The Arabs of the Jahiliya lived in the Arabian Peninsula after the destruction of the Ma’arib dam in Saba around 300 A.D. The period between their existence and the advent of Islam is approximately 310 years. Evil and immorality prevailed in their society. When Islam came, it corrected their practices and beautified their culture. [Hanapi, 2013]
Islam gradually transitioned Arabs of the Jahiliya from being an immoral society to being morally upright. When Ja’afar ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) went to Abyssinia, he addressed the Negus saying, “O King! We were a people of Jahiliya; worshipping idols, eating the flesh of dead animals, committing abominations, severing ties of kinship, neglecting our neighbours, and the strong among us would oppress the weak. We remained in this state until Allah ﷻ sent us a Prophet ﷺ, one of our own people whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and integrity were well-known to us. He ﷺ called us to worship Allah ﷻ alone and to renounce the stones and the idols, which we and our ancestors used to worship besides Allah…” [Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum]
The Prophet ﷺ laid the foundations for a strong spiritual structure for his ummah to follow. He ﷺ also prophesied four notorious traits of the Jahiliya that would remain in the ummah. It was reported by Abu Malik Al- Ash’ari (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet ﷺ said,
“Among my people, there are four characteristics belonging to Pre-Islamic period which they do not abandon: boasting of high rank, insulting other people’s genealogies, seeking rain by stars, and wailing…”[Muslim 934]
Boasting of High Rank (of their lineage)
It was narrated by Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him), on the people who used to boast about their forefathers, that the Prophet ﷺ said,
“People should stop boasting about their fathers who have died, while they are but coals of Hell, or they will be more humiliated with Allah than the dung beetle that rolls dung with his nose. Indeed, Allah removed Jahiliya from you and its boasting about lineage. (Indeed, a person is either) a pious believer or a miserable sinner. And people are all the children of Adam, and Adam was (created) from dust.”[At-Tirmidhi Vol. 1, Book 46, Hadith 3955; Grade: Hasan (Darussalam)]
A person’s ancestors may hold high positions among the community, such as Chieftains, Governors, or even Prophets, and the person boasts about being a part of that noble lineage, being arrogant towards others. They even participate in practices that are against Islam, thinking that they are invincible.
But…don’t they know what happened to Abu Lahab and Abu Talib – the uncles of the Prophet ﷺ?
Remember, everyone will be judged according to their piety, regardless of their lineage.
Insulting Other People’s Genealogies
People in Jahiliya were very proud of their own clans. They looked down upon people of different clans or races and rebuked them with hurtful words. The Prophet ﷺ addressed this directly, saying,
“…Pride is disdaining the truth (out of self-conceit) and contempt for the people.”[Muslim 91]
This is still seen in different tribes, whereby they consider themselves more honourable than the others. Some even teach their children to discriminate against their peers because of their backgrounds. Allah ﷻ forbids scoffing at people. He ﷻ says in Surah Al-Hujurat,
“O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group; it may be that the latter are better than the former. Nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former…” [Qur’an 49:11]
Remember, no one is above another except through taqwa (piety).
Seeking Rain by Stars
The people of Jahiliya used to attribute the falling of rain to the rising and setting of stars. This is clearly shirk since Allah ﷻ alone can make the occurrence of events to happen at any time He wishes. The prohibition of the attribution of rainfall to stars is described in the following hadeeth, narrated on the authority of Zaid bin Khalid al-Juhani (may Allah be pleased with him),
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ led the morning prayer at Hudaybiya. There were some marks of the rainfall during the night. At the conclusion of the prayer, he ﷺ turned towards people and observed,
“Do you know what your Lord has said?” They replied, “Allah ﷻ and His Messenger ﷺ know best.” Upon this, he ﷺ remarked, “He (Allah ﷻ) said, ‘Some of My bondsmen entered the morning as My believers and some as unbelievers. He who said “We have had a rainfall due to the Blessing and Mercy of Allah”, he is My believer and a disbeliever of stars, and he who said “We have had a rainfall due to the rising of such and such (star)” disbelieved Me and affirmed his faith in the stars.’”[Muslim 71]
Nowadays, there are people who attribute things like the rising and falling of prices and the occurrence of accidents to the movements and direction of stars. People should be aware and cautious of such actions to avoid falling into shirk.
The prevention of wailing was ordained after the battle of Uhud, upon the killing of Hamza (may Allah be pleased with him), the uncle of the Prophet ﷺ.
It was narrated from Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ passed by some women of ‘Abdul-Ashhal, who were weeping for their slain on the Day of Uhud. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “But there is no one to weep for Hamzah.” So, the women of Ansar started to weep for Hamzah. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ woke up and said, “Woe to them, have they not gone home yet? Tell them to go home and not to weep for anyone who dies after this day.”[Ibn Majah 1591; Grade: Hasan (Darussalam)]
An-Niyahah (wailing) can be in the form of beating oneself, screaming, and tearing garments. This is different from the normal crying over the dead, which is permitted.
The four traits mentioned above show us the evil that is still lingering in Islamic societies. These traits represent shirk and pride which Allah ﷻ has prohibited us from involving ourselves in.
The Prophet ﷺ said,
“…none shall enter Paradise who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride.”[Muslim 91b]
“…Verily, whosoever sets up partners in worship with Allah, then Allah has forbidden Paradise for him, and the Fire will be his abode. And for the zalimoon (polytheists and wrongdoers) there are no helpers.”[Qur’an 5:72]
We should adhere to these warnings so that we can keep ourselves and our brothers in Islam away from such traits.
Written by: Buthayna Abdulhalim
Edited by: The Editorial Team
© The Islamic Reflections Blog
- Abu Ameena, B. (2005). The Fundamentals of Tawheed. International Islamic Publishing House: Riyadh
- Mubarakpuri, S. (1994). Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum
- Tafseer Ibn Katheer
- Hanapi, M. (2013). From Jahiliya to Islamic worldview: In a search of an Islamic educational Philosophy. International Journal of humanities and social science, vol.3, No. 2
- Sahih Muslim, Hadith no. 934
- Jamii’ Tirmidhi, Book 46, Hadith no. 3955
- Sahih Muslim, Book of Faith, Hadith no. 91
- Sahih Muslim, Hadith no. 71
- Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadith no. 1591