The Attitude of the Pre-Islamic Arabs towards Arts and Crafts


From the late Roman period the Saracens (the Arabs of Arabia) were described by the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 380 CE.) as follows: "Nor does any member of their tribe ever take plow in hand or cultivate a tree, or seek food by the tillage of the land; but they are perpetually wandering over various and extensive districts, having no home, no fixed abode." Such sayings brought some scholars to a conclusion that the pre-Islamic Arabs despised most of the handicrafts and that foreigners or people of low status mostly engaged in them in Arabia. Such being the case, it would be important to ascertain the real attitude of the Arabs towards arts and crafts and, more importantly, to understand its original compelling reasons. One possible way to do this is to make a distinction between the views of the townsfolk and those of the Bedouin in Arabia. It is also necessary to study this issue within the historical and cultural milieu of the ancient Near East. Special emphasis should also be given to the links of the pre-Islamic Arabs with neighboring cultures such as those of the Mesopotamians, the Palestinian and Babylonian Jews and the Hellenists. The whole issue is of special importance in the study of the economic, social and artistic history of Islam. Here, one should ask questions like: Was there any continuation of the pre-Islamic attitudes within the Islamic milieu?

Author Information
Ahmad Ghabin, Baqa al-Gharbiya and the Arab College for Education, Israel

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2016
Stream: Humanities - History, Historiography

This paper is part of the ACAH2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon