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The Pre-Islamic Arab


The Pre-Islamic Arab

The pre-Islamic era is called ‘Iyame Jahiliyyah’. In Arabic, the word ‘Ayyam’ means time or era, and the word ‘Jahiliyyah’ means ignorance, superstition, or barbarity. So Iyam Jahlia means Tamsa Yuga or Age of Ignorance. The era before the advent of Islam i.e. one hundred years before the birth of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is called Jahiliyyah. According to most historians, “the century before Muhammad (PBUH) can be called the age of Tamsa.” Professor P.K. Hittie also supports this view.

Characteristics of the Jahlia period: In the pre-Islamic period, various types of superstitions, lawlessness, and brutality prevailed in the social, political, economic, religious, and cultural life of the Arabs. As a result, they lost their human qualities and plunged into the current of oppression and injustice. Historian P.K. According to Hitti, “The term Jahiliyah usually rendered. The time of ignorance or barbarism in reality means the period in which Arabia had no dispensation, no inspired prophet no revealed book.” Grits “The word jahiliyyah generally means the age of ignorance or barbarism; But, it refers to the period in which there were no laws in Arabia, no prophet appeared and no divine book was revealed.”

In the Holy Qur’an, several verses (3: 148, 5: 55, 33: 33, 48: 26) mention about ignorance in Ayyam. However, it is not known whether it spread over the entire Arab region or not. But Allah says in Surah Al-Imran of the Holy Qur’an, “You were standing on the edge of a great fire.” (Verse: 103). From this verse, it is clear to us that the Jahiliyyah era is the pre-Islamic period.

The political arena of pre-Islamic Arab countries was nothing. There was tribal rule. Due to the lack of rule of law in the sheik-ruled social system, caste hatred was at an extreme. It is discussed below:

Tribal: The political conditions of the Arabian Peninsula during the Dark Ages were highly anarchic and chaotic. There was no such thing as central rule. Tribal rule prevails throughout the peninsula. Clan hatred makes their political life miserable. Historian Wellhausen said, “The religion of Arabs as well as their political life was not a thoroughly primitive level.” That is, “the religious and political life of the Arabs was in a completely primitive state.” But their loyalty to their tribe was immense.

Ruled by Sheikhs: As a result of the caste-based social system, the head of the caste was all-powerful. The head of the tribe was called ‘Sheikh’. Peace and order depended on the consent of the sheiks. There was a bloody struggle between the tribes for the arbitrariness of the sheiks. The lives of other members were governed by the wishes of the head of the clan.

Rule of Law: The Arabs were inexperienced with government formation or governance. They had no idea about ethics and healthy living. As a result, as there was no statutory law in the country, the principle of “Might is Right” was prevalent everywhere. They believed in the principles of blood for blood, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. In the absence of law and the absence of a third arbiter, the “Basur War” between Banu Bakr and Banu Taghlib clans continued for a long time. The battles between the Abs and Dhubian clans over horse racing continued for ages.

Tribal Hatred: The entire Arabian Peninsula was a hellhole for political chaos. So the historian Gibbon said, that before the advent of the Prophet (PBUH), about 1700 wars were fought between different tribes in Arabia. These long-lasting disputes are known as “Ayyam al-Arab” or the Days of the Arabs.

Meccan Governance: In pre-Islamic Arabia, there was a political organization or cabinet called the Mala. The Council of Ministers was formed with the chiefs of various feuding tribes—to maintain peace and order, maintain tribal balance, and establish friendship and goodwill. The Council of Ministers had only advisory powers, no executive powers. Mala had a meeting room called ‘Dar-an-Nadwa’

social status

Social life was dark. As a result of the degradation of the moral condition, all levels of society are filled with corruption, wickedness, and injustice. Below is a brief description of this:

Injustice and Injustice: The social and moral condition of pre-Islamic Arab countries was very dark. Wickedness, superstition, and injustice corrupted Arab society. Historian Khodabakhsh said, “The Arabs were indulging in wine, women, and martial arts, and Muhammad (PBUH) found the whole of Arabia immersed in folly, barbarism, and nature worship.” “War, woman, and wine were the three absorbing passions of the Arabs.” He also said, “Arabia as Muhammad found it, was steeped in ignorance, barbarism, and fetishism of the worst type.”

Status of Women: Women were despised, neglected, and objects of consumption. There was no marriage ceremony. So they used to associate with other people after getting permission from their husbands to have children. Marriage to widow and marriage to sister-in-law was prevalent in the society. Women were sold in markets like commodities. They had no share in the wealth of the deceased husband and father or any relative. They were buried alive because it was humiliating to give birth to a girl child. According to Kitabul Aghazi, “This abominable custom was introduced by a man named Qays-bin-Asim.” Historian Khodabakhsh said, “The Arabs were engaged in surah, women, and war.” Many fathers killed their daughters for fear of poverty. Refraining from this inhuman act is declared in the Holy Quran, “And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. I provide them and you with sustenance. Surely killing them is a great sin. [Al-Qur’an (17:39)]

Status of Slaves: Slavery stigmatized and corrupted Arab society. Slaves were equivalent to animals. Markets were freely bought and sold. They had no freedom. Their lives were governed by the will of the master. They had to endure inhuman torture and live their lives. Slave-slave marriages were illegal and the violation was a punishable offence. Historian Amir Ali said, “Whether it was a servant or a land slave, not a single ray of sunshine or a faint hope of fate could reach this side of the grave (in this life). ”

Prevalence of Liquor and Gambling: Liquor and gambling were commonplace in Jahlia society. It was customary to catch even the wife of the house in gambling. Those who did not gamble were considered miserly and petty. Arab society could not imagine the source without wine and dancers. They were used to drunkenness and debauchery. In Arabia, the famous Uka used to sit for months. The fair was famous for liquor and gambling.

Moral degradation: The moral degradation of the people of pre-Islamic Arab countries corrupted the Arab society. Blasphemy, hypocrisy, boasting of nobility, stealing women, theft, etc. were committed in Arab society.

Cruel Qusid system: In the pre-Islamic era, Arab society was in turmoil due to the existence of the usury system. The public immovable property was mortgaged on interest. Even wives, sons, and daughters were captured. Looting was the profession of a class of people in Arab society. By punishing people and animals, they got peace. Cock fighting and horse racing were the main sports.

Hospitality: Despite moral decadence and disorder in Arab society, people were devoted to guests in society. Sincerity in their care, shelter, and hospitality was a big feature

economic status

The economic condition of pre-Islamic Arabia is discussed below:

Natural environment: The Arab country was naturally dry, surrounded by sand and mountains. Because of this, no kind of plants and crops were produced there. As a result, the economic condition of Arab countries was dire. Mainly three classes of people lived there. Desert nomads, city dwellers, business class, and moneylenders.

Subsistence: Desert-dwelling Bedouin community with a low standard of living. They worked hard and reared animals and their occupation was looting. The other class was the townspeople. Their livelihood was in business but the economic crisis corrupted their moral life. The spice trade in India was one of the main sources of livelihood for the Arabs and India became a trading center for the Arabs. The Quraish of Makkah played a special role in this trade. The agreement that was executed to establish trade relations is known as Laf.

Usury-based economic conditions: In Arab societies, usurers improve their economic conditions but destroy the overall financial system. Most people get into debt due to interest

Cash resources: There were no cash crops or natural resources in Arabia at that time. Dates, barley, and barley were crops of Arabia. Animals were the Bedouin’s only source of income. Dates, barley, animal meat, and milk were their main food. As a result, their standard of living was very poor. They had to survive by struggling with severe poverty.


Question: Describe the status of Arab women in the pre-Islamic period.

Question: -Give the socio-economic picture of the whole of Arabia.

Question: What is religious status?


Pre-Islamic religious conditions were very deplorable. This is discussed in detail below:

Diverse Religions: In the pre-Islamic period, the religious condition of Arabia was as complex as the political condition. During the Jahiliyyah era, there were five different religious peoples living in Arabia – Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, idol-worshiping Arabs, and the Hanifa community.

Pagan worship: Prophet Ibrahim (a.) and Hazrat Ismail (a.) initiated the monotheism of Allah and gradually the Arab country was filled with paganism. All the inhabitants of Arabia except Christians and Jews were “pagans”. They prepared different types of idols and worshiped them in their wisdom. The shape of their gods and goddesses was made according to their wishes.

Jewish Community: The Jews who followed Hazrat Musa (A.S.) forgot the teachings of their Prophet and created a hopeless situation in the religious and spiritual field. The Jews ignorantly thought of “Jehovah” as the creator and ruler of the universe. Zoroastrianism: Some people believed in Zoroastrianism. The theme of this religion was that the universe was controlled by two opposing forces called Ahura Mazda and Ahriman. The first symbol of the god of Mars is Agni. The second is the god of evil. Hence they are also called fire worshippers.

Christianity: Like Judaism, Christianity was prevalent in Arabia. Christians believed in ‘Trinitarianism’ instead of one God. According to them, Maryam is the wife of Allah and Jesus (AS) is her son.

Worship of the solar system: Arabs worshiped all gods and goddesses. Apart from worshiping idols, they also worshiped the moon, sun, constellations, and even the solar system.

Installation of gods and goddesses in the Kaaba: A community of Arabs felt insulted to worship the deity of another community. Pagan worshipers of different tribes kept 360 idols in the Holy Kaaba and worshiped them in the knowledge of Allah. They placed the idols of ‘Asaf’ and ‘Namila’ on Mount Safa and Mount Marwa respectively, where animals were sacrificed during Hajj. They installed idols of Hazrat Ibrahim and Hazrat Ismail (a.s.), Hazrat Jesus (a.s.), and Bibi Maryam (a.s.) in the Kaaba. Nasr, Lat, Hubal, Manat, and Al Uzzah were their favorite gods and goddesses. Every year many people came to worship these gods and goddesses.

Religious superstitions and lawlessness: Pre-Islamic Arabs were obsessed with superstitions such as priesthood, animal and human sacrifice, incantations, magic tricks, etc. They believed in ghosts and fortune-telling. Neither the past nor the future, but the present was considered extreme and absolute to them. The Arabs did not believe in the Oneness of God, the immortality of the soul, and the Day of Judgment.

Different doctrines: Before the advent of Islam, religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Zoroastrianism were prevalent in Arabia. However, these religious beliefs could not invigorate the Arabs with genuine faith in Allah, the source of all power.

Hanifa community: While the religious condition of Arabia reached extremes due to the suppression of pagan worship, Judaism, and Christianity, at that time a community named ‘Hanifa’ in Medina was vaguely monotheistic. Zayd-bin-Amr, Waraka-bin-Nawfel, Walid-bin-Mughira, and others belonged to this community.

Although the cultural condition of pre-Islamic Arabia was good, the religious condition was deplorable. The advent of a savior becomes essential to save this wretched nation. Historian Amir Ali has rightly said, “Never in the history of the world has the advent of a Savior been so badly needed and so opportunely felt.” Finally, the political and social organization of the Arabs was strong in the pre-Islamic period. Their trade was not limited to Makkah. They traded with Syria, Persia, and various parts of the Indian subcontinent. The people of Makkah in particular were advanced in trade. For example, Hazrat Khadija (ra), Hazrat Osman (ra), Abu Sufyan, and the rich class of Arabs used to do business. But the business of usury made people wealthy. So it can be said that in the pre-Islamic era, the Arabs were advanced in trade and commerce.

Collaborative Task: Make a list of the religious beliefs of the pre-Islamic Arabs.
cultural conditions

To know what was the cultural condition of the pre-Islamic Arab countries is discussed in detail:

Characteristics of Arabs: During the “Ayam Jahiliyyah” or “Age of Ignorance”, the Arabs were not completely devoid of knowledge. Although the educational system was not as prevalent as it is today, they were not completely isolated from the cultural lifestyle. They were famous for their language and poetry. They had a keen memory and wonderful eloquence. Because of this, they gained fame in history. Arab poetry (lyrics) known as qasidas: Arabs’ wonderful creative power can be found in lyrical composition and literary practice. Arabs’ poetry was known as ‘qasidas’. Just as the Greeks felt the glory of literature and sculpture, so did the Arabs. Claims credit for their qasidas and lyrics

Elevated Language: Historian Hittite says in assessing the poetic value of the Kasidas, “These Kasidas surpass even the Iliad and the Odyssey in rhythm and elaboration.” In the pre-Islamic period, the Arabic language was so rich that it was compared to the advanced languages of modern Europe. About their advanced language, P.K. Hitti said, “The victory of Islam is largely the victory of a language, more precisely the victory of a book is the victory of Islam.” According to him, “This (Arabic) language was the carrier of education, culture, and spirit of progress throughout the civilized world for many centuries in the Middle Ages.” The holy book Quran is shining proof of how rich the Arabic language was

Literary practice: ‘Uqaz Mela’ is an excellent example of the literary practice prevalent among the Arabs in the pre-Islamic period. P.K. “Perhaps no other nation in the world,” says Hitti, “has shown so spontaneous an interest in literary pursuits and been so passionately possessed by the spoken or written word as the Arabs.” In all these literary events, poetry readings, literary discussions, and criticisms were held.

Muallaqat and Gantha Granth: The poetry recitation competition at the month-long annual fair of Uqaz is a famous cultural event in pre-Islamic Arabia. In this fair, the seven prize-winning poems were written in golden letters and hung on the wall of the ‘Kaaba’, so the poems are called ‘Muallaqat’. Amr, Labid, Antara, Imrul Kayes, Tarafa, Haris, and Zubair were the famous authors of these poems. In that era, numerous Ganthas, literature, and poetry books were produced. Hitti has called Uqaz’s fair “Arabic Academic Francaise”.

Practice of science: In addition to the practice of literature, the Arabs also practiced science. Arabs were particularly interested in medicine, veterinary medicine, astronomy, wind direction, and rainfall forecasting. Apart from this, the practice of singing was also popular among them.

Cultural Consciousness through Poetry: During the Jahiliyya period, poets used to write poems about the heroic stories of their clans and clan heroes, descriptions, wonderful qualities of camels, and above all beautiful women and lovers. All these war poems of theirs are an important part of the history of the distant ages. In short, Arabic poetry was an important means of expressing the joys and sorrows of Arab life, ideas, customs, and characteristics. So the historian Allama Suyuti (RA) said, “Poetry is the signed document of the universal identity of the Arabs.” According to the historian Hittite, “Poetry was the cultural document of the Bedouins.” Their literary talent was developed through poetry.

Prominent poets: Imrul Qays, Tarafa-bin-al Abad, Harith bin-Hillij, An Tara-bin Sadat, and Amr-bin Kulsum were notable among the poets of the pre-Islamic period. Imrul Kayes was the emir of poets. He was called the “Shakespeare of Arabia”. As the writing system was not developed enough in that era, the Arabs used to memorize the contents of their works. Their memory was sharp. They used to recite poetry orally. Historian Nicholson said about this, “Poetry was not the luxury of a few cultured people in those days, but it was their only means of expression.” ”

Prose Composition, Proverbs, and Oratory: Pre-Islamic Period – some prose related to tribal conflicts, tribal rebellions, etc. The admirable and admirable character of tribalism, hospitality, simplicity, freedom, passion, piety, generosity, individuality, valor, memory, efficiency, and poetry. A shining example of rare qualities.

Originality: Pre-Islamic Arab lifestyles, rituals, ideologies, etc. were primitive, unadulterated, and full of individuality. Joseph Hale said, “What civilization we find there (Arabia, is their unaffected indigenous civilization.



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