Allah says: “So you may admonish a people whose fathers received no admonition and who therefore remained heedless.” [Sūrah YāSīn: 6]

23 July 2012

Allah also says: “Or do they say that he (Muhammad) has forged it? Nay, it is the truth from your Lord, that you may admonish a people to whom no warner before you has come, in order that they may receive guidance.” [Sūrah al-Sajdah: 3]

Until the coming of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with his universal and final message for humanity, no prophet had been sent to the Arabian Peninsula since the distant time of Abraham and Ishmael (peace be upon them both).

This is the understanding of the earlies commentators of the Qur’an. For example, Ibn Jurayh says: “No Messenger had come to them or to their forefathers, no Messenger had come to the Arabs from Allah Almighty.” A similar statement is mentioned for Qatādah.

Allah makes it clear that he had never before sent down to a scripture to the Arabs when He says: “But We had not given them any books from which to study, nor did We send to them before you anyone to warn them.” [Sūrah Saba’: 44]

Before the advent of Islam, the Arabs of the Arabian peninsula had no divinely revealed scripture, unlike the Jews and Christians. Allah uses this fact against them when He says in the Qur’an: “And this is a book which We have revealed as a blessing, so follow it and be righteous, that you may receive mercy. Lest you should say: ‘This book was sent down to two peoples who came before us, and we remained unacquainted with what they were studying.’ Or lest you should say: ‘If this book had only been sent down to us, we would have followed its guidance better than they.’ Now there has come to you from your Lord a clear sign and a guide and a mercy…” [Sūrah al-An`ām: 155-157]

As for the legacy that had come to their forefathers from Abraham (peace be upon him), it has turned into nothing more than a faint and crumbing image. Indeed, it only helped to strengthen the Arab’s stubbornness to hold fast to their ways, because they could claim to be following Abraham’s legacy. The Arabs went so far as to make images of Abraham and Ishmael (peace be upon them both). They used to bring these images out to solemnize their most important holidays and official gatherings.

Ibn `Abbās relates that when Allah’s Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) returned to Mecca in victory, he refused to enter the Ka`bah while it still contained idols. He ordered the idols to be removed and this was done. Some people came out carrying the images of Prophet Muhammad holding arrows of divination in their hands. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “May Allah curse the people who did this. By Allah, they knew that Prophet Muhammad never practiced divination with arrows.”

Then the Prophet entered the Ka`bah and pronounced the greatness of Allah at each of its corners. He did not pray in it. [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (2/160)]

The Arabs had taken the very House which was built by Abraham and Ishmael as a symbol of monotheism, and the turned it into a house of idols, placing around it 360 graven images.

Nevertheless, the Arabs felt that they were the inheritors of the religion of Abraham (peace be upon him) and moreover, saw themselves as the people who upheld his rites and were the caretakers of the Ancient House.

These were the misconceptions they entertained about themselves, and their false self-image made them all the more resistant to Prophet Muhammad’s message. Idolatry was so entrenched in their lives and so firmly rooted in their mindset that it hardened them to the truth so that they could neither accept it nor submit to it. Moreover, it is a pattern often repeated in history that when people do not live according to a divinely revealed religion, they move away from pure beliefs and tend to gravitate towards the worship of tangible, material things.

This is why the idolaters were able to sacrifice their lives, wealth, and children for their idols while witnessing the perdition that their brothers came to. Such afflictions only increased their love and veneration for their idols. When they heard the accounts in the Qur’an of the idolatrous nations who came before them that Allah destroyed, they would exhort each other to bear patiently whatever hardships might befall them while worshipping and defending their idols.

Abū Ishāq al-Shātibī, in his book al-I`tisām, describes how the Arabs reacted to being called to monotheism:
Allah sent His Messenger (peace be upon him) after a long period of time in which no messenger was sent. It was a time of ignorance inhabited by ignorant people who had no notion of truth and never govern by it. They merely ascribed to the deviant ideas, man-made doctrines, and heretical creeds extolled by their forefathers and predecessors. So when the Prophet (peace be upon him) stood among them, a guiding light bringing them glad tidings and warnings and calling them to Allah, they immediately denounced his teachings and threw lies in the face of truth.

When he went against their laws or their beliefs, they levied against him the most absurd accusations. Sometimes they would call him a liar, though he was a most honest person who never once said anything untrue. At other times they would accuse him of witchcraft, though they were fully aware of the fact that he neither practiced witchcraft nor ever claimed to do so. They said that he was insane, in spite of the fact that he was clearly in possession of his rational faculties and was not demonically possessed.

When he called them to worship the One without partner who alone is worthy of worship, they said: “Has he made the gods all into one God? Truly this is an astounding thing.” [Sūrah Sād: 5]

They said this in spite of the fact that they admitted the truth of what they were being invited to. Allah says: “And when they embark on a ship they call on Allah, making their devotion sincerely and exclusively for Him.” [Sūrah al-`Ankabūt: 65]

When he warned them about the harshness of the Day of Resurrection, they rejected the evidence that they could clearly see that testified to its possibility. They said: “What! When we die and become dust, shall we return? Truly this is far-fetched.” [Sūrah Qāf: 3]

When he tried to instill within them the fear of Allah, they said: “O Allah! If this is indeed the truth from Thee, then rain down on us a shower of stones from the sky or send us a painful punishment.” [Sūrah al-Anfāl: 32]

They said all this to refute the veracity of the message that the Prophet (peace be upon him) brought them. If a miraculous sign came to them, they would divide themselves in error into many sects and fall into deviance over it – out of sheer obstinacy – in ways that people having any ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood would never accept.
This is how the pagans of Arabia were with the Prophet (peace be upon him). They condemned whatever they expected would cause them to lose what they had, because it was outside of what they were accustomed to and went against the unbelief and error that they were on. They even tried to get him to make concessions to them as a political gesture, even if only some of the time or in some circumstances or from some angles, claiming that this would bring about agreement and good relations between them and satisfy them, in order that his agreement could give support to their feeble structure.

But Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) refused to do anything other than stand firm for the truth and preserve the purity of what is right. For this, Allah revealed to him the following verses:

“Say: O you who disbelieve. I do not worship what you worship. You are not worshippers of what I worship, nor am I a worshipper of what you worship…” [Sūrah al-Kāfirūn]