The social customs of the Arabs II


5- Divorce

Divorce was practiced without fixing a limited number of divorces. A man would divorce his wife, then take her back then divorce her, then take her back, and so on, without end. This custom remained in force even up to the early beginnings of Islam; then, Allah The Almighty revealed (what means): {Divorce is twice. Then, either keep [her] in an acceptable manner or release [her] with good treatment.} [Quran 2:229] in this way, Islam fixed the number of divorces, and gave the husband a chance to resolve the matter and take his wife back twice. However, if he pronounced the third divorce, the tie of marriage would be broken in the sense that she would not become lawful for him to marry unless she had married another husband (and then he had divorced her). Allah The Almighty Says in the Quran (what means): {And if he has divorced her [for the third time], then she is not lawful to him afterward until [after] she marries a husband other than him. And if the latter husband divorces her [or dies], there is no blame upon the woman and her former husband for returning to each other if they think that they can keep [within] the Limits of Allah.} [Quran 2:230]
Thihaar was also a form of prohibition (of a woman from her husband) like divorce. This took the form of a man saying to his wife, “You are [as unlawful] to me as the back of my mother.” It was an eternal prohibition. It remained as such until Islam came and described it as an objectionable statement and a falsehood, and made for the husband a way out of it through making an expiation for it, as shown in the verse where Allah The Almighty Says (what means): {Those who pronounce Thihaar among you [to separate] from their wives - they are not [consequently] their mothers. Their mothers are none but those who gave birth to them. And indeed, they are saying an objectionable statement and a falsehood. But indeed, Allah is Pardoning and Forgiving. And those who pronounce Thihaar from their wives and then [wish to] go back on what they said - then [there must be] the freeing of a slave before they touch one another. That is what you are admonished thereby; and Allah is Acquainted with what you do. And he who does not find [a slave] - then a fast for two months consecutively before they touch one another; and he who is unable - then the feeding of sixty poor persons. That is for you to believe [completely] in Allah and His Messenger; and those are the limits [set by] Allah. And for the disbelievers is a painful punishment.} [Quran 58:2-4]
6- War, armed robbery and raids
Wars would break out between the Arabs for the slightest of reasons as they were careless about waging wars and killing in the cause of defending the social ideals they had agreed upon, even though they were of no value. History relates to us a series of Days of the Arabs (Ayyaam Al-‘Arab), during the pre-Islamic period which signify to what extent the Arabs were possessed by the jingoistic spirit that gave no room for reasoning. One of these days is the Day of Basoos, on which war broke out between the two tribes Bakr and Taghlib because of a she-camel belonging to Al-Jirmiyy, a neighbor of Al-Basoos bint Munqith, the maternal aunt of Jassaas bin Murrah. Kulayb, the chief of the tribe of Taghlib, had assigned a protected zone for his camels. When he saw this she-camel therein, he killed it. Al-Jirmiyy and Al-Basoos were upset at this, and so when Jassaas witnessed this, he watched for the suitable moment to kill Kulayb, and then did so. Thereafter, destructive wars broke out between the two tribes and continued for forty years.
The Day of Daahis and Al-Ghabraa’ was similar. War broke out because of a horse race between Daahis, a stallion belonging to Qays bin Zuhayr, and Al-Ghabraa’, a mare belonging to Huthayfah bin Badr. The latter encouraged a man to stand in a valley in order to obstruct Daahis in case it preceded Al-Ghabraa’. He did accordingly, and slapped the horse until he caused it to fall into water, with the result that Al-Ghabraa’ won the race. That event led to killing and retaliation from both sides, and war broke out between both tribes of ‘Abs and Thibyaan.
The same goes for the wars that broke out between the Aws and Khazraj tribes during the pre-Islamic days, despite the fact that they were paternal cousins, for both Aws and Khazraj were sons of Haarithah bin Tha‘labah Al-’Azdi. These wars continued between them for a long time, and the last day of this was the Day of Bu‘aath. The Jews, allies of Aws, renewed their treaties with them to support them against their enemies. It was the Jews who kindled the fire of many wars between Aws and Khazraj, with the intention of weakening both tribes and thus having power over both of them. Each party sought the help of its allies from neighboring tribes and was involved in a series of fierce wars, which ended with victory for Aws.
Some tribes carried out armed attacks and raids in order to gain wealth and steal free men to sell as slaves, like Zayd bin Haarithah, may Allah be pleased with him, who was an Arab free man, and Salmaan Al-Faarisi, may Allah be pleased with him, who was a free Persian man. Islam came to put an end to all of this and ensured the safety of people to the extent that people could walk from San‘aa’ to Hadramawt fearing none but Allah The Almighty and the wolves for their sheep.
7- Knowledge, reading and writing
Unlike the Jews and Christians, the Arabs were not a people of the Book and knowledge. They were, for the most part, a people of ignorance, illiteracy, traditionalism and rigidity. They were too inflexible to alter their old ways, no matter how false they were. The Arab nation was far from writing and mathematics. This characteristic distinguished most of them, although there were a few who could write and read. However, in spite of their illiteracy and limited knowledge, they were recognized for their intelligence, prudence, intellect, good feelings, sensitivity, robust readiness and their ability to accept knowledge and rightly-guided direction. For this reason, when Islam came, they became wise, learned jurisprudents. Illiteracy disappeared and made way for knowledge, which became one of the most important characteristics that distinguished them. Some of them were skilled in physiognomy, others were skilled physicians, like Al-Haarith bin Kildah, and their medicine was based on their life and environmental experiments.

The social customs of the Arabs – I

Tuesday 30/06/2009