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Arabs Before Islam
Political Conditions in Arabia
There was a total absence of political organization in any form. The Arabs never acknowledged any authority other than the authority of the chiefs of their tribes. The authority of the tribal chiefs was based on his character and personality, and was moral rather than political. Arabs lived for centuries without a government where there was no law and no order. If a crime was committed, the injured party took law in its own hands, and tried to administer “justice” to the offender. This system led very frequently to acts of terrible cruelty.
Since there were no such things as police, courts or judges, the only protection a man could find from his enemies, was in his own tribe. The tribe had an obligation to protect its members even if they had committed crime. A tribe that failed to protect its members from their enemies exposed itself to shame.
Since Arabia did not have a government, war was a permanent institution of the Arabian society. The desert could support only a limited number of people, and the state of inter-tribal war maintained a rigid control over the growth of population. But the Arabs themselves did not see war in this light.
To them, war was a pastime or a dangerous sport or a type of tribal drama. War gave them an opportunity to display their skills at archery, fencing and horsemanship, and also, in war, they could distinguish themselves by their heroism and at the same time win glory and honor for their tribes. In many cases, the Arabs fought for the sake of fighting, whether or not there was a cause.
All Arabs were dishonorable for certain characteristics such as self-importance, self-satisfaction, showing off, cruelty and excessive love of stolen goods. They lacked political discipline, and until the rise of Islam, never acknowledged any authority in Arabia.

Economic Conditions
Economically, the Jews were the leaders of Arabia. They were the owners of the best arable lands in Hijaz, and they were the best farmers in the country. They were also the entrepreneurs of such industries as existed in Arabia in those days, and they enjoyed a monopoly of the weaponry industry.
Slavery was an economic institution of the Arabs. Male and female slaves were sold and bought like animals, and they formed the most depressed class of the Arabian society.
The most powerful class of the Arabs was made up by the capitalists and money-lenders. The rates of interest which they charged on loans were exorbitant, and were especially designed to make them richer and richer and the borrowers poorer and poorer.

Social Conditions
Arabia was a male-dominated society. Women had no status of any kind other than as sex objects. The number of women a man could marry was not fixed. When a man died, his son “inherited” all his wives except his own mother.
The Arabs was to bury their female infants alive. Even if an Arab did not wish to bury his daughter alive, he still had to uphold this “honorable” tradition, being unable to resist social pressures.
They were compulsive drinkers and compulsive gamblers. Many women sold sex to make their living since there was little else they could do. These women flew flags on their houses, and were called “ladies of the flags”.

Marriage in the Jahiliyah was of four types:

1. One was the marriage of people as it is today, where a man gives his daughter to another man.
2. Another type was where a husband says to his wife to have intercourse with a brave man to get pregnant from that man.
3. Another type was when a group of less than ten men used to visit the same woman and all of them had to have intercourse with her. If she became pregnant and born a child, she can choose one of those ten to be the father by saying you know the result of your acts, I have born a child and he is yours and the man may not refuse.
4. The fourth type is when many men frequent a woman, and she does not keep herself from any who comes to her. These women are the baghaya (prostitutes). They used to set up at their doors banners forming a sign. Whoever wanted them went in to them. If one of them born a child, they attached her child to the man whom they thought (the father), and the child remained attached to him and was called his son, no objection to this course being possible.
When Muhammad came preaching the truth, he destroyed all the types of marriage of the Jahiliya except that which people practice today.

The State of Religion in Pre-Islamic Arabia
The period in the Arabian history which preceded the birth of Islam is known as the Times of Ignorance. There was a variety of “religions” which can be classified into the following categories.
1. Polytheists. They worshipped numerous gods and each tribe had its own idol or idols and obsessions.
2. Atheists. This group was composed of the materialists and believed that the world was eternal.
3. Zindiqs. They believed that there were two gods representing the twin forces of good and evil or light and darkness, and both were locked up in an unending struggle for supremacy.
4. Sabines. They worshipped the stars.
5. Jews When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70, and drove the Jews out of Palestine and Syria, many of them found new homes in Hijaz in Arabia. Under their influence, many Arabs also became converts to Judaism
6. Christians. The Romans had converted the north Arabian tribe of Ghassan to Christianity.
7. Monotheists There was a small group of monotheists present in Arabia on the eve of the rise of Islam. Its members did not worship idols, and they were the followers of the Prophet Abraham.

Education among the Arabs before Islam
Among the Arabs there were extremely few individuals who could read and write. Most of them were not very eager to learn these arts. Some historians are of the opinion that the culture of the period was almost entirely oral. The Jews and the Christians were the custodians of such knowledge as Arabia had.
The greatest intellectual accomplishment of the pagan Arabs was their poetry. They claimed that God had bestowed the most remarkable qualities of the head upon the Greeks (its proof is their science and philosophy); of hand upon the Chinese (its proof is their craftsmanship); and of the tongue upon the Arabs (its proof is their eloquence). Their greatest pride, both before and after Islam, was their eloquence and poetry.
With the rise of Islam the emphasis shifted, temporarily, from poetry to prose, and poetry lost its prestigious position as the “queen” of the arts of Arabia.
The signal was given in A.D. 610 by Muhammad, the son of Abdullah, in the city of Makkah, when he proclaimed his mission of prophethood, and launched the movement called Islam on its world-girdling career.

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