What was the belief of Allah like in Arabs of the Era of Jahiliyya before Islam?

The Details of the Question

What was the belief of Allah like in Arabs of the Era of Jahiliyya before Islam?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

In the Era of Jahiliyya before Islam, beliefs and thoughts like worshipping idols, associating partners with Allah and having inappropriate beliefs and thoughts about Allah existed but there was also the concept of belief in Allah, as a single lofty being.  (1)

Some of those who said that they belonged to the religion of hanif criticized the idolatry in the region of Hejaz. (2) They were able to maintain their belief in Allah in an appropriate way. As a matter of fact, the incident of Abu Dharr is important in that it gives information about the state of hanifs. When Abu Dharr heard about the existence of the new religion, he sent his brother to obtain information about it. When his brother returned, he said, 

“Hz. Muhammad worships a single Allah like you and orders people to do good deeds.” (3)

Zayd b. Amr went to the Kaaba prostrated and prayed as follows: 

“O Allah! I do not know how to worship you. If I knew what deed of worship you would be pleased with, I would worship like that. However, I do not know it and I prostrate by placing my head on the ground.” (4)

The following couplet by Zuhayr b. Abi Sulma expresses his belief not only in a single Allah but also his belief that He knows everything, even whatever we conceal in us, that everything is recorded and that we will be reckoned one day:

“Do not conceal from Allah what is in your breast that it may be hidden; whatever is concealed, Allah knows all about it. Either it will be put off and placed recorded in a book, and preserved there until the judgment day; or the punishment be hastened and so he will take revenge.” (5)

There were people who believed in Allah truly and who avoided associating partners with Allah under the light of the principles of belief remaining from the religion of Hz. Ibrahim and Hz. Ismail but there were also some people who believed in Allah but who also regarded various things and idols as partners with Allah. (6) They accepted the things that they worshipped as intermediaries, trying to legitimize shirk. There were those who worshipped the sun (7), who regarded stars as Allah’s biggest creatures and worshipped them due to their respect to them. (8) There were also those who associated jinn and spiritual beings (9) and beings of nature (10) as partners with Allah; there were also those who denied Allah completely. (11)

Islam, which emerged in such an environment, maintained the true beliefs that existed before it and described Allah in a way that fits Him, stated that He was free from partners, resembling anything and intermediaries; it eliminated all kinds of denial and explained and proved all aspects of divinity clearly.


1.  see M. Hamidullah, I, 31.
 2. Uğur, M. Hicri Birinci Asırda, p. 13; That some Qurayshi believers of one Allah left Makkah and sought a new religion (Ibn Ishaq Sirah, p. 95) should be more appropriate to be understood as the efforts of searching the religion of hanif, part of which they practiced but all of which they did not know, or the religion of Islam, which they knew that would emerge.
 3.  Muslim, Fadailus-Sahaba, 131.
 4.  M. Hamidullah, İslam Müesseselerine Giriş, Düşünce Publications, İst. 1981, p. 39.
 5.  Muallaqt as-Sab’a, p. 24.
 6.  The Prophet taught Husayn, who said he believed in seven deities, Islam and he became a Muslim: Tirmidhi, Daawat, 70.
 7.  see Ibn Qutayba, Ta’wil, p. 154; Alusi, Bulughul-Arab,II, 215-216; cf an-Naml, 22-24; az-Zumar, 3.
 8. About their regarding various stars as sacred, see Bukhari, Manaqibul-Ansar, 27; Muslim, Janaiz, 29; Musnad, II, 455. Cf Doğuştan günümüze İslam tarihi, Komisyon, Çağ Publications İst. 1992, I, 175. These thoughts about the sun existed about the moon; Islam abolished all of those wrong thoughts. However, today in some places, people show some weak and ill children to the moon and say, “Take him or give him”; some children show their new teeth to the sun and say change them with better ones, showing that some wrong understandings still exist. (see Kalafat, Y.D. Anadoluda eski Türk İnanışlarının İzleri, T.T.K.Y. Ank. S. 31; Çelik, Ali, Halk İnanışları, p. 72.)
 9. see Aal-i Imran, 80; Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, IV, 377; Yazır, Hak Dini, VIII, 5381; Izutsu, Kur’an’da Allah ve İnsan, p. 19; Alusi, Bulughul-Arab, II, 197; cf as-Saaffat, 158; al-An’am, 100.
 10.Ibnul-Kalbi, Kitabul-Asnam, p. 11-16; The Quran mentions them with different names: a-A’raf, 128; al-An’am, 74; al-Anbiya, 52; ash-Shuara, 71, al-Maida, 90.
 11. see al-Jasiya, 24; Alusi, Bulughul-Arab, II, 220; For, those who believe in Allah but deny the Prophet, see al-Furqan, 7.

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