Monday, March 17, 2014

The Shahada: Turning Pre-Islamic Polytheism on its head...

I'm going to describe in this post an observation I had quite some time ago. If I'm right, then the form of the Shahada was intentionally cast so as to combat the pre-Islamic polytheistic milieu of the Arabian peninsula.

Now, I'm not a Muslim. I am a practicing Eastern Orthodox Christian, but I have had the privilege to know quite a number of Muslims worthy of great esteem. Among them is a current student in one of my Latin classes, a young man named Mustafa--still in high school but half done memorizing the Qur'an. He is a consummately polite youth,  outspoken for his faith, yet ever respectful of others. He is a true credit to his coreligionists.

Anyway, it should be known that, prior to Islam, one of the most celebrated deities in the Arabian peninsula was the Moon god. This made some practical sense for them, since travel in the heat of the day is difficult. And travel in the night when the moon is not visible (prior to the New Moon) is perilous.

Muhammad preached a radical Monotheism into this milieu. And he rejected any worship of the sun and moon. 

And so here's my observation.

The Shahada (the Creed of Islam) contains the letters of the Arabic word for New Moon (hilaal), twice in a row, backwards.

هلال
hilaal
h-l-a-l
New Moon

لا اله الا الله
 laa 'illaha 'illa -llahu
l-a-l-h '-l-a-l-h
There is no God but God


Polytheists in Arabia worshiped the Moon. And they searched the sky for the appearance of the New Moon, in Arabic  (hilaal). Upon the appearance of the New Moon, they proclamed (hilaal!). 

But the Shahada proclaims Monotheism. 

It reverses and rejects Polytheism, twice through its letters.

The Qur'an asserts that worship of the Moon is to be rejected:

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ اللَّيْلُ وَالنَّهَارُ وَالشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ لَا تَسْجُدُوا لِلشَّمْسِ وَلَا لِلْقَمَرِ وَاسْجُدُوا لِلَّهِ الَّذِي خَلَقَهُنَّ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ
"And of His signs are the night and day and the sun and moon. Do not prostrate to the sun or to the moon, but prostrate to Allah, who created them, if it should be Him that you worship"
(Fussilat:37)

The formulation of the Shahada itself is a repudiation of the New Moon. Arabs before Islam worshiped it. The Shahada turns the New Moon on its head and rejects it as worthy of worship.

Muslims are free to believe this formulation was revelation. Non-Muslims should at least acknowledge that this formulation was nothing short of religious genius. 

 


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