Was Muhammad Influenced by the Jewish Communities of Arabia

The well-known encounter between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba bears out the distant past of Israelite-Arabian contacts (Stillman, 1979).

“This was the Arabia Felix of classical geographers, a land of incense and spices and a way station on the routes to eastern Africa, on the one hand, and India and the Orient, on the other” (ibid, 3).

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Jewish early settlers had previously instituted themselves in the sanctuary communities of northern Arabia through the later part of the Second Temple era. Even though this region was not as ethnically blessed as the southern area, it was not in any ways completely an Arabia Deserta. Jews could develop a means of subsistence in date-growing, caravan business and in the trades. Their hierarchies must have been enlarged by refugees who escaped from Judea after the upheavals against Rome disintegrated in a sea of blood in 70 and 135 C.E. At the time of Muhammad’s birth, this is dated at around the year 571, Jews were not merely to be located in large numbers in Arabia but were tightly entrenched into the life and culture of the peninsula (Lewis, 1984). Akin to their pagan fellow citizens, the Jews spoke Arabic, were structured into small units of clans and tribes, and had taken on board several of the values of desert communities. They forged alliances and partook in intertribal conflicts. Jewish influence in Arabia was immense that for a short period of time Judaism was accepted by the royal house of the Yemenite kingdom. Even though the religious power of the Jews was well-established in pagan Yemen, they themselves perhaps represented a fairly insignificant proportion of the population (Goitein, 1966).

In spite of the high degree of integration into Arabian society, Jews were still perceived as a separate racial or ethnic group with their own unique customs and attributes. Arab lyricists and poets of the pre-Islamic period seldom refer to Jewish religious traditions, and the Koran oftentimes cites such classic Jewish institutions as the “Sabbath, kashrut, and the Torah” (Stillman, 1979, 4).&nbsp.

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