Arabia before Islam ..Part -2
Economically, the Jews were the leaders of Arabia. They were the owners of the best arable lands in Hijaz, and they were the best farmers in the country. They were also the entrepreneurs of such industries as existed in Arabia in those days, and they enjoyed a monopoly of the armaments industry.
Slavery was an economic institution of the Arabs. Male and female slaves were sold and bought like animals, and they formed the most depressed class of the Arabian society.
The most powerful class of the Arabs was made up by the capitalists and money-lenders. The rates of interest which they charged on loans were exorbitant, and were especially designed to make them richer and richer, and the borrowers poorer and poorer.
The most important urban centers of Arabia were Makkah and Yathrib, both in Hijaz. The citizens of Makkah were mostly merchants, traders and money-lenders. Their caravans traveled in summer to Syria and in winter to Yemen.
They also traveled to Bahrain in the east and to Iraq in the northeast. The caravan trade was basic to the economy of Makkah, and its organization called for considerable skill, experience and ability.
R. V. C. Bodley
The arrivals and departures of caravans were important events in the lives of the Meccans. Almost everyone in Mecca had some kind of investment in the fortunes of the thousands of camels, the hundreds of men, horses, and donkeys which went out with hides, raisins, and silver bars, and came back with oils, perfumes and manufactured goods from Syria, Egypt and Persia, and with spices and gold from the south. (The Messenger, 1946, p. 31)
In Yathrib, the Arabs made their living by farming, and the Jews made theirs as businessmen and industrialists. But the Jews were not exclusively businessmen and industrialists; among them also there were many farmers, and they had brought much waste land under cultivation.
Economically, socially and politically, Hijaz was the most important province in Arabia in the early seventh century.
On the eve of Islam the most complex and advanced human aggregate of the Arabian peninsula lived in the city of the Quraysh. The hour of the south Arab kingdoms, of Petra and Palmyra, had passed for some time in the history of Arabia. Now the future was being prepared there, in Hijaz (The Arabs – A Compact History, 1963)
The Arabs and the Jews both practiced usury. Many among them were professional usurers; they lived on the interest they charged on their loans.
E. A. Belyaev
“Usury (riba) was widely practiced in Mecca, for in order to participate in the profitable caravan trade many a Meccan who had only a modest income had to resort to usurers; despite the high interest, he could hope to benefit after the safe return of the caravan. The richer merchants were both traders and usurers.
Money-lenders usually took a dinar for a dinar, a dirhem for a dirhem, in other words, 100 per cent interest. In the Koran 3:130, Allah addressing the faithful, prescribes:
'Do not practice usury doubled twofold.'
This could mean that interests of 200 or even 400 per cent were demanded. The nets of Meccan usury caught not only fellow-citizens and tribesmen but also members of the Hijazi
Bedouin tribes active in the Meccan trade. As in ancient Athens, ‘the principal means of oppressing the people's freedom were money and usury.” (Arabs, Islam and the Arab Caliphate in the Early Middle Ages, 1969)
Arabia was a male-dominated society. Women had no status of any kind other than as sex objects.The number of women a man could marry was not fixed. When a man died, his son “inherited” all his wives except his own mother.
A savage custom of the Arabs was to bury their female infants alive. Even if an Arab did not wish to bury his daughter alive, he still had to uphold this “honorable” tradition, being unable to resist social pressures.
Drunkenness was a common vice of the Arabs. With drunkenness went their gambling. They were compulsive drinkers and compulsive gamblers. The relations of the sexes were extremely loose. Many women sold sex to make their living since there was little else they could do. These women flew flags on their houses, and were called “ladies of the flags” (dhat-er-rayyat).
Sayyid Qutb of Egypt in his book, Milestones, published by the International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, Salimiah, Kuwait in 1978 (pp. 48, 49), has quoted the famous traditionalist, Imam Bukhari, on the institution of marriage in Arabia before Islam as follows:
The Shihab (az-Suhri) said: 'Urwah b. az-Zubayr informed him that Aishah, the wife of the Prophet (God bless and preserve him), informed him that marriage in the Jahiliyah was of four types:
1. One was the marriage of people as it is today, where a man betroths his ward or his daughter to another man, and the latter assigns a dower (bridewealth) to her and then marries her.
2. Another type was where a man said to his wife when she was purified from her menses, ‘Send to N and ask to have intercourse with him;' her husband then stays away from her and does not touch her at all until it is clear that she is pregnant from that (other) man with whom she sought intercourse.
When it is clear that she is pregnant, her husband has intercourse with her if he wants. He acts thus simply from the desire for a noble child. This type of marriage was (known as) nikah al-istibda, the marriage of seeking intercourse.
3. Another type was when a group (raht) of less than ten men used to visit the same woman and all of them had to have intercourse with her. If she became pregnant and bore a child, when some nights had passed after the birth she sent for them, and not a man of them might refuse.
When they had come together in her presence, she would say to them, ‘You (pl.) know the result of your acts; I have borne a child and he is your (sing.) child, N.' – naming whoever she will by his name. Her child is attached to him, and the man may not refuse.
4. The fourth type is when many men frequent a woman, and she does not keep herself from any who comes to her. These women are the baghaya (prostitutes). They used to set up at their doors banners forming a sign. Whoever wanted them went in to them. If one of them conceived and bore a child, they gathered together to her and summoned the physiognomists.
sThen they attached her child to the man whom they thought (the father), and the child remained attached to him and was called his son, no objection to this course being possible. When Muhammad (God bless and preserve him) came preaching the truth, he destroyed all the types of marriage of the Jahiliya except that which people practice today.