By Wesley Muhammad, PhD. © 2012 Wesley Muhammad
(Excerpt from Black Arabia and the African Origin of Islam)
It has become popular in Christian polemical literature as well as some Afrocentric scholarship and discourse to claim that the deity ʾAlmaqah or ʾAlah Muqah of ancient South Arabia, and therefore the Allah of Islam, was a moon-deity and therefore an illegitimate 'pagan god.' Such claims are based on a misrepresentation of the data, a fact that more sober Christian missionary writers have even pointed out:
“It has been claimed that Almaqah (i.e. Alah Muqah) was a moon god, but there is no solid evidence for this, and scholars now think Almaqah was a sun god…there is no clear evidence that moon-worship was prominent among the Arabs in any way or that the crescent was used as the symbol of a moon god, and Allah certainly was not the moon-god’s name…The crescent had been a symbol used in Constantinople (modern Istanbul) and was used on the flag of the Byzantine Empire, which proclaimed itself to be Christian…But when the Turks conquered Constantinople and the rest of the Middle East in the 15th century, they kept the Byzantine symbol of empire. In fact, they affixed crescent symbols atop public buildings throughout their empire as a symbol of their rule…Once the crescent no longer represented Turkish imperial rule in its former colonies, it was reinterpreted as a symbol of Islam, which is it’s modern significance. So the crescent symbol has not been passed down through Islam from a supposed ancient Arabian moon religion but is a symbol imposed by Ottoman Turks for political reasons.”
While it is true that it was at one time the going scholarly opinion that ʾAlmaqah was a moon- god, more recent scholarship has abandoned this view because it was based on an incorrect pretense. The trend, going back to Ditlef Nielsen in the early 20th century, to reduce all of early Arabian religion to a triad of nature deities (Venus, moon, sun) has now been rightly rejected as being oversimplifying and unsupported by current data. Regarding ʾAlmaqah or ʾAlah Muqah, Arabist and historian Alfred F. L. Beeston confirms that “there is nothing to indicate lunar qualities.” Frankfort scholar Werner Daum, in his important work Ursemitische Religion agrees:
“According to popular opinion, 'Almaqah is a moon-god. For this opinion, derived from Mesopotamian parallels, there is no South Arabian proof.”
Bill Glanzman, a professor at the University of Calgary, Canada, and American Foundation for the Study of Man field director during the last four years of work at the Awwām or so-called 'Moon Temple' of ancient Arabia rightly rejects this designation. International journalist Joël Donnet reports:
“Almaqah was the main god of the Sabeans¼Associated with fertility, agriculture and irrigation, it was first represented by a bull, and possibly by an ibex. It was also often associated with a moon crescent, which led numerous archaeologists - including Abdu Ghaleb and Dr. Yusuf Abdullah, the president of the General Organization of Antiquities, Museums and Houses of Manuscripts- to call it the Moon-God, and therefore to name Mahram Bilqis the Moon Temple. But Bill Glanzman disagrees with this vision, as he considers the moon as only one symbol of Almaqah, and certainly not the most important one, according to the numerous inscriptions from the site recovered during the 1950s and the last four years of the AFSM's fieldwork: ‘So far, the moon isn't even mentioned in the texts, and we have found only a few examples of Almaqah's crescent moon in artwork. We very commonly find the bull (thawran) associated with Almaqah in the inscriptions (emphasis mine-WM).”
The nature of the Sabaean deity ʾAlah Muqah was studied in great detail by J. Pirenne and G. Garbini in the 1970s. They demonstrated that the motifs associated with this deity - the bull, the vine, and also the lion's skin on a human statue - are solar rather than lunar attributes. The Bull in fact was associated first with the sun-god, in Mesopotamia and Egypt, only later being conscripted into the service of the moon-deities in third millennium BCE Mesopotamia. There is thus a growing consensus among scholars that this South Arabian deity was rather a sun-god: “Almaqah was a masculine sun-god,” affirms Jean-François Breton, scholar with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. So too Jacques Ryckmans:
“Until recently Almaqah was considered to be a moon god, under the influence of a now generally rejected conception of a South Arabian pantheon consisting of an exclusive triad: Father Moon, Mother Sun¼and Son Venus. Recent studies underline that the symbols of the bull's head and the vine motif that are associated with him are solar and Dionysiac attributes and are more consistent with a sun god, a male consort of the sun goddess.”
That the moon was only one of ʾAlah Muqah's symbols is a fact Christian polemicists overlook. For example, Joël Nathan, in his tome Moon-o-theism: Religion of a War and Moon God Prophet, quotes the following statement from Wendell Phillip regarding the Awwām Temple that he excavated:
"Near the top of the delicate stone shaft is a beautifully covered circular sun with a crescent moon".
From Ancient Bar'an Temple of Alah Maqah, near Marib, Yemen. Notice the crescent and solar orb.
(2nd millennium BCE)
When the crescent moon did appear on ʾAlah Muqah's temples it was conjoined with the solar orb, connoting the dual nature of this deity (diurnal=luminous and nocturnal=dark). Yet, Nathan concludes from Phillip and others who point to this solar orb and crescent moon symbol that,
"this suggests that Almaqah and Syn were moon-gods, not sun- gods."
How does a symbol with the sun and moon conjoined indicate a moon-god? Clearly such a conclusion is dogmatic rather than academic, and born no doubt from a desperate desire to make 'Almaqah a moon-deity for polemical purposes. Unfortunately, many Afrocentrist scholars have adopted this Christian polemic that has no critical scholarly foundation today.
 Rick Brown, “Who is Allah?” International Journal of Frontier Missions 23 (2006): 79-80.
 Even Yusuf Abdullah, the president of the General Organization of Antiquities, Museums and Houses of Manuscripts, Yemen, labeled the Awwām Temple the 'Moon Temple' on account of this old but mistake belief.
 Handbuch der altarbischen Altertumskunde I (Copenhagen, 1927) 177-250.
 See e.g. Alfred F. L. Beeston "The Religions Of Pre-Islamic Yemen" in J. Chelhod
(Ed.), L'Arabie Du Sud Histoire Et Civilisation Volume I: Le Peuple Yemenite Et Ses Racines (Paris, 1984) 260.
 Beeston "The Religions Of Pre-Islamic Yemen," 263.
 Daum, Ursemitisch Religion (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1985). 30.
 "Notes D'Archéologie Sud-Arabe," Syria, 49 (1972): 193-217.
 "Il Dio Sabeo Almaqah," Rivista Degli Studi Orientali, 48 (1973-1974): 15-22.
 Conrad, Horn and Sword, 39; Donald B. Redford (ed.), The Ancient Gods Speak: A Guide to Egyptian Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 30 s,v. Bull Gods by Dieter Kessler. It was the sun-god - An, Utu, Ra, etc., - who incarnated in the bull.
 Dominique Collon, "The Near Eastern Moon God," in Diederik J.W. Meijer (ed.), Natural Phenomena: Their Meaning, Depiction and Description in the Ancient Near East (North-Holland, Amsterdam, 1992) 19; Gudrun Colbow, "More Insights into Representations of the Moon God in the Third and Second Millennium B.C.," in I.L. Finkel and M.J. Geller (edd.), Sumerian Gods and their Representations (Cuneiform Monographs 7) (Groningen: STYX Publications, 1997) 25-26; Tallay Ornan, "The Bull and its Two Masters: Moon and Storm Deities in Relation to the Bull in Ancient Near Eastern Art," Israel Exploration Journal 51 (2001): 3-4.
 Breton, Arabia Felix, 120. On Almaqah as a sun-god see further Beeston, "Saba'," 664-665; idem, "The Religions Of Pre-Islamic Yemen" in J. Chelhod (Ed.), L'Arabie Du Sud Histoire Et Civilisation (Le Peuple Yemenite Et Ses Racines), 1984, Volume I:263.
 Encyclopedia Britannica 2004 s.v. Arabian Religion by Jacques Ryckmans.
 Moon-o-Theism, I:342-342.