Pre-Islamic Bedouin vs. The Teachings of Early Islam

Essay by tek10304B, March 2004

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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...