Islam in the First Civilisations: 3. The Aryan Religion

To understand the congruence of the One God worshipped between Zoroastrianism and Hinduism, the Ancient Greeks, the Celts and the Germanic tribes, we need to observe the Aryan peoples. They lived on the Caucasian steppes since about 4500 BCE and around 2500 BCE some Aryans split and moved into the interior of Europe. Those that stayed, themselves gradually split in two main branches, forming into speakers of the Avestan dialect and the Sanskrit dialect, but even by 1500 BCE they were still able to communicate with each other.1

What makes this group of people spectacular is from them we have the largest language-family group in the world, stretching in ancient times from India in the east and Ireland in the west.

الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله

All praise is due to Allah and peace and blessing upon His Messenger

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

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

***

“In Anatolia, from about 1650 BCE, we find the earliest attested Indo-European [Aryan] language [which is] Hittite…”2 And “of comparable antiquity… is the Indic. Of prime importance are the 1028 hyms of the Rigveda, thought to have been composed in the Punjab in the period between 1500 and 1000 BCE.”3 “The oldest documents of Iranian literature are the seventeen hymns of Zarathustra (Zoroaster) known as the Gathas… Their language is about as archaic in Indo-Iranian [Aryan] terms as that of the Rigveda, and this persuades some scholars to date them before 1000 BCE; others put them as late as the sixth century.”4 In terms of from the Greek speaking world, a “rewarding source for Indo-European inheritance is the corpus of Homeric and Hesiodic poetry. Most of it was fixed in writing in the seventh century BCE.”5 Most Celtic material comes either from inscriptions “from the Roman period and fades out in the third century CE… [whilst the] insular Celtic material mainly… of Irish and British literature… begins around 600 CE.”6 “The earliest evidence relating to the Germanic world comes from Classical authors, most notably Tacitus’ Germania, which drew on a lost work of Pliny the Elder on the German wars…”7

Why Aryan?

Aryaman/Airyaman has long been equated with the Irish Éremón. All three names appear to go back to Aryo-men… [which means] ‘Aryan-ness’. West notes that it is no longer politically correct to use the term Aryan (due to the much later Fascist-German connotation) which is why Indo-European is used instead. However, he does state that “the name was conferred on them [the Aryans] in the nineteenth century because it was a term that they, or their ruling classes, used of themselves.”

  • Sanskrit: ‘Arya’: ‘trusty, honourable, worthy, Aryan’
  • Irish: ‘Aire’: ‘a noble chief’

“It has given its name to Iran and perhaps to Eire [the Republic of Ireland].”

Though Professor Martin L. West notes how there was a god called ‘Aryomen’, “he [was] rather lacking in profile” and I’d infer instead that rather this “might be [a concept] to embody the social ideas of the people and its rulers.”8

Was there a Supreme God of the Aryans?

One of “the most important term[s of the Aryans], one that has left representatives in nearly all branches of the Indo-European family, was based on the root *diw/dyu… [and] from this comes

  • Vedic [Indic] deva-
  • Avestan [Iranian] daeva-
  • Latin [Roman] deus
  • Old Irish dia9

These terms relate to the concept of ‘god’ or dyeus.

The etymology of the name ‘Dyaus’ connotes light via the ‘brightness of day’ since ‘di’ is the verb ‘to shine, be bright’10. It, by extension also refers to ‘sky’ since daylight emanates from there. It has derivatives associated with the ‘divine’, ‘deity’ and ‘god’ via ‘diwyos’.11

When analysing the history of this diversely wide range of people, it can be seen how the Aryans did worship a Sky God called Dyaus Pitr. The name remarkably is still audibly present in the (relatively) younger civilisations of the Greeks and especially the Romans:

  • Aryan: Dyaus Pitr (i.e. Light (specifically, daylight)/Sky (i.e. Heavenly)/God the Father)
  • Greek: Zeus (i.e. Dyaus)
  • Roman: Jupitar (Zeus-pater = Zeus Father = God the Father)

“It seems to be admitted that the nature myth gods of India, Greece and Italy and all Indo-Germanic religions started with a Sky-God, Zeus, Zeus-pater. Dyauspitar, Jupiter, “God the father”, all derived from the root div, to “shine”, whence the word deus, god.”12

“At a very early stage, [the Aryans] had worshipped a Sky God called Dyaus Pitr, creator of the World. But like other High Gods, Dyaus was so remote that he was eventually replaced by more accessible gods, who were wholly identified with natural and cosmic forces.”13

This phenomena, already identified over the last couple of posts on this topic, can be seen to repeat again: an original major (Sky-Creator) God that appears to be regarded (over time) as ‘so remote’ because of his Transcendence becomes replaced or altered by more tangible (lesser or competing) ones; this correlates perfectly with the concept of Allah (The Only One Unique God – i.e. ‘God’ with a capital ‘G’) and the host of ilahs (or aalihat – the plural in Arabic) that develop wrongly afterwards, respectively, in the pagan Arab context, and is a sign-post to the shirk that has transpired; ‘ilah’ is often translated as deities or gods with a lower-case ‘g’, and, in Islam/Arabic, literally means ‘that thing that one worships/ is devoted to’ and this can refer to anything – e.g. rocks, rivers, self, others, family, tribe, culture, nation, desires, wealth, ideas etc. Indeed, Professor Martin L. West explains how another cognate of god is expressed in “proto-Germanic as guða-… or Gothic guþ, Old Norse goð, Old High German got, [and] English god. This has the peculiarity of being neuter, perhaps, as Schulze argued, because it originated as a plural collective term for ‘gods and goddesses’”14 So the word ‘god’, therefore, in origin, seems to mirror the Arabic term ‘ilah’ more closely.

West suggests how Dyeus pre-exists prior to the notion of a Storm God (eg. Thor etc.) who possesses a shared “distinctive character of [his] own” across Aryan cultures, so “it seems altogether more likely that Zeus and Jupiter have appropriated the functions of a separate storm-god who has faded from sight. Than that they alone preserve the integrity of Dyeus personality, the other traditions having conspired to create a separate thunderer.”15

In any case, a similar pattern, therefore, can be seen to take shape with the Aryan tribes as with the Ancient Egyptian example noted in an earlier post: the transcendence of God, which is real, was eventually man-made into immanent gods, which is ‘man making god into his image,’ so to speak. Behind the manufacture of gods (shirk, paganism) is the fact of the pre-eminence and actuality of the One God (Tawheed, monotheism), as discoursed in the Qur’an and evidenced via secular history.

The prophet (peace be upon him) said, relating from his Lord (Allah): “I created all my servants upon the true Religion (upon Tawheed, free from Shirk). Then the devils came to them and led them astray from their true Religion. They made unlawful to people that which I had made lawful for them, and they commanded them to associate in worship with Me, that which I had sent down no authority.”16

“And We certainly sent into every nation a messenger, [saying], “Worship Allah and avoid Taghut.” And among them were those whom Allah guided, and among them were those upon whom error was [deservedly] decreed. So proceed through the earth and observe how was the end of the deniers.”

(Qur’an, al-Nahl 16:36)

PREVIOUS: For evidences of Islam in the First Civilisations 2: The Ancient Egyptian Religion, see THIS post

***

سبحان ربك رب العزة عما يصفون وسلام على المرسلين والحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله محمد وعلى اله وصحبه أجمعين

Exalted be your Lord, the Lord of Glory, above what they attribute to Him, and peace be upon the Messengers, and all praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe. And the peace and blessing upon prophet Mohammed and his relatives and all his companions.

1The Great Transformation by Karen Armstrong, pg. 3.

2Indo-European Poetry and Myth by Martin L. West (2007), pg. 7.

3Ibid, pg. 13

4Ibid, pg. 14

5Ibid, pg. 15

6Ibid, pg. 16

7Ibid, pg. 17

8Ibid, pg. 142

9Indo-European Poetry and Myth by Martin L. West (2007), pg. 120

10Indo-European Poetry and Myth by Martin L. West (2007), pg. 167. See also Indo-European roots via the American Heritage Dictionary.

11The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World by Mallory and Adams (2006), pg. 408-409.

12Langdon. ‘Monotheism as the Predecessor of Polytheism in Sumerian Religion’ (The Evangelical Quarterly for April, 1937), pg. 141

13The Great Transformation by Karen Armstrong, pg. 4.

14Indo-European Poetry and Myth by Martin L. West (2007), pg. 120-121

15Indo-European Poetry and Myth by Martin L. West (2007), pg. 239

16Relayed by Ibn ‘Urwah al-Hanbalee (d.837 H). SOURCE: Al-Khawaakibud-Duraaree fee Tarteeb Musnadul-Imaam Ahmad’alaa Abwaabil-Bukhaaree (6/212/1), still in manuscript form. Cited in http://www.spubs.com/sps/sp.cfm?subsecID=TAW01&articleID=TAW010004&pfriend=

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