Muhammad ( peace be on him)

Details of the Question
What was the central myth by which Our Prophet (PBUH) lived?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The religion which has long been existed since the beginning of human race and surrounded the whole societies cannot be considered merely as a simplified concept of social life. It’s present in all the societies and human souls the need of being exalted and inclination turning the face towards the Divine Realm. This case is an indication of the truth that religion is a natural necessity. Besides this, the religion has long been said as being very crucial tool for social control and uniting the society and consolidating its harmony.  Because of its relation with both social organizations, institutions and religious schools and communions which are self oriented, the religion has persisted its importance in order to take under control the societies in all eras and societies.
In this aspect, the religion has been very important in forming the social cases as a result of reflection of the moral values that constitute its essence to the public. More familiarity and illumination with many institutions and cases is also possible by understanding the impact of religion. Considering that behind the many practices and traditions of the societies in the age of ignorance lies the perception that they inherited from their ancestors, the place of religion in that age will be worked out better. It is possible to find out more data concerning the practices of religion in this age both in their poems, sayings, sects and eyyamu’l-arab2 telling their battles amongst themselves and in the commentaries of Quran, hadiths, Prophet's biographies and in the works belonging to Mecca and Medina.
In Islamic technical term the word religion was employed in the age of ignorance as well. It was found out in the inscriptions from the tribe of Thamud that the religion was used in the same sense.
The Arabic People in the age of ignorance had the belief of one, glorious and all-powerful divine being. This notion was stated by the word “Allah” having neither plural nor feminine form. This conception was observed in the pagans as well. They regarded the tin gods as just intercessor.   After all, we can understand from the verses by Quran that they used to have the belief in a divine being named Allah.
It seems that the thoughts and habits left by the previous divine religions was still present in the societies, despite their being little, and continued some of its beauties. The belief in one God was one of them.
Also, it is known that amongst the Arabic people, there used to be belief of Compassionate and they used this name to mean Allah. Some of the expressions that “we submitted to you; you are all compassionate”, “for the consent of the compassionate… we make pilgrimage” and that unlike the names of Sustainer and God, the name Compassionate had no plural form proves that this name was intended to use for Allah who is One God.  
The Arabic people in the age of ignorance are observed to have used the articulations “Oh My God” and “Allahumme” particularly in their prayers. We see plenty of examples that they knew the God and even the non-believers attributed more superior names to Him than to their gods, and they took oath in His name. According to Quran they knew that it is Allah that sends down rain from the sky, and gives life therewith to the earth after its death, (Qur’an (29: 61-63;  31: 25; 39: 38; 43: 9) they pray to Allah when a stormy wind and the waves come to them from all sides, (10: 22; 25: 13; 25: 65) they swear their strongest oaths by Allah. (5: 53; 6: 109; 16: 38; 24: 53) Furthermore, that unlike the rest of the gods, they saved some of their commodities for the sake of Him, considered the angels as being His daughters and attributed Him some sons and daughters all indicate their knowing Him even if they were mistaken with His attributes.  
Mevdudi stated that at the very beginning, the Arabic people had true belief but later they went astray by attributing some partners to Him. Some Arabs giving up deep contemplation and research thought they could only get close to Him by some means and therefore they made use of some gods as means such as “esnam, evsan, ensab” and objects like steles and sculptures.  
As a natural outcome of paganism, the number of chapels in the form of idol houses increased. As stated by Ebnu’l-Kelbi there used to be plenty of idols in many houses. If a pagan cannot afford to an idol, he would put a stone he liked in front of an idol and turn around it. Worship for the idol had been so common among the community that some tribes were associated with some idols.  
Though the Arabs gave  more importance to Kaabe, preferred it to other sacred places, they knew that it was the home of Hadrath Abraham, they had more than one hundred chapels in various districts of the Hejaz. Some of the main chapels were Zu’l-Hulasa, Uzza, Lat, Menat, Fels, Riam, Ruda, Zu’l-Kabat.
It is understood that the main feature marking the pre-Islamic ignorance age is the idea of paganism. This notion can be said to have affected more or less the other principles of belief and worships and resulting in emergence of lots of wrong doings.
The Arabic people attributed the spiritual beings such as angels, jinn, Satan to God and they many times worshiped for them. Assuming the jinn as being capable of performing positive and evil actions and hiding themselves inside the trees and idols, they prayed and did seek help out of them.
We think the commentaries by some of the researches that the Arabic people performed the pilgrimage, fast and circumcises under the influence of the Christians and Jewish as a mistaken expression. Considering the customs of them, it was so common to keep fast and circumcise the boys. Having the big ablution, and washing and enshrouding the death persons was also practiced by them. For this reason, it is more reasonable to think of internal impact rather than exterior one.
Quran defines the prayers by the people in the age of ignorance as asking for help from the cinns and being certain of their wrath and outrage.
Sacrificing animals for God was also present in their customs. Like the other prayers, sacrificing an animal for god lost its true essence since it was practiced in the name of the idols so as to make them intercessors to them to reach Allah.   
Pilgrimage, one of the most important worships, visiting the Kaaba, and going around it were both religious obligation and means of making money on the grounds that they started in the forbidden months just following the fairs. In addition to this, they used to go around the other chapels that contained the idols. These visits were just like festivals.
Including the women, they went around the Kaaba naked in order to symbolize they had been cleared from the sins.
Some Arabs did not perform pilgrimage and going around the Kaaba since they considered themselves as elevated and superior to others. The Quran blamed them and ordered to those people to move with the other people and perform the pilgrimage and turning around the Kaaba together with them.
Despite of the fact that the people in the age of ignorance were so bigoted and attached to their traditions, it is possible to observe some samples of tolerance. Members of the same family could have different religions. It was permitted to put the various idols belonging to different tribes around the Kaaba, also it was possible to draw the portraits of Abraham, Ishmael, Jesus and The Virgin on the inside walls of Kaaba.
The reason why this tolerance was not showed to Islam can be explained by the fact that Islam enclosed all religious and social areas that the others did not, and besides this, Islam is such that it could shudder the bases of the ignorance age community.
As can be worked out from these explanations, the paganism became so widespread as a religion in the ignorance age public and had impact in every aspect of life. This wrong belief affected the other principles of belief and made life unbearable for some. Moral, courage, generosity and honor all became a means for showing off, and brutal force. Alcohol, gambles and adultery prevailed the whole community. Paganism dominating the domain of religion also had tremendous effect in forming the religious ceremonies and prayers.

2.1.3. The Religion of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) in the Era of Ignorance.
Though the people of ignorance age were mostly pagan, they continued many of the beauties regarding belief and practices that Islam also approved. During the birth of Islam, there were plenty of people displaying these positive lifestyles. This issue will be important in making explanations to the questions how did our prophet himself, his mother and father perform their worships; did they have any faith and prayer?
There are many diverse opinions about the origin of the word HANEF. It is seen that there are many different ideas that it derived from Arabic, Hebraic, Syriac and Ethiopian language.
Mesudi asserted it as Arabic-Hebraic word and Sabiis were meant through it, as for Yakubi, he stated that the word was employed in order to mean Palestinians with which Psalmist combated and they worshipped to the stars. Although there is no data about the origin of this word in Arabic dictionaries, it can be understood that the word HANEF stems from the word HANEFE “ showing inclination”. The tribe of Abraham was called as HANIF since they didn’t show any tendency towards paganism but turned their faces to Islam the true religion of Allah.  Regarding Abu Amr, he accounted for the word as inclination from positive to evil or from evil to positive and yet in the dictionary meaning and Islamic literature, it is not an absolute inclination but returning to true path from wrong way and coming back to true religion from other religions. Here the conception HANEF described the true way and became the name of tribe of Abraham and was used for muwahhid refraining from wrong religions and following the principles of true religion of Allah.
In the age of ignorance the person visiting the Kaaba after he is circumcised is called as HANIF (Upright and true to faith in the Unity of Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala. Worshipping Allah Ta’ala alone, without associating anything or anyone with Him). And this is one of the good deeds left behind the Hadrath Abraham. In Quran, the word HANIF is mentioned within 10 separate places and its plural form HUNEFA is discussed at two different points. Nine out of twelve places, it is stressed out that HANIF RELIGION is different from being idolator and it is just opposite to idolatory, at the same time at eight points it is pointed out the faith of Abraham Prophet, one out of these eight places the word nation meaning religion is employed and at one point Hadrath Abraham is himself described as HANIF.
The word HANIF is, on one hand, used to emphasize the faith of Abraham and his being contrary to idolators and on the other hand it is brought into play to highlight the fact that he was neither Christian nor a Jewish person but the People of the Scripture were ordered as being HANIFS to comply with the rules of God.
It is no use looking for the HANIF RELIGION in Christianity or Judaism since they are all the religions of one God. Some deterioration happened as the time passed. Islam cleaned up all relapses and maintained all beauties, corrected the all wrong doings. Otherwise it would be a great mistake to think of HANIF RELIGION as the continuation of Judaism or Christianity. Thus, the Quran with certainty gives voice to the fact that HANIF RELIGION was before the Judaism and Christianity and appoints the position of Hadrath Abraham by the verses that,
65. Ye People of the Book! Why dispute ye about Abraham, when the Torah and the Gospel Were not revealed till after him? Have ye no understanding?
66. Ah! Ye are those who fell to disputing (even) in matters of which ye had some knowledge! But why dispute ye in matters of which ye have no knowledge? It is Allah Who knows, and ye who know not!
67. Abraham was not a Jew nor yet a Christian; but he was true in Faith, and bowed his will to Allah's (which is Islám), and he joined not gods with Allah. (Qur’an 3: 65-67)
We can easily say that being true in faith that is synonym of the Islam and continual religion refers to a community who is not worshipping to idols but having faith in and being servitude to one God. These are known as HUNEFA or AHNEF. They themselves express they are neither Christian nor Jew but they follow the footsteps of religion of Abraham and they don’t attribute partners to God.
We observe that the phrase being true in faith is discussed in the hadiths of our prophet with the same meaning in the Quran. When questioned which religion is more acceptable in the throne of God, our Prophet replied “simplified HANIF RELIGION”.  According to another narration related by Bukhari: Zeyd b. Amr b. Nufayl set off for Damascus in order to seek the true religion, asked the religions of the Jewish and  Christian scholars whom he came across. When he was not satisfied with the answers he expected, he requested them what religion they could advise to him. And they recommended him the true in faith (HANIF RELIGION). They also indicated that being true in faith was the religion of Abraham who was not Christian nor Jew but one only following the rules of God.
When taken together into consideration the hadith “God decreed: I created my servants upon the religion of Being True in Faith and the other hadith I was sent neither upon the religion of Christianity nor Judaism but upon the simplified HANIF RELIGION, we can get into conclusion that all the common principles that each prophet used to convey the messages of Allah are embedded in HANIF RELIGION, and Islam is a religion that keeps on these tenets and Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) conveyed the same religion with Hadrath Abraham.   
As a result, even if different opinions have been put forward regarding the HANIF RELIGION so far, under the light of the narrations and expressions stated above, it is understood that this is a general word employed for the people striving to live some of the beauties left behind Prophet Abraham not for those muwahhid, Christians or Jewish who lived in the age of ignorance.
We find the faith principles of HANIF RELIGION mostly in religious sources. In the eyes of the Arabic people in ignorance age, whomever is circumcised and goes around the Kaaba is HANIF. However, Taberi holds the opinion that these two features were not sufficient since some idolators practiced them also. And yet, Quran shows HANIF RELIGION as contrary to idolators. Then, it says that first condition of HANIF RELIGION is to believe in one God. Some other sources add to these requirements staying away from the idols and having big ablution.
HANEFS are said not to have eaten the meats of animals sacrificed for idols, in other and more general terms, the animals sacrificed for anything apart from God. Generally, the main characters of being HANEF are making pilgrimage, obeying the truth, and the rules brought by Abraham (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) and being servitude merely to God.
One of basic features of HANEFS in this age is not to show any inclination towards Judaism or Christianity, turn their faces from the idols, to worship only to Allah, the creator of Hadrath Abraham. Some people like Zeyd b. Amr b. Nufeyl headed to look for the true religion of Abraham, and some of them tried to keep the people away from idols, and some retired into seclusion for deep contemplation. According to historians, some of these people were literate, could speak more than two languages and were considered cultured as they traveled a lot.
In that age, there are many people who are said to be HANIF. Some of them are Kus b. Saide el-Eyadi, Zeyd b. Amr b. Nufayl, Umayya b. Ebi’s-Salt, Erbab b. Riab, Suvayd b. Amr el-Mustalaki, Abu Karb Es’ad el-Himyeri, Vaki’ b. Seleme el-Eyadi, Umayr b. Cundeb el-Cuhani, Adi b. Zayd el Ebadi, Abu Kays Sirme b. Abu Enes, Sayf b. Zuyazan, Varaka b. Navfal el-Kureshi, Amir b. Zarb el-Udvani, Abduttabiha b. Sa’leb, Elaf b. Shihab et-Temimi, Mutelemmis b. Umayya el-Kenani, Zuhayr b. Abu Sulma, Khalid b. Sinan el-Absi, Abdullah el-Kudai, Abid b. Ebras el-Esedi, Ka’b b. Luey.
And the most remarkable HANIFS in the ignorance age were Varaka b. Navfal, Osman b. Huvayris, Ubaydullah b. Jahsh. They are important for illustrating the circumstances of those times.
Varaka b. Navfal was a scholar person who used to read old books. When our prophet was directed a question about his situation, he is reported to have said “I saw him wandering in the paradise in the silk clothes” informing us the good outcome of his good deeds.
Suvayd b. Amir is understood to be muwahhid thanks to his poems and he showed tendency to the religion of Abraham (peace and blessing be upon him), regarding Abu Kerb b. Es’ad el-Himyeri, he foretold about the coming of our Prophet many years ago and he told he had faith in God. Veki’ b. Seleme is known as faithful. As for Umeyr b. Cundeb who had died many years ago before Islam was declared was one of those having faith in one God. Also, Adi b. Zeyd el-Ebad avoided idols and was among those worshipped to one God. He later converted into Islam in Medina.  Seyf b. Zuyezen told the good news that is the upcoming of our Prophet just like Varaka b. Navfal and announced he would immigrate to Medina with Him.
We can summarize the common qualities of this age’s people as follows:
Rejecting all types of polytheisms and idols, challenging all misconducts and beliefs of their tribes, struggling to clear away ignorance, returning to seclusion so that they can be certain of their pressures, and thinking of the Creator.  Historians report that some HANIFS read holy books, pages and Psalm, many lived upon the religion of Hadrath Abraham, and some investigated His words and had to put up with many challenges for this sake. They traveled and asked some bishops and rabbis he encountered and because of not being satisfied with their answers, they didn’t accept their religions, and passed away upon the religion of Abraham (pbuh).

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