The Situation of Women in Pre-Islamic Society
In Arabia, woman was a commodity, counted in the wealth of the father, husband or son; and after death she was inherited like the other possessions and became the property of the descendents.
It was a disgrace to have a daughter, and in some tribes the family buried this shameful thing with their own hands (see XVI: 59). In Iran, also, the form of class society did not bring anything better for women.
In Greece, woman was a creature of perpetual filthiness, a child of Satan, similar to an animal. In India, throughout her life, she was under the control of her father, husband or son, and had to address her husband as god, master and lord, and the death of her husband she had no right to take another husband. The revolting custom of Sati, the burning of the widow alive with the funeral pyre of her husband, was also practiced at that time.
In Japan, as well, woman was under the control of her father, husband or son for the whole of her life, and the daughter had no share in inheritance.
In China the father was master of the house and had so much power that he could sell his wife and children into bondage and slavery, and sometimes he even had the right to kill them. On top of this, daughters had no esteem and sometimes they were left in the desert to be the prey of the wild pigs.
The Romans also considered women to be the incarnation of evil and as harmful spirits, and kept them like children under their control.
It was, was sunk in darkness, decline and oppression. Throughout the whole of the world, no glow or gleam of light met the eye, and although the desire for goodness and virtue still flickered in the depths of the heart of human nature covered by a dark opaqueness, it had been almost extinguished on the one hand in the blackness and gloom of humiliations, passions and oppression, and on the other hand in the prominent features of poverty and wretchedness. It could not illuminate the path for the seekers after light, purity and felicity. A darkness like a thick heavy cloud in the sky had submerged the daily life of all societies of the time in a deep sleep; and a horrible, powerful obscurity reigned which only the rising of a radiant sun could disperse.
This darkness was more overpowering in Arabia invaded to the depths of degradation and debasement.
Hear what Imam Ali (A.S.) says about those days: ". . . You people of Arabia followed the worst religion; you dwelt amongst rough stones and poisonous serpents. You drank putrid water and ate filthy food. You shed the blood of one another and played no heed to relationships. Idols were established among you, and sins clung to you." (Nahjul aI-Balaghah, Sermon 26).
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