1.1 On the Eve Of Islam
Towards the middle of the sixth century AD the world had grown dark and ugly with superstitions, which were clogging its spiritual life. Greed and tyranny had warped its moral being, and oppression had stifled the majority of its people. Peoples who had once been free and productive, the oldest civilizations in the world, the Assyrians, the Phoenicians, and the Egyptians, lay writhing under the paw of the Roman wolf, while the Babylonians, suffering from equally tyrannical Persian dominion, were only allowed a bare subsistence while all the wealth of their land, the fertile land between the two rivers, went to fill the coffers of the Persian emperors and their vassals. In the Roman Empire the privileged, who owned many slaves, were immensely rich and exempted from taxes while the native inhabitants of the lands they dominated had to carry all the burdens of taxation; they were overtaxed both financially and physically. In India people fared no better: there was a cruel caste system that divided people into four classes. The Brahmans had all the privileges and the untouchables all the sufferings and humiliations.
The Arabs, whose land was situated between the Persian and the Roman empires, were in a deplorable state. Their border tribes were often under Persian or Roman rule and the whole land lived in fear of invasion by the Roman Empire or one of its powerful warlords. Their religion, after having been the purest monotheism, the religion of the patriarch Abraham, had been corrupted by generation after generation of associations with other peoples; with the Sabaeans who worshipped the stars, or the Persians who worshipped fire, as well as people who held other strange beliefs with which the world at that time was replete. They made offerings to stone idols and buried their daughters alive.
The Romans were Christians who considered themselves the masters of the world and wanted all the peoples under their dominion to follow their particular brand of Christianity. When the Copts of Egypt would not follow them but adhered to their own beliefs, which differed slightly in dogma from the Romans, the Romans inflicted terrible punishments on them, cutting off their hands and feet and meting out slow death by melting them on candles because they would not give up their Monophysite Christianity.
Throughout history when man had forgotten the noble source of his inner life and looked greedily towards the world and its wealth, a messenger was sent by Allah to show him the way he had lost or remind him of the precepts he had forgotten or neglected. But for a long time no sign nor word from Allah had been heard. That age saw the lowest point that human thought and activities had so far descended to, the worst that man had ever become. Before this, messengers had come in regular succession, but for six hundred years no message had come from on high, no ray of hope or mercy touched the earth from the source of all hope and mercy. There was absolute silence.
In that cruel and corrupt age, women, children, and slaves had few rights in principle and even less in practice. They lived in pain and despair, day after day, until one day Allah took pity upon their plight and sent the greatest of all prophets, a messenger who used to pray, “Thou art the Lord of the down-trodden and Thou art my Lord.”
A noble and glorious light permeated the heavens from east to west; from the confines of China to the shores of Morocco, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, an arc of light encompassed the world -a light that brought justice and knowledge to mankind, for it was a light that descended through the mercy of the Most Merciful. Allah tells His chosen prophet in the Koran,
"And We have not sent you except out of mercy to mankind."
But softly, let us begin the noble story from the beginning.