The Arabian peninsula can be divided into two contrasting climatic regions. The South along the coast receives regular rainfall and has abundant plant life, while the north consists of an inhospitable desert with few rivers which resulted in its people living lives that were far more isolated than the lives of the southerners. This Southern region is occupied by Sabaeans who developed successful and advanced civilizations, but by the seventh century this region had fallen into disarray.
The North-East is especially inhospitable with little water and little plant life, except for the date palm. It has a barren desert environment with extremes in climate that vary from warm to extremely hot and life is at a subsistence level. Due to its harsh environment this area has been inhabited by Bedouin Arabs who are nomadic pastors that have lived in small tribal groups for most of their history. Further to the West along the coast there existed oases that were occupied by prosperous sedentary Arabs who themselves had once been Bedouins Arabs. Due to the importance of this land, all parts of these oases were possessed by sedentary Arabs thereby forcing the Bedouins Arabs to live in the interior of the peninsula, away from the coasts.
In the Bedouin Arab society, women were dehumanized, and child marriages and female infanticide were common. With life as an on-going struggle against the forces of nature that comprise of desert storms and a bleak and monotonous environment, the mental make-up of the Bedouin Arabs has been shaped by the dictum of kill or be killed, even before Islam was founded.
This has been the psyche of the Bedouin Arabs who inhabited the inner Arabian peninsula. The people who came from the same stock and who lived further north in Mesopotamia had a different geographic and climatic environment. They developed advanced riparian civilizations on the banks of the Farath (Euphrates) and Tigra (Tigris) rivers. The Babylonian and Assyrian civilizations of Hamm-ur-rabi, Assur-bin-ipal and Nabu-chad-nazar, were developed by the same Semitic people who lived in peninsular Arabia. So the temperament of a same ethnic people (the Arabs) could be entirely different, depending on the environment in which they resided.
Arabian Religions, Mecca, and the Quraysh
One of the most important economic and religious cities in pre-Islamic Arabia was the city of Mecca. Mecca was home to the Ka'bah, a giant cube that was central to pagan worship and which once housed dozens of pagan Gods, the most prominent of which were Allah and his three daughters al-Uzza, al-Lat, and Manat. Mecca's central role in Arabian pagan religion supplied the city with many pilgrims and traders and allowed it to become a prosperous center of trade. The pagan Quraysh tribe was the most prominent and influential tribe in Mecca, and it was to this tribe that Mohammed was born.
Christians and Jews also lived in Arabia. Christians lived around Najran, modern day Yemen, and groups of Christians who had left the Byzantine Empire were scattered around Arabia. The Lakhid kingdom in Norther Arabia and the Ghassanid kingdom in northwestern Arabia were also Christian; and there were powerful and important Jewish tribes in the Khaybar oasis and Yemen. In Medina there were three powerful Jewish tribes: Banu Nadir, Banu Qurayzah and Banu Qaynuqa.