the houses of the makkans surrounded the ka'bah and stood at a distance from it proportionate to the social position, descendance, and prestige these inhabitants enjoyed. the qurayshis were the closest to the ka'bah and the most related to it on account of the offices of sidanah and siqayah' ["siddnah" is synonymous to "hijabah." for a definition of this and "siqayah," see pp. 31-32] which they held. on this account no honorific title was withheld from them, and it was for the sake of these titles that wars were fought, pacts concluded, and treaties covenanted. the texts of all makkan treaties and pacts were kept in the ka'bah so that the gods who undoubtedly, were taken as witnesses thereto, might punish those covenanters who violated their promises. beyond these stood the houses of the less important tribes, and further still stood the houses of the slaves, servants and those without honor. in makkah the jews and christians were slaves, as we said earlier. they were therefore allowed to live only in these far away houses on the edge of the desert. whatever religious stories they could tell regarding christianity or judaism would be too far removed from the ears of the lords and nobles of quraysh and makkah. this distance permitted the latter to stop their ears as well as their conscience against all serious concern. whatever they heard of judaism or christianity they obtained from a monastery or a hermitage recluse in the desert which lay on some road of the caravans.
even so, the rumors circulating at the time about the possible rise of a prophet among the arabs caused them great worry. abu sufyan one day strongly criticized umayyah ibn abu al salt for repeating such messianic stories as the monks circulated. one can imagine abu sufyan addressing umayyah in some such words as these, "those monks in the desert expect a messiah because of their ignorance of their own religion. surely they need a prophet to guide them thereto. as for us, we have the idols right here close by, and they do bring us close to god. we do not need any prophet, and we ought to combat any such suggestion." fanatically committed to his native city as well as to its paganism, it was apparently impossible for abu sufyan to realize that the hour of guidance was just about to strike, that the prophethood of muhammad-may god's blessing be upon him-had drawn near, and that from these pagan arab lands a light was to shine over the whole world to illuminate it with monotheism and truth.