Ön-İslamik Arabistan

CKM 2018-19 / Aziz Yardımlı


Ön-İslamik Arabistan

  🕑 Timeline

🕑 Timeline of Muslim history

Timeline of Muslim history (W)




  Pre-Islamic Arabia

The Arabian Peninsula c.570.

Arap Yarımadasının Durumu
  • Arap Yarımadasında ancak yağmur alan dağ silsilelerinin bulunduğu güney-batı Yemen’de tarım olanaklı idi. Yerleşik bir kültür ve göreli olarak ileri bir uygarlık burada gelişti. Yarımadanın geri kalanı tek tük vahalar dışında çöllerden ve kurak steplerden oluşur ve ancak göçebe kabilelerin yaşamasına izin verir.
  • Yalnızca vahalarda bir tür yerleşik yaşam ve ilkel bir politik organizasyon olanaklı idi.
  • Yerleşik yaşama geçen göçebelerin kurduğu az sayıda kasabadan biri Hicaz’da her biri kendi taşı ve meclisi olan klanların bulunduğu Mekke idi (taşlar toplu olarak klanların birliğini temsil ediyor ve küp şeklinde bir yapı olan Kâbede tutuluyordu).
  • Arap Yarımadası ilkin 5 ve 6’ncı yüzyıllarda dünya ile ekonomik ve politik ilişkilere girmeye başladı.
  • İS 600 sıralarında Yarımada nüfusu üç gruba bölünmüştü:
    a) Hicaz’ın küçük kasabalarında yaşayanlar;
    Hicaz, Yemen ve Umman’da vaha yakınlarında yerleşik tarımcılar;
    c) Nüfusun çoğunluğunu oluşturan göçebe bedeviler.
  • Yarımada nüfusunun hemen hemen tümü kabile kökenli idi.
  • Kabileler arasında herhangi bir sürekli politik kurum yoktu. Politik bir gücü olmayan Seyyid (ya da Şeyh) kabile yaşlıları tarafından seçiliyor ve meclisin (‘Majlis’) görüşünü dinlemesi gerekiyordu.
  • Kabilenin yaşamı gelenek (‘Sunna’) tarafından belirleniyordu.
  • 600’lerde Mekke birincil toplumsal, ekonomik ve politeistik dinsel özek idi.
  • Göçebelerin dini ağaçlarda, pınarlarda, ‘kutsal’ taşlarda yaşayan cinler çevresinde odaklanan bir tür animistik politeizm idi.
  • Kabile sınırlarını aşan ‘tanrılar’ arasında en önemli üçü Manat, Uzza ve Allat idi ve bunlar daha yüksek bir tanrı olan ‘Allah’ın altında duruyordu.
  • Göçebeler tanrılarını yanlarında taşıyorlardı.
  • Putları ve kabile tanrıları ile Kâbeyi ziyaret zamanı barış zamanı idi.
  • 5’inci yüzyılın ikinci yarısında Kureyş kabilesi Mekke’nin ve tapınağın denetimini üzerine aldı.


Distribution of Semitic languages.


Arabs (W)

Arabs are the world's second largest ethnic group.

Approximate locations of some of the important tribes and Empire of the Arabian Peninsula at the dawn of Islam (approximately 600 CE / 50 BH).

The first mention of Arabs is from the mid-ninth century BCE as a tribal people in eastern and southern Syria, and the north of the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabs appear to have been under the vassalage of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-612 BCE), and the succeeding Neo-Babylonian (626-539 BCE), Achaemenid (539-332 BCE), Seleucid, and Parthian empires. Arab tribes, most notably the Ghassanids and Lakhmids, begin to appear in the southern Syrian Desert from the mid 3rd century CE onward, during the mid to later stages of the Roman and Sasanian empires.

Before the expansion of the Rashidun Caliphate (632-661), "Arab" referred to any of the largely nomadic and settled Semitic people from the Arabian Peninsula, Syrian Desert, and North and Lower Mesopotamia. Today, "Arab" refers to a large number of people whose native regions form the Arab world due to the spread of Arabs and the Arabic language throughout the region during the early Muslim conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries and the subsequent Arabisation of indigenous populations. The Arabs forged the Rashidun (632-661), Umayyad (661-750), Abbasid (750-1517) and the Fatimid (901-1071) caliphates, whose borders reached southern France in the west, China in the east, Anatolia in the north, and the Sudan in the south. This was one of the largest land empires in history. In the early 20th century, the First World War signalled the end of the Ottoman Empire; which had ruled much of the Arab world since conquering the Mamluk Sultanate in 1517.

Arabs are a diverse group in terms of religious affiliations and practices. In the pre-Islamic era, most Arabs followed polytheistic religions. Some tribes had adopted Christianity or Judaism, and a few individuals, the hanifs, apparently observed monotheism. Today, about 93% of Arabs are adherents of Islam, and there are sizable Christian minorities. Arab Muslims primarily belong to the Sunni, Shiite, Ibadi, and Alawite denominations. Arab Christians generally follow one of the Eastern Christian Churches, such as the Greek Orthodox or Greek Catholic churches. Other smaller minority religions are also followed, such as the Bahá'í Faith and Druze.

Arabs have greatly influenced and contributed to diverse fields, notably the arts and architecture, language, philosophy, mythology, ethics, literature, politics, business, music, dance, cinema, medicine, science and technology. in the ancient and modern history. Arab people are generally known for their beliefs and family values.


The Middle East at the Dawn of Islam, 628

The Middle East at the Dawn of Islam, 628 (LINK)

The Middle East at the Dawn of Islam 628

In the early 7th century, Muhammad's steady unification of the warring tribes of Arabia appeared to be an insignificant sideshow in a remote backwater. What mattered was the clash of the Sassanid and Byzantine Empires in all-out war (602-28). Fortunes swung violently: the Sassanids captured Syria, Palestine and Egypt, then laid siege to Constantinople itself, until the emperor Heraclius bought them off. Heraclius then rebuilt his army and counterattacked, with victory after victory, regaining almost all his lost territories. When peace was agreed the empires were devastated and exhausted, and proved easy meat for the Islamic upstarts who would burst from the south. Remote from this sturm und drang, a string of Christian kingdoms — Nobatia, Makkuria, Alwa and Axum had quietly flourished between Egypt and the Horn of Africa. Little Makkuria would prove a doughtier foe of Islamic armies than the mighty Sassanids and Byzantines, twice repulsing their invasions in 642 and 652.


  People and Land

Bedouin wedding procession in the Jerusalem section of the Pike at the 1904 World's Fair.


Bedouin (W)

The Bedouin or Bedu (Arabic: بَدْوbadw, singular بَدَوِي badawī) are a grouping of nomadic Arab people who have historically inhabited the desert regions in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq and the Levant. The English word bedouin comes from the Arabic badawī, which means “desert dweller,” and is traditionally contrasted with ḥāḍir, the term for sedentary people. Bedouin territory stretches from the vast deserts of North Africa to the rocky sands of the Middle East. They are traditionally divided into tribes, or clans (known in Arabic as ʿašāʾir; عَشَائِر), and share a common culture of herding camels and goats. The vast majority of Bedouin adhere to Islam.

Bedouins have been referred to by various names throughout history, including Qedarites in the Old Testament and Arabaa by the Assyrians (ar-ba-a-a being a nisba of the noun Arab, a name still used for Bedouins today). They are referred to as the ʾAʿrāb (أعراب) in the Quran.

While many Bedouins have abandoned their nomadic and tribal traditions for a modern urban lifestyle, many retain traditional Bedouin culture such as retaining the traditional ʿašāʾir clan structure, traditional music, poetry, dances (such as saas), and many other cultural practices and concepts.

Traditions like camel riding and camping in the deserts are still popular leisure activities for urbanised Bedouins who live within close proximity to deserts or other wilderness areas.

Bedouin mothers carrying their children on their shoulders. Color photo taken in the late 19th century by the French photographer Félix Bonfils.


A widely quoted Bedouin apothegm is “I am against my brother, my brother and I are against my cousin, my cousin and I are against the stranger” [22] sometimes quoted as “I and my brother are against my cousin, I and my cousin are against the stranger.” This saying signifies a hierarchy of loyalties based on the proximity of male kinship, beginning with the nuclear family through the lineage and then the paternal tribe, and, in principle at least, to an entire genetic or linguistic group (which is perceived to akin to kinship in the Middle East and North Africa generally). Disputes are settled, interests are pursued, and justice and order are dispensed and maintained by means of this framework, organized according to an ethic of self-help and collective responsibility (Andersen 14).

The individual family unit (known as a tent or "gio" bayt) typically consisted traditionally of three or four adults (a married couple plus siblings or parents) and any number of children. When resources were plentiful, several tents would travel together as a goum. While these groups were sometimes linked by patriarchal lineage, others were just as likely linked by marriage alliances (new wives were especially likely to have close male relatives join them). Sometimes, the association was based on acquaintance and familiarity, or even no clearly defined relation except for simple shared membership within a tribe.

The largest scale of tribal interactions is the tribe as a whole, led by a Sheikh (Arabic: شيخšayḫ, literally, "old man"), though the title refers to leaders in varying contexts. The tribe often claims descent from one common ancestor — as mentioned above. The tribal level is the level that mediated between the Bedouin and the outside governments and organizations. Distinct structure of the Bedouin society leads to long lasting rivalries between different clans.

Bedouin traditionally had strong honor codes, and traditional systems of justice dispensation in Bedouin society typically revolved around such codes. The bisha'a, or ordeal by fire, is a well-known Bedouin practice of lie detection. See also: Honor codes of the Bedouin, Bedouin systems of justice. Urbanized Bedouin are less likely to continue such traditions, instead opting for the codes of behavior that govern the wider settled community to which they belong.

Early history

Historically, the Bedouin engaged in nomadic herding, agriculture and sometimes fishing. A major source of income was the taxation of caravans, and tributes collected from non-Bedouin settlements. They also earned income by transporting goods and people in caravans across the desert. Scarcity of water and of permanent pastoral land required them to move constantly.

Murder of Ma'sum Beg, the envoy of the Safavid Shah Tahmasp, by Beduins in the Hejaz, 16th century.

Plunder and massacre

A plunder and massacre of the Hajj caravan by Bedouin tribesmen occurred in 1757, led by Qa'dan al-Fa'iz of the Bani Saqr tribe. An estimated 20,000 pilgrims were either killed in the raid or died of hunger or thirst as a result. Although Bedouin raids on Hajj caravans were fairly common, the 1757 raid represented the peak of such attacks.

Under the Tanzimat reforms in 1858 a new Ottoman Land Law was issued, which offered legal grounds for the displacement of the Bedouin.



Mecca (W)

Mecca is a city in the Hejazi region of the Arabian Peninsula, and the plain of Tihamah in Saudi Arabia, and is also the capital and administrative headquarters of the Makkah Region. The city is 340 kilometres south of Medina.

As the birthplace of Muhammad, and the site of Muhammad's first revelation of the Quran (specifically, a cave 3 km (2 mi) from Mecca), Mecca is regarded as the holiest city in the religion of Islam and a pilgrimage to it known as the Hajj is obligatory for all able Muslims. Mecca is home to the Kaaba, by majority description Islam's holiest site, as well as being the direction of Muslim prayer.

1787 Ottoman Turkish map of Al-Haram Mosque, and related religious sites, such as Jabal al-Nour.

Mecca was long ruled by Muhammad's descendants, the sharifs, acting either as independent rulers or as vassals to larger polities.

Early history

The early history of Mecca is still largely disputed, as there are no unambiguous references to it in ancient literature prior to the rise of Islam. The Roman Empire took control of part of the Hejaz in 106 CE, ruling cities such as Hegra (now known as Mada'in Saleh), located to the north of Mecca. Even though detailed descriptions were established of Western Arabia by Rome, such as by Procopius, there are no references of a pilgrimage and trading outpost such as Mecca. The first direct mention of Mecca in external literature occurs in 741 CE, in the Byzantine-Arab Chronicle, though here the author places it in Mesopotamia rather than the Hejaz.

The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus writes about Arabia in his work Bibliotheca historica, describing a holy shrine: “And a temple has been set up there, which is very holy and exceedingly revered by all Arabians.”

Jabal al-Nour is where Muhammad is believed to have received the first revelation of God through the Archangel Gabriel.

Claims have been made this could be a reference to the Kaaba in Mecca. However, the geographic location Diodorus describes is located in northwest Arabia, around the area of Leuke Kome, closer to Petra and within the former Nabataean Kingdom and Rome's Arabia Petraea.

Ptolemy lists the names of 50 cities in Arabia, one going by the name of “Macoraba.” There has been speculation since 1646 that this is could be a reference to Mecca, but there is no compelling explanation to link the two names.

In the Islamic view, the beginnings of Mecca are attributed to Ishmael’s descendants. The Old Testament chapter Psalm 84:3–6, and a mention of a pilgrimage at the Valley of Baca, that Muslims see as referring to the mentioning of Mecca as Bakkah in Quran's Surah 3:96. Some time in the 5th century, the Kaaba was a place of worship for the deities of Arabia’s pagan tribes. Mecca's most important pagan deity was Hubal, which had been placed there by the ruling Quraysh tribe and remained until the 7th century.


Tribes of Arabia

Tribes of Arabia (W)

Approximate locations of some of the important tribes and Empire of the Arabian Peninsula at the dawn of Islam (approximately 600 CE / 50 BH).



  • İslamiyet-öncesi Arabistan Yarımadasında birkaç kasaba ve vaha yerleşimi dışında nüfusun aşağı yukarı bütünü göçebe bedevilerden oluşuyordu.
  • Kabilelere bölünmüş nüfus ortak bir deve ve keçi yetiştirme kültürünü paylaşıyordu.
  • Bütün bir Arap nüfusunu türdeş bir etnik küme olarak birarada tutan başlıca etmen kabile içi akrabalık ilişkisi ve bunun sağladığı güvenlik duygusu idi.
  • İslamiyet-öncesi Kâbede 360 kadar put kapsanıyordu. Bedeviler başka dinlerden ve Hıristiyan mezhepler türlülüğünden fazla etkilenmediler.
  • Dördüncü yüzyıla dek Yarımadanın hemen hemen tüm nüfusu politeistik dinlere bağlı kaldı.

Religion in pre-Islamic Arabia

Religion in pre-Islamic Arabia (W)

Alabaster votive figurines from Yemen, now in the National Museum of Oriental Art, Rome.

Religion in pre-Islamic Arabia included polytheism, Christianity, Judaism, and Iranian religions. Arabian polytheism, the dominant form of religion in pre-Islamic Arabia, was based on veneration of deities and spirits. Worship was directed to various gods and goddesses, including Hubal and the goddesses al-Lāt, al-‘Uzzā and Manāt, at local shrines and temples such as the Kaaba in Mecca. Deities were venerated and invoked through a variety of rituals, including pilgrimages and divination, as well as ritual sacrifice. Different theories have been proposed regarding the role of Allah in Meccan religion. Many of the physical descriptions of the pre-Islamic gods are traced to idols, especially near the Kaaba, which is said to have contained up to 360 of them.

Other religions were represented to varying, lesser degrees. The influence of the adjacent Roman, Aksumite and Sasanian Empires resulted in Christian communities in the northwest, northeast and south of Arabia. Christianity made a lesser impact, but secured some conversions, in the remainder of the peninsula. With the exception of Nestorianism in the northeast and the Persian Gulf, the dominant form of Christianity was Miaphysitism. The peninsula had been a destination for Jewish migration since Roman times, which had resulted in a diaspora community supplemented by local converts. Additionally, the influence of the Sasanian Empire resulted in Iranian religions being present in the peninsula. Zoroastrianism existed in the east and south, while there is evidence of Manichaeism or possibly Mazdakism being practiced in Mecca.

Nabataean baetyl depicting a goddess, possibly al-Uzza.

Until about the fourth century, almost all inhabitants of Arabia practiced polytheistic religions.
Although significant Jewish and Christian minorities developed, polytheism remained the dominant belief system in pre-Islamic Arabia.

Herodotus, writing in his Histories, reported that the Arabs worshipped Orotalt (identified with Dionysus) and Alilat (identified with Aphrodite). Strabo stated the Arabs worshipped Dionysus and Zeus. Origen stated they worshipped Dionysus and Urania.

Muslim sources regarding Arabian polytheism include the eight-century Book of Idols by Hisham ibn al-Kalbi, which F.E. Peters argued to be the most substantial treatment on the religious practices of pre-Islamic Arabia, as well as the writings of the Yemeni historian al-Hasan al-Hamdani on south Arabian religious beliefs.

According to the Book of Idols, descendants of the son of Abraham who had settled in Mecca migrated to other lands carried with them the holy stones from Kaaba and after erecting them started circumambulating them just like Kaaba. This according to him led to the rise of idol worship. Based on this, it may be probable that Arabs originally venerated stones, later adopting idol-worship under foreign influences. The relationship between a god and a stone as his representation can be seen from the third-century work called the Syriac homily of Pseudo-Meliton where he describes the pagan faiths of Syriac-speakers in northern Mesopotamia, who were mostly Arabs.

Persian miniature depicting the destruction of idols during the conquest of Mecca; here Muhammad is represented as a flame.


Roles of deities

Roles of deities (W)

Role of Allah

Some scholars postulate that in pre-Islamic Arabia, including in Mecca, Allah was considered to be a deity, possibly a creator deity or a supreme deity in a polytheistic pantheon.

The word Allah (from the Arabic al-ilahmeaning "the god") may have been used as a title rather than a name. The concept of Allah may have been vague in the Meccan religion. Pre-Islamic texts, Meccans and their neighbors believed that the goddesses Al-lāt, Al-‘Uzzá, and Manāt were the daughters of Allah.

Regional variants of the word Allah occur in both pagan and Christian pre-Islamic inscriptions. References to Allah was found in the poetry of the pre-Islamic Arab poet Zuhayr bin Abi Sulma, who lived a generation before Muhammad, as well as pre-Islamic personal names. Muhammad's father's name was ʿAbd-Allāh, meaning "the servant of Allah".

Charles Russell Coulter and Patricia Turner considered that Allah's name may be derived from a pre-Islamic god called Ailiah and is similar to El, Il, Ilah and Jehova.

They also considered some of his characteristics to be seemingly based on lunar deities like Almaqah, Kahl, Shaker, Wadd and Warakh.[31] Alfred Guillaume states that the connection between Ilah that came to form Allah and ancient Babylonian Il or El of ancient Israel is not clear. Wellhausen states that Allah was known from Jewish and Christian sources and was known to pagan Arabs as the supreme god. Winfried Corduan doubts the theory of Allah of Islam being linked to a moon god, stating the term Allah derived from Al-ilah like El-Elyon which was used for the god Sin, functions as a generic term.

South Arabian inscriptions from the fourth century AD refer to a god called Rahman ("The Merciful One") who had a monotheistic cult and was referred to as the "Lord of heaven and Earth". Aaron W. Hughes states that scholars are unsure whether he developed from the earlier polytheistic systems or developed due to the increasing significance of the Christian and Jewish communities, and that it is difficult to establish whether Allah was linked to Rahmanan. Maxime Rodinson however considers one of Allah's name "Ar-Rahman" to have been used in the form of Rahmanan earlier.



Al-Khazneh carved into rock by the Nabataeans in their capital, Petra.


Nabataeans (W)

The Nabataeans were one among several nomadic tribes which roamed the Arabian Desert, moving with their herds to wherever they could find pasture and water.

Although the Nabataeans were initially embedded in Aramaic culture, modern scholars reject theories about their having Aramean roots. Instead, historical, religious and linguistic evidence identifies them as a northern Arabian tribe.

One hypothesis locates their original homeland in today's Yemen, in the south-west of the Arabian peninsula; however, their deities, language and script share nothing with those of southern Arabia.

The suggestion that they came from Hejaz area is considered by Michele Murray to be more convincing, as they share many deities with the ancient people there.

No Nabataean literature has survived, nor was any noted in antiquity.

The gods worshipped at Petra were notably Dushara and Al-‘Uzzá. Dushara was the supreme deity of the Nabataean Arabs, and was the official god of the Nabataean Kingdom who enjoyed special royal patronage.

Nabataean trade routes in Pre-Islamic Arabia.

Petra was rapidly built in the 1st century BCE, and developed a population estimated at 20,000.

The Nabataeans, also Nabateans (Arabic: ٱلْأَنْبَاطal-ʾAnbāṭ , compare Ancient Greek: Ναβαταῖος, Latin: Nabataeus), were an Arab people who inhabited northern Arabia and the Southern Levant. Their settlements, most prominently the assumed capital city of Raqmu, now called Petra, gave the name of Nabatene to the borderland between Arabia and Syria, from the Euphrates to the Red Sea. Their loosely controlled trading network, which centered on strings of oases that they controlled, where agriculture was intensively practiced in limited areas, and on the routes that linked them, had no securely defined boundaries in the surrounding desert. Having maintained territorial independence from their emergence in the 4th century BC until Nabataea was conquered by Trajan in 106 AD, annexing it to the Roman Empire. Nabataeans' individual culture, easily identified by their characteristic finely potted painted ceramics, was adopted into the larger Greco-Roman culture. They were later converted to Christianity during the Byzantine Era.


Nabataean Kingdom

Nabataean Kingdom (W)

Nabataean trade routes in Pre-Islamic Arabia.

A map of the Roman Empire, at its greatest extent, showing the territory of Trajan's Nabataean conquests in red.

The Nabataean Kingdom (Arabic: ٱلْمَمْلِكَة ٱلنَّبَطِيَّة‎, translit. Al-Mamlikat An-Nabaṭiyyah), also named Nabatea, was a political state of the Arab Nabataeans during classical antiquity.

The Nabataean Kingdom controlled much of the trade routes of the region, amassing a large wealth and drawing the envy of its neighbors. It stretched south along the Red Sea coast into the Hejaz, up as far north as Damascus, which it controlled for a short period (85–71) BC.

Nabataea remained independent from the 4th century BC until it was annexed by the Roman Empire in AD 106, which renamed it Arabia Petraea.

Bosra, capital of Arabia Petraea.

Al-Khazneh carved into rock by the Nabataeans in their capital, Petra.

Trading routes of the ancient Middle East, when Petra was the last stop for caravans carrying spices before being shipped to European markets through the Port of Gaza.

Temple of Avdat in the Negev, built by the Nabataeans to commemorate king Obodas I and his victories against the Hasmoneans and the Seleucids.

A map showing Trajan control of Arabia until Hegra (actual Madain Salih).


Palmyrene Empire

Palmyrene Empire (270-273) (W)

The Palmyrene Empire in 271.

The Palmyrene Empire was a splinter state centered at Palmyra which broke away from the Roman Empire during the Crisis of the Third Century. It encompassed the Roman provinces of Syria Palaestina, Arabia Petraea, Egypt and large parts of Asia Minor.

Zenobia ruled the Palmyrene Empire as regent for her son Vaballathus, who had become King of Palmyra in 267. In 270 Zenobia managed to conquer most of the Roman east in a relatively short period, and tried to maintain relations with Rome. In 271 she claimed the imperial title for herself and for her son and fought a short war with the Roman emperor Aurelian, who conquered Palmyra and captured the self-proclaimed Empress. A year later the Palmyrenes rebelled, which led Aurelian to destroy Palmyra. The Palmyrene Empire is hailed in Syria and plays an important role as an icon in Syrian nationalism.



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