Jahiliyyah literally means ignorance. Technically, it means an absence of religious guidance as a result of which corruption dominates the life of a given people. However, in the context of Islamic History; it refers to the period before Islam (known as the period of ignorance). It is the period immediately preceding the dawn of Islam. When Arabs lost contact with Divine revelation and engaged in immortality, indiscipline and anarchy.

                                            Characteristics of the Jahiliyyah period

The tribal life of Jahiliyyah Arabs was characterised by the prevailing conditions in the Arabian Peninsula before the advent of Islam. Two main ways of life could be identified.
  1. The good practises.
  2. The bad practises.
Good practises:
  1. Courage: They were courageous people. They protected the image of their tribe on the battlefield.
  2. Hospitality: They were hospitable people. They help the needy and the strangers. They were generous.
  3. Fulfilment of promise: Arabs honoured their promises. They gave protection to individuals when a tribal member pledge his oath.
  4. Intellectual attainment: Despite the ignorance that dominated Arabia during the period, some Arabs led an intellectual life. They produced exceptionally and highly qualitative poets and orators because of their life in the desert that became skillful astronomers.
 Bad practises:
  1. Polytheism: Jahiliyyah Arabs worshipped idols, stones and heroes. They had a family and tribal idols about 360 idols were being worshipped  in Ka'abah as at the advent of Islam.
  2. Warfare: Jahiliya Arabs enjoyed wilful destruction thought wars. They plundered communities and enslaved people.
  3. Tribalism: Jahiliyyah Arabs were great tribalism's. They considered their tribe first before anything, and regarded the support of a tribesman a supreme service, even if he was a culprit. Other bad practises of Jahiliyyah Arabs were the perpetration of injustice, maltreatment of orphans and cheating of others.
  4. Social corruptions: Jahiliyyah Arabs indulged in alcoholism, adultery and gambling.
                                          Islamic reform of Jahiliyyah Practises.
               With the coming of Islam, the people at last embraced the religion of pure monotheism; the people were taught to follow the moral and social teaching of the Qur'an and guidance of the Prophet (S.A.W). This involves some great changes in their ways of life. The Qur'an describes itself in many places as guidance to people who think and declares the teaching of Islam.
         The fact that Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) was able to effect these moral social, religion and economic changes is a clear indications of the whole hearted of those who believed in His prophet-hood and dedicated their lives to the spread of the Faith.

                                                       Reforms carried out by Islam.
   Islam, the last Divine religion and mercy to mankind, brought reforms on the following Jahiliyyah practises.
  • Polytheism: Jahiliyyah Arabs were changed from a polytheist to monotheist. Belief in Allah, The Only God worthy of man's worship replaced idol worship and the worship of a man by man. The Kalimatul Shahadah brought unity of ideology and brotherhood among the Arabs.
  • Inhuman treatment of women.
Islam stopped inhuman treatment of women by:
  1. Prohibiting burying females daughters alive.
  2. Inheritance of stepmothers.
  3. Islam raised the status of women by making it compulsory for them to get inheritance and dowry.
  4. Giving them similar rights to those of men in marrying union.
  • Social corruption: Islam prohibited all forms of social corruptions. The Arabs indulgence in alcoholism, adultery and gambling was checked by the Islamic prohibition which made them unlawful.
  • Warfare: Islam forbade stopped all forms of tribal wars, plundering and wilful attack on tribes and destruction of crops and properties without just cause.
  • Al'adl (Justice): Islam replaced injustice with justice (Al-adl) and prohibited cheating as maltreatment of orphans.

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