Pre-Islamic Arabia: Allah One Among Many Gods?

04 October, 2017
Q I have heard something about pre-Islamic history which is really strange, and I don't know the truth. Someone explained to me that Allah "was a lesser god in pre-Islamic polytheistic pantheon." I feel bad about this declaration, for this man seems to think that Allah has become "a winning god in an assembly of gods." I know that there were surviving truths from the monotheistic religion of Abraham and that Allah was known, but I don't know how they perceived Him. What is the true historical status of Allah among the polytheists before the revelation of the Holy Quran? I feel confident in my faith but disoriented in my knowledge, please help me to have a better knowledge about it.


Short answer: In some ways, yes. The pre-Islamic Arabs saw God as a god among many gods, but He was never one of the idols they worshipped; Even they knew that Allah is Most High, Supreme. This idea is a commonly propagated issue among people who want to hurt the message of Islam.

Salam (Peace) Dear Olivier, 

Thank you very much for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Allah Sent Revelation to Mankind Before Islam Was Revealed

The truth about Islam is that it is the religion of Allah, the One and Only God of the universe.

From the very beginning of human existence on earth, Allah has been guiding mankind through His prophets and has shown them the way to success in both this world and the next.

He perfected His guidance in the Holy Qur’an, revealed to the Last Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him).

The essential religion taught by all the prophets of Allah was the same.

It can be summarized thus in the words of Jesus as given in the Gospels of Mark, verse 29-34:

“And Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; this is the first commandment. And the second is, namely this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.’”

In Islamic phrasing this means: Submit to the One God most sincerely, and do good to your fellow beings.

Allah Was Never An idol For Them

Some groups among other faiths try to attack the truth of Islam with these sorts of statements.

They know that the Muslim belief in One God is unassailable; and yet they try to undermine the Muslims’ faith by bringing forth arguments like the one you mentioned in your question.

This is namely that Allah is not the One God of the universe, but one of the residual deities worshipped by the ancient pagans of Arabia.

This is really a distortion of the truth.

In fact, the Arab pagans did not consider Allah merely as one of their gods. On the contrary, they worshipped Him as the Supreme Ruler of the universe.

There was no idol called ‘Allah’, though all their lesser gods were represented by idols.

As the Holy Qur’an says in chapter 39, verse 3, they claimed:

We only serve them [the idols] in order that they may bring us nearer to Allah.

We must remember that the Arabs were the children of Abraham through his firstborn son Ishmael; and naturally he had imparted upon them the teachings of the earlier scriptures.

Thus it is no wonder that they believed in Allah, the Lord of the universe.

However with time, they drifted back to idolatry from the pure monotheism of the prophets, peace be upon them all.

So for the pagan Arab, Allah was not just one of the lesser deities to be worshipped. Rather, He was still considered the Supreme Ruler of the universe.

There is No God But God

Islam teaches that Allah is the Sovereign Creator and Cherisher of the universe Who possesses all the best attributes to the highest degree.

The following verses of the Holy Qur’an among others, will make clear that Allah can never be a provincial god.

In chapter 2, verse 117, Allah says:

To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: When He decrees a matter, He says to it: ‘Be,’ and it is.

And in chapter 51, verse 58:

For Allah is He Who gives [all] sustenance, Lord of Power, Steadfast [for ever].

Surah 92, verse 13:

And verily unto Us belong the End and the Beginning.

Finally, Surah 3, verse 109:

To Allah do all matters return.

May Allah guide us to the Truth and strengthen our faith in Him in these hard times!

Thank you again for your question and please keep in touch.


(From AboutIslam’s archives)

Read more…

Story of Prophet Abraham: The Father of Prophets

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.