Religious Background of Arabia Lecture 3
Started with Tawheed Was because of the Daw’ah of Isma’il (as) as he was their Prophet (as). So Muslim, believed in Oneness of Allah. So what went wrong for Muhammad (saw) to be sent to them? Three religions in Arabia: • Idol worship • Christianity • and Judaism
‘Amr ibn Luhayy Al Khuza’ee • Leader of Khuza’a, was generous, strong, much respected by his people. So admired that his words were taken as law. • Travelled to Syria [Al Sham—Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan—center of it is Jerusalem] and finds these idols and asks them about them. They say, “These are intermediaries between us and Allah.” So when we want to ask for rain we ask them, they appeal to Allah on our behalf.
They continued, “When we want children we go to another idol. When we want to go to war we have an idol for that as well.” • Amr ibn Luhayy said, “Excellent. This is just what we need—we need rain etc. How about you hand me one of these idols so I can take it back home with us.” • They gave him a good BIG idol to take home with him called Hubal.
Hubal makes it Makkah • When ‘Amr brings Hubal to Makkah he put it by the Kaa’bah and tells his people—remember his words were considered ‘law’—these will intercede b/w you and Allah (SWT). So, ask him for your needs. • Since Makkah was the religious center /authority of Arabia, so an idol there would mean that all those who came to Makkah for pilgrimage would be exposed to this innovation in religion. Spread like wildfire.
Makkah makes a business out of the idols in Arabia So, now Makkah makes idols [portable idols] for the Arabian tribes to take home with them from Makkah. Like souvenirs from their visit to Makkah—so that they could use them where they were as they could not come to Hubal every time they needed to something. Remember Umar ibn Al Khattab’s story—hissudden crying and laughing among the companions.
How Islam changed them! • Transformed from nothing to being the best—miracle of Islam. The companions became giants. Abbas Mahmood Al Aqad (book about Umar) speculated on what Umar be without Islam? • Leader of his clam—Bani ‘Udayy small branch of Quraysh • One of the prominent leaders of Quraysh. • Head of Quraysh, but far-fetched as the other clans who held power would not have it. • But most likely scenario was that he would die at a young age, as he used to drink a lot. He would have been an obscure of history.
But because of Islam he became one of the greatest men who ever lived in our history and history y of the world, who led 2/3’rds of the world of his time.
Makkah manufacturing idols for export • They started getting creative now, manufacturing idols for different purposes, so they had an idol for everything that you can think of. So, the Kaa’bah now became polluted with idols surrounding it from every direction (360 in total—shirk was in every direction) • This is how the religion of Isma’il changed down the line. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said, “I saw ‘Amr ibn Luhayy dragging his entrails in hellfire because he was the first one who changed the religion of the Arabs.”
Class Activity! See page 22 in The Sealed Nectar for Pagan Practices –in groups provide a list of them so we can go through them together.
How about the Jewish and Christian faith? • The King of Yemen—Taban As’ad-- was on his way for business in Al Sham and left his son in Al Madinah to do business there until he came back . • People of Madinah killed him, so when he came back and got to know. He decided to destroy Al Madinah. He had a huge army and could easily have crushed them—they were not match for him.
2 Jewish Rabbis from Al Madinah came to him to save the day. How did Jews get there in the first place? When the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, there were some Jews who came down to Arabia in search for the promised land where the awaited Prophet in their books would appear. They were looking for the place where he would immigrate to—they saw the signs in Al Madinah and other places in Arabia.
3 Jewish Tribes settle in Al Madinah • Bani Qaynuqa • Bani Nadir • Bani Quraydha
So, 3 Jewish rabbis came to Taban As’ad and told him, “This place is protected by God. If you attempt to destroy it, Allah will destroy you.” They convinced. • He agreed to withdraw his army and stop his attack on Al Madinah. But he was also very impressed by the Jewish faith and wanted to convert. So, he did and he invited them to Yemen with him. They agreed.
On his way back to Yemen, he passed by the tribe of Hawazen. Hawazen was a rival of Makkah, so they wanted to start a division between Tabaan As’ad and Makkah. And they succeeded. • Not those same Jewish rabbis told him , “This is another city protected by Allah. Indeed you should go in there do tawaf [go around] the Ka’abah.” So, he said, “Okay then let us go together.” They said, “No, it is not befitting for us scholars to go and make tawaf around a structure that has idols.”
So, TabanAs’ad went. Indeed he was the first person to clothe the Ka’bah(kiswah). He would clothe it once a year, and they would do it in such a way that they would put the new over the old. It piled up and sheer weight of it threatened to bring it down. So, they would take the old one down and put up a new one. • So, Taban As’ad took these rabbis to Yemen and there they were given the freedom to spread the Jewish religion in Yemen. Many tribes did embraced it.
So, two types of Jews in Arabia: 1) ethnic Jews in Khaybar and Al Madinah ; 2) Jews by conversion in Yemen, ethnically Arab but adopted Jewish faith. • So Jews did back them preach their religion—today they don’t.
What about Christianity? • When Essa (as) was sent many of his follower dispersed in the land. Very early on, different sects emerged, and most of them were deviant even disbelievers. Misguidance was introduced here and there. But there pockets here and there that retained the true Christian faith preached by Essa (as) • That is that there were pockets here and there who were following the true teachings that Jesus (as) believed in the oneness of Allah (SWT) and that he was the messenger of Allah (as).
One of these pockets [a man/priest] made it to Yemen—in Najran to be exact—and he started to spread the faith there. He did it slowly, secretly, and privately. • By this time Taban As’ad had died, and his son Thu Nuwas was the King of Yemen. News of this reached the King and so he banned the spread of this new religion and anyone preaching it was persecuted.
Story in Sahih Muslim • Imam Ahmad recorded from Suhayb that the Messenger of Allah said: • Among the people who came before you, there was a king who had a sorcerer, and when that sorcerer became old, he said to the king, "I have become old and my time is nearly over, so please send me a boy whom I can teach magic.'' So, he sent him a boy and the sorcerer taught him magic. Whenever the boy went to the sorcerer, he sat with a monk who was on the way and listened to his speech and admired them.
So, when he went to the sorcerer, he passed by the monk and sat there with him; and on visiting the sorcerer the latter would thrash him. So, the boy complained about this to the monk. The monk said to him, "Whenever you are afraid of the sorcerer, say to him: `My people kept me busy.' And whenever you are afraid of your people, say to them: `The sorcerer kept me busy.''' So the boy carried on like that (for some time). Then a huge terrible creature appeared on the road and the people were unable to pass by.
The boy said, "Today I shall know whether the sorcerer is better or the monk is better.'' So, he took a stone and said, "O Allah! If the deeds and actions of the monk are liked by You better than those of the sorcerer, then kill this creature so that the people can cross (the road).''Then he struck it with a stone killing it and the people passed by on the road. The boy came to the monk and informed him about it. The monk said to him, "O my son! Today you are better than I, and you have achieved what I see! You will be put to trial. And in case you are put to trial, do not inform (them) about me.'
'The boy used to treat the people suffering from congenital blindness, leprosy, and other diseases. There was a courtier of the king who had become blind and he heard about the boy. He came and brought a number of gifts for the boy and said, "All these gifts are for you on the condition that you cure me.'' The boy said, "I do not cure anybody; it is only Allah who cures people. So, if you believe in Allah and supplicate to Him, He will cure you.'' So, he believed in and supplicated to Allah, and Allah cured him.
Later, the courtier came to the king and sat at the place where he used to sit before. The king said, "Who gave you back your sight 'The courtier replied, "My Lord.'' The king then said, "I did'' The courtier said, "No, my Lord and your Lord - Allah'' The king said, "Do you have another Lord beside me'' The courtier said, "Yes, your Lord and my Lord is Allah.'' The king tortured him and did not stop until he told him about the boy. So, the boy was brought to the king and he said to him, "O boy! Has your magic reached to the extent that you cure congenital blindness, leprosy and other diseases'‘
He said, " I do not cure anyone. Only Allah can cure.'' The king said, "Me'' The boy replied, "No.'' The king asked, "Do you have another Lord besides me 'The boy answered, " My Lord and your Lord is Allah.'' So, he tortured him also until he told about the monk. Then the monk was brought to him and the king said to him, "Abandon your religion. 'The monk refused and so the king ordered a saw to be brought which was placed in the middle of his head and he fell, sawn in two. Then it was said to the man who used to be blind, "Abandon your religion.'' He refused to do so, and so a saw was brought and placed in the middle of his head and he fell, sawn in two. Then the boy was brought and it was said to him, "Abandon your religion.''
He refused and so the king sent him to the top of such and such mountain with some people. He told the people, "Ascend up the mountain with him till you reach its peak, then see if he abandons his religion; otherwise throw him from the top.'' They took him and when they ascended to the top, he said, " O Allah! Save me from them by any means that You wish.'' So, the mountain shook and they all fell down and the boy came back walking to the king.
The king said, " What did your companions (the people I sent with you) do'' The boy said, "Allah saved me from them.'' So, the king ordered some people to take the boy on a boat to the middle of the sea, saying, "If he renounces his religion (well and good), but if he refuses, drown him.'' So, they took him out to sea and he said, "O Allah! Save me from them by any means that you wish.'' So they were all drowned in the sea. Then the boy returned to the king and the king said, "What did your companions do'' The boy replied, "Allah, saved me from them.''
Then he said to the king, "You will not be able to kill me until you do as I order you. And if you do as I order you, you will be able to kill me.'' The king asked, "And what is that'' The boy said, "Gather the people in one elevated place and tie me to the trunk of a tree; then take an arrow from my quiver and say: `In the Name of Allah, the Lord of the boy.' If you do this, you will be able to kill me.'' So he did this, and placing an arrow in the bow, he shot it, saying, "In the Name of Allah, the Lord of the boy.'' The arrow hit the boy in the temple, and the boy placed his hand over the arrow wound and died.
The people proclaimed, "We believe in the Lord of the boy!'’ Then it was said to the king, "Do you see what has happened That which you feared has taken place. By Allah, all the people have believed (in the Lord of the boy).''So he ordered that ditches be dug at the entrances to the roads and it was done, and fires were kindled in them. Then the king said, "Whoever abandons his religion, let him go, and whoever does not, throw him into the fire.'' They were struggling and scuffling in the fire, until a woman and her baby whom she was breast feeding came and it was as if she was being somewhat hesitant of falling into the fire, so her baby said to her,“ Be patient mother! For verily, you are following the truth!''
(Cursed were the People of the Ditch. Of fire fed with fuel. When they sat by it. And they witnessed what they were doing against the believers. And they had no fault except that they believed in Allah, the Almighty, Worthy of all praise! To Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth! And Allah is Witness over everything.) (85 [Surat Al Burooj]:4-9)
The king apparently won, but Allah (SWT) says that those who were burned won, they won a great victory. They lost in terms of worldly standards, but the victory was that they were able to hold firm onto their religion and won in the eternal sense. Lost in a temporal sense. • One person survived and visited the Roman Empire [Christian at the time, although different sects as the Romans had already adopted trinity and divinity of Essa (as)]
Roman Empire’s response • Roman Empire said, “We are too far from Yemen. But we have Christian allies in Abyssinia (Negus). We will ask them to help.” • So sent the Negus a message and he sent an army led by a general by the name of Aryat. He invaded Yemen and fought against Thu Nuwas who rode out to the red sea with his horse and committed suicide.
Ethiopian rule of Yemen • Now Ethiopian rule over Yemen under Aryat. • An army general of his, named Abraha Al Habashi staged a revolt against him and the Abyssinian in Yemen were divided now. They fought. • Aryat told Abraha, “If we fight against each other and kill each other the people of the land [Yemenis] will take over. So how about having a man to man fight.”
Abraha agreed, but made an arrangement with his security guards that if they saw him losing they should jump in and help. • So crowds gathered as the duel started—Abraha short and chubby and Arat tall and lean. At the beginning of the fight was able to chop of Abraha’s nose. Hence his nickname “Abraha Al Ashram [nose chopped off]”
When that happened, Abraha’s security guards jumped in and killed Aryat. He betrayed Aryat—broke the rules. • Abraha now became ruler of Yemen. But Negus in Abyssinia not happy. So what did he do? • Abraha wanted to change the religion of Yemen and force them to become Christian. Since the Arabs were attached to the Ka’bah.
So, he decided to build a counterpart to the Ka’abah in Yemen—a huge cathedral called Al-Qulays. Wonderful piece of art in Sana’a. • One man did not like this, so he did something crude? He went in to the Qulays and defecated in it and spread it all over the walls. To show his protest! • Abraha was furious so he decided that he needed to get rid of the Ka’abah. So mobilized a huge army.
While on their way to Makkah, the tribes along the way tried to their best to stop him. One man who was taken captive/prisoner of war was Nufayl. • When the army reach Al Taif, they agreed to help him and his army. They even offered a guide for the journey. This guide was Abu Rughaal. On the way he died, and they buried him on the way. The Arabs used to stone his grave for the betrayal.
Abraha made it to the outskirts of Makkah. He took possession of the camels and other cattle that were grazing there. 200 of these camels that he took belonged to Abdul Muttalib. The grandfather of the Prophet (saw). • So, Abdul Muttalib came out to meet Abraha—so he pulled some strings to meet him [fortunately friend of Nufaylwho became a friend of ‘Unays the pilot of the elephant]. They had taken an elephant with the army.
Abraha impressed by Abdul Muttalib • Abraha was in awe of Abdul Muttalib just because of his stature and demeanor. • Abraha was high on his throne—but when he saw him he came down to sit with Abdul Muttalib on the floor. • He then asked the interpreter to ask Abdul Muttalib what he needed. • Abdul Muttalib said, “You have taken possession of 200 of my camels. I want them back.”
Abrahalooks down on him • Abraha said, “When you came in I held you in high esteem. But now after your request I have no respect for you. I am coming here to destroy the honor of your fathers . I am here to destroy your worship place, your livelihood. And all you can do is ask for your camel.” • Abdul Muttalib responded, “I am the owner of the camels and this house belongs to Allah and He will protect it.”
Abdul Muttalib instructs Makkah to hold peaceful protest • Abdul Muttalib instructs the people of Makkah not to right. He asks them to go up to the mountains. He was the last one to leave, and before he left it is said that he held on to the Kiswah (the clothes of Al Ka’abah) or the handle of the door of the Ka’abah and prayed to Allah to protect His home. And he left. • Everyone in Makkah had evacuated. • So Abraha gave directions to charge—so the elephant was directed to destroy the Ka’abah. But it would not budge.
They directed it to Yemen, or any other direction and it would run. But towards the Ka’abah it would not move. They poked it with their spears and it started to bleed but it outright refused to move. What happened? A miracle from Allah [it is said that Nufayl broke from his chains, and shouted into it’s ear, “Kneel down Mahmud for it is the House of Allah.”] Regardless if it is true, a miracle happened because mentioned in Qur’an.
So they realized that they would have to do it themselves—so they charged towards the house. • Another miracle—Allah (swt) sent down a flock of birds [small bird, some narrations swallows] –an army of birds—each carrying 3 stones. One in beak, and two in its claws. They were like missiles—nuclear weapons. • Allah (SWT) tells us about them in Surat Al Feel [the chapter of Elephant]
These are the events up to the birth of the Prophet (saw). It was in this year known as the Year of the Elephant that he (saw) was born.