One of the things that occurs to some of us non-Arab Muslims is “why was Rasullullah Sallallaahu alayhi wasSallam sent among the Arabs? Why couldn’t he be one of ‘our’ kind? Indian, or maybe Persian, or perhaps Roman? Is there a significance to him being an Arab?” This may sound like a stupid or jealous question…but it’s really not intended to be either. We try to come up with ideas of our own for why this is the case, and some of the things we come up with include: the genuine hospitality of Arabs which includes not wanting to keep anything great to themselves, making them naturally inclined to share the faith; the serious charisma of Arabs, who can explain things so poetically and so simply that even their foes have to give them a hearing at some point; and their relentless manner of never giving up, to the point where they will bang their head on a wall to get their points across. Allaahu ‘aalam if we come up with the right ideas, or if we are in fact wasting our energy on something completely silly…but these are things we come up with in trying to see what is different between Arabs and “us” that Allah would make Rasullullaah from amongst this nation. To my gratification, one of the first things that this book mentions is on this very idea.
We hear much about the deplorable state of the Arabs during the times of ignorance, commonly referred to by the Arabic term jaahileeyah, such as their manner of treating women like merchandise; the unusual forms of marriage; the unlimited number of divorces (as opposed to the strict limit of 3 talaaq); the constant warring over petty things; and the vast amount of illiteracy. So, could there possibly have been any fertile ground here for acceptance of this revolutionizing faith called Islam? Some of the better qualities of the Arab people include the following:
1) A natural intelligence: This quality is illustrated in two forms. The first is a very powerful memory. This is demonstrated in the vastness of the Arabic language, which includes 80 different words to label the thing known as honey; 500 words for the English word lion, and 1000 different words each for the terms sword and camel. Those who knew all those different variations surely must have had awesome memories. Then there was a love for poetry, which certainly helped an illiterate nation preserve it’s history and values. And of course, it does take memory to enable the illiterate to remember complex poetry. This memory served Islam how? In the obvious way: by enabling many Companions of the Prophet (RadiAllaahu Anhum) to memorize the Qur’aan as well as hundreds, if not thousands, of Hadeeth narrations to be passed down through future generations of Muslims the world over.
2) Generosity: This was a quality deeply rooted in Arabs, and it was expected that if an Arab owned nothing but a camel, and a guest arrived, that camel would be slaughtered to feed the guest. This generosity was well-exhibited in the Companions of Prophet (RadiAllaahu Anhum).
3) Bravery: The following says enough about this quality: One Arab commented upon hering about the death of his brother, “If he has been killed, his father, brother and uncle before him have also been killed. By Allah, we do not die of natural causes.” It was true then, and we see before our very eyes, that it is true today. SubhanAllah.
4) Truthfulness, keeping promises, and honesty: In general, Arabs avoided lying. The book gives several examples of these qualities, but I will share just one here.
When he was still a polytheist and a bitter foe of Islam, Abu Sufyaan traveled abroad and met Haraql, the leader of a foreign empire. Haraql began to ask question about the Prophet (Sallallaahu alayhi wasSallam) and about the new religion in Makkah. Abu Sufyaan could have best served his purposes by lying abouthte Prophet (Sallallaahu alayhi wasSallam), for to speak truthfully about him involved praising him for his good characther, noble lineage, and truthful speech. And it was not wise to praise the Prophet (Sallallaahu alayhi wasSallam) in front of a foreign leader, wh had teh potential of embracing Islam and of wreaking havoc upon the Quraish. Nonetheless, Abu Sufyaan did speak truthfully about the Prophet (Sallallaahu alayhi wasSallam); he later said, “Had it not been for me being shy of ascribing the lie to me, I would have lied against him.”
5) Patience in hard times and contentment with the bare necessities:
Arabs consumed food in moderation and it was commonly said that “Gluttony does away with intelligence.” The ability to endure the hardship of a harsh hot desert, with little food and water became more necessary: It was many a Sahaaba who went “days with only a small number of dates and some drops of water.”
I have not selected everything to write of. I also would not say that such characteristics are specific only to Arabs. However, I would say that they are character traits found most inherently in Arabs, just based on the few Arabs I know. And I think that the legacy of these characteristics was propagated throughout the people who became Muslims over time. They became examples to follow in the way that our Prophet (Sallallaahu alayhi wasSallam) lived his life and carried out his message.