In ancient time, Arabia used to include not only present-day Saudi Arabia,but also the current political entities of United Arab Emirates, State of Qatar, Sultanate Oman, Kuwait, Yemen and possibly western and southern Iraq where the Christian Ghasanite Arabs lived and also in southern Jordan where the Nabetean Arabs lived in their marvelous city of Petra. The ruin of Petra in southern Jordan is considered, now, one of the Seven Wonders Of The World. While the writer of this essay was stationed in Amman,Jordan in 1970's and 1980's, he had the opportunity to pay several visits, on different occasions, to Petra, along with his family. The more he visited Petra, the more he had/has become fascinated by its structural engineering that was all designed and built in rocks from beginning to end. The canals that where built in rocks to collect raining water had, indeed, a stroke of human genius.
Perhaps, that's why it took the Roman Empire so long to conquer Petra in spite of a very lengthy siege!
The whole point behind mentioning the geography of Arabia is to stress the fact that it was much bigger than nowadays Saudi Arabia and it embodied different tribes of Arabs, some of whom were Christians, (The Ghasanites tribes), and some tribes were Pagans like the Nebetean Arabs of Petra. Some were Jewish Arab tribes,(five tribes),who dwelled in Yathrib, (Medina now), and in the town of Khaybar of ancient Arabia.
It is well known that Yemen was also inhabited by Arab tribes who built well advanced civilization, especially in agriculture. The coffee that billions of human beings enjoy its aroma and taste every morning was first discovered and brewed in Yemen.
As it may be seen that the most advanced civilization occurred at the edges of the Arabian peninsula, while the inside center of Arabia was inhabited by Arab tribes who were waging tribal wars, against one another, for survival, since scarcity of water and green fields for grazing for their domestic animals were rare. Therefore, such tribal warfare is usually caused by a dispute over a well of water or grazing right on a rather slightly greener field. The most eminent factor behind such a tribal warfare was simply the harshness of their geographical and climatical environment, under which sustenance of life was extremely difficult to maintain.
However, central Arabia was inhabited by two kind of Arabs: Arabs who dwelled in cities like Mecca and Yathrib, (it is now called Medina), and Arabs who lived in tents in the harsh Arabian desert. In order to bear the harshness of the desert, all Arabs had to follow unwritten code of social behavior taught to them at a tender age from generation to the next. Such a code is called " muruwah ," written and pronounced also as, " muru,ah. It is very important to understand what "muruwah" means in order to comprehend the ethics of the inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula.
"Muruwah" meant a combination of things to all inhabitants of ancient Arabia:
~ It meant generosity.
~ It meant courage.
~ It meant patience.
~ It meant endurance.
~ It meant protecting the weaker members of the tribe or clan.
~ It meant adherence firmly to the determination to avenge any wrong doing done to the tribe.
~ It meant defying an enemy to the tribe.
~ It meant preserving the honor of the tribe.
~ It meant to be ready,at a short notice,to leap for the defense of relatives.
~ It meant obeying the order of the chief,with no question asked.
The central points behind all of the above are to remember at all time the following three realities of the harsh desert:
* Selfishness in hoarding foods and water by the wealthy Arabs was absolutely un- acceptable while others went thirsty and hungry. Therefore, a tribesman must be " karim," also written as " kareem, " meaning, " generous. "
* Today's rich tribe may very easily ends up destitute tomorrow.
* No Arab adhering firmly to his "muruwah" will help another Arab, if the latter was terribly stingy and violated the unwritten code of "muruwah" in good days.
That was the human conditions in which Muhammad ibn Abdullah was born: Tribal warfare, the unwritten code of "muruwah", with different kind of religions, ranging from Christianity, mostly at the edges of Greater Arabia and Yemen to Judaism, mostly in the city of Yathrib, (Medina now),to paganism in the city of Mecca and fabulous Nebatean city of Petra, and to some Arab tribes worshipping the Sun and Moon.
The Arabs who did not follow Christianity or Judaism called their Christian and Jewish fellow Arabs: " The People Of The Book, " in reference to the Old Testament and the New Testament, Jewish Arabs and Christian Arabs respectively adhered to.
Arabia was religiously in a state of flux, since most Arabs had no book to follow like their Christian and Jewish minority of Arabs that lived in Greater Arabia, although they passionately were loyal to their goddesses that were kept in the Kab'ah, the holy cubic block of Black stone in the center of Mecca whose master was Qurraysh, the most powerful Arab tribe in all Arabia. Quraysh is Muhammad 's tribe that wanted to kill him, as we shall see later on.
From all of the foregoing, it is suggested to remember the following operative words:
muruwah and what it meant.
The People Of The Book,
The city of Mecca,
The city of Yathrib, (Medina now),
The powerful tribe of Quraysh.