Thursday, August 11, 2011

The “Allah is the Moon-God” Nonsense Could be the Stupidest Anti-Muslim Conspiracy Theory Yet...

The anti-Islamic movement will stop at nothing to concoct theories, and sometimes falsehoods to disparage Islam. The following article is part of a series featured on LoonWatch by Danios.

This article is page I of My God is Better Than Yours (IV), which is part 9 of the Understanding Jihad Series. See My God is Better Than Yours I, II, and III. (In retrospect, I haven’t used the best numbering system and it will require a bit of cleaning up later on…)

Robert Morey first wrote about his “Allah is the moon-god” theory in The Islamic Invasion (1992) and then later reproduced it with minor changes in a twenty page booklet entitled The Moon-God Allah in the Archeology of the Middle East (1994). The latter has fallen out of print, and Morey himself refers readers to The Islamic Invasion “for more information” about his moon-god theory. It is this book then that I will refute.

Morey’s theory was refuted by Muslim preacher Shabir Ally in Robert Morey’s Moon-god Myth & Other Deceptive Attacks on Islam, which is a surgical deconstruction of Morey’s nonsense. Morey whined that Ally used “ad hominem slurs such as ‘deceptive’ and ‘dishonest.’” Ally did say that Morey used “deceptive methods” and “dishonest tactics,” but since this was in reference to Morey’s methodsand tactics–and not his person–how then is this an ad hominem attack, let alone a “slur?”

Fascinatingly, in this very same article Robert Morey referred to the Muslims in the audience as “terrorists;” now that’s a slur, one which conflates Muslim with terrorist. Morey issued his response to Shabir Ally, saying (emphasis added):

Let every Muslim terrorist please take note of the fact that I, Robert Morey, did not invent the idea that Allah came from Il or Ilah. Nor did I invent the idea that Allah in pre-Islamic times can be traced back to the Moon-God.

Not only this, but Morey insinuates that Shabir Ally is a terrorist, saying his book is “an example of terrorism.” And yet somehow Robert Morey is complaining of ad hominem attacks? This is a case of right-wing projection. In fact, Ally maintained a rather mild tone in his writing, and did not question Morey’s academic qualifications and credentials.

Having said that, I have myself called to question Robert Morey’s academic qualifications and credentials–and have found them to be completely bogus. It is completely licit in academic circles to question the legitimacy of a source, especially if someone furthers a bizarre and new view on a controversial topic.

* * * * *

Robert Morey first mentions the moon-god theory on page 42 of The Islamic Invasion. Here he provides the background behind his theory: he argues that moon-worship was the dominant religious practice in pre-Islamic Arabia. (He will later argue that the Prophet Muhammad simply continued worship of this moon-god.) To buttress his theory, Morey argues that:

1) The Sabeans were the dominant religious group before Muhammad’s time.

2) The Sabeans primarily worshiped the moon.

3) The Quran itself mentions the Sabeans and their worship of the sun, moon, and stars!

These three points are used to argue that the Prophet Muhammad simply continued the worship of the Sabean moon-god. In Morey’s own words on page 42:

The Sabeans

The dominant religion that had grown very powerful just before Muhammad’s time was that of the Sabeans’.

The Sabeans had an astral religion in which they worshiped the heavenly bodies. The moon was viewed as a male deity and the sun as the female deity. Together they produced other deities such as the stars. The Quran refers to this in Sura 41:37 and elsewhere.

They used a lunar calendar to regulate their religious rites. For example, a month of fasting was regulated by the phases of the moon.

The Sabean pagan rite of fasting began with the appearance of a crescent moon and did not cease until the crescent moon reappeared. This would later be adopted as one of the five pillars of Islam.

All three of these points are dubious. With regard to the first point, there is no proof at all that the Sabeans were the dominant religious group before Muhammad’s time. Robert Morey provides absolutely no proof for this statement of his (like many of the other claims in his book). Morey simply assumes that if he says something definitively enough, the reader will just believe him.

However, the truth is that the Sabeans were but a small minority in Mecca, to the point where just a few generations later the Arab chroniclers weren’t even quite sure who the Sabeans were, a confusion that continues up until this day. Therefore, Robert Morey’s starting point–that the Sabeans constituted the dominant religious group in Mecca at the time of Muhammad–has absolutely no factual basis to it whatsoever.

What little is known about the religion of the pre-Islamic Arabs is that they were polytheistic and worshiped rocks and idols. Says Professor Jonathan P. Berkey on p.42 The Formation of Islam(emphasis added):

The dominant religious traditions of pre-Islamic Arabia remained polytheistic, but little can in fact be known with certainty about them. There has been much debate among historians of religion about the origin and character of Arabian religion–for example, whether it represented a “primitive” form of Semitic religion, or instead a degenerate form of the more sophisticated traditions of the Fertile Crescent (paralleling the traditional Muslim account according to which Muhammad’s role was to restore a primitive monotheism associated with Abraham). There are signs of litholatry [the worship of stones] among the Arabs, although by the time of Muhammad most of the various deities had acquired faces and personalities. Several hundred Arabian deities are known from the Muslim sources, the most prominent of which were those identified by the Arabs as the three “daughters of Allah”–Manat, Allat, and al-’Uzza–a trinity which was, according to the later Muslim tradition, accorded a special place among Muhammad’s tribe of Quraysh and their allies around the advent of Islam, and to which prominent (although ambiguous) mention is made in the Koran. Behind the specific deities, the Arabs were also probably aware of Allah. For some he may have represented a remote creator god, possibly related to the Semitic El; some Western scholars have suggested (again, paralleling in a way the traditional Muslim account) that he represents a deus otiosus [a creator god who largely retires from the world and is no longer involved in its daily operation] who had over the centuries been eclipsed by more particularized and localized deities. Allah apparently played little role in religious cult.

He concludes:

It is in fact difficult to say much with confidence regarding pre-Islamic Arabian religion.

Prof. Berkey’s quote is actually sufficient to refute the entire moon-god theory. Let us, however, focus on the following: Morey’s claim that the “dominant religion that had grown very powerful just before Muhammad’s time was that of the Sabeans’…[who] had an astral religion in which they worshiped the heavenly bodies” is not supported by the evidence. Where did Morey get his information that the “Sabean religion” was the predominant religious group before Muhammad’s arrival? In fact, this is completely contrived.

The pre-Islamic Arabs were polytheistic and worshiped “several hundred Arabian deities.” They started out as stone-worshipers, and these stones eventually developed into anthropomorphic idols. The pre-Islamic Arabs worshiped many different gods. The moon-god was but one of many–and not even the most important of them. As Prof. Paul Fouracre puts it on page 320 of his book The New Cambridge Medieval History, the pre-Islamic Arabs “were animistic and varied; they worshiped stones, trees, and idols.” The fact that the pre-Islamic Arabs worshiped the moon doesn’t mean Allah is the moon-god any more than he is the stone, tree, sun, or star god.

So, why then did Robert Morey single out the moon, as opposed to stones, trees, the sun, and the stars? Is it not simply to buttress his conspiracy theory? Such is the modus operandi of the conspiracy theorist: facts that support a conspiracy are highlighted and exaggerated, while other facts are minimized or ignored altogether.

As for what gave him the idea in the first place, Morey most likely noted the crescent symbol often used to represent Islam, and this gave him the idea that Muslims worshiped the moon. The Moozlums use the symbol of the crescent to represent their faith, so they must then worship the moon! Quite simply, the moon-god nonsense is based primarily in this simple, simplistic, and stupid idea–one which I will refute later in this article series.

I have as of yet completely ignored the white elephant in the room: scholars are unsure whether or not the Sabeans are to be considered synonymous with the Sabians mentioned in the Quran, as the Arabic spelling of the two words differs significantly. What is perfectly clear, however, is that neither the Sabeans or Sabians were the predominant religious group at the time prior to Muhammad’s arrival. Indeed, the early Muslims were themselves unsure who the Sabians mentioned in the Quran refers to, a confusion that hardly would have existed had the Sabeans/Sabians been the predominant religious group prior to the arrival of the Islamic religion.

Morey’s second point–that the Sabeans/Sabians worshiped the moon–is also questionable. He passes this off as undisputed fact, when in fact scholars–both Islamic and Western–are not exactly sure who or what the Sabeans/Sabians worshiped. This is not surprising, considering that it is not even accepted who exactly the Sabeans/Sabians were!

As for his third point, Morey tries to invoke the Quran as proof of his argument, saying:

The Sabeans had an astral religion in which they worshiped the heavenly bodies. The moon was viewed as a male deity and the sun as the female deity. Together they produced other deities such as the stars. The Quran refers to this in Sura 41:37 and elsewhere.

In fact, verse 41:37 (and the surrounding passage in which it is contained in) says nothing at all about the Sabeans/Sabians. The Sabians are only mentioned three times in the Quran: in verses 2:62, 5:69, and 22:17. In each of these three instances, no mention at all is given of any moon-god. As for 41:37 which Morey mentioned, this verse actually is a slap on the face of the moon-god theory, as it reads:

And from among [God's] signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. Do not bow down in worship to the sun or to the moon, but bow down to the God (Allah) who created them, if it is truly Him you serve. (Quran, 41:37)

How much clearer could the Quran be? This single verse is enough to refute the entire moon-god theory: the Quran, the holy book of Islam, categorically forbids worship of the moon. Although this verse does indicate that moon-worship existed in pre-Islamic Arabia, it should be remembered that (1) the moon was but one of many objects the pagan Arabs worshiped and (2) the Quran categorically rejected and forbade such worship. Allah was not the moon according to Islamic theory; rather, He created the moon, along with the sun, the stars, and everything else.

* * * * *

In addition to 41:37 above, there are other verses along the same lines–verses that show clearly that the Quran teaches that the sun and the moon are merely creations of God (Allah) and not God (Allah) the Creator:

Your Lord is God (Allah), who created the heavens and earth in six Days, then established Himself on the throne; He makes the night cover the day in swift pursuit; He created the sun, moon, and stars to be subservient to His command; all creation and command belong to Him. Exalted be God, Lord of all the worlds! (Quran, 7:54)

It is He (God) who made the sun a lamp, and the moon a light. (Quran, 10:5)

It is God (Allah) who raised up the heavens with no visible supports and then established Himself on the throne; He has subjected the sun and the moon each to pursue its course for an appointed time; He regulates all things… (Quran, 13:2)

It is He (Allah) who created night and day, the sun and the moon, each floating in its orbit. (Quran, 21:33)

Not only does the Quran say that Allah created the moon, but it also says that He will basically destroy it on Judgment Day:

When is the Day of Resurrection? (Say:) When the eyes are dazzled, and the moon becomes dark, and the sun and the moon are fused together, then on that Day will man exclaim: “Where can I escape?” (Quran, 75:6-10)

The Hour draws near and the moon is rent asunder. (Quran, 54:1)

In yet another passage, one of God’s prophets–Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic)–explicitly rejects moon-worship after he notices that the moon sets:

When the night grew dark over him [Abraham] saw a star and said, ‘This is my Lord,’ but when it set, he said, ‘I do not like things that set.’ And when he saw the moon rising he said, ‘This is my Lord,’ but when it too set, he said, ‘If my Lord does not guide me, I shall be one of those who go astray.’ Then he saw the sun rising and cried, ‘This is my Lord! This is greater.’ But when the sun set, he said, ‘My people, I disown all that you worship beside God (Allah). I have turned my face as a true believer towards Him who created the heavens and the earth. I am not one of the polytheists.’ (Quran, 6:77-78)

Another one of God’s prophets, Joseph, has a divine dream which involves the moon (along with the stars and the sun) bowing down to him which would make no sense if Muslims understood the moon as God (God does not bow to His creation):

Joseph said to his father, “Father, I dreamed of eleven stars and the sun and the moon: I saw them all bow down before me.” (Quran, 12:4)

The moon (along with the earth, the sun, the stars, and everything else in the universe) bows down in worship to God (Allah):

Do you not see that everything in the heavens and the earth bow down in worship to God (Allah): the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, and the animals? (Quran, 22:18)

The moon not only submits itself to God, but God made the moon subservient to humankind (and therefore the moon cannot be God, since humans are subservient to God–not the other way around):

It is God (Allah) who created the heavens and the earth, who has sent down water from the sky and with it brought forth produce to nourish you. He has made ships subservient to you, sailing the sea by His command, and the rivers as well. He made the sun and the moon subservient to you, constant in their courses. He has made the night and the day subservient to you… (Quran, 14:32-33)

By his command, [God] has made the night and the day, the sun, moon, and stars allsubservient to you. (Quran, 16:12)

The Quran explains that God created the moon to help humans calculate the months of the year and to make a calendar:

They ask you about the crescent moons. Say: “They are time-marks for the people and help determine the time of Hajj (pilgrimage).” (Quran, 2:189)

[God] made the sun and the moon for reckoning time. (Quran, 6:96)

An interesting factoid would be worthwhile to mention here: did you know that the English wordmonth comes from moon? AstronomyOnline explains:

Phases and Time:

The Moon has played a vital role in the formation of our Calendar. The word “month” comes from a root word “moon” or “moonth,” the time it takes the Moon to go from New Moon to New Moon.

It seems like the Quran’s understanding of the moon is pretty spot-on: the moon helps calculate the months of the year.

* * * * *

There are other Quranic verses that could be cited, but for brevity’s sake (since I’ve always been known for brevity) let’s move on to the next point…

Update I: Page II has been published.

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