How did the Prophet (pbuh) view the traditions and customs of Jahiliyya?

Details of the Question

How did the Prophet (pbuh) view the traditions and customs of Jahiliyya?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

All prophets, from Hz. Adam to Hz. Muhammad (pbuh), proclaimed the true religion. The principles of belief, which are the foundations of the religion, remained the same. However, the decrees related to worshipping and worldly affairs, which are called shari’ah, changed based on the necessities of each era and the needs of people. Allah Almighty sent a different shari’ah to every ummah taking into consideration the living style and interests of the people of every era. The following is stated in verse 48 of the chapter of al-Maida: “To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way.”

Allah did not leave any nation without a prophet; He sent them prophets to convey them the truth. It is a reality stated in a hadith that 124.000 prophets were sent to convey people the message of Allah. Besides, the greatest cause of all of the prophets is to convey people the truths of oneness and belief. Therefore, it is quite natural that the belief of oneness and some judgments that were present in previous religions are present in the Quran. It is because the cause of the prophets is the same and they address human beings, and Allah is the owner of those religions.

Islam brought the belief of oneness and had a definite attitude against idolatry, refused everything that is contrary to the religion and abolished all of the bad customs which were the effects of that belief and which were contrary to human honor. Islam struggled against the spirit of Jahiliyya through its legal and ethical aspects and eliminated the debauched, immoral and cruel attitudes; Islam abolished all of the manifestations of the Era of Jahiliyya and replaced them with a new system of life in which attitudes were fed by mildness and knowledge.

However, it is seen that the Prophet did not completely refuse the cultural structure, values and viewpoints of the Era of Jahiliyya Arabs. For instance, what he said to a Companion is a good example to it: “O Saib! Keep doing the virtuous things that you did in the Era of Jahiliyya; entertain your guests, feed the orphans, and treat your neighbor well.” (1)   The following hadith indicates the same understanding: “Those people who were benevolent during the Era of Jahiliyya are benevolent during the Era of Islam, too.” (2)

Hz. Prophet (pbuh) had the authority and responsibility of making statements on behalf of Allah. (3) The statement needs to be made when there is a requirement for it. (4)  Therefore, he had to answer all of the questions that he was asked, find solutions to the problems that were faced and base the incidents that occurred on legal and ethical foundations. Hazrat Prophet (pbuh) sometimes referred to the applications of Jahiliyya because they did not completely originate from ignorance; some of them were based on the Sharia of sons of Ismail. (5) When Khawla bint Malik, who was exposed to the application of ‘zihar’ by her husband, applied to the Prophet, he said, “I have nothing to do about you”, showing that the existing state was maintained by the Messenger of Allah. Afterwards, the method of kaffarah (atonement) was introduced for zihar through the Quranic verses that were sent down. (7)

The attitude of the Prophet and Islam toward the applications of the Era of Jahiliyya is not to abolish them all. There were some applications that were abolished but many applications were maintained exactly or by being improved. We want to quote the evaluation of Dihlawi regarding the issue due to its importance. (8) As it is stated in the verse, “He has chosen you and has imposed no difficulties on you in religion; it is the cult of your father Abraham…”  the Messenger of Allah was sent with the Shari’ah of Hanif, that is, Ismaili; his duty was to correct the deviations that occurred in the course of time, to eliminate the distortions and to make its light visible.  Dihlawi adds the following:

“Since this is the case, it is necessary for the principles of that Shari’ah to be accepted by Arabs and the way it follows to be clear. When a prophet is sent to a nation that still has some traces of the true path, it will be meaningless to change it completely or to replace it with another. What is necessary in situations like that is to adopt the Shari’ah that exists and to try to settle it.”

As a matter of fact, the belief of Hanif contained the principles that Allah consented to. Then, the Prophet would keep the applications that were not distorted without changing them, would correct and complete those that were distorted and abolish the wrong applications and thoughts.

For more information, please click on the link given below;

What does Hanif mean? How was the practice of Hanif religion in the Era of Jahiliyya?

1. Musnad, III, 425.
2. Bukhari, Anbiya, 8; Manaqib 1.
3. See an-Nahl, 44,64
4. See  Abdulghani, Hujjiyyatus-Sunnah,  Darul-Wafa, 1993, p. 202, ff; Cf Baji, Abul-Walid Sulayman, Ahkamu’l-Fusus  fi Ahkami’l-Usul, Beirut, 1989, p. 217 ff.
5. See Hamidullah, İslam Peygamberi, II, 898; Ahmad Amin, Fajru’l-Islam, p. 227.
6.  Ibn Majah, Talaq, 25; Bayhaqi, as-Sunanu’l-Kubra, Beirut, n.d. VII, 382.
7. al-Mujadala, 1-4; That incidence and similar ones can be said to show that if any application of the Prophet (pbuh) is not compliant to the consent of Allah, it is corrected and if it is not changed, it is compliant. 
8. Dihlawi, Shah Waliyyullah b. Abdurrahman, Hujjatullahil-Baligha, trns. Mehmet Erdoğan, İst. 1994, I, 457 ff.
9. Al-Hajj, 78.

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