Ahad, 13 November 2011

Jahiliyyah Period: Arabs before Islam

Chapter 1: Human and Jahiliyyah Community

1. The word Jahiliyah originated from Arabic root word ‘jahala’ and its derivatives, ‘jahalun’ and ‘jahalatun’ which mean ‘lacking of knowledge’ and ‘astray’.
2. From the Koran, the jahiliyyah people is mentioned by any of these four characteristics:

i) No prophecies and revelation (guidance)
ii) No civilization
iii) The peoples have no good manner
iv) Referred as jahiliyyah because illiterate

Having said that, any people at any period of time which have at least one of these characteristics is also considered as jahiliyyah.

3. In the Koran, the period of Jahiliyah is not restricted to a define period of time. Many Arabic dictionaries also stated the term in general, and majorly referred to the period before Islam came. (pre-Islam)
4. In Arabian Peninsula context, jahiliyah era last for three centuries. It is started just after the collapse of Saba’ kingdom or in the final period of Himyar Kingdom around 300 BC until the revelation of Koran and the prophecies of Prophet Muhammad SAW (610M)
5. In that particular period, there is neither revelation nor prophecies as for guidance. The development and the civilization are almost perished because they do not learnt or inherit any knowledge from the previous generation. In addition, the moral crisis among the people also worsening the lifestyle at that time. This last until the Koran is revealed. So that’s why the Arabs are called as ‘Arab Jahiliyyah’.
6. According to a prominent orientalist, P.K.Hittin, he stated that the term jahiliyah is not referred to lacking of knowledge but only in religion. He said that there no both prophets and holy book revealed at that time but the arab is already have a high level of civilization. His statement is almost accepted by many modern writers. This also includes Arab writers such as Ahmad Syalabi and Hassan Ibrahim Hassan. We must take not in Muslim world, there some people who are very comfortable when they are being praised, but they don’t realize that they have trapped by the orientalist in this case. This is the strategy by the orientalist to strengthen and injected nationalism among Muslim around the globe so that they recycle their old tradition; reviving the jahiliyah into the modern world.
7. P.K. Hittin’s statement is not correct (Roslan, 2001) if we see from the historical chronology. It undeniable that the southern region of Arabian Peninsula having the glorious time, but in the same time, the kingdom of Saba’ have the prophecies of Prophet Solomon. Therefore, at the earlier period, they followed the teaching of the prophet. Therefore Allah SWT blessed the kingdom as His promised. It same goes to Himyar Kingdom. But when both start to deviant from the teaching of the prophet, the kingdoms is destroyed and punished by Allah. And by the end of the time, the Arab civilization started to develop. The civilization are built from the ruins of both Saba’ and Himyar Kingdom.
8. In Jahiliyyah era, the Arabs live in ignorance, boastfulness, unlawful, sinful, immoral, and lacking of knowledge as mentioned in the Koran.

Jahiliyyah is the period before Islam where the people living in ignorance where there is neither prophecies nor revelations to guide them. Their lifestyle is limitless and no rules. In general, this period started after the destruction of Kingdom of Saba’ until the prophecies of Muhammad SAW revealed.

Chapter 2: Beliefs and Religion
1. In this period, the outside culture influences most of the religion pattern in Arabian Peninsula.
2. The peninsula is exposed to many outside influences as it employs open trade. They also made diplomatic relationship with other nations.
3. Mecca, Hirah, Yaman, Oman, and Bahrain are the most important international trade center which situated strategically in Arabian peninsula and many religion spread by this means. Mecca at that time is the important place for idol worshipping.
4. In this context, the religion in the Arab Peninsula can be categorized as:

i. Wathani Religion (idol worshipping)
ii. Zoroastrians (fire worshipping)
iii. Judaism
iv. Christianity
v. Hanif Religion (samawi)

5. Wathani religion is the most influenced the Arabs. According to Ibn Kalbi, the idol worshipping is initially brought by Umar bin Luai who imported the idea after visited Syria. He saw that the Balqa’ tribes worshipping idols, therefore bring the ritual back to Mecca.
6. As mentioned before, Mecca is the center of idol worshipping. It is known that approximately 350 idols built around Kaabah. Some of them are mentioned in Koran:

i. Al-Lat
ii. Al-Uzza
iii. Al-Manar
iv. Hubal

7. Zoroaster is originated from Persia. They have no holy books, no truth prophets. This religion mainly dense in the region of Oman, Yemen and Bahrain, which once are the territory of Persian Empire.
8. Judaism is originated from the teaching of Prophet Moses. Torah is the holy book that revealed to him. People who embraced Judaism is originally came from Banu Israel in northern Arabian Peninsula. Nevertheless, most of the teachings have been falsified and the Torah contents have been altered.
9. Christianity is the teaching of Prophet Jesus (‘Isa) which sent by Allah. Injil is the book for Christianity. The people are also originated from Banu Israel. Unfortunately they also altered the teaching of Prophet Jesus. This religion spread out throughout northern region of Arabian Peninsula by the Ghassan and Hirah people and Habsyah (Ethiopia) at the southern side. There are also in Mecca, where Waraqah Ibn Naufal is one of the examples.
10. Hanif Religion is brought by the prophet Abraham. In Koran, Allah SWT emphasized that Ibrahim is Hunafa and Muslim not Jews nor Christian. People, who embrace Hanif religion does not worshipping idols, gambling, drink alcoholic and other unlawful practices that Allah forbids.
11. Other side of the Arabs does not have religion and some are animisms. Palmyra and Petra worshipped sun and Ma’in People worshipped the moon. They also believe in superstitions and black magic.

In general, Arabs can be categorized into two, religious and non-religion (animism). Animism is dominantly embraced by the Arabs at this period.

Chapter 3: Politics and Governance
1. There is no ruling governance structure during Jahiliyyah period. All the states have been colonized.
2. Western and northern part is conquered by Roman Empire and eastern region mostly under Persian Empire control.
3. In the middle part of Arabia, including Mecca there is no colonization but the impact of colonization surround affected the people.
4. Mecca once has been attacked by the Yemeni army in the year of Elephant but they failed.
5. This shows that Mecca having an unstable political and governance structure.
6. It is worst condition at the region that has been colonized. Ghassan, Hirah and Yemen having great difficult time. The colonization separates the people into groups, clans, and fighting each other the get recognition and security from the ruling government.
7. This however differs than the Bedouin Arabs.

Although many area in the region has its own governance, but it is cannot be considered as civilized governance.

Chapter 4: Economy system1. The lifestyle of Arabs in many places in Arabia is luxurious mainly because they have main activities, which are trades and agriculture.
2. But this has been turned over when the region has been colonized.
3. In southern region, agriculture is badly affected since the destruction of Ma’arib dam. This lead the people migrate to the northern region. But in the northern region, only trading activity can be carried out as the soil is dessert soil.
4. This includes Mecca, Hirah and Ghassan but time by time merchants seem to be not interested and it is not much lucrative because trading activity is always disturbed.
5. Since the demolishing of Maarib dam, Himyar turns the agriculture to war. They started to search for new land. They undergone economy crisis and then fell into the hand of Habsyah government.
6. Habsyah government is under Persian Empire but Himyar is conquered by Roman Empire. This raises tension between the two regions and severely affects the economy activity at the region.
7. Therefore the Quraisy Arab exploits the trading activity and turn into one-way trade with the Bedouin Arab. In turn, the Bedouin robs the Quraisy merchant.
Economy activities in Arabian Peninsula have been affected by colonization. This also includes Mecca as they experience the impact of tension between two regions; Himyar (Roman) and Yemen (Persia). The trading activity also unstable due to robbery and the Arab clans keep fighting with each other.

Chapter 5: Social system and CultureThere is no significant difference between the Bedouin Arab and Hadhari Arab in terms of hierarchy. They are regulated by the system of Kabilah. Kabilah is a system that controls the people. This is how clan groups are established. These clans are always rivalry with each other and even war. Defeated clan will be slave. At this period, women do not have the right as the deserved. They never respect women and believed that they bring no luck for the clan.

Chapter 6: Knowledge and Intellectual
1. The Arab before Islam has little knowledge about politics and economy. But this does not sufficient to say that they are civilized.
2. Merchant is more toward sailing skills not to gain knowledge.
3. There is no inheritance of knowledge and most of them illiterate.
4. According to al-Baladhuri, Quraisy Arab is the most advanced tribe among the Arabs. Only 17 members of them can both read and write. They are; Umar al-khattab, Ali ibn Abi Talib, Uthman Ibn Affan, Abu ‘Ubaidah, al-jarrah, etc.
5. Therefore, they learn from mouth-to-mouth.
6. No writings or encryption found that illustrate the period.
7. In literature the Arabs are famously known in poetry. See table below:

Tamadun Islam dan Tamadun Asia, Penerbit Universiti Malaya: 2001 translated by ibadurrahman 2011.

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