Dominant civilizations before Prophethood and their religions – I
First: The Roman Empire
The Eastern Roman Empire was known as the Byzantine Empire. It ruled Greece, the Balkan states, Russia, Palestine, all the Mediterranean countries, Egypt and all the countries of Northern Africa. Its capital was Constantinople. It was an unjust empire as it practiced all types of oppression, aggression, and tyranny upon the people it ruled over. It amplified taxes and thus there was much uproar and many revolutions. The lifestyle of the elite in general was based on all types of amusement, playing, singing and luxury.
In Egypt, they practiced religious persecution and political tyranny. The Byzantines considered Egypt an animal that they would milk skillfully and feed poorly.
In Syria, oppression and slavery were practiced to an extreme. Constantinople used only power and intense coercion to rule its people. The Syrians were ruled by foreigners who never felt any compassion toward the natives. It happened many times that the Syrians would sell their children in order to pay off their debts.
The Roman community was full of contradictions and commotion. In Civilizations Past & Present, Roman society is described as replete with contradictions; on one hand, religion was deeply ingrained in people's minds and monasticism was widespread throughout the empire; common men would delve deeply into religious research and Byzantine arguments, and would busy themselves with this. Ordinary public life was stamped with an esoteric doctrine. The book continues to describe their lifestyle stating that, on the other hand, such people were keen to enjoy all types of amusement, playing, singing and luxury. There were huge stadiums that could accommodate eighty thousand people who would attend to watch gladiators fighting one another or predatory animals fighting; the attending masses would be divided into two colors: blue and green. The book also states that they loved beauty yet were fond of violence and barbarity; their games were mostly bloody and violent and their punishments were severe and bloodcurdling. The book affirms that the life of their rulers and nobility was dominated by indecency, luxury, plotting, excessive formalities, misbehavior and bad habits.
Second: The Persian Empire
The Persian Empire was also known as the Persian State or “The State of Khosraus”. It was larger and greater than the Eastern Roman Empire. Many deviant religions, such as Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism, which was founded by Mani at the beginning of the third century, were introduced into the Persian Empire. Then Mazdakism appeared at the beginning the fifth century calling for lewdness in every matter. This led to widespread farmers' revolutions and the theft of palaces. Thieves would capture women and appropriate properties and real estate. As a result, land, farms and houses were emptied as if they had never been inhabited.
The monarchy was the system of governance and the rulers, who considered themselves to be of the lineage of the gods, regarded themselves as superior to the common people. The rulers seized the resources of the countries and spent it on absolute extravagances and were as careless as beasts. Many farmers, therefore, quit their work and joined monasteries and temples to flee from taxes and military service. The commoners were but a fuel for fierce and destructive warfare that erupted between the Persians and the Romans throughout history and lasted for many years. The common people had no interest in such wars but were merely fulfilling the whims and desires of their kings.
Historians unanimously agree that the most degraded religious, moral, social and political stage in Indian history was the era that started from the beginning of the sixth century. During that period, lewdness spread even in temples, as the religion considered such deeds to be sacred acts of worship. Women were valueless and had no sanctity. The habit of burning widows was widespread. From among all nations, India was distinguished by the excessive disparity among its classes of people. This was sanctioned by a civil, political and religious law that was stipulated by Indian legislators who enjoyed religious support. It became the general law in society and a constitution for life. India was in a state of chaos and disunity and princedoms spread and fierce wars were ignited among them. India was far removed from world events and was in seclusion dominated by bigotry, extremism in habits and traditions, class disparity, and prejudices on the basis of blood and racial relations. An Indian historian, who is a professor of history at an Indian university, speaks about the pre-Islamic age in India saying, “The Indians were separated from the worldly life, introverted and had no experience of world events. Their ignorance made them weak and stagnant. Signs of deterioration prevailed. Literature during that period was spiritless and likewise were the arts of architecture and painting, as well as all other fine arts.”
He added, “The Indian society was stagnant and at a standstill. There was a great difference between classes and shameful discrimination among families. They did not allow widows to remarry and placed themselves under hardship concerning food and drink. The pariahs were obliged to live outside their town and country.”
The Indians were of four castes:
- The priests and clergy (the Brahmins)
- The men of war and soldiers (the Kshatriyas)
- The farmers and traders (the Vaishyas)
- The servants (the Shudras). This was the most degraded class. The Indians believed that this class was created from the leg of the creator of the universe. Their sole job was to serve and comfort members of the other three castes.
The law granted the Brahmins a position and rank that was granted to no one but them. The Brahmin was a forgiven man even if he destroyed the three worlds with his sins and deeds. It was impermissible to impose taxes on a Brahmin and he could never be sentenced to death regardless of his crime. The Shudras were not permitted to have wealth, save a treasure, sit with a Brahmin, touch him with their hands or learn the sacred books.
Fourth: Religious conditions in the world before the commissioning of the Prophet,
Before the advent of the great religion of Islam, humanity was witnessing the most degraded of religious, economic, political and social affairs. The world was suffering widespread chaos. Ignorance dominated creeds, ideas, imaginations and the inner selves of people. Fancies, lewdness, indecency, arrogance and tyranny were the most prominent characteristics of that ignorance which dominated the life of people.
The effect of divine religions on life was lost due to the alteration, corruption and modifications they underwent. All this caused these religions to lose their importance as messages from Allah The Almighty to His creation. The followers of these religions indulged in theoretical creed-related conflicts. The reason behind such conflict was human ideas and corrupted perceptions which had adulterated these religions and this led to fierce wars among them. A few people were not involved in corruptive, adulterating activities. Such people preferred to retire from social life and entered into a life of privacy and seclusion seeking salvation for themselves as they despaired of reform. Corruption reached all people and races and was present in all walks of life without exception.
In the religious aspect, people either abandoned religion, never had a religion to begin with, or participated in corrupting and altering the divine religions. In the legislative aspect, people discarded the ordinances of Allah The Almighty and invented - by themselves - laws and principles that Allah The Almighty did not permit and that contradicted both reason and nature.
Corruption was led by political leaders, monks, priests, chiefs and kings. The world lived in a state of intense darkness and great deviation from the path of Allah The Exalted.
Judaism had turned into a set of spiritless, lifeless rituals and traditions. It was influenced by the beliefs of the neighboring nations and other nations that were in contact with it. It was dominated by such beliefs and imported a great deal of their ignorant pagan habits and traditions. Jewish historians themselves acknowledge this. It is mentioned in the Jewish Encyclopedia that the fury of the prophets with idolatry show that the culture of idolatry had invaded the souls of the Israelis until after they returned from Babylonian exile; they adopted mythical and polytheistic beliefs. The Jewish Encyclopedia alludes to the Talmud acknowledging that paganism was especially attractive to the Jews.
Dominant civilizations before Prophethood and their religions – II