Prior to Islam on the Arabian Peninsula in 622, the physical centre of Islam, the Kaaba of Mecca, was covered in symbols representing the myriad demons, djinn, demigods and other assorted creatures which represented the profoundly polytheistic environment of pre-Islamic Ancient Arabia. We can infer from this plurality an exceptionally broad context in which mythology could flourish.
Stories of genies, ghouls, magic lamps, flying carpets, and wishes contained in tales from the Arabian Nights and other works have been passed down through the generations.
The concept of the Evil Eye is mentioned in the Qur'an, in Surat al-Falaq (in which one is told to seek refuge "from the mischief of the envious one as he envies"). The Hand of Fatima is sometimes used to neutralize the effect of Evil Eye. Among traditional Muslims, various verses from the Qur'an such as an-Nas and al-Falaq are sometimes recited for blessing.
Gods in Arabian mythology
Hubal (Arabic: هبل) Regarded as the chief god of gods and the most notable one, the idol of Hubal was near the Kaaba in Mecca and was made of red agate, and shaped like a human, but with the right hand broken off and replaced with a golden hand.
The Three Goddesses
- Allāt (Arabic: اللات) The Arabian stone idol who was one of the three respected idols by Arabs in Mecca. She was placed in Taif
- Al-‘Uzzá (Arabic: العزى) "The Mightiest One" or "The strong" was an Arabian fertility goddess who was one of the three chief goddesses of Mecca, Arabs only called upon her or Hubal for protection and victory before any war to show how important she was.
- Manāt (Arabic: مناة) Was one of the three chief goddesses of Mecca, Arabs believed Manāt to be the goddess of fate, The Book of Idols describes her as the most ancient of all these idols. The Arabs used to name [their children] 'Abd-Manāt and Zayd-Manāt. Manāt was erected on the seashore in the vicinity of al-Mushallal in Qudayd, between Medina and Mecca. All the Arabs used to venerate her and sacrifice before her. The Aws and the Khazraj, as well as the inhabitants of Medina and Mecca and their vicinities, used to venerate Manāt, sacrifice before her, and bring unto her their offerings... The Aws and the Khazraj, as well as those Arabs among the people of Yathrib and other places who took to their way of life, were wont to go on pilgrimage and observe the vigil at all the appointed places, but not shave their heads. At the end of the pilgrimage, however, when they were about to return home, they would set out to the place where Manāt stood, shave their heads, and stay there a while. They did not consider their pilgrimage completed until they visited Manāt.
Other notable gods
- Manaf (Arabic: مناف) The statue of Munaf was caressed by women, but when they had their periods they were not allowed near it.
- Wadd (Arabic: واد) God of love and friendship. Snakes were believed to be sacred to Wadd.
- Amm (Arabic: أم) Was a moon god worshipped in ancient Qataban. He was revered as a weather god, as his attributes included lightning bolts.
- Ta'lab (Arabic: طالب) A god worshipped in southern Arabia, particularly in Sheba. Ta'lab was the moon god. His oracle was consulted for advice.
- Dhu'l-Halasa (Arabic: ذو الحلاس) Was an oracular god of south Arabia. He was venerated in the form of a white stone.
- Al-Qaum (Arabic: القوم) Was the Nabataean god of war and the night, and also guardian of caravans.
- Dushara (Arabic: ذو شرى) Was a Nabataean god. His name means "Lord of the Mountain"
- Marid (Arabic: مارد) Marids are often described as the most powerful type of jinn, having especially great powers. They are the most arrogant and proud as well. Like every jinn, they have free will yet could be compelled to perform chores. They also have the ability to grant wishes to mortals, but that usually requires battle, and according to some sources imprisonment, rituals, or just a great deal of flattery.
- Ifrit (Arabic: عفريت) is a class of infernal jinn, spirits below the level of angels and devils, noted for their strength and cunning. An ifrit is an enormous winged creature of fire, either male or female, who lives underground and frequents ruins. Ifrits live in a society structured along ancient Arab tribal lines, complete with kings, tribes, and clans. They generally marry one another, but they can also marry humans. While ordinary weapons and forces have no power over them, they are susceptible to magic, which humans can use to kill them or to capture and enslave them. As with the jinn, an ifrit may be either a believer or an unbeliever, good or evil, but he is most often depicted as a wicked and ruthless being.
- Jinn (Arabic: جن)is a supernatural creature which possesses free will, and can be either good or evil. In some cases, evil jinn are said to lead humans astray.
- Nasnas (Arabic: نسناس) is "half a human being; having half a head, half a body, one arm, one leg, with which it hops with much agility". It was believed to be the offspring of a demon called a Shikk and a human being.
- Ghoul (Arabic: غول) is a desert-dwelling, shapeshifting demon that can assume the guise of an animal, especially a hyena. It lures unwary travellers into the desert wastes to slay and devour them. The creature also preys on young children, robs graves, drinks blood, and eats the dead taking on the form of the one they previously ate. As a result of the latter habit, the word ghoul is sometimes used to refer to an ordinary human such as a grave robber, or to anyone who delights in the macabre.
- Bahamut (Arabic: بهموت Bahamūt) is a vast fish that supports the earth sometimes described as having a head resembling a hippopotamus or elephant.
- ↑ Karen Armstrong (2000,2002). Islam: A Short History. pp. 11. ISBN 0-8129-6618-x.
- ↑ Hamsa at About.com
- ↑ The Book of Idols (Kitāb al-Asnām) by Hishām Ibn al-Kalbī
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 Book of Idols
- ↑ Tawil 1993
- ↑ Hommel, First Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. 1. p. 380
- ↑ Qur'an 7:11–12
- ↑ Robert Irwin The Arabian Nights: a Companion (Penguin, 1994)
- ↑ "ghoul". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. http://webster.com/dictionary/ghoul. Retrieved January 22, 2006.
- ↑ Borges, Jorge Luis; Margarita Guerrero, Norman Thomas di Giovanni (trans.) (2002). The Book of Imaginary Beings. London: Vintage. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0099442639.
- The Book of Idols (Kitāb al-Asnām) by Hishām Ibn al-Kalbī
- Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia by Jeremy Black and Anthony Green (ISBN 0-292-70794-0)
- Karen Armstrong (2000,2002). Islam: A Short History. ISBN 0-8129-6618-X.
- Borges, Jorge Luis; Margarita Guerrero, Norman Thomas di Giovanni (trans.) (2002). The Book of Imaginary Beings. London: Vintage. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0099442639.
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