Was Allah Originally a Babylonian God of Violence?

One of the first tales told to American students about Islam is that Allah, the Muslim God, is the same as Yahweh in the Bible.

It’s something I never bought into even when I was a young and naive religious studies student in college. I suppose my childhood passion for medieval literature and the Crusades had inoculated me against the most egregious fantasies of Muslim propagandists. Plus, Islam is just too different from biblical religion for the alleged connection to be reasonable.

Consequently, there was never a satisfactory answer for the origin of the God of Mohammed, who seemed to just spring out of the mountain cave with Mohammed’s visions and co-opt and rewrite the stories of the Bible, creating a perverted version of Judeo-Christian beliefs that calls on Muslims to convert or destroy the entire world.

Author Theodore Shoebat has an interesting theory, however, and like most “a-ha!” moments, it was hiding in plain sight, apparently ignored or kept under wraps by scholars.

Shoebat traces the earliest mention of Allah worship to Babylon, approximately 1700 B.C., in the “Epic of Atrahasis.”

In the story told on stone tablets, a portion of the legends talks about a god named Alla, who is described as a god of “violence and revolution.”

In one scene, the lesser gods grow tired of working for the god Enlil (or Elil) and rebel, led by the god Alla, who encourages them to drag Enlil out of his house:

“Then Alla made his voice heard and spoke to the gods his brothers, ‘Come! Let us carry Elil, the counselor of gods, the warrior, from his dwelling. Now, cry battle! Let us mix fight with battle!’ The gods listened to his speech, set fire to their tools, put aside their spades for fire, their loads for the fire-god, they flared up.”

(One interesting note: Enlil in Mesopotamian myths is the god who was said to have grown weary of the noise made by humans and brought down a worldwide flood to get rid of them, a flood which was said to be survived by one man, Utnapishtim, and his family, who were spared because they had a boat loaded with animals and food. Some scholars see a connection to the biblical story of Noah.)

According to Shoebat, the cult of Alla came to Mesopotamia with the Akkadians, who originally migrated from Yemen, in the south Arabian Peninsula. He further reports that there is a Sumerian inscription identifying Alla with Tammuz, who was a god of fertility and the consort of Inanna, who is identified by scholars with Ishtar, Venus, Isis and other goddess cults. The various goddess cults are frequently identified with the moon, and Tammuz was said to be an archer, both of which points may help explain the crescent symbol of Islam, if Shoebat is correct.

Tammuz is mentioned in the Bible, in Ezekiel 8:14-15 (NIV translation): “Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the Lord, and I saw women sitting there, mourning the god Tammuz. He said to me, ‘Do you see this, son of man? You will see things that are even more detestable than this.'”

“Mourning the god Tammuz” refers to one of the annual festivals of the cult, in which the god was said to be killed. Being a fertility god, the “killing” was a metaphor for the summer and the annual dying of the crops. The other major festival had to do with the god’s “marriage,” which presaged a fertile year for farmers. Both festivals were apparently marked by rituals that included sex with the temple priestesses, thus their reputation would have been shocking to the Israelites.

That chapter of Ezekiel details a vision which in part shows the north gate of the temple, that is marked by the “idol that provokes to jealousy.” The vision also describes idol worship being secretly conducted inside a room of the temple, and then it goes on to say, in Ezekiel 8:16-17:

“He then brought me into the inner court of the house of the Lord, and there at the entrance to the temple, between the portico and the altar, were about twenty-five men. With their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, they were bowing down to the sun in the east. He said to me, ‘Have you seen this, son of man? Is it a trivial matter for the people of Judah to do the detestable things they are doing here? Must they also fill the land with violence and continually arouse my anger?'”

Such fertility cults were common among the Canaanites and other peoples around Israel. The Bible mentions many times Asherah poles, which were a religious symbol of just such a cult.

Shoebat does not discuss the Bible passage about Tammuz or the chapter of Ezekiel, but it struck me, particularly the part about facing east, as being reminiscent of Islam and its practices and attitudes, given Shoebat’s connection of Alla and Tammuz.

The Arabs, from whom we get Islam, consider themselves to be descended from Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Hagar in the Bible. In Genesis 16:12, it says of Ishmael, “He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility towardall his brothers.”

Another interesting point biblically speaking is that Ishmael’s mother was Egyptian, which would make him a Hamite, rather than a Shemite (Semite). Ham was a son of Noah but was cursed by his father to be a slave to the descendants of his brother Shem (the Jews).

Studying the past can give us insight into today’s violence in the Mideast.