The Bedouin Character in the Qur’an

The Bedouin Character in the Qur'an

The Bedouin Character in the Qur’an

In the period of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), there existed two basic social structures in Arabia. City-dwellers and Bedouins (desert Arabs). A sophisticated culture prevailed in Arab towns. Commercial relations linked the towns to the outer world, which contributed to the formation of good manners among Arabs dwelling in cities. They had refined aesthetic values, enjoyed literature and especially poetry. Desert Arabs, on the other hand, were the nomad tribes living in the desert who had a very crude culture. Utterly unaware of arts and literature, most of them developed an unrefined character.

Islam was born and developed among the inhabitants of Mecca, the most important city of the peninsula. However, as Islam spread to the rest of the peninsula, all the tribes in Arabia embraced it. Among these tribes were also desert Arabs, who were somehow problematic: their cultural background prevented some of them from grasping the profundity and noble spirit of Islam. Of this God states the following in a verse:

The desert Arabs are the worst in disbelief and hypocrisy, and more fitted to be ignorant of the limits which God has sent down to His Messenger. But God is Knowing, Wise.(Qur'an, 9:97)

Some among the desert Arabs who were “worst in disbelief and hypocrisy” and prone to disobey God’s commands, became a part of the Islamic community in the Prophet’s (pbuh) time. But in subsequent periods, due to erroneous interpretations and attitudes, some of them have given rise to bodies incompatible with the moral values of Islam.

The sect called “Kharijites” that emerged among the Bedouins was an example. The most distinctive trait of this perverse sect (which was called “Kharijites”, literally “those who leave”, because they greatly deviated from Sunni practices), was their wild and fanatical nature. The “Kharijites“, who had little understanding of the essence of Islam or of the virtues and the values of the Qur’an, waged war against all other Muslims basing this war on a few Qur’anic verses about which they made distorted interpretations. Furthermore, they carried out “acts of terrorism”. Hazrat Ali (ra), who was one of the closest companions of the Prophet (pbuh) and was described as the “gate of the city of knowledge”, was assassinated by a Kharijite.

In other words, just as the Crusaders distorted and misinterpreted Christianity as a teaching of brutality, some perverted groups emerging in the Islamic world misinterpreted Islam and resorted to brutality. What is common to these sects and the Crusaders was their ignorant, unrefined and uncultivated nature, lacking a true understanding of their religion. The violence they resorted to resulted from this lack of understanding, rather than from the religion they claimed to espouse. They didn’t even know the basic sources of their religion and acted on the superstitious beliefs they invented.

It would be completely wrong to think that the Bedouin character was limited to that time and no longer exists. The presence of people with the same character today is notable. These people, who like nobody apart from themselves or the group to which they belong, and even seek to portray the use of violence against those who do not share their faith as a religious requirement, harbour numerous flaws of logic.

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