Idol Worship

in their worship of idols, the arabs followed many ways difficult for the modern researcher to discover and understand. the prophet destroyed the idols of the ka'bah and commanded his companions to destroy all idols wherever they might be. after they destroyed the idols' physical existence, the muslims launched a campaign against the very mention of idols and sought to wipe them out from history, literature, and, indeed, from consciousness itself. the evidence the qur'an gives for the existence of idolatry in pre-islamic times as well as the stories which circulated in the second century a.h. concerning idolatrous practices, prove that idolatry once enjoyed a position of tremendous importance. the same evidence proves that it was of many kinds, that idolatrous practices were of great variety and that idols differed widely in the degree of sacralization conferred upon them. every tribe had a different idol which it worshiped. generally, objects of worship belonged to three genres: metal and wooden statues, stone statues, and shapeless masses of stone which one tribe or another consecrated because its origin was thought to be heavenly, whereas in reality it was only a piece of volcanic or meteoric rock. the most finely made statues were those which belonged to yaman. no wonder for the yamanis were more advanced in technology than the people of hijaz, najd, or kindah. the classical works on pre-islamic idols, however, did not report to us that any fine statues existed anywhere, except perhaps what they reported concerning hubal, namely that it was made out of carnelian in the likeness of man, that its arm once broke off and was replaced by another contributed by quraysh and made of solid gold. hubal was the greatest member of the arab pantheon and resided in makkah, inside the ka'bah. pilgrims came to its shrine from all corners. still unsatisfied by these great idols to which they prayed and offered sacrifices, the arabs used to adopt other statues or sacred stones for domestic worship and devotion. they used to circumambulate the "holy" precincts of these gods both before leaving on a trip and upon returning home. they often carried their idols with them when they traveled, presuming that the idol had permitted its worshiper to travel. all these statues, whether in the ka'bah, around it or scattered around the tribes or the provinces, were regarded as intermediaries between their worshipers and the supreme god. they regarded the worship of them as a means of rapprochement with god even though in reality that same worship had caused them to forget the true worship of god.

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