by OneClass6614, Winter 2011
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Discuss the reasons why the Arabia's way of life before Islam is called Jahiliyya by
explaining a) its main characteristics and b) its significance in Islamic thought.
The society of Pre-Islamic Arabia, that is before the prophecy of prophet
Muhammad, was considered to be a state of Jahiliyya, in other words, the society was
caught in a state of ignorance. In the society, Mecca and Medina were growing powers
of wealth due to their commerce and Mecca's mercantile centre, creating a new political
and social order. To paint a picture of this society, we can look at it in a religious context
as well as a social and ethical one.
In the religious context, the society was considered to be jahili because there was
a lack of tawhid. Instead, the belief was in polytheism, where the people worshiped
many gods and goddesses, who were the protectors of the tribes and were associated
with objects. Instead of being loved, these spirits were feared and many rituals were
performed in order to keep the idols happy, the Kaaba being a central shrine. The lack
of tawhid in this jahili society leads its members to form the critireas of a jahili code of
ethics and value system.
Looking at it from a social and ethical point of view, the society paid great
importance and loyalty to tribalism and lineage. This trabalistic view lead the society to
inter-tribal warfare, which was a form of economic activity, effecting the moral structure
of the society. The philosophy about tribalism in this society was for a sense of
protection and identity, because if you did not belong to a tribe, you had no identity and
was put in an insecure position.
It is because of this tribalism that the society lacked meaning or accountability in
life and had a sense of fatalism. Since they had no accountability for their actions and
had no sense of an after-life, they could just do anything they want on earth because
there would be no one to judge you to either punish you or reward you - the rewards and
punishments could only be found on earth.
Also, women were seen as more of liabilities than assets because they did not
take part of tribal warfare. Young girls were often buried alive and other acts of femicide
As prophet Muhammad got to his prophetic years, the words of Allah and his
messages to Muhammad basically condoned and rejected all of these qualities that this
jahili society contained. The Islamic way of thought and rule basically provided the
society with qualities that they should follow, eliminating the qualities of a jahili society.
The main preaching of Islam is the sense of Tawhid and the oneness of God,
eliminating the idea of polytheism and bringing in monotheism. This monotheistic
thought would lead the community to have a sense of accountability of life, and Allah
revealed to Muhammad about the idea of the Day of Judgement, eliminating the sense
of fatalism that the society was in. Through the day of Judgement, Allah preached that
there is a meaning in life and there would be an afterlife in which you will be judged and
you will be either punished or rewarded, depending on your deeds done on earth. Also
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