Ahmad Al-Jallad Profile picture
Sep 12, 2018 13 tweets 4 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
This is an effaced #Safaitic inscription I discovered in 2017 with @QifaNabki. Elaborate curses exist to protect texts from vandalism, but this hooligan was apparently not deterred by superstition. You can, however, notice that s/he left part of the text intact. Why?
Many traditions venerate the written form of a god's name. Our vandal erased the name of the author and his prayer, perhaps rendering any power the written word had void, but s/he did not hammer over the name of the invoked deity, Roḍay.
Can we still read the damaged part? Yes, it is a short prayer: hā roḍay ʕeqāb men-nabaṭo 'O Roḍay, [grant] retribution against the Nabataeans'. Perhaps our vandal was a Nabataean or a member of an allied tribe, who decided to erase the offensive prayer.
But perhaps fearing the wrath of Roḍay, the physical form of the deity's name was left untouched. Roḍay has long history. He was carried off from Adumatu (Dumat al-Jandal) by Sennacherib. Unlike our vandal, the mighty Assyrian king had no issues ruining the effigy of Roḍay.
From the Esarhaddon prism: (1) Adumutu (is) the strong city of the Arabians, (2) which Sennacherib, king of Assyria, the father, my begetter, (3) had conquered and his goods, his property, his gods (4) and Iskallatu, the queen of the Arabians, (5) had carried off to Assyria.
(6) Haza[el], king of the Arabians, with his costly gift (7) to Nineveh, the city of my lordship, (8) came and kissed my feet. (9) For the return of his gods he prayed me and I showed him favour and (10) the gods Atarsamain, Dai, Nuhai, (11) Ruldaiu (=Roḍay), Abirillu
(12) Atarkuruma, the gods of the Arabians, (13) their ruined (effigies) I restored and the might of Ashur, my lord, (14) and the writing of my name upon them I wrote and gave them back to him.
While Roḍay was worshiped for more than a millennium across North Arabia, his exact identity seems to have been forgotten in the Islamic period. Hisham ibn al-Kalbi has this to say in his famous 'book of Idols' answering-islam.org/Books/Al-Kalbi/
"The Arabs were wont to use other names in conjunction with ‘Abd 'slave'; yet I do not know whether they were after names of idols or not. Among these names were: Abd-Yalil, Abd-Ghanm, Abd-Kulal, and Abd-Ruḍa" Ruḍā is the Classical Arabic pronunciation of Ruḍay
Further: "Some of the traditionists related that Ruḍa was a temple which belonged to the banu-Rabi’ah ibn-Sa’d ibn-Zayd ibn-Manih."
Ruḍay's misfortunes continue: "When, in the early days of Islam, al-Mustawghir destroyed Ruda, he said: I marched against Ruḍa and burnt it down, And left it a heap of ashes, charred and black." This statement does not need to refer to a 'structure' but to the idol itself.
Al-Kalbi's book of idols is a fantastic read but far from an accurate depiction of pre-Islamic Arabian beliefs. I am rather busy these days but maybe we can have an occasional Tweet series discussing this book in light of epigraphic and archaeological discoveries.
Bibliography: britishmuseum.org/research/colle…
And again please forgive any typos, tweeting especially in haste these days.

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More from @Safaitic

Oct 6, 2018
"Life is worthless", write Diomedes the Lyrist and Abchoros the barber in a Greek inscription found far out in the desert of eastern Jordan (at Jathum). The two went out into the desert with a Roman military unit, stationed at a place called Σιο(α) Αβγαρ 'the cairn of Abgar'.
Coming from the bright lights of the Decapolis, the Basalt desert must have seemed like the end of the world. This text comes to mind as I complete edits on 2 pprs on new Greek-Safaitic inscriptions from Jordan. Teaser: we have a small new example of Old Arabic in Greek letters!
The editio princeps of the cited inscription can be found here: A Greek Inscription at Jathum in Transjordan. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research No. 132 (Dec., 1953), pp. 34-41 (8 pages). Here is Mowry's translation of the entire text.
Read 4 tweets
Oct 5, 2018
< Part 1 – the Fals, of Tweet Mini-Series: The archaeology of the Book of Idols> Let us begin with the more obscure deities. The idol called al-Fals was associated with the well-known N. Arabian tribe of Ṭayyiʾ. Their territory was located near 2 mountains, Agaʾ and Salmā.
According to al-Kalbi, al-Fals was a red rock in the shape of a man located on the black mountain of Agaʾ. Its sanctuary offered immunity to men and beasts. What do we learn about Al-Fals from the epigraphic record? answering-islam.org/Books/Al-Kalbi…
Tribespeople of Ṭayyiʾ left few inscriptions. Only one text in Safaitic was clearly composed by a man of Ṭayyiʾ. BS 767 is by a man named Wāʾil son of Wammām, who calls himself haṭ-ṭāʾiyy ‘the Tayyite’. The text does not contain an invocation to a deity.
Read 19 tweets
Oct 5, 2018
<Tweet Mini-Series: The archaeology of the Book of Idols-Introduction>: Hisham ibn al-Kalbi was an Arab antiquarian born in Kufa (737–819 CE), interested in folklore re: the ancient Arabs, genealogies, and pre-Islamic Arabian religion. Pic: Nabataea.net
His work kitāb al-Aṣnām ‘the book of idols’ is one of the earliest Islamic-period sources on pre-Islamic Arabian religion. Relying on folklore and quotations from poetry, Ibn Al-Kalbi lists the gods of the ancient Arabs and associated rites.
While some of these gods, such as Allāt, are known from the Qur’ān and other ancient sources, others are far more obscure, such as Yaʾbūb and Nuhm. You can read the English translation of this book here: answering-islam.org/Books/Al-Kalbi/
Read 6 tweets
Oct 1, 2018
On the topic of inscriptions of mourning, I've reached the S's and here is one of the saddest Safaitic inscriptions I know. It is by a man mourning the senseless murder of his brother by Nabataeans while he was working as a hired man, pasturing the animals of two great tribes.
I translate the text as follows:
'he grieved for his brother Nūr whom the Nabataeans killed while pasturing the livestock of ʿwḏ and Ḍf so, O Allat of Mʿmn and goddess of Deṯan and Gaddoʿawīḏ and Gaddoḍayf...
...may he have vengeance against him who has committed this act, and he was continuously distraught with a broken heart for his brother, his beloved forever'. The Old Arabic reads as follows:
Read 4 tweets
Sep 30, 2018
#Safaitic dictionary edit updates. At the N's, and this text it worth tweeting: Author of MAHB 2 states: wagada ʾaṯra ʾaśyāʿ-oh fa-naganna 'he found the traces of his companions and went mad (from grief)'. #Safaitic naganna <ngn> is the equivalent of #Levantine inžann...
The sense is of course to be Jinn possessed. There is no direct evidence for a belief in #Jinn among the pre-Islamic nomads, but this word could suggests that insanity was associated with being possessed by the supernatural creatures. There's more: related to this lemma is ...
the word <ʾtgnn> =ʾatgannana, is attested in an identical context: BS 880: wagada ʾaṯra ʾaśyāʿ-oh fa-ʾatgannana 'he found the traces of his companions and went mad (from grief)', this one similar to Classical Arabic taǧannana, same meaning.
Read 5 tweets
Sep 27, 2018
Hikma History asks whether there is historical evidence for #Mecca in the 6th CE or earlier. A fantastic question. Outside historical sources don't seem to mention the town. @iandavidmorris examines this material masterfully in this blog: iandavidmorris.com/mecca-before-i…
But what about pre-Islamic Arabian sources? Do they give evidence for Mecca as a pilgrimage center? Most pre-Islamic texts from central Arabia are short, undated inscriptions containing personal names and enigmatic phrases. No toponyms are attested in these and therefore,..
They are not very useful for answering our question. The long and detailed texts from Ancient Yemen, however, do not mention any place called Mecca. Although numerous pilgrimage sites are attested, they all seem to be located in South Arabia.
Read 11 tweets

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