Firstly: The Weak Influence Of Previous Prophets In The Arabian Peninsula
The influence of prophethood and divine guidance was negligible in the Arabian Peninsula due to the fact that no prophet was ever sent to the Arabian Peninsula before the coming of Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), who was the last and final prophet sent to all of mankind. Allah, the Most High, informs us that the Arabs were never sent a prophet in His statement:
Or say they: “He (Muhammad) has fabricated it?” Nay, it is the truth from your Lord, so that you may warn a people to whom no warner has come before you [O Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)] in order that they may be guided.” [Surah As-Sajdah, Verse 3]
Allah also says: “In order that you may warn a people whose forefathers were not warned, so they are heedless.” [Surah Yasin, Verse 7]
Ibn Juraij said: “…a messenger from Allah the Mighty, the Majestic, didn’t come to them or to their forefathers.” And a similar saying was attributed to Qataada. (Refer to the Tafseer of Ibn Jarir, Vol. 22 page 150)
And Allah explains that no book was revealed to them nor was there any messenger sent to them in his statement: “And We had not given them scriptures which they could study, nor sent to them before you [O Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)] any warner” (Messenger).” [Qur’an]
So the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was brought forth from a people who were not practicing a revealed religion nor had there been a book of divine guidance revealed to them as was revealed to the Jews and the Christians. Then Allah removed any excuse that the Arabs might have had for not following divine guidance by sending the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) right into their midst. Allah the Most High says in His book:
“And this is a blessed Book (the Qur’an) which We have sent down, so follow it and fear Allah (i.e. do not disobey His Orders), that you may receive mercy (i.e. be saved from the torment of Hell). Lest you (pagan Arabs) should say: “The Book was sent down only to two sects before us (the Jews and the Christians), and for our part, we were in fact unaware of what they studied.” Or lest you (pagan Arabs) should say: “If only the book had been sent down to us, we would 1surely have been better guided than they (Jews and Christians).” So now has come unto you a clear proof (the Qur’an) from your Lord, and a guidance and a mercy…” [Surah Al-An’am, verses 155-157]
As for the vestiges of the religion of Ibraheem that they inherited from their forefathers as well as the traces left by those prophets and messengers who came after him, all of that became like ancient ceremonies. The only reason the pre-Islamic Arabs continued to practice these ceremonies was out of their desire to claim that they were practicing some heritage that they inherited from their forefather Ibraheem and the prophets who came after him. However, the pre-Islamic Arabs strayed so far from the original forms of these religions that they even fashioned pictures of Ibraheem and Ismaeel to conform with the prevailing idolatry of the times.
In an authentic hadith narrated upon the authority of Ibn Abbas who said: “When the messenger of Allah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) came to Mecca, he refused to enter the Ka’bah while there were idols in it. He ordered the idols to be taken out, so they were taken out. When they removed pictures of Ibraheem and Ismaeel holding Azlams in their hands, the Messenger of Allah said: ‘May Allah curse these people. By Allah, Ibraheem and Ismaeel never played the game of chance with Azlams.’ Then he entered the Ka’bah and said Takbeer in the corners of the Ka’bah but he did not pray while inside.”
Even more lamentable was the fact that the Ka’bah, which is the very symbol of tawheed, was turned into a house of idols and eventually housed 360 idols in and around it! In an authentic hadith narrated upon the authority of Abd-Allah ibn Masud who said: “When the Prophet entered Mecca on the Day of the Conquest, there were three hundred and sixty idols around the Ka’bah. The Prophet started striking the idols with a stick he had in his hand, saying: ‘Truth has come and falsehood has vanished, the Truth has come and falsehood can neither create from the beginning nor can it restore life.’
The feeling that the pre-Islamic nation of Arabs had that they were the inheritors of the religion of Ibraheem and preservers of the religious rites that he came with and that they were the caretakers of the Ka’bah made it even more difficult for them to accept the message that the Prophet Muhammad was sent with by his Lord. Additionally, they were completely engrossed in idolatry and this dominated their way of thinking and caused them to firmly resist the truth that had come to them.
These elements caused them to refuse to submit themselves in obedience to Allah and his Messenger. Furthermore it is seems that whenever people are not practicing any divinely revealed religion that it is more difficult for them to accept guidance becausthey are further away from any type of clear and coherent ideology. As a result ancient idol worshippers made every effort to maintain their deviant ways even though they witnessed or heard about the destruction of their fellow idol worshippers and the punishments that befell them. They even increased in their love and glorification of their idols and advised each other to have patience with the various kinds of adversities that befell them as a consequence of their idolatry.
Imam Abu Ishaaq Ash-Shaatibee said in his description of the response of the Arabs to the message of tawheed: “The Messenger Muhammad was sent after a long break in the succession of prophets and messengers sent to mankind and at a time when humanity was immersed in ignorance. Virtually nothing was known of the rights and ceremonies that were a part of previously revealed religions and people simply followed whatever deviant, innovated practices they found their forefathers doing.
When the Prophet Muhammad was sent to them as a giver-of-glad-tidings, a warner and a caller to Allah’s true religion they quickly opposed and rejected his message. They would lie in the face of the truth and blame the Prophet Muhammad if he differed with them in legal matters. They accused him of lying when they knew he was truthful and never lied. They accused him of witchcraft and magic when they knew that he was not a magician. They accused him of being insane when they knew that he was completely sane. And they accused him of being possessed by the devil when they knew that he was not. When he called them to make all of their worship for Allah, Who is alone without partner and Who alone deserves to be worshipped, they would say: “Has he made the gods all into One God (Allah). Verily this is a strange thing!” [Surah Saad: Verse 5]
While at the same time they would acknowledge that which was in conformity with the message of tawheed in times of distress as is evident in Allah’s statement: “And when they embark on a ship, they invoke Allah, making their faith pure for Him only: but when He brings them safely to land, behold, they give a share of their worship to others.” [Surah Ankabut: Verse 65]
And whenever the Prophet Muhammad would warn them about the Day of Judgement they would deny all of the signs, proofs and evidences that the Day is in fact coming and they would say: “When we are dead and have become dust (shall we be resurrected?) That is a far return.” [Surah Qaf: Verse 3]
And whenever the Prophet Muhammad would try to make them fear the punishment of Allah and His retribution they would say, rejecting the indisputable truth of what he was informing them about: “O Allah! If this (the Qur’an) is indeed the truth (revealed) from you, then rain down stones on us from the sky or bring on us a painful torment.” [Surah Al-Anfal: Verse 32]
And if the Prophet Muhammad came to them with a miracle, they would differ amongst themselves as to the cause, each group obstinately and foolishly holding an incorrect opinion that was far from the truth, an opinion that was unacceptable to rightly guided people who were able to distinguish between truth and falsehood.
So that was how they behaved with the Prophet, rejecting anything that would require them to change their customs and deviant beliefs. They even wanted to get the Prophet Muhammad to come to an agreement with them by using methods of diplomacy claiming that this would bring about harmony between them and him. Even if this agreement brought about harmony only some of the time and under certain conditions they would be satisfied with that just so that they could protect their unfounded and baseless ways. But the Prophet refused to come to an agreement with them except one that would firmly establish and protect the pure and unadulterated truth that he was sent with by his Lord. And Allah, the Most High sent down the sura: Say: (O Muhammad to these Mushrikun and Kafirun): “O Al-Kafirun (disbelievers in Allah, in His Oneness, in His Angels, in His books, in His Messengers, in the Day of Resurrection, and in Al-Qadr.)! “I worship not that which you worship…” [Qur’an: Surah Al-Kafirun]
At that point they began to prepare for a hostile war against the Prophet and even his close relatives and friends alienated themselves from him and became his worst enemies. Such as Abu Jahl and others who before were his closest relatives but became the most hardhearted against him. What hardship is more difficult than this? …”