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Pre Islamic Bedouin Vs. The Teachings Of Early Islam

1131 words - 5 pages

The focal pattern of pre-Islamic Arabia life was rural. Genealogy preserved family, clan and tribal purity. The livelihood of the Bedouin included raising camel and sheep, hunting, and escorting caravans through the desert. The Bedouin also participated in raids in which settled people were attacked for goods such as camels, horses, slaves, gold and fine fabrics. A superior force usually attacked a weaker force in these raids. Raiding was instrumental in developing the tradition of skillful weapon handling, while the loyalties associated with certain tribal affiliations provided cohesion for generations to come (Denny, 45). The basic organization of the Bedouin social system started with the family. A clan was comprised of numerous families meanwhile several related clans constituted a tribe. The head of the clan was the shaykh who acted as a chief and was usually chosen amongst the eldest and wisest men in the clan. The religious practices of pre-Islamic Bedouin were idolatrous and polytheist to say the least. Different families and tribes worshipped different gods and deities, resulting in an unstable religious atmosphere. The rise of Islam inspired an urban movement in pre-Islamic Arabia, which attacked the Bedouin lifestyle on a religious, social and political basis.Prior to the prophet hood of Muhammad and advent of Islam, religion in Arabia was present in the form of polytheism, idolatry and stone worship. Many deities were worshipped and even the Kaba was guilty of containing the god Habul and 360 others. These divinities were both male and female. For example, the daughters of Allah: al-Uzza, al-Lat and Manat. Sacrifices were made at various shrines, with each community having its own patron deity. Pilgrimages were made to these shrines where the deities were circumambulated in the same manner as the Kaba. Lastly, unusually shaped stones often marked the sites of sacred sanctuaries. Over time, the Bedouin began to idolize the spirits associated with these stones (Denny, 53). The message of Muhammad opposed the worship of any other god except Allah. According to the Quran, shirk, the associating of anything with God, is the one unforgivable sin. Muhammad also took aim at the Meccan divinities and old religious establishments, which added to the mounting hostilities and resentment against Muhammad and his early followers. Muhammad had begun to usher in a new era of monotheism, where as the Bedouin tribes had grown accustomed to their polytheist and idolatrous ways. Muhammad's opposition to polytheism, idolatry and stone worship shook the core of the Bedouin's religious existence brining the traditions and customs of their past into serious question.The social structure of the pre-Islamic Bedouin was based on clan and tribal affiliations. Bedouin society was hierarchal, with the shaykh and his blood relatives residing at the top and protected strangers, non-blood relatives and slave residing near the bottom. Those who were on the bottom in...

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