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The Appearance of Mecca

The Appearance of Mecca

The Appearance of Mecca

The building of Mecca goes back to the time of Prophet Abraham who was ordered by God to bring his wife H¡jar and his infant Ism¡`¢l from Syria to live in a dry climate. (14:37) Upon the appearance of Zamzam by God to water these two,[1] Jurhum, a southern tribe whose individuals had moved towards the north due to famine and drought, came to settle there.[2] Reaching the age of adulthood, Ism¡`¢l married a girl from this tribe.[3] Prophet Abraham was commanded by Allah to build up the Kaaba with the assistance of his son, Ism¡`¢l. (2:127) When it was built, the city of Mecca came into being and Ism¡`¢l's offspring gradually settled therein.

The Remnants of Abraham's Religion: °an¢fiyyah

`Adn¡n was the great ancestor of the `Adn¡ni Arabs and the twentieth ancestor of the Holy Prophet from Ism¡`¢l’s generation. Living in °ij¡z, Najd, and Tih¡mah,[4] the `Adn¡nis followed Prophet Abraham’s religion. In the words of Ya`q£b¢:

“Quraysh and `Adn¡n's children in general believed in some principles of Prophet Abraham’s religion. They used to perform their pious pilgrimage; they observed the °ajj ceremonies; they were hospitable; they observed the prohibited months; they abhorred nasty deeds, the severing of relations with relatives and injustice or tyranny; they used to punish the wrongdoers.[5]

The remnants of Prophet Abraham’s traditions, such as belief in God, avoidance of marrying one's mother or daughter, ceremonies of °ajj and Sacrifice, nocturnal pollution,[6] circumcision, and shrouding and burying the dead[7] were all carried out up to the advent of Islam: they carried the ten rules of cleansing the body and removing the unwanted hairs and the like.[8] They believed, as well, in the prohibitions imposed on the four months which was one of Prophet Abraham’s traditions.[9] If for any reason, there occurred a fight among them; they called it a sinful and obnoxious war.[10] Thus, monotheism had a long history with the Arabs of that region and their idolatry entered there only later and drove them astray from monotheism.

The Beginning of Idolatry Among Arabs

In accordance with numerous documents, two factors have been effective in the propagation of idolatry among Arabs:

First: `Amr ibn Lu¦ayy, the chief of Khuz¡`ah, an influential man and custodian of the Kaaba,[11] made a trip to Syria where he could visit a group at `Am¡liqah[12] who were engaged in idolatry. When he asked why they worshipped those idols, they replied, “They cause the rain to fall and help us in many ways.” He asked them for an idol, and they gave him an idol called Hubal. Later, he took it to the Kaaba and stuck it on it asking people to worship it.[13] Besides this, there are two other idols next to the Kaaba: As¡f and N¡’ilah.[14] These two were also worshipped upon his recommendation. In this way, he laid the foundation of idolatry. The Holy Prophet is reported to have said:

`Amr ibn Lu¦ayy was the one who transformed Ism¡`¢l's religion and laid the foundation of idolatry. I have seen him in the fire of Hell.[15]

Second: When Ism¡`¢l's children grew in numbers in Mecca, they decided to go to different cities and locations to continue with their life. Due to their extreme respect and love for Mecca, everybody used to take away a piece of stone and put it on the ground wherever they went and started going around it like the ceremony around the Kaaba. Little by little, the motive behind this practice was forgotten and each stone transformed into an idol. People then would worship any stone they liked. In this way, they completely forgot their precious customs and religion: they transformed the religion of Prophet Abraham and Prophet Ism¡`¢l, accepting idolatry.[16]

Of course, these two factors were the basic reasons for the spread of idolatry. Naturally, there were other factors in this process, such as ignorance, human fondness of sensation (according to which man prefers God to be tangible), zeal for being the chief or among the prominent figures of the tribe who preferred people to be stuck in ignorance so that they could carry on with their domination, and imitating their ancestors that caused the spread of idolatry in different forms.[17] The number of idols gradually increased to such an extent that there was an idol in every home. On their trips, they used to caress it with their hands and ask for blessing.[18] At the time of the conquest of Mecca, there were three hundred and sixty idols in this city.[19]

Did Idolaters Believe in Allah?

The idolaters did not deny the existence of Allah; they considered Him as the Creator of the skies, the earth and the universe—a fact established in the Holy Qur'¡n.[20] However, they committed two huge mistakes which were the very root of their misleading.

(1) A false recognition of Allah and His Attributes; they had puzzling attitudes towards Allah. This is witnessed by the fact that they assumed a wife and children for God. They thought that angels were Allah's daughters. They erroneously assumed that Allah was like men and other creatures that had the power of sexual reproduction. However, in different verses, God has reprimanded them for these attitudes:

And he made the angels - those who are the servants of the Beneficent God - female divinities.

What! Did they witness their creation? Their evidence shall be written down and they shall be questioned. (43:19)

Most surely, they who do not believe in the hereafter name the angels with female names. (53:27)

And they say: The Beneficent God has taken to Himself a son. Glory be to Him. Nay! They are honored servants. (21:16)

And they made the Jinn Associates with Allah, while He created them, and they falsely attributed to Him sons and daughters without knowledge; glory be to Him, and Highly exalted is He above what they ascribe to Him. And that He - exalted be the majesty of our Lord - has not taken a consort, or a son. (6:100-101)

In different verses, God has reprimanded the disbelievers for their ascribing to God the existence of girls, which were considered to be evil, while ascribing boys to themselves:

Or has He daughters while you have sons. (52:39)

Then ask them whether your Lord has daughters and they have sons. Or did we create the angels females while they were witnesses. (37:149-150)

Have you then considered L¡t, `Uzz¡, and Man¡t the third, the last? What! For you the males. And for Him the females! This indeed is an unjust division! They are naught but names which you have named, you and your fathers; Allah has not sent for them any authority. They follow naught but conjecture and the low desires which their souls incline to; and certainly, the guidance has come to them from their Lord. (37:149-150)

What! Has He taken daughters to Himself of what He himself creates and chosen you to have sons? (43:16)

And they assert a relationship between Him and the jinn; and certainly, the jinn do know that they shall surely be brought up. Glory be to Allah for freedom from what they describe. (37:158-159)

In accordance with an interpretation, by the relation of God to Jinn was meant to be their assumption of God's relation with Jinn, the consequence of which was the angels.[21]

2. They used to think of the idols as petty Gods, intermediate between themselves and Allah. Worshipping these petty Gods was supposed to satisfy Him. This assumption was irrational since worship belongs to Allah alone.

Despite the fact that these small gods were not supposed to be the creators of the world, their worshippers assumed some divine roles for them, considering them influential on man's fate and future. They looked for these Gods' assistance to solve their worldly problems. However, in Islam, Allah is considered to be both the Creator of the universe and its Manager. (17:111) The idols are lifeless entities, lacking perception. The Holy Qur'¡n depicts their baseless assumptions in the following manner:

And they serve beside Allah what can neither harm them nor profit them, and they say: These are our intercessors with Allah. Say: Do you presume to inform Allah of what He knows not in the heavens and the earth? Glory be to Him, and supremely exalted is He above what they set up with Him. (10:18)

Now, surely, sincere obedience is due to Allah alone and as for those who take guardians besides Him, saying, We do not serve them save that they may make us nearer to Allah, Surely Allah will judge between them in that about which they differ; Surely Allah does not guide him aright who is a liar, ungrateful. (39:3)

And they have taken Gods besides Allah, that they should be to them a source of strength. (19:81)

And they have taken Gods besides Allah that they may be helped. (36:74)

The Holy Qur'¡n calls the idolaters liars and ungrateful ones because they considered the idols as helpers to Allah in the management of worldly affairs



[1] Ibn Hush¡m, al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 1:55, 116; al-Azraq¢, The History of Mecca 1:55; T¡r¢kh al-Ya`q£b¢ 1:18; Ibn Rustah, al-A`l¡q al-Naf¢sah, pp. 51.

[2] Azraq¢, op cit. pp. 57; Mas`£d¢, Mur£j al-Dhahab 2:20.

[3] T¡r¢kh al-Ya`q£b¢ 1:19, 193; al-Azraq¢, op cit, pp. 57.

[4] An exegesis of the Holy Qur'¡n states that the holy verse, (…and the faith of your father Abraham,) refers to this meaning. See ±abars¢, Majma` al-Bay¡n 7:97.

[5] T¡r¢kh al-Ya`q£b¢ 1:224.

[6] al-Majlis¢, Bi¦¡r al-Anw¡r 15:170; Hush¡m Kalb¢, al-A¥n¡m, pp. 6.

[7] Al-°urr al-`ªmil¢, Was¡'il al-Sh¢`ah: 1465; ±abars¢, al-I¦tij¡j, pp. 189.

[8] Shahrist¡ni, al-Milal wa’l-Ni¦al 2:257.

[9] ±ab¡§ab¡’¢, al-M¢z¡n 9:272.

[10] Shahrist¡ni, op cit, pp. 255; T¡r¢kh al-Ya`q£b¢ 2:12

[11] al-Azraq¢, op cit, 1:88, 100, 101; Ma¦m£d al-ªl£s¢, Bul£gh al-Irab 2:200; al-S¢rah al-°alabiyyah 1:16.

[12] Al-`am¡liqah were the children of Prophet Noah. Their grandfather was named `iml¡q or `iml¢q. See Ibn Hush¡m, al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 2:188; al-S¢rah al-°alabiyyah 1:17.

[13] al-ªl£s¢, op cit, 2:201; al-Shahrist¡ni, op cit, pp. 243; al-°alab¢, op cit, pp. 17; T¡r¢kh al-Ya`q£b¢ 2:224; al-Abshahi, al-Musta§raf 2:29; Kalb¢, al-A¥n¡m, pp. 6; Mu¦ammad Ibn °ab¢b, al-Munammaq, pp. 328.

In some records, it is said that he brought Hubal from Iraq. See al-Azraq¢, Akhb¡r Makkah 1:79; Ibn Kath¢r, al-Bid¡yah wa’l-Nih¡yah 2:188.

A report says that the stone of the idol is one of the stones of Ma'zamayn. For this reason, when the Prophet crossed that place, he showed hatred. See Was¡'il al-Sh¢`ah by al-°urr al-`ªmil¢ 10:36.

[14] al-Azraq¢, op cit, 1:88; Shahrist¡ni, op cit, 2:242, 347.

[15] Ibn Hush¡m, op cit, pp. 79; al-°alab¢, op cit, pp. 17; Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Ist¢`¡b 1:120; Ibn al-Ath¢r, Usd al-Gh¡bah 4:390; al-Tustari, al-Aw¡’il, pp. 217; Ibn Kath¢r, al-S¢rah al-Nabawiyyah 1:65; al-Azraq¢, op cit, pp. 116.

[16] al-ªl£s¢, op cit, 2:200.

[17] ±ab¡§ab¡’¢, op cit, 1:272.

[18] Kalb¢, op cit, pp. 32.

[19] Shaykh al-±£s¢, al-Am¡l¢, pp. 336; al-ªl£s¢, Bul£gh al-Irab 2:211; al-Azraq¢, op cit, 1:21; al-S¢rah al-°alabiyyah 3:30; al-M¢z¡n 26: 271, based on a narration by Imam al-Ri¤¡.

[20] Qur’¡n 31:25; 39:38; 43:9; 43:87; 10:3.

[21] Al-Suy£§¢, al-Durr al-Manth£r 4:23: ±abars¢, Majma` al-Bay¡n 8:460.

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