Islam Test Mid-term:
Chapter 2: Pre-IslamicArabia – Beliefs, Values, Way of life
1) Pre-Islamic Arabia:
• The Arabian Peninsula is known as the “island of theArabs”.
• Millions of square miles in area (700 miles wide and 1000 miles long) . Mostly composed of
desert and steppe area and therefore the population was sparse.
• The southern region, embracing Yemen and Hadramaut coast, is affected by the Indian Ocean
• Much of the southern sector was a vast desert and was known as the Empty Quarter (al-rub’al-
• The deserts connected different sectors to each other. (Connecting the north sector to as far as
frontiers of southern Jordan)
• The western sector of Arabia, from below the latitude of the Sinai Peninsula in the north to about
the latitude of al-Ta’if in the south, is known as Hejaz.
• Hejaz was the region in which Islam was born and developed and thus is often called the “cradle
• Arabia has been a major factor in trade between East and West.
• Important Trade Routes: Red sea coast between southern Palestine and Yemen. Other routes
proceeded from Yemen across the desert toArabia and then on to Syria, Mesopotamia or the
• Important town and cities: Mecca (center for trade and commerce); Yathrib (Medina) which
was an important agricultural settlement.
• The Arabs are Semites, meaning they speak a language belonging to a large family of related
tongues, including Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac,Akkadian, andAssyrian. This is part of a larger
language group calledAfro-Asiatic.
• The term Semite comes from Shem, one of Noah’s sons who came forth from the ark after the
• People from theArabian Peninsula migrated to different parts due to the land becoming infertile
and lack of rainfall. Other theories state that Semites were originated from East Africa or southern
Mesopotamia and since theArab’s reproduced on a larger scaled there was not enough land and
food resources to support this increase and therefore they migrated to richer lands. 2) The Northern & Southern Branches:
• The Arabs traditionally trace their roots back to two major sources: the northerners and
• The bursting and subsequent collapse of the great dam of Ma’rib in the Yemen. Forcing the
southerners to move north.
• Untouched by the civilizing influence of the two great empires of the region: the Byzantine
Empire and the Persian Empire
- Said to be centered in Yemen and were said to be Peninsula’s aboriginal people
- Descended from biblical forebears: Joktan, the grandson of Shem.
- Settled in Hejaz and other related territories.
- Said to become associated toArabism through a kind of naturalization process.
- Islam did much to narrow down the gap between both the groups.
- Sprang from the union of Abraham and his other wife, Ketura.
• The pre-historicArabia is generally considered to have been barbarian and wild.
• The term Al-Jahaliya is applied to the life and times of theArabs in Hajez and surrounding areas
during the centuries before Islam. The term literally means “the ignorance” but also includes
3) Social Culture and Economy:
• The dominant pattern of life was pastoralist. People were divided into more or less dependent
• When there was a need, the tribes colluded with one another.
• Genealogy was an important concern of the Arabs, for the preservation of family, clan and tribal
purity and honor was more important than anything else.
• The main source of livelihood was herding, agriculture, trade, and raiding from intertribal wars.
• The power that bound people together on the clan and tribal levels is known as “asabaya”, a kind
of powerful “group meeting”
• People getting together makes a clan and several clans getting together makes a tribe. • Each tribe headed and led by a chief (sheikh).
• Personal honor “ird” was of great importance toArabs and if anyone attempted to attack that
honor, it would lead to bloodshed.
• Women in the community were regarded as weak and were considered to be an asset.
• No central political authority: the threat of family or group revenge, or the law of retaliation
important in protecting families from other’s attack.
• Mohammad, the man, belonged to the Banu Hashim (sons of Hashim), a lesser clan of the
powerful Quraysh tribe which dominated Meccan society.
• Mohammad’s tribal background not only exposed him to the inequality that existed in his society
but also it is one of the factors that made him so sensitive about poverty, social and economic
4) Pre-Islamic Religion:
• Reflected its tribal nature and social structure.
• Worshiped many gods and goddesses
• The spirits of these gods were associated with sacred objects such as trees, stones, springs and
wells. - - Mecca possessed a central shrine of the gods.
• The Kaba, a cube shaped building housed 360 idols of tribal patron deities.
- Daughters ofAllah:
1) Al –Uzza: Who was Venus, a morning star to whome human sacrifices were offered too.
2) Al-Lat: The goddess whose sacred precincts near al-Taif were places where certain
activities could not take place
3) Manat: The goddess of fate and destiny.
• Allah was well known inArabia, especially in Mecca.
• Representation of monotheistic religions before Islam.
- Tribal Humanism
•Away of life whose origins were not ascribed to God.
•Rooted in, or is the product of tribal experience or tradition.
- “Hanifs”, Generic monotheists. People who are neither Jewish nor Christian. • Roman catholic church had consideredArabia to be a “breeding ground for heresis” because of
all its polytheism.
5) Why isArabia’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 ChristianArab
communities had been present inArabia before Mohammad. Christians were also present in Mecca.
B) the main characteristic of Jahiliya period is polytheism Evidences: The Arabian God was associated
with three goddesses who were the daughters of Allah: al-Lat, Manat and al-Uzza.
2) 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
– Little sense of cosmic moral purpose nor individual or communal moral responsibility
– Might was right
3) Extreme inequality among men and women
-The prevalence of femicide amongArabs
Chapter 3: Muhammad and the Early Muslim:
• There were several gods’spirits, shrines and even though with all these entities around, the
people had no belief and thus no hope.
• People enjoyed their lives by drinking wine and singing songs.
• The jahilyya period.
Muhammad the Person:
• Muhammad was born about 570 C.E, the year of the Elephant, in Mecca as a member of the Banu
Hashim clan of the Quraysh, to which the notables of Mecca belonged.
• Around 610 C.E, at the age of 40, Muhammad had his first revelation to him at Mount Hira where
he would use to retire and meditate for days.
• His father died before he was born and his mother died when he was only 6 years old. • He was sent to a wet nurse in Bedouin tribe to strengthen him.
• His grandfatherAbd al –Muttalib acted as Muhammad’s guardian. Abd-al Muttalib however died
just two years later and Muhammad then later came under the care of his uncle, Abu Talib.
• Was given the nickname al-Amin (The trustworthy)
• Legends foretell:
In fact, during the time of Muhammad’s motherAmina pregnancy, she heard a voice saying, “You
are pregnant with the Lord of this people.” A light also shone fourth from her by which she could
see the castles of Bursa in Syria. The prophet’s mother also reported that when he was born he put
his hands on the ground and lifted his head towards heaven.
• He was initially a shepherd but later changed his occupation and became a tradesman.
• In 595C.E Muhammad married Khadija, his employer who was impressed with Muhammad’s
work. They had 6 children, four daughters and two sons.
Muhammad the Prophet:
• Call to be a prophet occurred after he had apparently become a highly disciplined spiritual seeker.
• Muhammad received revelations through a special process known inArabic as “Wahy”, a sort of
• Actual visions were really rare. Only during the initial call by Gabriel and his miraculous
ascension to heaven.
• Clearly distinguished his own opinions from what was from God.
• He had a self-evident authority and a charismatic nature that enabled him to preach and for people
to listen to him.
• After Muhammad’s contact with his divine source did not recur, he felt abandoned and depressed.
• His best source of knowledge is the Quran.
• His wife Khadija was the first to become a Muslim and support her husband.
• Muhammad was taken to Khadija’s cousin Warqa ibn Nawfal who had explained how
Muhammad had experienced a revelation as how prophets before did as well. Warqa also
predicted difficult times for Muhammad.
• Early message centered on the themes of God’s coming judgment of humankind.
• God is depicted as just, all-powerful, majestic and holy. • Each person will receive what they have earned.
• God’s divine justice is subject to forgiveness and erasure.
• The Quran did however continue Judaism’s and Christianity’s message of ethical monotheism.
• The one unforgivable sin according to the Quran is Shirk. The ‘associating of anything with
God”. One who does this a mushrik , and Idolater.
• The Quran regards the Jews and Christians as People of the book.
• Throughout the Quran run’s the theme of God’s unity and it is the compromising of this oneness
that constitutes the greatest sin. All that the Muslim does is to reflect God’s greatness and unity.
The First Muslims:
• Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, was the first male convert to Islam. He later became
important as the 4 Caliph to succeed the Prophet. He was appointed the first imam of Shi’ism.
He was married to Fatima , a daughter of Muhammad and Khadija.
• Abu Bakr, who was the Prophet’s father-in-law converted to Islam. He was the 1 Caliph.
• Uthman, the sole convert from Mecca’s Oligarchy in the Meccan years. He became the 3
• Muhammad’s early preaching’s were about warnings and therefore the Quran gives him a title as
• The situation started to become tensed when Muhammad attempted to change the Quranic verses
relating to the daughters ofAllah.
• Life became difficult for Muslims and as a result they were sent toAbyssinia. This was the first
• Muhammad and his family were spared intense persecution because of his Uncle Abu Talib’s
protection as head of the Hashim clan.
• Abu Bakr freed a black slave named Bilal who later became the prophet’s chief mu’adhdhin, the
one who calls Muslims to prayers.
• The move toAbyssinia occurred in about 615C.E
• Abu Talib died in 619C.E
• Abu Lahab,Abu Talib’s brother lifted the protection of Muhammad and put him through
• Muhammad visited the town of Taif, but the people rejected his religion. • Khadija also died in the same year (619C.E).
The Development of Islam:
• The Arabic word Islam means “Submission” or “Surrender” to almighty God and one who
submits is called a muslim. Islam is an act and not a thing. It is a relationship of a servant and
• Each muslim is an “abd”, “slave” or “servant” to god.
• The proper ways of worship are called ibadat.
• Ibada means worship.
• At the heart of a muslim devotion is the salat or “prayer service”
• The prayer service was performed together. The Meccan leaders would pray alongside the
prophet when the worshipping of daughters of Allah was still in place. This was however changed
when Muhammad decreed not to worship the 3 Godesses.
Muhammad’s Night Journey andAscension into Heaven:
One night Muhammad was sleeping near the holy Ka’ba when the angel Gabriel came to him. He
split open the prophet’s chest and belly from throat to the groin and washed his heart and bowels with
Zamzam water (holy water). Gabriel then placed his heart and bowels back in Muhammad’s body.
Then a small steed named Buraq, which was often depicted as a creature with a head of a female and
body of a horse appeared and carried Muhammad through the sky to Jerusalem. Muhammad then
prayed at the “farthest mosque” and then traveled through the seven heavens in to the presence of
God. This was the greatest of all of Muhammad’s spiritual experiences and gave him the sort of
standing among the Muslims that certain prophets achieved before him (Abraham, Moses, Jesus and
The Establishment of Muhammad’s Role in Islam:
• For some time Muhammad was regarded as a poet and not a prophet. This was because the
idea of a prophet was not common in those days.
• There are two terms that apply to Muhammad: 1) Nabi and 2) Rasul. The first means
“prophet” the one to whom God has spoken. The second means “apostle” or “messenger”,
who has charged with communicating what God, has told him to others.
• All Rasul’s are Nabi’s but the reverse is not the case.
• The Quran names 25 prophets, of whom 5 are notable, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and
Muhammad. • Muhammad is regarded as the “seal” (khatam) of the prophets.
• Muhammad came to transmit the old messages anew and established a universal community,
which in Medina was known as “umma”
• The main task of Muhammad and the Quran was to restore the primordial monotheistic
• The Quran restored the purity of the original message from God.
The Quran’s Divine Message
• The Quran moved from simple dramatic Warnings of Judgment to stories of earlier prophets.
• The Quran considers itself to be the last divine message to descend.
• The Quran was bestowed uponArabs in their own language and therefore there was no excuse not
to understand the message it was portraying.
The Conversion of Umar:
The final major conversion occurred while Muhammad and the muslims were still in Mecca. Umar
ibn al-khattab, a persecutor of Muslims wanted to kill Muhammad as he had split his tribe and
mocked their traditions. Umar was determined to get rid of Muhammad.Afellow tribesman Nu’aym
told Umar that he would never get away with killing Muhammad. He also informed Umar that his
sister Fatima, with her husband and his nephew were listening to the recitation of the Quran. Umar
furiously raged in the house and held his brother-in-law. Fatima stood to defend her husband and
Umar struck her in the ear. He however suddenly became remorseful and asked for the sheet of
Quranic passage to read.After reading the passage Umar left again and headed for the house where
Muhammad was staying. Muhammad at this time was withAli, Abu Bakr and his uncle Hamza. Umar
entered and was encountered by an angry Muhammad but replied that he had come at this very
moment to believe in God and his apostles. Umar then converted to Islam. The conversion of Umar
and Hamza allowed muslims to worship at the ka’aba. Umar then became the 2 Caliph.
The Hijra - Emigration
• Pilgrimage season of 620C.E.
• Medina also called madinat al-nabi.
• Constant hostility between two tribes Aws and Khazraj
• Afierce battle took place between the two tribes in 618C.E • Muhammad met some people during this period who were impressed with Muhammad and
converted to Islam.
• In 621C.E 75 people traveled from Medina and pledged themselves to fight in Muhammad’s
• Mecca became too dangerous for the prophet as a band or Quraysh was plotting to kill him.
Muhammad fleed withAbu Bakr to a cave where a spider spun its web to protect them. Ali was
found in Muhammad’s bed which angered the Quraysh.
• 622C.E was known as the stat pf the Islamic calendar.
• The Muslims who performed the hijra were called emigrants (muhajirin)
• Muhammad entered Medina and stayed where his camel had stopped.
• Since the hijra to medina, muslims were known as “umma muslima”. Umma is anArabic word
that refers to human communities united by a common faith.
• The “constitution of Medina” also took place. This was a revolution in the social and political
situation in Medina.
• The emigrants adopted the occupation of raiding.
The Battle of Bader, against the Jews of Medina, and Uhud
The Battle of Badr
o Alarge caravan was heading home to Mecca from Palestine
o Emmigrants went out to intercept the caravan but Meccans planned ahead and had sent a
900 man force (only 300 Muslims)
o Muslims won and killed many prominent Meccans
o This battle was a turning point in the history of Islam as a political and military as well as
an expanding religious movement
o Muslims were now very confident in battle
o 625CE Battle of Uhud, war ended in somewhat of a tie between Mecca and Medina
The Battle of the Trench
o 10000 man force of Meccans marched for Medina, Medinans could only get 3000 men
o Persian convert suggested to the prophet that they dig trenches to withstand the long siege
o Meccans arrived and then went back after two weeks because they were impatient with
siege warfare plus they were running out of food for their animals
o However, Jews were devising a plan alongside Meccans to get the Muslims
o Muslims learned of this and then destroyed the Jew stronghold in Medina
• Executed the men, sold the women and children as slaves
• Not out of hate for Jews but because of treason against the constitution o Since then Muhammad was known as the single power broker inArabia
o Increase in the prominence of Islam
Muhammad’s Later Life:
• After losing Khadija, Muhammad married 10 more times and took two concubines.
• Aisha was his favored wife after Khadija.
• She lived long after the prophet’s death and told his stories.
• Muhammad cared much aboutAisha.
• He also married Zaynad, his daughter-in-law, the wife of Zayd.
• Zayd immediately gave Zaynad a divorce when he found out that Muhammad was
interested in her.
• Although controversial, God revealed that this marriage would be permitted.
• He died in 632C.E after delivering the delivering his final sermon at the plain of Arafat.
He died in the arms ofAisha and was buried beneath her house.
Chapter 5: The Basic Beliefs and Worship Practices of Islam:
The 5 Doctrines of Islam:
1) Faith: Tawhid, meaning "making God one," refers to the strict belief of monotheism and the refusal to
compromise this position. In fact, another name for Muslims is muwahhidun, translated as "unitarians" or
"upholders of divine unity”. He is the only creator and disposer of the Universe, has no partner and no
comparable being, none but Allah is worthy of worship. Tawhid is so essential and central to the faith that
shirk, or the associating anything with God, is the one fundamental error for Muslims.
2) Belief inAngels: InArabic angels are known as malak, from la'aka meaning "to send on a mission".
These angels have no sex and are made of light, whereas humans are made of clay. All of them are
considered good, except Iblis/Satan, who was sent out of heaven after he refused God's command to bow
down toAdam. They have limited life span, The Quran speaks of some of them having been converted to
Islam. /3) Prophets & Scriptures: Muhammad was the last in a long line of prophets who were entrusted with
bringing Scriptures to their peoples. The prophets are divided into two classes, rasuls and nabis.Arasul,
or "messenger," was given a major new revelation and was called to communicate what God had sent to
them. The Quran, meaning "recitation", is held to be the eternal, literal word of God. Therefore, to accept
and believe in the messages ofAllah is a mere consequence of belief inAngels and the prophets, the
mediums by which God's word is revealed. All Scriptures are God's work, but the people before the dawn
of Islam had corrupted the original messages to suit their