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The Religion of the Qur’ānic Pagans: God and the Lesser Deities

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This article (in two parts) is devoted to the first step of an attempted reconstruction of the religion of the Qur’ānic mušrikūn on the basis of the Qur’ān and indisputably earlier evidence alone. The first part concludes that the mušrikūn believed in the same Biblical God as the messenger and that their lesser beings, indiscriminately called gods and angels, functioned much like (dead) saints in later Islam and Christianity. This is not exactly new since it is more or less what Ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhāb concluded three hundred years ago. The second part examines the high God hypothesis and tries to relate the beliefs of the mušrikūn to those of other monotheists in late antiquity, with indeterminate results: in terms of their views on God and the lesser beings, the mušrikūn could equally well be pagan monotheists and Jews (or Judaisers).

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Advanced Study Princeton


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