Ah, thank you. I’ve always wondered what the prevailing religion was in the Middle East in the time of Muhammad. So, you’re saying it was a multi-deity paganism, along the lines of, say, Shinto? So the association with Christianity and Judaism was a Muhammadan construct? Historically, there is no prior relationship?
There were pockets of Christians and Jews throughout the Arabian peninsula. Notably, there were many Jews in Yemen and Christians in Ethiopia (which, while not on the peninsula, was still quite close, being as it is across the Red Sea, close to whose banks was Mecca). So Muhammad would have had plenty of opportunities to encounter them. Significant for him, there were three Jewish tribes in Yathrib (to which he fled when Mecca became too dangerous).
But the predominant religion, and what made Mecca the heart of the Arabian peninsula, was the multi-deity Arab paganism that thrived throughout the peninsula. The Ka’bah in Mecca was the main shrine for all Arabian deities.
Muhammad had plenty of contact with people of various religions, not only because of their presence near him but also because he used to be a trader and, as such, had ample exposure to different religions and their tales and legends. This partly explains why there are so many corrupted versions of narratives found in Judaism and Christianity. Read the rest of this entry »