Explain the role of pre-Islamic culture in shaping Muhammad’s beliefs and why he adopted monotheism
Islam originated in Arabia. Before Islam, the dominant peoples were the Bedouin. Mecca was simply the largest, most affluent trading location of that time, and Medina was simply “an important agricultural settlement” 1. Life in these Bedouin tribes was divided by a clan system; related families formed clans, clans would form tribes, and leaders and councils would be elected for the tribe by the tribe. One major aspect of Arab Bedouin belief was that they “placed great emphasis on tribal ties, group loyalty or solidarity, as the source of power for a clan or tribe” 2. However, the Bedouins in Arabia did not see an importance for anything that did not happen during a person’s lifetime, and didn’t believe in many ...view middle of the document...
Means of communication were adopted into Islam as a way to spread the religion. A tradition from Mecca “was that of the mu'allaquat (literally "the hangings")….poets and writers would hang their writings on a certain wall in the city” 3. This was taken by Islam with the creation of the Quran,
Monotheism existed in 7th-century Arabia long before Islam came around, and Islam in fact stemmed from a culture that supported polytheism. Christians and Jewish peoples made up the biggest religions of that time, and they were all monotheistic. The Bedouins, on the other hand, were mainly classed as animalists, a form of polytheism that saw that all non-human entities possessed a spirit. However, Christianity and Judaism had a big hold in Arabia, seeing as how 3 of the biggest tribes in Medina being Jewish, and that the spread of Christianity was only halted by the introduction of Islam. Islam also employed idolatry, which came from the earlier popular religions. However, they did still believe in Allah as a higher being, and appreciated that he, as “the creator of all things”, created idols for them to worship. A controversial topic is paganism and its influence on Islam. Fasting was borrowed from the Jewish, Jews and Christians both traveled to Mecca for pilgrimage as well, and Zoroastrians weren't considered pagans during the early Arab conquests - they were considered People of the Book and on the same level as Jews and Christians. Apparently, Mohammad even adopted monotheism from the Christians; while some Muslims believe he was the one who introduced that type of religion to Arabia, “The truth is that Muhammad got tired of the Christians constantly preaching monotheism to him fellow Arabs, knowing in his heart, that they were correct in their criticism of Arab paganism” 4. However, overall, Muhammad chose monotheism because he was told by the angel that there was only one god, and that he was to only worship one god.