Before the advent of Islam, the pagan polytheists of Mecca worshipped hundreds of gods. One of the idols they revered, honored and bowed down to was an idol known as Allah.
“Allah was known to the pre-Islamic Arabs; he was one of the Meccan deities”(Encyclopedia of Islam, ed. Gibb, I:406)
But Allah was only one of a pantheon of gods and goddesses housed in the pagan centre of worship known as kaabah. So… what happened in the 7th century that “propelled” Allah as GOD, above all their other gods?
Or to be more specific, the son of Abdullah happened.
Abdullah was a pagan polytheist of the tribe of Quraish. He was named in honor of the idol, Allah. Abdullah means “servant of Allah”. In those days, people were often named in honor of their favorite idol gods and goddesses.
For example, one of the uncles of Muhammad was named Abdul Manaf, which means “servant of Manaf”; another uncle was Abd-al-Uzza, which means “servant of Uzza”, and so on. Manaf was one of their gods. So was Uzza. (In fact, Uzza was a female goddess and was honored as one of the daughters of Allah. [You can find her name and her sister goddesses in the Quran. “Have ye seen Lat and ‘Uzza, And another, the third (goddess), Manat?”Quran Sura 53:19-20.]
This was the environment Muhammad grew up in among the Quraish tribe of his forefathers. For 40 years he participated in their pagan practices of idolatry. However, in his travels as a merchant, he began being exposed to the monotheism practised by the Jews and Christians he met. He was fascinated when he heard them reading their scriptures and he became enamored and inspired. This new idea of One God impressed Muhammad. Something did not sit right deep in his heart about the multitude of idols he had grown up serving. He longed to have one god just like the Jews and Christians
But he had a huge dilemma. Which of his gods could it be? He spent long hours meditating in caves and contemplating.
Naturally, the son of Abdullah, chose the idol of his father – Allah. Muhammad never knew his father, because Abdullah died before Muhammad was born. At least, this way, he could still honor the memory of his father.
It is not a great stretch of the imagination to wonder, “What if Abdul Manaf had been the father of Muhammad?” Would a billion Muslims today be chanting “Manaf huakhbar” instead of “Allah huakhbar”?
Or what if Abdul Uzza was his father? “Uzza huakhbar!”
And so that’s how the idol known as Allah became the God of Muhammad and Islam.
Even though Allah never actually spoke even one word of the Quran to him, Muhammad conceived the idea that the revelations were coming from this Allah. He convinced himself and persuaded those around him of this claim that his words were the words of Allah.
What was the reaction of his tribes people? They were understandably upset because this son of Abdullah was undermining their deities in favor of his father’s deity! So when Muhammad begins to preach Allah publicly as the “one god” in Mecca, he is met with skepticism, and he is accused of being a con-man.
So they wonder that a Warner has come to them from among themselves! and the Unbelievers say, “This is a sorcerer telling lies! “Has he made the gods (all) into one Allah? ……”We never heard (the like) of this among the people of these latter days: this is nothing but a made-up tale!” (Sura 38:4-6)
One of Muhammad’s sternest critics was his own uncle, Abu Lahab. To Abu Lahab, his nephew, Muhammad, who used to bow down to the idols of the Quraysh together with him, had now become a traitor of his own people!
There is one special reason why Abu Lahab was especially enraged by Muhammad.
You see, Abu Lahab’s real name was Abd-al-Uzza! Servant of Uzza. Abu Lahab was incensed that Muhammad was ridiculing his god while promoting his father’s god!
Uzza huakhbar! 🙂