My description/information is based on Yahya Emerick's Muhammad
, en equally excellent biography of the Prophet s.a.w. , alhamdulillah. I think, that in order to appreciate the message that Muhammad s.a.w. came with, it's important to understand the atmosphere, culture, and way of life that existed prior to the delivery of his message to his people. A lot of seerahs do well to mention this at the very beginning of retelling the biography of the Prophet s.a.w. by going over the following key concepts:
1. The role of oral tradition
2. Tribal customs
3. Idolatry and other religions
4. Mecca, the Kabbah, and the Well of Zamzam
5. Lineage of the Prophet s.a.w[1.]
Oral tradition was so important as the history, legends, news, and stories through the poetry and prose of the storytellers is what preserved the identity of the people. In the time just before and during the Prophet s.a.w., the arabic language was at the pinnicle of its creativity in all the world; being a well-versed poet was probably one of the most respected title one could have and therefore it's no surprise that the Quraan, whose composition astounded the poets of its time so much that even the best of them affirmed that something like this could not have been created by man. With the beauty of its language and equally its message, the Quraan especially appealed to the poets of this age.[2.]
One's tribe was one's nation and within each tribe, many customs prevailed. Emerick does a great job of weighing both the admirable and nightmarish sides of tribal customs. Bravery, honouring of the guest, loyalty, and generosity towards strangers were deeply rooted virtues of Arab culture as a whole. In listing the other side, Emerick describes how "Arab human rights were quite backward, even for its time
(a.) Women had few precious rights- if any.
==A woman basically became the property of man upon marriage and had little say in her choice of spouse. Even upon the death of her husband, she was passed on to be inherited by her son and could be made his wife!
==Female infanticide- burying daughters (not just newborns) alive in order to avoid the burden of having to care for females who will have to be wed off anyway.
=="Women had no rights of divorce or inheritance rights and certainly no political voice."
==A man could marry as many women as he wanted- there was no limit nor any rule on how to treat each one. Women were merely seen as property and so the more a man had, the more he was considered to be wealthy, 'prestigious,' and worthy of 'respect'.
(b.) Slaves propbably fared worse than did women
==Slaves had absolutely no legal or tribal protection. Belonging to a tribe entitled you to protection so long as you remained unconditionally loyal to it.
==Slaves could be bought, sold, beaten, treated in any way by their owner, and sometimes even killed at the owner's whim.
==A person could even be kidnapped from any tribe and sold into slavery against their will.
(c.)Orphans- "were often swindled out of their inheritance and treated as pariahs."
in short, Arabian life was harsh.
I was going to paraphrase Emerick's other points of this first chapter, but I think that's enough for one post, as I'm not a fan of long making ones =P I'll continue the other points in a seperate one, inshaAllah =) But as you can see, the message that Muhammad s.a.w came with did much to dispel these practices, subhanAllah. To have acheived to get rid of practices that were very
deeply rooted in the culture in just a span of 23 years is why he s.a.w is considered one of the most revolutionary person in history and possibly the biggest and most important spokesman for the oppressed peoples of the world. please share your insights as well~ ma'asalaama