List of pre-Islamic Arabian deities

Sabaean inscription listing the gods 'Athtar, Almaqah, Dhat-Himyam, Dhat-Badan and Wadd.

Deities formed a part of the polytheistic religious beliefs in pre-Islamic Arabia, with many of the deities' names known.[1] Up until about the fourth century AD, polytheism was the dominant form of religion in Arabia. Deities represented the forces of nature, love, death, and so on, and were interacted to by a variety of rituals.

Formal pantheons are more noticeable at the level of kingdoms, of variable sizes, ranging from simple city-states to collections of tribes.[2] The Kaaba alone was said to have contained up to 360 images of many gods and goddesses.[3] Tribes, towns, clans, lineages and families had their own cults too. Christian Julien Robin suggests that this structure of the divine world reflected the society of the time.[2]

Many deities did not have proper names and were referred to by titles indicating a quality, a family relationship, or a locale preceded by "he who" or "she who" (dhū ordhāt).[2]

Pantheons and groupings[edit]

Pantheon Deities
Sabaean pantheon 'Athtar, Haubas, Almaqah, Dhat-Himyam, Dhat-Badan
Qatabanian pantheon 'Athtar, 'Amm, Anbay, Dhat-Sanat, Dhat-Zahran
Qedarite pantheon Atarsamain, Nukhay, Ruldaiu, Dai, Abirillu, Atarquruma

Alphabetical list[edit]

Name Description Attestations
Pre-Islamic era Islamic tradition
'Amm 'Amm is the moon god of Qataban.[4] His attributes include the lightning bolts.[4] Amm is served by the judge-god Anbay and has the goddess Athirat as his consort.[5][6] Qatabanians are also known as Banu Amm, or "children of Amm". Attested[a]
'Ammi'anas 'Ammi'anas is a god worshipped by the Khawlan. According to the Book of Idols, the Khawlan would offer a portion of their livestock property and land products and give one part to 'Ammi'anas and the other to God.[7] While no epigraphic evidence of this god is known, the existence of 'Ammi'anas cannot be ruled out as his name is present in the personal name of a Khawlanite leader. Attested[b]
'Athtar 'Athtar is the god associated with the planet Venus and was the most common god to south Arabian cultures. He is a god of thunderstorms and natural irrigation. As Athtar was considered remote, worship was usually directed to the patron deity of a kingdom/culture. Attested[a]
A'im A'im is a god who was worshipped by the Azd of al-Sarah.[8] Attested[b]
A'ra A'ra, known in Greek as Aarras, is a north Arabian tutelary god known from inscriptions in Bosra. The name implies a holy place or an altar, but its Arabic root also means "to dye". It is implied that many sacrifices (which may include children) were offered to the cult image, staining it with blood.[9] Equated with the Nabataean Dushara who was also worshipped as Dushara-A'ra. Attested
Abgal Abgal is a tutelary god worshipped by nomads, including bedouins,[10] and a tutelary god of the Arabs of the Palmyra region. His name is found in inscriptions dating to the times of the Palmyrene Empire, but none in Palmyra itself.[11] Attested
Abirillu Abirillu is a god mentioned in an Assyrian inscription.[12] Attested
Almaqah Almaqah was the chief-god of the Sabaeans, and a god of artificial irrigation. Associated with the bull's head and vines, he was regarded as the progenitor of the Sabaeans, and his worship spread to the Ethiopian kingdoms of Dʿmt and Kingdom of Aksum. Attested
Anbay Anbay is a god worshipped in Qataban, alongside Hawkim, as gods of "command and decision". He was regarded as a deity of justice and an oracle, in attendance to the moon deity Amm. Anbay's name was invoked in a range of legal matters, from filing paperwork for the legal title of a building to the royal regulation of water supplies. His name is related to the name of the Babylonian god Nabu. Attested
Aranyada' Attested
Arsu Arsu is a northern Arabian god worshipped in Palmyra. He personifies the evening star, while the morning star is personified by Azizos, and he is associated with horses and camels. He is equated with Ruda, who was worshipped elsewhere in northern Arabia. Attested
Ashar Ashar is one of the nomadic gods of the Arabs during the Palmyrene Empire period, along with Azizos, Ma'n, Abgal, Sha'd, and Mun'im. Attested
Asira Asira is named in an inscription listing the deities of Tayma. Attested
Atarquruma Atarquruma is a god worshipped by the Qedarites mentioned in an Assyrian inscription.[12] He probably originated as a form of Athtar, who in Saba was associated with Kurum, thought to be a hypostasis or a consort of Athtar. Attested
Atarsamain Atarsamain is a deity of uncertain gender, worshipped among the Qedarites, and was associated with Venus. He was particularly worshipped by the Isamme tribe. Attested
Athirat Athirat is a goddess worshipped in Qataban as the consort of 'Amm. Cognate to the West Semitic Athirat/Asherah who usually has El as her consort. Attested
Athtar Shariqan Athtar Shariqan is a form of Athtar who was invoked as an avenger against enemies. The word "Shariqan" means "the Eastern One". The worship of this god has spread to the Central Arabian kingdom of Kindah, where his name appears in Qaryat al-Fawt. Attested
Bajir Bajir is a minor god of the Azd. Attested
Balaw Balaw is a god worshipped in the kingdom of Awsan alongside Wadd. Attested
Basamum Basamum is a god worshipped in South Arabia whose name may be derived from Arabic basam, or balsam, a medicinal plant, indicating that he may be associated with healing or health.[13][14] One ancient text relates how Basamum cured two wild goats/ibexes.[13] Attested
Dai Dai is named in an Assyrian inscription.[12] Attested
Datin Datin is a god primarily known from inscriptions in northern Arabia, but his function is unknown.[15] Attested
Dhat-Anwat Dhat-Anwat is a tree deity worshipped by the Quraysh. The tree stood between Mecca and Yathrib, and devotees hang their weapons on it. Attested
Dhat-Badan Dhat-Badan is a goddess of the oasis, worshipped in tree-circled pools. Attested
Dhat-Sanat Dhat-Sanat is a Qatabanian goddess who formed part of their official pantheon. Attested
Dhat-Zahran Dhat-Zahran is a Qatabanian goddess who formed part of their official pantheon. Attested
Dhu-Ghabat Dhu-Ghabat was the chief god of the Lihyanites, who rarely turned to others for their needs. His name means "he of the thicket". Attested
Dhu al-Kaffayn Dhu al-Kaffayn is, according to the Book of Idols, a god worshipped by the Daws, specifically the banu-Munhib ibn-Daws. His name means "he of the two palms".[16] Attested
Dhul Khalasa Dhul Khalasa is a god worshipped by the Bajila and the Khatham tribes, and was reportedly worshipped as a "god of redemption". His temple became known as the Kaaba of Yemen. Attested
Dhu-Samawi Dhu-Samawi, literally "the Heavenly One", is a god who probably originated from northern Arabia, but also found worship in south Arabia. The Bedouin would offer votive statuettes of camels, to ensure well-being of their herds. The Amir tribe also worshipped this god, and in inscriptions Dhu-Samawi was regarded as the "god of Amir". Attested
Dushara Dhu al-Shara/Dushara is a mountain god worshipped primarily by the Nabataeans as their chief-god, and also by the Banū al-Hārith ibn-Yashkur ibn-Mubashshir clan of the Azd. Probably originating as an aspect of Ruda, he is associated with the Sun and the planet Mercury. Attested Attested
Al-Fals Al-Fals is a god who, according to the Book of Idols, is associated with animals, and that animals roaming in the territory of his cult image would become a property of the god.[17] Primarily worshipped by the Tayy tribe, his cult image and sanctuary was said to be located on the Jabal Aja.[17] Attested
Gad Gad is a pan-Semitic god of fortune who is also attested in Arabia. Attested
Ghayyan Ghayyan is a god worshipped by the Banu Umayya of the Aws tribe.[18] Since Ghayyan's name can be traced in the traditional genealogy of the Umayya, it is possible that Ghayyan is a deified ancestor.[18] Attested
Al-Harish Al-Harish is a god worshipped by the Banu 'Abd al-Ashhal of the Aws tribe.[18] Since al-Harish's name can be traced in the traditional genealogy of the 'Abd al-Ashhal, it is possible that al-Harish is a deified ancestor.[18] Attested
Haubas Haubas is an oracular deity of the Sabaeans. The deity's gender varies from area to area; in places where the deity is female, she is regarded as the consort of Athtar. Attested
Haukim Haukim is a god of law and justice, worshipped alongside Anbay as gods of "command and decision". His name is derived from the root "to be wise". Attested
Hawl Hawl was probably a moon god, as his name may have alluded to the lunar cycle. He was worshipped in Hadhramawt. Attested
Hilal Hilal is a god of the new moon.
Hubal Hubal is a god associated with divination. His cult image stood in the Kaaba, and his rituals were in the form of throwing divination arrows before the image, in cases of virginity, death and marriage.[19] He is worshipped by many tribes, including the Quraysh, who controlled access to the image. Hubal's name also appears in a Nabataean inscription in Mada'in Saleh, along with Dushara and Manat. Attested Attested
Isaf and Na'ila Isaf and Na'ila are a pair of deities, a god and a goddess, whose cult was centered near the Well of Zamzam. Islamic tradition gave an origin story to their cult imagess; a couple who were petrified by Allah as they fornicated inside the Kaaba. Attested
Al-Jalsad Al-Jalsad is a god worshipped by the Kindah in Hadhramawt. Attested
Jihar Jihar is a god worshipped by the Banu Hawazin. His image stood in 'Ukaz. Jihar is invoked in a talbiyah for longevity. Attested
Kahl Kahl is the patron god of the Kindah kingdom whose capital was Qaryat al-Faw.[20] The town was called Dhat Kahl after him. His name appears in the form of many inscriptions and rock engravings on the slopes of the Tuwayq, on the walls of the souk of the village, in the residential houses and on the incense burners. Attested
Al-Kutbay Al-Kutbay is a god of writing worshipped by the Nabataeans. Attested
Al-Lat Al-Lat is a goddess associated with fertility and war. Her cult was spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula and as far as Palmyra. She was equated with Athena, the Greek goddess of war. In the Hejaz region, she was especially worshipped by the Banu Thaqif of Ta'if, and she was also worshipped by the Nabataeans of North Arabia. There is also evidence of her worship in South Arabia and Qedar, with her name being attested in inscriptions. In Islamic tradition, her worship was ended with the destruction of her shrine in Ta'if. Attested Attested
Ma'n Ma'n is one of the nomadic gods of the Arabs in Palmyra, paired with Sha'd. Ma'n's feast at Palmyra was celebrated on the sixteenth of August, on which meals of beef were feasted. The name Ma'n was also attested in Nabataean names, as well as the names of members of Edessa's royal family. Attested
Malik Malik is a god attested in northern Arabian inscriptions. His name means "king". Attested
Manaf Manaf is a god, described by Muslim scholar At-Tabari as "one of the greatest deities of Mecca", although little information is available about him. It is said that women would keep his image away during menstruation. Some scholars suggest that Manaf might be a solar god.[21] Attested
Manāt Manāt is the goddess of fate, destiny and death. In Nabataean and Latin inscriptions she was known as Manawat. She is an ancient goddess, predating both Al-Lāt and Al-'Uzzá. She was associated with Dushara and Hubal, and was equated with the Greek goddess Nemesis. She became the chief goddess of both the Banu Aws and Banu Khazraj, the two polytheistic tribes of Yathrib (Medina). In Islamic tradition, her worship was ended with the destruction of her shrine in the shore of al-Qudayd. Attested Attested
Al-Muharriq Al-Muharriq is a god worshipped by the Banu Bakr ibn Wa'il and the rest of the Banu Rabi'ah, as well as by the Banu Tamim. His name means "the burner". Attested
Mun'im Mun'im, rendered in Greek as Monimos, was one of the nomadic gods of the Arabs during the Palmyrene Empire period, along with Azizos, Ma'n, Abgal, Sha'd, and Ashar. Attested
Nab'al Nab'al was a god worshipped in Kaminahu. Attested
Nasr Nasr is a god worshipped by the Himyarites and, according to the Book of Idols, was worshipped in a place called Balkha.[22] The tribe of Rabi`ah worshipped the god Nasr.[23] Attested Attested
Nikrah Nikrah is a god associated with healing worshipped by the Minaeans. His shrine was an asylum for dying people and women in childbirth.
Nuha Nuha is a goddess associated with the Sun. She was also associated with emotions, as described in various inscriptions in Najd, Saudi Arabia. Attested
Nuhm Nuhm is a god worshipped by the Muzaynah, who named their children Abd-Nuhm after him. Attested
Al-Qayn Al-Qayn is a god worshipped by the Banu 'Amr ibn 'Awf of the Aws tribe.[18] Attested
Qaynan Qaynan is a Sabaean god, and based on etymology, might be a god of smiths. Attested
Qaysha Attested
Quzah Quzah is a weather and a mountain god, as well as a god of the rainbow, worshipped by the people of Muzdalifah. His attribute is the bow and arrows of hailstones.[24] He was probably syncretized with the Edomite god Qos and became known as qaws quzah.[25] Attested
Ruda Ruda is an important solar god in North Arabia. He is named in an Assyrian inscription as Ruldaiu and is frequently mentioned in Thamudic and Safaitic inscriptions. Dushara may have originated as a form of Ruda. Attested Attested
Sa'd Sa'd is a god of fortune worshipped by the Banu Kinanah tribe. His cult image was a tall stone situated in the desert, and animals were sacrificed there for blessings. Attested
Al-Sa'ida Al-Sa'ida was a god whose cult image stood on Mount Uhud, but it is not known if he was worshipped in a temple (haram). Attested
Sakhr Sakhr is a god worshipped by the Banu Haritha of the Aws tribe.[18] Attested
Salm Attested
Al-Samh Al-Samh is a god worshipped by the Banu Zurayq of the Khazraj tribe.[18] Attested
Sha'd Sha'd was one of the nomadic gods of the Arabs in Palmyra, paired with Ma'n. Attested
Shafr Shafr is a god worshipped by the Banu Khatma of the Aws tribe.[18] Attested
Shams Shams/Shamsum is a female solar deity, possibly related to the Canaanite Shapash and the broader middle-eastern Shamash. She was the dominant goddess of the Himyarite Kingdom, and possibly still revered in some form by the Bedouin for several centuries afterward.[26][27][28][29] Attested Attested
Shay al-Qawm Shay al-Qawm, "who he accompanies the people", is a god associated with war and the night and protection of caravans, primarily attested in Safaitic and, although less frequently, Nabataean. He is described as a god "who drinks no wine, who builds no home". Shay al-Qawm is also attested in Palmyra in an inscription dedicated by a Nabataean. It is possible that the Lihyanite deity QM (Qawm) is a hypocoristic of his name . Attested
Shingala Shingala was named in an inscription listing the deities of Tayma. Attested
Su'ayr Su'ayr is an oracular god of the 'Anazzah tribe. Attested
Suwa' Suwa' is a god worshipped by the Hudhayl tribe. Attested
Syn Syn was the chief-god of the Hadhramites. His role is disputed; while he may be connected to the Moon, and by extension, the Semitic god Sin, his symbol is the eagle, a solar symbol. Attested
Ta'lab Ta'lab is a moon god primarily worshipped by the Sum'ay, a Sabaean tribal confederation which consisted of the tribes Hashid, Humlan and Yarsum. He was also associated with pastures. He had an important temple in Riyam. Attested
Theandrios Theandrios is the Greek name of a god worshipped by the Arab tribes of Mount Hermon. Attested
Al-Uqaysir Al-Uqaysir is a god whose cult image stood in Syria. According to the Book of Idols, his adherents include the tribes of Quda'a, Banu Lakhm, Judhah, Banu Amela, and Ghatafan. Adherents would go on a pilgrimage to the cult image and shave their heads, then mix their hair with wheat, "for every single hair a handful of wheat."[30] Attested
Al-‘Uzzá Al-'Uzzá is a goddess associated with might, protection and love. Equated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite, she was an important goddess of the Nabataeans, and a temple dedicated to her was set up at Petra. In the Hejaz, she became the chief goddess of the Quraysh, and a shrine housing three trees once stood in Nakhla. In pre-Islamic poetry, she was invoked as a symbol of beauty. In South Arabia, she was known as Uzzayān and she was associated with healing. In Islamic tradition, her worship was ended with the destruction of her shrine in Nakhla. Attested Attested
Wadd Wadd is the national god of the Minaeans and he was also associated with snakes. According to the Book of Idols, the Kalb worshipped him in the form of a man and is said to have represented heaven, and his cult image reportedly stood at Dumat al-Jandal. Attested Attested
Al-Ya'bub Al-Ya'bub is a god that belonged to the Jadilah clan of Tayy, who according to the Book of Idols abstained from food and drink before him.[31] It is said that the clan originally worshipped a different cult image until the tribe Banu Asad took it away from them.[31] Attested
Ya'uq Ya'uq is a god worshipped by the Khaywin. Attested
Yaghūth Yaghūth is a god worshipped by the Madhhij, a Qahtanite confederation. The people of Jurash in Yemen also worshipped him. Attested
Yatha Yatha is a god associated with salvation. His name means "Savior". Attested

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Attested in archaeological and/or epigraphic evidence
  2. ^ a b Attested in al-Kalbi's Book of Idols

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Hoyland 2002, p. 139.
  2. ^ a b c Robin, Christian Julien, "South Arabia, Religions in Pre-Islamic", in McAuliffe 2005, pp. 87
  3. ^ Armstrong, Karen (2000). Islam: A Short History. p. 11. ISBN 0-8129-6618-X.
  4. ^ a b Jordan 2014, p. 16.
  5. ^ Jordan 2014, p. 20.
  6. ^ Jordan 2014, p. 37.
  7. ^ al-Kalbi 1952, p. 37.
  8. ^ al-Kalbi 1952, p. 35.
  9. ^ Jordan 2014, p. 26.
  10. ^ Jordan 2014, p. 1.
  11. ^ Teixidor 1979, p. 81.
  12. ^ a b c Hoyland 2002, p. 134.
  13. ^ a b Lurker 2015, p. 56.
  14. ^ Jordan 2014, p. 47.
  15. ^ Jordan 2014, p. 72.
  16. ^ al-Kalbi 1952, p. 32.
  17. ^ a b al-Kalbi 1952, p. 51.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h Lecker, Michael, "Idol Worship in Pre-Islamic Medina (Yathrib)", in Peters 2017, pp. 130
  19. ^ Peters 1994, p. 109.
  20. ^ Hoyland 2002, p. 40.
  21. ^ Coulter & Turner 2013, p. 305.
  22. ^ al-Kalbi 1952, p. 10.
  23. ^ John F. Healey, Venetia Porter. Studies on Arabia in Honour of G. Rex Smith. Oxford University Press. p. 93
  24. ^ Jordan 2014, p. 260.
  25. ^ Teixidor 2015, p. 90.
  26. ^ J. F. Breton (Trans. Albert LaFarge), Arabia Felix From The Time Of The Queen Of Sheba, Eighth Century B.C. To First Century A.D., 1998, University of Notre Dame Press: Notre Dame (IN), pp. 119-120.
  27. ^ Julian Baldick (1998). Black God. Syracuse University Press. p. 20. ISBN 0815605226.
  28. ^ Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of World Religions, 1999 - 1181 páginas
  29. ^ J. Ryckmans, "South Arabia, Religion Of", in D. N. Freedman (Editor-in-Chief), The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 1992, Volume 6, op. cit., p. 172
  30. ^ al-Kalbi 1952, p. 42.
  31. ^ a b al-Kalbi 1952, p. 54.

Sources[edit]

  • Becking, Bob; Horst, Pieter Willem van der (1999), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 9780802824912
  • Coulter, Charles Russel; Turner, Patricia (2013), Encyclopaedia of Ancient Deities, Routledge, ISBN 1135963908
  • Hitti, Phillip K. (2002), History of The Arabs (Revised ed.), Macmillan International Higher Education, ISBN 9781137039828
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  • Jordan, Michael (2014), Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Infobase Publishing, ISBN 1438109857
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