League of History

Superstition and Credulity in Arabia

They believed in the existence of jinns, demons, and fairies. They also believed that fairies could fall in love with human males, and jinn could form physical contact with human females. Although they considered jinn as an invisible creature, they believed that the union of the material and immaterial could bear babies. The Arabs believed that Jurhum was born as a result of the union between a human and an angel. This was their belief also about the Queen Bilqis of Saba (Queen of Sheba). About Umar bin Yarbu they thought that he was born with the union of a human and a fairy.

The she-camel bearing five calves and the fifth being a male was called Bahirah and they left it free by piercing its ears. She was at liberty to go and graze anywhere and nobody objected to it. In case any sheep bore a male, it was offered to the idols; and if it happened to be female, they kept it for themselves. In the case of a male and female, they held back from sacrificing them and called them Wasilla. The male camel that had fathered ten calves was held in great honor. They neither loaded it nor made it a mount and left it free like a bull. It was called Ham.

They used to keep three arrows before the idols or at the threshold of the temples. They wrote La (no) on one arrow and Na ‘m (yes) on another. The third would be blank. In case of any problem, they would take out one arrow from the quiver. If the arrow with La written on it came out, they dropped the plan of doing what they wanted, and if the arrow showing Na’m was picked, they thought themselves permitted to do whatever they had planned. If the blank arrow came out, they continued the exercise until the arrow with either La or Na’m coming out. While setting out on a journey they would tie a knot on a thin branch of a certain type of tree called Ratm. On coming back they would notice whether the knot was intact or untied. If they found the knot untied, they believed that their wives must have committed adultery while they were away. At the death of a person, his she-camel was fastened to his grave with her eyes closed until she died there or the head of the she-camel was pulled towards her breast and tied to it, and they would left her until she died. It was done in accordance with the belief that the dead person, when raised from his grave, would find the she-camel and have it as his mount. They believed that if a person went to a settlement and was afraid of an epidemic there, he would be saved if he cried loudly like an ass standing at the gate of the settlement. When the number of camels in one’s possession would reach more than one thousand, he would take out both the eyes of the bull among them to save all the other camels from calamity. When a camel would develop mange, the healthy one, instead of the sick, was branded with the belief that the sick one would restore its health. The famous poet Nabighah says in his couplet: “You left the stranger and loaded his burden upon me, as they leave the camel suffering from mange and brand the healthy camel grazing peacefully instead.”

Similarly, they would beat the ox if a cow refused to drink water. They believed that the ox was possessed by a jinn who would stop the cows from drinking water. They believed that if the killer of someone went unpunished, a bird named Hamah would come out of the skull of the dead person and would go on crying: “Give me water, give me water,” until the crime was avenged. They believed that some person had a snake in his stomach and when it was hungry it would tear and eat away the flesh from the ribs of the person. They had a belief that if the children of a woman kept dying, they could be saved from dying if the woman concerned trampled the dead body of a noble and wealthy person with her feet. They also believed that the jinn feared rabbits and so they suspended rabbit bones from the neck of their children to keep them safe from the ill effect of the jinn.


The divine scriptures are God’s beacons to the world. Surely God offered His trust to the heavens and the earth, and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man undertook it.
Back to top button