Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Pre-Islam Arab cultures

I published many articles on Arab cultures and last week I posted two on Pre-Islam Arab cultures and the original matriarchal society.

A few facts highlights the historical contexts.

First, it appears that the first time the word “Arab” was discovered in manuscripts was in 853 BC as a coalition of Arab tribes, Syria, and a few Israelite tribes in northern Palestine, who associated to counter an Assyrian incursion in the Levant.

Second, Arabic tribes extended to the desert region between the Euphrates and Tiger Rivers, to the vast stretch of land bordering the Red Sea, to Southern Palestine and Jordan, to the Sinai Peninsula, and to the lands bordering the Persian Gulf.

Third, the Arabic tribes languages and cultures were influenced by the urban civilization in Yemen, the various Persian Empires and India, and the various Western Empires of Greek, Roman, and Byzantium Empires before the advent of Islam.

Fourth, the dominant Empires at every period paid tributes to coalition of Arabic tribes in return of keeping the peace on demarcation borders, facilitating trade caravans, and for gathering intelligence on the enemy as advanced warning of changes in policies, and for joining in battles.

There is this passion for legal proceedings in the Middle East since time immemorial.

The “eye for eye” justice far predominant in the beginning until the principle of endemnization (money paid for the victim) proved to be more valuable in the long run.  Pre-Islam Arab tribes learned to give priority/ a higher weight to preventive justice resulting in preemptive banishment of members when behavioral trends of members endangered the peaceful coexistence of the tribe in its environment.

Behaviors judged to be of recurring tendencies that may harm the tribe and might involve it into unwanted clashes with other tribes were seriously dealt with.

For example, stealing was far harshly punished than crimes of passions on the ground that thievery is in the nature of frequent lapses,  while crime of passion is once in a lifetime. (Most probably, tribes kept “verbal statistics” on crimes of passion, and statistics speak louder).

With scarce resources and wealth, a tribe would figure out that it is to its advantage to banish troublesome members that might require the tribe to pay heavy compensations in camels and other life stock.

A banished member was not safe from retributions of “enemy” tribes when he was suspected of committing a crime, even if there are no evidences. The suspect would not take the risk of facing justice and he would flee the region, as far away as he could:  He is hounded down and brought to justice even if he fled to Syria or Iraq.

Many “Arabic” stories and myths were altered and recounted by bordering Empires since antiquity to fit the environment and culture.

After Islam, anyone with talents in poetry, music, singing, storytelling was claimed to be haunted by the appropriate genie who would recite during his dreaming periods the corresponding pieces.

You may hear about the genies Dalhan (a cannibal who appears in the form of a human mounted on a black camel) or Ghaddar (who enjoys torturing prisoners), or Hatif (an invisible who extends imprudent hints), or Shaytan (or Satan who reigns over fire), or Ifrit (who takes forms of animals), or Shiq (who has one arm, one leg, half a body and half a head) or Ghul and Qutrub (who prostitute one another), or Silat (who make you dance), or Sut (who makes you lie), or Scheherazade (who satisfies your desires).

In pre-Islam, the female warrior Goddess Uzza was the first to have imprisoned most of them genies in the outer space of “mountain Qaf ” that circled earth.

A few genies are still free to roam among us and Scheherazade is one of them.

Who is the Arabic Scheherazade who said: “When I tell a lie then, am I not restoring an ancient truth?”

Scheherazade had this habit of entering Bedouin tents and then encouraged them to tell her their dreams. Scheherazade continued to pervert men’s ambitions until she entered the tent of Aladdin from the tribe of Labwa (lioness).

Aladdin wanted to know all the stories and he kept lighting his candle and listening.  Aladdin’s tribe folded its tents but he remained listening to Scheherazade’s stories; and he got old but remained focused on hearing stories.

Scheherazade then realized that there are a finite number of stories and there is no first or last story since they follow a vicious circle of same stories with tiny alterations.

More myths in successive posts.

Note:   When you read about pre-Islam cultures of Arabic tribes you should keep in mind thousand of years of traditions and customs.

Pre-Islam Arabic cultures are lumped by the new emerging Islam as “Period of Ignorance (Jahilyya)”, meaning ignorance of the One and Unique God Allah.

Fact is, many Arabic tribes were already Christians or basically Jewish/Christians sects since they adopted most of the daily customs and mythical stories in the Jewish religion) what is labelled “heretic” Christians by Byzantium because they had dogmas different from the Byzantine Orthodox dogma.

Fact is, many Arabic tribes were Jewish; and many more believed in Mazda (the dominant religion in Persia.)

Fact is, most of the idols that Arabic tribes venerated were imported from Syria, Persia, and India.

Islam became the common denominator religion among Arabic tribes during the Prophet Muhammad life.

I might describe in successive series of  “pre-Islam Arabic cultures” a few of the poets and cultural customs .

Topics were mostly generated from “The enigma of Qaf” by the Brazillian Alberto Mussa who is Lebanese by origin.

Matriarchal: Pre-Islam Arab cultures?

In a previous article I stated that:

First,  Arabic tribes are as ancient as antiquity; it appears that the first time the word “Arab” was discovered in manuscripts was in 853 BC as a coalition of Arab tribes, associated with Syria and a few Israelite tribes in northern Palestine to counter an Assyrian incursion in the Levant (Near East region of current Syria, Lebanon and Palestine).

Second, many “Arabic” stories and myths were altered and recounted by bordering Empires to fit their environment and culture.

Third, Arabic tribes extended to the desert region between the Euphrates and Tiger Rivers, to the vast stretch of land bordering the Red Sea, to Southern Palestine and Jordan, to the Sinai Peninsula, and to the lands bordering the Persian Gulf.

Fourth, the Arabic tribes languages and cultures were influenced by the urban civilization in Yemen, the various Persian Empires and India, and the various Western Empires of Greek, Roman, and Byzantium Empires before the advent of Islam. I am inclined to believe that India civilization was the most influential, particularly in the separation of genders at home and in public, and the “hareem” tradition…

Fifth, the dominant Empires at every period paid tributes to coalition of Arabic tribes in return of keeping the peace on demarcation borders, facilitating trade caravans, and for gathering intelligence on the enemy as advance signs of changing policies, and for joining in battles.

In the origin, ancient Arabic tribes had matriarchal social structures.

A tribe had higher standing compared to others when its matriarch owned more husbands, particularly, captured enemy men.  It was women who took the initiative of selecting their men.  More often than than not, disputation for acquiring men resulted in tribal wars.

The Command of a tribe was in the hand of the woman who had the most of husbands.

Thus, it was common for the victor tribe to mutilate the husbands of vanquished tribes. It is no enigma why the three most venerated idols were women warriors such as Manat, Uzzat, and Lat.  It is no enigma why the Prophet Mohammad was ready to strike a compromise with the tribes of Mecca, before being chased out of the city, to considering the three goddesses as valid supporters to the all-encompassing God Allah.

Fact is, there was an idol called Allah who was considered to be above all idols, but he had no particular talents for business and didn’t generate donations to the clan that owned it.  It is no surprise that most love poems alluded to female camels and horses that had names .

With time, women realized that it was not a good policy to mutilate “enemy” men, but that sexual attraction skills were more beneficial in wooing husbands.  Thus, the development of garment, aromatic, and jewelry industries.  Textile art witnessed great expansion; mainly in veils to guard against sun rays and desert dust.

Public duels within a tribe were among women who danced best and seduced most men.

Belly dancing (raksa) were restricted to women who knew the language of the message to send.  The raksa was based on fast paced rhythm of monochord percussion instruments.  For example, choreographic dances were selected according to the alphabetic string of characters forming a word or a sentence.

This dance language was known by women.  Men were totally ignorant of what was being said or discussed in the dances.

Most probably, patriarchal structures supplanted the previous structure due to influences of Jewish tribes and the tribes that settled in Syria and Iraq. Thus, more male idols were imported to strengthen patriarchal societies within Arabic tribes.

Thus, as you read about pre-Islam cultures of Arabic tribes you should keep in mind thousand of years of traditions and customs.  Pre-Islam Arabic cultures are lumped by the new emerging Islam as “Period of Ignorance (Jahilyya)” meaning ignorance of the One and Unique God Allah.

Fact is, many Arabic tribes were already Christians or what is labelled “heretic” Christians, because they had dogmas different from the Byzantine Orthodox dogma.  Fact is, many Arabic tribes were Jewish;

Fact is,  many more believed in Mazda (the dominant religion in Persia.)

Fact is, most of the idols that Arabic tribes venerated were imported from Syria, Persia, and India.  Islam became the common denominator religion among Arabic tribes during the Prophet Muhammad life.

I might describe a few of the pre-Islam poets and cultures in a third articles.  What follows are a few pre-Islam saying extracted mostly from “The enigma of Qaf” by Alberto Mussa:

“When I tell a lie, am I not restoring an ancient truth?”  (The Arabic Scheherazade)

Two write:  The one with a lousy memory and the other who lacks verbal expression skills”

“I love women who, when naked, are never totally nude” (Poet Imru2 al Qayss)

“Honor is but another form of fear” (Poet Shanfara)

“Is there any greater glory than being ignored by hyenas?” (Poet Amru ben Kulthum)

Three are stupid:  the one who does not know that he doesn’t; the one who knows that he doesn’t; and the one who doesn’t know that he knows.”  (Poet Labid or Lubad)

“Having respect for your enemies is celebrating a cult to the dead.” (Poet Antara)

“O beauty! O Women! O desert!” (Anonymous)

Three possess faith: The Persian in his horoscope, the Jew in his laws, and the Arab in his camel.”

Two are innocents:  A beautiful girl and an armed man.”

“What you don’t own, steal it” (Ali Baba)

Why ask of God what I can buy on the market?” (Mundhir)

“The greatest merit of an atheist is that he does not believe in demons.”

Four are pleasures: laughing, eating, loving, and knowing.”

I love the concept of woman, and only that concept. This one woman, the other one: Who can tell me the difference?” (Poet Imru el Qayss)

“True wise men can never be happy.”

Even talking about a single evident fact requires that you have read a thousand book.” (Malika)

“Ask the dead if they really want peace!” (Poet Tarafa)

“Realising your desires is the work of an imbecile.” (Aladin)

“I have never forgiven: I have not the pretension of possessing a virtue attributed to God.”

Nothing is that grand to merit being taken seriously.” (Poet Al Aasha the dim sighted)

“We don’t kill a pork without soiling the knife.”

“I love the tribe of bats:  Every female is beautiful.”

“The best in life are those that we have no use of them.” (Poet Zuheir)

I am immortal: I will never know when I died.” (Harith bi Hilliza)

“I don’t like everything that I possess, but I possess everything that I love.” (Poet Nabigha al Zubyani)

“The best of blind people are those who want to see.”


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December 2021
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