Arabia & Makkah

At the time of Muhammad the people of Arabia (now Saudi Arabia) were made up of a number of different tribes. Each tribe had its own gods which they believed protected them from harm, blessed what they grew, and defeated their enemies.

These gods were made of wood and stone in various forms. Each family also had its own gods in the form of miniature statues which they believed watched over them. They worshipped and looked after these ‘idols’ very carefully in case the gods got angry and punished them.

Makkah was one of the most important cities in Arabia. In its centre was an ancient temple called the Ka’aba, a cube shaped building (hence the name Ka’aba). The tribes came to Makkah during the great festivals to store their idols in the Ka’aba - it is estimated that there were 360 of them altogether.
Because of the attraction of the Ka’aba so many people visited Makkah that it became very wealthy and business flourished. It was a stopping place for the great caravans on the main trade routes where merchants could buy and sell their goods - spices, silks, dyes etc. Makkah was an exotic place where the more successful families ran the city to their advantage.

The wealthy bought and sold slaves whom they used to support their extravagant lifestyles. Women had no rights in this society and were treated like property. Males were considered far more valuable than women - if your first child was a girl, this was seen as punishment from the gods. It was the custom to bury first born baby girls alive.

From the point of view of the wealthy ruling tribes, their city functioned very well indeed - anyone who tried to change the system would have the wealth and power of the rulers ranged against them.

This was the kind of world in which Muhammad grew up.

   © Mr.B at Farcaster Communications

The Ka'aba