ARABIA. Biladu ‘l-‘Arab العربية بلاد , Jaziratu ‘l-‘Arab جزيرة العرب, ‘Arabistan عربستان
The peninsula bearing, amongst the Arabs, these names is the country situated on the east of the Red Sea, and extending as far as the Persian Gulf. The word probably signifies signifies a “barren place” “desert”. (Heb).
Ptolemy divides Arabia into three parts, Arabia Petraea, Arabia Felix, and Arabia Deserta; but Arabian geographers divide it into Tihamah, al-Hijaz, an.Najd, al ‘Aruz, and al- Yaman.
The races which have peopled Arabia are divided into three sections, al-‘ Arabu ‘l-Ba’i-dah, ‘al-‘Arabu ‘1-‘Aribah, and al-‘Arabu ‘l-Musta’ribah.
I. Al-‘Arabu ‘l-Ba’idah, are the old “lost Arabs,” of whom tradition has preserved the names of several tribes, as well as some memorable particulars regarding their extinction.” This may well be called the fabulous period of Arabian history; but, as it has the sanction of the Qur’an, it would be sacrilege in a Muslim to doubt its authenticity. According to this account, the most famous of the extinct tribes were those of ‘Ad, Samud, Jadis, and Tasm, all descended in the third or fourth generation from Shem. ‘Ad, the father of his tribe, settled, according to tradition, in the Great Desert of al-Ahqaf soon after the confusion of tongues. Shaddad his son succeeded him in the government, and greatly extended his dominion:. He performed many fabulous exploits; among others, he erected a magnificent city in the desert of ‘Adan, which had been begun by his father, and adorned it with a sumptuous palace and delightful gardens in imitation of the celestial paradise, in order to inspire his subjects with a superstition veneration for him as a god. This superstructure was built with bricks of gold and silver alternately disposed. The roof was gold, inlaid with precious stones and pearl The trees and shrubs were of the same precious materials. The fruits and flowers were rubies, and on the branches were perched birds of similar metals, the hollow parts which were loaded with every species of the richest perfumes, so that every breeze that blew came charged with fragrance from the bills of these golden images. To this paradise he gave the name of Iram (see Qur’an, Surah lxxxix. 6). On the completion of all this grandeur, Shaddad set out with a splendid retinue to admire its beauties. But heaven would not suffer his pride and impiety to go unpunished; for, when within a day’s journey of the place, they were all destroyed by a terrible noise from the clouds. As a monument of Divine justice, the city, we are assured, still stands in the desert, although invisible. Southey, in his Thalaba, has viewed this and many of the other fable’s and superstitions of the Arabs with the eye of a poet, a philosopher, and an antiquary. According to at-Tabari, this legendary palace was discovered in the time of Mu’awiyah, the first Khalifah of Damascus, by a person in search of a stray camel. A fanciful tradition adds, that the Angel of death, on being asked whether, in the discharge of his duties, an instance had ever occurred in which he had felt some compassion towards his wretched victims, admitted that only twice had his sympathy been awakened – once towards a shipwrecked infant, which had been exposed on a solitary plank to struggle for existence with the winds and waves, and which he spared; and the second time in cutting off the unhappy Shaddad at the moment when almost within view of the glorious fabric which he had erected at so much expense. No sooner had the angel spoken, than a voice from heaven was heard to declare that the helpless innocent on the plank was no other than Shaddad himself; and that his punishment was a just retribution for his ingratitude to a merciful and kind Providence, which had not only saved his life, but raised him to unrivalled wealth and splendour. The whole fable seems to be a confused tradition of Belus and the ancient Babylon; or, rather, as the name would import, of Benhadad, mentioned in Scripture as one of the most famous of the Syrian kings, who, we are told, was worshipped by his subjects.
Of the ‘Adites and their succeeding princes, nothing certain is known, except that they were dispersed or destroyed in the course of a few centuries by the sovereigns of al-Yaman.
The tribe of Samud first settled in Arabia Felix, and on their expulsion they repaired to al-Hijr, on the confines of Syria. Like the ‘Adites, they are reported to have been of a most gigantic stature, the tallest being a hundred cubits high and the least sixty; and such was their muscular power, that, with a stamp of the foot in the driest soil, they could plant themselves knee deep in the earth. They dwelt the Qur’an informs us, “in the caves of the rocks, and out the mountains into houses which remain to this day.” In this tribe it is easy to discover the Thamudeni of Diodorus, Pliny, and Ptolemy.
The tribes of Tasm and Jadis settled between Makkah and al-Madinah, and occupied the whole level country of al-Yaman, living promiscuously under the same’ government. Their history is buried in darkness; and when the Arabs wish to denote anything of dubious anthority they call it a fable of Tasm.
The extinction of these tribes according to the Qur’an, was miraculous, and a signal example of Divine vengeance. The posterity of ‘Ad and Samud had abandoned The worship of the true God, and lapsed into incorrigible idolatry. They had been chastised with a three years’ drought, but their hearts remained hardened. To the former was sent the Prophet Hud, to reclaim them and preach the unity of the Godhead. “O my people!” exclaimed the prophet, “ask pardon of your Lord; then turn unto Him with penitence, (and) He will send down the heavens upon you with copious rains, and with strength in addition to your strength will He increase you.” Few believed, and the overthrow of the idolaters was effected by a hot and suffocating wind, that blew seven nights and eight days without intermission, accompanied with a terrible earthquake, by which their idols were broken to pieces, and their houses thrown to the ground (See Surah vii. 63, xi. 63.) Luqman, who, according to some was a famous king of the ‘Adites, and who lived to the age of seven eagles, escaped, with about sixty others, the common calamity. These few survivors gave rise to a tribe called the Latter ‘Ad; but on account of their crimes they were transformed, as the Qur’an states, into asses or monkeys. Hud returned to Hazramaut, and was buried in the neigbourbood, where a small town, Qabr Hud still bears his name. Among the Arabs, ‘Ad expresses the same remote age that Saturn or Ogyges did among the Greeks anything of extreme antiquity is said to be “as old as King ‘Ad.
The idolatrous tribe of Samud had the prophet Salih sent to them, whom D’Herbefot makes the son of Arphaxad, while Bochart and Sale suppose him to be Peleg, the brother of Joktan. His preaching had little effect. The fate of the ‘Adites, instead of being a warning, only set them to dig caverns in the rocks, where they hoped to escape the vengeance of winds and tempests. Others demanded a sign from the prophet in token of his mission. As a condition of their belief, they challenged him to a trial of power, similar to what took place between. Elijah and the priests of Baal, and promised to follow the deity that should gain the triumph. From a certain rock a camel big with young was to come forth in their presence. The idolaters were foiled; for on Salih’s pointing to the spot a she-camel was produced, with a young one ready weaned. This miracle wrought conviction in a few; but the rest, far from believing, hamstrung the mother, killed her miraculous progeny, and divided the flesh among them. This act of impiety sealed their doom. “And a violent tempest overtook the wicked, and they wore found prostrate on their breasts in their abodes.” (Qur’an, Surah vii., 71, xi. 64.)
The tribes of Jadis and Tasm owe their extinction to a different cause. A certain despot, a Tasmite, but sovereign of both tribes, had rendered himself detested by a voluptuous law claiming for himself at priority of right over all the bridges of the Jadisites. This insult was not to be tolerated. A conspiracy was formed. The king and his chiefs were invited to an entertainment. The avengers had privately hidden their swords in the sand, and in the moment of mirth and festivity they fell upon the tyrant and his retinue, and finally extirpated the greater part of his subjects.
II. – The pure Arabs are those who claim to be descended from Joktan or Qahtan, whom the present Arabs regard as their principal founder. The members of this genuine stock are styled al-‘Arabu ‘l-Arabah, the genuine Arabs. According to their genealogy of this patriarch, his descendants formed two distinct branches. Ya’rub. one of his sons founded the kingdom of al-Yaman, and Jurhum that of al-Hijaz. These two are the only sons spoken of by the Arabs. Their names, do not occur in Scripture; but it has been conjectured that they were the Jarah and Hadoram mentioned by Moses as among the thirteen planters of Arabia (Gen. x., 26)
In the division of their nation into tribes the Arabs resemble the Jews. From an early era they have retained the distinction of separate and independent families. This partition was adverse to the consolidation of power or political influence, but it furnishes our chief guide into the dark abyss of their antiquities. The posterity of Ya’rub spread and multiplied into innumerable clans. New accessions rendered new subdivisions necessary. In the genealogical tables of Sale, Gagnier, and Saiyid Ahmad Khan, are enumerated nearly three-score tribes of genuine Arabs many of whom became celebrated long before the time of Muhammad, and some of them retain their names even at the present day.
III. – The ‘Arabu ‘l-Musarribah the mixed Arabs, claim to be descended from Ishmael and the daughter of al-Muzaz, King of al-Hijaz, whom he took to wife, and was of the ninth generation fron Jurhum, the founder of that kingdom. Of the Jurhumites, till the time of Ishmael, little is recorded, except the names of their princes or chiefs, and that they had possession of the territory of al-Hijaz. But as Muhammad traces his descent to this alliance, the Arabs have been more than usually careful to preserve and adorn his genealogy. The want of a pure ancestry is, in their estimation, more than compensated by the dignity of so sacred a connexion; for they boast as much as, the Jews of being reckoned the children of Abraham. This circumstance will account for the preference with which they uniformly regard this branch of their pedigree, and for the many romantic legends they have grafted upon it. It is not improbable that the old giants and idolaters suffered an imaginary extinction to make way for a more favoured race, and that Divine chastisements always overtook those who dared to invade their consecrated territories.
The Scriptural account of the expulsion and destiny of this venerated progenitor of the Arabs is brief, but simple and affecting. Ishmael was the son of Abraham by Hagar, an Egyptian slave. When fourteen years of age, he was supplanted in the hopes and affections of his father by the birth of Isaac, through whom the promises were to descend. This event made it necessary to remove the unhappy female and her child, who were accordingly sent forth to seek their fortune in some of the surrounding unoccupied districts. A small supply of provisions, and a bottle of water on the shoulder, was all she carried from the tent of her shoulder. Directing her steps towards her native country, she wandered with the lad in the wilderness of Beer’sheba, which was destitute of springs. Here her stock failed and it seemed impossible to avoid perishing by hunger or thirst. She resigned herself to her melancholy prospects but the feelings of the mother were more acute than the agonies of want and despair. Unable to witness her son’s death. she laid him under one of the shrubs, took an affecting leave of him, and retired to a distance. “And, she went, and sat her down over against him, a good way off as it were a bow shot; for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him and lifted up her voice and wept.” (Gen xxi 16). At this moment an angel directed her to a well of water close at hand, a discovery to which they owed the preservation of their live”. A promise forcefully given was renewed that Ishmael was to become a great nation – that he was to be a wild man – his hand against every man, and every man’s hand against him. The travellers continued their journey to the wilderness of Paran, and there took up their residence. In due time the lad grew to manhood and greatly distinguished himself as an archer, and his mother took him a wife out of her own land. Here the sacred narrative breaks of abruptly the main object of Moses being to follow the history of Abraham’s descendants through the line of Isaac. The Arabs, in their version or Ishmael’s history have mixed a great deal of romance with the narrative of Scripture. They assert that al-Hijaz was the district where he settled, and that Makkah, then an arid wilderness, was the identical spot where, his life was providentially saved, and where Hagar died and was buried. The well pointed out by the angel, they believe, to be the famous Zamzam of which all pious Muslims drink to this day. They make no allusion to his alliance with the Egyptian woman, by whom he had twelve sons (Gen. xxv. 12-18), the, chiefs of as many nations, and the possessors of separate towns; but as polygamy was common in his age and country, it is not improbable he may have had more wives than one.
It was, say they, to commemorate the miraculous preservation of Ishmael that God commanded Abraham to build the Ka’bah and his son to furnish the necessary materials.
Muslim writers give the following account of Ishmael and his descendants – Ishmael was constituted the prince and first high-priest of Makkah and, during half a century he preached to the incredulous Arabs. At has death, which happened forty-eight years after that of Abraham; and in the 137th of his age, he was buried in the tomb of his mother Hagar. Between the erection of the Ka’bah and the birth of their Prophet, the Arabs reckon about 2740 years. Ishmael was succeeded in the regal and sacerdotal office by his eldest son Nebat although the pedigree of Muhammad is traced from Kedar a younger brother. But his family did not long enjoy this double authority; for, in progress of time the Jarhumites seized the government and the guardianship of the temple, which they maintained about 300 years. These last, again having corrupted the true worship, were assailed as a punishment of their crimes, first by the scimitars of the Ishmaelites, who drove them from Makkah, and then by divers maladies by which the whole race finally perished. Before quitting Makkah, however, they committed every kind of sacrilege and indignity. They filled up the Zamzam well, after having thrown into it the treasures and sacred utensils of the temple the black stone, the swords and cuirasses of Qala’ah, the two golden gazelles presented by one of the kings of Arabia, the sacred image of the ram substituted for Isaac and all the precious movabales, forming at once the object and the workmanship of a superstitious devotion. For several centuries the posterity of Ishmael kept possession of the supreme dignity.
The following is the list of chiefs who are said to have ruled the Hijaz and to have been the lineal ancestors of Muhammad as far as ‘Adnan :
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam