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Does Islam Have Pagan Roots?

Questioner

Amir

Reply Date

Mar 13, 2017

Question

As-salamu `alaykum. Someone I know claims that Islam has pagan roots like Christianity; but I know this is a ridiculous claim considering the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) rid the pagans of their false beliefs. But please respond to this criticism. Thank you and jazaka Allahu khayran. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds!

Consultant

Answer


Salam dear brother, 

Thank you very much for contacting About Islam with your question. 

In the past, some opponents of Islam have tried to discredit it in whatever way possible.

One way was to malign the Last Prophet personally; another was to question the authenticity of the Quran. They discovered that these were futile attempts, so they turned to other ways, other stratagems.

One such strategy was the claim that Islam originated from paganism. 

We know that in Prophet Muhammad’s time, people of the Hijaz region (to which Makkah and Madinah belong) were pagans who worshipped many idols.

The Prophet’s first mission (as in the case of Abraham and Moses) was to call these people away from their petty man-made gods to the One and Only God of the Universe.

The Prophet’s own tribe was pagan—and they were the first ones he addressed. By Allah Almighty’s will, the Prophet preached tawheed (pure monotheism) to these people and eventually brought them to Islam—submission to the One True God. 

The critics speak of the pagan roots of Islam chiefly because the tribes of pre-Islamic Arabia were pagans. They also point out that the Kaabah was used for pagan worship before Islam took over.

Some of them even talk of udhiyah, or the sacrifice of animals in connection with the Muslim pilgrimage, as of pagan origin. 

The first point to be noted is that Islam was able to bring the people of Arabia out from the darkness of polytheism into the light of monotheism.

Former idol worshipers broke the idols with their own hands and purified the Kaabah under the leadership of the Last Prophet. This is a fact of history that no one can contest. 

The significance of the Kaabah derives from the story of Abraham. Indeed, it was originally the first house founded for worshiping the One and Only God of the Universe, long before idols were introduced into it.

The Kaabah was rebuilt by Prophet Abraham (peace and blessings be upon him) and his son Ishmael (peace and blessings be upon him). After their time, the Arabs fell into polytheism and filled the Kaabah with idols. 

It was Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) who restored the Kaabah to its original purity.

The Islamic rituals conducted there in connection with the Hajj are not in commemoration of Prophet Muhammad, but they are all performed to keep the memory of the important events in the history of Abraham, his son Ishmael, and his wife Hagar.

The Quran very clearly and emphatically points out that Abraham was never ever a polytheist. Read the verses in the Quran:

{So, We have taught you the inspired [Message], “Follow the ways of Abraham the True in Faith, and he joined not gods with Allah.”} (An-Nahl 16:123)

And:

{Say: “Verily, my Lord has guided me to a way that is straight, a religion of right, the path [trod] by Abraham the true in Faith, and he [certainly] joined not gods with Allah.” Say: “Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are [all] for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds.”} (Al-Anaam 6:161-162)

What could be clearer than the above verses to bring to light the true essence of the message of Islam, which in fact is struggling against all forms of polytheism and giving worship only where it is due—to the One True God? 

As for the sacrifice of animals during Hajj, the symbolism is well known: It is in remembrance of Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his own son for the sake of God.

The story is there in the Bible, so how can some Christians pretend not to understand its significance? 

I hope the above answers your question. 

Salam and please keep in touch.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Common Misconceptions About Islam (Folder)

Top 10 Myths about Islam – More Myths Busted

Islam And A “Moon god”?




About Professor Shahul Hameed

Professor Shahul Hameed is an Islamic consultant. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.


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