Evangelicals Claim that Muslims Worship the “Moon God”. Is this True? NO!
The claim is a false claim as Muslims worship Allah, Allah simply means ‘the god’ in Arabic (1).
The reason why I am writing this article is because I, although being familiar with this piece of Christian evangelical propaganda, came in direct contact with this claim quite recently.
I was in my local Waterstones (A well-known chain of bookshops in the UK); I had already purchased a book by Bart Ehrman from one of its competitors but went into Waterstones and purchased Karen Armstrong’s Islam a Short History. Before purchasing this book I browsed through it and found a little comic strip booklets entitled Allah Had No Son (published by Chick Publications). My initial reaction was that this booklet was a free complementary booklet to introduce the reader to the idea of the Islamic belief; God is One and has no partner or co-equal, i.e. Islamic (pure) monotheism. I looked into this booklet and realised it was Christian evangelical propaganda in the form of a comic strip claiming that Muslims are worshipping a ‘moon god’.
Simultaneously, it became quite apparent that a Christian missionary had been into the store and left this material in the book so to cloud any research of Islam an honest individual may be undertaking. Looking at it personally, the comic-booklet did seem to be bordering along the lines of racial-stereotyping. Condemning the methodology of sabotage that the evangelist employed is not the purpose of this article; the purpose is solely in the view of debunking the Christian evangelical claim.
The moon-god claim
This claim is more prevalent in north America and seems to have originated from that region as well as that region containing many of the propagators and believers in such a claim. The ‘moon god’ claim is in fact quite dated now and has been debunked and refuted many times over by Muslims so it is a little surprising that the Christian evangelical community still use it in their attempts to ensnare Muslims. Of course, their continued usage of this claim, suggests either dishonesty or ignorance of the solid refutations Muslims have put forward.
Dr Robert Morey is infamous for this claim amongst Muslims, in fact the comic strip booklet (Allah had no Son by Chick Publications) uses Morey as a reference! Jack G. Shaheen, outlines an instance of an eager evangelist spreading the claim; in 1996 Janet Parshals, a Christian evangelical host of a radio program, told listeners that Muslims worship the “moon god”(2)(3). Ibrahim Hooper (CAIR), in 1996, informed Shaheen that the “moon god” myth is commonly believed amongst evangelical Christian communities ‘who perpetuate such fantasies in their comic books’ (3).
The claim is incorrect
Having said all this we still need to show this claim to be incorrect to avoid any confusion and doubt. The best place to start is the Quran. The Quran is believed to be the verbatim Word of God (Allah) by Muslims. What has the Quran outlined about ‘moon worship’? The Quran teaches us not to worship the moon or the sun but to worship Allah (the One who created them)
41:37- Among His Signs are the Night and the Day, and the Sun and the Moon. Adore not the sun and the moon, but adore Allah, Who created them, if it is Him ye wish to serve. (4)
So Muslims do not deify the moon nor the sun but worship Allah. To say otherwise would be unscholarly and inaccurate.
Non-Muslim scholars debunk the moon-god claim
As touched upon earlier, Allah is the Arabic personal name for God. W.Montgomery Watt tells us that Arab Christians, Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant use Allah as the word for God. In fact he goes on further and teaches us the word Allah is similar to the New Testament ho theos and both simply mean ‘the god’ (1). The meaning of Allah as ‘God’ is also confirmed by Karen Armstrong (5). Interestingly enough, these two famous Western scholars of Islam do not suggest Allah is a ‘moon god’ but these claims come from the evangelical Christian camp that has an agenda of evangelism that compromises their objectivity.
The name Allah
I also note there is some confusion and conflation with the fact that the word Allah existed before the Prophet Mohammed’s time on Earth and the Arab pagans’ use of the word Allah. It is disappointing that we have people who lack sound historical and theological scholarship who write propaganda pieces in the form of booklets or internet articles about this issue. It just further illustrates truth in the adage; a little knowledge is dangerous.
Yes, we (those who have studied Islam) know that the name Allah was in use before the time of Prophet Muhammed. If we read Ar-Raheeq ul-Makhtum we realise that the early Arabs did believe in Allah as the Only God. This is dated all the way back to the time of Prophet Ishmael who resided in Makkah (Mecca) and learned Arabic as well as settling there(8). He preached the message of pure monotheism; “Most of the Arabs had complied with the call of Ishmael and professed the religion of his father Abraham. They worshipped Allah, professed His Oneness and followed His religion...” (9).
What this shows is that Allah was known as the Only God, just like the Muslims believe Him to be. Indeed Abraham and Ishmael are considered to be Muslims, i.e. those who had submitted to the Will of the Only God, Allah. The issue of paganism came into the equation as the Arabs forgot this pure monotheism which was taught by Ishmael and his followers. The idolatry was originated from the actions of a man named Amr bin Luhai, he was known as a devoted and righteous man, well respected by his peers. However, after a trip away from Mecca he saw idol-worship in Syria. Upon his return to the Meccans he introduced idol worship to the Meccans by bringing an idol named Hubal back from Syria and this resulted in the spread of a great many idols across Mecca. Indeed there were 360 different idols, belonging to the pagans of Mecca, around the Ka’bah when Prophet Muhammed took charge of Mecca. These idols were subsequently broken, removed and burned under the authority of Prophet Muhammed (10).
Despite the Meccan pagans’ acceptance of idols they still proclaimed belief in Allah in the sense that they saw Allah as the High God but used the idols as ‘lesser deities’ whom they believed “could intercede before Allah for the fulfilment of their wishes” (11).Quite simply they had a pantheon of ‘gods’ but believed that Allah was the High God of their pantheon (5) Effectively over the years they changed their belief in Allah, from the belief that Allah was the Only God (the Abrahamic teachings) to the belief that Allah was the High God of their many deities.
Another source that attests to the fact that the pre-Islamic Arabs used the name Allah and held a ‘belief’ in Him is the genealogy of Prophet Muhammed, his father’s name was actually Abdullah (meaning servant of Allah)(12). Interestingly enough, some of these pagan Arabs believed that Allah was the same God that the Jews and Christians worshipped (5).
The point of the history lesson is to dispel confusion being aroused via ignorance of history. This also squashes the ignorance that the anti-Islamics play on when they try to claim that Allah was a ‘moon god’ due to His Name being around during pre-Islamic times. Essentially the critic of Islam (including Robert Morey who does it implicitly) makes a fallacious conflation of two facts. The two points that the Islamophobes somehow combine in order to arrive at their unsound ‘moon god’ claim are:
1. The name Allah was in use prior to Islam
2. Many mosques and flags of Muslim countries posses a symbol in the form of a moon.
As the first point has been discussed and explained it is necessary to explain the second point before venturing further. Let it be said that the ‘moon’ symbol on some mosques and flags has nothing to do with Islam. There is no teaching within Islam that teaches the over-reverence of the moon nor instructing Muslims to adopt it as a representative symbol. Early Muslims did not use the crescent (moon) for flags nor Mosques and did not have any symbol to represent them. This symbolism was introduced during the Ottoman Empire much later on and was adopted from a city they conquered; “It wasn’t until the Ottoman Empire that the crescent moon and star became affiliated with the Muslim world. When the Turks conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, they adopted the city’s existing flag and symbol” (13). It should also be added that this symbolism is not seen as Islamic and many Muslims do not agree with the use of a symbol for Islam as highlighted by a quote from A popular Muslim Scholar, Yusuf Estes; “The symbol of Islam IS NOT the crescent moon and the star, but it was used by the last Islamic Dynasty, the Ottoman’s. The Ottoman Empire deemed it appropriate to use the star and crescent as their symbols, but not the symbols of Islam. I repeat, the star and the crescent moon are not a part of the religion of Islam. Because Islam is so strict on the concept of no other gods with Allah; and no images of any kind; it is a mistake to consider that Islam authorized the general use of such things. Additionally, Islam forbids the images (statues) of any kinds of humans, animals or any of Allah’s creations, so how about using a symbol for Islam?” (13). It would also be useful to re-quote the English translation for the Quran (41:37) here:
41:37- Among His Signs are the Night and the Day, and the Sun and the Moon. Adore not the sun and the moon, but adore Allah, Who created them, if it is Him ye wish to serve. (4)
There is no definitive reason why the Ottomans adopted the flag of Constantinople (now Istanbul) as the symbol for their empire. There is speculation about the founder of their empire having a dream about the crescent moon but that is just speculation. My personal view is that the Ottomans had reached a point of great change when they conquered Constantinople and were “in a position to establish an empire”(14). They were euphoric in their capture of this city as it was prophesized by Prophet Muhammed that the Muslims would take Constantinople one day. This prophesy was fulfilled in 1453, roughly 800 years after the Prophet Muhammed prophesized this event (15) and in some sort of rivalry to Christendom (who had the cross as their symbol) amalgamated with their prized capture they adopted the crescent from the flag of Constantinople. Obviously I am giving my view about the crescent symbolism, it is by no means factual as we simply do not know. The poignant fact amongst all this speculation is that the crescent moon had no Islamic significance to it at all.
Having cleared up the misconceptions about the crescent moon symbol and the use of the name Allah in pre-Islamic times we realise that Morey and other evangelists combine these two points (outlined above) and play on people’s ignorance of the facts as they claim that these two points somehow prove their delusive ‘moon god’ claim. It is disappointing that people like Morey insult the intelligence of their audience by presenting such ignorant speculation as fact. Moreover, it does seem hypocritical that they do not even attempt to make similar unscholarly and conflation arguments based on the symbolism within Judaism and Christianity as both are now represented by symbols (the star and cross respectively). The answer is quite simple, their bias is not against Judaism or Christianity but it is against Islam. So Morey and thus who are parroting his ‘work’ need to realise that their bias is impeding their ability to produce accurate writings about Islam, thus rendering their ‘work’ as misleading mud-slinging.
This argument that Islamophobes employ is so myopic on their part because surely they realise that people (no matter how knowledgeable they are concerning Islam) will ask how does having a symbol of a moon on a flag/mosque and the pre-Islamic existence of the name Allah equate to Muslims worshipping a ‘moon god’? Surely that is just illogical, similar to putting two and two together and coming up with five. So we realise that anybody employing such a faulty argument is working on the inertia of people lazily believing their conjecture without thinking!
However, just to add further depth and pour further refutation upon the claims let us ponder upon the names of the moon gods of the past. According to Professor Coon the names of this ‘moon god’ were: The state god of the Minaeans was Wadd, that of the Katabanians 'Amm, that of the Hadramis Sin, and of the Sabaeans Il Mukah. All were the moon. (Coon, p. 399).
The names of the moon-god were Wadd, 'Amm, Sin, and Il Mukah. Allah was never the Moon-god, despite Morey's desperate pleading. (16)
As many Chrsitians repect their Pope let us quote Pope Paul (the 6th), he declared in Ecclesian Saum, “We do well to admire these people [of the Muslim religion] for all that is good and true in their worship of God” (18). This popedid not claim moon-worship but intimated Muslims worship God.
So, again the message to Robert Morey, other Christian missionaries and all Islamophobes is thus:
If you make a claim in a scholarly field then you must bring evidence to back your claim up and not conjecture and your own faulty and biased interpretations that differ to all the authoritative interpretations and sources. The first rule of making a claim is:
‘Bring your evidence if you are truthful’
The missionary is making the claim, therefore the burden of proof is on him, just to remind him; your own interpretation, speculation and conjecture does not constitute as evidence and nor can it be substituted for evidence.
As the Christians are the major believers in the ‘moon-god’ claim then let us ask them, what would Jesus do? Would he use the word Allah?
Where in the world did Jesus teach anyone that God’s name is YHWH? In fact, in the Aramaic text of John 17:3 the word used is pretty clear and that is ܐܠܗ (Alah). (6)
So Jesus used the word Alah, seems very similar to Allah. I guess the Christians who make this ‘moon-god’ claim are not aware of Aramaic (the language of Jesus).
Due to the false nature of the, moon-god’ claim we come to realise that anybody propagating the ‘moon god’ claim cannot be trusted. Either that individual is ignorant or deliberately deceptive. Either way both categories cannot be trusted as the ignorant individual has no knowledge, therefore it would be unwise to receive religious instruction from an ignorant individual. Secondly, the individual who propagates the ‘moon-god’ despite knowing it to be a false claim cannot be trusted as he/she is a liar. So I ask anybody who finds a website/individual propagating the ‘moon-god’ claim to distrust and question that individual/website. Sadly, all too many Christian evangelical sites preach the ‘moon-god’ claim. Their claims may trick the occasional Muslim but most Muslims will question it and ask those who know and upon learning the truth about their claim the one who was tricked by the claim originally will realise he/she had been lied to by Christians about the ‘moon-god and will turn away from the falsehood and come back to the Truth of Islam. May Allah guide us all. Ameen
I have added another section to this article and I have headed it under Robert Morey. This section contains extra information concerning Morey’s book and involves excerpts from work which was dedicated to exposing the misleading nature of Morey’s book and claim. I have added two recommended reads in the appendix section for those who want to take a closer look at his claim. I feel like I have expended enough time on Morey and I can only ask Allah to reward Shabir Aand MSM Saifullah et al for their detailed work on Morey’s claims. May Allah guide all of us so we are not duped by dishonest schemes such as Morey’s claim.
Robert Morey goes further with this claim, he goes so far further with this claim that his name has become infamously associated with this mistaken claim. Robert Morey is a pastor with anti-Islamic tendencies. He penned a hit-piece against Islam and brought fancy archaeological evidences for various idols all of which was irrelevant to his ‘moon-god claim’ but for some reason incorporated them into his work. I would imagine he did this to make his claim seem as though it was being backed by evidence. Ultimately, he wound up using an interesting tactic; presenting irrelevant but impressive archaeological finds whilst simultaneously claiming his ‘moon god’ idea and trying to link his irrelevant archaeological finds with his claim. I guess he hoped people would blindly follow his misleading work. Sadly, some have. I will shortly be writing a refutation of an anti-Islamic who penned an ‘article’ based on Robert Morey’s ideas, inshaAllah (God Willing).
For a fascinating insight into the lack of scholarship and honesty within Robert Morey’s book (The Moon-God Allah in The Archaeology of the Middle East) please view the appendix section for links to the most detailed analysis of Morey’s deceptive and misleading missionary piece. I did make an effort to get hold of Morey’s booklet (The Moon-God Allah in The Archaeology of the Middle East) but I was unable to obtain a copy for my own purposes. However, due to the comprehensive nature of the analysis of Robert Morey’s work which is readily available on the internet I shall highlight some of the key points that further illustrate the false nature of Morey’s claim by using the two most detailed works concerning Robert Morey's booklet and his claim (see appendix).
As discussed earlier, Morey uses the fact that the name Allah existed prior to Islam. Those who have a sufficient understanding of Islam (both Muslims and non-Muslims) are aware of this fact. However, Morey seems to be unaware of the history behind this and he presents the fact that the name Allah existed before Muhammed’s time (by showing the name of Allah was within the name given to Muhammed’s father, Abdullah, which means Servant of Allah). The name of Muhammed’s father is indeed correct and Morey is completely correct in mentioning this fact but unfortunately Morey blots his copy book by writing:
For example, both Muhammad's father and uncle had Allah as part of their names. The fact that they were given such names by their pagan parents proves that Allah was the title for the Moon-god even in Muhammad's day.
Ally exposes Morey’s lack of logic:
In the above passage Morey gives evidence and draws a conclusion. Let us identify the evidence and the conclusion to help us spot the fallacy. Evidence: Muhammad's father and uncle were given names by their pagan parents and those names included the name Allah [as in ‘Abd-Allah meaning Servant of Allah].Conclusion: This proves that Allah was the name of the Moon-god at the time.
The conclusion simply does not follow from the evidence. The most one can conclude from the stated evidence is that pagans were prepared to name their children servants of Allah. The evidence does not show whether Allah was the Moon-god or the God of Abraham. Who he was has to be established from other evidence which Morey has done his best to conceal. (16)
So, essentially Morey presents a fact and surrounds it with his own conjecture (i.e. the ‘moon-god’ claim) and presents his conjecture as factual too! In reality he preys on the individual’s lack of knowledge and takes the reader for a fool. Surely Morey realised that the average reader would pick up on this deceptive tactic he utilizes here. From the lack of good scholarship and lack of logic within his claims it seems as if Morey must have been writing for people who have a bias against Islam (i.e. Islamophobes) and other Christians who are unfamiliar with Islam, Arabic and history.
Ironically he upsets his fellow Christians with this claim as his lack of knowledge of Arabic meant he was unaware of the Christian Arabs’ usage of the name Allah. Yes, Arab Christians use the word Allah for God in their bible as well as their everyday speech.
Going back to Morey, in his desperate attempts to bring support to his claims he mangles quotes and partially quotes in an attempt to convince the unassuming reader. Imam Ally writes :
Morey so separated two clipped pieces from Coon's writing and so interwove them with his own words that Professor Coon's meaning is lost and Morey's own meaning dominates the text. This way it appears that Coon is supporting Morey whereas he is not. Whereas, for example, Professor Coon's last statement is supportive of the fact that Allah is not a Moon-god but rather "the Supreme Being," Morey's placement of it within his own text will convince a less than careful reader that Coon agrees with Morey's Moon-god-in-Islam theory. (16)
To further illustrate the lack of grasp Morey had when it concerned Islam let us ponder upon Ally’s assertion which suggests Morey was not even familiar with basic Muslim beliefs: A second problem is that Morey seems to have not the slightest idea of what Islam is. According to him the first point of the Muslim creed is not, "Allah is great" but Allah is the greatest (Morey p. 12). Where did he learn that this is the first point of the Muslim creed? If Morey is to be believed, millions of Muslims have been teaching their children the wrong shahadah (testimony of faith).But, much to Morey's shame, the first point of the Muslim creed is not that "Allah is the greatest," but that "there is no god except Allah." (16)
A consistent theme of Morey’s work is his continual repeating of the ‘moon-god’ claim. Ally writes:
A fifth problem is that Morey keeps repeating the phrase Moon-god every time he mentions Allah as if by sheer repetition he hopes to convince his readers that Allah is the Moon-god. What he ought to do is present evidence instead.
Morey claims to have archaeological evidence in order to support his claim. The fact of the matter is that he had no evidence whatsoever. The archaeological findings he showed were irrelevant to his claim and one wonders why he included it into his work. He shows two pictures of a statue found at Hazor (Israel) and proclaims it to be the ‘moon god’ without any evidence at all. Saifullah et al write: Morey claimed that "two idols of the Moon-god were found" and that each of them were "sitting upon a throne with a crescent moon carved on his chest". Apparently, the "accompanying inscriptions made it clear that these were idols of the Moon-god". Regardless of the difference of opinions concerning the nature of statue found at Hazor no scholar has ever identified this statue with a "Moon-god", nor do they say that "accompanying inscriptions" suggest that the statue was that of a "Moon-god". (17)
Morey is interjecting his own claims into archaeological findings, this is not scholarly at all. However it gets worse for Morey as he is shown to be ‘fabricating evidence’ (i.e. making things up) Saifullah et al write:
Equally ridiculous is another of Morey's claims that several smaller statues were also found "which were identified by their inscriptions as the "daughters" of the Moon-god." No such statues or inscriptions accompanying them were found in Hazor. Unfortunately for Morey he has been caught red-handed fabricating evidence. Put simply, he is making up stories here.
So Morey seems to show some irrelevant archaeological findings (none of which were in the Mecca region thus making them even more irrelevant) and adds his own fabrications to it as well as his own conjecture to it without any proof and presents the results as factual, this is not logical at all. Morey is a Christian pastor and one now wonders how he reached such a position with such an illogical and deceptive mind-set. But what was the reason behind Morey presenting pointless archaeological findings? Shabir Ally writes on this subject:
After spending almost half the book arguing a point and supporting it with documented evidence by way of maps, illustrations, diagrams, and quoted authorities, he leaves his readers with the impression that he proves his points very well and therefore he should be believed. He needs this credibility because when he turns to what he needs to prove he has no evidence, and he will offer none. He will make unsupported claims after he has already bewildered his readers with impressive irrelevant material.
Strangely enough, Morey shows no findings for the region where Prophet Muhammed resided. Morey showed irrelevant findings for Israel, South Arabia but nothing for North Arabia (the area where Islam was born) despite Morey claiming he “gathered” evidence from both North and south Arabia. Shabir Ally points out Morey’s lack of evidence for North Arabia:
In a book of fifteen pages, it is only on page seven that Morey turns to a discussion of what the situation was in Arabia. But even then, he discusses Southern Arabia which was far away from the Mecca where Muhammad preached. So, for another three pages he discusses evidence that the Moon-god was worshipped in South Arabia. He does not make any effort to alert his readers that he was unable to gather any evidence for the Moon-god in North Arabia.
Rather, he concludes on page 10:Evidence gathered from both North and South Arabia demonstrate that Moon-god worship was clearly active even in Muhammad's day and was still the dominant cult. (Morey p. 10).
But where is the evidence concerning North Arabia? The only evidence he furnished for Arabia had to do with South Arabia only.
Morey presents no evidence that Allah is a ‘moon god’. Ironically, Shabir Ally uses Coon, a reference of Morey, to show that Allah was not a ‘moon god’:
So, what was the name of that Moon-god? According to Coon,
The state god of the Minaeans was Wadd, that of the Katabanians 'Amm, that of the Hadramis Sin, and of the Sabaeans Il Mukah. All were the moon. (Coon, p. 399).
The names of the moon-god were Wadd, 'Amm, Sin, and Il Mukah. Allah was never the Moon-god, despite Morey's desperate pleading.
The most comprehensive work refuting the ‘moon god’ claim is a real scholarly effort by M.S.M. Saifullah et al. I have added the link to the appendix section for those who wish to undertake further research. To end I will quote a paragraph from their (MSM Saifullah et al) conclusion section in order to show the lack of evidence the Christian apologist provides for his claim:
Morey claims to have conducted groundbreaking research on the pre-Islamic origins of Islam. However, on the basis of his poorly edited popular level book, there is a substantial lack of evidence to support this assertion. In fact, there is a considerable amount of evidence to conclude quite the opposite… Morey's book will be remembered as one of the worst examples of published Christian missionary polemics and will join those category of books attempting to disparage Islam at the expense of objective cogent scholarship. In general, it will be observed that on numerous occasions Morey has resorted to forgery, deception, suppression of evidence and deliberate misquotation. When these fatal academic flaws are combined with his established inability to consistently cite references in an accurate manner, Morey's argument is left in tatters. Such are the extent of the factual inaccuracies in his book that one would be flabbergasted if it had been read by anyone else prior to publication. (17)
Further reading of the article leads us to a Christian (Rick Brown) denouncing the ‘moon god’ claim as a false claim.
and Allah was certainly not the moon god's name (7)
The most comprehensive work refuting the ‘moon god’ claim is a real scholarly effort is
Reply To Robert Morey's Moon-God Allah Myth: A Look At The Archaeological Evidence by M S M Saifullah, Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi & ‘Abdullah David:
Reply To Dr. Robert Morey's Moon-God Myth & Other Deceptive Attacks On Islam by Imam Shabir Ally:
1. What Is Islam by W.Montgomery Watt, Longman Group, Second Edition, 1979, pg 47
2. Janet Parshals, WABC Radio, Washington, D.C. May 15, 1996.
3. Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture, By Jack G. Shaheen, Center or Muslim-Christian Understanding: History and International Affairs, 1997 pg9
4. Abdullah Yusuf Ali Translation of the Quran into English.
5. Islam A Short History by Karen Armstrong, Phoenix Press, 2001, pg 3
6. Ibn Anwar: http://unveiling-christianity.com/2009/06/03/is-allah-a-moon-god/
7. R. Brown, "Who Is "Allah"?", International Journal Of Frontier Missions, 2006, Volume 23, No. 2, p. 79. (see: http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Sources/Allah/moongod.html)
8. Ar-Raheequl-Makhtum by Safi-ur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, Darussalam, 2002 pg 26-28
9. Ibid pg 45
10. Ibid pg 45-46
11. Ibid 46
12. Ibid 63
14. Islam A Short History by Karen Armstrong, Phoenix Press, 2001, pg 110
15. Ibn Majah, Kitab al-Fitan (Hadith 4094), 2-1370
16. Reply To Dr. Robert Morey's Moon-God Myth & Other Deceptive Attacks On Islam by Imam Shabir Ally:
17. Reply To Robert Morey's Moon-God Allah Myth: A Look At The Archaeological Evidence by M S M Saifullah, Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi & ‘Abdullah David
18. Arab and Muslim Stereotyping in American Popular Culture, By Jack G. Shaheen, Center or Muslim-Christian Understanding: History and International Affairs, 1997 pg78