It is clear that the Arabs at the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were wont to drink, make merry and engage in tribal battles. They were known to sometimes kill their female babies.
However, one finds that in a short span of close to twenty years a movement that started with just one man was able, due to the grace of Allah and the miraculous effect of the Quran, to change almost all of the Arabs and non-Arabs in the Arabian peninsula and bind them together into a brotherhood of faith and mercy which was so strong that if any one part of this brotherhood was in anguish, the whole brotherhood would be affected negatively.
At that time, one could find two people who were from previously antagonistic tribes sharing their wealth and willing to give up their lives for each other. Indeed, one was willing to split half of his wealth and divorce one of his wives for the sake of his new brother who was from a "foreign" tribe.
Perhaps one of the best descriptions of the change that took place among the Muslims can be seen in the famous statement of the Companion Jafar ibn Abu Talib who was asked by the Negus of Abyssinia about the mission of the Messenger. He told him, O king, we were an ignorant people, worshipping idols, eating carrion and indulging in sexual pleasures.
We teased our neighbors, a brother oppressed his brother, and the strong devoured the weak.
At this time a man rose among us, who had already been known to be truthful, noble and honest. This man called us to Islam.
And he taught us to give up worshipping stones, to speak the truth, to refrain from bloodshed, and not to defraud the orphans of their property. He taught us to provide comfort to our neighbors and not to bring a slander against chaste women. He enjoined upon us to offer prayers, observe fasts and give alms.
We followed him, gave up polytheism and idolatry and refrained from all evil deeds. It is for this new way that our people have become hostile to us and compel us to return to our old misguided life.
That generation, in turn, took the message to the rest of the world. They were clearly a people who were taken from darkness into light and to the straight path of Allah.
When asked by the Emperor of Persia what brought the Muslims to their lands, two different Companions answered in similar terms: "Allah has sent us to take whoever wishes from the servitude of mankind to the servitude of Allah and from the tightness of this world to its expanse and from the injustice of the ways of life [in this world] to the justice of Islam."
During the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him) one can see how these people were turned into a pious generation, fearing Allah and hoping for Allah's reward. Even when they, as humans, slipped and committed sins, they eagerly repented and turned to Allah for His forgiveness. They would much rather face a severe penalty in this life, such as death, than face Allah with their sins on their hands. This can be seen in the cases of Maiz ibn Malik al-Aslami and the woman called al-Ghamidiyah.
Both of them came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) to admit that they had committed adultery and each asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) for the worldly punishment of stoning to death to erase their sins. In the case of al-Ghamidiyah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) asked her to go back after her confession and to return to the Prophet (peace be upon him) after she had given birth. She came back with her child in her arms and asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) to purify her from her sins.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) then asked her to return after she had weaned the child. Then she returned after some time and told the Prophet (peace be upon him) that the child was no longer in need of her breastfeeding.
She once again asked for her expiation from her sin. Then, finally, the Prophet (peace be upon him) had a ditch dug for her and she was stoned to death as an expiation for her sin of adultery. The Prophet (peace be upon him) then praised her act of repentance.
The effect of this change in the Companions continued long after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Note the following accounts of the Companions as they sought to spread the message of Islam to the rest of the world.
The sterling character and qualities of the Muslim soldiers were once praised by a Roman officer in these words:
"At night you will find them prayerful; during the day you will find them fasting. They keep their promises, order good deeds, suppress evil and maintain complete equality among themselves."
Another testified thus:
"They are horsemen by day and ascetics by night. They pay for what they eat in territories under their occupation. They are first to salute when they arrive at a place and are valiant fighters who just wipe out the enemy."
A third said:
"During the night it seems that they do not belong to this world and have no other business than to pray, and during the day, when one sees them mounted on their horses, one feels that they have been doing nothing else all their lives. They are great archers and great lancers, yet they are so devoutly religious and remember God so much and so often that one can hardly hear talk about anything else in their company."
 When the Muslims migrated to Madinah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) established a bond of brotherhood between members of the new emigrants and members of the residents of Madinah. Such a bond was established between Abdul Rahman ibn Auf, an emigrant from Makkah, and Saad ibn al-Rabee, one of the richest people in Madinah. Saad offered to split his wealth with Abdul Rahmaan and divorce one of his two wives so that Abdul Rahman could marry one of them. Abdul Rahmaan, also in a brotherly gesture, politely turned down Saad's offer and asked Saad to point him to the market place wherein he could work to gain his own wealth and be able to marry on his own. (Recorded by al-Bukhari.)
 The translation of this statement was taken from Allama Shibli Numani, Sirat-un-Nabi (Lahore, Pakistan: Kazi Publications, 1979), p. 211. The incident was recorded by ibn Ishaq in al-Maghazi and Ahmad. And its chain is sahih according to al-Albani. See al-Albani's footnotes to Muhammad al-Ghazali, Fiqh al-Seera (Qatar: Idaarah Ihyaa al-Turath al-Islami, n.d.), p. 126.
 Ismaeel ibn Katheer, Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihaayah (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, n.d.), vol. 7, pp. 39-40.
 The story of both Maiz and al-Ghamidiyyah are recorded by Muslim.
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