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Chapter 5 -

The temple of Caba and the black stone

 

 

 

 

Is there idolatry in Islam?

 

Formerly we spoke about how in the Koran (53:19 20) there was originally - according to tradition - a reference to three Arab goddesses, Allat, al-Uzza, and Manat and the text: "These are high beings and their intercession can be hoped." Muhammad received a message about these goddesses when the unbending residents of Mecca did not accept his new teachings and did not want to follow him. He received a message about these goddesses and yielded to accept idolatry, even though he later cancelled this message.

†† When it is a question of idolatry, we can also ask whether this custom is still found in Islam? It should be noted that the fifth pillar of Islam, the pilgrimage to Mecca, includes several features that were characteristic already to the Arabsí faith and idolatry before the time of Islam and Muhammad. These features that we are going to look at separately were among other the following:

 

- Destination of pilgrimage is Mecca

- Going round temple many times

- Kissing or touching black stone

- Worshippers of heathen gods in Mecca also called themselves Hanifs

- Sacrificing animals 

- Walking to Mt. Arafat

- Visiting hills of Safa and Marwa

 

The destination of the pilgrimage is Mecca. Firstly, Mecca as the destination of pilgrimage comes from the past: Arabs and the ancient worshippers of heathen gods also had a custom to make pilgrimages to the same town and to take part in cult ceremonies in the temple of Caba and worship 360 heathen gods there. It has the following things in common with the modern pilgrimage: the destination was the same, both were called hanifs, and they carried out almost exactly the same stages of pilgrimage as the Muslims nowadays. Therefore, there were clear similarities with the current activities in Mecca.

†† The same development continued until Muhammad, who himself had been a guard in the sanctuary when there still were the 360 heathen gods, decided to close the town from all except the supporters of Islam. This happened in 630 A.D. but he still preserved all the rituals of the old religion and idolatry, which have thus been preserved up until these days.

 

Going around Caba. As the first connection with old idolatry was the pilgrimage to Mecca, the second point is walking around the temple of Caba. Nowadays many Muslims walk around Caba seven times. This was also a part of the ancient idolatry and pilgrimage: people in those days also walked around the temple, showed respect for it, and also kissed the black stone that was on the edge of the temple. These are things that resemble the current pilgrimage to Mecca a lot.

†† It is also preserved in history that people walked around other temples and stones also in other places. The Greek historians have referred to this special custom, but also the next example indicates that this custom was common in ancient idolatry:

 

People of Quraish took as their God a god called Hubal who was in the temple of Caba and stood near the well. They also worshipped Isaf and Na'il next to Zamzam, the place were they sacrificed. (...)

†† Arabs adopted, in addition to Caba, taghuts or temples that they respected. Like Caba, they had their own doormen and caretakers. The Arabs gave them offerings just as to Caba and walked around them as they did in Caba. They also slaughtered animals close to these places. (7)

 

Kissing the black stone. If we are looking for more issues common to the former idolatry and the current pilgrimage, one of them is the black stone that is kept in the temple of Caba and is kissed and touched. Also the Arabs in the old days used to kiss this stone and worship it as a god (it is quite curious that the Muslims these days kiss a stone that was previously used in idolatry) already a long before the days of Muhammad. The black stone was the most honored object in the ancient temple and the focus of polytheistic worshipping. The Bedouins also worshipped it along with other stones already long before the time of Islam and Muhammad:

 

Before Islam, the Arabs worshipped numerous gods, and their religion probably resembled the belief of the earlier Semite nations. (...) The Most important actively worshipped divinities were goddesses Allat, al-Uzza, and Manat who were probably regarded as the daughters of Allah, even though the pre-Islamic world of gods had not arranged itself into a clear pantheon.

(...) In addition to commonly worshipped gods, each tribe seems to have had their own divinities. The god of Mecca was possibly a less well known (moon) god Hubal who according to tradition was worshipped in the temple of Caba before the birth of Islam.

†† In addition to actual gods, holy stones, springs, and trees were worshipped. Worshipping of stones has been very typical for pre-Islamic Bedouins, also the Greek sources have mentioned this. The stones may have been formed naturally or be roughly outlined. The Bedouins worshipped both solid stones and stones they carried with them. The black stone of Caba was also worshipped already in the pre-Islamic period. (8)

 

Also the next quote speaks about the same issue: worshipping the black stone. It also talks about how there was previously a belief among the Arabs that the black stone was dropped from Heaven by the moon god Hubal. However, this view was later changed by Muhammad himself, because he believed that the stone was sent by the angel Gabriel from Paradise and that the stone was originally white but changed into black because of the sins of the people. Was Muhammad right or is it only an ordinary meteorite that has fallen to Earth? It is certainly impossible to prove this afterwards:

 

Unlike the Persians who - taught by Zoroastrian - worshipped the Sun as the residence of the Highest Being and connected good with light and fire, and bad with dark, the Arabs of those days generally worshipped the Moon. To a Persian who lived in the land of high mountains, the heat from the Sun may have been welcomed but to an Arab of the desert plains, the Sun was a killer and the Moon brought dew and darkness after the boiling heat and dazzling light. According to a heathen legend, it was believed that Hobal, the God of the Moon dropped the black meteorite stone of Caba from Heaven. It was deemed holy long before Islam, and was worshipped by pilgrims and travellers who believed that the Moon was also a god." (9)

 

 

 

 

Author: Jari Vesa Juhani Iivanainen Lahti Finland




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