What was the merit that the Arabs of Jahiliyyah took great pride in?

The Details of the Question

What was the merit that the Arabs of Jahiliyyah took great pride in?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

In addition to all of this, it is an unobjectionable fact that Arabs were at the zenith of talent in literature, rhetoric and eloquence at the time Islam emerged. There was no nation in the world that could challenge them on this matter.

Poetry and poets meant everything to them because poetry was the only trustworthy mirror that could reflect the social life, traditions, and beliefs of their ancestors.

Poets were esteemed and received much respect in society, so much that Arabs always preferred that a famous poet rise from their community as opposed to a strong hero. A poet was the only one who could spread their fame, which was the Arabs’ sole aim. They feared a poet’s satires as they feared snakes.

Poets were considered to be heroes by them. Tribes would wage war on one another over the single word of a poet. Likewise, wars that had persisted for years could be resolved by the single word of a poet.

In old times, poetry was called, “an Arab’s notebook.” The Arabs’ moral values, traditions, religion, and rules could only be known through poems that were passed from generation to generation.

There were many factors that supported and encouraged poetry during those times. A strong poet would elicit esteem for both his tribe and himself.

Moreover, fairs that had been organized at certain times played an important role in the development of poetry. Those fairs were a kind of literature exhibition. At those fairs, poetry and rhetoric competitions were organized in the presence of juries. Poets and rhetoricians came from various places to recite their poems and speeches and would do their best to beat one another. They took great pride in defeating their opponents.

At last, juries would choose the winner and the winning poem would be written with golden letters on a linen fabric and hung on the Kaaba’s wall.

Suq Uqaz, which was between Taif and Nahla, was the largest of all the festivals. Mostly, poetry competitions were organized there.

At the same time, these fairs used to serve as a sort of exhibition in which all tribes would come together for commercial, social, and political activities. People who wanted to save the slaves they knew by paying ransom, to settle their problems, to find their enemies, to read poems and to make speeches would go to those fairs.“Holding poetry in high esteem resulted in the deep scrutiny of language.”   In this way, literature, eloquence, and eloquence were at their peak in Arabia by the time Islam emerged. An invisible hand was preparing the minds and souls for the preternatural wording of the Miraculous Quran.

Because the Arabs had an eminent talent in literature, the Quran was sent down during the zenith of literature, rhetoric, and eloquence. It challenged Arabian poets and rhetoricians to compete with its miraculousness and conciseness. However, it was not long before that they understood that they had to quit and that it was impossible to compose a counterpart to this unique book.

The style of the Quran is so concise, so sweet, so clear and so fluent that Arabs who were experts in literature could not hide their surprise. One day, a scholar of literature who was from among the Bedouin Arabs, read the verse “Therefore expound openly what thou art commanded, and turn away from those who join false gods with God.” fell down in prostration.

This action infuriated the idolaters. They looked at him hatefully and shouted:

“You became a Muslim too?”
“No”, said the litterateur.
“I just prostrated before the eloquence and fluency of this verse.”2

Imru’l Qais was one of the poets of Muallaqa. One day, his sister heard the verse

“Then the word went forth: "O earth! Swallow up thy water, and O sky! Withhold (thy rain)!" and the water abated, and the matter was ended. The Ark rested on Mount Judi, and the word went forth: "Away with those who do wrong!”3

She went straight to the Kaaba and took down her brother’s poem, which was hung on the wall at the top of all the other poems and said:

“Nobody has anything to say any more. Even my brother’s poem cannot stand before this eloquence.”

When others saw that the most famous poem had been taken down, they took down the other poems down one by one as well.4

The oldest and most famous examples of poetry in the Age of Ignorance were without a doubt the “Muallaqat as-Sab’a” (Seven hangers). Those poems were recited by people and transferred from generation to generation, reaching many centuries ahead.According to a strong view, these poems were collected by Hammad ar-Rawiya.

The poets whose poems were hung on the walls of the Kaaba are as follows:

Imru’l Qais, Tarafa, Labid, Zukhair, Amr bin Kulthum, Antara (a.k.a. Nabigha), Haris bin Hiliza (a.k.a. A’sha).

The religious, moral, political, social, and literary state of Arabia was like this during the time in which our Holy Prophet (PBUH) was going to be given the duty of prophethood.

Of course, there was need for someone who could change this scene that disseminated violence and barbarism.  And that person was already decided by the command of pre-eternal Fate: Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh).

He was going to change the world’s physical and spiritual condition with the Divine Light he brought with him… He was going to turn the faces of people from this world to the hereafter, from that which is fleeting to the Eternal Beloved One; by doing this, he was going to provide people with worldly and unworldly happiness.

This person, who was to be appointed as a prophet by Allah, was the person who would declare that man was not unattended, that everything in the universe, from atoms to the solar system, from stars to galaxies, rotated and traveled for a holy aim and that the universe served a lofty aim with all of its constituents.  

This person was going to save humanity from the swamp of immorality, in which they were about to be drowned, by teaching them the most beautiful lessons of morality.

This person was the person who would give the best answers to questions like, “Why was the universe created?”, “Where do people come from?”, “Where will they go?”

This person was going to inform people about Allah, who is the Owner of humanity, of what He wants from humans, what He likes and what He dislikes clearly.

This person was going to guide not only a specific tribe or a specific nation but also the whole of humanity with orders that he would take from Allah.

Like the whole world, the Arabian Peninsula, was also looking forward for that person to come in order to complete such significant duties.


1. Surah al Hijr, 94.
2. Ahmed Cevdet Paşa, Kısas-ı Enbiya, V. 1, p. 78; Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, Sözler, p. 350.
3. Surah al Hud, 44.
Ahmed Cevdet Paşa, ibid, V. 1, p. 79; Badiuzzaman Said Nursi, ibid, p. 416.

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