the greatest civilization of the day stood in the basins of the mediterranean and the red sea. the religions of christianity and judaism divided this civilization, and though they were not at war with each other, they were surely not friendly to each other. the jews then remembered, as they still do, the rebellion jesus had launched against their religion. as much as they could, therefore, they worked secretly to stop the flow of christianity, the religion which forced them out of the promised land and assumed the roman color as its own throughout the empire. there were large communities of jews living in arabia, and a good number of them had settled in yaman and in yathrib. zoroastrianism, on the other hand, was anxious to prevent christianity from crossing the euphrates. hence, it lent its moral support to paganism while overlooking, or being mindful of, it’s spiritual and moral degradation. the fall of rome and the passing of its power under all forms of dissolution encouraged the multiplication of sects in christianity. these were not only becoming numerous and varied but were also fighting desperately with one another. indeed, the christian sects fell from the high level of faith to that of controversy regarding forms, figures, and words which related to the holiness of mary and her priority to her son, the christ. the sectarian controversies of christianity betray the level of degradation and decay to which christian thought and practice had sunk. it takes a truly decadent mind to discard content in favor of external form, to attach so much importance to externalities that the essence disappears under their opaque weight. and that is precisely what the christian sects did.
the subjects under controversy varied from place to place; the christians of al sham [al sham refers to the lands otherwise known as syria, lebanon, palestine, and jordan. -tr.] disputed other questions than those of hirah or abyssinia. in their contact with the christians, the jews did nothing to calm the raging controversies or to temper the generated antagonism. the arabs, on the other hand, were on good terms with the christians of damascus and yaman with whom they came into contact during the winter and summer caravan trips, as well as with the abyssinian christians who visited them from time to time. it was natural for them to refrain from taking sides with any christian party against another. the arabs were happy with their paganism, contented to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors, and prepared to leave both christians and jews alone as long as these were not interfering with their religion. thus, idol worship continued to flourish among them and even spread to the centers inhabited by their christian and jewish neighbors, namely najran and yathrib. the jews of yathrib tolerated idol worship, coexisted with it, and finally befriended it as the trade routes linked them to the pagan arabs with mutually beneficial relations.