The religion of the Arabs before Islam was in the main gross idolatry, the Sabian religion or idolatry being the most widely extended among the whole nation, though there were also considerable numbers of Christians, Jews and Magians among them. The Sabians believed in God however, they worshipped also stars and planets and angels as well as images; they honoured them as deities and they begged for their intercession with God. They did not consider the idols to be direct agents, though they offered sacrifices and offerings to them, as well as to God, who was often put off with the lesser portion. Thus when they planted fruit trees, or sowed a field, they divided their cultivation by a line into two parts, setting aside one part for their idols and the other for God; if any of the fruits happened to fall from the idols’ parts, into God’s they made restitution, but if from God’s part into the idols’ they made no restitution. Also when they watered the idol’s land, if the water broke over the channels made for that purpose, and ran on God’s part, they dammed it up again, but if the water ran into the idol’s part they let it run on, saying they [the idols] wanted what was God’s but he wanted nothing. In the same manner, if the offering designed for God happened to be better than that designed for the idols; they made an exchange, but not otherwise. It was from this gross idolatry or worship of inferior deities or “the companions of God” as the Arabs used to call them, that the Prophet Muhammad reclaimed his nation by establishing among them the undivided worship of the true God.
There were seen celebrated temples, dedicated to the seven planets, adored by the whole nation, though each tribe had chosen one planet as the peculiar object of its worship. The tribe of Himyar worshipped in general the sun, the tribe of Misam the Bull’s eye, the tribes of Lakhm and Joham, Jupiter, the tribe of Keis, Sirius or the Dog star, that of Assad, Mercury, the tribe of Tay worshipped Canopus, while the Ka‘bah of Makkah was dedicated to Saturn. For the worship of angels and intelligences there were other celebrated, peculiar idols, ten of which are mentioned in the Qu’ran; they are: Al Lat, Al-Uzza and Manata which were called ‘Goddesses’ and ‘Daughters of God. Al Lat was the idol of the tribe of Thakif, Al-Uzza was the deity of Ghatfan; Manata was the favourite idol of Khuza’ah and Huzail. There were two other celebrated idols, namely Al Jibt and Taghout which are also referred to in the Qu’ran. They were of the chief idols of the tribe of Quraish. Special mention is also made in the Qu’ran of five idols, namely Wadd, Suwaa, Yagoutha, Yauka and Nassra. These were common idols among the pagan Arabians besides the idols referred to above the Arabs worshipped a great number of other. Almost every housekeeper had his household god. There was a famous idol called Hobbal, which was supposed by the Arabs to supply them with rain, a very important consideration in their dry land. Therefore, it was an object of common worship among them. It had by accident lost a hand, which the Quraish repaired with one of gold.
A great number of idols were no more than large rude stones, when they increased in number and the territory of Makkah grew too narrow for them, large numbers of them emigrated to other localities. It was usual for them on such emigrations to take with them some of the stones of the Sacred Land of Makkah, and to set them up in their new dwellings and to pay them devotion. But this devotion ended at last in rank idolatry; the Ishmaelites forgetting the religion of their fathers so far as to pay divine worship to rude pieces of stone. As to the worship of the stars, the Arabs might be easily led into it from their observing the changes of weather happening at the rising and setting of certain of them which after a long course of experience induced them to ascribe a divine power to those stars, and to think themselves indebted to them for their rain; they used to say that their rain came from such or such a star. The Qu’ran particularly takes notices of this superstition.
“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 reveal 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 credibility to this news constituted a clue to their conviction that attached special significance to the movements of particular stars with regard to rainfall.” 
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 Persian occupation.
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.
“Judaism was introduced among the idolatrous Arabs by the Jews who fled in great numbers from Palestine to Arabia passed through two phases: first, as a result of the pressure to which they were exposed, the destruction of 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 Hidjaz 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 Hidjaz, Yathrib, Khaibar and Taima’ in particular. Here, they made converts 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, An-Nadeer, Quraizah and Qainuqa’”. In some versions, the Jewish tribes counted as many as twenty.” 
“Judaism was introduced into Yemen found a fertile soil there to propagate and gain adherents. They made converts among several tribes and in time became very powerful, and possessed of several towns and fortresses in the Arabian Peninsula. But over a century at least before, the Jewish religion was not unknown to the Arabs. Asaad Abu Carb who was king of Yemen about 700 years before Islam, is said to have introduced Judaism among the idolatrous Himyarties. His successors also embraced the same religion, his son, Youssef, Zul Nowas, was remarkable for his zeal and terrible persecution of all who would not turn Jew, he attacked the Christian community in Najran and ordered them to embrace Judaism. When they refused, he put them to death by various tortures; he ordered a pit of fire to 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 Qu’ran related part of that story in Al-Buruj [zodiacal signs] Chapter.” 
Christianity had likewise made some progress among the Arabs before Islam. The persecutions and disorders which darkened the Eastern Church soon after the beginning of the third century obliged great numbers of Christians to seek shelter in Arabia, that country of liberty. These were for the most part of the Jacobite community, a sect that was widely distributed throughout Egypt, Arabia and Mesopotamia. Christianity had first made its appearance in Arabia following the entry of the Abyssinian [Ethiopian] and Roman colonists into that country. The Abyssinian 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 Ka‘bah with the aim of directing the Arab pilgrimage caravans towards Yemen, and then made an attempt to demolish the Sacred Ka‘bah in Makkah.
A Christian missionary called Fimion, 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.
The above mentioned were the principal religions that prevailed among the Arabs, though the chief religion was gross idolatry. Some of the pagan Arabs believed neither in a creation of Divine origin nor in a resurrection, attributing the existence of things and their dissolution to nature.
Some believed that when the soul separated itself from the body, it took the shape of a bird, called ‘Hama’ or ‘Sada’. If the deceased person was the victim of violent death, the bird remained hovering over the grave crying ‘Iskouni’ i.e., “Give me drink”, till his death was avenged and then it flew away. This belief was forbidden by the Qu’ran.
“Belief in Spirits and Fairies and Oracles rendered by their idols whom they consulted by means of headless arrows which they called ‘Azlam’ was another divinatory tradition among the Arabs, [i.e. featherless arrows which were of three kinds: one showing ‘yes’, another ‘no’ and a third was blank] which they used to rely upon 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 filiations 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.”
Each tribe had its particular idols and particular temples. The hierarchy attending these temples received rich offerings from the devotees and often there arose bloody conflicts among the worshippers of different temples. But the celebrated Al-Ka‘bah at Makkah of Abraham and Ismael, was considered sacred by all. The Jews and Sabians sent offerings there. The custody of Al- Ka‘bah was the object of great jealousy among the tribes, as it bestowed on the custodians the most honourable functions and privileges. At the time of the birth of Muhammad the custody of Al-Ka‘bah was in the hands of his family, the Hashimites.
“As for the Christian religion at the advent of Muhammad, though it flourished and had a large number of followers among the Arabs, its true and pure doctrines were exceedingly and abominably corrupted.”  “Some of the Christians believed the soul died with the body, and was to be raised again with it on the last day. Others substituted the Virgin Mary for God or worshipped her as such. These who believed in the divinity of the Virgin Mary were named the Mariamites.  This conception is condemned in the Qu’ran.”
The Arabs Character and Manners
Arabia during the pre-Islamic days was in a very low state of civilisation. Awful superstition and idolatry prevailed every-where. Gross immorality was indulged in. Crimes of infanticide and human sacrifices were common. The various tribes were in constant and perpetual warfare with each other.”  “The absence of any stable government had led to the prevalence of anarchism and criminal excesses. The whole peninsula was in a pitiful state of chaos, sin, impurity and wickedness.” 
The sacred Ka‘bah erected by their ancestor Abraham and Ishmael for the worship of the One God, the Almighty, was converted into a temple containing over three hundred and sixty idols representing superstitious gods and goddesses. The great and divine religions, which the Prophets of yore had brought down from Heaven, had lost their originality, trustworthiness and purity. Opposition, persecution and even brutal force were every day’s occurrences. It seems that the reign of Islam alone with its teachings and morals was revealed at a time, when need for guidance was most felt, as will be dealt with later in this book.
“The Arabian Society presented a social mixture, with different and heterogeneous social strata. The status of woman among nobility recorded an advanced degree of esteem. 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 defense 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. 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 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.”
“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 desperate 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.”
“Avarice for leadership, and keen sense of emulation often resulted in bitter tribal warfare despite descendent from one common ancestor. Inter-tribal relationships were fragile and weak due to continual inter-tribal wars of attrition. 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 in peace.” 
“Trade was the most common means of providing their needs of life. 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.”
“Pre-Islam Arabs had surprise-provoking existence of highly praiseworthy virtues; hospitality as they used to emulate one another at hospitality and take utmost pride in it. 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. Keeping a covenant is another virtue, 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 this merit.”
“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. Firm will and determination, as 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.”
“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. Pure and simple bedouin life, still untarnished with accessories of deceptive 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 geographyical 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 completely. The most priceless ethics, next to covenant-keeping, were no doubt their sense of self-esteem and strong determination, two human traits indispensable in combating evil and eliminating moral corruption on the one hand, and establishing a good and justice-orientated society, on the other.”
“Actually, 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.”
 G. Sale.
 The Sealed Nectar, Biography of the noble Prophet, by Safi-ur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri.
 The Sealed Nectar.
 Sale, Prelim. Disc.
 G. Sale.
 Abu Feda. Ibn Athir. Sale, Muir etc.
 The Sealed Nectar.
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