AR-RaheeQ Al-Makhtum (THE
SEALED NECTAR)- Memoirs of the Noble Prophet
Author: Saifur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri - Jamia Salafia - India-
Translated by : Issam Diab
Pages : 1. 2. 3.4.5 .6 .7 .8 .9.10 .11 .12 .13 .14 .15.16 .17
Nature of Arab Tribes
Beyond a shadow of doubt, the
biography of Prophet Muhammad
manifestedly represents an exhaustive
embodiment of the sublime Divine Message that he communicated in
order to deliver the human race from the swamp of darkness and
polytheism to the paradise of light and monotheism. An image,
authentic as well as comprehensive, of this Message is therefore
only attainable through careful study and profound analysis of
both backgrounds and issues of such a biography. In view of this,
a whole chapter is here introduced about the nature and
development of Arab tribes prior to Islam as well as the
circumstantial environment that enwrapped the Prophet’s mission.
Location of the Arabs:
Linguistically, the word "Arab"
means deserts and waste barren land well-nigh waterless and
treeless. Ever since the dawn of history, the Arabian Peninsula
and its people have been called as such.
The Arabian Peninsula is
enclosed in the west by the Red Sea and Sinai, in the east by the
Arabian Gulf, in the south by the Arabian Sea, which is an
extension of the Indian Ocean, and in the north by old Syria and
part of Iraq. The area is estimated between a million and a
million and a quarter square miles.
Thanks to its geographical
position, the peninsula has always maintained great importance..
Considering its internal setting, it is mostly deserts and sandy
places, which has rendered it inaccessible to foreigners and
invaders, and allowed its people complete liberty and
independence through the ages, despite the presence of two
neighbouring great empires.
Its external setting, on the
other hand, caused it to be the centre of the old world and
provided it with sea and land links with most nations at the time.
Thanks to this strategic position the Arabian Peninsula had
become the centre for trade, culture, religion and art.
Arab kinfolks have been divided
according to lineage into three groups:
- Perishing Arabs: The
ancient Arabs, of whose history little is known, and of
whom were ‘Ad, Thaműd, Tasam, Jadis, Emlaq, and others.
- Pure Arabs: Who
originated from the progeny of Ya‘rub bin Yashjub bin
Qahtan. They were also called Qahtanian Arabs.
- Arabized Arabs: Who
originated from the progeny of Ishmael. They were also
called ‘Adnanian Arabs.
The pure Arabs – the people of
Qahtan – originally lived in Yemen and comprised many tribes,
two of which were very famous:
- Himyar: The most
famous of whose septs were Zaid Al-Jamhur, Quda‘a and
- Kahlan: The most
famous of whose septs were Hamdan, Anmar, Tai’,
Mudhhij, Kinda, Lakhm, Judham, Azd, Aws, Khazraj and the
descendants of Jafna — the kings of old Syria.
Kahlan septs emigrated from
Yemen to dwell in the different parts of the Arabian Peninsula
prior to the Great Flood (Sail Al-‘Arim of Ma’rib Dam),
due to the failure of trade under the Roman pressure and domain
on both sea and land trade routes following Roman occupation of
Egypt and Syria.
Naturally enough, the
competition between Kahlan and Himyar led to the evacuation of
the first and the settlement of the second in Yemen.
The emigrating septs of Kahlan
can be divided into four groups:
Another tribe of
Himyar, known as Quda‘a, also left Yemen and
dwelt in Samawa semi-desert on the borders of
- Azd: Who, under the
leadership of ‘Imran bin ‘Amr Muzaiqbâ’, wandered
in Yemen, sent pioneers and finally headed northwards.
Details of their emigration can be summed up as follows:
Tha‘labah bin ‘Amr left his
tribe Al-Azd for Hijaz and dwelt between Tha‘labiyah
and Dhi Qar. When he gained strength, he headed for
Madinah where he stayed. Of his seed are Aws and Khazraj,
sons of Haritha bin Tha‘labah.
Haritha bin ‘Amr,
known as Khuza‘a, wandered with his folks in Hijaz
until they came to Mar Az-Zahran. Later, they conquered
the Haram, and settled in Makkah after having driven away
its people, the tribe of Jurhum.
‘Imran bin ‘Amr and
his folks went to ‘Oman where they established the
tribe of Azd whose children inhabited Tihama and were
known as Azd-of-Shanu’a.
Jafna bin ‘Amr and his
family, headed for Syria where he settled and initiated
the kingdom of Ghassan who was so named after a spring of
water, in Hijaz, where they stopped on their way to Syria.
- Lakhm and
Judham: Of whom was Nasr bin Rabi‘a, father of
Manadhira, Kings of Heerah.
- Banu Tai’: Who
also emigrated northwards to settle by the so- called Aja
and Salma Mountains which were consequently named as Tai’
- Kinda: Who dwelt in
Bahrain but were expelled to Hadramout and Najd where
they instituted a powerful government but not for long ,
for the whole tribe soon faded away.
The Arabized Arabs go back in
ancestry to their great grandfather Abraham - Peace be upon him -
from a town called "Ar" near Kufa on the west bank of
the Euphrates in Iraq. Excavations brought to light great details
of the town, Abraham’s family, and the prevalent religions and
It is known that Abraham - Peace
be upon him - left Ar for Harran and then for Palestine, which he
made headquarters for his Message. He wandered all over the area.
When he went to Egypt, the Pharaoh tried to do evil to his wife
Sarah, but Allâh saved her and the Pharaoh’s wicked scheme
recoiled on him. He thus came to realize her strong attachment to
Allâh, and, in acknowledgment of her grace, the Pharaoh rendered
his daughter Hagar at Sarah’s service, but Sarah gave Hagar to
Abraham as a wife.
Abraham returned to Palestine
where Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. Sarah became so jealous of
Hagar that she forced Abraham to send Hagar and her baby away to
a plantless valley on a small hill in Hijaz, by the Sacred House,
exposed to the wearing of floods coming right and left. He chose
for them a place under a lofty tree above Zamzam near the upper
side of the Mosque in Makkah where neither people nor water was
available, and went back to Palestine leaving with his wife and
baby a leather case with some dates and a pot of water. Not
before long, they ran out of both food and water, but thanks to
Allâh’s favour water gushed forth to sustain them for sometime.
The whole story of Zamzam spring is already known to everybody.
Another Yemeni tribe – Jurhum
the Second – came and lived in Makkah upon Hagar’s
permission, after being said to have lived in the valleys around
Makkah. It is mentioned in the Sahih Al-Bukhari that this tribe
came to Makkah before Ishmael was a young man while they had
passed through that valley long before this event.
Abraham used to go to Makkah
every now and then to see his wife and son. The number of these
journeys is still unknown, but authentic historical resources
spoke of four ones.
Allâh, the Sublime, stated in
the Noble Qur’ân that He had Abraham see, in his dream, that
he slaughtered his son Ishmael, and therefore Abraham stood up to
fulfill His Order:
"Then, when they had
both submitted themselves (to the Will of Allâh), and he
had laid him prostrate on his forehead (or on the side of
his forehead for slaughtering); and We called out to him:
"O Abraham! You have fulfilled the dream (vision)!"
Verily! Thus do we reward the Muhsinűn (good-doers,
who perform good deeds totally for Allâh’s sake only,
without any show off or to gain praise or fame, etc. and
do them in accordance to Allâh’s Orders). Verily, that
indeed was a manifest trial — and We ransomed him with
a great sacrifice (i.e. a ram)" [37:103-107]
It is mentioned in the Genesis
that Ishmael was thirteen years older than his brother Ishaq. The
sequence of the story of the sacrifice of Ishmael shows that it
really happened before Ishaq’s birth, and that Allâh’s
Promise to give Abraham another son, Ishaq, came after narration
of the whole story.
This story spoke of one journey
– at least – before Ishmael became a young man. Al-Bukhari,
on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas, reported the other three
journeys; a summary of which goes as follows:
When Ishmael became a young man,
he learned Arabic at the hand of the tribe of Jurhum, who loved
him with great admiration and gave him one of their women as a
wife, soon after his mother died. Having wanted to see his wife
and son again, Abraham came to Makkah, after Ishmael’s
marriage, but he didn’t find him at home. He asked Ishmael’s
wife about her husband and how they were doing. She complained of
poverty, so he asked her to tell Ishmael to change his doorstep.
Ishmael understood the message, divorced his wife and got married
to the daughter of Mudad bin ‘Amr, chief of the tribe of Jurhum.
Once more, Abraham came to see
his son, but again didn’t find him at home. He asked his new
wife the same previous question, to which she thanked Allâh.
Abraham asked her to tell Ishmael to keep his doorstep (i.e. to
keep her as wife) and went back to Palestine.
A third time, Abraham came to
Makkah to find Ishmael sharpening an arrow under a lofty tree
near Zamzam. The meeting, after a very long journey of
separation, was very touching for a father so affectionate and a
so dutiful and righteous son. This time, father and son built Al-Ka‘bah
and raised its pillars, and Abraham, in compliance with Allâh’s
Commandment, called unto people to make pilgrimage to it.
By the grace of Allâh, Ishmael
had twelve sons from the daughter of Mudad, whose names were
Nabet, Qidar, Edbael, Mebsham, Mishma’, Duma, Micha, Hudud,
Yetma, Yetour, Nafis and Qidman, and who ultimately formed twelve
tribes inhabiting Makkah and trading between Yemen, geographical
Syria and Egypt. Later on, these tribes spread all over, and even
outside, the peninsula. All their tidings went into oblivion
except for the descendants of Nabet and Qidar.
The Nabeteans – sons of Nabet
– established a flourishing civilization in the north of Hijaz,
they instituted a powerful government which spread out its domain
over all neighbouring tribes, and made Petra their capital.
Nobody dared challenge their authority until the Romans came and
managed to eliminate their kingdom. After extensive research and
painstaking investigation, Mr. Sulaiman An-Nadwi came to the
conclusion that the Ghassanide kings, along with the Aws and
Khazraj were not likely to be Qahtanians but rather Nabeteans.
Descendants of Qidar, the son of
Ishmael, lived long in Makkah increasing in number, of them
issued ‘Adnan and son Ma‘ad, to whom ‘Adnanian Arabs traced
back their ancestry. ‘Adnan is the twenty-first grandfather in
the series of the Prophetic ancestry. It was said that whenever
spoke of his ancestry he would stop at ‘Adnan and say: "Genealogists
tell lies" and did not go farther than him. A group of
scholars, however, favoured the probability of going beyond ‘Adnan
attaching no significance to the aforementioned Prophetic Hadith.
They went on to say that there were exactly forty fathers between
‘Adnan and Abraham - Peace be upon him -.
Nizar, Ma‘ad’s only son ,
had four sons who branched out into four great tribes; Eyad,
Anmar, Rabi‘a and Mudar. These last two sub-branched into
several septs. Rabi‘a fathered Asad, ‘Anazah, ‘Abdul Qais,
and Wa’il’s two sons (Bakr and Taghlib), Hanifa and many
Mudar tribes branched out into
two great divisions: Qais ‘Ailan bin Mudar and septs of Elias
bin Mudar. Of Qais ‘Ailan were the Banu Saleem, Banu Hawazin,
and Banu Ghatafan of whom descended ‘Abs, Zubyan, Ashja‘ and
Ghani bin A‘sur. Of Elias bin Mudar were Tamim bin Murra,
Hudhail bin Mudrika, Banu Asad bin Khuzaimah and septs of Kinana
bin Khuzaimah, of whom came Quraish, the descendants of Fahr bin
Malik bin An-Nadr bin Kinana.
Quraish branched out into
various tribes, the most famous of whom were Jumah, Sahm, ‘Adi,
Makhzum, Tayim, Zahra and the three septs of Qusai bin Kilab: ‘Abdud-Dar
bin Qusai, Asad bin ‘Abdul ‘Uzza bin Qusai and ‘Abd Manaf
‘Abd Manaf branched out into
four tribes: ‘Abd Shams, Nawfal, Muttalib and Hashim. It is,
however, from the family of Hashim that Allâh selected Prophet
Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib bin Hashim .
Prophet Muhammad said:
Ishmael from the sons of Abraham, Kinana from the sons of
Ishmael, Quraish from the sons of Kinana, Hashim from the
sons of Quraish and He selected me from the sons of
Al-‘Abbas bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib
quoted the Messenger of Allâh as saying:
mankind and chose me from the best whereof, He chose the
tribes and selected me from the best whereof; and He
chose families and selected me from the best whereof. I
am the very best in person and family."
Having increased in number,
children of ‘Adnan, in pursuit of pastures and water, spread
out over various parts of Arabia.
The tribe of ‘Abdul Qais,
together with some septs of Bakr bin Wa’il and Tamim, emigrated
to Bahrain where they dwelt.
Banu Hanifa bin Sa‘b bin Ali
bin Bakr went to settle in Hijr, the capital of Yamama. All the
tribes of Bakr bin Wa’il lived in an area of land which
included Yamama, Bahrain, Saif Kazima, the sea shore, the outer
borders of Iraq, Ablah and Hait.
Most of the tribe of Taghlib
lived in the Euphrates area while some of them lived with Bakr.
Banu Tamim lived in Basra semi-desert.
Banu Saleem lived in the
vicinity of Madinah on the land stretching from Wadi Al-Qura to
Khaibar onwards to the eastern mountains to Harrah.
Thaqif dwelt in Ta’if and
Hawazin east of Makkah near Autas on the road from Makkah to
Banu Asad lived on the land east
of Taimâ’ and west of Kufa, while family of Tai’ lived
between Banu Asad and Taimâ’. They were five-day-walk far from
Zubyan inhabited the plot of and
between Taimâ’ and Hawran.
Some septs of
Kinana lived in Tihama, while septs of Quraish dwelt in Makkah
and its suburbs. Quraish remained completely disunited until
Qusai bin Kilab managed to rally their ranks on honourable terms
attaching major prominence to their status and importance.
Princeship among the Arabs
When talking about the Arabs
before Islam,we deem it necessary to draw a mini-picture of the
history of rulership, princeship, sectarianism and the religious
dominations of the Arabs, so as to facilitate the understanding
of emergent circumstances when Islam appeared.
When the sun of Islam rose,
rulers of Arabia were of two kinds: crowned kings, who were in
fact not independent; and heads of tribes and clans, who enjoyed
the same authorities and privileges possessed by crowned kings
and were mostly independent, though some of whom could have shown
some kind of submission to a crowned king. The crowned kings were
only those of Yemen, Heerah and Ghassan. All other rulers of
Arabia were non-crowned.
Rulership in Yemen:
The folks of Sheba were one of
the oldest nations of the pure Arabs, who lived in Yemen.
Excavations at "Or" brought to light their existence
twenty five centuries B.C. Their civilization flourished, and
their domain spread eleven centuries B.C.
It is possible to divide their
ages according to the following estimation:
- The centuries before 650 B.C.,
during which their kings were called "Makrib Sheba".
Their capital was "Sarwah", also known as
"Khriba", whose ruins lie in a spot, a day’s
walk from the western side of "Ma’rib".
During this period, they started building the "Dam
of Ma’rib" which had great importance in the
history of Yemen. Sheba was also said to have had so
great a domain that they had colonies inside and outside
- From 650 B.C. until 115 B.C.
During this era, they gave up the name "Makrib"
and assumed the designation of "Kings of Sheba".
They also made Ma’rib their capital instead of Sarwah.
The ruins of Ma’rib lie at a distance of sixty miles
east of San‘a.
- From 115 B.C. until 300 A.D.
During this period, the tribe of Himyar conquered the
kingdom of Sheba and took Redan for capital instead of Ma’rib.
Later on, Redan was called "Zifar". Its ruins
still lie on Mudawwar Mountain near the town of "Yarim".
During this period, they began to decline and fall. Their
trade failed to a very great extent, firstly, because of
the Nabetean domain over the north of Hijaz; secondly,
because of the Roman superiority over the naval trade
routes after the Roman conquest of Egypt, Syria and the
north of Hijaz; and thirdly, because of the inter-tribal
warfare. Thanks to the three above-mentioned factors,
families of Qahtan were disunited and scattered out.
- From 300 A.D. until Islam
dawned on Yemen. This period witnessed a lot of disorder
and turmoil. The great many and civil wars rendered the
people of Yemen liable to foreign subjection and hence
loss of independence. During this era, the Romans
conquered ‘Adn and even helped the Abyssinians (Ethiopians)
to occupy Yemen for the first time in 340 A.D., making
use of the constant intra-tribal conflict of Hamdan and
Himyar. The Abyssinian (Ethiopian) occupation of Yemen
lasted until 378 A.D., whereafter Yemen regained its
independence. Later on, cracks began to show in Ma’rib
Dam which led to the Great Flood (450 or 451 A.D.)
mentioned in the Noble Qur’ân. This was a great event
which caused the fall of the entire Yemeni civilization
and the dispersal of the nations living therein.
In 523, Dhu Nawas, a Jew,
despatched a great campaign against the Christians of Najran in
order to force them to convert into Judaism. Having refused to do
so, they were thrown alive into a big ditch where a great fire
had been set. The Qur’ân referred to this event:
"Cursed were the
people of the ditch." [85:4]
This aroused great wrath among
the Christians, and especially the Roman emperors, who not only
instigated the Abyssinians (Ethiopians) against Arabs but also
assembled a large fleet which helped the Abyssinian (Ethiopian)
army, of seventy thousand warriors, to effect a second conquest
of Yemen in 525 A.D., under the leadership of Eriat, who was
granted rulership over Yemen, a position he held until he was
assassinated by one of his army leaders, Abraha, who, after
reconciliation with the king of Abyssinia, took rulership over
Yemen and, later on, deployed his soldiers to demolish Al-Ka‘bah,
and , hence, he and his soldiers came to be known as the "Men
of the Elephant".
After the "Elephant"
incident, the people of Yemen, under the leadership of Ma‘dikarib
bin Saif Dhu Yazin Al-Himyari, and through Persian assistance,
revolted against the Abyssinian (Ethiopian) invaders, restored
independence and appointed Ma‘dikarib as their king. However,
Ma‘dikarib was assassinated by an Abyssinian (Ethiopian) he
used to have him around for service and protection. The family of
Dhu Yazin was thus deprived of royalty forever. Kisra, the
Persian king, appointed a Persian ruler over San‘a and thus
made Yemen a Persian colony. Persian rulers maintained rulership
of Yemen until Badhan, the last of them, embraced Islam in 638 A.D.,
thus terminating the Persian domain over Yemen.
Rulership in Heerah:
Ever since Korosh the Great (557-529
B.C.) united the Persians, they ruled Iraq and its neighbourhood.
Nobody could shake off their authority until Alexander the Great
vanquished their king Dara I and thus subdued the Persians in 326
B.C. Persian lands were thenceforth divided and ruled by kings
known as "the Kings of Sects", an era which lasted
until 230 A.D. Meanwhile, the Qahtanians occupied some Iraqi
territories, and were later followed by some ‘Adnanians who
managed to share some parts of Mesopotamia with them.
The Persians, under the
leadership of Ardashir, who had established the Sasanian state in
226 A.D, regained enough unity and power to subdue the Arabs
living in the vicinity of their kingdom, and force Quda‘a to
leave for Syria , leaving the people of Heerah and Anbar under
the Persian domain.
During the time of Ardashir,
Juzaima Alwaddah exercised rulership over Heerah, Rabi‘a and
Mudar, and Mesopotamia. Ardashir had reckoned that it was
impossible for him to rule the Arabs directly and prevent them
from attacking his borders unless he appointed as king one of
them who enjoyed support and power of his tribe. He had also seen
that he could make use of them against the Byzantine kings who
always used to harass him. At the same time, the Arabs of Iraq
could face the Arabs of Syria who were in the hold of Byzantine
kings. However, he deemed it fit to keep a Persian battalion
under command of the king of Heerah to be used against those
Arabs who might rebel against him.
After the death of Juzaima
around 268 A.D., ‘Amr bin ‘Adi bin Nasr Al-Lakhmi was
appointed as king by the Persian King Sabour bin Ardashir. ‘Amr
was the first of the Lakhmi kings who ruled Heerah until the
Persians appointed Qabaz bin Fairuz in whose reign appeared
someone called Mazdak, who called for dissoluteness in social
life. Qabaz, and many of his subjects, embraced Mazdak’s
religion and even called upon the king of Heerah, Al-Munzir bin
Ma’ As-Sama’, to follow after. When the latter, because of
his pride and self-respect, rejected their orders, Qabaz
discharged him and nominated Harith bin ‘Amr bin Hajar Al-Kindi,
who had accepted the Mazdaki doctrine.
No sooner did Kisra Anu Shairwan
succeed Qabaz than he, due to hatred of Mazdak’s philosophy,
killed Mazdak and many of his followers, restored Munzir to the
throne of Heerah and gave orders to summon under arrest Harith
who sought refuge with Al-Kalb tribe where he spent the rest of
Sons of Al-Munzir bin Ma’ As-Sama’
maintained kingship a long time until An-Nu‘man bin Al-Munzir
took over. Because of a calumny borne by Zaid bin ‘Adi Al-‘Abbadi,
the Persian king got angry with An-Nu‘man and summoned him to
his palace. An-Nu‘man went secretly to Hani bin Mas‘ud, chief
of Shaiban tribe, and left his wealth and family under the latter’s
protection, and then presented himself before the Persian king,
who immediately threw him into prison where he perished. Kisra,
then, appointed Eyas bin Qubaisa At-Ta’i as king of Heerah.
Eyas was ordered to tell Hani bin Mas‘ud to deliver An-Nu‘man’s
charge up to Kisra. No sooner than had the Persian king received
the fanatically motivated rejection on the part of the Arab
chief, he declared war against the tribe of Shaiban and mobilized
his troops and warriors under the leadership of King Eyas to a
place called Dhee Qar which witnessed a most furious battle
wherein the Persians were severely routed by the Arabs for the
first time in history. That was very soon after the birth of
eight months after Eyas bin Qubaisah’s rise to power over
After Eyas, a Persian ruler was
appointed over Heerah, but in 632 A.D. the authority there
returned to the family of Lukhm when Al-Munzir Al-Ma‘rur took
over. Hardly had the latter’s reign lasted for eight months
when Khalid bin Al-Waleed fell upon him with Muslim soldiers.
Rulership in Geographical
In the process of the tribal
emigrations, some septs of Quda‘a reached the borders of Syria
where they settled down. They belonged to the family of Sulaih
bin Halwan, of whose offspring were the sons of Duj‘am bin
Sulaih known as Ad-Duja‘ima. Such septs of Quda‘a were used
by the Byzantines in the defence of the Byzantine borders against
both Arab Bedouin raiders and the Persians, and enjoyed autonomy
for a considerable phase of time which is said to have lasted for
the whole second century A.D. One of their most famous kings was
Zyiad bin Al-Habula. Their authority however came to an end upon
defeat by the Ghassanides who were consequently granted the proxy
rulership over the Arabs of Syria and had Dumat Al-Jandal as
their headquarters, which lasted until the battle of Yarmuk in
the year 13 A.H. Their last king Jabala bin Al-Aihum embraced
Islam during the reign of the Chief of Believers, ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab
- May Allah be pleased with him - .
Rulership in Hijaz:
Ishmael - Peace be upon him -
administered authority over Makkah as well as custodianship of
the Holy Sanctuary throughout his lifetime. Upon his death, at
the age of 137, two of his sons, Nabet and Qidar, succeeded him.
Later on, their maternal grandfather, Mudad bin ‘Amr Al-Jurhumi
took over, thus transferring rulership over Makkah to the tribe
of Jurhum, preserving a venerable position, though very little
authority for Ishmael’s sons due to their father’s exploits
in building the Holy Sanctuary, a position they held until the
decline of the tribe of Jurhum shortly before the rise of
The political role of the ‘Adnanides
had begun to gain firmer grounds in Makkah, which could be
clearly attested by the fact that upon Bukhtanassar’s first
invasion of the Arabs in ‘Dhati ‘Irq’, the leader of the
Arabs was not from Jurhum.
Upon Bukhtanassar’s second
invasion in 587 B.C., however, the ‘Adnanides were frightened
out to Yemen, while Burmia An-Nabi fled to Syria with Ma‘ad,
but when Bukhtanassar’s pressure lessened, Ma‘ad returned to
Makkah to find none of the tribe of Jurhum except Jursham bin
Jalhamah, whose daughter, Mu‘ana, was given to Ma‘ad as wife
who, later, had a son by him named Nizar.
On account of difficult living
conditions and destitution prevalent in Makkah, the tribe of
Jurhum began to ill-treat visitors of the Holy Sanctuary and
extort its funds, which aroused resentment and hatred of the ‘Adnanides
(sons of Bakr bin ‘Abd Munaf bin Kinana) who, with the help of
the tribe of Khuza‘a that had come to settle in a neighbouring
area called Marr Az-Zahran, invaded Jurhum and frightened them
out of Makkah leaving rulership to Quda‘a in the middle of the
second century A.D.
Upon leaving Makkah, Jurhum
filled up the well of Zamzam, levelled its place and buried a
great many things in it. ‘Amr bin Al-Harith bin Mudad Al-Jurhumi
was reported by Ibn Ishaq, the well-known historian, to have
buried the two gold deer together with the Black Stone as well as
a lot of jewelry and swords in Zamzam, prior to their sorrowful
escape to Yemen.
Ishmael’s epoch is estimated
to have lasted for twenty centuries B.C., which means that Jurhum
stayed in Makkah for twenty-one centuries and held rulership
there for about twenty centuries.
Upon defeat of Jurhum, the tribe
of Khuza‘a monopolized rulership over Makkah. Mudar tribes,
however, enjoyed three privileges:
The First: Leading
pilgrims from ‘Arafat to Muzdalifah and then from Mina
to the ‘Aqabah Stoning Pillar. This was the authority
of the family of Al-Ghawth bin Murra, one of the septs of
Elias bin Mudar, who were called ‘Sofa’. This
privilege meant that the pilgrims were not allowed to
throw stones at Al-‘Aqabah until one of the ‘Sofa’
men did that. When they had finished stoning and wanted
to leave the valley of Mina, ‘Sofa’ men stood on the
two sides of Al-‘Aqabah and nobody would pass that
position until the men of ‘Sofa’ passed and cleared
the way for the pilgrims. When Sofa perished, the family
of Sa‘d bin Zaid Manat from Tamim tribe took over.
The Second: Al-Ifadah (leaving
for Mina after Muzdalifah) on sacrifice morning, and this
was the responsibility of the family of Adwan.
Deferment of the sacred months, and this was the
responsibility of the family of Tamim bin ‘Adi from
Khuza‘a’s reign in Makkah
lasted for three hundred years, during which, the ‘Adnanides
spread all over Najd and the sides of Bahrain and Iraq, while
small septs of Quraish remained on the sides of Makkah; they were
Haloul, Harum and some families of Kinana. They enjoyed no
privileges in Makkah or in the Sacred House until the appearance
of Qusai bin Kilab, whose father is said to have died when he was
still a baby, and whose mother was subsequently married to Rabi‘a
bin Haram, from the tribe of Bani ‘Udhra. Rabi‘a took his
wife and her baby to his homeland on the borders of Syria. When
Qusai became a young man, he returned to Makkah, which was ruled
by Halil bin Habsha from Khuza‘a, who gave Qusai his daughter,
Hobba, as wife. After Halil’s death, a war between Khuza‘a
and Quraish broke out and resulted in Qusai’s taking hold of
Makkah and the Sacred House.
The Reasons of this War have
been illustrated in Three Versions:
The First: Having
noticed the spread of his offspring, increase of his
property and exalt of his honour after Halil’s death,
Qusai found himself more entitled to shoulder
responsibility of rulership over Makkah and custodianship
of the Sacred House than the tribes of Khuza‘a and Bani
Bakr. He also advocated that Quraish were the chiefs of
Ishmael’s descendants. Therefore he consulted some men
from Quraish and Kinana concerning his desire to evacuate
Khuza‘a and Bani Bakr from Makkah. They took a liking
to his opinion and supported him.
The Second: Khuza‘a
claimed that Halil requested Qusai to hold custodianship
of Al-Ka‘bah and rulership over Makkah after his death.
The Third: Halil
gave the right of Al-Ka‘bah service to his daughter
Hobba and appointed Abu Ghabshan Al-Khuza‘i to function
as her agent whereof. Upon Halil’s death, Qusai bought
this right for a leather bag of wine, which aroused
dissatisfaction among the men of Khuza‘a and they tried
to keep the custodianship of the Sacred House away from
Qusai. The latter, however, with the help of Quraish and
Kinana, managed to take over and even to expel Khuza‘a
completely from Makkah.
Whatever the truth might
have been, the whole affair resulted in the deprivation
of Sofa of their privileges, previously mentioned,
evacuation of Khuza‘a and Bakr from Makkah and transfer
of rulership over Makkah and custodianship of the Holy
Sanctuary to Qusai, after fierce wars between Qusai and
Khuza‘a inflicting heavy casualties on both sides,
reconciliation and then arbitration of Ya‘mur bin ‘Awf,
from the tribe of Bakr, whose judgement entailed
eligibility of Qusai’s rulership over Makkah and
custodianship of the Sacred House, Qusai’s
irresponsibility for Khuza‘a’s blood shed, and
imposition of blood money on Khuza‘a. Qusai’s reign
over Makkah and the Sacred House began in 440 A.D. and
allowed him, and Quraish afterwards, absolute rulership
over Makkah and undisputed custodianship of the Sacred
House to which Arabs from all over Arabia came to pay
Qusai brought his kinspeople to
Makkah and allocated it to them, allowing Quraish some dwellings
there. An-Nus’a, the families of Safwan, Adwan, Murra bin ‘Awf
preserved the same rights they used to enjoy before his arrival.
A significant achievement
credited to Qusai was the establishment of An-Nadwa House (an
assembly house) on the northern side of Al-Ka‘bah Mosque, to
serve as a meeting place for Quraish. This very house had
benefited Quraish a lot because it secured unity of opinions
amongst them and cordial solution to their problem.
Qusai however enjoyed the
following privileges of leadership and honour:
- Presiding over An-Nadwa
House meetings where consultations relating to serious
issues were conducted, and marriage contracts were
- The Standard: He
monopolized in his hand issues relevant to war launching.
- Doorkeeping of Al-Ka‘bah:
He was the only one eligible to open its gate, and was
responsible for its service and protection.
- Providing water for the
Pilgrims: This means that he used to fill basins
sweetened by dates and raisins for the pilgrims to drink.
- Feeding Pilgrims: This
means making food for pilgrims who could not afford it.
Qusai even imposed on Quraish annual land tax, paid at
the season of pilgrimage, for food.
It is noteworthy however that
Qusai singled out ‘Abd Manaf, a son of his, for honour and
prestige though he was not his elder son (‘Abd Ad-Dar was), and
entrusted him with such responsibilities as chairing of An-Nadwa
House, the standard, the doorkeeping of Al-Ka‘bah, providing
water and food for pilgrims. Due to the fact that Qusai’s deeds
were regarded as unquestionable and his orders inviolable, his
death gave no rise to conflicts among his sons, but it later did
among his grand children, for no sooner than ‘Abd Munaf had
died, his sons began to have rows with their cousins —sons of
‘Abd Ad-Dar, which would have given rise to dissension and
fighting among the whole tribe of Quraish, had it not been for a
peace treaty whereby posts were reallocated so as to preserve
feeding and providing water for pilgrims for the sons of ‘Abd
Munaf; while An-Nadwa House, the flag and the doorkeeping of Al-Ka‘bah
were maintained for the sons of ‘Abd Ad-Dar. The sons of ‘Abd
Munaf, however, cast the lot for their charge, and consequently
left the charge of food and water giving to Hashim bin ‘Abd
Munaf, upon whose death, the charge was taken over by a brother
of his called Al-Muttalib bin ‘Abd Manaf and afterwards by ‘Abd
Al-Muttalib bin Hashim, the Prophet’s grandfather, whose sons
assumed this position until the rise of Islam, during which ‘Abbas
bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib was in charge.
Many other posts were
distributed among people of Quraish for establishing the pillars
of a new democratic petite state with government offices and
councils similar to those of today. Enlisted as follows are some
of these posts.
- Casting the lots for the
idols was allocated to Bani Jumah.
- Noting of offers and
sacrifices, settlement of disputes and relevant issues
were to lie in the hands of Bani Sahm.
- Consultation was to go to
- Organization of blood-money
and fines was with Bani Tayim.
- Bearing the national banner
was with Bani Omaiyah.
- The military institute,
footmen and cavalry would be Bani Makhzum’s
- Bani ‘Adi would function
as foreign mediators.
Rulership in Pan-Arabia:
We have previously mentioned the
Qahtanide and ‘Adnanide emigrations, and division of Arabia
between these two tribes. Those tribes dwelling near Heerah were
subordinate to the Arabian king of Heerah, while those dwelling
in the Syrian semi-desert were under domain of the Arabian
Ghassanide king, a sort of dependency that was in reality formal
rather than actual. However, those living in the hinder deserts
enjoyed full autonomy.
These tribes in fact had heads
chosen by the whole tribe which was a demi-government based on
tribal solidarity and collective interests in defence of land and
Heads of tribes enjoyed
dictatorial privileges similar to those of kings, and were
rendered full obedience and subordination in both war and peace.
Rivalry among cousins for rulership, however, often drove them to
outdo one another in entertaining guests, affecting generosity,
wisdom and chivalry for the sole purpose of outranking their
rivals, and gaining fame among people especially poets who were
the official spokesmen at the time.
Heads of tribes and masters had
special claims to spoils of war such as the quarter of the
spoils, whatever he chose for himself, or found on his way back
or even the remaining indivisible spoils.
The Political Situation:
The three Arab regions adjacent
to foreigners suffered great weakness and inferiority. The people
there were either masters or slaves, rulers or subordinates.
Masters, especially the foreigners, had claim to every advantage;
slaves had nothing but responsibilities to shoulder. In other
words, arbitrary autocratic rulership brought about encroachment
on the rights of subordinates, ignorance, oppression, iniquity,
injustice and hardship, and turning them into people groping in
darkness and ignorance, viz., fertile land which rendered its
fruits to the rulers and men of power to extravagantly dissipate
on their pleasures and enjoyments, whims and desires, tyranny and
aggression. The tribes living near these regions were fluctuating
between Syria and Iraq, whereas those living inside Arabia were
disunited and governed by tribal conflicts and racial and
They had neither a king to
sustain their independence nor a supporter to seek advice from,
or depend upon, in hardships.
The rulers of
Hijaz, however, were greatly esteemed and respected by the Arabs,
and were considered as rulers and servants of the religious
centre. Rulership of Hijaz was, in fact, a mixture of secular and
official precedence as well as religious leadership. They ruled
among the Arabs in the name of religious leadership and always
monopolized the custodianship of the Holy Sanctuary and its
neighbourhood. They looked after the interests of Al-Ka‘bah
visitors and were in charge of putting Abraham’s code into
effect. They even had such offices and departments like those of
the parliaments of today. However, they were too weak to carry
the heavy burden, as this evidently came to light during the
Abyssinian (Ethiopian) invasion.
Most of the Arabs had complied
with the call of Ishmael - Peace be upon him - , and professed
the religion of his father Abraham - Peace be upon him - . They
had worshipped Allâh, professed His Oneness and followed His
religion a long time until they forgot part of what they had been
reminded of. However, they still maintained such fundamental
beliefs such as monotheism as well as various other aspects of
Abraham’s religion, until the time when a chief of Khuza‘a,
namely ‘Amr bin Luhai, who was renowned for righteousness,
charity, reverence and care for religion, and was granted
unreserved love and obedience by his tribesmen, came back from a
trip to Syria where he saw people worship idols, a phenomenon he
approved of and believed it to be righteous since Syria was the
locus of Messengers and Scriptures, he brought with him an idol (Hubal)
which he placed in the middle of Al-Ka‘bah and summoned people
to worship it. Readily enough, paganism spread all over Makkah
and, thence, to Hijaz, people of Makkah being custodians of not
only the Sacred House but the whole Haram as well. A great many
idols, bearing different names, were introduced into the area.
An idol called ‘Manat’, for
instance, was worshipped in a place known as Al-Mushallal near
Qadid on the Red Sea. Another, ‘Al-Lat’ in Ta’if, a third,
‘Al-‘Uzza’ in the valley of Nakhlah, and so on and so forth.
Polytheism prevailed and the number of idols increased everywhere
in Hijaz. It was even mentioned that ‘Amr bin Luhai, with the
help of a jinn companion who told him that the idols of Noah’s
folk – Wadd, Suwa‘, Yaguth, Ya‘uk and Nasr – were buried
in Jeddah, dug them out and took them to Tihama. Upon pilgrimage
time, the idols were distributed among the tribes to take back
home. Every tribe, and house, had their own idols, and
the Sacred House was also overcrowded with them. On the Prophet’s
conquest of Makkah, 360 idols were found around Al-Ka‘bah. He
broke them down and had them removed and burned up.
Polytheism and worship of idols
became the most prominent feature of the religion of pre-Islam
Arabs despite alleged profession of Abraham’s religion.
Traditions and ceremonies of the
worship of their idols had been mostly created by ‘Amr bin
Luhai, and were deemed as good innovations rather than deviations
from Abraham’s religion. Some features of their worship of
"And that which is
sacrificed (slaughtered) on An-Nusub (stone-altars)"
- Self-devotion to the idols,
seeking refuge with them, acclamation of their names,
calling for their help in hardship, and supplication to
them for fulfillment of wishes, hopefully that the idols
(i.e., heathen gods) would mediate with Allâh for the
fulfillment of people’s wishes.
- Performing pilgrimage to
the idols, circumrotation round them, self-abasement and
even prostrating themselves before them.
- Seeking favour of idols
through various kinds of sacrifices and immolations,
which is mentioned in the Qur’ânic verses:
Allâh also says:
"Eat not (O believers)
of that (meat) on which Allâh’s Name has not been
pronounced (at the time of the slaughtering of the animal)."
"And they assign to
Allâh a share of the tilth and cattle which He has
created, and they say: ‘This is for Allâh according to
their pretending, and this is for our (Allâh’s so-called)
partners.’ But the share of their (Allâh’s so-called)
‘partners’, reaches not Allâh, while the share of
Allâh reaches their (Allâh’s so-called) ‘partners’.
Evil is the way they judge." [6:136]
- Consecration of certain
portions of food, drink, cattle, and crops to idols.
Surprisingly enough, portions were also consecrated to
Allâh Himself, but people often found reasons to
transfer parts of Allâh’s portion to idols, but never
did the opposite. To this effect, the Qur’ânic verses
"And according to
their pretending, they say that such and such cattle and
crops are forbidden, and none should eat of them except
those whom we allow. And (they say) there are cattle
forbidden to be used for burden or any other work, and
cattle on which (at slaughtering) the Name of Allâh is
not pronounced; lying against Him (Allâh)." [6:138]
- Currying favours with these
idols through votive offerings of crops and cattle, to
which effect, the Qur’ân goes:
"Allâh has not
instituted things like Bahira ( a she-camel whose
milk was spared for the idols and nobody was allowed to
milk it) or a Sa’iba (a she camel let loose for
free pasture for their false gods, e.g. idols, etc., and
nothing was allowed to be carried on it), or a Wasila
(a she-camel set free for idols because it has given
birth to a she-camel at its first delivery and then again
gives birth to a she-camel at its second delivery) or a Hâm
(a stallion-camel freed from work for their idols, after
it had finished a number of copulations assigned for it,
all these animals were liberated in honour of idols as
practised by pagan Arabs in the pre-Islamic period). But
those who disbelieve, invent lies against Allâh, and
most of them have no understanding." [5:103]
- Dedication of certain
animals (such as Bahira, Sa’iba, Wasila
and Hami) to idols, which meant sparing such
animals from useful work for the sake of these heathen
gods. Bahira, as reported by the well-known
historian, Ibn Ishaq, was daughter of Sa’iba which
was a female camel that gave birth to ten successive
female animals, but no male ones, was set free and
forbidden to yoke, burden or being sheared off its wool,
or milked (but for guests to drink from); and so was done
to all her female offspring which were given the name ‘Bahira’,
after having their ears slit. The Wasila was a
female sheep which had ten successive female daughters in
five pregnancies. Any new births from this Wasila
were assigned only for male people. The Hami was a
male camel which produced ten progressive females, and
was thus similarly forbidden. In mention of this, the Qur’ânic
Allâh also says:
"And they say:
What is in the bellies of such and such cattle (milk or
foetus) is for our males alone, and forbidden to our
females (girls and women), but if it is born dead, then
all have shares therein." [6:139]
It has been authentically
reported that such superstitions were first invented by ‘Amr
The Arabs believed that such
idols, or heathen gods, would bring them nearer to Allâh, lead
them to Him, and mediate with Him for their sake, to which
effect, the Qur’ân goes:
"We worship them only
that they may bring us near to Allâh." [39:3], and
"And they worship besides
Allâh things that hurt them not, nor profit them, and they say:
These are our intercessors with Allâh." [10:18]
Another divinatory tradition
among the Arabs was casting of Azlam (i.e. featherless
arrows which were of three kinds: one showing ‘yes’,
another ‘no’ and a third was blank) which they used to
do in case of serious matters like travel, marriage and the like.
If the lot showed ‘yes’, they would do, if ‘no’,
they would delay for the next year. Other kinds of Azlam
were cast for water, blood-money or showed ‘from you’,
‘not from you’, or ‘Mulsaq’ (consociated).
In cases of doubt in filiation they would resort to the idol of
Hubal, with a hundred-camel gift, for the arrow caster. Only the
arrows would then decide the sort of relationship. If the arrow
showed (from you), then it was decided that the child belonged to
the tribe; if it showed (from others), he would then be regarded
as an ally, but if (consociated) appeared, the person would
retain his position but with no lineage or alliance contract.
This was very much like gambling
and arrow-shafting whereby they used to divide the meat of the
camels they slaughtered according to this tradition.
Moreover, they used to have a
deep conviction in the tidings of soothsayers, diviners and
astrologers. A soothsayer used to traffic in the business of
foretelling future events and claim knowledge of private secrets
and having jinn subordinates who would communicate the news to
him. Some soothsayers claimed that they could uncover the unknown
by means of a granted power, while other diviners boasted they
could divulge the secrets through a cause-and-effect-inductive
process that would lead to detecting a stolen commodity, location
of a theft, a stray animal, and the like. The astrologer belonged
to a third category who used to observe the stars and calculate
their movements and orbits whereby he would foretell the future.<
Lending credence to this news constituted a clue to their
conviction that attached special significance to the movements of
particular stars with regard to rainfall.
The belief in signs as
betokening future events, was, of course common among the
Arabians. Some days and months and particular animals were
regarded as ominous. They also believed that the soul of a
murdered person would fly in the wilderness and would never rest
at rest until revenge was taken. Superstition was rampant. Should
a deer or bird, when released, turn right then what they embarked
on would be regarded auspicious, otherwise they would get
pessimistic and withhold from pursuing it.
People of pre-Islamic period,
whilst believing in superstition, they still retained some of the
Abrahamic traditions such as devotion to the Holy Sanctuary,
circumambulation, observance of pilgrimage, the vigil on ‘Arafah
and offering sacrifices, all of these were observed fully despite
some innovations that adulterated these holy rituals. Quraish,
for example, out of arrogance, feeling of superiority to other
tribes and pride in their custodianship of the Sacred House,
would refrain from going to ‘Arafah with the crowd, instead
they would stop short at Muzdalifah. The Noble Qur’ân rebuked
and told them:
"Then depart from the
place whence all the people depart." [2:199]
Another heresy, deeply
established in their social tradition, dictated that they would
not eat dried yoghurt or cooked fat, nor would they enter a tent
made of camel hair or seek shade unless in a house of adobe
bricks, so long as they were committed to the intention of
pilgrimage. They also, out of a deeply-rooted misconception,
denied pilgrims, other than Makkans, access to the food they had
brought when they wanted to make pilgrimage or lesser pilgrimage.
They ordered pilgrims coming
from outside Makkah to circumambulate Al-Ka‘bah in Quraish
uniform clothes, but if they could not afford them, men were to
do so in a state of nudity, and women with only some piece of
cloth to hide their groins. Allâh says in this concern:
"O Children of Adam!
Take your adornment (by wearing your clean clothes),
while praying [and going round (the Tawaf of) the
If men or women were generous
enough to go round Al-Ka‘bah in their clothes, they had to
discard them after circumambulation for good.
When the Makkans were in a
pilgrimage consecration state, they would not enter their houses
through the doors but through holes they used to dig in the back
walls. They used to regard such behaviour as deeds of piety and
god-fearing. This practice was prohibited by the Qur’ân:
"It is not Al-Birr
(piety, righteousness, etc.) that you enter the houses
from the back but Al-Birr (is the quality of the
one) who fears Allâh. So enter houses through their
proper doors, and fear Allâh that you may be successful."
Such was the religious life in
Arabia, polytheism, idolatry, and superstition.
Judaism, Christianity, Magianism
and Sabianism, however, could find their ways easily into Arabia.
The migration of the Jews from
Palestine to Arabia passed through two phases: first, as a result
of the pressure to which they were exposed, the destruction of
the their temple, and taking most of them as captives to Babylon,
at the hand of the King Bukhtanassar. In the year B.C. 587 some
Jews left Palestine for Hijaz and settled in the northern areas
whereof. The second phase started with the Roman occupation of
Palestine under the leadership of Roman Buts in 70 A.D. This
resulted in a tidal wave of Jewish migration into Hijaz, and
Yathrib, Khaibar and Taima’, in particular. Here, they made
proselytes of several tribes, built forts and castles, and lived
in villages. Judaism managed to play an important role in the pre-Islam
political life. When Islam dawned on that land, there had already
been several famous Jewish tribes — Khabeer, Al-Mustaliq, An-Nadeer,
Quraizah and Qainuqa‘. In some versions, the Jewish tribes
counted as many as twenty.
Judaism was introduced into
Yemen by someone called As‘ad Abi Karb. He had gone to fight in
Yathrib and there he embraced Judaism and then went back taking
with him two rabbis from Bani Quraizah to instruct the people of
Yemen in this new religion. Judaism found a fertile soil there to
propagate and gain adherents. After his death, his son Yusuf Dhu
Nawas rose to power, attacked the Christian community in Najran
and ordered them to embrace Judaism. When they refused, he
ordered that a pit of fire be dug and all the Christians
indiscriminately be dropped to burn therein. Estimates say that
between 20-40 thousand Christians were killed in that human
massacre. The Qur’ân related part of that story in Al-Buruj
(zodiacal signs) Chapter.
Christianity had first made its
appearance in Arabia following the entry of the Abyssinian (Ethiopian)
and Roman colonists into that country. The Abyssinian (Ethiopian)
colonization forces in league with Christian missions entered
Yemen as a retaliatory reaction for the iniquities of Dhu Nawas,
and started vehemently to propagate their faith ardently. They
even built a church and called it Yemeni Al-Ka‘bah with the aim
of directing the Arab pilgrimage caravans towards Yemen, and then
made an attempt to demolish the Sacred House in Makkah. Allâh,
the Almighty, however did punish them and made an example of them
– here and hereafter.
A Christian missionary called
Fimion, and known for his ascetic behaviour and working miracles,
had likewise infiltrated into Najran. There he called people to
Christianity, and by virtue of his honesty and truthful devotion,
he managed to persuade them to respond positively to his
invitation and embrace Christianity.
The principal tribes that
embraced Christianity were Ghassan, Taghlib, Tai’ and some
Himyarite kings as well as other tribes living on the borders of
the Roman Empire.
Magianism was also popular among
the Arabs living in the neighbourhood of Persia, Iraq, Bahrain,
Al-Ahsâ’ and some areas on the Arabian Gulf coast. Some
Yemenis are also reported to have professed Magianism during the
As for Sabianism, excavations in
Iraq revealed that it had been popular amongst Kaldanian folks,
the Syrians and Yemenis. With the advent of Judaism and
Christianity, however, Sabianism began to give way to the new
religions, although it retained some followers mixed or adjacent
to the Magians in Iraq and the Arabian Gulf.
The Religious Situation:
Such was the religious life of
the Arabians before the advent of Islam. The role that the
religions prevalent played was so marginal, in fact it was next
to nothing. The polytheists, who faked Abrahamism, were so far
detached from its precepts, and totally oblivious of its immanent
good manners. They plunged into disobedience and ungodliness, and
developed certain peculiar religious superstitions that managed
to leave a serious impact on the religious and socio-political
life in the whole of Arabia.
Judaism turned into abominable
hypocrisy in league with hegemony. Rabbis turned into lords to
the exclusion of the Lord. They got involved in the practice of
dictatorial subjection of people and calling their subordinates
to account for the least word or idea. Their sole target turned
into acquisition of wealth and power even if it were at the risk
of losing their religion, or the emergence of atheism and
Christianity likewise opened its
doors wide to polytheism, and got too difficult to comprehend as
a heavenly religion. As a religious practice, it developed a sort
of peculiar medley of man and God. It exercised no bearing
whatsoever on the souls of the Arabs who professed it simply
because it was alien to their style of life and did not have the
least relationship with their practical life.
People of other
religions were similar to the polytheists with respect to their
inclinations, dogmas, customs and traditions.
Aspects of Pre-IslamicArabian
After the research we have made
into the religious and political life of Arabia, it is
appropriate to speak briefly about the social, economic and
ethical conditions prevalent therein.
Social Life of the Arabs:
The Arabian Society presented a
social medley, with different and heterogeneous social strata.
The status of the woman among the nobility recorded an advanced
degree of esteem. The woman enjoyed a considerable portion of
free will, and her decision would most often be enforced. She was
so highly cherished that blood would be easily shed in defence of
her honour. In fact, she was the most decisive key to bloody
fight or friendly peace. These privileges notwithstanding, the
family system in Arabia was wholly patriarchal. The marriage
contract rested completely in the hands of the woman’s legal
guardian whose words with regard to her marital status could
never be questioned.
On the other hand, there were
other social strata where prostitution and indecency were rampant
and in full operation. Abu Da’űd, on the authority of ‘Aishah
- may Allah be pleased with her - reported four kinds of marriage
in pre-Islamic Arabia: The first was similar to present-day
marriage procedures, in which case a man gives his daughter in
marriage to another man after a dowry has been agreed on. In the
second, the husband would send his wife – after the
menstruation period – to cohabit with another man in order to
conceive. After conception her husband would, if he desired, have
a sexual intercourse with her. A third kind was that a group of
less than ten men would have sexual intercourse with a woman. If
she conceived and gave birth to a child, she would send for these
men, and nobody could abstain. They would come together to her
house. She would say: ‘You know what you have done. I have
given birth to a child and it is your child’ (pointing to one
of them). The man meant would have to accept. The fourth kind was
that a lot of men would have sexual intercourse with a certain
woman (a whore). She would not prevent anybody. Such women used
to put a certain flag at their gates to invite in anyone who
liked. If this whore got pregnant and gave birth to a child, she
would collect those men, and a seeress would tell whose child it
was. The appointed father would take the child and declare him/her
his own. When Prophet Muhammad declared Islam in
Arabia, he cancelled all these forms of sexual contacts except
that of present Islamic marriage.
Women always accompanied men in
their wars. The winners would freely have sexual intercourse with
such women, but disgrace would follow the children conceived in
this way all their lives.
Pre-Islam Arabs had no limited
number of wives. They could marry two sisters at the same time,
or even the wives of their fathers if divorced or widowed.
Divorce was to a very great extent in the power of the husband.
The obscenity of adultery
prevailed almost among all social classes except few men and
women whose self-dignity prevented them from committing such an
act. Free women were in much better conditions than the female
slaves who constituted the greatest calamity. It seemed that the
greatest majority of pre-Islam Arabs did not feel ashamed of
committing this obscenity. Abu Da’űd reported: A man stood up
in front of Prophet Muhammad and said: "O
Prophet of Allâh! that boy is my son. I had sexual intercourse
with his mother in the pre-Islamic period." The Prophet said:
"No claim in Islam for
pre-Islamic affairs. The child is to be attributed to the
one on whose bed it was born, and stoning is the lot of a
With respect to the pre-Islam
Arab’s relation with his offspring, we see that life in Arabia
was paradoxical and presented a gloomy picture of contrasts.
Whilst some Arabs held children dear to their hearts and
cherished them greatly, others buried their female children alive
because an illusory fear of poverty and shame weighed heavily on
them. The practice of infanticide cannot, however, be seen as
irrevocably rampant because of their dire need for male children
to guard themselves against their enemies.
Another aspect of the Arabs’
life which deserves mention is the bedouin’s deep-seated
emotional attachment to his clan. Family, or perhaps tribal-pride,
was one of the strongest passions with him. The doctrine of unity
of blood as the principle that bound the Arabs into a social
unity was formed and supported by tribal-pride. Their undisputed
motto was: " Support your brother whether he is an oppressor
or oppressed" ;they disregarded the Islamic amendment which
states that supporting an oppressor brother implies deterring him
Avarice for leadership, and keen
sense of emulation often resulted in bitter tribal warfare
despite descendency from one common ancestor. In this regard, the
continued bloody conflicts of Aws and Khazraj, ‘Abs and
Dhubyan, Bakr and Taghlib, etc. are striking examples.
Inter-tribal relationships were
fragile and weak due to continual inter-tribal wars of attrition.
Deep devotion to religious superstitions and some customs held in
veneration, however, used to curb their impetuous tendency to
quench their thirst for blood. In other cases, there were the
motives of, and respect for, alliance, loyalty and dependency
which could successfully bring about a spirit of rapport, and
abort groundless bases of dispute. A time-honoured custom of
suspending hostilities during the prohibited months (Muharram,
Rajab, Dhul-Qa‘dah, and Dhul-Hijjah) functioned favourably and
provided an opportunity for them to earn their living and coexist
We may sum up the social
situation in Arabia by saying that the Arabs of the pre-Islamic
period were groping about in the dark and ignorance, entangled in
a mesh of superstitions paralyzing their mind and driving them to
lead an animal-like life. The woman was a marketable commodity
and regarded as a piece of inanimate property. Inter-tribal
relationships were fragile. Avarice for wealth and involvement in
futile wars were the main objectives that governed their chiefs’
The Economic Situation:
The economic situation ran in
line with the social atmosphere. The Arabian ways of living would
illustrate this phenomenon quite clearly. Trade was the most
common means of providing their needs of life. The trade journeys
could not be fulfilled unless security of caravan routes and
inter-tribal peaceful co-existence were provided – two
imperative exigencies unfortunately lacking in Arabia except
during the prohibited months within which the Arabs held their
assemblies of ‘Ukaz, Dhil-Majaz, Mijannah and others.
Industry was alien to the
Arabian psychology. Most of available industries of knitting and
tannage in Arabia were done by people coming from Yemen, Heerah
and the borders of Syria. Inside Arabia there was some sort of
farming and stock-breeding. Almost all the Arabian women worked
in yarn spinning but even this practice was continually
threatened by wars. On the whole, poverty, hunger and
insufficient clothing were the prevailing features in Arabia,
We cannot deny that the pre-Islam
Arabs had such a large bulk of evils. Admittedly, vices and
evils, utterly rejected by reason, were rampant amongst the pre-Islam
Arabs, but this could never screen off the surprise-provoking
existence of highly praiseworthy virtues, of which we could
adduce the following:
1. Hospitality: They used
to emulate one another at hospitality and take utmost pride in it.
Almost half of their poetry heritage was dedicated to the merits
and nobility attached to entertaining one’s guest. They were
generous and hospitable on the point of fault. They would
sacrifice their private sustenance to a cold or hungry guest.
They would not hesitate to incur heavy blood-money and relevant
burdens just to stop blood-shed, and consequently merit praise
In the context of hospitality,
there springs up their common habits of drinking wine which was
regarded as a channel branching out of generosity and showing
hospitality. Wine drinking was a genuine source of pride for the
Arabs of the pre-Islamic period. The great poets of that era
never forgot to include their suspending odes the most ornate
lines pregnant with boasting and praise of drinking orgies. Even
the word ‘grapes’ in Arabic is identical to generosity in
both pronunciation and spelling. Gambling was also another
practice of theirs closely associated with generosity since the
proceeds would always go to charity. Even the Noble Qur’ân
does not play down the benefits that derive from wine drinking
and gambling, but also says,
"And the sin of them is
greater than their benefit." [2:219]
2. Keeping a covenant:
For the Arab, to make a promise was to run into debt. He would
never grudge the death of his children or destruction of his
household just to uphold the deep-rooted tradition of covenant-keeping.
The literature of that period is rich in stories highlighting
3. Sense of honour and
repudiation of injustice: This attribute stemmed mainly from
excess courage, keen sense of self-esteem and impetuosity. The
Arab was always in revolt against the least allusion to
humiliation or slackness. He would never hesitate to sacrifice
himself to maintain his ever alert sense of self-respect.
4. Firm will and
determination: An Arab would never desist an avenue conducive
to an object of pride or a standing of honour, even if it were at
the expense of his life.
5. Forbearance, perseverance
and mildness: The Arab regarded these traits with great
admiration, no wonder, his impetuosity and courage-based life was
sadly wanting in them.
6. Pure and simple bedouin
life, still untarnished with accessories ofdeceptive urban
appearances, was a driving reason to his nature of truthfulness
and honesty, and detachment from intrigue and treachery.
Such priceless ethics coupled
with a favourable geographical position of Arabia were in fact
the factors that lay behind selecting the Arabs to undertake the
burden of communicating the Message (of Islam) and leading
mankind down a new course of life.
In this regard, these ethics per
se, though detrimental in some areas, and in need of
rectification in certain aspects, were greatly invaluable to the
ultimate welfare of the human community and Islam has did it
The most priceless ethics, next
to covenant-keeping, were no doubt their sense of self-esteem and
strong determination, two human traits indispensable in
combatting evil and eliminating moral corruption on the one hand,
and establishing a good and justice-orientated society, on the
life of the Arabs in the pre-Islamic period was rich in other
countless virtues we do not need to enumerate for the time being.
and Family of Muhammad
With respect to the lineage of
Prophet Muhammad ,
there are three versions: The first was authenticated by
biographers and genealogists and states that Muhammad’s
genealogy has been traced to ‘Adnan. The second is subject to
controversies and doubt, and traces his lineage beyond ‘Adnan
back to Abraham. The third version, with some parts definitely
incorrect, traces his lineage beyond Abraham back to Adam - Peace
be upon him -.
After this rapid review, now
ample details are believed to be necessary.
The first part: Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah
bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib (who was called Shaiba) bin Hashim, (named
‘Amr) bin ‘Abd Munaf (called Al-Mugheera) bin Qusai (also
called Zaid) bin Kilab bin Murra bin Ka‘b bin Lo’i bin Ghalib
bin Fahr (who was called Quraish and whose tribe was called after
him) bin Malik bin An-Nadr (so called Qais) bin Kinana bin
Khuzaiman bin Mudrikah (who was called ‘Amir) bin Elias bin
Mudar bin Nizar bin Ma‘ad bin ‘Adnan.
The second part: ‘Adnan bin
Add bin Humaisi‘ bin Salaman bin Aws bin Buz bin Qamwal bin
Obai bin ‘Awwam bin Nashid bin Haza bin Bildas bin Yadlaf bin
Tabikh bin Jahim bin Nahish bin Makhi bin Aid bin ‘Abqar bin
‘Ubaid bin Ad-Da‘a bin Hamdan bin Sanbir bin Yathrabi bin
Yahzin bin Yalhan bin Ar‘awi bin Aid bin Deshan bin Aisar bin
Afnad bin Aiham bin Muksar bin Nahith bin Zarih bin Sami bin
Mazzi bin ‘Awda bin Aram bin Qaidar bin Ishmael son of Abraham
- Peace be upon him -.
The third part: beyond Abraham -
Peace be upon him - , Ibn Tarih (Azar) bin Nahur bin Saru‘ bin
Ra‘u bin Falikh bin Abir bin Shalikh bin Arfakhshad bin Sam bin
Noah - Peace be upon him - , bin Lamik bin Mutwashlack bin
Akhnukh [who was said to be Prophet Idris (Enoch) - Peace be upon
him -] bin Yarid bin Mahla’il bin Qainan bin Anusha bin Shith
bin Adam - Peace be upon him -.
The Prophetic Family:
The family of Prophet Muhammad is called the Hashimite
family after his grandfather Hashim bin ‘Abd Munaf. Let us now
speak a little about Hashim and his descendants:
1. Hashim: As we have
previously mentioned, he was the one responsible for giving food
and water to the pilgrims. This had been his charge when the sons
of ‘Abd Munaf and those of ‘Abd Ad-Dar compromised on
dividing the charges between them. Hashim was wealthy and honest.
He was the first to offer the pilgrims sopped bread in broth. His
first name was ‘Amr but he was called Hashim because he had
been in the practice of crumbling bread (for the pilgrims). He
was also the first man who started Quraish’s two journeys of
summer and winter. It was reported that he went to Syria as a
merchant. In Madinah, he married Salma — the daughter of ‘Amr
from Bani ‘Adi bin An-Najjar. He spent some time with her in
Madinah then he left for Syria again while she was pregnant. He
died in Ghazza in Palestine in 497 A.D. Later, his wife gave
birth to ‘Abdul-Muttalib and named him Shaiba for the white
hair in his head, and brought him up in her father’s
house in Madinah. None of his family in Makkah learned of his
birth. Hashim had four sons; Asad, Abu Saifi, Nadla and ‘Abdul-Muttalib,
and five daughters Ash-Shifa, Khalida, Da‘ifa, Ruqyah and
2. ‘Abdul-Muttalib: We
have already known that after the death of Hashim, the charge of
pilgrims’ food and water went to his brother Al-Muttalib bin
‘Abd Munaf (who was honest, generous and trustworthy). When ‘Abdul-Muttalib
reached the age of boyhood, his uncle Al-Muttalib heard of him
and went to Madinah to fetch him. When he saw him, tears filled
his eyes and rolled down his cheeks, he embraced him and took him
on his camel. The boy, however abstained from going with him to
Makkah until he took his mother’s consent. Al-Muttalib asked
her to send the boy with him to Makkah, but she refused. He
managed to convince her saying: "Your son is going to Makkah
to restore his father’s authority, and to live in the vicinity
of the Sacred House." There in Makkah, people wondered at
seeing Abdul-Muttalib, and they considered him the slave of
Muttalib. Al-Muttalib said: "He is my nephew, the son of my
brother Hashim." The boy was brought up in Al-Muttalib’s
house, but later on Al-Muttalib died in Bardman in Yemen so ‘Abdul-Muttalib
took over and managed to maintain his people’s prestige and
outdo his grandfathers in his honourable behaviour which gained
him Makkah’s deep love and high esteem.
When Al-Muttalib died, Nawfal
usurped ‘Abdul-Muttalib of his charges, so the latter asked for
help from Quraish but they abstained from extending any sort of
support to either of them. Consequently, he wrote to his uncles
of Bani An-Najjar (his mother’s brothers) to come to his aid.
His uncle, Abu Sa‘d bin ‘Adi (his mother’s brother) marched
to Makkah at the head of eighty horsemen and camped in Abtah in
Makkah. ‘Abdul-Muttalib received the men and invited them to go
to his house but Abu Sa‘d said: "Not before I meet Nawfal."
He found Nawfal sitting with some old men of Quraish in the shade
of Al-Ka‘bah. Abu Sa‘d drew his sword and said: "I swear
by Allâh that if you don’t restore to my nephew what you have
taken, I will kill you with this sword." Nawfal was thus
forced to give up what he had usurped, and the notables of
Quraish were made to witness to his words. Abu Sa‘d then went
to ‘Abdul-Muttalib’s house where he stayed for three nights,
made ‘Umra and left back for Madinah. Later on, Nawfal
entered into alliance with Bani ‘Abd Shams bin ‘Abd Munaf
against Bani Hashim. When Khuza‘a, a tribe, saw Bani An-Najjar’s
support to ‘Abdul-Muttalib they said: "He is our son as he
is yours. We have more reasons to support him than you." ‘Abd
Munaf’s mother was one of them. They went into An-Nadwa House
and entered into alliance with Bani Hashim against Bani ‘Abd
Shams and Nawfal. It was an alliance that was later to constitute
the main reason for the conquest of Makkah. ‘Abdul-Muttalib
witnessed two important events in his lifetime, namely digging
Zamzam well and the Elephant raid.
In brief, ‘Abdul-Muttalib
received an order in his dream to dig Zamzam well in a particular
place. He did that and found the things that Jurhum men had
buried therein when they were forced to evacuate Makkah. He found
the swords, armours and the two deer of gold. The gate of Al-Ka‘bah
was stamped from the gold swords and the two deer and then the
tradition of providing Zamzam water to pilgrims was established.
When the well of Zamzam gushed
water forth, Quraish made a claim to partnership in the
enterprise, but ‘Abdul-Muttalib refused their demands on
grounds that Allâh had singled only him out for this honourable
job. To settle the dispute, they agreed to consult Bani Sa‘d’s
diviner. On their way, Allâh showed them His Signs that
confirmed ‘Abdul-Muttalib’s prerogative as regards the sacred
spring. Only then did ‘Abdul-Muttalib make a solemn vow to
sacrifice one of his adult children to Al-Ka‘bah if he had ten.
The second event was that of
Abraha As-Sabah Al-Habashi, the Abyssinian (Ethiopian) viceroy in
Yemen. He had seen that the Arabs made their pilgrimage to Al-Ka‘bah
so he built a large church in San‘a in order to attract the
Arab pilgrims to it to the exclusion of Makkah. A man from Kinana
tribe understood this move, therefore he entered the church
stealthily at night and besmeared its front wall with excrement.
When Abraha knew of that, he got very angry and led a great army
– of sixty thousand warriors – to demolish Al-Ka‘bah. He
chose the biggest elephant for himself. His army included nine or
thirteen elephants. He continued marching until he reached a
place called Al-Magmas. There, he mobilized his army, prepared
his elephants and got ready to enter Makkah. When he reached
Muhassar Valley, between Muzdalifah and Mina, the elephant knelt
down and refused to go forward. Whenever they directed it
northwards, southwards or eastwards, the elephant moved quickly
but when directed westwards towards Al-Ka‘bah, it knelt down.
Meanwhile, Allâh loosed upon them birds in flights, hurling
against them stones of baked clay and made them like green blades
devoured. These birds were very much like swallows and sparrows,
each carrying three stones; one in its peak and two in its claws.
The stones hit Abraha’s men and cut their limbs and killed them.
A large number of Abraha’s soldiers were killed in this way and
the others fled at random and died everywhere. Abraha himself had
an infection that had his fingertips amputated. When he reached
San‘a he was in a miserable state and died soon after.
The Quraishites on their part
had fled for their lives to the hillocks and mountain tops. When
the enemy had been thus routed, they returned home safely.
The Event of the Elephant took
place in the month of Al-Muharram, fifty or fifty five days
before the birth of Prophet Muhammad which corresponded to
late February or early March 571 A.D. It was a gift from Allâh
to His Prophet and his family. It could actually be regarded as a
Divine auspicious precursor of the light to come and accompany
the advent of the Prophet and his family. By contrast, Jerusalem
had suffered under the yoke of the atrocities of Allâh’s
enemies. Here we can recall Bukhtanassar in B.C. 587 and the
Romans in 70 A.D. Al-Ka‘bah, by Divine Grace, never came under
the hold of the Christians – the Muslims of that time –
although Makkah was populated by polytheists.
News of the Elephant Event
reached the most distant corners of the then civilized world.
Abyssinia (Ethiopia) maintained strong ties with the Romans,
while the Persians on the other hand, were on the vigil with
respect to any strategic changes that were looming on the socio-political
horizon, and soon came to occupy Yemen. Incidentally, the Roman
and Persian Empires stood for the powerful civilized world at
that time. The Elephant Raid Event riveted the world’s
attention to the sacredness of Allâh’s House, and showed that
this House had been chosen by Allâh for its holiness. It
followed then if any of its people claimed Prophethood, it would
be congruous with the outcome of the Elephant Event, and would
provide a justifiable explanation for the ulterior Divine Wisdom
that lay behind backing polytheists against Christians in a
manner that transcended the cause-and-effect formula.
‘Abdul-Muttalib had ten sons,
Al-Harith, Az-Zubair, Abu Talib, ‘Abdullah, Hamzah, Abu Lahab,
Ghidaq, Maqwam, Safar and Al-‘Abbas. He also had six daughters,
who were Umm Al-Hakim – the only white one, Barrah, ‘Atikah,
Safiya, Arwa and Omaima.
3. ‘Abdullah: The
father of Prophet Muhammad . His mother was Fatimah,
daughter of ‘Amr bin ‘A’idh bin ‘Imran bin Makhzum bin
Yaqdha bin Murra. ‘Abdullah was the smartest of ‘Abdul-Muttalib’s
sons, the chastest and the most loved. He was also the son whom
the divination arrows pointed at to be slaughtered as a sacrifice
to Al-Ka‘bah. When ‘Abdul-Muttalib had ten sons and they
reached maturity, he divulged to them his secret vow in which
they silently and obediently acquiesced. Their names were written
on divination arrows and given to the guardian of their most
beloved goddess, Hubal. The arrows were shuffled and drawn. An
arrow showed that it was ‘Abdullah to be sacrificed. ‘Abdul-Muttalib
then took the boy to Al-Ka‘bah with a razor to slaughter the
boy. Quraish, his uncles from Makhzum tribe and his brother Abu
Talib, however, tried to dissuade him from consummating his
purpose. He then sought their advice as regards his vow. They
suggested that he summon a she-diviner to judge whereabout. She
ordered that the divination arrows should be drawn with respect
to ‘Abdullah as well as ten camels. She added that drawing the
lots should be repeated with ten more camels every time the arrow
showed ‘Abdullah. The operation was thus repeated until the
number of the camels amounted to one hundred. At this point the
arrow showed the camels, consequently they were all slaughtered (to
the satisfaction of Hubal) instead of his son. The slaughtered
camels were left for anyone to eat from, human or animal.
This incident produced a
change in the amount of blood-money usually accepted in
Arabia. It had been ten camels, but after this event it
was increased to a hundred. Islam, later on, approved of
this. Another thing closely relevant to the above issue
goes to the effect that the Prophet once said:
"I am the offspring of
the slaughtered two," meaning Ishmael and ‘Abdullah.
‘Abdul-Muttalib chose Amina,
daughter of Wahab bin ‘Abd Munaf bin Zahra bin Kilab, as a wife
for his son, ‘Abdullah. She thus, in the light of this
ancestral lineage, stood eminent in respect of nobility of
position and descent. Her father was the chief of Bani Zahra to
whom great honour was attributed. They were married in Makkah,
and soon after ‘Abdullah was sent by his father to buy dates in
Madinah where he died. In another version, ‘Abdullah went to
Syria on a trade journey and died in Madinah on his way back. He
was buried in the house of An-Nabigha Al-Ju‘di. He was twenty-five
years old when he died. Most historians state that his death was
two months before the birth of Muhammad . Some others said that
his death was two months after the Prophet’s birth. When Amina
was informed of her husband’s death, she celebrated his memory
in a most heart-touching elegy.
‘Abdullah left very little
wealth —five camels, a small number of goats, a she-servant,
called Barakah – Umm Aiman – who would later serve as the
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