The World before the Prophet Muhammad
When Almighty Allah sent His last and greatest Prophet, Muhammad [peace be upon him /PBUH], mankind was immersed in a state of degeneration. The messages of the past prophets had been distorted and ignored, civilization was on the decline and humanity had slumped into an age of darkness, with disbelief, oppression and corruption prevalent everywhere. The condition of the world at that time presented the gloomiest picture ever of human history.
At the time of Muhammad's birth, there existed two great powers on the earth: one in the East and another in the West. In the East there was the Persian Empire, and in the West, the Roman Empire. As it might be expected, these two powers were actively hostile towards each other, and were more or less, permanently at war. with each other. They were, therefore, and disunited, though appearing to be otherwise. But despite their disunity and weakness, no serious effort was made to eradicate their causes.
The Arabs were living under no better conditions. They were families and tribes of different attitudes and feelings; but they were all one and the same in one respect, and that was: they were slaves of habits and impulses; they used to take pride in invasion and plunder. They were so low in their moral affairs that a number of them used to bury their daughters alive.
Religiously speaking, the Arab of that era were mostly idol worshippers. Some of them used to make their own gods from sweet substances, so later, when they became hungry they would eat them. They had replaced Abraham's monotheism with the worship of idols, stars and demons, turning the Ka'ba, built for the One and Only Creator, into a pantheon of idols. Also, tribal rivalries and blood feuds, fueled among them like the burning desert sands of Arabia.
The people of Mecca, used to practice usury on a large scale with very high interest rates - sometimes a hundred per cent. When the debtors were not able to repay, and that was most often the case, they were enslaved or obliged to force their wives and daughters to commit certain sins, so as to be able to collect enough money sufficient for the of the debt.
Ignorance was not confined to the Arabs alone, for on the fringes of Arabia where the desert gives way to hospitable lands, met the ever changing borders of 'World Arrogance', the two superpowers of the age: the Persian and the Roman Empires.
The fire-worshipping Persians with their strange concept of dualism were further plagued by the still weirder Mazda kite doctrine, which advocated communal ownership and went to such an extent as to rule women to be the common property of all men. Like Mani a few centuries earlier, who had claimed a new religion by combining the teachings of Jesus and Zoroaster, Mazda's movement was also a reaction to the corruption of the traditional priestly class. Both creeds had flattered to deceive and died away after the execution of their proponents, who more or less depended on royal patronage. On the other hand, the Sassanian aristocracy aligned with the Zoroastrian clergy was steeped in pleasures burdening the downtrodden masses with heavy taxes and oppression.
At the other end was the Byzantine World, which though claiming to profess a divinely revealed religion, had in fact polluted the monotheist message of Prophet Jesus (PBUH) with the sediments of ancient Greek and Roman pagan thoughts, resulting in the birth of Christianity. Way back in 381 A.D., the Greco-Roman Church council had rejected the doctrine of Arius of Alexandria, to which most of the eastern provinces of the empire adhered, and in its place the council had coined the belief that God and Jesus are of one substance and therefore co-existent. Arius and his followers had held the belief in the uniqueness and majesty of God, Who alone, they said has existed since eternity, while Jesus was created in time.
Scattered here and there across West Asia and North Africa were colonies of Jews, to whom several outstanding Messengers had been sent by the Almighty. But these divine favors had failed to reform them. The laws sent to Prophet Moses (pbuh), had benn distorted and tampered with.
Further to the east lay the once flourishing cultures of China and India, which were then groping in the darkness. Confucianism had confused the Chinese, robbing their minds of any positive thinking. On the other hand, Hinduism had no universal pretensions whatsoever, and had evolved and was peculiar to the geographical confines of India, or more properly Northern India and its Aryan invaders. Conversion of foreigners was difficult because one had to be born in a particular caste and it was the mystery of 'Karma' that determined one's fate.
In short, wars, bloodshed, slavery, oppression of women and the deprived held sway everywhere. Might rule right. The world was in dire distress but no one seemed around to deliver it from darkness. No religion, ideology, creed or cult could offer any hope to the agonies and frustrations of humankind.
None of the religions in currency had any universal outlook or even pretensions and were limited to insurmountable geographical and psychological barriers, preaching discrimination and the narrow-minded superiority of a particular race.
Thus it was in such a chaotic state of depression that Almighty Allah sent His last great Prophet, with the universal Message of Islam to save mankind from disbelief, oppression, corruption, ignorance and moral decadence that was dragging humanity towards self-annihilation.