Jahiliya: Arabia Before Islam | mediaevalmusings
January 27, 2013 3 Comments
My co-author has completed a survey of the eastern church lately, it is fascinating and can be found here. This sort of ties into it, since it is on what almost seems like an interregnum between Roman (or Persian) rule and the rise of Islam. A large amount of what was happening including the breathtaking spread of Christianity (without the sword, mind), that what comes to light is even more fascinating. This article about Arabia before Islam is part of the story, and undoubtedly we will find more to add to the mosaic of the time and place. Enjoy.
Islam today is a multinational faith, with a variety of sects and movements (of whom shiis and sunnis are only the most broad division). One of the so-called ‘Abrahamic’ religions, it draws on ancient Near Eastern material also present in Judaism and Christianity, and figures such as Abraham, Soloman, and Moses feature prominently. Despite these common roots and the many permutations Islam has undergone over the course of its encounters in places as diverse as West Africa and Indonesia, however, Islam remains a quintessentially Arabian religion.
This, however, raises the question of just what the religious environment looked like before Islam, and before the Prophet Muhammad’s revelations, in the centuries before the year 600. The Arabic term used to describe this period is jahiliya, a complex word variously translated as ignorance, lawlessness, paganism–even, in later times, apostasy. When these associations are taken together, we can comfortably describe jahiliya as the absence of Islam, as a divine revelation and as the motive force of an ordered society.
Because of this strongly negative perception on behalf of the earliest Islamic chroniclers, historical accounts are generally silent about the beliefs and accomplishments of this period (except to blacken them.) Thanks to recent discoveries by archaeologists, celebrated in the Roads of Arabia exhibit currently at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery, however, it has become easier to visualise this fascinating and elusive time.
Continue reading Jahiliya: Arabia Before Islam | mediaevalmusings.
I find the interplay of the factors very fascinating, and hope you do as well.