Monotheism and Polytheism

Monotheism is a belief in one god alone. Polytheism is a belief in many gods. Around 2000 BC.E., most peoples in the Mediterranean region believed in many gods. They saw each force of nature – the wind, the sun, the rain – as a separate deity. This was a way of explaining the world in which they lived.

Unlike most of their neighbours, the Jews believed in one god, not many. Think about what you know about the history and geography of the region. How do you think the Jewish belief in one god affected their interactions with the other people?

The Fifth Pillar of Islam: The Hajj

The fifth Pillar of Islam is the hajj, or pilgrimage. This consists of a journey to mecca in Saudi Arabia and circling the Ka’bah, a small building made of bricks and covered with a heavy black cloth. The Ka’bah is believed to be the centre of monotheism. Abraham himself built the shrine in the Ka’bah, and Muhammad restored it to a place for worshipping Allah alone (no idols)

During the pilgrimage, Muslims recall the success of Hagar and Ishmael, the prophet Abraham’s concubine and their son. Hagar and Ishmael were aided by Allah after they were abandoned by Abraham in the Arabian desert. Pilgrims visit the barren Plain of Arafah to be reminded of the Day of Judgment and throw rocks at stone pillars representing Shaytan, the spirit of evil. They also pray regularly. Every year, millions of Muslims perform the hajj.

Most of us have had some experience of being part of a large group of people focused on the same thing, such as at a sporting event or a concert. Think about an experience like this that you have had. Did the energy of the group affect you in any way? Describe the experience.