An outline of
Early Islamic History
by N. R. A. G. Soofi
Fourteen hundred years ago the world lay in utter moral darkness. Christians
ruled in Europe and they ruled indifferently. They believed in Jesus, called
him the son of God and worshipped him as they do now. Their kings and cardinals
fought one another. They were often very cruel. The priests were held in
great honour. They were often very ignorant and dirty. The entire continent
was in the depth of darkness. The muses of Greece reposed in sleep and the
splendour of mighty Rome shone only through a life of lustrous depravity.
Africans were in a pitiable plight. The Northern regions of Africa groaned
under a harsh Roman rule. The Church was a house divided because of the
ill-treatment of native Africans by the ruling Christian minority. The southern
regions of the continent were in the grip of naked barbarism.
The Jews had become neglectful of religious duties and callous to one
another. They were bitter enemies of the Christians who paid them back
in the same coin.
The Indians were no better. They had millions of gods. They were cut
up into four castes. The Brahmans, the highest cast, were the priests,
the Rajputs, the second highest, were the rulers. The Shudars who came
last were sweepers and scavengers and could not share food or drink with
the other castes.
The Chinese worshipped their dead, adored the Budha and many many minor
The Romans were in power in Europe. Persia was a great Empire. Both Romans
and Persians were rich nations. They were ruled by great kings and generals.
Between these two big states lay the vast sandy deserts of Arabia. The Arabs
were a wild people. They had no king and no central authority. They were
divided into many tribes, who knew no law but the law of vendetta. They
worshipped stars and stones.
The climate of Arabia was dry and hot in summer, and dry and cold in
winter. There were no rains. They people were poor and ever in search
of water. They would, therefore, travel from one place to another. They
had no brick houses and lived in tents. They could thus move easily about
with their families. Wild life had made them brave and warlike. They had
short tempers but long memories. They were, therefore, quick to quarrel
but slow in making peace. They loved women and were ever at war with one
another over one thing or the other. They also fought for water-rights.
The quarrels of the Arabs were over petty causes but were yet bloody
and long. It is said that once a man saw a bird lay eggs in its nest.
Passing by, he promised to look after it. Next day he saw two shattered
eggs lying near about. A camel was grazing not far away. The man guessed
that the camel must have disturbed the nest. He went to the keeper of
the camel and told him to stay away from the tree. But the owner of the
camel only laughed at him. The man was so angry that he killed the camel
there and then. This small matter led to a bloody fight. First the families
of the two and later their tribes went to war. The war lasted for forty
Arabs had no schools and no books. Except for a few, no one knew how
to read and write. Sons, horses and poets were greatly prized among them.
The birth of a daughter brought on great grief. Some of them buried their
female children alive. The Arabs were very loyal to their tribes. They
kept slaves and were proud of their families. They were cruel in war and
had no mercy for the enemy, not even for women and children. But they
were very brave. They had no fear of death and were kind to strangers.
Four thousand years ago, the Prophet Abraham came from Egypt to Arabia.
He brought his wife Hajira and child Ismail with him to a desolate place
where Mecca now stands. God had commanded him to leave the two in the deserts.
Abraham gave his wife and child some dates and some water and left them
in the care of God. The scanty rations were soon finished. The child Ismail
was thirsty but there was no sign of water anywhere around. Seven times
Hajira ran between the two hills, Safa and Marva. She found no water. Then
lifting her eyes to the sky, she prayed to God. Soon a voice spoke, "God
has heard thee." She hurried back to the child. There she saw a spring of
water close by his feet. The two were saved. Hajira thanked God for His
great mercy. Soon Banu Jurham, an Arab tribe settled on the spot. When Ismail
grew up, he took a girl of this tribe for his wife.
Abraham used to visit Hajira and Ismail often. Together, the son and the
father raised the walls and laid the roof of the Holy House, the Kaaba.
When the house of God was ready, Abraham prayed to the Lord to look after
his child and his children's children and great-grand children. He begged
of Him to make them all His loyal servants. He also begged of Him to raise
among them the Great Prophet and feed them with fruits. Then God ordered
Abraham to call men to Hajj (pilgrimage) every year to the Kaaba. As time
passed, Ismail's children and their children grew in numbers. Their city,
Mecca, became a big centre. People would come from every part of Arabia
for Hajj. Ismail's children were later known as Quresh. They were the keepers
of the Holy Kaaba. They became rich and powerful. But in course of time,
Arabs gave up the worship of one true God. They began instead to worship
images. They kept their 360 tribal idols in the Holy House. The Quresh prayed
to Hubal, a deity made of stone. The Quresh were much feared by their neighbours.
It did not make them any better than the other Arabs. In fact they were
most forward in evil ways. They drank like fish and danced and had many
many wives. They even kept their widowed step-mothers as concubines.
Abraha, the Governor of Yemen, wanted to break the power of Mecca. He wished
to set up another Kaaba. He came with a large army to Mecca to pull down
the Holy House. His men seized some camels of Abdul Muttalib, a Chief of
the Quresh. Abdul Muttalib sought an interview with Abraha. He asked him
to return his camels. Abraha gave back the camels but said,
"Abdul Muttalib, you seem to care more for your camels than
for the Holy House!".
Abdul Muttalib replied:
"I am the master of the camels only. There is a Master of the
Holy House. He would take care of it."
Abraha became incensed at this retort and said,
"I will see how this master of the House stops me."
He at once prepared to demolish the Holy House. But his elephant would not
move. Abraha's men died of plague or epidemic of smallpox and then the birds struck the pieces of the dead bodies with stones as birds do with large pieces of meat. The year is known as "the Year of
[ Early Islamic History ]