Dominant Religions of the World Prior to Islam


Dominant Religions of the World Prior to Islam

1.11Before the advent of Islam, human beings were living through one of the worst periods of human history. The line of prophets from the descendants of Ishaaq had come to an end with the ascension of Jesus to the heavens. In the centuries that followed, belief in the trinity gained more and more acceptance among the Christians, until around the beginning of the sixth century, only a handful of people still believed in the Islamically monotheistic teachings of Jesus.

The entire world was engulfed in darkness. Describing the period prior to his prophet, the messenger of Allah said, “Verily, Allah looked at the inhabitants of the world and despised them, both the Arabs and foreigners among them, except for some remnants from the people of the book {i.e., those among them who still believed in pure Islamic monotheism}.” Polytheism and idol worship had become widespread. Some people apostatized from their religion; others didn’t follow any religion at all, other than ritualistic acts of worship they performed to idols; and others believed in a distorted form of a divinely revealed religion. In short, almost all of the inhabitants of earth were living in darkness and ignorance.

As for the Jews, their religion had become a soulless set of rituals; and they had become greatly influenced by neighboring nations or by nations that had subjugated them. And so the Jews took from them many of their polytheistic beliefs and practices. As one Jewish scholar but it, “That the prophets were constantly furious about idol worship proves that the concepts of idol worship and polytheism had crept there way into the souls of the children of polytheistic beliefs. And the Talmud attests to the fact that the Jews were strongly attracted to the idea of Idol worship.” Judaism had reached its nadir just prior to the prophet hood of Muhammad. The revealed scriptures that Jews had with them had become greatly distorted and, as a result contained many false notions about God.

As for Christianity, distortions and false interpretations corrupted its pristine teachings, so that it no longer a religion of pure monotheism. Many polytheistic practices, with the concept of trinity of course at the forefront, became established Christian doctrine. Jesus came to invite people to the worship of God alone, but polytheism was deeply ingrained in the souls of the people to whom he was sent, so that soon after his time various polytheistic beliefs were being disseminated, all in the name of Christianity. If a Christian man was martyred, others attributed divine qualities to him and built a little statue of him. People began to worship saints and martyrs. Holding a status not very different from the idols of the Quraish, saints were considered to be intermediaries between Christians and God. It was in the fourth century that the trinity became the official doctrine of the church; but it only recently – in the latter half if the nineteenth century – that the process through which trinity became doctrine was mad public.

Magianism was also widespread at the beginning of the sixth century. Magians were known to have worshipped the elements – mainly fire. Houses of fire worship had been built in various places. Inside those houses, people would pray and follow a strict set of guidelines and etiquettes; outside, they were free to do as they pleased, so that, in essence, there was no real difference between Magians and people who did no adhere to any religion. The duties of Magian priests involved worshipping the sun four times a day; they also worshiped the moon, fire and water. As, priests, they followed a strict code of hygiene; it was their task to make sure that the fires in the house of worship never became extinguished and never came into contact with water. The Magians of Iran turned towards fire when they prayed. And the last of their kings, Yazdgard, once swore by the sun and said, “I swear by the sun, which is the greatest god.” Although Magianism is clouded by a great deal of mystery, it seems that one unifying belief among Magians of all centuries is the belief in two gods, one being the god of light or goodness, and the other being the god of darkness or evil.

Buddhism was practiced in India and middle Asia. Adherents of Buddhism carried idol where ever they went, and they were know for having built many temples. Any where that Buddha traveled statues were erected in his honor. With out a doubt, both Hinduism and Buddhism were, and are, polytheistic religions.

Around the time when the prophet was about to be sent to mankind as a warner and bearer of glad tidings, the people of the world were drowning the mires of polytheism. It was as if members of each religion – Christianity, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus – were competing with one another to see who could best glorify false deities. The prophet alluded to that widespread state of ignorance during one of his sermons:

“Lo, verily, my lord commands me to teach you what you are ignorant of, from that which he has taught me on this day of mine: ‘All of the wealth that I have bestowed upon a slave {of mine} is lawful. And I have indeed created my slaves Hunafaa {i.e., as Muslims, as people who are inherently inclined towards tawheed – belief in God’s oneness – and away from polytheism}. Devils indeed cam to them; have taken them away from their religion, and have made forbidden upon them that which I have made lawful for them; and have ordered them to associate as a partner to me that with which I have not send down my authority.’ And indeed, God looked at the inhabitance of earth and despised them, both the Arabs and foreigners among them, except for some remnants from the people of the book {i.e.’ those who still believed in Islamic monotheism.}” Saheeh Muslim.

Taken from the book, The Noble Life of the Prophet Vol.1

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Courtesy :
Taqwa Islamic School
Islamic Educational & Research Organization (IERO)


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