Other questions on this topic has addressed the pre-Islamic religious beliefs in broad detail, including the conversion of near-Arab cultures.

What was the specific nature of the pre-Islamic religious concepts? e.g.

  • categorization of beings/anima,
  • species of animistic action
  • worship, veneration
  • contracts, petitions
  • funerary
  • etc.

We know so much about Greek (pagan) beliefs, by comparison.

It is understood that Christianity and Judaism were operative in the area before the prevalence of Islam. (good answers would naturally make brief mention of these) The question is aimed at the structure of belief systems that came to be known as 'idol worshippers', etc. — many of which are presumed to no longer be practiced.

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    A few followed Abrahamic religion (was referred to as Hanif). Many followed a version of Abrahamic, with Allah as a sort of king of gods, and daughters, al-Uzza, al-Lat, Manat being among the most popular. As well as dozens of other minor gods. It's difficult to find a reliable source for this because of lack of documents from back then and most Arabian history is written by people who try to make Islam look good by making the older religions look bad.
    – Muz
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 6:00
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    @Muz you state exactly why this question is hard! I hope that someone will be a scholar and have references to archeological journals or related citations. Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 12:07

2 Answers 2


I have recently written an answer to the question you have linked. There I explain in detail how, alongside preexisting polytheistic religions, the Arabic Peninsula was largely monopolized by Judaism and Christianity by the 5th century. The structure of religious belief was then not different from that of other countries of the time.

By the 6th century, Mecca was emerging as the most important centre in the peninsula. It became known as the Holy City, and there were Sacred Months during which the Arabs from every corner would gather there. Already before the advent of Islam, the Kaaba was a temple. It was believed that Abraham had built it, and pilgrims would circumambulate it much like modern Muslims.

Before the prevalence of monotheism, the land was divided between a mostly nomadic north and a sedentary South. The latter was a pragmatic society, that did not leave many writings concerning religion and philosophy. In fact, we do not know very much about the structure of ancient religons, when compared with the Greek one, so your comparison is somewhat unfair.

Source: The Cambridge History of Islam

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    The Koran has multiple references to both Judisim and Christianity. It is pretty clear the author was quite familiar with both.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jan 26, 2013 at 20:11
  • While it's fair to include the Christian and Judaic conversions and migrations into the region, the comparison to Greek pagans is drawn to ask a question that squarely-focuses upon a topic that Islam historically avoids and obfuscates Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 5:14
  • ... obfuscates: the structure of 'pagan' / polytheistic beliefs, e.g. beings, animistic acts, etc. You do not address this matter here, and on your other answer you only begin to by naming 3 goddesses. Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 5:33
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    Can you cite some sources for further reading? I'm interested in this subject a bit, and would like to read up some more on it...thanks :) Commented Feb 3, 2013 at 16:18
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    @astabada Any update to this answer? Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 13:45

They used to divide themselves into Tribes, the famous one being the Quraysh, they were the one guarding the Kaaba and its surroundings. Among other things they would legislate laws and organize matters related to pilgrimage.

Also it was known that they were the descendant of the Prophet Abraham(a.s) through is son Ishmael (a.s), in there ignorance they would say that they are the one who follow the path of Abraham. They would claim this even though Abraham never worshiped Idols, but they saw their forefathers do so, so they follow in their path.

They would consult mediums, kill girls, have sex with prestigious figures in society in order to have a prestigious lineage, sacrifice to idols, making idols. Idol worship was a big business a business which Quraysh didn't want to do lose.

The idol worship started simple with a man of prestigious linage and authority coming back from a journey in Sham, there he encounter idols and asked to a person, "what are those?", the person said these are our intercessor with God, so when we need something we ask them. The man was amazed so it took the big one and took it back with him in Arabia. And a Arabia that was once Monotheistic became Polytheistic over time.

And there is much more to say on the subject Islamic literature is always nicely available and goes deeper into the subject.

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    Welcome to History.SE! To keep quality level high here, it's best if users include their source in their answers. Could you include your sources for this answer? Thanks. Again, welcome to History.SE!
    – Luke_0
    Commented Jan 22, 2013 at 21:48
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    I think that answering this question requires that someone go into that detail, rather than indicating that 'certain literature does in-fact handle it'. Also, Islamic literature on the "idol worshipping" pre-islamic religions are likely to be as unfair in their treatment of subject matter as Spanish Colonial book, the Florentine Codex, was of the meso-american beliefs. Commented Jan 28, 2013 at 5:07
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    @Musk, would you please go into detail? Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 17:31

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