INTRODUCTION TO ISLAM – LECTURE TWO
Why is Arabia’s Way of Life Called Jahiliyya?
1. Lack of Tawhid (believe in one God):
Two opinions among Islamic scholars regarding the pre-Islamic Arabs’ approach to God:
a. Monotheism, belief in one god, did exist prior to Islam. Evidences: both Jewish and
Christian Arab communities had been present in Arabia before Muhammad SAW.
Christians were also present in Mecca.
b. The main characteristic of Jahiliyya period is polytheism. Evidences: The Arabian God
was associated with three goddesses who were the daughters of Allah: Al-Lat, Manat,
Once Tawhid is introduced, people are no longer killing each other for revenge, for family blood,
or because of the leader. War and trade used to be the main business amongst rival tribes. When
you redirect loyalty from the tribe to God, it has a huge impact on the result. People believe in
God, not the leader. They’re fighting with the people or a group because God ordered them, not
because their tribe commands it of them. They’re fighting for truth. In the first stage (Jahiliyya),
they were killing each other because of tribal loyalties.
In Islam, you cannot conduct trade without guidelines. In Jahiliyya, everyone was out to make
money at any cost. Islam prohibits this. Islam forbade interest. Islam is against “I don’t care.”
Why is the issue of Jahiliyya important? The new radical Muslims use the term Jahiliyya to
describe Western societies. Al Qaeda describes Western civilization as being in a state of
Prophet Muhammad SAW changed the loyalty, causing changes in War and trade, as well as in
Prophet Muhammad SAW had an answer to the political crisis. There was now going to be
accountability. Leaders could no longer do what they wanted. They are accountable. If the
leaders said, “I don’t care,” they did not warrant being in positions of power. What is the impact
of Islamic order for the political crisis?
2. Arab society was characterized by fatalism:
- No meaning or accountability beyond this life.
- No resurrection of the body.
- No divine judgment, or eternal punishment or reward.
- Justice was guaranteed and administered not by God, but by the threat of group
vengeance or retaliation.
- Little sense of cosmic moral purpose or individual or communal moral responsibilities.
- Might was right. Tuesday, January-11-11
When you accept that there is a day of judgment, then you accept accountability for your actions.
You’re responsible and accountable. With Tawhid and the Day of Judgment, you have the idea
of hope. Without the Day of Judgment, you don’t have hope. Tawhid and the Day of Judgment
was the answer to the fatalism that prevailed in the society.
In the political system, you cannot ignore people’s needs. The people have demands. In
Jahiliyya, the system does not cater to the needs of people.
Prophet Muhammad SAW tried to compromise with the traditions of his time and is thus more
important than any other Prophet (AS). He tried to change every tradition step-by-step.
3. Extreme Inequalities Between Men and Women
4. Femicide was Prevalent in Pre-Islamic Arabia
Three Stages of Muhammad’s (SAW) Life
1. Muhammad SAW before Prophecy – Muhammad SAW The Man
His business was in trade. He was known as Al-Amin. He was honest in his business. He was
working for Khadjia and eventually married her. She was 15 years older than him. Why is this
important? Why is this so strange? What was his marriage for? What is it only because of love?
What’s the difference between someone who falls in love and someone who doesn’t? If we don’t
have love whatsoever, there is pessimism about what life holds. If people are in love versus if
they are not in love has an effect on their character. That’s the difference (or so says the
professor). If people are not in love, they’re selfish. Love is going to give you the first experience
for God’s love.
Prophet Muhammad SAW grew up as an orphan. What was the result on his character? He was
capable of understanding pain and suffering. He was also independent. Which religion did
Prophet Muhammad SAW have before prophecy? He followed the Hanif tradition. He followed
the religion of Abraham AS. He used to meditate. In business, he was not looking for blood. As a
character, he was in pain and suffering because of the loss of his mother and father.
He was Hanif and he had meditations. In his circumstances, the role of Khadija was important.
Khadija was the first believer. Without Khadija, Prophet Muhammad SAW could not continue.
This is the first argument that Islam supported women’s rights more than any other religion.
Khadija was the first believer. She supported Prophet Muhammad SAW because she was
wealthy. She was also supporting Prophet Muhammad SAW emotionally, psychologically, and
politically. If Khadija were against his mission, he could not continue. She could have said, “I
cannot continue in this situation.” Prophet Muhammad SAW got support from Khadija. She
supported him and indicated that she was ready to sacrifice everything for The Prophet SAW’s
belief. In this period, Prophet Muhammad SAW had realized that this society was in a crisis and
could not continue/ Tuesday, January-11-11
2. Muhammad SAW after he became a prophet: after Hijra
3. Muhammad SAW after he became a prophet: after Hijra
His Critical Approach to his Society:
Muhammad (SAW) The Man: Conclusion
- Muhammad’s SAW main attributes, his private life, his critical approach to his society
led him to believe that:
o His society is in theological crisis: monotheism vs. polytheism
o His society is in economic-social crisis: social justice vs. hierarchy
o His society is in moral crisis: accountability vs. fatalism; Honesty vs. hypocrisy
The Beginning of Revelation
- Around 610 A.D. Angel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad SAW while he had retired into
mount Hira during one his meditative nights.
- Muhammad SAW later narrated the event to his wife Khadija as follows:
o “He came to me while I was asleep and said, “Read!” I said “What shall I read?”
He pressed me with it again so that I thought it was death; then he let me go and
said, “Read!” I said, “What shall I read?” He pressed me with it the third time so
that I thought it was death and said, “Read!” I said, “What then shall I read?” –
and this I said only to deliver myself from him, lest he should do the same to me
What do we learn from this? Knowledge is the first message of Islam. This is what the very first
verse indicates. Reading is connected to knowledge and thinking. Reading, thinking, and
knowledge are connected to each other. God ordered Muslims to think.
It’s also important because given the context of pre-Islamic Arabia, the message of knowledge
stands in stark contrast to the ignorance that was prevalent in the era of Jahiliyya. The socie