What Made The Pre-Islamic Arabia Unique? - Our Prophet 1
Let us briefly just examine the state of the Arabian Peninsula before the Prophet was born. Arabia was this isolated region, primarily because of its geography. It is a desert, there is no permanent river there. Like, in Egypt, you have the Nile. In Iraq, you have the Tigris or Euphrates. There were civilizations in Egypt because of the river. There were civilizations in Babylon, Iraq, because of the rivers, but not in the Arabian Peninsula. Why?
Because most of the people were nomads. Rainfall was scarce. You did not have really any rivers. It is a very rugged terrain, mountains and stones and rocks. So, it is difficult to build this city. Makkah was the most important city, but around Makkah, all you had was Bedouins and Nomads, who would always change their location, going from one place to another place, just foraging for food and looking for water.
So, because they were isolated, they were relatively safe from the influences of the major empires of the time. What were the two major empires of the time? The Roman civilization or Empire, and the Persian Empire. The Persian and the Roman empires, they are like these Arabs and their backward societies in the desert, there is no civilization, there are no big cities. We do not care about them, we are not interested in them.
And hence the Arabs were largely isolated. They were not even influenced by their beliefs. They had their own pagan practices and the Persians were not interested in spreading their religion there. The Romans were not interested in them, nobody was interested in them. And that is why they were not really aware of all these ideas and beliefs out there. They just had their basic beliefs and ideas. So, this was the state of the Arabian Peninsula.
And by the way, many people, like some Jews, they came to the Arabian Peninsula fleeing the persecution of the Roman Empire. Because the Romans were Christians, they persecuted the Jews, some of them had to flee Palestine and the Holy Lands. Some of them settled where? In Yathrib, around the city of Madinah.
Why did they choose Madinah to settle there? So, yes, they came to Arabia, because Arabia was safe for them from those empires who would persecute them and kill them. But why specifically Madinah? Does anyone know? It was mentioned in the Tawrah that the final Messenger of God would emerge from the mountains of Madinah. That is why they came and settled there.
And the Qur'an in one verse tells us that whenever the Jews around Madinah, they would be attacked, persecuted, the Arab pagans would give them a hard time. What would they say? They would say, have patience, have patience. The Prophet will come, we are waiting for him and we will gain victory. That gave them patience. [Reference to Holy Qur'an, 2:146].
That is why the Qur'an says they knew the Messenger like they knew their own fathers because all the descriptions of the Prophet were mentioned in the Tawrah, 'aw Abna'ahum' or their fathers, their sons or their fathers. They knew the Prophet very well, but what happened when the Prophet came to Madinah as we shall see in the Prophet's life for two reasons, they rejected him.
Number one, they thought that the final Messenger of God would be from their lineage, from the lineage of Prophet Is-haq. He would be from that line. Once they realize he is an Arab from the line of Isma'il, they are like, no, no, we are not going to follow him. That is number one.
Number two, the Jews, they were influential in Madinah. The economy was in their hands, they were prominent. When the Prophet came to Madinah and people started surrounding the Prophet and he became important. He took the spotlight from them and the spotlight became on him. They did not like that either. So, for these two primary reasons they started fighting the Prophet, and they rejected his message except a few who embraced the religion of Islam.
So, we see that the Jewish people, they came to Arabia in that time, in that era, fleeing the persecution and waiting for the Messenger of God. Now, Makkah was very important at that time. Why? Because it housed the Ka'bah, the symbolic house of God. Who was the one who built the Ka'bah? Adam, 'alayhi as-salam. Ibrahim rebuilt it and he called the people to do the Hajj.
So, Makkah was an important economic and religious centre. All these pilgrims would flock to Makkah to do their pilgrimage. Even the non-Arabs, Hindus would come, and they would do the Hajj in Makkah. Yes! They would consider the Ka'bah holy! There is a story to it.
Some Persians would come. Some people from eastern Rome would come. So, it was an important financial and religious center. And the Arabs loved Makkah. Why? Because they made money. It gave them prestige. It gave them religious prominence.
[So, then I have a question. As people would do pilgrimage before Islam, there was a Hajj, like we have right now. Some would hold those statues and hold their idols. What about for the people that were from, the people that were living there? Was this for everybody who did this? Was this like a common practice?] So, the Hajj in Arabia was a common practice that nearly all Arab tribes would come to the Hajj and they would do the Hajj. Each tribe in their own way, of course. But they had adulterated the Hajj. They had changed it, corrupted it. They would come seek the blessings of their idols. Some of their women would come naked going around the Ka'bah. So, each tribe had their own rituals.
But the idea of the Hajj that you come to the house of God and you worship God. Now, they worshipped God and the idols. They ascribed partners to God. They worshipped the idols and they also worshipped Allah, Subhana wa Ta'ala. The Arabs, by the way, they believed in Allah. But what they did is they just added idols and they worshipped the idols as well.
So, yes, the pilgrimage did exist, but not the same Hajj that Prophet Ibrahim called to. They had changed it throughout the centuries and throughout the ages.