Church History Forum: Islam

Islam QUESTION from Jay October 4, 2001 We are told that persons who follow the teachings of Islam are the decendents of Ishmael. Abraham's son by Hagar. What did religion did the decendents of Ishmael practice before the prophet Muhammad came on the scene?
ANSWER by Q & A Staff on September 17, 2001 Dear Jay,
To be precise, it is the Arabs who are the descendants of Ishmael. Obviously, not all followers of Islam are Arabs.
Before the coming of Mohammed in the seventh century, the region around Mecca was polytheistic. The Arab people had long since lost the monotheistic faith of Abraham and of Ishmael, and were in fact idol worshippers, worshipping pagan deities such as al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat. The Kabah, or Caaba, the famous black stone located in Mecca, and possibly of meteoric origin, was used in these religions also. Pilgrims from the whole of Arabia would come to visit this shrine. It contained many, possibly hundreds, of pagan idols, which were in time smashed by Mohammed.
It is a known fact that the Kabah was used by pagan religions from even before the advent of Christianity. In The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbons, Volume V, page 223-4 we read about the religion of Arabia:
Each tribe, each family, each independent warrier, created and changed the rites and the object of this fantastic worship; but the nation, in every age, has bowed to the religion as well as to the language of Mecca. The genuine antiquity of Caaba ascends beyond the Christian era: in describing the coast of the Red sea the Greek historian Diodorus has remarked, between the Thamudites and the Sabeans, a famous temple, whose superior sanctity was revered by all the Arabians; the linen of silken veil, which is annually renewed by the Turkish emperor, was first offered by the Homerites, who reigned seven hundred years before the time of Mohammad. The Koran incorporates the Kabah into the Islamic belief system. According to it, Abraham built (or possibly rebuilt) the Kabah as God’s first temple on earth. It is interesting to note, actually, that the Kabah is roughly cube shaped and the Ark of the Covenant was also cube shaped, the Ark being the dwelling of the Shekinah glory in the Old Testament. I am not saying that the Kabah and the Ark are the same thing of course!
So in summary, the beliefs of the Arab people before the coming of Mohammed were centred around the Kabah but their beliefs were polytheistic, not monotheistic.
Thanks Jay.
God bless,
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