“It was Mecca’s economic and religious role that contributed to the emergence of Islam” Discuss this statement.
At the eve of the emergence of Islam, Mecca had become an important social, economic and religious hub in Arabia, partly because of its geographic location and but more importantly because it was home to the cube known as the Ka’aba, which according to the local Arabian tribes was built in honor of god by Abraham whom they consider to be their ancestor. Mecca was under the custodian of the Quraish tribe, a rich and powerful tribe of the Hejaz who had obtained their wealth from the influx of pilgrims and traders into their city. The Quraish were very successful traders and commendable at commerce, with their prosperity also came power and influence.
Geographically, Mecca is situated between mountains and in valleys, its surroundings is masked by rocky and arid terrains, there was hardly any fertile soil for a outfields of crops and barely enough water for herds of livestock. However its location is key, Mecca’s location is central to everything, it’s not too far from the coast and lies on the trade route. Caravans throughout Arabia and beyond must past through Mecca to either cross into Africa or the European plateau as did traders that wanted to enter the realm of Persia as travelling by land to either of the great Empires, Byzantium and Persia would have been really dangerous as both empires were constantly at war. Thus Mecca became an economic focal point as traders from both realms had to rendezvous in Arabia in order to trade.
From the religious aspect, Mecca was home to the Ka’aba an ancient relic believed by the local Arabs to be an image of a celestial monument built by the great Abraham whom they regard to be their ancestor. Initially it is believed that the early Arabs were monotheistic, in the sense that they believed in the god of Ismail, the son of Abraham from which they descended from.
Nevertheless it would seem from the chronicles of history, prophets had only come to the Jews who had descended from Isaac the other son of Abraham, it is then believed that as time passed and with no proper guidance, the Arabs began to taint their monotheism with polytheistic ideologies and as generations passed their whole concept of monotheism was sophistical. At the eve of the rise of Islam, the Ka’aba was home to nearly three hundred and sixty over idols from all across Arabia, the most famous of these were called the three daughters of Allah. Al-lat, Manat and Uzza.
Despite their economic and social triumph, the Quraish as a whole in fact all of Arabia was in dire need of reforms. Prosperity leads to economic growth nonetheless the gap between the rich and the poor was wide enough that there were beggars on the streets of Mecca, corruption was rampant, tribes would wage wars on each other over simple matters, a classical example would be that of harb al basus, a war that lasted for 3 generations all over an old lady and her camel. The people would also practice infanticide, the burying of living daughters was common and slaves had absolutely no rights whatsoever.
The rise of Islam and its’ prophet, Prophet Muhammad was inevitable as society needed much reform. Muhammad the prophet of Allah was forty years old before he received his first revelation by the arch angel Gabriel or in Arabic Djibril in a cave known as hiraa by the locals. Muhammad belonged to a minority group known as Hanifites whom had continued to venerate the god of Abraham and was in total disagreement with the ways of the Quraish. Nonetheless they were very small in numbers and had almost no influence at all in society.
Mecca’s religious and economic role contributed to the emergence of Islam as these two factors had caused much irritation in society, historical facts reveals to us that the early converts to Islam were mostly and mainly the poor with the exception of a few individuals. A classical example would be that of the Yasser family, a poor Quraish family whom had to suffer torments and physical torture in order to dissuade them from Islam and return to their old ways however the ideology that Islam had brought was so powerful and poignant that Summayah was the first woman to be a martyr as her belief in the religion was so steadfast. The poor and slaves who had converted saw Islam as an ailment to a society that had been long infected with a virus. Another Example is that of the Abyssinian slave Bilal, whom upon conversion was tormented to torture, nevertheless he uttered ‘one’ under the desert sun with a boulder on him.
Islam came to Arabia at a time that society was vulnerable and needed much reform. Islam was the answer to the problems of the Arabs, and it took a while for those who were at the higher end of the hierarchy to succumb to the fact that Islam was the way of life. Islam Isn’t a new religion however it is the same religion that Abraham believed in however it came to those who needed it most and continues to guide several billion people today.