Political Conditions Before and After the Emergence of Islam


The emergence of Islam brought significant political changes to the Arabian Peninsula and beyond. This article explores the political conditions that existed before and after the advent of Islam, shedding light on the transformation of governance, social structures, and regional dynamics. From the tribal societies and decentralized leadership of pre-Islamic Arabia to the establishment of a unified Islamic state, this article delves into the political landscape and its evolution. Join us on this journey to understand how Islam shaped the political fabric of the Arabian Peninsula and influenced subsequent global developments.

Pre-Islamic Political Landscape

Tribal Society and Clans

Before the advent of Islam, the Arabian Peninsula consisted of a tribal society where various clans held authority over their respective territories. Each tribe was led by a chief, known as a sheikh, who played a crucial role in decision-making and resolving internal disputes. These tribes formed the social and political fabric of the region, with loyalty and allegiance primarily directed towards one’s tribe.

Absence of Centralized Authority

The political landscape of pre-Islamic Arabia was characterized by the absence of a centralized authority. Unlike empires or kingdoms, there was no overarching governance structure that ruled the entire region. Instead, power was distributed among different tribes, resulting in a decentralized system where each tribe exercised its own form of governance.

Inter-Tribal Conflicts

Due to the absence of a centralized authority, inter-tribal conflicts were prevalent in pre-Islamic Arabia. Disputes over resources, honor, and other factors often led to violent clashes between tribes. These conflicts sometimes escalated into prolonged wars, resulting in political instability and hindered social progress.

The Emergence of Islam

The Prophet Muhammad and his Message

In the early 7th century, the Prophet Muhammad received revelations from God, which formed the basis of Islam. His message centered around the belief in one God, the pursuit of social justice, and adherence to moral principles. As the message spread, it challenged the prevailing political and social order, advocating for a more unified and egalitarian society.

Early Muslim Community

The initial followers of Islam, known as Muslims, faced persecution and opposition from the ruling elite of Mecca. However, the migration of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers to the city of Medina marked a turning point. The Muslim community in Medina grew stronger, establishing a new social and political order based on the principles of Islam.

Challenges Faced by Muslims

The early Muslim community faced numerous challenges, both internal and external. They had to defend themselves against military campaigns launched by their adversaries. Despite these challenges, the Muslims persevered, building a resilient community that eventually paved the way for the establishment of the Islamic state.

Establishment of the Islamic State

The City-State of Medina

The city of Medina became the birthplace of the Islamic state. It served as a center of governance and became the destination for Muslims migrating from Mecca. In Medina, the Prophet Muhammad acted as both a spiritual and political leader, unifying the Muslim community and laying the foundation for a new political system.

The Constitution of Medina

The Constitution of Medina, formulated by the Prophet Muhammad, established a social contract among various tribes and religious communities in Medina. It provided guidelines for governance, legal rights, and obligations, fostering a sense of unity and cooperation among diverse groups within the city.

Expansion of the Islamic State

Under the leadership of the early caliphs, the Islamic state expanded beyond Medina, capturing territories and establishing a unified political entity. The Arab conquests brought new regions under Islamic rule, transforming the political landscape of the Middle East and North Africa.

Political Reforms and Governance

The Caliphate System

The caliphate system, which emerged after the passing of the Prophet Muhammad, provided a framework for political leadership within the Islamic state. Caliphs, as successors to the Prophet, held both political and religious authority. The caliphs played a pivotal role in governing the expanding Muslim territories and ensuring the implementation of Islamic principles.

Administration and Justice

The Islamic state emphasized the rule of law and justice. Administrative structures were established to govern various aspects of society, including taxation, public welfare, and infrastructure development. The Islamic legal system, known as Sharia, provided a comprehensive framework for resolving disputes and ensuring fairness and equity.

Local Governance and Provincial Administration

To effectively govern the vast Islamic territories, local governance structures were established. Governors, appointed by the caliphs, oversaw provinces and ensured the implementation of policies and regulations. This decentralized approach allowed for greater autonomy while maintaining overall unity within the Islamic state.

Impact on Regional Politics

Arab Conquests and Influence

The Arab conquests following the emergence of Islam had a profound impact on regional politics. The rapid expansion of the Islamic state brought about significant changes in the balance of power. The conquered regions experienced a transformation in their political and social systems, with Arab-Islamic influences shaping their governance and culture.

Relations with Neighboring Empires

The emergence of Islam also altered the dynamics between the Islamic state and neighboring empires such as the Byzantine Empire and the Persian Empire. The Islamic state engaged in diplomatic negotiations, trade relations, and military campaigns, influencing the regional geopolitical landscape and introducing new political dynamics.

Spread of Islam beyond Arabia

Beyond the Arabian Peninsula, the message of Islam spread rapidly, reaching regions as far as Spain and India. As Islam expanded, it brought about political transformations in various societies, sometimes resulting in the establishment of new Islamic states or the integration of existing political structures with Islamic principles.

Aftermath and Contemporary Politics

Succession of Caliphs

The period following the passing of the early caliphs witnessed debates and disputes regarding the succession of leadership within the Islamic state. These events led to the division of the Muslim community into different sects and political factions, shaping the subsequent political landscape of the Muslim world.

Political Fragmentation and Sectarianism

Over time, the unity and centralized governance of the early Islamic state gave way to political fragmentation and sectarian divisions. Different regions and dynasties emerged, each with their own political systems and interpretations of Islam. This fragmentation continues to impact contemporary politics in Muslim-majority countries.

Legacy of Islamic Governance

The emergence of Islam and the establishment of the early Islamic state left a lasting legacy on political systems and governance. Islamic principles and institutions continue to influence legal frameworks, political ideologies, and social structures in many parts of the world today.


The emergence of Islam marked a significant turning point in the political history of the Arabian Peninsula and beyond. From a tribal society characterized by decentralized authority, Islam introduced a new political order based on religious principles, governance structures, and legal systems. The Islamic state and its subsequent expansion transformed regional politics, leaving a profound impact on societies and shaping the development of political systems in the Muslim world. Understanding the political conditions before and after the emergence of Islam is crucial for comprehending the historical context and appreciating the complexities of contemporary political landscapes.


Q: Did the political landscape of pre-Islamic Arabia change immediately after the emergence of Islam?

A: The political landscape experienced significant changes in the wake of Islam’s emergence, but the complete transformation took time as the Islamic state gradually expanded and established its authority.

Q: How did the Islamic state influence governance and justice?

A: The Islamic state emphasized the rule of law and justice. It established administrative structures, implemented Sharia as a legal framework, and ensured equitable governance.

Q: What role did the Arab conquests play in shaping regional politics?

A: The Arab conquests brought about a redistribution of power and influence, transforming regional politics and introducing Arab-Islamic political dynamics.

Q: How did the political fragmentation in the aftermath of the early caliphs impact the Muslim world?

A: The succession disputes and political fragmentation led to the emergence of different political factions and sects, which continue to shape contemporary politics in the Muslim world.

Q: What is the lasting legacy of Islamic governance?

A: The legacy of Islamic governance includes the influence of Islamic principles on legal systems, political ideologies, and social structures in many parts of the world today.

Political Conditions before the Emergence of Islam:

There is a great difference between the political conditions before and after the emergence of Islam. In regards to the political status of Pre-Islamic Arabia, it could be summarized that the Arabs did not have any well-defined organization in any form and there was nothing like government; the supreme authority of the Arabs was the authority of the chiefs of their tribes and there were no law and order in the society. They were divided into many tribes or clans; each tribe had its own head, and the people followed the commandments of the head of their clan. Generally, a state of hostility and war had been existing among the tribes just in order to show superiority in keeping the honor and prestige of one’s tribe.

At that time, tribal feuds, plundering, and raiding of one tribe by the other were common among the Arabs. Due to the absence of any central government or central power, these tribes were always in a state of war with each other often over very trivial issues that continued for many years. For instance, Ibn Isḥāq mentions that a ferocious battle had been fought between Quṣayyī and Ṣūfah, only on the issue that Quṣayyī claimed his prominence above Ṣūfah, in which Quṣayyī was victorious. Then, Khuzā‘ah and Banū Bakr became against Quṣayyī because they came to know that he would do the same as he did with the Ṣūfah and would prevent them from the affairs of the K‘abah and Makkah. So they made the decision to fight with him, and a very fierce battle took place in Al-A’bṭaḥ (الأبطح) in which people had been killed of both the parties. Finally, the war stopped with a peace treaty between them. Furthermore, after the death of Quṣayyī, his sons established his tradition among the people and others. Then, the sons of ‘Abd Manāf (son of Quṣayyī), i.e., ‘Abd Shams, Hāshim, Al-Muṭṭalib, and Nawfal decided to take the authorities related to Ḥijābah (حجابة), Siqāyah (سقاية), Rifādah (رفادة) and Liwā’ (لواء) from the sons of ‘Abdal Dār (son of Quṣayyī) which were given to their father by Quṣayyī, considering themselves more entitled to these authorities due to their honor and superiority among their people. On that issue, the people of the Quraish divided into two groups, and a state of war was created between them, however, it was solved through a peace treaty between them on the condition that Banū ‘Abd Manāf fulfill the responsibility of Siqāyah and Rifādah, and Banū ‘Abdal Dār keep Ḥijābah, Nadwah, and Liwā’ in their hands .

Similarly, a dispute occurred on the matter of digging the Well of Zamzam, when ‘Abdul Muṭṭalib got the commandment from Allah to dig the well, and people of the Quraish made hindrance in its digging because they wanted to become part of this sacred work. But, after seeing the open pieces of evidence from Allah in this matter, they refrained and said to ‘Abdul Muṭṭalib that “By Allah, we will never dispute with you over Zamzam.” Besides that, Ibn Hishām also gave an account on the fierce wars of “Dāḥis and Ghibrā’” (حرب داحس والغبراء) [5] and Ḥāṭib (حرب حاطب) .

Types of the Arabian rulers

In regards to the political conditions, Safiur Rehaman Mubarakpuri, author of “Al-Rahiq al-Makhtum”, states that at the time of the emergence of Islām, the Arabian rulers were of two types:

(i) Crowned Kings:

They included the Kings of Yemen (ملوك اليمن), Kings of the Family of Ghassān (ملوك آل غسّان), and the Kings of Ḥīrah (ملوك الحيرة); actually, they were not independent and self-governing.

(ii) Heads of Tribes and Clans:

They have the same authority and privileges as that of the Crowned Kings; along with that they have an additional feature of self-governing and most of them were independent; and included all the other rulers except the Crowned kings. Furthermore, expressing its political condition he stated that the three Arabian countries having the neighborhood of foreigners were suffering from extreme weakness and inferior political conditions; people were classified into two classes, i.e. masters and slaves or rulers and subordinates.

Political Conditions after the Emergence of Islam

In contrast to this, after the emergence of Islam, a transformation took place in the political condition not only of the Arabs but also people of other religious communities. An important step in this context was the treaty made by Prophet Muḥammad (SAW) between the Muslims and the Jews which was the first written constitution drawn up by the Messenger of Allah after his arrival at Medina (Madinah) that formed the multi-religious Islamic state in Medina. He established a new society by uniting all believers under the name of Ummah whose basic principles were faith, justice, honesty, and simplicity; not kinship and lineage. After the migration of Prophet Muḥammad (SAW) and his believers from Mecca (Makkah) to Medina (Madinah), he formed a bond of brotherhood between Muḥajirin (believers of Prophet Muḥammad who came from Makkah) and A’nṣār (dwellers of Madinah who accepted Islam). Besides that, as Ibn Hisham said, Prophet Muḥammad (SAW) sent some of his companions as envoys to the kings of various countries with letters inviting them towards Islam, such as, he (SAW) sent Diḥyah bin Khalīfah al-Kalbī to Caesar (قيصر) of Rome, ‘Abdullah bin Ḥudhāfah al-Sahmī to Khusrau (كِسرى) of Persia, ‘Amr bin U’mayyah Al-Ḍamrī to the Negus (نجَّاشي) of Abyssinia, Ḥāṭab bin Abū Balta‘ah to Muqawqis (مُقوقِس) the bishop of Alexandria, ‘Amr bin Al-‘Aāṣ al-Sahmī to Jayfar (جَيفر) and ‘Iyādh (عِياذ), sons of Al-Julundī and kings of Oman, Salīṭ bin ‘Amr to Thumāmah bin U’thāl and Hawdhah bin ‘Alī kings of Al-Yamāmah (اليمامة), etc.

However, as time passed and the Holy Prophet Muḥammad (SAW) got victories in the wars, and Islam spread everywhere, the political status of the people also increased in a positive manner. And we can see a great progressive change in the political conditions before and after the emergence of Islam.

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