In the prosperous southern region of the Arabian Peninsula, for example, the religious edicts of Christianity and Judaism held sway among the Sabians and Himyarites.
The barbaric custom of burying female infants alive, comments a noted Qur'anic commentator, Muhammad Asad, seems to have been fairly widespread in pre-Islamic Arabia.
The motives were twofold: the fear that an increase in female offspring would result in economic burden, as well as the fear of the humiliation frequently caused by girls being captured by a hostile tribe and subsequently preferring their captors to their parents and brothers.
She thus concludes that the Muslim idea of monogamy being a post-Islamic idea is flawed and biased and that women had the right to contract such a marriage before Islam.
She also describes a society in which succession was matrilineal and children were retained by the mother and lived with the mother's tribe, whereas in Shariah law, young children stay with their mother until they reach the age of puberty, and older children stay with their father.
It appears that in some parts of Arabia, notably in Mecca, a matrilineal system was in the process of being replaced by a patrilineal one at the time of Muhammad.
Growing prosperity caused by a shifting of trade routes was accompanied by a growth in individualism.
As the Qur'an states: "I will not suffer to be lost the work of any of you whether male or female.
You proceed one from another".(Qur'an 5) The Qur'an rejected the traditional and cultural practice of killing unwanted female children soon after birth.
In some tribes, women were emancipated even in comparison with many of today's standards.