Before Ar-Rasul ﷺ: Essentially, His Mission was to bring down Jahiliyyah

As we read the above inquiry, Muslim Leaders and Dai’es like us may feel this is just another common tazkirah, calling us to simply reminisce the perseverance and steadfastness of ar-Rasul ﷺ in his da’wah endeavours. Be as it may, the most important part of any mission so it will succeed and everlast, is the why. The objective. The bigger goal without which will lead the people embarking on the mission to be like a ‘runaway train’.

Here’s a fundamental question to ask: why was ar-Rasul – Prophet Muhammad – ﷺ appointed and given the revelation?

As we read the above inquiry, Muslim Leaders and Dai’es like us may feel this is just another common tazkirah, calling us to simply reminisce the perseverance and steadfastness of ar-Rasul ﷺ in his da’wah endeavours.

Be as it may, the most important part of any mission so it will succeed and everlast, is the why. The objective. The bigger goal without which will lead the people embarking on the mission to be like a ‘runaway train’.

Reaffirmation of the objective of ar-Rasul ﷺ being sent down by Allah means reaffirming our existence, and those who claim to be walking in the footsteps of ar-Rasul ﷺ.

It’s like a revision of why are we here, dare to declare ourselves as the Muslim Leaders and Dai’es.

Understanding the existential reason of a solution is through understanding the problem statement.

Understanding the reason ar-Rasul ﷺ was sent is through understanding the initial state of his prospect of da’wah.

Ignorance, and an Evil One

Before the revelation of ar-Rasul ﷺ and the Quran, Arabian Peninsula was considered to be in a jahiliyyah period – the period of ignorance. History recorded this era as full of chaos and corruption, with moral crises worsening their lifestyles.

At that time, there was neither a living prophet nor a messenger to guide them.

The term ‘jahiliyyah’ is derived from the Arabic root word ‘jahala’ which means ‘lacking of knowledge’ and ‘astray’. Most Arabic dictionaries state the term in general and define it as the period before the revelation of Islam.

Islam describes this period as a miserable historical period of Arab lifestyle. The reason was that people observe ignorant beliefs, practices, rules, laws, customs and values in society. The Quran describes them as having four characteristics:

1. The thought of ignorance

2. The laws of ignorance 

3. The behaviour of ignorance 

4. The false pride of ignorance 

From these perspectives, the characteristics of the jahiliyyah Arabs can be discerned from the following aspects:

Religions and Beliefs

The Arabs inherited monotheist faith and sanctuary from their ancestors. This fact is stated in the Quran: 

“If you ask them, who created the heavens and the earth? They will certainly say “Allah”. (al-Quran, Chapter az-Zumar 39: 38)

“If you were to ask them; “Who sent down water from the sky and thereby revived the earth after its death?” They will certainly say; “To Allah alone to be praised and thanked.” But most people do not understand”. (al-Quran, Chapter al-Ankabut 29: 63)

Some time passed and the Arabs started to absorb the practice of idol-worshipping, which resulted in them being deeply engrossed in polytheism and superstitions.

Most of the people in the society put their belief in superstitious things like tathayyur (belief in omens), tanjeem (astrology), tabarruk (seeking blessing from objects), and kahanah (soothsaying).

Thus, idol-worshipping (wathani) was dominantly embraced by the Arabs during the period of jahiliyyah. Makkah eventually became a centre for idol-worshippers, with approximately 350 idols erected around the Kaabah.

On the other hand, there were other religions worshipped by some such as Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and animism which mostly came from out of Makkah.

Now, what were the reasons for their objection to Islam? 

Allah narrates how the disbelievers of Makkah reacted when they were invited to Islam; 

“They say: “Why was this Quran not sent down upon some great man from the two cities (Makkah & Thaif)?” (al-Quran, Chapter al-Zukhruf 43: 31)

They meant that had Allah sent down the Quran upon these nobles rather than an orphan who have neither title nor names, they would’ve accepted Islam as their belief. 

This verse of the Quran presented the arrogance of the Arabs jahiliyyah in accepting da’wah from Ar-Rasul ﷺ. Some of them refused to embrace Islam for fear of losing their stature, names and influence. They were also afraid of losing their wealth as well, escaping from the bound by the rules and prohibitions as promoted by Islam.

Apart from that, their ignorance in tawhid was one of the reasons for rejection of Islam:

“Has He reduced all the gods to One God? Indeed, this is something totally strange”. (al-Quran, Chapter Sad 38: 5)

Political Background 

From a political perspective, none of the then governments had a systematic and strong administration. Politics were jeopardised with colonisation, thus affecting the social systems.

Due to different tribes and clans, there were neither proper ways in dealing with discontentment nor with economic situations.

The only way of solving things was through vendetta: “Killing my clan will declare wars between us”.

Allah criticises the practice of jahiliyyah for their desires, which denied His rightful judgement:

“(If they turn away from the Law of Allah,) do they desire judgement according to the law of jahiliyyah? For those who have certainty of belief, whose judgement can be better than Allah’s?” (al-Quran, Chapter al-Ma’idah 5:50)

Society

In social aspects, the Arabs of jahiliyyah were regulated by the system of Kabilah which established various clans. These clans were always in rivalries, with most of them ended with wars. Adultery, wine consuming and oppression of the poor were customary.

According to the tribal laws during that time, women were given a lowly status. They were denied any rights or status within the family. Inheritance was passed through the male lines whereas the women have no rights in inheriting any property. 

Even worse, women were considered property to be inherited. In some cases, it appeared that women were seized for slavery after a defeat in wars between clans. 

There were also patterns of homicidal abuse of women and girls such as prostitution and other sexual customs. Daughters were killed upon birth due to fear of increasing burden in social and economic development. Female birth was considered a humiliation for the parents and the family.

Traditionally, the Arabs dealt with their fear of humiliation by losing their daughter to captives or slavery. Hence, some of them preferred female infanticide, meanwhile, the others preferred selling their daughter for some large dowry since it would be more profitable than burying her into the ground.

In marriage, they practised different types of marriage systems. 

The first one was marriage established through agreement deals between both families. The second was marriage by capture (by dominion), where women were captured and sold into marriage or slavery after a defeat in a war. The husband has total authority towards them, and he was considered as the ‘lord’ or ‘owner’. 

The third one was marriage through purchase, where the woman’s family would give her away for a certain price or exchange her with camels or horses.

The fourth one was marriage by inheritance. Women were regarded as property that could be inherited or sold. Al-Tabari said, “During the era of jahiliyyah, when a man’s father or brother or son died and left a widow, if the heir of the dead came at once and threw his garment over her, he would have the right to marry her under the dowry of her deceased husband or to give her in marriage and take her dowry”. 

Besides those systems, there were other kinds of unlawful marriage systems practised by the Arabs of jahiliyyah, namely temporary marriage (mut’ah), cohabitation, and marriage by an exchange.

There has been a segmented monopoly as well as oppression towards the other clans, the poor and slaves. Fraud in measures and scales were customary in their economic practices. They also practised usury and charged high payment rates to the borrowers.

The fikrah 

The Arabian Peninsula was facing its dark age before the revelation of Islam. They were living without divine guidance, they relied on their limited knowledge and desire to determine their path.

Even if some may argue that they were at the peak of literature, our faith dictates that any form of civil advancement should be based on Allah’s laws and systems.

And their ways and systems of jahiliyyah were the norms at that time – that the message of Islam appeared very strange and out of ordinary.

Ar-Rasul ﷺ was sent to the Arabs and the Ummah until today for none other than to abolish these practices of jahiliyyah in all aspects of life, including defining systems and laws.

Even if the Arabs themselves or people from the other parts of the world resurrected the systems of jahiliyyah, the mission of ar-Rasul ﷺ still stands until the end of time.

Today, the world has started to show its tendency towards jahiliyyah once again. Our Muslim Ummah started to put aside the Quran and the Sunnah – the divine guidance.

Just like during the age of jahiliyyah, the role of Allah including in their lives was confined to only certain personal aspects. Islam is exploited and misinterpreted to support modern values and systems.

People live to fulfil their personal lust and desires – where the powerful ones establish a tyrannical system to exploit others.

The only reason for the emergence of the age of jahiliyyah in the Arabian Peninsula before the revelation of Islam was the denial of the teaching of previous apostles. 

It is of utmost importance that we, the Leaders and Daies, reinspect our fikrah against those of ar-Rasul’s mission. We should ask ourselves: are we calling against jahiliyyah like ar-Rasul ﷺ and the Sahaba were?

Or are we allowing ourselves to be apologetic and submissive to the laws and systems of jahiliyyah, just because the world is ruled by it and there seems to be no way out?

Reference 

Nurudin Muhammad Iqbal. 2020. Karakter jahiliyyah Dalam Al-Quran dan Kontektualisasinya Pada Masyarakat Kontemporer. Thesis; Post Graduate Program Studi Ilmu alQuran dan Tafsir. UIN Sunan Ampel, Surabaya. 

Ayaz Khan. Human Ignorance (jahiliyyah): Past & Present. The Dialogue.

Muslim Women’s League. 1995. Women in Pre-Islamic Arabia. https://www.mwlusa.org/topics/history/herstory.html. 30/11/2020. 

Al-Islam.org. Man and Ignorance: What does jahiliyyah Mean?. https://www.al-islam.org/man-and-ignorance/what-does-jahiliyyah-mean. 30/11/2020. 

Muhammad Jinani. 2008. Quranic Attitudes to Pre-Islamic Society and Customs. Islamic2ic.com. https://www.al-islam.org/man-and-ignorance/what-does-jahiliyyah-mean. 30/11/2020. 

Mohd Shukri Hanapi. 2013. From jahiliyyah to Islamic Worldview: In A Search of An Islamic Educational Philosophy. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science. 

Nader Masarwah. 2013. Marriage in Pre-Islamic Arabia as Reflected in Poetry and Prose: The Social and Humane Relations between Husband and Wife. Sociology Study.  

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