Derivation: Al-Lat in Arabic means "the Goddess" in the same manner that al-Lah (Allah) means "the God." So Herbert is implying an ancient cult of sun worship, and the sun as a female deity. (Ancient Earth cultures seem to have no consensus on the question of the sun's gender, AFAIK.)

In Islam, al-Lat figures in the life of the Prophet Muhammad because she was one of the goddesses in the pantheon of the Arab pagan religion. Muhammad was instrumental in replacing this cult with monotheism.

"Have you thought upon Al-Lat and Al-Uzza? And Manat, the third, the other? Are yours the males and His the females? That indeed were an unfair division!" (Quran 53 : 19– 22)

Allat is a feminization of Allah. She was one of the three daughters of Allah according to pre Islamic polytheistic dogma. At Taif she was symbolized in the form of a white granite stone. In Hellenic times she became synchronized with Athena or, according to Herodotus who called her Alilat, with Aphrodite.

She was a fertility goddess, representing earth and its fruits. Al-Uzza was goddess of the morning star, and Menat goddess of fate and time.

The Book of Idols states, "Her custody was in the hands of the banu-Attab ibn-Malik of the Thaqif, who had built an edifice over her. Quraysh, as well as all the Arabs, were wont to venerate Allat. They also used to name their children after her, calling them Zayd-Allat and Taym-Allat. ... Allat continued to be venerated until the Thaqif embraced Islam, when the Apostle of God dispatched al-Mughirah ibn-Shubab, who destroyed her and burnt her temple to the ground." (Book of Idols, N.A. Faris 1952, pp. 14-15)

In a Hadeeth narrated by Abu Huraira, Allah's apostle said, "Whoever among you takes an oath wherein he says, 'By Al-Lat and Al-'Uzza,' names of two Idols worshipped by the pagans, he should say, 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah; And whoever says to his friend, 'Come, let me gamble with you! He should give something in charity." (Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 74, Number 314)

References:
http://answering-islam.org.uk/Books/Al-Kalbi/allat.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allat

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