It will thus be seen that trading, as much as raiding, formed the basis of the social and economic life of the ancient Arabs. Naturally, trading was the preliminary pre-occupation of the settled Arabs, though no settled form of government or administration of law existed. Besides the traders, there were also the desert nomads, who led a more or less roving life, and were called Bedoins.
The tribe was the principal unit of Arab social life. The tribal chief exercised great powers and influence. Generally, he was elected because of his nobility of birth or wisdom or courage or character. There was no regular manner in which his behests were carried out; he relied mainly on the force of his character and on tribal opinion.
There was continuous tribal warfare, and the Arabs were not very effective in organising power and were incapable of combined action. Idolatry of a crude type generally prevailed all over Arabia, and all forms of religion and morality were almost forgotten. Polygamy was universal, divorce was easy, and female infanticide was common. Women had no legal rights and were not treated on a par with men.
Thus, the time was particularly ripe for the acceptance of a simple and rational faith like Islam, which among other things, gave women many important rights, and united the warring tribes, inspiring them with a common ideal.