Tag Archives: Abraha

Historical Perspective On As-hab al-Fil

This article was taken from: http://www.arabnews.com/saudi-arabia/news/641556#:

The incident of Abraha Al-Ashram, king of Abyssinia, attacking Makkah to destroy the Kaaba, and to change its location over to his kingdom to draw the annual pilgrims of Arabia to come to his kingdom instead, is a locally (in Arabia) documented historical fact. It is also well documented that his attack and mission were a failure. By the way, king Abraha’s attack on Makkah happened shortly before the birth of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. The following article clearly and indisputably prove this:

A group of young Saudi history enthusiasts has retraced the path of the People of the Elephant who tried to destroy the Holy Kaaba centuries ago.

The Holy Qur’an, in a short chapter, briefly refers to the story of the army of elephants led by Abraha Al-Ashram, who was a governor of Yemen. God destroyed Abraha and his army that included 13 elephants, by sending flocks of birds (mentioned as Ababeel) that dropped small stones on them. 


“There never fell a stone on a soldier except it dissolved his flesh and burst it into pieces … Abraha Al-Ashram fled while his flesh was bursting into pieces and died on the way back to Yemen,” said the 14th century scholar Ibn Kathir, an authentic Qur’an commentator. During their tiring journey across mountains and rough terrain, the young Saudi men took photographs of important landmarks, beginning from north of Najran, to the east of Asir, and then east of Baha.

Some of the most important historical sites along the way included inscriptions of elephants on rocks in the Al-Qahr Mountain, southeast of Tathlith; an old well in Hafaer, east of Asir; and a paved road near Kara in Aqeeq principality in the Baha region. 

Mohammed Al-Amry, head of the geology department at King Saud University, said he had seen the path of Abraha and his army in Tathlith and Baha. “The army had passed the Arabian shield region comprising rocks and there were writings in the Humairiya language on some mountains,” he said.

According to historical Islamic sources, Abraha, who was a Christian, had thought of building a church similar to the Kaaba in Sanaa. He wanted the Arabs to perform the pilgrimage in Sanaa instead of Makkah, with the intention of diverting trade and benefits to Yemen. He presented the idea to the then king of Ethiopia who agreed to it. 
Abraha built the church but the Arabs refused to come for pilgrimage in Sanaa. This infuriated him, prompting him to form an army to invade Makkah and demolish the Kaaba. He defeated all Arab armies on the way until he reached Makkah where he was attacked by the flocks of birds sent by the Almighty.

This event is very famous and had happend in the same year as the birth of the Prophet Muhammed, (Peace Be Upon Him) (the year 571). Although the Prophet was not born during this event.

The begining of this event actually goes back further to the year 523. A Jew named Dhu Nawas campaigned against the Christian of Najran, with the aim of converting them to Judaism. Due to their refusal Dhu Nawas had the Christians thrown in a ditch and then set them on fire.

This is the reason for the second conquest of Yemen by Ethiopia (Abyssinia). The Roman Christian’s helped the Ethiopian Christian state to go against the Arabs. They assembled a fleet of 70,000 warriors to help the Ethiopian’s. Under the leadership of Eriat they succeded in the year 525.

Eriat was given rulership of Yemen untill he was assassinated by a fellow army leader, Abrahah. With the permission of the Ethiopian King, Abrahah was granted as the leader of Yemen.

It was Abrahah who aimed at destroying the Kaba.

At the approach of this grand army the inhabitants of Makkah fled to the hills. The Ethiopian army was approaching from the direction of Taif.

Upon the army was grand elephants. When they came close birds flew over Abrahah’s army and dropped rocks frim their beaks. The elephants began to run away in panic and many of the soldiers died.

For more details:

Al-Yaman ‘Abrat-Tarikh pp.77, 83, 124, 130, 157, 161

Tarikh Ardil-Qur’an 1/133

Tarikhul-Arab Qablal-Islam 105-151

The Sealed Nector pp48-49

The early life of Muhammad (PBUH) p6-7

Several Articles and Images of Inscriptions showing the Elephants:

Abraha, the year of the elephant, and the location of Mecca in Tom Holland’s “In the Shadow of the Sword”

Source:This article was taken from:https://ponderingislam.com/2015/07/22/abraha-the-year-of-the-elephant-and-the-location-of-mecca-in-tom-hollands-in-the-shadow-of-the-sword/

Part 1: Pre-islamic inscriptions indirectly identifying the location of Mecca

‘Am al-Fil: The year in which the Yemenite Christian king Abraha is said to have tried to attack Mecca to destroy the Ka’ba, in an attempt to divert pilgrimage from the Meccan shrine to his own great cathedral in Yemen[2]. The name, meaning “Year of the Elephant”, refers to Abraha’s usage of war elephants in his army which he led towards the Quraysh at Mecca.

The story is alluded to in the Qur’an in Surah al-Fil and its continuation, Surah Quraysh:

1 Do you not see how your Lord dealt with the army of the elephant? 2 Did He not utterly confound their plans? 3 He sent ranks of birds against them, 4 pelting them with pellets of hard-baked clay: 5 He made them [like] cropped stubble.

1 [He did this] to make the Quraysh feel secure, 2 secure in their winter and summer journeys. 3 So let them worship the Lord of this House: 4 who provides them with food to ward off hunger, safety to ward off fear.

The story alluded to here is undoubtedly the events in the Year of the Elephant. Commentators are absolutely unanimous in this regard[3]. One may still doubt whether these Qur’anic passages really do allude to ‘Abraha’s march towards Mecca. However, there is non-Qur’anic pre-islamic poetry that reports the same story that Muslim exegetes provide in their explanation of these verses. For example, in the kitaab al-hayawaan by al-Jahiz, a poem by Abu Qays Sayfi praises God for His help on “the day of the elephant of the Abyssinians”[3], recalling that the elephant simply stopped dead in his tracks and would not advance despite being tortured. Then “God sent a wind bringing a shower of pebbles (ḥāṣib) from above”[4]. Rubin notes that the vocabulary of the poem is distinctly unqur’anic[5]. Infact, the poem has different themes to that of the Qur’anic account: The Qur’an, as with recounting other pre-islamic occurrences, spins it into a cautionary tale and rhetorical prose to convince the audience of the magnificence of God.

To scholars, this indicates that Abu Qays’ poetry is independent from the Qur’an. It is very likely that the poem is pre-islamic.

It is important to note that the same poet also identifies this incident with “Abu Yaksum”[6] – none other than Abraha himself. This is significant-there is already enough similarity between the pre-islamic poem and Surah al-fil to realize that they are talking about the same event (due to an elephant being involved and an army being wiped out by stones from the sky). Thus, it obviously follows that both versions of the story (Qur’anic and pre-islamic) are speaking about an attack on the Quraysh by the Yemenite king Abraha.

What I would like to drive home at this point is that now we have Arabic poetry originating decades after the death of Abraha, authored by and for the Arabs which were contemporary with the incident, if not from the following generation. The Quranic account is independent from the poem, providing an added level of attestation to the historical account; again, written for Arabs that would have probably been children of those who lived even as Abraha led a campaign against Mecca. The story is both early and multiply attested. If we ignore the miracle story, there is little reason for a historian to deny that the expedition occurred*.

Other supporting evidence can be found in South Arabian inscriptions depicting war elephants:


The inscriptions are significant because Abraha’s army would be the only one in the area to parade war elephants[9].

From this discussion, we can infer that:

1. The Qur’an is reporting a pre-Islamic event that must have actually happened some time during Abraha’s reign, meaning that the generation before the Prophet’s own.

2. Abraha campaigned with war elephants in the South Arabian region.

Mecca in Palestine?

Holland places the ‘original’ location of Mecca in Mamre, Palestine. Palestine in the 6th century was situated in Byzantine land. The corollary? That Abraha must have attacked the Byzantine empire some time in the 6th century.

One only needs to be slightly familiar with 6th century byzantine and arabian history to know how this is plain and simply false. We can understand why the expedition of the elephant is absent from pre-islamic jahili written tradition (plainly due to the fact that the writing was comparatively rare in the first place), however an attack on the Palestine would have been recorded at least by Roman sources. Procopius, a byzantine historian living in Palestine during the reign of Abraha records his ascent to power over the Himyarites, as well some of his wars and political exploits during his reign[11]. Abraha’s supposed attack on Palestine goes unmentioned, however, his promise to Justinian to attack the Persians does not.

I believe in this case we can make a good argument from silence. Had the attack happened, Procopius would have written about it, if not some other roman historian.

Besides Procopius’s account, Abraha campaigning against the Byzantines simply seems unlikely. The latter is was a regional superpower sharing the same religion as that of Abraha, so unlike Islam’s conquest of Roman lands, there is no theological motive to challenge a natural alliance. This explains why Abraha aligned himself with the Byzantines against the Persians at one point[12].

On the other hand, an attack on a south arabian Mecca simply seems much more plausible. Inscriptions indicating Abraha’s political and military might over this area are well known, some of which have been reproduced in this article. There is also the Murayghan inscription, reporting of an expedition sent by Abraha towards Taraban, 100km north of Ta’if[13], which is in the vicinity of the traditional location of Mecca.


Tom Holland’s proposal that Mecca was originally located at Mamre, Palestine cannot be correct because it contradicts known facts surrounding the expedition of the elephant. As there is good evidence for the expedition, it would entail that the Himyarite king marched against the Byzantines, which contradicts what we see in Roman historical records and also goes against common sense.


[1] A very useful web page collating these inscriptions is www.islamic-awareness.org/History/Islam/Inscriptions/

[2] For an overview of the traditional story, see “The Message of the Qur’an”. Muhammad Asad. See intro to Surah al Fil. Other reasons are proposed for the motives of the campaign, one of which is that some Arabs went and defiled the cathedral in Yemen which incited ‘Abraha’s anger. 

[3] See entry for Abraha. Rubin, Uri. Encyclopaedia of Islam, 3rd ed. 

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid“These and other verses that al-Jāḥiẓ considers genuinely pre-Islamic (al-Jāḥiẓ, Kitāb al-Ḥayawān, 7:197–9) are indeed free of Qurʾānic vocabulary and style—even the description of the divine punishment lacks Qurʾānic phrases”

[6] ibid. It must be noted that the name is not Qur’anic, meaning that the poet must have had non-Qur’anic sources. This adds to the likelyhood of the poem being of Jahili origin.

* Scholars such as Rubin, Conrad and Robin have all argued for or have assumed the historicity of the campaign.

[7] Les Compagnons de l’Éléphant (Aṣḥāb al-Fīl ). Christian Robin. Published in Les origines du Coran, le Coran des origines. 2015. p47. I have roughly translated from french and edited in the captions.

[8] ibid.

[9] That of Abd Al-Muttalib- indeed, he is present in the traditional story of the expedition.

[10] See Brill’s Encyclopedia of Islam. Abraha marched against Persia

[11] Procopius, Histories of the Wars, Vol 1 and 2 accessable here: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16764/16764-h/16764-h.htm

[12] ibid

[13] F.E Peters. Muhammad and the Origins of Islam. p88

Saudi refuses $4 million for stone
Source: www.emirates247.com/news/region/saudi-refuses-4-million-for-sacred-stone-2012-11-11-1.482567




A Saudi man on a hunting trip in the rugged mountains near the border with Yemen stumbled across a little dark stone, which he instantly recognized as that mentioned in the Holy Koran. A year later, he was offered $four million for the stone but he refused. 

Saleh Musfer Al Gamdi said the stone, which carries drawings of birds and elephants, weighs 131 gm, exactly the same number of words in the Koran verse that mentioned the stone– “Surat Al Fil (elephant).” 

According to that verse, God the Almighty sent Ababil birds to throw Sejil stones (pebbles of hell) to destroy an army led by Yemen’s warlord Abraha just before the advent of Islam to knock down Kaaba in Makkah, now the Moslems’ holiest shrine. 

Gamdi said he found the hard black-grayish stone in the southern Jarb valley, previously known as the Green Wadi, where Abraha and his soldiers and elephants stayed for a period of time before heading for Makkah. 

He said experts estimated that the stone dates back to nearly 1,442 years, adding that he found it just a day after dreaming of his father and grandfather. 

“A year after I found the stone, I asked an Egyptian friend whose relatives work in the archeology field…they contacted me and asked me to send them pictures of that stone,” Gamdi said, quoted by the Saudi Arabic language daily Sabq. 

“After a series of messages and phone calls, they told me they would buy the stone for $four million but I refused to sell it….a while later, the tourism department in Baha (southern Saudi Arabia) asked me to hand the stone over but I again refused.” 

The story of Abraha begins when he feels envy of the town of Makkah in Saudi Arabia because Kaaba (House) was visited by many Arabs who wanted to make the pilgrimage every year before Islam. He has a great desire to destroy and divert Arab worshippers to Yemen, which has a large temple built by Abraha. 

Before the offensive on Mecca, he first sent a messenger to inform them of his aims and desires. The messenger was suggested for the people of Mecca to perform their pilgrimage in Yemen only. If not, then the Kaaba will be destroyed. 

Because they were disobedient, finally Abraha was really mad and ordered all troops to be getting ready to attack Mecca and destroy the Kaaba. 

Abraha’s army had complete war equipment, armour, and the elephants that will be used to knock down kaaba. Abraha told the messenger that the purpose of attack is not intended to fight, but just wanted to destroy the Kaaba. 

At that time Mecca residents, led by Abdul Muttalib could not do anything to stop Abraha. There was no choice but to surrender and give up. 

Some time before the arrival of Abraha’s army, Abdul Muttalib instructed his people to shelter and evacuate immediately behind the hill near Mecca.

Abraha was convinced that he will be able to destroy the Kaaba very easily. But what happens next? God’s help arrived according to the Koran. These birds threw many, many stones of baked clay at the elephants and the people, which led to their defeat and destruction before they manage to knock down Kaaba.

The Story of Abraha and Smallpox Epidemic

By Wikiversity Journal of Medicine

Based on historical interpretations of the Sūrat al-Fīl, the 105th Meccan Sura of the Qur’an, an epidemic occurred near Mecca circa 570 CE (Common Era), the Year of the Elephant in  Islamic history. The five verses of the Surah are thought to be an allegorical description of the “Elephant War epidemic,” so named because invading Axumite (Ethiopian) forces from present-day Yemen included one or more  war elephants. The elephants  refused to enter the city, causing  the Axumites to halt the attack. Interpreted literally, divine  intervention then defeated the invaders by sending a flock of birds (ababil) that dropped pellets—a possible allusion to pustules—onto the Axumites, maiming and killing them, and ending the siege of the city. Early  historians interpreted the Sura as allegorical for either a smallpox  ormeasles epidemic; available descriptions favor smallpox. The  residents of Mecca were spared. Descriptions of the birds and use  of the term ababil for birds are consistent with barn swallows (Hirundo rustica, subspecies  rustica), which collect clay pellets to make nests. They are attracted to flies following domestic animals. We consider the  zoonotic origins, geographical distributions and clinical presentations of two types of smallpox virus, and propose that the epidemic was due to Variola major. Since the prophet Muhammad was born in 570 CE, the events played a critical role in the birth of Islam. 

Smallpox has probably existed in the human population for  thousands of years, but the first reasonably clear descriptions appeared in documents in the 4th century CE (Common Era) by Ko Hung in China and in the 7th century by Vagbhata in India. 

The most influential treatise, al-Judari wa al-Hasbah (On Smallpox  and Measles), was written by the renowned physician-scholar  Muhammad ibn Zakariyā  Rāzī, or Rhazes (860–932 CE) at the  beginning of the tenth century. He is credited with first clearly  distinguishing between smallpox  and measles, a differential diagnosis that continued to confuse Western physicians until well into the second millenium. The disease seems to have first entered the Arabian Peninsula before 570 CE, brought across the Red Sea by the Christian Axumites (Ethiopians), who conquered the region of present-day Yemen. In 570 BC, Āmu’l-Fīl or the Year of the Elephant, the  Axumites invaded Mecca, but the attack was thwarted, an event described only in five verses or ayats of the Sūrat al-Fīl, Sura 105 of the Qur’an.

The Scottish physician-explorer James Bruce found an Ethiopian chronicle entitled the Siege of Mecca that describes the defeat of the Axumite army in which the author El Hamessy reckoned the Sura had to be a parable for an  epidemic disease, possibly the first description of a true  smallpox epidemic.

The “Elephant War epidemic” is an otherwise obscure event in a  long history of smallpox that was to follow. Others have described previous outbreaks in the  Mediterranean of what may have  been smallpox; subsequent, well-documented epidemics also occurred in the latter part of the  first millennium that led to a spread throughout Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

The event might remain a minor historical curiosity, except that it had an important historical implication—it took place in the same year that the Prophet  Muhammad was born. The  presumed outbreak occurred during a battle between an invading Axumite army and pre-Islamic Arabic tribes around the city of Mecca. We re-analyze the evidence relating to the cause of the presumed epidemic and its place in history.

Historical background
By the sixth century CE, the Byzantine Empire included protectorates in Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, Nubia, and Axum (parts of  present day Ethiopia and Eritrea). Axum had converted to Christianity two centuries earlier, and was in its ascendancy. The kingdom had an alliance with Emperor Justinian in Constantinople. A major rival to the Eastern Roman Empire was  the Persian Empire under the  Sassanid Dynasty. The Persians controlled vassal states along  the western Arabian Sea, including most of what is now Yemen and Oman, but they were also sympathetic to the pre-Islamic tribes throughout Arabia. A small independent Jewish kingdom of Himyar (present-day  Yemen) existed on the southwestern coast of the Arabian Peninsula facing the African continent and Axum.

Early in the 6th century, an Axumite army attacked Himyar by  crossing the Red Sea. Christian King Kaleb sent the army to conquer the Jewish kingdom that had committed pogroms against Christian minorities. Munro-Hay,  citing the Byzantine historian Procopius and Guillaume’s translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat  Rasul Allah, mentions that large  forces, as many as 70,000 men, were sent to attack Sana’a — the Himyarite capital — and to subjugate other nearby cities. The Axumite army was traditionally  organized into sarwe (regiments), each with a provincial or tribal name. Each regiment was led by  a  general commanding large  numbers of spear-carrying infantry, archers, camel cavalry, and water-corveé support units (water bearers). Some accounts also mention a contingent of up to 80 elephant-fighters. Kaleb ordered his generals to conquer Himyar and to kill a third of its men and to lay waste to one-third of  the country, then seize  onethird of its women and children.

The attack against Mecca in the Year of the Elephant was lead by  Abraha, a viceroy who had been overseeing Himyar since the earlier Axumite victory. He was instructed to attack the city as revenge for the defilement of a  Christian shrine in Sana’a by Arab pagans incensed over a previous  insult to the Kaaba in Mecca. The  time of year, duration of battle  and strength of his army are not known, but troop size and contingent forces were probably  similar to the earlier conquest of Himyar. (The Year of the Elephant is most often cited as 570 CE, but estimates vary by a few years and are debated among scholars.)  Mounted on an elephant, Abraha  led his army overland through desert terrain from Sana’a  northwards to Mecca, some four  hundred miles across arid land and through mountain passes.

By the late sixth century, Mecca  had become an important trading  center for merchants who chose  to avoid dangerous overland caravan routes between Europe, Egypt, India and China. African ivory, Asian silk, locally produced  frankincense and myrrh, and imported spices were prized items of trade between the East and West. Mecca had established  communications and trade  between Himyar to the south, and Gaza, Damascus, and Aleppo to the north. Mecca’s population was primarily composed of the  Quraysh tribe, which consisted of  dozens of clans allied with nearby  tribes living in the surrounding  hills and mountains. There were  also non-Arab craftsmen, merchants and visitors from the Byzantine Empire living in the city, but the size of this population is not known.

The term “Elephant War  epidemic” derives from an allegorical passage in the Qur’an referring to Abraha, mounted on  an elephant. Allah smote the  enemy army with small “stones”:

Have you not considered, how your Lord dealt with the companions of the elephant? Did He not make their plan into misguidance?

And He sent against them birds in flocks, Striking them with stones  of hard clay, And He made them like eaten straw. Qur’an 105:1-5

Flocks of birds flew overhead, dropping clay pebbles on the enemy and crushing them. Some have suggested the pebbles may  refer to the lesions of measles. The spelling of the two words is different but pronunciation is similar.


The distinction between the two diseases awaited Rhazes’ description a few hundred years later. The two diseases are easily  conflated since both cause a skin eruption. Ibn Ishaq, referring to another historian, states  “Utba told me that he was informed that year was the first time that  measles and smallpox had been seen in Arabia; and too, that it was the first time that bitter herbs like rue, colocynth and Asclepias gigantea were seen.” (Mention of these botanicals indicates trade existed from countries where smallpox may have been brought to the  southwestern Arabian peninsula; the herbs are native to Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean basin and Iran, which suggest that they  had been recent importations from these regions.) One of the  earliest historical descriptions was by the Roman Eusebius in 302 CE:

“It was characterized by a  dangerous eruption which unlike  the true plague spread over the whole body and which often affected the eyes and resulted in the loss of sight, which had a profound effect of protecting  against a second attack of the  same disorder, and whose  eruptions were accompanied by a very offensive smell”, which Willan concluded were due to the  confluent form of smallpox.

Descriptions specific to a  differential diagnosis, clinical signs, complications, immunity, and mortality estimates specific  to the elephant war epidemic (detailed in Table 2) include:


“… as they brought him (Abraha)  along the retreat, his limbs fell off piece by piece, and as often as a piece fell off, matter and blood came  off.”

“… as they withdrew they were  continually falling by the wayside  dying miserably by every  watering hole. Abraha was smitten in his body, and as they  took him away, his fingers fell off one by one. Where the fingers had been, there arose an evil sore exuding pus and blood, so that when they brought him to Sana’a, he was like a young fledgling.”

The metaphor “like eaten straw”  has been interpreted as referring  to stubble remaining in a barren  field, or broken blades seen in  animal dung — both interpretations implying useless, decaying and fetid remains. This image reinforces the previous  descriptions of death and dying. The only citation suggesting the size of the army and extent of its devastation comes from a poem listed in Ibn Ishaq’s narrative:

“He who knows what happened will tell the ignorant.
Sixty thousand men returned not home.
Nor did their sick recover after their return.”

Nearly three centuries after the  birth of Muhammad, Rhazes wrote copiously on many subjects, primarily medicine, and is one of the most revered figures of the Islamic Golden Age, considered a genius of medieval medicine. According to Rhazes  “Smallpox appears when blood ‘boils’  and is infected, resulting in vapours being expelled. Thus, juvenile blood (which looks like  wet extracts appearing on the skin) is being transformed into richer blood, having the color of mature wine. At this stage, smallpox shows up essentially as ‘bubbles found in wine’ – (as blisters) – … this disease can also occur at other times – (not only during childhood) -. The best thing to do during this first stage is to keep away from it, otherwise this disease might turn into an epidemic.”

The Sura refers to the flocks of birds as ababil. Some descriptions of the birds include a leonine appearance, although this is  clearly a legendary  embellishment. Other early  accounts mention the ababil as having black and green coloring with white and yellow beaks.  “Ababil” is a Middle Eastern term that can apply to the common barn swallow (Hirundo rustica, subspecies rustica) — which has similar  markings mentioned above, with dark orange throat feathering. Barn swallows are  found throughout the  world, including Arabia.

The elephant that Abraha rode  was probably the North African  elephant (Loxodonta africana pharaoensis) — now extinct, which had been used by the Carthaginians centuries before.  Its original range extended across North Africa and down the  grasslands of the Sudan. Some have questioned the claim that  elephants could not survive a  long cross-desert sojourn because of their need for water.  However, according to the facts,  Abraha may have brought only a  single elephant with him. His water bearers, oases, and wells along the northern march would have provided sufficient water  for both the large army and its animal retinue, including at least one, but many elephants, and  hundreds of horses, camels, and beasts of burden.

It is evident that an epidemic of some sort — smallpox or measles—crippled the Axumites during the siege of Mecca in 570. Fragmentary evidence supports smallpox. Subsequent larger outbreaks in North Africa and the Mediterranean littoral region were  definitely smallpox. The Mecca  outbreak was minor in comparison to later epidemics, but was historically important. Had the Axumites succeeded in conquering Mecca in 570, they  would have instituted measures similar to those inflicted on Himyar four decades  before — killing women, razing crops and enslaving its captives. In that same year an infant was born — the future Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The child and His mother may have been killed or enslaved. In the Bible it states that Yahweh divinely  intervened to help His people in Egypt by inflicting ten plagues on the Egyptians. In the Qur’an, Allah divinely intervened to save His future Prophet with a single plague.

Rulership and Princeship among the Arabs

When  talking  about  the  Arabs  before Islam,we  deem  it  necessary  to  draw  a  mini-picture  of  the  history of  rulership,  princeship,  sectarianism  and  the religious  dominations  of  the  Arabs,  so  as  to  facilitate  the understanding  of  emergent  circumstances  when  Islam  appeared. 

When  the  sun  of  Islam  rose,  rulers  of  Arabia  were  of  two  kinds:  crowned  kings,  who  were  in  fact  not independent;  and  heads  of  tribes  and  clans,  who  enjoyed  the  same  authorities  and  privileges  possessed by  crowned  kings  and  were  mostly  independent,  though  some  of  whom  could  have  shown  some kind  of submission  to  a  crowned  king.  The  crowned  kings  were  only  those  of  Yemen,  Heerah  and  Ghassan.  All other rulers  of  Arabia  were  non-crowned. 


The  folks  of  Sheba  were  one  of  the  oldest  nations  of  the  pure  Arabs,  who  lived in  Yemen.  Excavations  at “Or”  brought  to  light  their existence  twenty five  centuries  B.C.  Their  civilization  flourished,  and  their domain  spread eleven  centuries  B.C. 

It  is  possible  to  divide  their  ages  according  to  the  following  estimation:

1. The  centuries  before  650  B.C.,  during  which  their  kings  were  called  “Makrib  Sheba”.  Their  capital was  “Sarwah”,  also  known  as  “Khriba”,  whose  ruins  lie  in  a  spot,  a  day’s  walk from  the  western side  of  “Ma’rib”.  During  this  period,  they  started  building  the  “Dam  of  Ma’rib”  which  had  great importance  in  the  history  of  Yemen.  Sheba  was  also  said  to  have  had  so  great  a  domain  that they  had  colonies  inside  and  outside  Arabia. 

2. From  650  B.C.  until  115  B.C.  During  this  era,  they  gave  up  the  name  “Makrib”  and  assumed  the designation  of  “Kings  of  Sheba”.  They  also  made  Ma’rib  their  capital instead  of  Sarwah.  The ruins of  Ma’rib  lie  at  a  distance  of  sixty  miles  east  of  San‘a. 

3. From  115  B.C.  until  300  A.D.  During  this  period,  the  tribe  of  Himyar  conquered  the kingdom  of Sheba  and  took  Redan  for  capital  instead  of  Ma’rib.  Later  on,  Redan  was  called  “Zifar”.  Its  ruins still  lie  on  Mudawwar  Mountain  near  the  town  of  “Yarim”.  During  this  period,  they  began  to decline  and  fall.  Their  trade  failed  to  a  very  great  extent,  firstly,  because  of  the  Nabetean  domain over  the  north  of  Hijaz;  secondly,  because  of  the  Roman  superiority  over  the  naval  trade  routes after  the  Roman  conquest  of  Egypt,  Syria  and  the  north  of  Hijaz;  and  thirdly,  because  of  the inter-tribal  warfare.  Thanks  to  the  three  above-mentioned  factors,  families  of Qahtan  were disunited  and  scatteredout. 

4. From  300  A.D.  until  Islam  dawned  on  Yemen.  This  period  witnessed  a  lot  of  disorder  and  turmoil. The  great  many  and  civil  wars  rendered  the  people  of  Yemen  liable  to  foreign  subjection  and hence  loss  of  independence.  During  this  era,  the  Romans  conquered ‘Adn  and  even  helped  the Abyssinians  (Ethiopians)  to  occupy  Yemen  for  the  first  time  in  340  A.D.,  making  use  of  the constant  intra-tribal  conflict  of  Hamdan  and  Himyar.  The  Abyssinian  (Ethiopian)  occupation  of Yemen  lasted  until  378  A.D.,  whereafter  Yemen  regained  its  independence.  Later  on,  cracks began  to  show  in  Ma’rib  Dam  which  led  to  the  Great  Flood (450  or  451  A.D.) mentioned  in  the Noble  Qur’ân.  This  was  a  great  event  which  caused  the  fall  of  the  entire  Yemeni  civilization  and the  dispersal  of  the  nations  living  therein. 

In  523,  Dhu  Nawas,  a  Jew,  despatched  a  great  campaign  against  the  Christians  of  Najran  in  order  to force  them  to  convert  into  Judaism.  Having refused  to  do  so,  they  were  thrown  alive  into  a  big  ditch where  a  great  fire  had  been  set.  The  Qur’ân  referred  to  this  event: 

“Cursed  were  the  people  of  the  ditch.” [Qur’an 85:4

This  aroused  great  wrath  among  the  Christians,  and  especially  the  Roman  emperors,  who  not  only instigated  the  Abyssinians  (Ethiopians)  against  Arabs  but  also  assembled  a  large fleet  which  helped  the Abyssinian  (Ethiopian)  army,  of  seventy  thousand  warriors,  to  effect  a  second  conquest  of  Yemen  in
525  A.D.,  under  the  leadership  of  Eriat,  who  was  granted  rulership  over  Yemen,  a  position  he  held  until he  was  assassinated by  one  of  his  army leaders,  Abraha,  who,  after reconciliation  with  the  king  of Abyssinia,  took rulership  over  Yemen  and,  later  on,  deployed  his  soldiers  to  demolish  Al-Ka‘bah,  and  , hence,  he  and  his  soldiers  came  to  be  known  as  the  “Men  of  the  Elephant”. 

After  the  “Elephant”  incident,  the  people  of  Yemen,  under  the  leadership  of  Ma‘dikarib  bin  Saif  Dhu Yazin  Al-Himyari,  and  through  Persian  assistance,  revolted  against  the  Abyssinian  (Ethiopian)  invaders, restored  independence  and  appointed  Ma‘dikarib  as  their king.  However,  Ma‘dikarib  was  assassinated by  an  Abyssinian  (Ethiopian)  he  used  to  have  him  around for  service  and  protection.  The family  of  Dhu Yazin  was  thus  deprived  of royalty  forever.  Kisra,  the  Persian  king,  appointed  a  Persian  ruler  over  San‘a and  thus  made  Yemen  a  Persian  colony.  Persian  rulers  maintained  rulership  of  Yemen  until  Badhan,  the last  of  them,  embraced  Islam  in  638  A.D.,  thus  terminating  the  Persian  domain  over  Yemen. 


Ever  since  Korosh  the  Great  (557-529  B.C.)  united  the  Persians,  they  ruled  Iraq  and  its  neighbourhood. Nobody  could  shake  off  their  authority  until  Alexander  the  Great  vanquished  their king  Dara  I  and  thus subdued  the  Persians  in  326  B.C.  Persian  lands  were  thenceforth  divided  and  ruled  by  kings  known  as “the  Kings  of  Sects”,  an  era  which  lasted  until  230  A.D.  Meanwhile,  the  Qahtanians  occupied  some  Iraqi territories,  and  were  later followed  by  some  ‘Adnanians  who  managed  to  share  some  parts  of Mesopotamia  with  them. 

The  Persians,  under  the  leadership  of  Ardashir,  who  had  established  the  Sasanian  state  in  226  A.D, regained  enough  unity  and  power  to  subdue  the  Arabs  living in  the  vicinity  of  their kingdom,  and force Quda‘a  to  leave  for  Syria  ,  leaving  the  people  of  Heerah  and  Anbar  under  the  Persian  domain. 

During  the  time  of  Ardashir,  Juzaima  Alwaddah  exercised  rulership  over  Heerah,  Rabi‘a  and  Mudar,  and Mesopotamia.  Ardashir  had reckoned  that  it  was  impossible  for  him  to  rule  the  Arabs  directly  and prevent  them  from  attacking  his  borders  unless  he  appointed  as  king  one  of  them  who  enjoyed  support and  power  of  his  tribe.  He  had  also  seen  that  he  could  make  use  of  them  against  the  Byzantine  kings who  always  used  to  harass  him.  At  the  same  time,  the  Arabs  of  Iraq  could  face  the  Arabs  of  Syria  who were in  the  hold  of  Byzantine  kings.  However,  he  deemed  it  fit  to  keep  a  Persian  battalion  under command  of  the  king  of  Heerah  to  be  used  against  those  Arabs  who  might  rebel  against  him. 

After  the  death  of  Juzaima  around  268  A.D.,  ‘Amr bin  ‘Adi  bin  Nasr  Al-Lakhmi  was  appointed  as  king  by the  Persian  King  Sabour  bin  Ardashir.  ‘Amr  was  the  first  of  the  Lakhmi kings  who  ruled  Heerah  until  the Persians  appointed  Qabaz  bin  Fairuz  in  whose  reign  appeared  someone  called  Mazdak,  who  called  for dissoluteness  in  social  life.  Qabaz,  and  many  of  his  subjects,  embraced  Mazdak’s  religion  and  even called  upon  the  king  of  Heerah,  Al-Munzir bin  Ma’  As-Sama’,  to  follow  after.  When  the latter,  because  of his  pride  and  self-respect,  rejected  their  orders,  Qabaz  discharged  him  and  nominated  Harith  bin  ‘Amr bin  Hajar  Al-Kindi,  who  had  accepted  the  Mazdaki  doctrine. 

No  sooner did  Kisra  Anu  Shairwan  succeed  Qabaz  than  he,  due  to  hatred  of  Mazdak’s  philosophy,  killed Mazdak  and  many  of  his  followers,  restored  Munzir  to  the  throne  of  Heerah  and gave  orders  to  summon under  arrest  Harith  who  sought  refuge  with  Al-Kalb  tribe  where  he  spent  the rest  of  his  life. 

Sons  of  Al-Munzir bin  Ma’  As-Sama’ maintained  kingship  a  long  time  until  An-Nu‘man  bin  Al-Munzir  took over.  Because  of  a  calumny borne  by  Zaid  bin  ‘Adi  Al-‘Abbadi,  the  Persian  king  got  angry  with  AnNu‘man  and  summoned  him  to  his  palace.  An-Nu‘man  went  secretly  to  Hani  bin  Mas‘ud,  chief  of Shaiban  tribe,  and  left  his  wealth  and  family  under  the  latter’s  protection,  and  then  presented  himself before  the  Persian  king,  who  immediately  threw  him  into  prison  where  he  perished.  Kisra,  then, appointed  Eyas  bin  Qubaisa  At-Ta’i  as  king  of  Heerah.  Eyas  was  ordered  to  tell  Hani bin  Mas‘ud  to deliver  An-Nu‘man’s  charge  up  to  Kisra.  No  sooner  than  had  the  Persian  king received  the  fanatically motivated rejection  on  the  part  of  the  Arab  chief,  he  declared  war  against  the  tribe  of  Shaiban  and mobilized  his  troops  and  warriors  under  the  leadership  of  King  Eyas  to  a  place  called  Dhee  Qar  which witnessed  a  most  furious  battle  wherein  the  Persians  were  severely routed  by  the  Arabs  for  the  first time  in  history.  That  was  very  soon  after  the birth  of  Prophet  Muhammad  ﻢﻠﺳو  ﻪﯿﻠﻋ  ﷲا  ﻰﻠﺻ  eight  months after  Eyas  bin  Qubaisah’s  rise  to  power  over  Heerah. 

After  Eyas,  a  Persian  ruler  was  appointed  over  Heerah,  but  in  632  A.D.  the  authority  there returned  to the  family  of  Lukhm  when  Al-Munzir  Al-Ma‘rur  took  over.  Hardly  had  the  latter’s  reign  lasted for  eight months  when  Khalid  bin  Al-Waleed (radhiyallahu anhu) fell  upon  him  with  Muslim  soldiers.


In  the  process  of  the  tribal emigrations,  some  septs  of  Quda‘a  reached  the  borders  of  Syria  where  they settled down.  They belonged  to  the  family  of  Sulaih  bin  Halwan,  of  whose  offspring  were  the  sons  of Duj‘am  bin  Sulaih  known  as  Ad-Duja‘ima.  Such  septs  of  Quda‘a  were  used  by  the  Byzantines  in  the defence  of  the  Byzantine  borders  against  both  Arab  Bedouin  raiders  and  the  Persians,  and  enjoyed autonomy  for  a  considerable  phase  of  time  which  is  said  to  have  lasted  for  the  whole  second  century A.D.  One  of  their most  famous  kings  was  Zyiad  bin  Al-Habula.  Their  authority  however  came  to  an  end upon  defeat  by  the  Ghassanides  who  were  consequently  granted  the  proxy  rulership  over  the  Arabs  of Syria  and  had  Dumat  Al-Jandal  as  their  headquarters,  which  lasted  until  the  battle  of  Yarmuk  in  the year  13  A.H.  Their  last  king  Jabala  bin  Al-Aihum  embraced  Islam  during  the reign  of  the Chief  of Believers,  ‘Umar bin  Al-Khattab (May  Allah  be  pleased  with  him). 


Isma’eel (alaihissalaam) (Biblical Ishmael) administered  authority  over  Makkah  as  well  as  custodianship  of  the  Holy Sanctuary  throughout  his  lifetime.  Upon  his  death,  at  the  age  of  137,  two  of  his  sons,  Nabet  and  Qidar, succeeded  him.  Later  on,  their  maternal  grandfather,  Mudad  bin  ‘Amr  Al-Jurhumi  took  over,  thus transferring rulership  over  Makkah  to  the  tribe  of Jurhum,  preserving  a  venerable  position,  though  very little  authority  for  Ishmael’s  sons  due  to  their  father’s  exploits  in  building  the  Holy  Sanctuary,  a  position they  held  until  the  decline  of  the  tribe  of Jurhum  shortly  before  the  rise  of  Bukhtanassar. 

The  political role  of  the  ‘Adnanides  had  begun  to  gain  firmer grounds  in  Makkah,  which  could  be  clearly attested by  the  fact  that  upon  Bukhtanassar’s  first  invasion  of  the  Arabs  in  ‘Dhati  ‘Irq’,  the  leader  of  the Arabs  was  not  from  Jurhum. 

Upon  Bukhtanassar’s  second  invasion  in  587  B.C.,  however,  the  ‘Adnanides  were  frightened  out  to Yemen,  while  Burmia  An-Nabi  fled  to  Syria  with  Ma‘ad,  but  when  Bukhtanassar’s  pressure  lessened, Ma‘ad  returned  to  Makkah  to  find  none  of  the  tribe  of Jurhum  except  Jursham  bin  Jalhamah,  whose daughter,  Mu‘ana,  was  given  to  Ma‘ad  as  wife  who,  later,  had  a  son  by  him  named  Nizar. 

On  account  of  difficult  living  conditions  and  destitution  prevalent  in  Makkah,  the  tribe  of Jurhum  began to  ill-treat  visitors  of  the  Holy  Sanctuary  and extort  its  funds,  which  aroused  resentment  and  hatred  of the  ‘Adnanides  (sons  of  Bakr bin  ‘Abd  Munaf bin  Kinana)  who,  with  the  help  of  the  tribe  of  Khuza‘a  that had  come  to  settle  in  a  neighbouring  area  called  Marr  Az-Zahran,  invaded  Jurhum  and frightened  them out  of  Makkah  leaving  rulership  to  Quda‘a  in  the  middle  of  the  second  century  A.D. 

Upon  leaving  Makkah,  Jurhum  filled  up  the  well  of  Zam-zam,  levelled  its  place  and  buried  a  great  many things  in  it.  ‘Amr bin  Al-Harith  bin  Mudad  Al-Jurhumi  was  reported  by  Ibn  Ishaq,  the  well-known historian,  to  have  buried  the  two  gold  deer  together  with  the  Black  Stone  as  well  as  a  lot  of  jewelry  and swords  in  Zamzam,  prior  to  their  sorrowful  escape  to  Yemen. 

Ishmael’s (Qur’anic Isma’eel) epoch  is  estimated  to  have  lasted  for  twenty  centuries  B.C.,  which  means  that  Jurhum  stayed in  Makkah  for  twenty-one  centuries  and  held  rulership  there  for  about  twenty  centuries. 

Upon  defeat  of  Jurhum,  the  tribe  of  Khuza‘a  monopolized rulership  over  Makkah.  Mudar  tribes, however,  enjoyed  three  privileges:

The  First:  Leading  pilgrims  from ‘Arafat  to  Muzdalifah  and  then  from  Mina  to  the  ‘Aqabah  Stoning Pillar.  This  was  the  authority  of  the family  of  Al-Ghawth  bin  Murra,  one  of  the  septs  of  Elias  bin Mudar,  who  were  called  ‘Sofa’.  This  privilege  meant  that  the pilgrims  were  not  allowed  to  throw stones  at  Al-‘Aqabah  until  one  of  the  ‘Sofa’ men  did  that.  When  they  had finished  stoning  and wanted  to  leave  the  valley  of  Mina,  ‘Sofa’ men  stood  on  the  two  sides  of  Al-‘Aqabah  and  nobody would  pass  that  position  until  the  men  of ‘Sofa’  passed  and  cleared  the  way  for  the  pilgrims. When  Sofa  perished,  the  family  of  Sa‘d bin  Zaid  Manat  from  Tamim  tribe  took  over.

The  Second:  Al-Ifadah  (leaving  for Mina  after  Muzdalifah)  on  sacrifice  morning,  and  this  was  the responsibility  of  the  family  of  Adwan. 

The  Third:  Deferment  of  the  sacred  months,  and  this  was  the  responsibility  of  the  family  of Tamim  bin  ‘Adi  from  Bani  Kinana. 

Khuza‘a’s  reign  in  Makkah  lasted for  three  hundred years,  during  which,  the  ‘Adnanides  spread  all  over Najd  and  the  sides  of  Bahrain  and  Iraq,  while  small  septs  of  Quraish  remained  on  the  sides  of  Makkah; they  were  Haloul,  Harum  and  some families  of  Kinana.  They  enjoyed  no  privileges  in  Makkah  or  in  the Sacred  House  until  the  appearance  of  Qusai  bin  Kilab,  whose father is  said  to  have  died  when  he  was still  a  baby,  and  whose  mother  was  subsequently  married  to  Rabi‘a  bin  Haram,  from  the  tribe  of  Bani ‘Udhra.  Rabi‘a  took  his  wife  and  her  baby  to  his  homeland  on  the  borders  of  Syria.  When  Qusai  became a  young  man,  he  returned  to  Makkah,  which  was  ruled  by  Halil  bin  Habsha  from  Khuza‘a,  who  gave Qusai  his  daughter,  Hobba,  as  wife.  After  Halil’s  death,  a  war between  Khuza‘a  and  Quraish  broke  out and resulted  in  Qusai’s  taking  hold  of  Makkah  and  the  Sacred  House. 


The  First:  Having  noticed  the  spread  of  his  offspring,  increase  of  his  property  and  exalt  of  his honour  after  Halil’s  death,  Qusai  found  himself  more  entitled  to  shoulder responsibility  of rulership  over  Makkah  and  custodianship  of  the  Sacred  House  than  the  tribes  of  Khuza‘a  and  Bani Bakr.  He  also  advocated  that  Quraish  were  the  chiefs  of  Ishmael’s  descendants.  Therefore  he consulted  some  men  from  Quraish  and  Kinana  concerning  his  desire  to  evacuate  Khuza‘a  and Bani  Bakr  from  Makkah.  They  took  a  liking  to  his  opinion  and  supported  him.

The  Second:  Khuza‘a  claimed  that  Halil  requested  Qusai  to  hold  custodianship  of  Al-Ka‘bah  and rulership  over  Makkah  after  his  death. 

The  Third:  Halil  gave  the  right  of  Al-Ka‘bah  service  to  his  daughter  Hobba  and  appointed  Abu Ghabshan  Al-Khuza‘i  to  function  as  her  agent  whereof.  Upon  Halil’s  death,  Qusai  bought  this  right for  a  leather  bag  of  wine,  which  aroused  dissatisfaction  among  the  men  of  Khuza‘a  and  they  tried to  keep  the  custodianship  of  the  Sacred  House  away  from  Qusai.  The  latter,  however,  with  the help  of  Quraish  and  Kinana,  managed  to  take  over  and  even  to  expel  Khuza‘a  completely  from Makkah.

Whatever  the  truth  might  have  been,  the  whole  affair resulted  in  the  deprivation  of  Sofa  of  their privileges,  previously  mentioned,  evacuation  of  Khuza‘a  and  Bakr  from  Makkah  and  transfer  of rulership  over  Makkah  and  custodianship  of  the  Holy  Sanctuary  to  Qusai,  after fierce  wars between  Qusai  and  Khuza‘a  inflicting  heavy  casualties  on  both  sides,  reconciliation  and  then arbitration  of  Ya‘mur bin  ‘Awf,  from  the  tribe  of  Bakr,  whose  judgement  entailed eligibility  of Qusai’s  rulership  over  Makkah  and  custodianship  of  the  Sacred  House,  Qusai’s  irresponsibility  for Khuza‘a’s  blood  shed,  and  imposition  of blood  money  on  Khuza‘a.  Qusai’s  reign  over  Makkah  and the  Sacred  House  began  in  440  A.D.  and  allowed  him,  and  Quraish  afterwards,  absolute rulership over  Makkah  and  undisputed  custodianship  of  the  Sacred  House  to  which  Arabs  from  all  over Arabia  came  to  pay  homage. 

Qusai  brought  his  kinspeople  to  Makkah  and  allocated  it  to  them,  allowing  Quraish  some  dwellings there.  An-Nus’a,  the  families  of  Safwan,  Adwan,  Murra  bin  ‘Awf  preserved  the  same  rights  they  used  to enjoy  before  his  arrival. 

A  significant  achievement  credited  to  Qusai  was  the  establishment  of  An-Nadwa  House  (an  assembly house)  on  the  northern  side  of  Al-Ka‘bah  Mosque,  to  serve  as  a  meeting  place  for  Quraish.  This  very house  had  benefited  Quraish  a  lot  because  it  secured  unity  of  opinions  amongst  them  and  cordial solution  to  their  problem.


1.Presiding  over  An-Nadwa  House  meetings  where  consultations  relating  to  serious  issues  were conducted,  and  marriage  contracts  were  announced. 

2.The  Standard:  He  monopolized  in  his  hand issues  relevant  to  war launching.

 3.Doorkeeping  of  Al-Ka‘bah:  He  was  the  only  one  eligible  to  open  its  gate,  and  was  responsible for its  service  and  protection. 

4.Providing  water for  the  Pilgrims: This  means  that  he  used  to  fill basins  sweetened  by  dates  and raisins  for  the  pilgrims  to  drink. 

5.Feeding  Pilgrims: This  means  making food  for  pilgrims  who  could  not  afford it. 

Qusai  even imposed  on  Quraish  annual  land  tax,  paid  at  the  season  of pilgrimage,  for  food.  It  is  noteworthy  however  that  Qusai  singled  out  ‘Abd  Manaf,  a  son  of  his,  for  honour  and  prestige though  he  was  not  his  elder  son  (‘Abd  Ad-Dar  was),  and  entrusted  him  with  such  responsibilities  as chairing  of  An-Nadwa  House,  the  standard,  the  doorkeeping  of  Al-Ka‘bah,  providing  water  and  food for pilgrims.  Due  to  the  fact  that  Qusai’s  deeds  were  regarded  as  unquestionable  and  his  orders  inviolable, his  death  gave  no  rise  to  conflicts  among  his  sons,  but  it  later did  among  his  grand  children,  for  no sooner  than  ‘Abd  Munaf  had  died,  his  sons  began  to  have  rows  with  their  cousins  —sons  of  ‘Abd  AdDar,  which  would  have  given  rise  to  dissension  and fighting  among  the  whole  tribe  of  Quraish,  had it not  been  for  a  peace  treaty  whereby  posts  were reallocated  so  as  to  preserve feeding  and  providing water for  pilgrims  for  the  sons  of ‘Abd  Munaf;  while  An-Nadwa  House,  the flag  and  the  doorkeeping  of Al-Ka‘bah  were  maintained for  the  sons  of  ‘Abd  Ad-Dar.  The  sons  of  ‘Abd  Munaf,  however,  cast  the lot for  their  charge,  and  consequently  left  the  charge  of food  and  water giving  to  Hashim  bin  ‘Abd  Munaf, upon  whose  death,  the  charge  was  taken  over by  a  brother  of  his  called  Al-Muttalib  bin  ‘Abd  Manaf  and afterwards  by ‘Abd  Al-Muttalib  bin  Hashim,  the  Prophet’s  grandfather,  whose  sons  assumed  this position  until  the rise  of  Islam,  during  which  ‘Abbas  bin  ‘Abdul-Muttalib  was  in  charge. 

Many  other  posts  were  distriamong  people  of  Quraish  for establishing  the  pillars  of  a  new  democratic petite  state  with  government  offices  and  councils  similar  to  those  of  today.  Enlisted  as  follows  are  some of  these  posts. 

1.Casting  the lots  for  the  idols  was  allocated  to  Bani  Jumah.

 2.Noting  of  offers  and  sacrifices,  settlement  of disputes  and  relevant  issues  were  to  lie  in  the  hands of  Bani  Sahm. 

3.Consultation  was  to  go  to  Bani  Asad. 

4.Organization  of blood-money  and  fines  was  with  Bani Tayim. 
5.Bearing  the  national  banner  was  with  Bani  Omaiyah. 

6.The  military institute,  footmen  and  cavalry  would  be  Bani  Makhzum’s  responsibility. 

7.Bani  ‘Adi  would  function  as  foreign  mediators.

We have previously mentioned the  Qahtanide  and  ‘Adnanide  emigrations,  and  division  of  Arabia between  these  two  tribes.  Those  tribes  dwelling  near  Heerah  were  subordinate  to  the  Arabian  king  of Heerah,  while  those  dwelling  in  the  Syrian  semi-desert  were  under domain  of  the  Arabian  Ghassanide king,  a  sort  of dependency  that  was  in  reality formal  rather  than  actual.  However,  those  living  in  the hinder  deserts  enjoyed  full  autonomy.

 These  tribes  in  fact  had  heads  chosen  by  the  whole  tribe  which  was  a  demi-government  based  on  tribal solidarity  and  collective interests  in  defence  of land  and  property. 

Heads  of  tribes  enjoyed dictatorial  privileges  similar  to  those  of  kings,  and  were  rendered full  obedience and  subordination  in  both  war  and  peace.  Rivalry  among  cousins  for rulership,  however,  often  drove them  to  outdo  one  another  in  entertaining  guests,  affecting  generosity,  wisdom  and  chivalry for  the  sole purpose  of  outranking  their  rivals,  and  gaining  fame  among  people  especially  poets  who  were  the official  spokesmen  at  the  time. 

Heads  of  tribes  and  masters  had  special  claims  to  spoils  of  war  such  as  the  quarter  of  the  spoils, whatever  he  chose  for  himself,  or  found  on  his  way  back  or even  the  remaining  indivisible  spoils. 


The  three  Arab  regions  adjacent  to  foreigners  suffered  great  weakness  and  inferiority.  The  people  there were either masters  or  slaves,  rulers  or  subordinates.  Masters,  especially  the foreigners,  had  claim  to every  advantage;  slaves  had  nothing  but  responsibilities  to  shoulder.  In  other  words,  arbitrary autocratic  rulership  brought  about  encroachment  on  the rights  of  subordinates,  ignorance,  oppression, iniquity,  injustice  and  hardship,  and  turning  them  into  people  groping  in  darkness  and  ignorance,  viz., fertile  land  which  rendered  its  fruits  to  the rulers  and  men  of  power  to  extravagantly  dissipate  on  their pleasures  and enjoyments,  whims  and  desires,  tyranny  and  aggression.  The  tribes  living  near  these regions  were fluctuating  between  Syria  and  Iraq,  whereas  those  living  inside  Arabia  were disunited  and governed  by  tribal  conflicts  and  racial  and  religious  disputes. 

They  had  neither  a  king  to  sustain  their independence  nor  a  supporter  to  seek  advice  from,  or depend upon,  in  hardships. 

The  rulers  of  Hijaz,  however,  were  greatly  esteemed  and respected  by  the  Arabs,  and  were  considered as  rulers  and  servants  of  the  religious  centre.  Rulership  of  Hijaz  was,  in  fact,  a  mixture  of  secular  and official  precedence  as  well  as  religious  leadership.  They ruled  among  the  Arabs  in  the  name  of religious leadership  and  always  monopolized  the  custodianship  of  the  Holy  Sanctuary  and  its  neighbourhood. They looked  after  the  interests  of  Al-Ka‘bah  visitors  and  were  in  charge  of  putting  Abraham’s  code  into effect.  They  even  had  such  offices  and  departments  like  those  of  the  parliaments  of  today.  However, they  were  too  weak  to  carry  the  heavy burden,  as  this  evidently  came  to  light  during  the  Abyssinian (Ethiopian) invasion.

Continue reading further: Religion of the Pre-Islamic Arabs