Responses to Islamic Awareness:

Rahmanan (RHMNN) - An Ancient South Arabian Moon God?


The purpose of this "Islamic Awareness" paper is to refute the claim that the epithet for Allah, ar-Rahman [or "the Merciful"], has any connection to Arab Paganism - especially any connection to a lunar deity. They hope to show that ar-Rahman is actually of Jewish-Christian origins and usage.

The Qur'an opens with the statement:

Transliteration: Bismi Allahi alrrahmani alrraheemi

YUSUFALI: In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

PICKTHALL: In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

SHAKIR: In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

Hilali and Khan: In the Name of Allâh, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

Khalifa: In the name of GOD, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Yusuf Ali and Khalifa translate this word as "Most Gracious" while other translators render this word as "the Beneficent". Rahim, which is also derived from the rhm root, is translated as "the Merciful". However, the "Islamic Awareness" tells us that ar-Rahman also means "the Merciful.

Rahmanan In South Arabia

Many of the Jewish and Christian inscriptions cited by "Islamic Awareness" come from Jonas C. Greenfield's paper "From 'LH RHMN to Al-Rahman: The Source of the Divine Epithet." This paper discusses the Pagan origins of rhmn, which was used as a title for both a King and for the god Marduk. Prior to listing the passages that "Islamic Awareness" quote-mines, this paper says:

"Before turning to the use of al-Rahman in Arabic we should examine the use of the related title rhmnn in epigraphic South Arabic inscriptions. As is well known, a highly developed polytheistic religion prevailed in South Arabia. The various kingdoms that succeeded each other and the tribal groups had different gods and goddesses. One fact that impresses the student of Southern Arabian culture is the disappearance of the pagan gods in the last two hundred years before the advent of Islam. It may be best to quote the words of Jacques Ryckmans [another scholar cited by the "Islamic-Awareness" article], a foremost expert in this field:

During the second half of the 4th century the pagan formulas disappear from the texts (one single pagan text is later). Taking their place appear monotheistic formulas invoking the "Lord of Heaven" (or ... "Heaven and Earth") and the "Merciful" (Rahmanan): Christianity and Judaism, using the same terminology, had supplanted paganism. (Ryckmans 1998:110)

This is a concise statement describing what must have been a long process. It may be useful at this point to give some examples of this terminology. The following division follows Chr. Robin's convincing study (Robin 1980): ..."

The "Islamic Awareness" team then provides the Jewish and Christian inscriptions in an attempt to down-play the fact that rhmnn was a pagan god, when the author that they cite said that these inscriptions showed the process of how this pagan term was later re-interpreted by Jews and Christians!

John Healy, probably the world's most eminent scholar on the subject, said:

"The monotheizing cult of the Merciful One (rhmnn) also became a prominent feature of the latest phase of South Arabian religion. Again this new faith is usually accounted as a sign of Judaeo-Christian influence and there is no doubt that Judaism and Christianity had both become important in pre-Islamic South Arabia. However, it is not difficult to imagine the South Arabian epithet arising from traditional pagan usage, since the worship of the Merciful One (rhmn) was widespread in Syria in the first centuries A.D. in a non-Christian and non-Jewish context under Mesopotamian cultural influence. ("The Nabataean God and Goddess", in Religions in the Greco-Roman World, vol. 139, page 96)


Abraha's Murayghan Inscription (Ry 506)

The "Islamic Awareness" team discusses a very significant inscription:

An inscription relating to Abraha's campaign of Huluban discovered at Murayghan (or Mureighan), east of the upper Wadi Tathlith, records a defeat inflicted by Abraha on the North Arabian tribe Ma'add in 662 of the Sabaean era. This inscription begins with the formula "By the power of the Merciful One and His Messiah". The titulature adopted by Abraha calls him the "King of Saba' and Raydan and Hadramaut and Yamanat and their Arabs in the plateau and lowland".

An interesting side-note to this "Islamic Awareness" paper is this mention of Abraha's inscription. First of all, the word that "Islamic Awareness" translates as "Merciful" is translated by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Museum of Saudi Arabia as:

With the power(help) of god, and the Jesus (=Christian) King Abraha Zeebman (King's title), the King of Saba'a, Zuridan and Hadrmaut.

Aside from their dubious translation of this word, and we will re-visit the issue of the translation of Ar-Rahman in a moment, the "Islamic Awareness" team probably has no clue as to what this inscription really says. Its content completely destroys the reliability and historicity of the Muslim traditions – which claim that Muhammad was born in the same year when Abraha, along with his army and elephants, attempted to invade Mecca and destroy the Kaaba. This inscription says absolutely nothing about Mecca or the Kaaba. It also says nothing about elephants. This is not terribly surprising because, if Abraha's army had used elephants, the army would have had to carry thousands of gallons of water to keep the elephants alive in the desert. Also, the bottom of an elephant's foot is too soft to walk through the desert. The inscription also says that Abraha defeated the Arabs in battle, contrary to the Muslim accounts.

A far greater problem for the Islamic traditions is that the Sabean date on this inscription is 552 A.D.1 According to the most recent scholarship, Abraha died in 553 A.D. or shortly thereafter2 – but, according to the Muslims, Muhammad was born in 570 A.D. So, if we want to believe the Muslim traditions concerning Abraha, we have to push Muhammad's birth back 15, 16 or even 18 years. This has enormous consequences for much of early Islamic history. If Muhammad was born 18 years earlier, when did Muhammad begin to receive revelations? When did the Hijrah occur? When did Muhammad die? When did various battles take place, and when did the first four Caliphs reign? This is potentially messing up everything that Muslims believe about their early history. Moreover, this may cast doubt on much of the Islamic Traditions. The accuracy of their so-called "Sahih" Hadiths cannot be trusted because the "chains of transmission" may now be broken - most events in the life of Muhammad has been pushed back 18 years and gaps are bound to open up somewhere in the chains between Muhammad and the time of Bukhari, Muslim, and the other collectors.

The "Islamic Awareness" team was quite offended by this discussion and attempted to concoct a "devastating" rebuttal. By focusing on this fairly minor side-issue, and ignoring the larger discussion, the "Islamic Awareness" team once again aids our study of Islam by exposing yet another serious problem – which essentially "devastates" the Muslim chronology of the historic events of Islam.

They begin their "devastating" rebuttal by saying:

Is it correct to translate rhmnn as "the Merciful" in this particular inscription as Beeston has done above? Not so according to the Christian missionaries. In a surprising turn of emotion, the former Laudian Professor of Arabic at the University of Oxford is accused of "dubious translation of this word" for his translation of Rahmanan as "the Merciful". Beeston translated the word in exactly the same manner as when it was first published by Gonzague Ryckmans whose French translation was "Par la puissance du Miséricordieux (Rahmânân)."[23]

The "Islamic Awareness" team uses their usual arsenal of logical fallacies, along with a good dose of hypocrisy, in their jihad against history and common sense. First, there is no "turn of emotion" in this analysis. The "Islamic Awareness" team feigns offense that I dared to question A.F.L. Beeston's interpretation of Rahmanan in this inscription. After all, how dare anyone criticize a Laudian Professor of Arabic?! This is pure and simple hypocrisy as well as an example of the logical fallacy of appeal to authority!

When I used the term "dubious", I was not questioning the intelligence, motives, or integrity of Professor Beeston – who was a great scholar. I was merely expressing doubt concerning his translation of a term. In other words, calling this translation "dubious" means that I entertain a level of doubt, somewhere between belief and disbelief and I am not sure of this alleged "fact".

As for hypocrisy, if the "Islamic Awareness" team holds former Laudian Professors of Arabic in such high esteem, then why did they say that David Samuel Margoliouth (Laudian Professor of Arabic [1889-1937]) advanced an "(in)famous theory", pursuing "a course of academic dishonesty", and that he "submit to the falsification of facts and the depravity of reasoning"? [Source]. How can they say such things about a former Laudian Professor of Arabic?

Sadly for "Islamic Awareness", even Professor Beeston is not the "friend and protector" that they believe him to be.

They continue:

Relying on an internet webpage belonging to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the missionary informs the reader that Rahmanan should be translated as "power". Such a translation suits the author's purposes for the rest of his discussion where he attempts to wrench Arabic al-Rahman from its appropriate lexicographic context. A careful inspection of the translation provided by the institute shows they translated Rahmanan as "God", not an altogether surprising decision given that Rahmanan is an epithet for God. Had the missionary taken the opportunity to study the inscription properly, he would have realised he had not properly aligned the original text with the translation causing him to mistranslate Rahmanan and label those previous scholars with incompetence.

The issue here is not the "alignment" of the text, rather it is the connotative meanings of the words that were used. As far as "wrenching" the Arabic, the translation of alrrahmani, according to the Quran translations at the beginning of this article, is Gracious or Beneficent, not Merciful. It is the term alrraheemi that is is translated as "Merciful". The "Islamic Awareness" team simply cannot wave off this issue. When we read the Qur'an, the term al-Rahman implies power, not hope/benefit/grace or mercy – as the "Islamic-Awareness" team would like to believe. For example, in Sura 19:45 Ibrahim, says to his father, who was an idol-worshipper,

"I fear you would be struck with the wrath of Al-Rahman."

Al-Rahman, in this passage, invokes fear of retribution.

The "Islamic Awareness" team now begins to address the problem:

That so many errors of fact and confused statements can be gathered into one paragraph leaves the reader in awe. According to the missionaries "Abraha died in 553 A.D. or shortly thereafter" citing the well-known Encyclopaedia Aethiopica as their source. Regrettably, even something as straightforward as looking up a half-page encyclopaedia entry becomes so strenuous that the missionaries are incapable of accurately reporting the information they claimed to have read there. Firstly, this entry was not authored by Stuart Munro-Hay but by Alexander Sima. Secondly, with regards to the date of death of Abraha, Sima wrote,

He died at an unknown date after 553 A.D.[24]

So, their "devastating" rebuttal is based on a citation error!

The missionaries mysteriously transform this simple English sentence consisting of nine words into the following, " ... Abraha died in 553 A.D. or shortly thereafter". From this faulty starting point, combined with the assumption this inscription must refer to Abraha's attempted invasion of Makkah as described in the Islamic sources, the missionaries state, "we have to push Muhammad's birth back ...", then going on to claim "this is potentially messing up everything that Muslims believe about their early history."

Professor Beeston [a former Laudian Professor of Arabic] dates Abraha's expedition to 552 A.D.! This date is also supported by Byzantine epigraphical evidence3. There are no known inscriptions, which mention Abraha, which are dated later than 552 A.D. Professor Beeston [a former Laudian Professor of Arabic] also suggested that:

"Abraha's domain would not have continued for very long after that time, to flourish to the extent necessary to mount a major offensive into the Hijaz."4

Abraha's expedition occurred during a period of declining power and wealth in Yemen, which coincided with the cessation of South Arabian inscriptions. In 572 A.D. Yemen fell to the Persians.5 So, the date of Abraha's death is not really the issue.6

Can the "Islamic Awareness" team produce any evidence that Abraha lived to 570 A.D. and carried out an assault on Mecca? Sima also, in his article in Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, does not consider the Muslim story of Abraha to be evidence that Abraha lived until 570 A.D. In fact, Sima considers the entire Muslim account of Abraha as "semi-mythical"! Sima simply says that Abraha died after his latest known inscription.7

Also, there was no "assumption", at least in my discussion, that Abraha's expedition was against Mecca. On the contrary, I pointed out the fact that this inscription does not mention Mecca or the use of elephants in desert warfare. In fact, there is no mention of Mecca in any pre-Qur'anic inscription, and even Sura 105 makes no mention of Mecca.

The problems of pre-hijra sira chronology are well-known and have been discussed by Muslim scholars since the inception of Islam.[25] Other dating systems of late antiquity suffer from the same functional problems including the Sabaean chronology from which the Christian date of the above named inscription is calculated.[26] One cannot however equate the problems of pre-hijra sira chronology with post-hijra chronology. The missionaries falsely assume all landmark events in Islamic history are calculated according to the year of the birth of Prophet Muhammad. The year of hijra is counted from the date of the Prophet's flight to Madinah and is not based on the Prophet's age or date of birth.

This is an astonishing statement, to say the least! When dealing with the Christian Missionaries, the "Islamic Awareness" team demands absolute chronological accuracy. In the case of Potiphar, they would accept nothing less than a dated inscription from his lifetime in order to prove his existence, and they demand dated manuscripts in the case of the Midrash literature.

But, when it comes to Islam, the chronology problems "are well-known and have been discussed by Muslim scholars since the inception of Islam", so I guess that we have nothing to worry about! This is yet another fallacy employed by "Islamic Awareness" – the fallacy of the double standard.

However, the "Islamic Awareness" team is correct that this issue has been discussed by Muslim scholars since the inception of Islam. Muhammad ibn al-Sa'ib (died 726 A.D.) said that Muhammad was born 15 years before the "Year of the Elephant". Ja'far ibn Abi 'l-Mughira (died early 8th century A.D.) dates Muhammad's birth 10 years after the "Year of the Elephant", while Al-Kalbi tells us that Shu'ayb ibn Ishaq (died 805 A.D.) said that Muhammad was born 23 years after this event. Al-Zuhri (died 742 A.D.) believed that Muhammad was born 30 years after the "Year of the Elephant", while Musa ibn 'Uqba (died 758) believed that Muhammad was born 70 years later!8 If we assume that the "Year of the Elephant" was 570 A.D., then Muhammad could have been born anytime between 555 A.D. and 640 A.D. and could have died anytime between 615 A.D. and 700 A.D.! How can we trust any of the hadiths? The "transmitters" cited by the hadith may not have been alive during Muhammad's lifetime, to witness the events which they are believed to have "transmitted". The problem of dating Muhammad's birth date is an issue that not only affects the hadith traditions; but also affects the reliability of the history of the Quran's collection and compilation.

Additionally, the missionaries did not conclude that Islamic history is measured from the date of Muhammad's birth. However, if we are not sure of this date, then when did Muhammad imagine his call to be a "Prophet"? Islamic tradition tells us that Muhammad was 40, when he received his "call". So, when did this occur, in 610 A.D. or around 592 A.D.? If we cannot be sure of when Muhammad was born, but we "know" that he was 40 years old when he began to fancy himself a "Prophet", then how can we be sure of any date, including the hijra, given to us by Islamic tradition?

The post-hijra chronology is not as problem-free as "Islamic Awareness" wishes to imagine. The hadith tell us:

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:
Allah's Apostle was inspired Divinely at the age of forty. Then he stayed in Mecca for thirteen years, and then was ordered to migrate, and he migrated to Medina and stayed there for ten years and then died. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 190)

Narrated Ibn Abbas:
Allah's Apostle started receiving the Divine Inspiration at the age of forty. Then he stayed in Mecca for thirteen years, receiving the Divine Revelation. Then he was ordered to migrate and he lived as an Emigrant for ten years and then died at the age of sixty-three (years). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 242)

Narrated Ibn Abbas:
Allah's Apostle stayed in Mecca for thirteen years (after receiving the first Divine Inspiration) and died at the age of sixty-three. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 243)

However, other traditions provide a very different chronology:

Narrated Rabia bin Abi Abdur-Rahman:
I heard Anas bin Malik describing the Prophet saying, "He was of medium height amongst the people, neither tall nor short; he had a rosy color, neither absolutely white nor deep brown; his hair was neither completely curly nor quite lank. Divine Inspiration was revealed to him when he was forty years old. He stayed ten years in Mecca receiving the Divine Inspiration, and stayed in Medina for ten more years. When he expired, he had scarcely twenty white hairs in his head and beard." Rabi'a said, "I saw some of his hairs and it was red. When I asked about that, I was told that it turned red because of scent." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 747)

Narrated Anas:
Allah's Apostle was neither very tall nor short, neither absolutely white nor deep brown. His hair was neither curly nor lank. Allah sent him (as an Apostle) when he was forty years old. Afterwards he resided in Mecca for ten years and in Medina for ten more years. When Allah took him unto Him, there was scarcely twenty white hairs in his head and beard. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 748)

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet was neither conspicuously tall, nor short; neither, very white, nor tawny. His hair was neither much curled, nor very straight. Allah sent him (as an Apostle) at the age of forty (and after that) he stayed for ten years in Mecca, and for ten more years in Medina. Allah took him unto Him at the age of sixty, and he scarcely had ten white hairs on his head and in his beard. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 72, Number 787)

So did Muhammad stay in Mecca for 10 years, or 13 years, before the hijra? These hadith challenge any attempt to accurately date the hijra. This problem also shows that Islamic sources, which are almost universally accepted by Muslims as true, are muddled, confusing and contradictory in regard to dating important events that affect the religion.

So, even if Abraha's expedition to Mecca was an accurate historical event and Muhammad was born in that year [and there is no historic record to substantiate either claim], we still do not know from the hadith exactly when the hijra took place. Simply put, if the date of Muhammad's birth is incorrect, or unknown, then the Muslim chronology of its own history collapses.

The hijra date is independently established from Islamic sources in dated inscriptions and papyri. Excluding Arabic-only papyri, there are dozens of Greek [e.g., Mu'awiya's inscription at Hammat Gader, 42 AH / 662-63 CE], Greek-Coptic and Greek-Arabic [e.g., PERF 558 from 22 AH / 642 CE] papyri and inscriptions showing a hijra year in addition to a Greek dating.[27]

These inscriptions do not independently "establish" anything. The Greeks and the Copts did not independently research, verify, and confirm the historicity and date of the hijra, they simply reckoned the date "according to the Arabs" (kata Arabas). These inscriptions do not verify the historicity of the hijra any more than my use of the abbreviation A.H.!

Adopting the missionaries reasoning, one would be forced to conclude that people who own their own house in the Western world are unsure when their mortgage payments will end due to the uncertainty of when Jesus was born.

This is nothing more than a non sequitur. The missionaries, as well as others, accept the current dating system [A.D.] just as the jihadis, and other Muslims, accept their dating system [A.H.].

As for the author's attempt to transform himself into an elephantologist by claiming, amongst other things, that " ... the bottom of an elephant's foot is too soft to walk through the desert" – it is, quite simply, ludicrous.

It is the Islamic account which is simply ludicrous! The elephant's foot is, in fact, the weakest part of that animal's body. A leading cause of elephant deaths is foot disease, so it is highly unlikely that an army of elephants could march across the harsh Arabian desert.

Also, a healthy elephant drinks approximately 50 gallons of water per day, so exactly how did the army of Abraha haul so much water? An elephant can walk, under extreme conditions, up to 50 miles in a day. It is roughly 500 miles from Sanaa Yemen to Mecca [straight line distance]. However, one could not march in a stright line because of the mountainous landscape of this region. In reality, Abraha and his elephants would have to march between 800 to 1000 miles "on the ground" – along the coast, on the western side of the mountains, or through the desert on the eastern side of the mountains. Therefore, even if they could have marched in a straight line over the mountains, and assuming that the elephants marched 50 miles per day [which is highly unlikely in the harsh conditions of the desert]9, Abraha's army would have to haul 500 gallons [or 4170 pounds] of water per elephant! In addition to the problem of carrying water, an elephant eats between 300-350 pounds of vegetation per day. Therefore, Abraha's army would, in addition to carrying 4170 pounds of water per elephant [Islamic tradition claims that Abraha's army had between 9 and 13 elephants and 60,000 troops], also have to carry 3000 to 3500 pounds of food per elephant! Another problem is that elephants spend about 16 hours a day eating, which would dramatically reduce the number of hours that the elephants could march in a day. If Abraha's army marched along the coast route, the elephants – like other mammals – could not drink sea water to quench their thirst. Do the oases of south and central Arabia possess enough water and vegetation to support between 9 and 13 elephants, and an army of 60,000 men? Another problem is that fact that an elephant's skin has no perspiratory glands, so these animals have to cool themselves in another way. That is why elephants spend as much time as they can in waterholes putting mud on their backs. In fact, the mud is very important because it protects the elephant's skin against sunburn.

It is the scenario of marching an army of elephants across the Arabian desert that is truly ludicrous!

The Arabs did face war elephants in the Battle of al-Qadisiyyah when they fought the Sassanid-Persian army sometime around the year 636 A.D. The Persian war elephants completely terrified the Arab cavalry, and caused mass confusion and chaos among the Arab fighters for two entire days. On the third day of battle, the Muslim army changed its tactics and succeeded in frightening the Persian elephants. Why did they originally react as if they knew nothing of war elephants?

Lexicographic Study Of Rahmanan

The "Islamic Awareness" team's strategy here is to muddle the meaning of several words until they become the same, beginning with the Arabic term ar-Rahman, which is from the R-H-M triconsonantal root. In Hebrew, the root is rchm. The Jewish Talmud and the Targum use this term as a title for God "the Merciful". In Sabean this root is rhmnn (Rahmanan in Sabean is the definite form because it ends in "nan", while in Arabic, the "ar" serves the same purpose). So, the "Islamic Awareness" team will use the usual combination of quote-mining and sophistry in order to convince us that the Hebrew rchm = the Sabean rhmnn = the Arabic ar-Rahman.

Although the majority of Qur'an translators render this word as "Gracious" or "Beneficent", some Muslims believe that translating ar-Rahman as "the Merciful" is incorrect. If we look at the Qur'an passages, in which this word appears, this translation really doesn't make sense. It appears that this word had an earlier meaning which is closer to "the Almighty" or the "all Powerful".

For example, in Sura 19:45, Ibrahim says to his father:

"O my father! I fear lest a Penalty afflict thee from Al-Rahman, so that thou become to Satan a friend."

Clearly, the word al-Rahman in this passage does not convey "benefit" or "grace", but conveys the threat of punishment.

Sura 19 [Maryam] uses al-Rahman 16 times. In verse 18, Maryam asks al-Rahman for protection from, what she believes to be an intruder – who is really Jibreel. It would make far greater sense for Maryam to ask for protection from "the Almighty" than to ask for mercy from "the Beneficent" or "Gracious"!

Sura 55 [Surat Al-Rahman] also gives the impression that Allah is "the Almighty" or the "all Powerful" rather than the "Beneficent" or "Gracious".

The "Islamic Awareness" team makes an issue of the fact that Jews and Christians used rchm and al-Rahman as attributes of the God of Israel. How did this term evolve from Paganism to Judaism and Christianity?

According to Philip Hitti, the Nabateans, who were from north Arabia, brought both ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim from southern Syria. Eventually, these Pagan gods found a place in the pantheons of South Arabian temples (Hitti, History of the Arabs : from the earliest times to the present 2002, p. 105).

The people of Yemen worshiped a deity whose name was ar-Rahman - which Muhammad adopted for the name of God. The Jews used the term Rahmana as a name for God in the Talmudic period. The Christians of Yemen built a monument [Abraha's Inscription On The Marib Dam (CIS 541)], which the "Islamic Awareness" team cites, that clearly enunciates the doctrine of the Trinity:

"In the power of the All-merciful and His Messiah and the Holy Ghost,"

Muhammad most likely thought that the use of ar-Rahman, as a name for his god, was a good marketing ploy. After all, he could attract both the Jews and some Pagans to his new "religion". Nearly all of the cases where the Qur'an refers to god as ar-Rahman occur in the Meccan [earliest] Suras of the Qur'an. The Qur'an only uses ar-Rahman twice in the Medina-period - Suras 2 and 59, which date from between 2 – 4 A.H..

So, what happened when Muhammad preached ar-Rahman to his people? In Surah 17:110 Muhammad tells the Meccans:

Say: "Call upon Allah, or call upon Rahman: by whatever name ye call upon Him, (it is well): for to Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. Neither speak thy Prayer aloud, nor speak it in a low tone, but seek a middle course between."

The Meccans who heard this "revelation" were confused. Accoring to Ibn Sa'd:

... The Quraysh sent al-Nadr Ibn al-Harith Ibn 'Alqamah and 'Uqbah Ibn Abi Mu'ayt and others to the Jews of Yathrib and told them to ask them (Jews): We have come to you because a great affair has taken place amidst us. There is an humble orphan who makes a big claim, considering himself to be the messenger of al-Rahman, while we do not know any al-Rahman except the Rahman of al-Yamamah ... (Ibn Sa'd, Kitab Al-Tabaqat Al-Kabir, English translation by S. Moinul Haq, M.A., PH.D assisted by H.K. Ghazanfar M.A. [Kitab Bhavan Exporters & Importers, 1784 Kalan Mahal, Daryaganj, New Delhi- 110 002 India], Volume I, parts I & II, p. 189)

It is obvious that the Meccans deduced that ar-Rahman was not the God of the Jews and Christians - as much as the "Islamic Awareness" team would like to have us believe - but was a Pagan god from Yemen.

It is interesting to note that Muhammad's Qur'an does not use ar-Rahman after the year 4 A.H. [approximately 626 A.D.]. Why did Muhammad stop using this name at this point in time? One possibility is the fact that another false Prophet and competitor named Musaylima preached in the name of ar-Rahman, the south Arabian Allah (Rodinson, Muhammad 2002, p. 67, 119). This could probably be the reason why Muhammad abandoned ar-Rahman and adopted the Allah of the Meccan Pagans as his only God. The first records of Musaylima date from the late 9th year of the Hijri - the Year of Delegations when he accompanied a delegation of his tribe to Madinah.

Pagans And Neo-Pagans

The "Islamic Awareness" team attempts to convince us that Muhammad's ar-Rahman is really no different than the Christian and Jewish uses of similar epithets for God. As Sam Shamoun pointed out in his article on ar-Rahman, it is clear that the people of Mecca did not recognize ar-Rahman as the God of the Christians and the Jews. The Christian inscriptions presented by the "Islamic Awareness" clearly shows that the authors were describing the Triune God – not Muhammad's concept of Allah.


The "Islamic Awareness" team, like many Muslims, are very sensitive when faced with their religion's Pagan origins. Many Pagan customs and practices, not directly involving the practice of idolatry, were preserved in Islam such as the Hajj rituals, the Kaaba, Ramadan, and the five daily prayers. Muhammad attempted to place a monotheistic veneer over these Pagan practices and invented a historical narrative to present these items as if they belonged to some "long lost" Abrahamic traditions of Judaism and Christianity. The final and most frightening fact for Muslims to confront is that Muhammad's god is nothing more than a repackaged version of Pagan deities.

I do owe the "Islamic Awareness" team a debt of gratitude. Their rude and inarticulate attack on the original article was, in fact, "devastating" – but not to my article! By calling attention to the fact that no one can say, with any degree of certainty, when Muhammad was born allows us to doubt the historicity of the entire Islamic narrative. The isnads of the hadith, as well as the entire timeline for the collection and compilation of the Qur'an, can [and should] be called into question.

The major conclusion is the fact that Ar-Rahman was a Pagan god that was worshipped in southern Arabia, and the "Islamic-Awareness" team does not dispute this fact. The "Islamic-Awareness" team's attempt to link Muhammad's use of ar-Rahman to similar Jewish and Christian epithets failed miserably based on the historical record. When Muhammad told the Meccans to bow to Rahman, the people did not recognize this deity as the God of the Christians and the Jews.

Andrew Vargo


1 Lawrence I. Conrad, "Abraha and Muhammad: Some Observations Apropos of Chronology and Literary "topoi" in the Early Arabic Historical Tradition", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 50, No. 2 (1987), pp. 225-240, and Francis E. Peters, Mecca: A Literary History of the Muslim Holy Land, page 40.

2 Alexander Sima, "Abraha" in Siegbert von Uhlig, ed., Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: A-C (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2003), p. 42.

3 Lawrence I. Conrad, "Abraha and Muhammad: Some Observations Apropos of Chronology and Literary "topoi" in the Early Arabic Historical Tradition", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 50, No. 2 (1987), p. 237.

4 Ibid, p. 228.

5 Ibid, p. 237.

6 The question is not so much the exact date of death for Abraha. That was only used for easy comprehension. After all, if Abraha died before 570, he could obviously not have lead that expedition. [And that he died not too long after the latest known inscription by or about him is likely.] But there are a number of other reasons which make it highly unlikely that Abraha would have been able to mount a major military offensive into the Hijaz, as A.F.L. Beeston indicated.

Besides the issue whether Abraha was even alive for so long, and whether he was politically and economically powerful enough for such an attack, the essential detail in this legendary story, i.e. him marching from San‘a’ to Mecca with an army of elephants is next to impossible to imagine, as we will discuss shortly.

7 Alexander Sima states in the above cited article on Abraha: "... He died at an unknown date after 553 A.D. Later Arabic sources expand A.'s story with semi-mythical details, including his construction of a great church at al-Qulays (San‘a’) and his expedition to conquer Mecca in the “Year of the Elephant”." Clearly, in the opinion of Sima, the Muslim legend of Abraha attacking Mecca does not have sufficient historical weight to choose instead the formulation that "he died at an unknown date after 570 A.D." According to Sima, the latest date of Abraha's life that is confirmed by sound archeological and/or historical methods is 553 A.D. The story of the failed conquest of Mecca is in Sima's conviction not a historical event. I would like to take the opportunity to thank "Islamic Awareness" for forcing me to read Sima's article more carefully!

8 Lawrence I. Conrad, "Abraha and Muhammad: Some Observations Apropos of Chronology and Literary "topoi" in the Early Arabic Historical Tradition", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 50, No. 2 (1987), p. 234.

9 Even if we assume that "an elephant can walk, under extreme conditions, up to 50 miles in a day", we would have to ask for how many days an elephant can keep up that speed. Most likely we have to double or even triple the time that the elephants would need to cover the whole distance.

However, that may not really be the main question regarding the speed in which the army could move. The elephants can't go on their own. The speed of the total army depends on its slowest members. Even though Abraha probably also had a good number of camels and horses, the army of 60,000 would still consist mainly of foot-soldiers (infantry), and those would certainly not be able to walk 50 miles a day, particularly in the scorching heat of Arabia.

In other words, in reality the way is much longer than the 500 miles of "straight-line distance", the progress will be much slower than 50 miles a day, which means the supply of food and water for the elephants, camels, horses and the 60,000 soldiers would have to be far greater than estimated in the main text.


"Rahman" Verses in Chronological Order

[Based on Sir William Muir's chronology]

First Period:

1:1, [Mecca]

Bismi Allahi alrrahmani alrraheemi

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

1:3, [Mecca] Alrrahmani alrraheemi

Most Gracious, Most Merciful;

Third Period:

Mohammed's public ministry to the Abyssinian emigration

78:37, [Mecca]:

Rabbi alssamawati waal-ardi wama baynahuma alrrahmani la yamlikoona minhu khitaban

(From) the Lord of the heavens and the earth, and all between, (Allah) Most Gracious: None shall have power to argue with Him.

78:38. [Mecca]:

Yawma yaqoomu alrroohu waalmala-ikatu saffan la yatakallamoona illa man athina lahu alrrahmanu waqala sawaban

The Day that the Spirit and the angels will stand forth in ranks, none shall speak except any who is permitted by (Allah) Most Gracious, and He will say what is right.

55:1, [Mecca]:

ar-Rahman: Bismi Allahi alrrahmani alrraheemi

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

Fourth Period:

From the sixth to the tenth year of Mohammed's ministry

67:3, [Mecca]

Allathee khalaqa sabAAa samawatin tibaqan ma tara fee khalqi alrrahmani min tafawutin fairjiAAi albasara hal tara min futoorin

He Who created the seven heavens one above another: No want of proportion wilt thou see in the Creation of (God) Most Gracious. So turn thy vision again: seest thou any flaw?

67:19, [Mecca]

Awa lam yaraw ila alttayri fawqahum saffatin wayaqbidna ma yumsikuhunna illa alrrahmanu innahu bikulli shay-in baseerun

Do they not observe the birds above them, spreading their wings and folding them in? None can uphold them except (God) Most Gracious: Truly (God) Most Gracious: Truly it is He that watches over all things.

67:20, [Mecca]

Amman hatha allathee huwa jundun lakum yansurukum min dooni alrrahmani ini alkafiroona illa fee ghuroorin

Nay, who is there that can help you, (even as) an army, besides (God) Most Merciful? In nothing but delusion are the Unbelievers.

67:29, [Mecca]

Qul huwa alrrahmanu amanna bihi waAAalayhi tawakkalna fasataAAlamoona man huwa fee dalalin mubeenin

Say: "He is (God) Most Gracious: We have believed in Him, and on Him have we put our trust: So, soon will ye know which (of us) it is that is in manifest error."

41:2, [Mecca]:

Tanzeelun mina alrrahmani alrraheemi

A Revelation from (God), Most Gracious, Most Merciful; -

50:33, [Mecca]:

Man khashiya alrrahmana bialghaybi wajaa biqalbin muneebin

"Who feared (God) Most Gracious Unseen, and brought a heart turned in devotion (to Him):

26:5, [Mecca]:

Wama ya/teehim min thikrin mina alrrahmani muhdathin illa kanoo AAanhu muAArideena

But there comes not to them a newly-revealed Message from (God) Most Gracious, but they turn away therefrom.

Fifth Period:

From the tenth year of Mohammed's ministry to the Flight from Mecca

36:11, [Mecca]:

Innama tunthiru mani ittabaAAa alththikra wakhashiya alrrahmana bialghaybi fabashshirhu bimaghfiratin waajrin kareemin

Thou canst but admonish such a one as follows the Message and fears the (Lord) Most Gracious, unseen: give such a one, therefore, good tidings, of Forgiveness and a Reward most generous.

36:15, [Mecca]:

Qaloo ma antum illa basharun mithluna wama anzala alrrahmanu min shay-in in antum illa takthiboona

The (people) said: "Ye are only men like ourselves; and (God) Most Gracious sends no sort of revelation: ye do nothing but lie."

36:23, [Mecca]:

Aattakhithu min doonihi alihatan in yuridni alrrahmanu bidurrin la tughni AAannee shafaAAatuhum shay-an wala yunqithooni

"Shall I take (other) gods besides Him? If (God) Most Gracious should intend some adversity for me, of no use whatever will be their intercession for me, nor can they deliver me.

36:52, [Mecca]:

Qaloo ya waylana man baAAathana min marqadina hatha ma waAAada alrrahmanu wasadaqa almursaloona

They will say: "Ah! Woe unto us! Who hath raised us up from our beds of repose?"... (A voice will say:) "This is what (God) Most Gracious had promised. And true was the word of the apostles!"

19:18, [Mecca]:

Qalat innee aAAoothu bialrrahmani minka in kunta taqiyyan

She said: "I seek refuge from thee to (God) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear God."

19:26, [Mecca]:

Fakulee waishrabee waqarree AAaynan fa-imma tarayinna mina albashari ahadan faqoolee innee nathartu lilrrahmani sawman falan okallima alyawma insiyyan

"So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye. And if thou dost see any man, say, 'I have vowed a fast to (God) Most Gracious, and this day will I enter into not talk with any human being'"

19:44, [Mecca]:

Ya abati la taAAbudi alshshaytana inna alshshaytana kana lilrrahmani AAasiyyan

"O my father! serve not Satan: for Satan is a rebel against (God) Most Gracious.

19:45, [Mecca]:

Ya abati innee akhafu an yamassaka AAathabun mina alrrahmani fatakoona lilshshyatani waliyyan

"O my father! I fear lest a Penalty afflict thee from (God) Most Gracious, so that thou become to Satan a friend."

19:58, [Mecca]:

Ola-ika allatheena anAAama Allahu AAalayhim mina alnnabiyyeena min thurriyyati adama wamimman hamalna maAAa noohin wamin thurriyyati ibraheema wa-isra-eela wamimman hadayna waijtabayna itha tutla AAalayhim ayatu alrrahmani kharroo sujjadan wabukiyyan

Those were some of the prophets on whom God did bestow His Grace, - of the posterity of Adam, and of those who We carried (in the Ark) with Noah, and of the posterity of Abraham and Israel of those whom We guided and chose. Whenever the Signs of (God) Most Gracious were rehearsed to them, they would fall down in prostrate adoration and in tears.

19:61, [Mecca]:

Jannati AAadnin allatee waAAada alrrahmanu AAibadahu bialghaybi innahu kana waAAduhu ma/tiyyan

Gardens of Eternity, those which (God) Most Gracious has promised to His servants in the Unseen: for His promise must (necessarily) come to pass.

19:69, [Mecca]:

Thumma lananziAAanna min kulli sheeAAatin ayyuhum ashaddu AAala alrrahmani AAitiyyan

Then shall We certainly drag out from every sect all those who were worst in obstinate rebellion against (God) Most Gracious.

19:75, [Mecca]:

Qul man kana fee alddalalati falyamdud lahu alrrahmanu maddan hatta itha raaw ma yooAAadoona imma alAAathaba wa-imma alssaAAata fasayaAAlamoona man huwa sharrun makanan waadAAafu jundan

Say: "If any men go astray, (God) Most Gracious extends (the rope) to them, until, when they see the warning of God (being fulfilled) - either in punishment or in (the approach of) the Hour, - they will at length realise who is worst in position, and (who) weakest in forces!

19:78, [Mecca]:

AttalaAAa alghayba ami ittakhatha AAinda alrrahmani AAahdan

Has he penetrated to the Unseen, or has he taken a contract with (God) Most Gracious?

19:85, [Mecca]:

Yawma nahshuru almuttaqeena ila alrrahmani wafdan

The day We shall gather the righteous to (God) Most Gracious, like a band presented before a king for honours,

19:87, [Mecca]:

La yamlikoona alshshafaAAata illa mani ittakhatha AAinda alrrahmani AAahdan

None shall have the power of intercession, but such a one as has received permission (or promise) from (God) Most Gracious.

19:88, [Mecca]:

Waqaloo ittakhatha alrrahmanu waladan

They say: "(God) Most Gracious has begotten a son!"

19:91, [Mecca]:

An daAAaw lilrrahmani waladan

That they should invoke a son for (God) Most Gracious.

19:92, [Mecca]:

Wama yanbaghee lilrrahmani an yattakhitha waladan

For it is not consonant with the majesty of (God) Most Gracious that He should beget a son.

19:93, [Mecca]:

In kullu man fee alssamawati waal-ardi illa atee alrrahmani AAabdan

Not one of the beings in the heavens and the earth but must come to (God) Most Gracious as a servant.

19:96, [Mecca]:

Inna allatheena amanoo waAAamiloo alssalihati sayajAAalu lahumu alrrahmanu wuddan

On those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, will (God) Most Gracious bestow love.

27:30, [Mecca]:

Innahu min sulaymana wa-innahu bismi Allahi alrrahmani alrraheemi

"It is from Solomon, and is (as follows): 'In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful:

25:26, [Mecca]:

Almulku yawma-ithin alhaqqu lilrrahmani wakana yawman AAala alkafireena AAaseeran

That Day, the dominion as of right and truth, shall be (wholly) for (God) Most Merciful: it will be a Day of dire difficulty for the Misbelievers.

25:59, [Mecca]:

Allathee khalaqa alssamawati waal-arda wama baynahuma fee sittati ayyamin thumma istawa AAala alAAarshi alrrahmanu fais-al bihi khabeeran

He Who created the heavens and the earth and all that is between, in six days, and is firmly established on the Throne (of Authority): God Most Gracious: ask thou, then, about Him of any acquainted (with such things).

25:60, [Mecca]:

Wa-itha qeela lahumu osjudoo lilrrahmani qaloo wama alrrahmanu anasjudu lima ta/muruna wazadahum nufooran

When it is said to them, "Adore ye (God) Most Gracious!", they say, "And what is (God) Most Gracious? Shall we adore to that which thou commandest us?" And it increases their flight (from the Truth).

25:63, [Mecca]:

WaAAibadu alrrahmani allatheena yamshoona AAala al-ardi hawnan wa-itha khatabahumu aljahiloona qaloo salaman

And the servants of (God) Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, "Peace!";

20:5, [Mecca]:

Alrrahmanu AAala alAAarshi istawa

(God) Most Gracious is firmly established on the throne (of authority).

20:90, [Mecca]:

Walaqad qala lahum haroonu min qablu ya qawmi innama futintum bihi wa-inna rabbakumu alrrahmanu faittabiAAoonee waateeAAoo amree

Aaron had already, before this said to them: "O my people! ye are being tested in this: for verily your Lord is (God) Most Gracious; so follow me and obey my command."

20:108, [Mecca]: Yawma-ithin yattabiAAoona alddaAAiya la AAiwaja lahu wakhashaAAati al-aswatu lilrrahmani fala tasmaAAu illa hamsan

On that Day will they follow the Caller (straight): no crookedness (can they show) him: all sounds shall humble themselves in the Presence of (God) Most Gracious: nothing shalt thou hear but the tramp of their feet (as they march).

20:109, [Mecca]:

Yawma-ithin la tanfaAAu alshshafaAAatu illa man athina lahu alrrahmanu waradiya lahu qawlan

On that Day shall no intercession avail except for those for whom permission has been granted by (God) Most Gracious and whose word is acceptable to Him.

43:17, [Mecca]:

Wa-itha bushshira ahaduhum bima daraba lilrrahmani mathalan thalla wajhuhu muswaddan wahuwa katheemun

When news is brought to one of them of (the birth of) what he sets up as a likeness to (God) Most Gracious, his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief!

43:19, [Mecca]:

WajaAAaloo almala-ikata allatheena hum AAibadu alrrahmani inathan ashahidoo khalqahum satuktabu shahadatuhum wayus-aloona

And they make into females angels who themselves serve God. Did they witness their creation? Their evidence will be recorded, and they will be called to account!

43:20, [Mecca]:

Waqaloo law shaa alrrahmanu ma AAabadnahum ma lahum bithalika min AAilmin in hum illa yakhrusoona

("Ah!") they say, "If it had been the will of (God) Most Gracious, we should not have worshipped such (deities)!" Of that they have no knowledge! they do nothing but lie!

43:33, [Mecca]:

Walawla an yakoona alnnasu ommatan wahidatan lajaAAalna liman yakfuru bialrrahmani libuyootihim suqufan min fiddatin wamaAAarija AAalayha yathharoona

And were it not that (all) men might become of one (evil) way of life, We would provide, for everyone that blasphemes against (God) Most Gracious, silver roofs for their houses and (silver) stair-ways on which to go up,

43:36, [Mecca]:

Waman yaAAshu AAan thikri alrrahmani nuqayyid lahu shaytanan fahuwa lahu qareenun

If anyone withdraws himself from remembrance of (God) Most Gracious, We appoint for him an evil one, to be an intimate companion to him.

43:45, [Mecca]:

Wais-al man arsalna min qablika min rusulina ajaAAalna min dooni alrrahmani alihatan yuAAbadoona

And question thou our apostles whom We sent before thee; did We appoint any deities other than (God) Most Gracious, to be worshipped?

43:81, [Mecca]:

Qul in kana lilrrahmani waladun faana awwalu alAAabideena

Say: "If (God) Most Gracious had a son, I would be the first to worship."

21:26, [Mecca]:

Waqaloo ittakhatha alrrahmanu waladan subhanahu bal AAibadun mukramoona

And they say: "(God) Most Gracious has begotten offspring." Glory to Him! they are (but) servants raised to honour.

21:36, [Mecca]:

Wa-itha raaka allatheena kafaroo in yattakhithoonaka illa huzuwan ahatha allathee yathkuru alihatakum wahum bithikri alrrahmani hum kafiroona

When the Unbelievers see thee, they treat thee not except with ridicule. "Is this," (they say), "the one who talks of your gods?" and they blaspheme at the mention of (God) Most Gracious!

21:42, [Mecca]: Qul man yaklaokum biallayli waalnnahari mina alrrahmani bal hum AAan thikri rabbihim muAAridoona

Say: "Who can keep you safe by night and by day from (the Wrath of) (God) Most Gracious?" Yet they turn away from the mention of their Lord.

21:112, [Mecca]:

Qala rabbi ohkum bialhaqqi warabbuna alrrahmanu almustaAAanu AAala ma tasifoona

Say: "O my Lord! judge Thou in truth!" "Our Lord Most Gracious is the One Whose assistance should be sought against the blasphemies ye utter!"

17:110, [Mecca] — the Passage featured in this article:

Quli odAAoo Allaha awi odAAoo alrrahmana ayyan ma tadAAoo falahu al-asmao alhusna wala tajhar bisalatika wala tukhafit biha waibtaghi bayna thalika sabeelan

Say: "Call upon Allah, or call upon Rahman: by whatever name ye call upon Him, (it is well): for to Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. Neither speak thy Prayer aloud, nor speak it in a low tone, but seek a middle course between."

13:30, [Mecca]:

Kathalika arsalnaka fee ommatin qad khalat min qabliha omamun litatluwa AAalayhimu allathee awhayna ilayka wahum yakfuroona bialrrahmani qul huwa rabbee la ilaha illa huwa AAalayhi tawakkaltu wa-ilayhi matabi

Thus have we sent thee amongst a People before whom (long since) have (other) Peoples (gone and) passed away; in order that thou mightest rehearse unto them what We send down unto thee by inspiration; yet do they reject (Him), the Most Gracious! Say: "He is my Lord! There is no god but He! On Him is my trust, and to Him do I turn!"

Medinan Period

2:163, [Medina] – A.H. 2 :

Wa-ilahukum ilahun wahidun la ilaha illa huwa alrrahmanu alrraheemu

And your Allah is One Allah: There is no god but He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

59:22, [Medina] A.H. 4 :

Huwa Allahu allathee la ilaha illa huwa AAalimu alghaybi waalshshahadati huwa alrrahmanu alrraheemu

Allah is He, than Whom there is no other god;- Who knows (all things) both secret and open; He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

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