Religious and Social Conditions

Religious and Social Conditions

By and large, the inhabitants of Madeenah followed the Quraysh whom they held to be the guardians of the Holy sanctuary and the matrix of their religious creed as well as social ethics. Pagan like other Arabs, the population of Madeenah was, by and large, devotees of the same idols as worshipped by the inhabitants of Hijaz and of Makkah in particular in addition to a few regional or tribal deities considered to be the personal or private gods of these clans. Thus, Manat was the oldest and the most popular deity of the populace of Madeenah that the Aus and Khazraj honored as the co-partner of God. The idol was set up on the seashore, between Makkah and Madeenah, at Mushallal near Qudayd. Al-Lat was the favorite god of the people of Ta’if while the Qurayshites revered al-Uzza as their national deity. It was so because the people of every place had a particular patron-god to which they used to get emotionally attached. If anybody in Madeenah had a wooden replica of an idol, he normally called it Manat, as was the idol kept in his house by ‘Amr b. Jamuh, the chief of Bani Salama in Madeenah, a practice that he had cherished before his conversion to Islam.(11)

Ahmad b. Hanbal has related a tradition from ‘Urwa, on the authority of ‘Aisha, which says that: “The Ansaar used to cry labbaik (Lit. At thy service) to Manat and worship it near Mushallal before accepting Islam. And anyone who performed pilgrimage in its (Manat) name did not consider it lawful to round the mounts of Safa and Marwa.(12) When the people once inquired from the Prophet: (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam), “O Messenger of Allah, we felt some hesitation during the pagan past in going round Safa and Marwah”, God sent down the revelation:

“Lo! As-Safa and al-Marwah are amongst the indications of Allah.” [Qur’an 2:158]

However, we are not aware of any other idol in Madeenah equally glamorized as al-Lat, Manat, al-Uzza and Hubal or venerated like them, nor was there any idol set up in Madeenah which was paid a visit by the people from other tribes. Madeenah does not appear to be bristling with idols, unlike Makkah where one used to set up an idol in every house and the vendors offered them for the sake of the pilgrims. Makkah was, all in all, the prototype and symbol of idolatry in Arabia whereas Madeenah simply trailed behind in such respect.

In Madeenah, the people used to have two days devoted to games alone. When the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) came to Madeenah, he said to them, “God has substituted something better for you, the day of sacrifice and the day of breaking the fast.” (Bulugh al-‘Arab) Certain commentators of the Traditions hold the view that the two festivals celebrated by the people of Madeenah were Nawroz and Mehrjan, which they had perhaps inherited from the Persians. (Sahihain)

Aus and Khazraj descended from a lineage whose nobility was acknowledged even by the Quraysh. Ansaars were descendants of Banu Qahtan belonging to the southern stock of ‘Arab ‘Arbah, with whom the Quraysh had marital affinity. Hashim b. ‘Abdu Manaf had married Salama bint ‘Amr b. Zayd of the Banu Adiy b. al-Najjaar, which was a clan of Khazraj. Nevertheless, the Quraysh considered their own ancestry to be nobler than those of the Arab clans of Medina. On the day of the battle of Badr, when ‘Utba, Shayba, and Walid b. Rabi’a came forward and challenged the Muslims for a single combat, some youths of the Ansaar stepped forth to face them. The Qurayshite warriors, however, asked who they were and on coming to know that they belonged to the Ansaar, replied, “We have nothing to do with you.” Then one of them called out, “Muhammad, send forth some of your own rank and blood to face us.” Thereupon the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) ordered, “Advance, O ‘Ubayda b. Al-Harith; “O Hamza; Advance, O ‘Ali. When the three were already up at them and had already told their names, the Qurayshite said: “Yes, these are noble and our peers.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. p. 625)

The self-conceited Quraysh used to look down upon farming, the occupation employed by the Ansaar owing to the physical features of their city. We find a commensurate display of similar egotism with what Abu Jahl said when he was slain by two Ansaar lads who were sons of ‘Afra. Abu Jahl said to ‘Abdullah b. Mas’ud although he was nearing his end, “Would that somebody else than a cultivator had slain me!”(13)

Footnotes
[11] Mahmud Shukri al-Alusi Bulugh al-‘Arab fi Ma’arafata Ahwa al-‘Arab, Vol. I, p. 346 and Vol. II, p. 208.

[12] A few more Traditions have been related by other companions in this connection.

[13] Muhammad b. Tahir Patni writes in Majm’a al-bahar that the Arabs did not consider cultivation to be an occupation befitting a man of noble descent. Abu Jahl meant that if any body else than the sons of ‘Afra, who was a cultivator, had killed him he would not have felt ashamed. (Vol. I, p. 68)

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