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Even in Arabia the stern monotheism of the Wahabi Reformers was unable to eradicate the pagan superstitions of Islam because they are imbedded in the Koran and were not altogether rejected by Mohammed himself, much less by his companions. With regard to the pagan practices prevalent in early Islam, Abu'l Fida calls attention to a number of religious observances which were thus perpetuated under the new system. “The Arabs of the times of ignorance,” he says, “used to do things which the religious law of Islam has adopted; for they used not to wed their mothers or their daughters, and among them it was deemed a most detestable thing to marry two sisters, and they used to revile the man who married his father's wife, and to call him Daizan. They used, moreover, to make the pilgrimage (Hajj) to the House ’’ (the Ka'aba), “and visit the consecrated places, and wear the Ihram ” (the single garment worn to the present day by a pilgrim when running round the Ka'bah), “and perform the Tawwaf, and run * (between the hills As Safa and Al Marwa) “and make their stand at all the Stations and cast the stones” (at the devil in the valley of Mina); “and they were wont to intercalate a month every third year.” He goes on to mention many other similar examples in which the religion of Islam has enjoined as religious observances ancient Arabian customs, for instance ceremonial washings after certain kinds of defilement, parting the hair, the ritual observed in cleansing the teeth, paring the nails, and other such matters.” Mohammed also borrowed certain fables current among the heathen Arabs, such as the tales of Ad and Thamud and some others (Surah VII 63–77). Regarding such stories, Al Kindi well says to his opponent: “And if thou mentionest the tale of Ad and Thamud and the Camel and the Comrades of the Elephant” (Surahs CW and XIV: 9) “and the like of
these tales, we say to thee, “These are senseless stories and the nonsensical fables of old women of the Arabs, who kept reciting them night and day.’” When we read the account of pre-Islamic worship at Mecca we realize how many of the ancient customs persist in Islam.
The principal idols of Arabia were the following:
Hóbal was in the form of a man and came from Syria; he was the god of rain and had a high place of honor. Wadd was the god of the firmament. Special prayers for rain and against eclipse were taught by Mohammed. Suwah, in the form of a woman, was said to be from antediluvian times. Yaghuth had the shape of a lion. Ya’ook was in the form of a horse, and was worshiped in Yemen. (Bronze images of this idol are found in ancient tombs and are still used as amulets.) Nasr was the eagle god. El Uzza, identified by some scholars with Venus, was worshiped at times under the form of an acacia tree (cf. Tree-worship by Moslems). Allat was the chief idol of the tribe of Thakif at Taif who tried to compromise with Mohammed to accept Islam if he would not destroy their god for three years. The name appears to be the feminine of Allah. Manat was a huge stone worshiped as an altar by several tribes. Duwar was the virgin's idol and young women used to go around it in procession; hence its name. Isaf and Naila were idols that stood near Mecca on the hills of Safa and Mirwa; the visitation of these popular shrines is now a part of the Moslem pilgrimage, i.e., they perpetuate ancient idolatrous rites. Habhab was a large stone on which camels were slaughtered. In every Moslem land sacred-stones, sacred-trees, etc., abound; in most cases these were formerly shrines of pagan (in some cases, of Christian) sanctity. “Even in the higher religions,” says Warneck, “and in the heathenism that exists in Christendom, we find numerous usages of animistic origin. Buddhism, Confucianism and Mohammedanism have nowhere conquered this most tenacious of all forms of religion; they have not even entered into conflict with it; it is only overcome by faith in Jesus Christ.” Therefore these many superstitions can now no longer be styled anti-Mohammedan, although they conflict in many respects with the original doctrines of Islam. A religion is not born full-grown any more than a man, and if on attaining a ripe maturity it has cast off the form of its early youth past recognition, we cannot deny it its right to this transformation, as it is part and parcel of the scheme of nature. “A custom or idea does not necessarily stand condemned according to the Moslem standard,” writes Hurgronje, “even though in our minds there can be no shadow of doubt of its pagan origin. If, for example, Mohammedan teaching is able to regard some popular custom as a permissible enchantment against the devil or against jinns hostile to mankind, or as an invocation of the mediation of a prophet or saint with God, then it matters not that the existence of these malignant spirits is actually only known from pagan sources, nor does any one pause to inquire whether the saint in question is but a heathen god in a new dress, or an imaginary being whose name but serves to legitimate the existing worship of some object of popular reverence.”" Some writers go so far as to say that Animism lies at the root of all Moslem thinking and all Moslem theology. “The Moslem,” says Gottfried Simon, “is naturally inclined to Animism; his Animism does not run counter to the ideal of his religion. Islam is the classic example of the way in which the non-Christian religions do not * “The Achenese,” pp. 287–8.
succeed in conquering Animism. This weakness in face of the supreme enemy of all religious and moral progress bears a bitter penalty. Among the animistic peoples Islam is more and more entangled in the meshes of Animism. The conqueror is, in reality, the conquered. Islam sees the most precious article of its creed, the belief in God, and the most important of its religious acts, the profession of belief, dragged in the mire of animistic thought; only in animistic guise do they gain currency among the common people. Instead of Islam raising the people, it is itself degraded. Islam, far from delivering heathendom from the toils of Animism, is itself deeply involved in them. Animism emerges from its struggle for the soul of a people, modernized it is true, but more powerful than ever, elegantly tricked out and buttressed by theology. Often it is scarcely recognizable in its refined Arabian dress, but it continues as before to sway the people; it has received divine sanction.” Other writers express a still stronger opinion. “Moslem ritual, instead of bringing a man to God,” writes Dr. Adriani, “serves as a drag net for Animism,” and evidence confirms this from Celebes where the Mohammedan is more superstitious even than the heathen. “Islam has exercised quite a different influence upon the heathen from what we should expect. It has not left him as he was, nor has it tempered his Animism. Rather it has relaid the old animistic foundations of the heathen’s religion and run up a light, artistic superstructure upon it of Moslem customs.” " While Moslems profess to believe in one God and repeat His glorious incommunicable attributes in their daily worship, they everywhere permit this glorious doctrine to be buried under a mass of pagan superstitions borrowed either originally from the demon-worship of the Arabs, the Hindu gods, or the animistic practices of Malaysia and Central Africa. Regarding the thirty million Moslems of the Dutch East Indies Wilkinson well says: “The average Malay may be said to look upon God as upon a great king or governor, mighty, of course, and just, but too remote a power to trouble himself about a villager's petty affairs; whereas the spirits of the district are comparable to the local police, who may be corrupt and prone to error, but who take a most absorbing personal interest in their radius of influence, and whose ill-will has to be avoided at all costs.” At first consideration one would imagine that the stern monotheism of Islam — the very intolerance of Semitic belief in Allah — would prevent compromise with polytheism. The facts are, however, to the contrary. “Belief in spirits of all sorts is neither peculiar to Acheh nor in conflict with the teaching of Islam,” says Dr. Snouck Hurgronje. “Actual worship of these beings in the form of prayer might seriously imperil monotheism, but such worship is a rare exception in Acheh. The spirits most believed in are hostile to mankind and are combated by exorcism; the manner in which this is done in Acheh, as in Arabia and other Mohammedan countries is at variance in many respects with the orthodox teaching. Where, however, the Achenese calls in the help of these spirits or of other methods of enchantment in order to cause ill-fortune to his fellow-man, he does so with the full knowledge that he is committing a sin.” The missionary, Gottfried Simon, goes even further when he says: “The pioneer preaching of the Mohammedan idea of God finds a hearing all the more easily because it does not essentially rise above the level of Animistic ideas; for the Mohammedan does not bring the heathen something absolutely new with his doctrine of God; his idea of God correlates itself to existing conceptions. Animism is really the cult of spirits and the souls of the departed. Yet spirit worship has not
7 “The Progress and Arrest of Islam in Sumatra,” Gottfried Simon, pp. 157–9.