Saturday, 25 July 2009

Innovations when Performing Tawaf around al Ka'bah

The tawaf [walking around the Ka'bah] was a practise of Prophet Ibrahim/Abraham, but the arabs later innovated and made alterations to it so people had to do tawaf naked based on the innovations of some of the Quraysh.

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Ibn Hisham p.214-216.

p.57, Muhammad Man & Prophet; Adil salahi.

Maps of Arabia during Prophethood & Maps of Arab Tribes

asalaam alaikum

Maps of pre islamic arabia
from the book, Muhammadur Rasulullah by Abul Hasan Nadwi; [sorry they're not in colour]

Map of the Arabian Peninsula then (its probably the same today and not much changes [generally])

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This is a map of the tribes and where they were located at during the life of Allah's Messenger;

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Map of Location of Badr

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these later maps are from the translation of Tahfeem al Qur'an by Maududi, translated by Zayd Ansari.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Pre-Prophethood - The Metropolis

Historical records, collections of pre-Islamic poetry, and what is known of the habits, customs, norms and traditions of the Arabians show that the people of Makkah had already been drawn into the stream of urban culture from their earlier rural, nomadic existence.

The Qur'aan describes the city as 'the Mother of towns'.

"And thus we have inspired in thee a Lecture in Arabic, that You may warn the mother-town and those around it, and may warn of a day of assembling whereof there is no doubt. A host will be in the Garden and a host of them in the Flame". [Qur'aan 42:7]

At another place Makkah is designated as the 'land made safe'.

"By the fig and the olive, by Mount Sinai, and by this land made safe". [Qur'aan 95:1-3]

The Qur'aan also calls it a city.

"Nay I swear by this city— And You art an indeweller of this city". [Qur'aan 90:1-2]

Makkah had long passed from nomadic barbarism to the stage of urban civilisation by the middle of the fifth century. The city was ruled by a confederacy based on mutual cooperation, unity of purpose and a general consensus on the division of administrative and civil functions between self governing clans, and this system had already been brought into existence by Qusayy b. Kilab. Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) being fifth in the line of succession to Qusayy b. Kilab, the latter can be placed in the middle of the fifth century.

Makkah, thinly populated in the beginning, was located between the two hills called Jabl Abu Qubays (adjacent to Mount Safa) and Jabl Ahmar, known as 'Araf during the pre-lslamic days, opposite the valley of Quaqiq'an. The population of the town increased gradually owing partly to the reverence paid to the K'aba and the regardful position of its priests and attendants, and partly because of the peace prevailing in the vicinity of the sanctuary. The tents and shacks had given place to houses made of mud and stones and the habitation had spread over the hillocks and low-lying valleys around the K'aba. At the outset the people living in Makkah abstained from constructing even their housetops in a rectangular shape like the K'aba since they considered it to be a sign of disrespect to the House of God, but gradually the ideas changed; still, they kept the height of their houses lower than that of that K'aba. As related by certain persons, the houses were initially made in a circular shape as a mark of respect to the K'aba. The first rectangular house, reported to have been built by Humaid Bin Zuhair, was looked upon with disfavour by the Quraysh.

The chiefs and other well-to-do persons among the Quraysh usually built their houses of stones and had many rooms in them, with two doors on the opposite sides, so that the womenfolk did not feel inconvenience in the presence of guests.


Qusayy b. Kilab had played a leading role in the reconstruction and expansion of Makkah. The Quraysh who had been dispersed over a wide area, were brought together by him in the valley of Makkah. He allocated areas for settlement of different families and encouraged them to construct their houses in the specified localities. The successors of Qusayy continued to consolidate the living quarters and to allocate spare lands to new families coming into Makkah. The process continued peacefully for a long time with the result that the habitations of the Quraysh and their confederate clans grew up making Makkah a flourishing city.


Qusayy b. Kilab and his had assumed a commanding position over the city and its inhabitants. They were the custodians of the K'aba, had the privilege of Saqayah (103) or watering the pilgrims and arranging the annual feast, presided over the meetings of the House of Assembly (Dar-al-Nadwa) and handed out war banners.

Qusayy b. Kilab had built the House of Assembly close to the K'aba with one of its doors leading to the sanctuary. It was used both as a living quarter by Qusayy and the rendezvous for discussing all matters of common weal by the Quraysh. No man or woman got married, no discussion on any important matter was held, no declaration of war was made and no sheet of cloth was cast on the head (104) of any girl reaching marriageable age except in this house. Qusayy's authority during his life and after his death was deemed sacrosanct like religious injunctions which could not be violated by anybody. The meetings of the House of Assembly could be attended only by the Quraysh and their confederate tribesmen, that is, those helonging to Hashim, Umayya, Makhzum, Jomah, Sahm, Taym, 'Adiy, Asad, Naufal and Zuhra, whatever be their age, while people of other tribes not below the age of forty years were allowed to participate in its meetings.

After the death of Qusayy, the offices held by him were divided between different families. Banu Hashim were given the right of watering the pilgrims; the standard of Quraysh called 'Aqab (Lit. Eagle) went to Banu Umayya; Bani Naufal were allocated Rifada;(105) Banu 'Abdul-Dar were assigned priesthood, wardenship of the K'aba and the standard of war; and Banu Asad held the charge of the House of Assembly. These families of the Quraysh used to entrust these responsibilities to the notable persons helonging to their families.

Thus, Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him), who came from Banu Taym, was responsible for realising bloodmoney, fines and gratuity; Khalid (May Allah be pleased with him) of Banu Makhzum held charge of the apparatus of war kept in a tent during the peace-time and on the horseback during battles; 'Umar b. al-Khattab (May Allah be pleased with him) was sent as the envoy of Quraysh to other tribes with whom they intended to measure swords or where a tribe bragging of its superiority wanted the issue to be decided by a duel; Safwan b. Umaayah of Bani Jomah played at the dice which was deemed essential before undertaking any important task; and, Harith b. Qays was liable to perform all administrative business besides being the custodian of offerings to the idols kept in the K'aba. The duties allocated to these persons were hereditary offices held earlier by their forefathers.


The Quraysh of Makkah used to fit out two commercial Caravans, one to Syria during the summer and the other to Yemen during the winter season. The four months of Hajj, that is, Rajab, Dhul Q'ada, Dhul-Hijjah and Muharram, were deemed sacred when it was not lawful to engage in hostilities. During these months the precincts of the Holy Temple and the open place besides it were utilised as a trade centre to which people from distant places came for transacting business. All the necessaries required by the Arabs were easily available in this market of Makkah. The stores for the sale of various commodities, located in different lanes and byways, mentioned by the historians, tend to show the economic and cultural growth of Makkah. The vendors of attars had their stalls in a separate bylane and so were the shops of fruit-sellers, barbers, grocers, fresh dates and other wares and trades localized in different alleys. A number of these markets were spacious enough, as, for example, the market set apart for foodgrains was well-stocked with wheat, ghee (clarified butter), honey and similar other commodities. All these articles were brought by trading caravans. To cite an instance, wheat was brought to Makkah from Yamama. Similarly, cloth and shoe stores had separate quarters allocated to them in the market.

Makkah had also a few meeting places where carefree youngmen used to come together for diversion and pastime. Those who were prosperous and accustomed to live high, spent the winter in Makkah and the summer in Ta'if. There were even some smart young men known for their costly and trim dresses costing several hundred dirhams.

Makkah was the centre of a lucrative trade transacting business on a large scale. Its merchants convoyed caravans to different countries in Asia and Africa and imported almost everything of necessity and costly wares marketable in Arabia. They usually brought resin, ivory, gold and ebony from Africa; hide, incense, frankincense, spices, sandal-wood and saffron from Yemen; different oils and foodgrains, armour, silk and wines fiom Egypt and Syria; cloth from Iraq: and gold, tin, precious stones and ivory from India. The wealYour merchants of Makkah sometimes presented the products of their city, of which the most valued were leather products, to the kings and nobles of other countries. When the Quraysh sent 'Abdullah b. Abu Rabl'a and 'Amr b. al-'As to Abyssinia to bring back the Muslim fugitives, they sent with them leather goods of Makkah as gifts to Negus and his generals.

Women also took part in commercial undertakings and fitted out their own caravans bound for Syria and other countries. Khadija bint Khuwaylid and Hanzaliya, mother of Abu Jahl, were two merchant women of dignity and wealth. The following verse of the Qur'aan attests the freedom of women to ply a trade.

"Unto men a fortune from that which they have earned, and unto women a fortune from that which they have earned." [Qur'aan 4:32]

Like other advanced nations of the then world, the commercially minded citizens of Makkah had based their economy on commerce for which they sent out caravans in different directions, organised stock markets and created favourable conditions in the home market for the visiting tourists and traders. This helped to increase fame and dignity of Makkah as a religious centre and contributed in no mean measure to the prosperity of the city. Everything required by the people of Makkah, whether a necessity or a luxury, reached their hands because of the city's commercial importance. This fact finds a reference in these verses of the Qur'aan:

"So let them worship the Lord of this House, Who hath fed them against hunger, And hath made them safe from fear" [Qur'aan 106:3-5]


Makkah was thus the chief centre of business in Arabia and its citizens were prosperous and wealthy. The caravan of the Quraysh, involved in the battle of Badr while returning from Syria, consisted of a thousand camels and carried merchandise worth 50,000 dinaars.

Both Byzantine and Sasanian currencies, known as dirham and dinar, were in general use in Makkah and other parts of the Peninsula. Dirham was of two kinds: one of it was an Iranian coin known to the Arabs bagliyah and sauda’-I-damiyah, and the other was a Byzantine coin (Greek-drachme) which was called tabriyah and bazantiniyah. These were silver coins and therefore instead of using them as units of coinage, the Arabs reckoned their values according to their weights. The standard weight of dirham, according to the doctors of lslamic shari'ah, is equal to fifty-five grains of barley and ten dirhams are equivalent in weight to seven mithqals of gold. One mithqal of pure gold is, however, according to Ibn Khaldun, equal to the weight of seventy-two grains of barley. Doctors of law unanimously agree with the weight given by Ibn Khaldun.

The coins in current use during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were generally silver coins. 'Ata states that the coins in general use during the period were not gold but silver coins. (Ibn Abi Sha'iba, Vol. 3, p.222)

Dinar was a gold coin familiar to the Arabs as the Roman (Byzantine) coin in circulation in Syria and Hijaz during the pre-Islamic and early Islamic period. It was minted in Byzantium with the image and name of the Emperor impressed on it as stated by Ibn 'Abd-ul-Bar in the Al-Tamhid. Old Arabic manuscripts mention the Latin denarius aureus as the Byzantine coin (synonymous with the post-Constantine sol dus) which is stated to be the name of a coin still a unit of currency in Yugoslavia. The New Testament, too, mentions denarius at several places. Dinar was considered to have the average weight of one mithqal, which, as stated above, was equivalent to seventy-two grains of barley. It is generally believed that the weight standard of the dinar was maintained from the pre-Islamic days down to the 4th century of the Hijrah. Da'iratul Ma'arif Islamiyah says that the Byzantine denarius weighed 425 grams and hence, according to the Orientalist Zambawar, the mithqal of Makkah was also of 425 grams.(109) The ratio of weight between dirham and dinar was 7:lO and the former weighed seven-tenths of a mithqal.

The par value of the dinar, deduced from the hadeeth, fiqah (110) and historical literature, was equivalent to ten dirhams. 'Amr b. Shuyeb, as quoted in the Sunan Abu Dawud, relates: "The bloodmoney during the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was 800 dinars or 8,000 dirhams, which was followed by the companions of the Prophet (may Allah be pleased with them), until the entire Muslim community unanimously agreed to retain it." The authentic ahadeeth fix the nisab or the amount of property upon which zakat is due, in terms of dirham, at 20 dinars. This rule upheld by a consensus of the doctors of law goes to show that during the earlier period of Islamic era and even before it, a dinar was deemed to have a par value of ten dirhams or other coins equivalent to them.

Imam Malik says in the Muwatta that 'the accepted rule, without any difference of opinion, is that zakat (111) is due on 20 dinars or 200 dirhams'.(112)The weights and measures in general use in those days were S'a, mudd, ratal, auqiyah and mithqal to which a few more were added latter on. The Arabs also possessed knowledge of arithmatic, for, it is evident, that the Qur'aan had relied on their ability to compute the shares of the legatees in promulgating the Islamic law of inheritance.


Bani Umayya and Bani Makhzum were the two prominent families of the Quraysh favored by the stroke of luck. Walid b. al-Mughira, 'Abdul 'Uzza (Abu Lahab), Abu Uhayha b. Sa'eed b. al-'As b. Umayya (who had a share of 30,000 dinars in the caravan of Abu Sufyan) and 'Abd b. Abdul Rabi'a al-Makhzum had made good fortunes. 'Abdullah b. Jad'an of Banu Taym was also one of the wealthiest persons of Makkah who used to drink water in a cup of gold and maintained a public kitchen for providing food to every poor and beggar. 'Abbaas Ibn 'Abdul-Muttalib was another man abounding in riches who spent lavishly on the indigent and the needy and lent money at interest in Makkah. During his farewell Pilgrimage when the Prophet (peace be upon him) abolished usurious transactions, he declared: "The first usury I abolish today is that of 'Abbaas b. 'Abdul Muttalib".

Makkah had also men rolling in riches whose well-furnished drawing rooms were the rendezvous of the elite of the Quraysh who rejoiced in the pleasures of wine, love and romance.

The chiefs of the Quraysh usually had their sittings in front of the K'aba in which prominent poets of pre-Islamic days, such as, Labid, recited their poems. It was here that 'Abdul Muttalib used to have his gatherings and, as they say, his sons dared not take their seats around him until their father had arrived.


Industrial arts and crafts were looked down on by the Quraysh; they considered it beneath their dignity to have their hands in a handiwork. Manual occupations were regarded as occupation meant exclusively for the slaves or non-Arabs. Yet, notwithstanding this proclivity of the Quraysh, certain crafts were a dire necessity and were practiced by some of them. Khabhab b. al-Aratt is reported to have been engaged in manufacturing swords. Constructional activities were also indispensable but Iranian and Byzantine workmen were employed to do the job for the Quraysh.

A few men in Makkah knew the art of reading and writing but the Arabs, as whole, were ignorant of the way by which learning is imparted. The Qur’an also calls them Ummi(113) or an unlettered people:

“He it is Who hath sent among the unlettered ones a messenger of their own.”

The people of Makkah were however, not ignorant of the arts of civilisation. Their refined taste, polish and culture excelled them in the whole of Arabia in the same was as the townsmen of any metropolis occupy a distinctive place in their country.

The language spoken at Makkah was regard as a model of unapproachable excellence: the Makkan dialect set the standard which the desert bedouins as well as the Arabs of outlying areas strived to imitate. By virtue of their elegant expression and eloquence, the inhabitants of Makkah were considered to possess the finest tongue, uncorrupted by the grossness of the languages of non-Arabs. In their physical features, shapeliness and good looks, the people of Makkah were considered to be the best representatives of the Arabian race. They were also endowed with the virtues of courage and magnanimity of heart, acclaimed by the Arabs as Al-Futuh and al-Murauwah, which were the two oft-repeated themes of Arabian poetry. These traits of their character admirably describe their recklessness which savoured troth of a devil and a saint.

The matters that attracted their attention most were genealogy, legends of Arabia, poetry, astrology and planetary mansions, ominous flight of the birds and a little of medication. As expert horsemen, they possessed an intimate knowledge of the horse and preserved the memory of the purest breed; and as dwellers of the desert they were well-versed in the delicate art of physiognomy. Their therapy based partly on their own experience and partly on the traditional methods handed down to them from their forefathers, consisted of branding, phlebotomy, removal of diseased limbs and use of certain herbs.


The Quraysh were by nature or nurture, a peace-loving people, amiable in disposition; for, unlike all other peoples inside and outside the Peninsula, their prosperity depended on the development of free trade, continual movement of caravans, improvement of marketing facilities in their own city and maintenance of conditions peaceful enough to encourage merchants and pilgrims to bend their steps to Makkah. They were sufficiently farsighted to recognise that their merchantile business was their life. Trade was the source of their livelihood as well as the means to increase their prestige as servants of the sanctuary. The Qur'aan has also referred to the fact in the Soorah Quraysh:

"So let them worship the Lord of this House, who hath fed them against hunger hath made safe from fear." [Qur'aan 106:3-5]

In other words, they were inclined to avoid a scramble unless their tribal or religious honour was in peril. They were thus committed to the principle of peaceful coexistence; nevertheless, they possessed considerable military prowess. Their courage and intrepidity was as axiomatic throughout Arabia as was their skill in horsemanship. "Al-Ghadbata al-Mudriyah" or anger of the Mudar, which can be described as a tormenting thirst quenched by nothing save blood, was a well known adage of Arabic language frequently used by the poets and orators of pre-Islamic Arabia.

The military prowess of Quraysh was not restricted to their own tribal reserves alone. They utilised the services of ahabeesh or the desert Arabs living around Makkah, some of which traced their descent to Kinana and Khuzayma b. Mudrika the distant relation of Quraysh. The Khuza'a were also confederates of the Quraysh. In addition, Makkah had always had slaves in considerable numbers who were ever willing to fight for their masters. They could thus draft, at any time, several thousand warriors under their banner. The strongest force numbering 10,000 combatants, ever mustered in the pre-lslamic era, was enlisted by the Quraysh in the battle of Ahzab.


By virtue of its being the seat of the national shrine and the most flourishing commercial centre whose inhabitants were culturally and intellectually in Arabia. It was considered a rival of Sana' in Yemen, but with the Abyssinians and Iranians gaining control over Sana, one after another, and the decline of the earlier glamour of Hira and Ghassan, Makkah had attained a place of undisputed supremacy in Arabia.


A moral ideal was what the Makkans lacked most of all, or one can say, except for the binding force of some stale customs and traditional sentiments of Arab chivalry, they had no code of ethics to guide their conduct. Gambling was a favourite pastime in which they took pride, unrestrained drunkenness sent them into rapturous delight and immoderate dissipation satisfied their perverted sense of honor. Their gatherings were the scenes of drinking bouts and wanton debauchery without any idea of sin or crime, they never took any aversion to wickedness, iniquity, callousness and brigandage.

The moral atmosphere of Arabia in general, and of Makkah in particcular, was faithfully depicted by J'afar b. Abu Talib, a prominent member of the Quraysh, in the court of Negus, when he said to him;

"O King we were an unenlightened people plunged in ignorance: we worshipped idols, we ate dead animals, and we committed abominations; we broke natural ties, we ill-treated our neighbors and our strong devoured the weak." (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, p.336)


The religious practices and beliefs of the Arabs were, beyond doubt, even more despicable, particularly, by reason of the influence they exerted on the social and moral life of the people. Having lost all but little touch with the salubrious teachings of the Prophets of old, they had been completely submerged in the crude and materialistic form of fetishism like that prevailing in the countries surrounding them. So fond had they become of idol worship that no less than three hundred and sixty deities adorned, or defiled, the holy sanctuary. The greatest amongst these gods was Hubal whom Abu Sufyan had extolled at the battle of Uhud when he had cried out: "Glory be to Hubal". The idol occupied a central place in the K'aba, by the side of a well in which the offerings were stored. Sculptured in the shape of a man, it was made of a huge cornelian rock. As its right hand was missing when the Quraysh had discovered it, they had replaced it by a hand made of solid gold. Two idols had been placed in front of the K'aba, one was called Isaf and the other as Na'ila; the former had been installed close to the K'aba and the latter by the place of Zamzam. After sometime the Quraysh had shifted the first one near the other, where they offered up sacrifices besides them. On the mounts of Safa and Marwah, there were two more idols called Nahik Mujawid al-Rih and Mut'im at-Tayr.

Every household in Makkah had an idol which was worshipped by the inmates of the house. Al-'Uzza had been installed near 'Arafat within a temple constructed for it. Quraysh venerated al-'Uzza as the chief or the noblest of all deities. The Arabs used to cast lots with the help of divining arrows placed before these idols for taking a decision to commence any affair. There were also other idols, one of which named as al-Khalsa, had been set up in the depression of Makkah's valley. The idol was garlanded, presented an offering of barley and wheat and bathed with milk. The Arabs used to make sacrifices and hang the eggs of an ostrich over it. Being a popular deity, its replicas were sold by vendors to the villagers and pilgrims visiting Makkah.

The Arabs possessed the virtues of courage, loyalty and generosity, but during the long night of superstition and ignorance, worship of images and idols had stolen into their hearts, perhaps, more firmly than any other nation; and they had wandered far away from the simple faith of their ancestors Ibrahim and Isma'il which had once taught them the true meaning of religious piety, purity of morals and seemliness of conduct.

So, this was the city of Makkah. Then by the middle of the sixth century of Christian era, before the birth of the Prophet (peace be upon him), whence we see Islam rising on a horizon shrouded in obscure darkness.

In very truth the Lord has said: That You may warn a folk whose fathers were not warned, so they are heedless. [Qur'aan 36:6]

Pre-Prophethood - The Quraysh Origins

God answered each and every prayer sent up by Ibrahim and Isma'il (Peace Be Upon Them). The descendants of Isma'il multiplied exceedingly, so that the barren valley overflowed with the progeny of Ibrahim ('alaihi salaam). Isma'il ('alaihi salaam) took for his wife a girl of the tribe of Jurhum, a clan belonging to the 'Arab 'Aribah. In the lineal descendants of Isma’il, 'Adnan was born whose lineage was universally recognised as the most worthy and noble among them. The Arabs being too particular about the purity of race and blood, have always treasured the genealogy of 'Adnan's progeny in the store house of their memory.

'Adnan had many sons of whom Ma'add was the most prominent. Among the sons of Ma'add, Mudar was more distinguished; then Fihr b. Malik in the lineage of Mudar achieved eminence; and finally the descendants of Fihr b. Malik b. Mudar came to be known as Quraysh. Thus came into existence the clan of Quraysh, the nobility of Makkah, whose lineage and exalted position among the tribes of Arabia as well as whose virtues of oratory and eloquence, civility, gallantry and high mindedness were unanimously accepted by all. The recognition accorded to the Quraysh without a dissentient voice throughout the Peninsula became, in due course of time, a genuine article of faith to the people of Arabia.


Qusayy Bin Kilab was born in the direct line of Fihr but the hegemony of Makkah had, by that time, passed on from Jurhum's clansmen to the hands of the Khuza'ites. Qusayy b. Kilab recovered the administration of the K'aba and the town through his organising capacity and superior qualities of head and heart. The Quraysh strengthened the hands of Qusayy b. Kilab in dislodging the Khuza'ites from the position of leadership usurped by them. Qusayy was now master of the town, loved and respected by all. He held the keys of the K'aba and the rights to water the pilgrims from the well of Zamzam, to feed the pilgrims, to preside at assemblies and to hand out war banners. In his hands lay all the dignities of Makkah and nobody entered the K’aba until he opened it for him. Such was his authority his Makkah during his lifetime that no affair of the Quraysh was decided but by him, and his decisions were followed like a religious law which could not be infringed.

After the death of Qusayy his sons assumed his authority but 'Abdu Munaf amongst them was more illustrious. His eldest son, Hashim b. 'Abdu Munaf conducted the feeding and watering of the pilgrims, and, after his death the authority passed on to 'Abdul Muttalib, the grandfather of the Prophet (peace be upon him) . His people held him in the highest esteem and such was the popularity gained by him, so they say, as was never enjoyed by anybody amongst his ancestors.

The progeny of Hashim, who now filled the stage and assumed a commanding position among the Quraysh, was like a stream of light in the darkness of Arabia. The sketches of Bani Hashim preserved by the historians and genealogists, although fewer in number, eloquently speak of the nobility of their character and moderation of their disposition, the reverence they paid to the House of God, their sovereign contempt for the things unjust and uneven, their devotion to fairplay and justice, their willingness to help the poor and the oppressed, their magnanimity of heart, their velour and horsemanship, in short, of every virtue admired by the Arabs of the pagan past. Bani Hashim, however, shared the faith of their contemporaries which had beclouded the light of their soul; but despite this failing, they had to have all this goodness as the forefathers of the great Prophet (peace be upon him) who was to inherit their ennobling qualities and to, illustrate them by his own shining example for the guidance of the entire human race.


The Quraysh continued to glorify the Lord of the worlds, from whom all blessings flow, like their forefathers Ibrahim and Isma’il (Peace Be Upon Them) until 'Amr b. Luhayy became the chief of Khuza'ites. He was the first to deviate from the religion of Isma'il ; he set up idols in Makkah and bade the people to worship and venerate them, he instituted the custom of sa’iba which were to be held in reverence. 'Amr b. Luhayy also modified the divine laws of permissible and impermissible. It is related that once 'Amr b. Luhayy went from Makkah to Syria on some business where he found the people worshipping idols. He was so impressed by the ways of the idol worshippers that he obtained a few idols from them, brought them back to Makkah and asked the people there to pay divine honours to them.

It might have been so, or, perhaps, on his way to Syria 'Amr b. Luhayy had happened to pass through Betra which was variously known to ancient historians and geographers as Petraea and Petra. It was the key city on the caravan route between Saba and the Mediterranean, located on an arid plateau three thousand feet high, to the south of what is today called Transjordan, as mentioned by the Greek and Roman historians. The city was founded by the Nabataeans, ethnically an Arab tribe, in the early part of the sixth century B. C. These people carried their merchandise to Egypt, Syria, valley of the Euphrates and to Rome. Most likely, they took the way to the valley of the Euphrates through Hijaz. The Nabataeans were an idolatrous people who made their deities of graven stones. Some historians hold the view that al-Lat, the famous deity of the Northern Hijaz during the pre-Islamic period, had been originally imported from Petra and was assigned an honoured place among the local gods and goddess.

The above view finds a confirmation in the History of Syria by Philip K. Hitti who writes about the religion of Nabataean kingdoms:

"At the head of the pantheon stood Dushara (dhu-al-Shara, Dusara), a sun deity worshipped under the form of anobelisk or an unknown four-cornered black stone.... Associated with Dushara was Al-Lat, chief goddess of Arabia. Other Nabataean goddesses cited in the inscriptions were Manat and al-'Uzza, of Koranic fame, Hubal also figures in the inscriptions."

It is noteworthy that the above description relates to a period when idolatory had, in different forms and shapes, engulfed Arabia and the countries around it. Jesus Christ ('alaihi salaam) and his disciples had not yet appeared on the scene who later on laboured to restrain its unbridled expansion. Judaism had already proved its incompetence to the task, since, being essentially a racial religion, it allowed none save the children of Bani Israel to join his faith to the creed of monotheism preached by it.

Another writer, De Lacy O'Leary, tracing the influences responsible for introduction of idol worship in the Arabian peninsula sums up his findings in the "Arabia Before Muhammed" in these words:

"It seems fairly safe therefore to understand that the use of images was an instance of Syro-Hellenistic culture which had come down the trade-route; it was a recent introduction in Makkah in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and was probably unknown to the Arab community at large."

Worship the idols was thus the popular creed of the people in the valley of the Euphrates and the lands to the east of Arabia. As the Arabians were bound, since times immemorial, by the ties of commerce with these countries, it is not unlikely that their cultural influence was responsible for grafting idolworship within the Arabian Peninsula. ln his history of Ancient Iraq, Georges Roux says that during the third century B.C. and long thereafter idol-worship was very popular in Mesopotamia.(94) Its every city, old or new, gave shelter to several foreign gods besides the local deities."

There are also reports which suggest that idol worship gradually; came into vogue among the Quraysh. In olden times, as some historians relate, when anybody went out on a long journey from Makkah he took a few stones from the enclosures of the sanctuary as a mark of grace with him. In due course of time, they started venerating the monoliths they admired most. The subsequent generations, not knowing the reason for holding such monoliths in esteem, started worshipping them like other pagan people of the surrounding countries.(96) The Quraysh, however, remained attached to some of the older traditions like paying deference to the holy sanctuary, its circumambulation, and the greater and lesser pilgrimages: Hajj and 'Umra.

The gradual evolution of different religions showing substitution of means for the ends and the slow progression from suppositions to conclusions lend support to the view put forth by the historians about the beginning of idol worship among the Quraysh. The esteem and reverence in which even certain misguided Muslim sects come to hold the portraits and sepulchres of the saints and the way they sluggishly adopt this course possesses an incriminating evidence in support of the gradual evolution of idol worship. That is why the Islamic Shari'a completely stalls all those tracks and alleys which lead to the undue veneration of personages, places and relics for they ultimately lead to ascribing partners to God.(99)


It was during this period that a significant event, unparalleled in the history of Arabia, came to pass which portended something of vital importance likely to take place in the near future. It augured well for the Arabs, in general, and predicted a unique honour for the K'aba, never attained by any place of worship anywhere in the world. The incident afforded hope for expecting a great future for the K'aba—a future on which depended the destiny of religions or rather the entire humanity since it was soon to unfold itself in the shape of an eternal message of righteousness and peace.


The Quraysh had always held the belief that the House of God had a special place of honour in the eyes of the Lord Who was Himself its protector and defender. The trust placed by the Quraysh in the inviolability of the K'aba is amply borne out by the conversation between Abraha and 'Abdul Muttalib. It so happened that Abraha seized two hundred camels belonging to 'Abdul Muttalib, who, then, called upon him and sought permission to see Abraha. Abraha treated 'Adul Muttalib with the greatest respect and got off his throne and made him sit by his side. Asked to tell the purpose of his visit, 'Abdul Muttalib replied that he wanted the King to return his two hundred camels which the King had taken.

Abraha, taken by surprise, asked 'Abdul Muttalib, "Do you wish to talk about your two hundred camels taken by me, but you say nothing about the House on which depend your religion and the religion of your forefathers, which I have come to destroy ?" 'Abdul Muttalib boldly replied "I am the owner of the camels and the House has an Owner Who will Himself defend it".

Abraha said again, "How can it be saved from me?"

"This is a matter between you and Him", replied 'Abdul Muttalib."

(Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp.49-50)

Who could dare to do harm or cast a blighting glance at the House of God? Its protection was, in truth, the responsibility of God.

The episode, briefly, was that Abraha al-Ashram, who was the viceroy of Negus, the King of Abyssinia, in Yemen built an imposing cathedral in San'a and gave it the name of al-Qullays. He intended to divert the Arab's pilgrimage to this cathedral. Being a Christian, Abrah had found it intolerably offensive that the K'aba should remain the great national shrine, attracting crowds of pilgrims from almost every Arabian clan. He desired that his cathedral should replace K'aba as the most sacred chapel of Arabia.

This was, however, something inglorious for the Arabs. Veneration of the K'aba was a settled disposition with the Arabs: they neither equated any other place of worship with the K'aba nor they could have exchanged it with anything howsoever precious. The perturbation caused by the declared intentions of Abraha set them on fire. Some Kinanite dare-devils accepted the challenge and one of them defiled the cathedral by defecating in it. Now, this caused a serious tumult. Abraha was enraged and he swore that he would not take rest until he had destroyed the K'aba.

Abraha took the road to Makkah at the head of a strong force which included a large number of elephants. The Arabs had heard awesome stories about elephants. The news made them all confused and bewildered. Some of the Arab tribes even tried to obstruct the progress of Abraha's army, but they soon realised that it was beyond their power to measure swords with him. Now, hoping against hope, they left the matter to God putting their trust in Him to save the sacred sanctuary.

The Quraysh took to the hills and craggy gorges in order to save themselves from the excesses of Abraha's soldiers. 'Abdul Muttalib and a few other persons belonging to the Quraysh took hold of the door of the K'aba, praying and imploring God to help them against Abraha. On the other side, Abraha drew up his troops to enter the town and got his elephant 'Mahmud' ready for attack. On his way to the city, the elephant knelt down and did not get up in spite of severe beating. But when they made it face Yemen, it got up immediately and started off.

God then sent upon them flocks of birds, each carrying stones in its claws. Everyone who was hit by these stones died. The Abyssinians thereupon withdrew in fright by the way they had come, continually being hit by the stones and falling dead in their way. Abraha, too, was badly smitten, and when his soldiers tried to take him back, his limbs fell one by one, until he met a miserable end on reaching San'a (101). The incident finds a reference in the Qur'aan also.

"Hast You not seen how Your Lord dealt with the owners of the Elephant ? Did He not bring their stratagem to naught, And send against them swarms of flying creatures, Which pelted them with stones of baked clay, And made them like green crops devoured (by cattle)?" [Qur'aan 105:1-5]


When God turned back the Abyssinians from Makkah, crushed and humbled, and inflicted His punishment upon them, the Arabs, naturally, looked up to the Quraysh in great respect. They said: "Verily, these are the people of God: God defeated their enemy—and they did not have even to fight the assailants." The esteem of the people for the K'aba naturally increased strengthening their conviction in its sanctity.(Ibn Hisham, Vol. 1, p.57)

It was undoubtedly a miracle; a sign of the advent of a Prophet (peace be upon him) who was to cleanse the K'aba of its contamination of idols. It was an indication that the honour of the K'aba was to rise with the final dispensation to be brought by him. One could say that the incident foretold the advent of the great Prophet (peace be upon him) .

The Arabians attached too much importance, and rightly too, to this great event. They instituted a new calendar from the date of its occurrence. Accordingly, we find in their writings such references as that a certain event took place in the year of Elephant or that such and such persons were born in that year or that a certain incident came to pass so many years after the Year of Elephant. This year of miracle was 570 A.D.

Prophet Isma'il [Ishmael] in Makkah

The patriarch Ibrahim (Abraham) peace be upon him, came down to the valley of Makkah surrounded by mountains, naked rocks and bare and rugged crags. Nothing to sustain life, neither water nor verdure, nor food grains, was to be found there. He had with him his wife Hajjar (Hagar) and their son Isma'il (Ishmael) 'alaihimus salaam. Ibrahim ('alaihi salaam) had wandered through the deserts of Arabia in order to move away from the wide-spread heathen cult of idol-worship and to set up a centre for paying homage to the One and Only God where he could invite others to bow down before the Lord of the world. He wanted to lay the foundation of a lighthouse of guidance, a sanctuary of peace which should become the radiating centre of true monotheism, faith and righteousness!

God blessed the sincerity of Ibrahim ('alaihi salaam) and the dry valley of this wild country. Ibrahim ('alaihi salaam) had left his wife and his infant son in this inhospitable territory. Here, in the midst of rugged hills, the Master of all the worlds manifested His grace by causing water to issue forth from the earth which is called the well of Zamzam to this day.

When Isma'il ('alaihi salaam) was a few years old, Ibrahim ('alaihi salaam) went to visit his family in Makkah. Ibrahim ('alaihi salaam) now made up his mind to sacrifice Isma'il for the sake of God, for the Lord had commanded him in a dream: 'Offer up Your son Isma'il'. Obedient to the Lord as he was, Isma’il at once agreed to have his throat cut by his father. But, God saved Isma’il, and instituted (84) the 'day of great sacrifice', in order to commemorate the event for all times, since, he was destined to help Ibrahim ('alaihi salaam) in his mission and become the progenitor of the last Prophet (peace be upon him) as well as of the nation charged to disseminate the message of God and to struggle for it to the end of time.

Ibrahim ('alaihi salaam) came back to Makkah again and assisted by his son Isma'il ('alaihi salaam), built the House of God. While the father and the son occupied themselves in the work, they also beseeched God to confer His grace; cause them to live as well as die in Islam; and help their progeny to keep a watch over their patrimony of monotheism, not only by protecting their mission against every risk or peril but also by becoming its standard-bearers and preachers, braving every danger and sacrificing everything for its sake until their call reached the farthest corner of the world. They also supplicated God to raise up a Prophet amongst their offsprings, who should renovate and revive the summons of Ibrahim ('alaihi salaam) and bring to completion the task initiated by him.

"And when Ibrahim and Ismael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed); Our Lord! Accept from us (this duty). Lo ! You, only You, art the Hearer, the Knower.

"Our Lord ! and make us submissive unto You and of our seed a nation submissive unto You, and show us our ways of worship, and relent toward us. Lo! You,' only You, are the Relenting, the Merciful.

"Our Lord! And raise up in their midst a messenger from among them who shall recite unto them Your revelations, and shall instruct them in the Scripture and in wisdom and shall make them grow. Lo! You, only You, are the Mighty, the Wise."

[Qur'aan 2:127-29]

The prayer sent up by Ibrahim ('alaihi salaam) included the request that the House he was constructing might become a sanctuary of peace and God might keep his progeny away from idol worship. Ibrahim held nothing more in abomination than idolatrousness, nor deemed anything more fraught with danger for his progeny, for he knew the fate of earlier idolatrous nations. He was aware how the great Prophets of God had earlier struggled and fought this evil throughout their lives, but in no long time after their departure from the world their people were again misled into fetishism by devil's advocates disguised as promoters of faith.

Ibrahim ('alaihi salaam) had implored the Lord to bless his descendants with his own spirit of struggle against the evil of pantheism and iconolatry. He wanted his heirs to carry into their thoughts how he had to strive all his life for the sake of Truth and Faith; how he had to bid farewell to his hearth and home; realise why he had incurred the wrath of his idolatrous father; and appreciate the wisdom behind his making a selection of that valley, unbelievably bare with no scrap of soil, sheer from top to bottom and jagged and sharp for their habitation. He wanted them to understand why he had preferred that wilderness, holding no prospects of progress and civilisation, over verdant lands and flourishing towns and centres of trade, arts and commerce where one could easily meet one's wishes.

Ibrahim had invoked the blessings of God on his sons so that they might be esteemed and adored by all the nations of the world; that the people of every nation and country might become attached to his children; that they should come from every nook and corner of the world to pay homage to his posterity and thus become a means of satisfying their needs in that barren country

"And when Ibrahim said: My Lord! Make safe this territory, and preserve me and my sons from serving idols.

"My Lord! Lo! They have led many of mankind astray. But whoso followeth me, he verily is of me. And whoso disobeyeth me still You art Forgiving, Merciful.

"Our Lord! Lo! I have settled some of my posterity in an uncultivable valley near unto Your holy House, our Lord ! that they may establish proper worship; so incline some hearts of men that they may yearn toward them, and provide You them with fruits in order that they may be thankful."

[Qur'aan 14:35-37]

Pre-Prophethood - the Arabian Peninsula

Arabia is the largest peninsula in the world. The Arabs call it 'Jaziratul-Arab' which means the "Island of Arabia", although it is not an island, being surrounded by water on three sides only. Lying in the south-west of Asia, the Arabian Gulf is to its east, which was known to the Greeks as Persian Gulf; the Indian Ocean marks the southern limits; and to its west is Red Sea which was called Sinus Arabicus or Arabian Gulf by the Greeks and Latins and Bahr Qulzum by the ancient Arabs. The northern boundry is not well-defined, but may be considered an imaginary line drawn due east from the head of the Gulf of al-'Aqabah in the Red Sea to the mouth of the Euphrates.

Arab geographers have divided the country into five regions:

(1) Hijaz extends from Aila (al-'Aqabah) to Yemen and has been so named because the range of mountains running parallel to the western coast separates the low coastal belt of Tihama from Najd

(2) Tihama inside the inkier range is a plateau extending to the foothills

(3) Yemen, south of Hijaz, occupies the south-west corner of Arabia

(4) Najd, the north central plateau, extends from the mountain ranges of Hijaz in the west to the deserts of Bahrain in the east and encompasses a number of deserts and mountain ranges

(5) 'Aruz which is bounded by Bahrain to its east and Hijaz to its west. Lying between Yemen and Najd it was also known as Yamamah.(69)


One of the driest and hottest countries of the world, ninety percent of Arabia is made up of barren desert. The geological and physical features of the land along with its climatic conditions have kept its population, in the days gone by and also in the present time, to the minimum and hindered the flowering of large civilizations and empires. The nomadic life of the desert tribes, rugged individualism of the people and unrestrained tribal warfare have tended to limit the settled population to the areas where there is abundance of rainfall or water is available on the surface of land in the shape of springs or ponds or is found nearer the surface of the earth. The Bedouins dig deep wells in the ground. The way of life in Arabia is, so to say, dictated by the availability of water; nomadic tribes continually move about in the desert in search of water. Wherever verdant land is found, the tribes go seeking pastures but they are never bound to the land like the tillers of the soil. They stay over a pasture or oasis so long as they can graze their flocks of sheep, goats and camels and then break up their camps to search out new pastures.

Life in the desert was hard and filled with danger. The bedouin felt bound to the family and to the clan, on which depended his existence in the arid desert; loyalty to the tribe meant for him the same life-long alliance as others feel for the nation and state. His life was unstable and vagrant; like the desert, he knew not ease nor comfort; and understood only the language of power, of might. The bedouin knew no moral code— no legal or religious sanction—nothing save the traditional sentiment of his own and the tribe's honour. In short, it was a life that always brought about hardship and trouble for him and sowed the seeds of danger for the neighbouring sedentary populations.

The desert tribes of Arabia were engaged in endless strife amongst themselves and made incursions into the settled lands around them. At the same time, the Arabs displayed a boundless loyalty to their tribes and traditions, were magnanimously hospitable, honoured the treaties, were faithful friends and dutifully met the obligations of tribal customs. All these traits of the Arab character are amply illustrated by their forceful and elegant literature, both in prose and poetry, proverbs, metaphors, simile and fables.


In places where there were sufficient periodic rains or water was available in wells or springs settlements used to spring up or the nomads came together during seasonal fairs and festivals. While such get-togethers exerted a civilizing influence on the life of the bedouins, the agricultural settlements reflected their specific characteristics depending on climatic conditions and economic and occupational features of the sedentary populations. Accordingly, Makkah had a peculiar cultural development as had other settlements like Yathrib and Hira their own distinguishing cultural features. Yemen was culturally the most developed region in the country owing to its long history and political developments in the recent past. Because of its suitable climate, Yemen had made rapid strides in cultivation of cereals, animal husbandry, quarry of minerals and construction of forts and palaces. It had commercial relations with Iraq, Syria and Africa and imported different commodities needed by it.


Arab historians as well as old traditions of the land hold that the people of Arabia can be categorised in three broad divisions. The first of these were the 'Arab Ba'idah (extinct Arabs) who populated the country but ceased to exist before the advent of Islam. The next were the 'Arab 'Ar’ibah (Arabian Arabs) or Banu Qahtan who replaced the 'Arab Ba'idah and the third were the 'Arab Must'arabah (Arabicized Arabs) or the progeny of Ishmael which settled in Hijaz.

The line of demarcation drawn according to racial division of the Arab stock makes a distinction between those descending from Qahtan and 'Adnan; the former are held to be Yemenites or southern Arabs while the latter had settled in Hijaz. Arab genealogists further divide the 'Adnan into two sub-groups which they term as Rabi'a and Mudar. There had been a marked rivalry from the distant past between the Qahtan and the 'Adnan just as the Rabi'a and the Mudar had been hostile to each other. However, the historians trace the origin of the Qahtan to a remoter past from which the 'Adnan branched off at a later time and learned Arabic vernacular from the former. It is held that the 'Adnan were the offspring of Ishmael (Isma'il) who settled in Hijaz after naturalisation.

Arab genealogists give great weight to these racial classifications which also find a confirmation in the attitude of Iranians in the olden times. The Iranian general Rustam had admonished his courtiers who had derided Mughira b. Shu'ba and looked down upon him for having presented himself as the envoy of Muslims in tattered clothes, Rustam had then said to his counselors: "You are all fools....The Arabs give little importance to their dress and food but are vigilant about their lineage and family."


Multiplicity of dialects and languages should not have been at all surprising in a country so big as Arabia (actually, equal to a sub-continent), divided into north and south, not only by the trackless desert, but also by the rivalry of kindred races and clanish patriotism of a passionate, chauvinistic type, affording but little opportunity for intermixing and unification of the country's population. The tribes living in the frontier regions close to Iranian and Byzantine empires were, quite naturally, open to influences of alien elements. All these factors have given birth to numerous languages in Europe and the Indian subcontinent. In India alone, fifteen languages have been officially recognised by the Constitution of India while there are still people who have to speak in an official language other than their own mother tongue or take recourse to English for being understood by others.

But, the Arabian Peninsula has had, despite its vastness and proliferation of tribes, a common language ever since the rise of Islam. Arabic has been the common lingua franca of the bedouins living in the deserts as well as of the sedentary and cultured populations like the Qahtan and 'Adnan. Some local variations in the dialects of various regions arising from differences of tones and accents, wide distances and diversity of physical and geographical conditions could not be helped, yet there has always been a linguistic uniformity which has made the Qur'aan intelligible to all. It has also been helpful in the rapid diffusion of Islam to the far-flung tribes of Arabia.


Archaeological excavations show existence of human habitation in Arabia during the earliest period of Stone Age. These earliest remains pertain to Chellean period of palaeolithic epoch. The people of Arabia mentioned in the Old Testament throw light on the relations between the Arabs and ancient Hebrews between 750 to 200 B.C. Similarly, Talmud also refers to the Arabs. Josephus (37—100 B.C.) gives some valuable historical and geographical details about the Arabs and Nabataeans. There are many more Greek and Latin writings of pre-Islamic era, enumerating the tribes living in the Peninsula and giving their geographical locations and historical details, which, notwithstanding the mistakes and inconsistencies in them, are inestimable sources of information about ancient Arabia. Alexandria was also one of those important commercial centers of antiquity which had taken a keen interest in collecting data about Arabia, its people and the commodities produced in that country for commercial purposes.

The classical writers first to mention the Arabians in the Greek literature were Aeschylus (525-465 B. C.) and Herodotus (484-425 B. C.). Several other writers of the classical period have left an account of Arabia and its inhabitants, of these, Claudius Ptolemaeus of Alexandria was an eminent geographer of the second century, whose Almagest occupied an important place in the curriculum of Arabic schools. Christian sources also contain considerable details about Arabia during the pre-Islamic and early Islamic era although these were primarily written to describe Christianity and its missionary activities in that country.

The numerous references made to the 'Ereb' in the Old Testament are synonymous with the nomadic tribes of Arabia since the word means desert in Semitic and the characteristics of the people described therein apply to the Bedouins. Similarly, the Arabs mentioned in the writings of the Greeks and Romans as well as in the New Testament were Bedouins who used to make plundering raids on the frontier towns of Roman and Byzantine empires, despoiled the caravans and imposed extortionate charges on the traders and wayfarers passing through their territories. Diodorus Siculus, a classical writer of Sicily in the second half of the first century B.C., affirms that the Arabians are "Self reliant and independence-loving, like to live in the open desert and highly prize and value their liberty." The Greek historian Herodotus (484-425 B. C.) also makes a similar remark about them. "They revolt against every power," he says, "which seeks to control their freedom or demean them." The passionate attachment of the Arabs to their personal freedom had been admired by almost all the Greek and Latin writers.

The acquaintance of the Arabs with the Indians and their commercial and cultural relations which India began in the days much before the advent of Islam and their conquest of India. Modern researches on the subject show that of all the Asiatic countries, India was closest to, Arabia and well-acquainted with it.


Arabia had been the birth-place of several Prophets of God ('alaihimus salaam) in the bygone times. The Qur'aan says:

"And make mention (O Muhammed) of the brother of A'ad when he warned his folk among the wind-curved sandhills—and verily warners came and went before and after him—saying: Serve none but Allah. Lo! I fear for you the doom of a tremendous Day. [Qur'aan 46:21]

Prophet Hud ('alaihi salaam) was sent to the A'ad; a people, according to historians, belonging to the 'Arab Ba'idah who lived in a tract of white or reddish sand blown into hill banks or dunes and covering a vast area to the south-west of al-Rub'e al-Khali (the vacant quarter) near Hadramaut. This region has no habitation and is void of the breath of life, but it was a verdant land in the ancient times, with flourishing towns inhabited by a people of gigantic strength and stature. The whole area was consumed by a fearful and roaring wind which covered it with sand dunes.

The Qur'aanic verse quoted above shows that the Prophet Hud ('alaihi salaam) was not the only Messenger of God sent to the ancient Arabs of this area as many more 'warners came and went before him'.

Salih ('alaihi salaam) was another Arabian Prophetsent to the people called Thamud who lived in al-Hijr situated between Tabuk and Hijaz. Prophet Isma'il ('alaihi salaam) was brought up in Makkah, and he died in the same city. If we extend the frontiers of the Arabian peninsula northwards to include Midian on the borders of Syria, Prophet Shu'aib ('alaihi salaam) would also be reckoned as an Arabian Prophet (peace be upon him). The historian Abul Fida says that Midianites were Arabs, living in Midian near Ma'an, which is adjacent to the Sea of Lut (Dead Sea) in Syria on the frontier of Hijaz. The Midianites flourished after the downfall of the people of Lut.

Ancient Arabia had been the cradle of many a civilised and flourishing people to whom God had sent His Prophets. But all of them were either destroyed because of their evil ways or became strangers in their own homeland, or were forced to seek new homes. The Prophets of God born in the lands far away had sometimes to seek refuge in Arabia from the despotic kings of their lands. Ibrahim (Abraham) ('alaihi salaam) had migrated to Makkah and Moses ('alaihi salaam) had to flee to Midian. Followers of other religions, too, had to seek shelter in Arabia. The Jews, when persecuted by the Romans, had settled in Yemen and Yathrib while several Christian sects harassed by the Byzantine Emperors had migrated to Najran.

Pre-Prophethood - the Unique Characteristics of the Arabs.

It was the will of God that the glorious sun of humanity's guidance, which was to illuminate the world without end, should rise from Arabia. For it was the darkest corner of this terrestrial globe, it needed the most radiant daystar to dispel the gloom setting on it.

God had chosen the Arabs as the standard bearers of Islam for propagating its message to the four corners of the world, since these guileless people were simple hearted, nothing was inscribed on the tablets of their mind and heart, nothing so deep engraver as to present any difficulty in sweeping the slate clean of every impression. The Romans and the Iranians and the Indians, instinctually thrilled by the glory of their ancient arts and literatures, philosophies, cultures and civilizations were all crushed by the heavy burden of the past, that is, a conditioned reflex of 'touch not-ism' had got itself indelibly etched in their minds. The imprints in the memory of the Arabs were lightly impressed merely because of their rawness and ignorance or rather their nomadic life, and thus these were liable to he obliterated easily and replaced by new inscriptions. They were, in modern phraseology, suffering from unpreceptiveness which could readily be remedied while other civilized nations, having vivid pictures of the past filled in their minds, were haunted by an obsessive irrationality which could never be dismissed from their thoughts.

The Arabs were frank and unassuming, practical and sober, industrious, venturesome and plain spoken. They were neither double-dealers nor liked to be caught in a trap. Like a people true souled, they were always outspoken and remained firm once they had taken a decision.

The Greeks, the Byzantines and the Iranians were peoples of a different mettle. Accustomed to improving the shining hour as a godsend opportunity, they lacked the grit to fight against injustice and brutality. No ideal, no principle was attractive enough for them: no conviction or call was sufficiently potent to tug at their heartstrings in a way that they could imperil their comfort and pleasure.

Unspoiled by the nicety, polish and ostentatiousness usually produced by the display of wealth and luxury of an advanced culture, the Arabs had not developed that fastidiousness which hardens the heart and ossifies the brain, allows no emotion to catch the flame and always acts as an inhibition when one's faith or conviction demands stirring of the blood. This is the listless apathy which is hardly ever erased from one's heart.

The common ignorance of the Arabs, exempted from the shame or reproach it involves, had helped to conserve the natural briskness and intellectual energy of these people. Being strangers to philosophies and sophistry, ratiocination and lame and impotent quibbling, they had preserved their soundness of mind, dispatch, resoluteness and fervidness of spirit.

The perpetual independence of Arabia from the yoke of invaders had made the Arabs free unacquainted with the pomp or majesty or haughty demeanor of the emperors.

The servile temper of the ancient Persia had, contrarily, exalted the Sasanian monarchs to supernatural beings. If any king took a medicine or was given phlebotomy, a proclamation was made in the capital that all and sundry should suspend their trades and business on that day. If the king sneezed, nobody dared raise his voice to say grace, nor was anybody expected to say 'Amen' when the king sent up a prayer. The day any king paid a visit to any noble or chief was regarded an event so memorable that the elated family of the fortunate grandee instituted a new calendar from that day. It was an honor so singular that the grandee was exempted from payment of taxes for a fixed period besides enjoying other rewards, fiefs and robes of honor.

We can imagine what a state audience of the king must have been like for those who were allowed to appear before him. By etiquette, all the courtiers, even the highest nobles and dignitaries, were required to stand silently with their hands folded on the navel, and their heads bowed in reverence. Actually, this was the ceremonial etiquette prescribed for State audience during the reign of Chosroes I (531-579), known as Anushirvan (of the Immortal Soul) and 'Adil (the Just). One can very well visualize the pompous ceremonials in vogue during the reign of Sasanid kings justly reputed as tyrants and despots.

Freedom of speech and expression (and not censure or criticism, in the least) was a luxury never indulged in by anyone in the vast kingdom of the Sasanids. Christensen has related, on the authority of At-Tabari, a story about Chosroes I, passing under the name of 'The dust' among the Sasanid kings, which demonstrates the freedom of allowed by the Iranian kings and the price paid for the imprudence of speaking out the truth.

"He assembled his council and ordered the secretary for taxes to read aloud the new rates of collection. When the secretary had announced the rates, Chosroes I asked twice whether anyone had any objection to the new arrangement. Everybody remained silent but on the third time of asking, a man stood up and asked respectfully whether the king had meant to establish a tax for perpetuity on things perishable, which, as time went on, would lead to injustice. "Accursed and rash!" cried the King, "To what class do you belong?" "I am one of the secretaries", replied the mall "Then', ordered the king, "Beat him to death with pen cases". Thereupon every secretary started beating him with his pen case until the poor man died, and the beholders exclaimed: "O King, we find ,all the taxes you have levied upon us, just and fair!'

(Iran ba 'Ahad Sasaniyan, p.511)

The horrible condition of the depressed classes in the then India, who were condemned as untouchables by the social and religious laws promulgated by the Aryans, baffles all human understanding. Subjected to it gruesome indignity, this unfortunate class of human being was treated pretty much the same way as pet animals except that they resembled the species of man. According to this law, a Sudra who assaulted a Brahmin or attempted to do so, was to lose the limb with which the assault was made. The Sudra was forced to drink boiling oil if he made the pretentious claim of teaching somebody.(Manil Shahtra, 10 Chapter) The penalty for killing dogs, cats, frogs, chameleons, crows and owls was the same as that for killing the Sudras. (R.C. Dutt, Ancient India, Vol. III, pp. 324 qnd 343)

Unworthy treatment of their subjects by the Sasanian Emperors had not been the lot of the common man in Byzantium, but in their pride and policy to display the titles and attributes of their omnipotence, the Caesars of Rome had all the signs of their oriental counterparts.

Victor Chopart writes about the arbitrary rule and majesty of the Roman Emperors.
"The Caesars were gods, but not by heredity, and one who rose to power would become divine in his turn, and there was no mark by which he could be recognized in advance. The transmission of the title of Augustus was governed by no regular constitutional law; it was acquired by victory over rivals, and the Senate did no more than ratify the decision of arms. This ominous fact became apparent in the first century of the Principate, which was merely a continuance of the military dictatorship."

If we compare the servile submission of the common man of Byzantium and Persia with the spirit of freedom and pride, as well as the temperament and social conduct of the pre-Islamic Arabs, we would see the difference between the social life and natural propensities of the Arabs and other nations of the world.

"May you be safe from frailty", and "Wish you a happy morning", were some of the salutations very often used by the Arabs to hail their kings. So solicitous were they of preserving their dignity and pride, honor and freedom that many a time they even refused to satisfy the demands of their chiefs and rulers.

A story preserved by Arab historians admirably describes the rudimentary Arab virtues of courage and outspokenness. An Arab king demanded a mare known as Sikab from its owner belonging to Bani Tamim. The man flatly refused the request and instantly indited a poem of which the opening lines were:
Sikab is a nice mare, good as gold,
Too precious it is to be gifted or sold.
And, in the concluding verse he said:
To grab it from me, make no effort,
For I am competent to balk your attempt.

There was yet another reason for the advent of the last Prophet (peace be upon him) in Arabia and it was the Ka'ba, the House of God, built by Abraham and Ishmael as the center for worship of One God.

"Lo ! the first Sanctuary appointed for mankind was that at Becca , a blessed place, a guidance to the peoples." [Qur'aan 3:96]

There is a mention of the valley of Baca in the Old Testament. The old translators of the Bible gave this word the meaning of 'a valley of weeping', but better sense seems to have prevailed later on. According to more recent of the Biblical scholars, the word 'signifies rather any valley lacking water, and 'the Psalmist apparently has in mind a -particular valley whose natural condition led him to adopt that name. Now, this waterless valley, which can easily be identified with the valley of Makkah, has been thus mentioned in the Book of Psalms.

"Blessed art they that dwell in Your house; they will still be praising thee Selah. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; In whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well." [Psalm 84:4-6]

The birth of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) in the city of Makkah was really an answer to the prayer sent up by Abraham and Ishmael while laying the foundation of Ka'ba.They had beseeched God in these words:

"Our Lord! And raise up unto them an Messenger from among them, who shall recite unto them Your revelations, and shall teach them the Book and wisdom, and shall cleanse them. Verily You! You art the Mighty, the Wise." [Qur'aan 2:129]

A standing norm of God Almighty is that He always answers the prayers of those who are pious and devoted and pure in heart. The Messengers of God occupy, without doubt, a higher place than the most devout and the godliest believers. All the earlier scriptures and prophecies bear witness to this fact. Even the Old Testament testifies that the supplication of Abraham in regard to Ishmael met the approval of the Lord. The Book of Genesis says:

"And as for Ish'ma-el, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation." (Gen. 17:20)

That is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) is reported to have said: "I am the (result of the) prayer of Abraham and prophecy of Jesus". (Musnad Imam Ahmad) The Old Testament still contains, notwithstanding its numerous recensions and alterations, the evidence that this prayer of Abraham was answered by God. Mark the very clear reference in the Book of Deuteronomy to the advent of a Prophet.

"The Lord Your God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of Your brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken." (Deut. 18:15)

Now, this being a prognosis by Moses, "Your brethren" clearly indicates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) promised by God was to be raised from amongst the Ishmaelites who were the cousins of Israelites. God again reiterates His promise in the same Book:

"And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him". (Deut. 18:17-18)

The words 'put my words in his mouth' occurring in this oracle very clearly indicate the advent of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who was to recite and deliver to his people the divine revelation exactly as he received them. This prediction has been substantiated by the Qur'aan also.
"Nor doth he speak of (his own) desire". [Qur'aan 53:3]

Again, the Qur'aan says about the revelation vouchsafed to the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him):

“Falsehood cannot come at it from before it or behind it. It is! a revelation from the Wise, the Owner Praise.” [Qur'aan 41:42]

But, quite unlike the Qur'aan, both the Bible and its followers ascribe the authorship of the 'Books' included in the Bible to the 'ancient sages' and the 'great teachers' and never to the Divine Author Himself. Modern Biblical scholars have reached the conclusion that:

"Ancient Jewish traditions attributed the authorship of the Pentateuch (with the exceptions of the last eight verses describing Moses' death) to Moses himself. But the many inconsistencies and seeming contradictions contained in it attracted the attention of the Rabbis, who exercised their ingenuity in reconciling them."(Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. IX, p.589)

As for the 'Books' forming part of the New Testament, they have never been treated, either literally or in their contents to be of Divine origin. These books really contain a biographical account and anecdotes of Jesus, as narrated by the later scribes, rather than a Book of revelation sent unto the Master.

We now come to the geographical position of Arabia, which, being connected by land and sea routes with the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe, occupied the most suitable place for being chosen as the center of enlightenment for radiating divine guidance and knowledge to the entire world. All the three continents had been cradles of great civilizations and powerful empires, while Arabia lay in the center through which passed the merchandise of all the countries , far and near, affording an opportunity to different nations and races for exchange of thoughts and ideas. Two great empires, Sasanid and Byzantine, on either side of the Arabian peninsula, governed the history of the world. Both were large, rich and powerful, and both fought each other constantly; yet, Arabia jealously guarded her independence and never allowed either of the two powers to lay its hands on it, barring a few territories lying on its frontiers. Excepting a few peripheral tribes, the Arab of the desert was extremely sensitive to his regal dignity and untrammeled freedom, and he never allowed any despot to hold him in bondage. Such a country, unimpeded by political and social constraints, was ideally suited to become the nucleus of a Universal message preaching human equality, liberty and dignity.

For all these reasons God had selected Arabia, and the city of Makkah within it, for the advent of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to whom divine Scripture was to be sent for the last time to pave the way for proclamation of peace throughout the length and breadth of the world from age to age.

"Allah knoweth best with whom to place His message." [Qur'aan 6:125]

Yet, in no part of the Peninsula was there any indication of an awakening or a vexation of spirit showing the sign of life left in the Arabs. There were scarcely a few Hanif, who could be counted on one's fingers, feeling their way towards monotheism but they were no more than the glowworms in a dark and chilly rainy night incapable of showing the path of righteousness to anybody or providing warmth to one being frozen to death.

This was an era of darkness and depression in the history of Arabia—a period of darkest gloom when the country had reached the rock-bottom of its putrefied decadence, leaving no hope of any reform or improvement. The shape of things in Arabia presented a task far more formidable and baffling than ever faced by any Messenger of God.

Sir William Muir, a biographer of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who is ever willing to find fault with the Prophet (peace be upon him) and cast derision upon him, has vividly depicted the state of affairs in Arabia before the birth of Muhammed which discredits the view held by certain European orientalists that Arabia was fermenting for a change and looking forward to a man of genius who could respond to it better than any other. Says Sir William Muir:

"During the youth of Mahomet, this aspect of the Peninsula was strongly conservative; perhaps it was never at any period more hopeless."

Reviewing the feeble stir created by Christianity and Judaism in the dark and deep ocean of Arabian paganism, Sir William Muir remarks;

"In fine, viewed thus in a religious aspect the surface of Arabia had been now and then gently rippled by the feeble efforts of Christianity; the sterner influence of Judaism had been occasionally visible in the deeper and more troubled currents; but the tide of indigenous idolatry and of Ishmaelite superstition, setting from every quarter with an unbroken and unebbing surge towards the Ka’ba, gave ample evidence that the faith and worship of Makkah held the Arab mind in a thralldom, rigorous and undisputed."

R. Bosworth Smith is another European biographer of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who has also reached the same conclusion.

"One of the most philosophical of historians has remarked that of all the revolutions which have had a permanent influence upon the civil history of mankind, none could so little be anticipated by human prudence as that effected by the religion of Arabia. And at frist sight it must be confessed that the sicence of History, if indeed there be such a science, is at a loss to find the sequence of cause and effect which it is the object and the test of all history, which is worthy of the name, to trace it."