A Short History Of Islam

A Short History Of Islam

The great prophet of Islam was born in Arabia. So, to understand the history of Islam, one has to be acquainted with the character of the land of that country and its people. Arabia is a great peninsula in the southwest of Asia. It has waters on the three sides-the Persian Gulf in the east, the Indian Ocean in the south and the Red Sea in the west. In its north, lies the Syrian Desert. In it physical features, Arabia is a mountainous desert. The Arabs call their country as ‘Jaziratul Arab’ or Desert Island.

Arabia, particularly its northern part, is very dry and hot. There is no navigable river in the country. Rainfall is also very scarce in Arabia. It is only in the oasis, which exists here and there in the desert, that some plants and vegetables are found.On the basis of geographical features and climatic conditions, Arabia is divided into five provinces- Hijaz, Najd, Uman, Hadramwt and Yeman. Hijaz is the northern part of Arabia. The historic cities of Makkah and Medinah are located in Hijaz. Almost the whole of it is desert. It grows date, palm, grapes and very few crops.

In ancient times, Arab was the homeland of many races. It is believed that the great Semitic people originally lived in Arabia and later on several branches of people migrated to the Nile Valley and the Tiggro-Euphrates valley. The Ismailites were the last of the settlers in Arabia. They were descendants of Ismail, a son of Hazrat Abraham (Ibrahim). The Quraysh family, in which the prophet Muhammad was born, was a branch of the Ismailites. Ismail built the house of Ka’ba, the holy place of the Muslims.

The desert character of Arabia divided the Arabs into numerous tribes and fostered in them the spirit of tribal patriotism and tribal independence. Because of this, the Arabs could not form one nation in pre- Islamic days.


The pre- Islamic period was the darkest age in human history. It was a time of ignorance and anarchy in the religious and social life in the world. The political, social and cultural life developed by the peoples of the ancient world was shattered by the Barbarians. The social and religious order organized by Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism had disintegrated. The people had forgotten the ideal of their religion. Morality had fallen at low ebb. Corruption, intolerance, persecution and wrangling of creeds and sects prevailed everywhere. “Never in the history of the world”, says Ameer Ali, “was the need so great, the time so mature for the turn up of a Deliverer.”

The pre- Islamic period of Arabia is known as Ayyam-i-Jahiliyah, meaning ‘the days of ignorance’. Jahiliyah was, in truth, an age of disintegration, disorganization and anarch in the life of the Arabs. Anarchy prevailed in Arab political life also. The political life organized by the Arabs, particularly the Southerners, Had disintegrated. The Arabs were divided into many tribes and Arabia was parcelled into numerous tribal principalities. Because of the absence of any political union and organized government in the country, there had been perpetual conflict and warfare among the Arabs. Tribal feuds, raiding and plundering of one tribe by the other were the shared occurrence of the Arab life at that time. Banu Bakr and Banu Taghlib tribes fought for forty years on small matters, the beating of a she-camel. The Quraysh and Hawazin fought the battle of Harb al Fizr for many years. The Aws and Khezraj tribes of Madinah carried on warfare for some generations. There was also enmity and rivalry between the Northern and Southern Arabs.

Greatest anarchy prevailed in the social life of the Arabs. There was no ideal, morality or discipline in the society. Corruption, vices, superstition, unrestrained freedom and unlimited enjourement ruled supreme in the Arab society. Purality of wives and husbands was the order of the day. Adultry was shared among the pre- Islamic Arabs. Step- sons could marry their step mothers and already the brothers sometimes married their own sisters. Human beign were sacrificed to propitiate gods. Fathers sometimes killed their children also fear of poverty.

The position of women was very degrading in the Arab society. They were treated as chattels and with contempt. The birth of a female child was considered as a great curse and she was often buried alive by the heartless father. Women could not have any proportion of the character of the husband or the fathers. In a information, the women of the pre- Islamic days had no position in the society.

Slavery, in its worst form, prevailed in the Arab society. The master had unlimited authority over the slaves. He could already put them to death. They were generally treated most inhumanly and often left on the heated sands of the desert bound hand and foot and with eyes towards the sun.

Economically, pre- Islamic Arabian society was very much in early stage. The soil being empty, there was little of agriculture in the country. The people generally lived on sheep and cattle rearing. A few of them, who carried on trade with the nearby countries, were well to do in the society. Most of the Arabs were poor and as much were in debt to the usurers of the class of the Jews. The Jewish money-lenders treated their debtors very severely. So, the lives of the Arabs in general continued to be very miserable.

Prior to the rise of Islam; worst anarchy and confusions prevailed in the religious life of the Arabs. There are some Jews and Christians in Arabia. But they had become corrupt and demoralized. So, Judaism and Christianity could not keep up higher religious ideal to the Arabs.

Excepting the Jews and the Christians, the rest of the Arabs followed the most early form of religious belief. They were idol- worshippers, adoring many gods and goddesses. Every family, tribes and city had its own gods and goddess. Ka’ba, the House of Allah, was adorned with 360 idols and converted into the most scared sanctuary and centre of idolatry in Arabia. Once in every year the Arabs from the different parts of the country came to pay their homage to the gods in the Ka’ba. Hubal, Lat, Manah and Uzzah were the principal gods and goddesses of the Arabs. They already worshipped “pieces of stones, tress and sand- heaps.

In this period of religious and social anarchy and confusions, there was however a feeling of a spiritual awakening in Arabia. A few people felt the barrenness of idolatry and sought of a higher spiritual life. The then demoralized Judaism and Christianity could not satisfy their spiritual yearnings. When such was the condition of Arabia, the great prophet of Islam appeared with his universal message of peace, order and brotherhood to the people.

leave your comment