My forthcoming book talks about this in way more detail, so I’ll just post very briefly on the subject of honour in Arabian culture. If any of my readers here have Muslim friends, and you have visited their homes or mosques, you’d most probably have noticed just how amazingly hospitable they are. I remember the first Mosque I ever visited, when I was a student of Arabic and Islamic studies, and upon meeting the congregation, a few of them rushed to the kitchen area and bought out a pile of food and soft drinks. They would not even let me peel the skin from my orange, they had to do it for me. It was a very humbling experience. I was a guest in their Holy building, and because I was a guest I was treated with the uppermost importance (I was actually rather embarrassed to be honest). Now Muslims are commanded in the Qur’an to treat their guests with the greatest of importance, but this virtue originally comes from the Bedouin Arabic culture that Muhammad came from. Not a lot of people in the West actually know much about Arabic culture, apart from maybe some of their literature like the “One Thousand and One Nights” for example, but Arabic culture is absolutely fascinating.
Honour is an important Arabic virtue. It’s also an extremely important Islamic virtue. (Bedouin) Arabs still to this day relate the story of a Jewish Arab, who lived in the 6th Century AD., named al-Samawal, who owned a castle north of the agricultural oasis of Yathrib (modern day Medina). According to this story, the great poet Imru al-Qays took refuge with al-samawal while fleeing towards Syria from some of his many enemies. When he continued on his journey, he left five coats of mail, heirlooms of his family, with his host for safekeeping, intending to pick them up again on his return. But he never came back, for he died on the way home from an audience with the Emperor in Constantinople. In the meantime the enemies of Imru al-Qays besieged al-Samawal in his fortified dwelling, demanding that he surrender the costs of mail he had promised to preserve for the poet. This he would not do. And when the besiegers captured his son, who had gone out of the castle to hunt, and threatened to kill him if his father did not yield up the armour, al-Samawal responded that they must do as they saw fit, for he could not in honour renege his obligation to his guest, Imru al-Qays. At that, the enemies outside slew the boy. They gave up the siege after that, as al-Samawal would still not give up Imru al-Qays possessions.
Arabs are some of the most hospitable peoples on the earth, and they still hold stories like this, from their history as sacred. I have loved every minute of getting to know many. These are some of the virtues of true Islam.