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THE DARK PERIOD OF JAHILIYYA

Every period of human history during which people associate partners with God in any way - whether by worshipping idols and ascribing to them some divine functions or by deifying some persons or attributing creativity to nature and material causes - is wholly dark. This is so because when belief in the Unity of God is removed from the heart, the mind and soul ‘darken’, all standards change and things and the world are judged from false points of view. This moral, spiritual, social and even economic and scientific state of a community is defined by the Qur’an as jahiliya, and described as follows:

Or like darkness on a deep sea obscure, covered by a wave, above which is a wave, above which is a cloud. Layers of darkness one upon the other. When he holds out his hand, well-nigh he cannot see it. And he for whom God has assigned no light, for him there is no light. (al-Nur, 24:40)

I do not like describing falsehood. Besides, it is wrong for me to describe falsehood where the truth may be described. In the words of God, What is there, after truth, but misguidance? (Yunus, 10:32). However, in order to clarify the subject, I feel it necessary to say a few words concerning the pre-Islamic era, that is, the age of jahiliya.

The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, appeared at a time when people had no knowledge of the true religion and therefore worshipped a great number of idols. As stated in the Qur’an:

They were serving, apart from God, what hurts them not, neither profits them, and they say: These are our intercessors with God. (Yunus, 10:18)

They shaped idols of stones, earth, bread, even cheese, and then said: ‘These are our intercessors with God.’ They were so degraded in thoughts and morals that, as reported by Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, they would sit at meal-time, cut their idols into pieces and eat them. The only excuse offered was that they were following in the steps of their forefathers.

When it is said to them, ‘Follow what God has sent down’, they say, ‘No; but we follow that wherein we found our fathers.’ (al-Baqara, 2.170)

They buried their daughters alive. In the words of the holy Qur’an:

When any of them is given the good tidings of a girl, his face is darkened and he chokes inwardly, as he hides himself from the people because of the evil of the good tidings that have been given to him, whether he shall preserve her in humiliation, or trample her into the dust. (al-Nahl, 16.58-9)

Women were despised, not only in pre-Islamic Arabia but also in the Roman and Sassanid lands. The Qur’an openly declares that they will be questioned concerning this:

When the female (infant) buried alive is questioned - for what crime was she killed? (al-Takwir, 81.8-9)

One day, after Muhammad’s declaration of his Prophethood, one of his Companions came to him and narrated what he had done with his little daughter:

O Messenger of God, I had a daughter. One day I told her mother to dress her as I was taking her to her uncle - the poor mother knew what this meant, but she could do nothing but obey and weep. My wife dressed the infant, who was rejoicing at the news of going to the uncle. I took her near a well, and told her to look down into the well. While she was looking into the well, I kicked her into it. While she was rolling down, she was shouting ‘Dad, Dad!’

As he was recounting this, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, sobbed as if he had lost one of his nearest kinsfolk.1

Hearts had become hard. Every day a pit was dug in the corner of the desert for an innocent girl to be buried. Human beings were more brutal and cruel than hyenas. The powerful crushed the weak. It was a time when brutality was taken for humanity, cruelty received approval, the bloodthirsty were exalted, bloodshed considered a virtue, adultery and fornication were more common than legal marriages. Family structure had been destroyed.

This dark period would be followed by Islam, and, besides eradicating all other evils, God would also declare in the Qur’an concerning infanticide:

Do not slay your children because of the fear of poverty: We provide you and them. (al-An‘am, 6.151)

 

1. Darimi, Sunan, Muqaddima, 7-8)


Recommended Reading:
A glimpse of the Prophet's life before his Prophethood

Last Updated on November 23, 2000

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