Each and every nation had a prophet. And the prophets sent to Arabs before Muhammad (peace be upon him) were Ibraheem and Ismaeel (peace be upon them). They were Arabs’ original prophets.
Religion of Ismaeel was practiced by Arabs. Many “remnants” from Ismaeel were still practiced. Of these practices:
* Respecting ka’bah, respecting the places of Muzdalifa, Mina and Arafat.
* Garlanding the sacrificial animals, decorate them in a beautiful way! It is a part of our shareeah as well [those who have been overseas may recall this practice still happens in Muslim lands]
* They would do tawaf around the ka’bah. They would uphold the sacred months etc.
However, they used to commit shirk. How did shirk start?
It started from one individual by the name of Amr ibn Luhair from the tribe of Khuz’a. He was a warrior, a chief, extremely rich and extremely generous. It is said that at the time of pilgrim he would sacrifice 10,000 animals to feed the pilgrims.
So we can well imagine the respect he had amongst the people. It is narrated in the books of Seerah, that he went to Syria (lands of Syria) and he saw ‘Amaleeq’. Amaleeq were the children of Saam, who was the son of Nuh (peace be upon him).
They were very mighty and powerful nation, physically, very tall. They were very daunting and frightening to look at. So Amr saw them worshipping idols. He asked them what were they doing because this was the first time he saw ‘shirk’. So they told him,
“These are our gods, when we ask them for rain, it rains, and when we are in trouble we ask them for help and they help us”. He said, “what a good idea, can you give me an idol to take back with me to Mecca.”
So they gave him an idol by the name of ‘hubal’. And he took it back and placed it in front of the ka’bah.
And this was the first time shirk occurred on that land and because of who he was [his respect and influence in Arabia] people were silent and didn’t object to the evil practice he had started.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “I saw Amr ibn Khuzai dragging his intestines around a well in the Fire of Hell, his intestines all spilling out.” This was the punishment he was getting for the evil practices he introduced.
He also introduced a few more evil practices. Like sacrificing animals for the ‘gods’ [this is mentioned in the Qur’an, by the name of those animals]
He also changed the talbiyyah from ‘labbaik Allah humma Labaik’ to ‘labbaik la shareeka lak shareekan howa lak tamliku howa malak’
This was an added phrase meaning, “You have no partners oh Allah except partners whom you control and you control what they control as well.’ (So you do have partners now oh Allah)
Ancient idols were incorporated in Arab culture as well. Laat, Uzza, Manta were the main tribes of Arabs. Idolatry continued to increase to the extent that one of the companions narrated, Abu Rajj’ah al ‘Utaaridhi:
“We would worship any stone that we found, and when we would find a more beautiful stone, we would take the stone away and start worshipping the more beautiful one. When we would find a more beautiful stone we would worship that stone instead of the previous one. And if we couldn’t find a stone we would gather up the dust, bring out goat, milk it so the dust solidifies and do tawaf around this dust.”
This was the state of affairs reached by Jahilliya (ignorant) Arabs. Even worse was the incident of Naila wal Assaf.
Naila and Assaf were two lovers of Mecca. They committed adultery inside the ka’bah [iyyadhobillah]. As a punishment for their sin, Allah (swt) transformed them to stones so that everyone could learn a lesson. But imagine what Arabs did when they saw this.
They put the stones on the mounts of ‘Safa’ and ‘Marwa’ and started worshipping them!! This was the mentality and level of ignorance of Jahiliyyah Arabs.