The common perception of pre-Islamic Makkah during the age of ignorance (or ‘jāhiliyya’) is that society was wholly immoral, that they were tribal savages who did not know right from wrong. It is said that Islam came to these people because they were in desperate need of it. What is often overlooked are the admirable qualities that eventually made them the right hosts for the early stages of its journey and propagation.

Of the significant pre-Islamic events, consider the chivalrous pact that was made against a notable Makki, who refused to pay for some valuable goods as he thought that, because the merchant was foreign (non-Makki), he could get away with it. The clans pledged that they would stand together against the oppressor until justice was done. Muhammad (s), who was taken along by his uncle, said: “I was present in the house of Abdullāh ibn Jud’ān at so excellent a pact that I would not exchange my part in it for a herd of red camels; and if now, in Islam, I were summoned to it, I would gladly respond.” (Ibn Ishāq)

And what about the rebuilding of the Ka’bah, following a flash flood, as a smaller square instead of its original rectangle? The Quraysh decided to use licit funds only (and not the proceeds of usury or prostitution) and, as such, the smaller square is what the Quraysh could afford to rebuild. They discerned right from wrong and feared sacrilege.

Such examples not only raise important questions as to what ‘jāhiliyya’ really means but also ask whether Islam came to Arabia only because they were in need of it, or because they also had the requisite qualities to eventually carry the message. More crucially, do we today exhibit these good qualities which were valued and implemented even in pre-Islamic Makkah?