Philip Hitti was an Arab historian, whose opus 'History of the Arabs' originally created in 1937, is without much doubt the most important, and most deeply flawed work on the history of the Arabs and by consequence Islam. A summary review of his work is posted here. The main strength of Hitti's book is his pre-Islamic history which is a fascinatingly detailed look at pre-Muhammad Arabia. The pre-Islamic history of Arabia certainly formed the basis of Islam. Indeed the pagan Bedouin practices, idols, rocks, stones, and rituals all find their place within Islamic theology. The core and root of Hitti's work which still serves as an educational tool lies in his pre-Muhammad analysis and well-sourced writing or about 200 pages of the 700. Beyond this point the work has largely been disproven and is for those who care to know the truth about Arab and Moslem development, increasingly irrelevant. Hitti's chapters on Arab civilisation and the supposed benedictions of Arab development for the human race, are not supported by either archaeology or sound objective historical analysis.
The important factor in Islam's development is it paganism. Islam was and still is a pagan project whose central tenets, objects and god[s] all flowed from pre-Muslim Arabian culture. Hitti, the most pro-Arab historian imaginable, happily relates this fact to his reader. But he never does extend the analysis into Islamic cultural development. Nor does he bother to tackle the difficult question which is really at the heart of Islam – is it a religion or a cult? Certainly it has all the trappings of a cult, including the use of pagan Bedouin rituals, beliefs and even human sacrifice. The Arabs used to sacrifice children and sick women to the Venus idol as late as the 7th century AD or 700 years after Rome had effaced child sacrifice in both Carthage and Druidic Britain. Human blood being spilled for god[s] of Islam is still found in the practices of dis-honour killings of young girls, the murder of Infidels and the killing of apostates and women who transgress Koranic 'law'. The flowing of blood to appease the god[s] pre-dates Muhammad by thousands of years.
The following well sourced material taken from Hitti's work supports the idea that Islam is a cult, not a religion. It certainly does not promote the elements of a religion namely, free-will, rationality, the immanent Golden Rule, and some system of parametrized tolerance. It demands the opposite of these ideals. Partly this must be due to its pagan antecedents, harsh and illiterate Bedouin belief systems, and the use of power and the threat of death to hold the cult together.
On page 60 Hitti describes the sky pantheon which infected Arabian pagan beliefs:
“The religion of South Arabia was in its essence a planetary astral system in which the cult of the moon-god prevailed. The moon, known in Hadramawt as Sin, to the Minaeans as Wadd (love or lover, father), to the Sabaeans as Almaqah (the health-giving god?)....He was conceived of as a masculine deity and took precedence over the sun, Shams, who was his consort.....From this celestial pair sprang the many other heavenly bodies considered divine. The North Arabian al-Lat, who figured in the Koran, may have been another name for the sun-goddess.” [p.60]
Baal was the Sky God or Thunder God of various Near Eastern pre-Christian era tribes. The Hittites and Canaanites worshipped the power of the Thunder God. The Assyrians and Sumerians the omnipotence of the Sky God. Baal or Hubal would be akin to Thor in Nordic legend, or Zeus and Jupiter in ancient Greece or Rome. It is not a surprise that Baal was also worshipped in pre-Muhammad Arabia:
“Ba'l represented the spirit of springs and underground water and must have been introduced into Arabia at the same time as the palm tree....The Bedouin's astral beliefs centered upon the moon, in whose light he grazed his flocks. Moon-worship implies a pastoral society, whereas sun-worship represents a later agricultural stage....Hence Wadd (Koran 71:22), the moon-good who stood at the head of Minaean pantheon....Al-Lat in al-Taif was represented by a square stone...” [p. 97]
Baal is of course quite dissimilar to the Christian ideals of 'god' though he did have a human form – much like Zeus.
“Hubal (from Aramaic for vapour, spirit), evidently the chief deity of al-Kabah, was represented in human form....The pagan Kabah, which became the palladium of Islam, was an unpretentious cube-like (hence the name) building of primitive simplicity....serving as a shelter for a black meteorite which was venerated as a fetish.” [p. 100]
Baal and the man as supreme
The Arabs were hardly alone in elevating the male above the female in pre-modern society. The ancient Greeks, if one is to believe their myths, legends, stories and dramas, were notoriously misogynistic. There is no doubt however that Arab and Islamic culture do not treat men and women equally. Muhammad famously stated that 99% of hell's inhabitants are female; that they are stupid; and that they need to managed as domesticated animals. This rather poor view of the feminine emanates directly from the Bedouin culture of Baal and the primacy of the male in all matters:
“The Bedouin woman...lived in a polygamous family and under a baal system of marriage in which the man was the master...”[p.28]
Polygamy, sexual slaves, and dis-honour killings mark out pre-Muhammadan society. The reality of living in a brutal world full of brigandage, plunder and endless tribal warring meant that the man had to have firm control over all his assets – of which his woman [or women] were vital parts, mostly to cook, clean and produce children and thereby strengthen the family and tribe. The influence of masculine deities or their creation give truth to this fact.
Allah the Moon God
Al-ilah or El-Lah, or Al-Lah was a male moon god affirmed in masculine virtue and married to the feminine of the sun goddess. It roughly means 'the one'. The Koranic Allah is the same as the pre-Muhammadan Allah. Muslims are thus prostrating themselves to a moon deity, who is of course presented in the Koran as the alter-ego of Muhammad and who was the chief deity of Muhammad's family and tribe.
“Allah (allah, al-ilah, the god) was the principal, though not the only, deity of Makkah [Mecca]. The name is an ancient one. It occurs in two South Arabic inscriptions, one a Minaean found at al-'Ula and the other a Sabaean, but abounds in the form HLH in the Lihyanite inscriptions of the fifth century B.C. Lihyan, which evidently got the god from Syria, was the first center of the worship of this deity in Arabia. The name occurs as Hallah in the Safa inscriptions five centuries before Islam and also in a pre-Islamic Christian Arabic inscription found in umm-al-Jimal, Syria, and ascribed to the sixth century... The esteem in which Allah was held by the pre-Islamic Makkans as the creator and supreme provider and the one to be invoked in time of special peril may be inferred from such koranic passages as 31:24, 31:6, 6:137, 109:10,23. Evidently he was the tribal deity of the Quryash.” [p.103]
The Koran hypocritically denounces Christians for worshipping a Trinity [polytheism], and in describing Jesus as the son of a god. Yet Allah had a wife [al-Lat] and 3 daughters. Muhammad expunged these from official rituals and venerations forcing the Arabs to only worship the Al-Lah idol. But the fact remains that in pre-Muhammad Arabia, Allah was associated with other celestial objects.
“Al-'Uzza, al-Lat, and Manah, the three daughters of Allah, had their sanctuaries in the land which later became the cradle of Islam.....Al-'Uzza (the most mighty, Venus, the morning star) had her cult in Nakhlah east of Makkah [Mecca]....hers was the most venerated idol among the Quraysh, and Muhammad as a young man offered her a sacrifice....Human sacrifice characterized her cult.” [p. 99]
“Manah...was the goddess of destiny..Her main sanctuary consisted of a black stone in Qudayd on the road between Makkah and Yathrib (later al-Madinah)...” [p.99]
The Allah thing is thus an idol and concept of masculine life-giving power. The moon was important since in a pastoral primitive society, it represents the banishment of the deadly desert sun, the advent of morning dew and at certain times of the year, the harbinger of the coming seasonal rains. The sun killed, the moon created. In Islam Allah is the life-giver, the benevolent deity who protects the 'believers'. In modern times this has become conflated with Christian ideals of 'god', but the history and antecedents are totally different even though it is true that Moses received Yahweh through his Arabian-Midianite wife. But Christianity formed a completely different ethos and set of ideals than the Moslems with their pagan Allah symbolization and worship.
Thus Hitti, the greatest Arab historian and panegyrist reveals rather directly and cheerfully, the full paganism of the Islamic model. Yet he and most others do not progress to the next level of rational thinking and ask – what does this mean for the development of the cult and its theology in both theory and practice?