This is a vitally important point to understand:
The vast majority of the Arabs on the eve of the rise of Islam were pagans. But this statement, true though it is, requires some careful explanation. Not all Arabs were pagans. There were Christians and Jews in some parts of the peninsula who had considerable influence.
Furthermore, the paganism of the majority was clearly an apostate remnant of earlier revelations.
For example, the pre-Islamic Arabs knew of a being they called Allah.
This word, familiar to many in the West but widely misunderstood, needs explanation. There are many in the Church and elsewhere who think that Allah—the emphasis in this word is properly given to the second syllable (Ahl-lah)—is the name of some foreign (and distinctly unpleasant) godling worshipped by the Islamic heathens. Nothing could be more wrong. Allah isn’t a name at all. It’s a title. It’s formed from two words: the Arabic article al-, meaning “the,” and the word ilah, meaning “god.” The resultant blending of the two words thus means “the god”—or, to place the emphasis where it ought to be placed, “the god.” (As opposed to other, lesser gods, or—in Islam— to false and nonexistent gods.) To put it another way, Allah is simply the Arabic equivalent of the English word God, with a capital “g.” It’s the word used for God in Arabic translations of the Bible and, for that matter, in the Arabic translation of the Book of Mormon. Moreover, it’s related to another word that should be familiar to most readers of this book, Elohim. (When the masculine plural ending -im is removed, the word’s kinship with Allah is clear: Hebrew eloh is related to the Arabic ilah in much the same way that the German Gott is related to the English God. Arabic and Hebrew are cousins, just as English and German are.)
Although the Arabs knew of a being called Allah, they were still considered pagans. How can that be? It’s quite elementary: They knew of Allah, but they paid little or no attention to him. Instead, they had a host of lesser beings, sprites and demons and goddesses to whom they gave their worship, such as it was, and from whom they sought favors. Allah was too far away, too distant, too intimidating.