HomeMiddle AgesIslamic worldIntroduction to Arab history (6th century)

Introduction to Arab history (6th century)



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Arabia, is a peninsula between the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea. Arabia forms the connection between Asia (by the dry plains extending northward to the Euphrates) and Africa (by the equally dry isthmus of Suez). Arabia in the past has never supported a large population.

The interior of Arabia, except for occasional oases, is a desert. In early stages Arabia inhabited only by wandering tribes. Along tile southern and western coasts of Arabia and between the mountains and the sea, the soil is generally productive. The climate temperate, and the rainfall sufficient. In this area the ruler of the tribes (usually known as “sheik”) cities and towns were located. The nomadic people of the desert are known as the Bedouins. The life which they lead in the Arabian wilderness is similar with the Hebrew patriarchs, as it can be found in the Old Testament. The Bedouins are shepherds and herdsmen.

They continually moving with their sheep and camels seeking new pastures. Their virtues – hospitality to the stranger, generosity, faithfulness to the ties of kinship. Nothing like a settled government is known to them. Because of birth, courage, or wealth, Bedouins chose rulers of the tribes known as “Sheik”. This description of the Bedouins applies equally well to them in the age of Mohammad, during the seventh century. The Arabs who settled along the southern and western coasts of the peninsula had reached in the sixth century a considerable degree of civilization.

Arabians practiced agriculture and carried on a flourishing trade across the Red Sea and all the way to India. Between these sedentary Arabs and the Bedouins there was a constant rivalry. However the hundreds of tribes throughout the Arabia preserved a feeling of national unity. The idea of national unity was greatly strengthened when Mohammad’s appearance on historical scene.

The city of Mecca, located about fifty miles from the Red Sea. Throughout periods Mecca become commercial metropolis and the center of Arabian heathenism. Every year the Arab tribes stopped their mutual fighting for four months. Then Arabian tribes went up to Mecca to trade and visit the sanctuary called the Kaaba. Here were three hundred and sixty idols and a sacred black stone Kaaba made of a granite (or meteoric fallen from sky). Kaaba was mention in Quran as Bait, Bait ul Haram, Bait Ullah, Awal ul Bait which means the Sacred House. The granite stone was originally white, but it probably oiled to change color in black. Note that these facts about Kaaba is from earlier history of Arabians because during the periods Kaaba restored many times.

Although most of the Arabs were idolaters recognized the “God” of the Semites. For the Arabians God or Allah is the Creator of all things. Arabia at this period contained many Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians, who influenced in spreading the conception of one God (Allah) and thus to prepare the way for a prophet of a new religion Islam.