god Hubal himself was brought into Mecca by a tribe leader named Amr ibn Luhayy, and according to al-Azraqi, the image was imported from Mesopotamia.

Greco-Roman deities

Through contact and influence, some local deities became identified with Greco-Roman deities, such as Al-Lat with Athena (or in Herodotus' case, Aphrodite), Al-'Uzza with Aphrodite Ourania, and Manat with Nemesis. Cults and temples of Arabian deities also found their way outside the peninsula, such as Dushara (Latin: Dusares) in Italy. A temple dedicated to Wadd (Greek: Oaddos) and various other Minaean deities evidently existed in.

Egyptian deities

Bes, an Egyptian god, may have been worshipped in Arabia, as representations of a dwarf-god resembling him were found in the peninsula.

    Notes

    1. Armstrong, Karen (2000). Islam: A Short History. p. 11. ISBN 0-8129-6618-X.
    2. al-Kalbi 1952, p. 35.
    3. Jordan 2014, p. 1.
    4. Teixidor 1979, p. 81.
    5. 1 2 3 Hoyland 2002, p. 134.
    6. 1 2 al-Kalbi 1952, p. 51.
    7. al-Kalbi 1952, p. 42.
    8. 1 2 al-Kalbi 1952, p. 54.
    9. al-Kalbi 1952, p. 37.
    10. 1 2 Lurker 2015, p. 56.
    11. Jordan 2014, p. 47.
    12. Jordan 2014, p. 72.
    13. al-Kalbi 1952, p. 32.
    14. Peters 1994, p. 109.
    15. Hoyland 2002, p. 40.
    16. Coulter & Turner 2013, p. 305.
    17. al-Kalbi 1952, p. 10.
    18. Jordan 2014, p. 260.
    19. Teixidor 2015, p. 90.
    20. Trombley 1993, p. 145.

    References

    • Becking, Bob; Horst, Pieter Willem van der (1999), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 9780802824912 
    • Coulter, Charles Russel; Turner, Patricia (2013), Encyclopaedia of Ancient Deities, Routledge, ISBN 1135963908 
    • Hoyland, Robert G. (2002), Arabia and the Arabs: From the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam, Routledge, ISBN 1134646348 
    • Jordan, Michael (2014), Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Infobase Publishing, ISBN 1438109857 
    • al-Kalbi, Ibn (1952), Book of Idols, Being a Translation from the Arabic of the Kitāb al-Asnām (Translation and Commentary by Nabih Amin Faris), Princeton University Press 
    • Lurker, Manfred (2015), A Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Devils and Demons, Routledge, ISBN 9781136106200 
    • Peters, Francis E. (1994), Muhammad and the Origins of Islam, SUNY Press, ISBN 9780791418758 
    • Teixidor, Javier (2015) [1977], The Pagan God: Popular Religion in the Greco-Roman Near East, Princeton University Press, ISBN 9781400871391 
    • Teixidor, Javier (1979), The Pantheon of Palmyra, Brill Archive, ISBN 9004059873 
    • Trombley, Frank R. (1993), Hellenic Religion and Christianization: C. 370-529, BRILL, ISBN 9789004096240 
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