By S. D. Goitein, Shelomo Dov Goitein
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As is shown in another part of this book, the religious scholars of early Islam belonged largely to the merchant class and mostly were engaged in commerce themselves. 2 It is thus not surprising that we find in the biographies of nearly all of them that they made the pilgrimage to Mecca and most of them made it more than once. Many would remain in the holy city for a year or more, which "sojourn in the neighborhood of God" had the side effect of thoroughly Arabicizing the sojourner. In our own days, when people make the pilgrimage by plane, the effect is less profound.
As is natural, even sophisticated persons would cherish the emotionally rich childhood recollections of the cult of the Prophet. Arabism and the person of Muhammad may appear as natural specifiers of Islam. There was, however, another element in Islam seemingly the opposite of anything specific, which formed the foundation of a very particular development. We are referring to what we have described above as the pristine universalism of Muhammad, his belief that God has sent messengers with one and the same mission to many peoples.
They held in their hand scrolls of parchment, purporting that these were sent down by God and contained the same terrible threats of punishments for unbelieving peoples which they had themselves just described. Adapting themselves to the local milieu (also a well known missionary device) they used the familiar stories about legendary or historical Arab peoples which had disappeared-and the ruins of whose alleged former habitations were still known-in order to drive home their lessons. " I Cf. the instructive article "Musailima" in Ell (by F.