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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

14 March 2006

Is Allah an Idol?

Q: I heard that Allah was one of 360 idols that Mohammed chose to be his god. Then Mohammed, along with his followers, wiped out the remaining 359 idols in a massacre. Is this true? Is Allah actually an idol and not the same God as Yahweh?

A: There are many stories of the beginning of Islam. Mohammed, like many other Arabs, came from a polytheistic (worshiping many gods) background. Yet he created a religion that was strongly monotheistic (worshiping one god). While the theory you mention is basically anti-Muslim propoganda, there is some indication that its basis of is at least partially true. The Qur’an (or Koran), the holy book of Islam, itself at times seems to drift toward an older Arabian folk religion, keeping the ideas of such creatures as the genii, as well as one god.

However, I would not say that Allah is an idol simply because the Muslims are strictly anti-image (even more so than are most radical parts of Christianity toward statues, pictures, or images of Christ). Many parts of the Mohammedan world will not tolerate any images of living creatures, including animals. Thus, there are no modern “Allah idols.”

Finally, Allah is not the same as Yahweh (the Lord), the God of the Hebrews, although much of Mohamed’s monotheism was influenced by Judaism and Christianity. He is the fabrication of the false prophet’s fertile imagination as it drew upon the one-god worship of his neighbors and the religious and cultural roots of his own people.

To sum things up: Allah may not be an idol but he’s certainly a false god.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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