Preliminary notice of Arabia and the Arabs
Birth and parentage of Mohammed.—His infancy and childhood.
Traditions concerning Mecca and the Kaaba.
First journey of Mohammed with the caravan to Syria.
Commercial occupations of Mohammed.—His marriage with Khadijah.
Conduct of Mohammed after his marriage.—Becomes anxious for religious reform.—His habits of solitary abstraction.—The vision of the cave.— His annunciation as a prophet.
Mohammed inculcates his doctrines secretly and slowly.—Receives further revelations and commands.—Announces it to his kindred.—Manner in which it was received.—Enthusiastic devotion of Ali.—Christian portents.
Outlines of the Mohammedan faith.
Ridicule cast on Mohammed and his doctrines.—Demand for miracles.—Conduct of Abu Taleb.—Violence of the Koreishites.—Mohammed’s daughter Rokaia, with her uncle Othman and a number of disciples, take refuge in Abyssinia.—Mohammed in the house of Orkham.—Hostility of Abu Jahl; his punishment.
Omar Ibn al Kattâb, nephew of Abu JahI, undertakes to revenge his uncle by slaying Mohammed.—His wonderful conversion to the faith.— Mohammed takes refuge in a castle of Abu Taleb.—Abu Sofian, at the head of the rival branch of the Koreishites, persecutes Mohammed and his followers.—Obtains a decree of non-intercourse with them.—Mohammed leaves his retreat and makes converts during the month of pilgrimage.—Legend of the conversion of Habib the Wise.
The ban of non-intercourse mysteriously destroyed.—Mohammed enabled to return to Mecca.—Death of Abu Taleb; of Khadijah.—Mohammed betroths himself to Ayesha.—Marries Sawda.—The Koreishites renew their persecution.— Mohammed seeks an asylum in Tayef.—His expulsion thence.—Visited by genii in the desert of Naklah.
Night journey of the prophet from Mecca to Jerusalem; and thence to the seventh heaven.
Mohammed makes converts of pilgrims from Medina.—Determines to fly to that city.—A plot to slay him.—His miraculous escape.—His Hegira, or flight.— His reception at Medina.
Moslems in Medina, Mohadjerins and Ansarians.—The party of Abdallah Ibn Obba and the Hypocrites.—Mohammed builds a mosque; preaches; makes converts among the Christians.—The Jews slow to believe.—Brotherhood established between fugitives and allies.
Marriage of Mohammed with Ayesha.—Of his daughter Fatima with Ali.—Their household arrangements.
The sword announced as the instrument of faith.—First foray against the Koreishites.—Surprisal of a caravan.
The battle of Beder.
Death of the prophet’s daughter Rokaia.—Restoration of his daughter Zeinab. Effect of the prophet’s malediction on Abu Lahab and his family.—Frantic rage of Henda, the wife of Abu Sofian.—Mohammed narrowly escapes assassination.—Embassy of the Koreishites.—The King of Abyssinia.
Growing power of Mohammed.—His resentment against the Jews—Insult to an Arab damsel by the Jewish tribe of Kainoka.—A tumult.—The Beni Kainoka takes refuge in their castle.— Subdued amid punished by confiscation and banishment.—Marriage of Othman to the prophet’s daughter Omm Kalthum, and of the prophet to Hafza.
Henda incites Abu Sofian and the Koreishites to revenge the death of her relations slain in the battle of Beder.—The Koreishites sally forth, followed by Henda and her female companions.—Battle of Ohod.—Ferocious triumph of Henda.—Mohammed consoles himself by marrying Hend, the daughter of Omeya.
Treachery of certain Jewish tribes; their punishment.—Devotion of the prophet’s freedman Zeid; divorces his beautiful wife Zeinab, that she may become the wife of the prophet.
Expedition of Mohammed against the Beni Mostalek.—He espouses Barra, a captive.—Treachery of Abdallah Ibn Obba.—Ayesha slandered.—Her vindication.—Her innocence proved by a revelation.
The battle of the Moat.—Bravery of Saad Ibn Moad.—Defeat of the Koreishites.—Capture of the Jewish castle of Coraida.—Saad decides as to the punishment of the Jews.—Mohammed espouses Rehana, a Jewish captive.—His life endangered by sorcery; saved by a revelation of the angel Gabriel.
Mohammed undertakes a pilgrimage to Mecca.—Evades Khaled and a troop of horse sent against him.—Encamps near Mecca.—Negotiates with the Koreishites for permission to enter and complete his pilgrimage.—Treaty for ten years, by which he is permitted to make a yearly visit of three days.—He returns to Medina.
Expedition against the city of Khaibar; siege.—Exploits of Mohammed’s captains.—Battle of Ali and Marhab.—Storming of the citadel.—Ali makes a buckler of the gate.—Capture of the place.—Mohammed poisoned; he marries Safiya, a captive; also Omm Habiba, a widow.
Missions to various princes; to Heraclius; to Khosru II.; to the Prefect of Egypt.—Their result.
Mohammed’s pilgrimage to Mecca; his marriage with Maimuna.—Khaled Ibn al Waled and Amru Ibn al Aass become proselytes.
A Moslem envoy slain in Syria.—Expedition to avenge his death.—Battle of Muta.—Its results.
Designs upon Mecca.—Mission of Abu Sofian.—Its result.
Surprise and capture of Mecca.
Hostilities in the mountains.—Enemy’s camp in the valley of Autas.—Battle at the pass of Honein.—Capture of the enemy’s camp.—Interview of Mohammed with the nurse of his childhood.—Division of spoil.—Mohammed at his mother’s grave.
Death of the prophet’s daughter Zeinab.—Birth of his son Ibrahim.—Deputations from distant tribes.—Poetical contest in presence of the prophet.— His susceptibility to the charms of poetry.—Reduction of the city of Tayef; destruction of its idols.—Negotiation with Amir Ibn Tafiel, a proud Bedouin chief; independent spirit of the latter.—Interview of Adi, another chief, with Mohammed.
Preparations for an expedition against Syria.—Intrigues of Abdallah Ibn Obba.—Contributions of the faithful.—March of the army.—The accursed region of Hajar.—Encampment at Tabuc.—Subjugation of the neighboring provinces.—Khaled surprises Okaidor and his castle.—Return of the army to Medina.
Triumphal entry into Medina.—Punishment of those who had refused to join the campaign.—Effects of excommunication.—Death of Abdallah Ibu Obba.—Dissensions in the prophet’s harem.
Abu Beker conducts the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca.—Mission of Ali to announce a revelation.
Mohammed sends his captains on distant enterprises.—Appoints lieutenants to govern in Arabia Felix.—Sends Ali to suppress an insurrection in that province.—Death of the prophet’s only son Ibrahim.—His conduct at the deathbed and the grave.—His growing infirmities.—His valedictory pilgrimage to Mecca, and his conduct and preaching while there.
Of the two false prophets Al Aswad and Moseilma.
An army prepared to march against Syria.—Command given to Osama.—The prophet’s farewell address to the troops.—His last illness.—His sermons in the mosque.—His death and the attending circumstances.
Person and character of Mohammed, and speculations on his prophetic career.
Of the Islam Faith.
Election of Abu Beker, first Caliph, Hegira 11th, A.D. 632.
Moderation of Abu Beker.—Traits of his character.—Rebellion of Arab tribes.—Defeat and death of Malec Ibn Nowirah.—Harsh measures of Khaled condemned by Omar, but excused by Abu Beker.—Khaled defeats Moseilma the false prophet.—Compilation of the Koran.
Campaign against Syria.—Army sent under Yezed Ibn Abu Sofian.—Successes.—Another army under Amru Ibn al Aass.—Brilliant achievements of Khaled in lrak.
Incompetency of Abu Obeidab to the general command in Syria.—Khaled sent to supersede him.—Peril of the Moslem army before Bosra.—Timely arrival of Khaled.—His exploits during the siege.—Capture of Bosra.
Khaled lays siege to Damascus.
Siege of Damascus continued.—Exploits of Derar.—Defeat of the imperial army.
Siege of Damascus continued.—Sally of the garrison.—Heroism of the Moslem women.
Battle of Aiznadin.
Occurrences before Damascus.—Exploits of Thomas.—Aban Ibn Zeid and his Amazonian wife.
Surrender of Damascus.—Disputes of the Saracen generals.—Departure of Thomas and the exile.
Story of Jonas and Eudocea.—Pursuit of the exiles.—Death of the Caliph Abu Beker.
Election of Omar, second Caliph.—Khaled superseded in command by Abu Obeidah.—Magnanimous conduct of those generals.—Expedition to the convent of Abyla.
Moderate measures of Abu Obeidah.—Reproved by the Caliph for his slowness.
Siege and capture of Baalbec.
Siege of Emessa.—Stratagems of the Moslems.—Fanatic devotion of Ikremah.—Surrender of the city.
Advance of a powerful Imperial army.—Skirmishes of Khaled.—Capture of Derar.—Interview of Khaled and Manuel.
The battle of Yermouk.
Siege and capture of Jerusalem.
Progress of the Moslem arms in Syria.—Siege of Aleppo.—Obstinate defense by Youkenna.—Exploit of Damas.—Capture of the castle.—Conversion of Youkenna.
Perfidy of Youkenna to his former friends.—Attempts the castle of Aazaz by treachery.—Capture of the castle.
Intrigues of Youkenna at Antioch.—Siege of that city by the Moslems.—Flight of the emperor to Constantinople.—Surrender of Antioch.
Expedition into the mountains of Syria.—Story of a miraculous cap.
Expedition of Amru Ibn al Aass against Prince Constantine in Syria.—Their conference.—Capture of Tripoli and Tyre.—Flight of Constantine.—Death of Khaled.
Invasion of Egypt by Amru.—Capture of Memphis.—Siege and surrender of Alexandria.—Burning of the Alexandrian library.
Enterprises of the Moslems in Persia.—Defense of the kingdom by Queen Arzemia.—Battle of the Bridge.
Mosenna Ibn Haris ravages the country along the Euphrates.—Death of Arzemia.—Yezdegird III. raised to the throne.—Saad Ibn Abu Wakkâs given the general command.—Death of Mosenna.—Embassy to Yezdegird.—Its reception.
The battle of Kadesia.
Founding of Bassora.—Capture of the Persian capital.—Flight of Yezdegird to Holwân.
Capture of Jâlulâ.—Flight of Yezdegird to Rei.—Founding of Cufa.—Saad receives a severe rebuke from the Caliph for his magnificence.
War with Hormuzân, the Satrap of Ahwâz.—His conquest and conversion.
Saad suspended from the command.—A Persian army assembled at Nehâvend.—Council at the mosque of Medina.—Battle of Nehâvend.
Capture of Hamadân; of Rei.—Subjugation of Tabaristan; of Azerbijân.—Campaign among the Caucasian mountains.
The Caliph Omar assassinated by a fire-worshipper.—His character.—Othman elected Caliph.
Conclusion of the Persian conquest.—Flight and death of Yezdegird.
Amru displaced from the government of Egypt.—Revolt of the inhabitants.— Alexandria retaken by the Imperialists.—Amru reinstated in command.—Retakes Alexandria, and tranquillizes Egypt.—Is again displaced.—Abdallah Ibn Saad invades the north of Africa.
Moawyah, Emir of Syria.—His naval victories.—Othman loses the prophet’s ring.—Suppresses erroneous copies of the Koran.—Conspiracies against him.—His death.
Candidates for the Caliphat.—Inauguration of Ali, fourth Caliph.—He undertakes measures of reform.—Their consequences.—Conspiracy of Ayesha.—She gets possession of Bassora.
Ali defeats the rebels under Ayesha.—His treatment of her.
Battles between Ali and Moawyah.—Their claims to the Caliphat left to arbitration; the result.—Decline of the power of Ali.—Loss of Egypt.
Preparations of Ali for the Invasion of Syria.—His assassination.
Succession of Hassan, fifth Caliph.—He abdicates in favor of Moawyah.
Reign of Moawyah I., sixth Caliph.—Account of his illegitimate brother Zeyad.—Death of Amru.
Siege of Constantinople.—Truce with the emperor.—Murder of Hassan.—Death of Ayesha.
Moslem conquests in Northern Africa.—Achievements of Acbah; his death.
Moawyah names his successor.—His last acts and death.—Traits of his character.
Succession of Yezid, seventh Caliph.—Final fortunes of Hosein, the son of Ali.
Insurrection of Abdallah Ibn Zobeir.—Medina taken and sacked.—Mecca besieged.—Death of Yezid.
Inauguration of Moawyah II., eighth Caliph.—His abdication and death. —Merwan Ibn Hakem and Abdallah Ibn Zobeir, rival Caliphs.—Civil wars in Syria.
State of affairs in Khorassan.—Conspiracy at Cufa.—Faction of the Penitents; their fortunes.—Death of the Caliph Merwân.
Inauguration of Abd’almâlec, the eleventh Caliph.—Story of Al Moktar, the Avenger.
Musab Ibn Zobeir takes possession of Babylonia.—Usurpation of Amru Ibn Saad; his death.—Expedition of Abd’almâlec against Musab.—The result.—Omens; their effect upon Abd’almâlec.—Exploits of Al Mohalleb.
Abd’almâlec makes war upon his rival Caliph in Mecca.—Siege of the sacred city.—Death of Abdallah.—Demolition and reconstruction of the Kaaba.
Administration of Al Hejagi as emir of Babylonla.
Renunciation of tribute to the emperor.—Battles in Northern Africa.—The prophet queen Cahina; her achievements and fate.
Musa lbn Nosseyr made emir of Northern Africa.—His campaigns against the Berbers.
Naval enterprises of Musa.—Cruisings of his son Abdolola.—Death of Abd’almâlec.
Inauguration of Waled, twelfth Caliph.—Revival of the arts under his reign.— His taste for architecture.—Erection of mosques.—Conquests of his generals.
Further triumphs of Musa Ibn Nosseyr.—Naval enterprises.—Descents in Sicily, Sardinia and Mallorca.—Invasion of Tingitania.—Projects for the invasion of Spain.—Conclusion.
MOHAMMED MAKES CONVERTS OF PILGRIMS FROM MEDINA—DETERMINES TO FLY TO THAT CITY—A PLOT TO SLAY HIM—HIS MIRACULOUS ESCAPE—HIS HEGIRA, OR FLIGHT—HIS RECEPTION AT MEDINA.
The fortunes of Mohammed were becoming darker and darker in his native place. Khadijah, his original benefactress, the devoted companion of his solitude and seclusion, the zealous believer in his doctrines, was in her grave; so also was Abu Taleb, once his faithful and efficient protector. Deprived of the sheltering influence of the latter, Mohammed had become, in a manner, an outlaw, in Mecca; obliged to conceal himself, and remain a burden on the hospitality of those whom his own doctrines had involved in persecution. If worldly advantage had been his object, how had it been attained? Upward of ten years had elapsed since first he announced his prophetic mission; ten long years of enmity, trouble, and misfortune. Still he persevered, and now, at a period of life when men seek to enjoy in repose the fruition of the past, rather than risk all in new schemes for the future, we find him, after having sacrificed ease, fortune, and friends, prepared to give up home and country also, rather than his religious creed.
As soon as the privileged time of pilgrimage arrived, he emerged once more from his concealment, and mingled with the multitude assembled from all parts of Arabia. His earnest desire was to find some powerful tribe, or the inhabitants of some important city, capable and willing to receive him as a guest, and protect him in the enjoyment and propagation of his faith.
His quest was for a time unsuccessful. Those who had come to worship at the Kaaba drew back from a man stigmatized as an apostate; and the worldly-minded were unwilling to befriend one proscribed by the powerful of his native place.
At length, as he was one day preaching on the hill Al Akaba, a little to the north of Mecca, he drew the attention of certain pilgrims from the city of Yathreb. This city, since called Medina, was about two hundred and seventy miles north of Mecca. Many of its inhabitants were Jews and heretical Christians. The pilgrims in question were pure Arabs of the ancient and powerful tribe of Khazradites, and in habits of friendly intercourse with the Keneedites and Naderites, two Jewish tribes inhabiting Mecca who claimed to be of the sacerdotal line of Aaron. The pilgrims had often heard their Jewish friends explain the mysteries of their faith, and talk of an expected Messiah. They were moved by the eloquence of Mohammed, and struck with the resemblance of his doctrines to those of the Jewish law; insomuch that when they heard him proclaim himself a prophet, sent by heaven to restore the ancient faith, they said, one to another, “Surely this must be the promised Messiah of which we have been told.” The more they listened, the stronger became their persuasion of the fact, until in the end they avowed their conviction, and made a final profession of the faith.
As the Khazradites belonged to one of the most powerful tribes of Yathreb, Mohammed sought to secure their protection, and proposed to accompany them on their return; but they informed him that they were at deadly feud with the Awsites, another powerful tribe of that city, and advised him to defer his coming until they should be at peace. He consented; but on the return home of the pilgrims, he sent with them Musab Ibn Omeir, one of the most learned and able of his disciples, with instructions to strengthen them in the faith, and to preach it to their townsmen. Thus were the seeds of Islamism first sown in the city of Medina. For a time they thrived but slowly. Musab was opposed by the idolaters, and his life threatened; but he persisted in his exertions, and gradually made converts among the principal inhabitants. Among these were Saad Ibn Maads, a prince or chief of the Awsites, and Osaid Ibn Hodheir, a man of great authority in the city. Numbers of the Moslems of Mecca also, driven away by persecution, took refuge in Medina, and aided in propagating the new faith among its inhabitants, until it found its way into almost every household.
Feeling now assured of being able to give Mohammed an asylum in the city, upward of seventy of the converts of Medina, led by Musab Ibn Omeir, repaired to Mecca with the pilgrims in the holy month of the thirteenth year of “the mission,” to invite him to take up his abode in their city. Mohammed gave them a midnight meeting on the hill Al Akaba. His uncle Al Abbas, who, like the deceased Abu Taleb, took an affectionate interest in his welfare, though no convert to his doctrines, accompanied him to this secret conference, which he feared might lead him into danger. He entreated the pilgrims from Medina not to entice his nephew to their city until more able to protect him: warning them that their open adoption of the new faith would bring all Arabia in arms against them. His warnings and entreaties were in vain: a solemn compact was made between the parties. Mohammed demanded that they should abjure idolatry, and worship the one true God openly and fearlessly. For himself he exacted obedience in weal and woe; and for the disciples who might accompany him, protection; even such as they would render to their own wives and children. On these terms he offered to bind himself to remain among them, to be the friend of their friends, the enemy of their enemies. “But, should we perish in your cause,” asked they, “what will be our reward?” “Paradise!” replied the prophet.
The terms were accepted; the emissaries from Medina placed their hands in the hands of Mohammed, and swore to abide by the compact. The latter then singled out twelve from among them, whom he designated as his apostles; in imitation, it is supposed, of the example of our Saviour. Just then a voice was heard from the summit of the hill, denouncing them as apostates, and menacing them with punishment. The sound of this voice, heard in the darkness of the night, inspired temporary dismay. “It is the voice of the fiend Iblis,” said Mohammed scornfully; “he is the foe of God: fear him not.” It was probably the voice of some spy or eavesdropper of the Koreishites; for the very next morning they manifested a knowledge of what had taken place in the night; and treated the new confederates with great harshness as they were departing from the city.
It was this early accession to the faith, and this timely aid proffered and subsequently afforded to Mohammed and his disciples, which procured for the Moslems of Medina the appellation of Ansarians, or auxiliaries, by which they were afterward distinguished.
After the departure of the Ansarians, and the expiration of the holy month, the persecutions of the Moslems were resumed with increased virulence, insomuch that Mohammed, seeing a crisis was at hand, and being resolved to leave the city, advised his adherents generally to provide for their safety. For himself, he still lingered in Mecca with a few devoted followers.
Abu Sofian, his implacable foe, was at this time governor of the city. He was both incensed and alarmed at the spreading growth of the new faith, and held a meeting of the chief of the Koreishites to devise some means of effectually putting a stop to it. Some advised that Mohammed should be banished from the city; but it was objected that he might gain other tribes to his interest, or perhaps the people of Medina, and return at their head to take his revenge. Others proposed to wall him up in a dungeon, and supply him with food until he died; but it was surmised that his friends might effect his escape. All these objections were raised by a violent and pragmatical old man, a stranger from the province of Nedja, who, say the Moslem writers, was no other than the devil in disguise, breathing his malignant spirit into those present. At length it was declared by Abu Jahl, that the only effectual check on the growing evil was to put Mohammed to death. To this all agreed, and as a means of sharing the odium of the deed, and withstanding the vengeance it might awaken among the relatives of the victim, it was arranged that a member of each family should plunge his sword into the body of Mohammed.
It is to this conspiracy that allusion is made in the eighth chapter of the Koran. “And call to mind how the unbelievers plotted against thee, that they might either detain thee in bonds, or put thee to death, or expel thee the city; but God laid a plot against them; and God is the best layer of plots.”
In fact, by the time the murderers arrived before the dwelling of Mohammed, he was apprised of the impending danger. As usual, the warning is attributed to the angel Gabriel, but it is probable it was given by some Koreishite, less bloody-minded than his confederates. It came just in time to save Mohammed from the hands of his enemies. They paused at his door, but hesitated to enter. Looking through a crevice they beheld, as they thought, Mohammed wrapped in his green mantle, and lying asleep on his couch. They waited for a while, consulting whether to fall on him while sleeping, or wait until he should go forth. At length they burst open the door and rushed toward the couch. The sleeper started up: but, instead of Mohammed, Ali stood before them. Amazed and confounded, they demanded, “Where is Mohammed?” “I know not,” replied Ali sternly, and walked forth; nor did any one venture to molest him. Enraged at the escape of their victim, however, the Koreishites proclaimed a reward of a hundred camels to any one who should bring them Mohammed alive or dead.
Divers accounts are given of the mode in which Mohammed made his escape from the house after the faithful Ali had wrapped himself in his mantle and taken his place upon the couch. The most miraculous account is, that he opened the door silently, as the Koreishites stood before it, and, scattering a handful of dust in the air, cast such blindness upon them that he walked through the midst of them without being perceived. This, it is added, is confirmed by the verse of the 30th chapter of the Koran: “We have thrown blindness upon them, that they shall not see.”
The most probable account is, that he clambered over the wall in the rear of the house, by the help of a servant, who bent his back for him to step upon it.
He repaired immediately to the house of Abu Beker, and they arranged for instant flight. It was agreed that they should take refuge in a cave in Mount Thor, about an hour’s distance from Mecca, and wait there until they could proceed safely to Medina: and in the mean time the children of Abu Beker should secretly bring them food. They left Mecca while it was yet dark, making their way on foot by the light of the stars, and the day dawned as they found themselves at the foot of Mount Thor. Scarce were they within the cave when they heard the sound of pursuit. Abu Beker, though a brave man, quaked with fear. “Our pursuers,” said he, “are many, and we are but two.” “Nay,” replied Mohammed, “there is a third; God is with us!” And here the Moslem writers relate a miracle, dear to the minds of all true believers. By the time, say they, that the Koreishites reached the mouth of the cavern, an acacia-tree had sprung up before it, in the spreading branches of which a pigeon had made its nest, and laid its eggs, and over the whole a spider had woven its web. When the Koreishites beheld these signs of undisturbed quiet, they concluded that no one could recently have entered the cavern; so they turned away, and pursued their search in another direction.
Whether protected by miracle or not, the fugitives remained for three days undiscovered in the cave, and Asama, the daughter of Abu Beker, brought them food in the dusk of the evenings.
On the fourth day, when they presumed the ardor of pursuit had abated, the fugitives ventured forth, and set out for Medina, on camels which a servant of Abu Beker had brought in the night for them. Avoiding the main road usually taken by the caravans, they bent their course nearer to the coast of the Red Sea. They had not proceeded far, however, before they were overtaken by a troop of horse headed by Soraka Ibn Malec. Abu Beker was again dismayed by the number of their pursuers; but Mohammed repeated the assurance, “Be not troubled; Allah is with us.” Soraka was a grim warrior, with shagged iron gray locks and naked sinewy arms rough with hair. As he overtook Mohammed, his horse reared and fell with him. His superstitious mind was struck with it as an evil sign. Mohammed perceived the state of his feelings, and by an eloquent appeal wrought upon him to such a degree that Soraka, filled with awe, entreated his forgiveness, and turning back with his troop suffered him to proceed on his way unmolested.
The fugitives continued their journey without further interruption, until they arrived at Koba, a hill about two miles from Medina. It was a favorite resort of the inhabitants of the city, and a place to which they sent their sick and infirm, for the air was pure and salubrious. Hence, too, the city was supplied with fruit; the hill and its environs being covered with vineyards, and with groves of the date and lotus; with gardens producing citrons, oranges, pomegranates, figs, peaches, and apricots; and being irrigated with limpid streams.
On arriving at this fruitful spot, Al Kaswa, the camel of Mohammed, crouched on her knees, and would go no further. The prophet interpreted it as a favorable sign, and determined to remain at Koba, and prepare for entering the city. The place where his camel knelt is still pointed out by pious Moslems, a mosque named Al Takwa having been built there to commemorate the circumstance. Some affirm that it was actually founded by the prophet. A deep well is also shown in the vicinity, beside which Mohammed reposed under the shade of the trees, and into which be dropped his seal ring. It is believed still to remain there, and has given sanctity to the well, the waters of which are conducted by subterraneous conduits to Medina. At Koba he remained four days, residing in the house of an Awsite named Colthum Ibn Hadem. While at this village he was joined by a distinguished chief, Boreida Ibn Hoseib, with seventy followers, all of the tribe of Saham. These made profession of faith between the hands of Mohammed.
Another renowned proselyte who repaired to the prophet at this village, was Salman al Parsi (or the Persian). He is said to have been a native of a small place near Ispahan, and that, on passing one day by a Christian church, he was so much struck by the devotion of the people, and the solemnity of the worship, that he became disgusted with the idolatrous faith in which he had been brought up. He afterward wandered about the east, from city to city, and convent to convent, in quest of a religion, until an ancient monk, full of years and infirmities, told him of a prophet who had arisen in Arabia to restore the pure faith of Abraham.
This Salman rose to power in after years, and was reputed by the unbelievers of Mecca to have assisted Mohammed in compiling his doctrine. This is alluded to in the sixteenth chapter of the Koran: “Verily, the idolaters say, that a certain man assisted to compose the Koran; but the language of this man is Ajami (or Persian) and the Koran is indited in the pure Arabian tongue.”
The renowned and learned Humphrey Prideaux, Doctor of Divinity and Dean of Norwich, in his Life of Mohammed, confounds this Salman the Persian with Abdallah Ibn Salan, a learned Jew; by some called Abdias Ben Salan in the Hebrew dialect, and by others Abdallah Salen; who is accused by Christian writers of assisting Mohammed in fabricating his revelations.
The Moslems of Mecca, who had taken refuge some time before in Medina, hearing that Mohammed was at hand, came forth to meet him at Koba; among these was the early convert Talha, and Zobeir, the nephew of Khadijah. These, seeing the travel-stained garments of Mohammed and Abu Beker, gave them white mantles, with which to make their entrance into Medina. Numbers of the Ansarians, or auxiliaries, of Medina, who had made their compact with Mohammed in the preceding year, now hastened to renew their vow of fidelity.
Learning from them that the number of proselytes in the city was rapidly augmenting, and that there was a general disposition to receive him favorably, he appointed Friday, the Moslem sabbath, the sixteenth day of the month Rabi, for his public entrance.
Accordingly on the morning of that day he assembled all his followers to prayer; and after a sermon, in which he expounded the main principles of his faith, he mounted his camel Al Kaswa, and set forth for that city, which was to become renowned in after ages as his city of refuge.
Boreida Ibn al Hoseib, with his seventy horsemen of the tribe of Saham, accompanied him as a guard. Some of the disciples took turns to hold a canopy of palm-leaves over his head, and by his side rode Abu Beker. “Oh apostle of God!” cried Boreida, “thou shalt not enter Medina without a standard;” so saying, he unfolded his turban, and tying one end of it to the point of his lance, bore it aloft before the prophet.
The city of Medina was fair to approach, being extolled for beauty of situation, salubrity of climate, and fertility of soil; for the luxuriance of its palm-trees, and the fragrance of its shrubs and flowers. At a short distance from the city a crowd of new proselytes to the faith came forth in sun and dust to meet the cavalcade. Most of them had never seen Mohammed, and paid reverence to Abu Beker through mistake; but the latter put aside the screen of palm-leaves, and pointed out the real object of homage, who was greeted with loud acclamations.
In this way did Mohammed, so recently a fugitive from his native city, with a price upon his head, enter Medina, more as a conqueror in triumph, than an exile seeking an asylum. He alighted at the house of a Khazradite, named Abu Ayub, a devout Moslem, to whom moreover he was distantly related; here he was hospitably received, and took up his abode in the basement story.
Shortly after his arrival he was joined by the faithful Ali, who had fled from Mecca, and journeyed on foot, hiding himself in the day and travelling only at night, lest he should fall into the hands of the Koreishites. He arrived weary and way-worn his feet bleeding with the roughness of the journey.
Within a few days more came Ayesha, and the rest of Abu Beker’s household, together with the family of Mohammed, conducted by his faithful freedman Zeid, and by Abu Beker’s servant Abdallah.
Such is the story of the memorable Hegira, or “Flight of the prophet”—the era of the Arabian calendar, from which time is calculated by all true Moslems: it corresponds to the 622d year of the Christian era.
MOSLEMS IN MEDINA, MOHADJERINS AND ANSARIANS—THE PARTY OF ABDALLAH IBN OBBA AND THE HYPOCRITES—MOHAMMED BUILDS A MOSQUE, PREACHES, MAKES CONVERTS AMONG THE CHRISTIANS—THE JEWS SLOW TO BELIEVE—BROTHERHOOD ESTABLISHED BETWEEN FUGITIVES AND ALLIES.
Mohammed soon found himself at the head of a numerous and powerful sect in Medina; partly made up of those of his disciples who had fled from Mecca, and were thence called Mohadjerins or Fugitives, and partly of inhabitants of the place, who on joining the faith were called Ansarians or Auxiliaries. Most of these latter were of the powerful tribes of the Awsites and Khazradites, which, though descended from two brothers, Al Aws and Al Khazraj, had for a hundred and twenty years distracted Medina by their inveterate and mortal feuds, but had now become united in the bonds of faith. With such of these tribes as did not immediately adopt his doctrines he made a covenant.
The Khazradites were very much under the sway of a prince or chief, named Abdallah Ibn Obba; who, it is said, was on the point of being made king, when the arrival of Mohammed and the excitement caused by his doctrines gave the popular feeling a new direction. Abdallah was stately in person, of a graceful demeanor, and ready and eloquent tongue; he professed great friendship for Mohammed, and with several companions of his own type and character, used to attend the meetings of the Moslems. Mohammed was captivated at first by their personal appearance, their plausible conversation, and their apparent deference; but he found in the end that Abdallah was jealous of his popularity and cherished secret animosity against him, and that his companions were equally false in their pretended friendship; hence, he stamped them with the name of “The Hypocrites.” Abdallah Ibn Obba long continued his political rival in Medina.
Being now enabled publicly to exercise his faith and preach his doctrines, Mohammed proceeded to erect a mosque. The place chosen was a grave-yard or burying-ground, shaded by date-trees. He is said to have been guided in his choice by what he considered a favorable omen; his camel having knelt opposite to this place on his public entry into the city. The dead were removed, and the trees cut down to make way for the intended edifice. It was simple in form and structure, suited to the unostentatious religion which he professed, and to the scanty and precarious means of its votaries. The walls were of earth and brick; the trunks of the palm-trees recently felled, served as pillars to support the roof, which was framed of their branches and thatched with their leaves. It was about a hundred ells square, and had three doors; one to the south, where the Kebla was afterward established, another called the gate of Gabriel, and the third the gate of Mercy. A part of the edifice, called Soffat, was assigned as a habitation to such of the believers as were without a home.
Mohammed assisted with his own hands in the construction of this mosque. With all his foreknowledge, he little thought that he was building his own tomb and monument; for in that edifice his remains are deposited. It has in after times been repeatedly enlarged and beautified, but still bears the name Mesjed al Nebi (the Mosque of the Prophet), from having been founded by his hands. He was for some time at a loss in what manner his followers should be summoned to their devotions; whether with the sound of trumpets as among the Jews, or by lighting fires on high places, or by the striking of timbrels. While in this perplexity a form of words to be cried aloud was suggested by Abdallah, the son of Zeid, who declared that it was revealed to him in a vision. It was instantly adopted by Mohammed, and such is given as the origin of the following summons, which is to this day heard from the lofty minarets throughout the East, calling the Moslems to the place of worship: “God is great! God is great! There is no God but God. Mohammed is the apostle of God. Come to prayers! come to prayers! God is great! God is great! There is no God but God.” To which at dawn of day is added the exhortation, “Prayer is better than sleep! Prayer is better than sleep!”
Everything in this humble mosque was at first conducted with great simplicity. At night it was lighted up by splinters of the date-tree; and it was some time before lamps and oil were introduced. The prophet stood on the ground and preached, leaning with his back against the trunk of one of the date-trees, which served as pillars. He afterward had a pulpit or tribune erected, to which he ascended by three steps, so as to be elevated above the congregation. Tradition asserts, that when he first ascended this pulpit, the deserted date-tree uttered a groan; whereupon, as a consolation, he gave it the choice either to be transplanted to a garden again to flourish, or to be transferred to paradise, there to yield fruit, in after life, to true believers. The date-tree wisely chose the latter, and was subsequently buried beneath the pulpit, there to await its blissful resurrection.
Mohammed preached and prayed in the pulpit, sometimes sitting, sometimes standing and leaning on a staff. His precepts as yet were all peaceful and benignant, inculcating devotion to God and humanity to man. He seems to have emulated for a time the benignity of the Christian faith. “He who is not affectionate to God’s creatures, and to his own children,” would he say, “God will not be affectionate to him. Every Moslem who clothes the naked of his faith, will be clothed by Allah in the green robes of paradise.”
In one of his traditional sermons, transmitted by his disciples, is the following apologue on the subject of charity: “When God created the earth it shook and trembled, until he put mountains upon it, to make it firm. Then the angels asked, ‘Oh, God, is there anything of thy creation stronger than these mountains?’ And God replied, ‘Iron is stronger than the mountains; for it breaks them.’ ‘And is there anything of thy creation stronger than iron?’ ‘Yes; fire is stronger than iron, for it melts it.’ ‘Is there anything of thy creation stronger than fire?’ ‘Yes; water, for it quenches fire.’ ‘Oh Lord, is there anything of thy creation stronger than water?’ ‘Yes, wind; for it overcomes water and puts it in motion.’ ‘Oh, our Sustainer! is there anything of thy creation stronger than wind?’ ‘Yes, a good man giving alms; if he give with his right hand and conceal it from his left, he overcomes all things.’”
His definition of charity embraced the wide circle of kindness. Every good act, he would say, is charity. Your smiling in your brother’s face is charity; an exhortation of your fellow-man to virtuous deeds is equal to alms-giving; your putting a wanderer in the right road is charity; your assisting the blind is charity; your removing stones and thorns and other obstructions from the road is charity; your giving water to the thirsty is charity.
“A man’s true wealth hereafter is the good he does in this world to his fellow-man. When he dies, people will say, What property has he left behind him? But the angels, who examine him in the grave, will ask, ‘What good deeds hast thou sent before thee?’”
“Oh prophet!” said one of his disciples, “my mother, Omm-Sad, is dead; what is the best alms I can send for the good of her soul?” “Water!” replied Mohammed, bethinking himself of the panting heats of the desert. “Dig a well for her, and give water to the thirsty.” The man digged a well in his mother’s name, and said, “This well is for my mother, that its rewards may reach her soul.”
Charity of the tongue also, that most important and least cultivated of charities, was likewise earnestly inculcated by Mohammed. Abu Jaraiya, an inhabitant of Basrah, coming to Medina, and being persuaded of the apostolical office of Mohammed, entreated him some great rule of conduct. “Speak evil of no one,” answered the prophet. “From that time,” says Abu Jaraiya, “I never did abuse any one, whether freeman or slave.”
The rules of Islamism extended to the courtesies of life. Make a salam (or salutation) to a house on entering and leaving it. Return the salute of friends and acquaintances, and wayfarers on the road. He who rides must be the first to make the salute to him who walks; he who walks to him who is sitting; a small party to a large party, and the young to the old.
On the arrival of Mohammed at Medina, some of the Christians of the city promptly enrolled themselves among his followers; they were probably of those sectarians who held to the human nature of Christ, and found nothing repugnant in Islamism; which venerated Christ as the greatest among the prophets. The rest of the Christians resident there showed but little hostility to the new faith, considering it far better than the old idolatry. Indeed, the schisms and bitter dissensions among the Christians of the East had impaired their orthodoxy, weakened their zeal, and disposed them easily to be led away by new doctrines.
The Jews, of which there were rich and powerful families in Medina and its vicinity, showed a less favorable disposition. With some of them Mohammed made covenants of peace, and trusted to gain them in time to accept him as their promised Messiah or prophet. Biassed, perhaps unconsciously, by such views, he had modelled many of his doctrines on the dogmas of their religion, and observed certain of their fasts and ordinances. He allowed such as embraced Islamism to continue in the observance of their Sabbath, and of several of the Mosaic laws and ceremonies. It was the custom of the different religions of the East, to have each a Kebla or sacred point toward which they turned their faces in the act of adoration; the Sabeans toward the north star; the Persian fire-worshippers toward the east, the place of the rising sun; the Jews toward their holy city of Jerusalem. Hitherto Mohammed had prescribed nothing of the kind; but now, out of deference to the Jews, he made Jerusalem the Kebla, toward which all Moslems were to turn their faces when in prayer.
While new converts were daily made among the inhabitants of Medina, sickness and discontent began to prevail among the fugitives from Mecca. They were not accustomed to the climate; many suffered from fevers, and in their sickness and debility languished after the home whence they were exiled.
To give them a new home, and link them closely with their new friends and allies, Mohammed established a brotherhood between fifty-four of them and as many of the inhabitants of Medina. Two persons thus linked together were pledged to stand by each other in weal and woe; it was a tie, which knit their interests more closely even than that of kindred, for they were to be heirs to each other in preference to blood relations.
This institution was one of expediency, and lasted only until the new comers had taken firm root in Medina; extended merely to those of the people of Mecca who had fled from persecution; and is alluded to in the following verse of the eighth chapter of the Koran: “They who have believed and have fled their country, and employed their substance and their persons in fighting for the faith, and they who have given the prophet a refuge among them, and have assisted him, these shall be deemed the one nearest of kin to the other.”
In this shrewd but simple way were laid the foundations of that power which was soon to attain stupendous strength, and to shake the mightiest empires of the world.
MARRIAGE OF MOHAMMED WITH AYESHA—OF HIS DAUGHTER FATIMA WITH ALI—THEIR HOUSEHOLD ARRANGEMENTS.
THE family relations of Mohammed had been much broken up by the hostility brought upon him by his religious zeal. His daughter Rokaia was still an exile with her husband, Othman Ibn Affan, in Abyssinia; his daughter Zeinab had remained in Mecca with her husband, Abul Aass, who was a stubborn opposer of the new faith. The family with Mohammed in Medina consisted of his recently wedded wife Sawda, and Fatima, and Um Kolthum, daughters of his late wife Khadijah. He had a heart prone to affection, and subject to female influence, but he had never entertained much love for Sawda; and though he always treated her with kindness, he felt the want of some one to supply the place of his deceased wife Khadijah.
“Oh Omar,” said he one day, “the best of man’s treasures is a virtuous woman, who acts by God’s orders, and is obedient and pleasing to her husband: he regards her personal and mental beauties with delight; when he orders her to do anything she obeys him; and when he is absent she guards his right in property in honor.”
He now turned his eyes upon his betrothed spouse Ayesha, the beautiful daughter of Abu Beker. Two years had elapsed since they were betrothed, and she had now attained her ninth year; an infantine age, it would seem, though the female form is wonderfully precocious in the quickening climates of the East. Their nuptials took place a few months after their arrival in Medina, and were celebrated with great simplicity; the wedding supper was of milk, and the dowry of the bride was twelve okk of silver.
The betrothing of Fatima, his youngest daughter, with his loyal disciple Ali, followed shortly after, and their marriage at a somewhat later period. Fatima was between fifteen and sixteen years of age, of great beauty, and extolled by Arabian writers as one of the four perfect women with whom Allah has deigned to bless the earth. The age of Ali was about twenty-two.
Heaven and earth, say the Moslem writers, joined in paying honor to these happy espousals. Medina resounded with festivity, and blazed with illuminations, and the atmosphere was laden with aromatic odors. As Mohammed, on the nuptial night, conducted his daughter to her bridegroom, heaven sent down a celestial pomp to attend her: on her right hand was the archangel Gabriel, on her left was Michael, and she was followed by a train of seventy thousand angels, who all night kept watch round the mansion of the youthful pair.
Such are the vaunting exaggerations with which Moslem writers are prone to overlay every event in the history of the prophet, and destroy the real grandeur of his career, which consists in its simplicity. A more reliable account states that the wedding feast was of dates and olives; that the nuptial couch was a sheep-skin; that the portion of the bride consisted of two skirts, one head-tire, two silver armlets, one leathern pillow stuffed with palm-leaves, one beaker or drinking cup, one hand-mill, two large jars for water, and one pitcher. All this was in unison with the simplicity of Arab housekeeping, and with the circumstances of the married couple; and to raise the dowry required of him, Ali, it is said, had to sell several camels and some shirts of mail.
The style of living of the prophet himself was not superior to that of his disciple. Ayesha, speaking of it in after years, observed: “For a whole month together we did not light a fire to dress victuals; our food was nothing but dates and water, unless any one sent us meat. The people of the prophet’s household never got wheat bread two successive days.”
His food, in general, was dates and barley-bread, with milk and honey. He swept his chamber, lit his fire, mended his clothes, and was, in fact, his own servant. For each of his two wives he provided a separate house adjoining the mosque. He resided with them by turns, but Ayesha ever remained his favorite.
Mohammed has been extolled by Moslem writers for the chastity of his early life; and it is remarkable that, with all the plurality of wives indulged in by the Arabs, and which he permitted himself in subsequent years, and with all that constitutional fondness which he evinced for the sex, he remained single in his devotion to Khadijah to her dying day, never giving her a rival in his house nor in his heart. Even the fresh and budding charms of Ayesha, which soon assumed such empire over him, could not obliterate the deep and mingled feeling of tenderness and gratitude for his early benefactress. Ayesha was piqued one day at hearing him indulge in these fond recollections: “Oh apostle of God,” demanded the youthful beauty, “was not Khadijah stricken in years? Has not Allah given thee a better wife in her stead?”
“Never!” exclaimed Mohammed, with an honest burst of feeling—“never did God give me a better! When I was poor, she enriched me; when I was pronounced a liar, she believed in me; when I was opposed by all the world, she remained true to me!”
THE SWORD ANNOUNCED AS THE INSTRUMENT OF FAITH—FIRST FORAY AGAINST THE KOREISHITES—SURPRISAL OF A CARAVAN.
WE come now to an important era in the career of Mohammed. Hitherto he had relied on argument and persuasion to make proselytes, enjoining the same on his disciples. His exhortations to them to bear with patience and long-suffering the violence of their enemies, almost emulated the meek precept of our Saviour, “if they smite thee on the one cheek, turn to them the other also.” He now arrived at a point where he completely diverged from the celestial spirit of the Christian doctrines, and stamped his religion with the alloy of fallible mortality. His human nature was not capable of maintaining the sublime forbearance he had hitherto inculcated. Thirteen years of meek endurance had been rewarded by nothing but aggravated injury and insult. His greatest persecutors had been those of his own tribe, the Koreishites, especially those of the rival line of Abd Schems, whose vindictive chief, Abu Sofian, had now the sway of Mecca. By their virulent hostility his fortunes had been blasted; his family degraded, impoverished, and dispersed, and he himself driven into exile. All this he might have continued to bear with involuntary meekness, had not the means of retaliation unexpectedly sprung up within his reach. He had come to Medina a fugitive seeking an asylum, and craving merely a quiet home. In a little while, and probably to his own surprise, he found an army at his command: for among the many converts daily made in Medina, the fugitives flocking to him from Mecca, and proselytes from the tribes of the desert, were men of resolute spirit, skilled in the use of arms, and fond of partisan warfare. Human passions and mortal resentments were awakened by this sudden accession of power. They mingled with that zeal for religious reform, which was still his predominant motive. In the exaltations of his enthusiastic spirit he endeavored to persuade himself, and perhaps did so effectually, that the power thus placed within his reach was intended as a means of effecting his great purpose, and that he was called upon by divine command to use it. Such at least is the purport of the memorable manifesto which he issued at this epoch, and which changed the whole tone and fortunes of his faith.
“Different prophets,” said he, “have been sent by God to illustrate his different attributes: Moses his clemency and providence; Solomon his wisdom, majesty, and glory; Jesus Christ his righteousness, omniscience, and power—his righteousness by purity of conduct; his omniscience by the knowledge he displayed of the secrets of all hearts; his power by the miracles he wrought. None of these attributes, however, have been sufficient to enforce conviction, and even the miracles of Moses and Jesus have been treated with unbelief. I, therefore, the last of the prophets, am sent with the sword! Let those who promulgate my faith enter into no argument nor discussion, but slay all who refuse obedience to the law. Whoever fights for the true faith, whether he fall or conquer, will assuredly receive a glorious reward.”
“The sword,” added he, “is the key of heaven and hell; all who draw it in the cause of the faith will be rewarded with temporal advantages; every drop shed of their blood, every peril and hardship endured by them, will be registered on high as more meritorious than even fasting or praying. If they fall in battle their sins will at once be blotted out, and they will be transported to paradise, there to revel in eternal pleasures in the arms of black-eyed houris.”
Predestination was brought to aid these belligerent doctrines. Every event, according to the Koran, was predestined from eternity, and could not be avoided. No man could die sooner or later than his allotted hour, and when it arrived it would be the same, whether the angel of death should find him in the quiet of his bed, or amid the storm of battle.
Such were the doctrines and revelations which converted Islamism of a sudden from a religion of meekness and philanthropy, to one of violence and the sword. They were peculiarly acceptable to the Arabs, harmonizing with their habits, and encouraging their predatory propensities. Virtually pirates of the desert, it is not to be wondered at that, after this open promulgation of the Religion of the Sword, they should flock in crowds to the standard of the prophet. Still no violence was authorized by Mohammed against those who should persist in unbelief, provided they should readily submit to his temporal sway, and agree to pay tribute; and here we see the first indication of worldly ambition and a desire for temporal dominion dawning upon his mind. Still it will be found that the tribute thus exacted was subsidiary to his ruling passion, and mainly expended by him in the extension of the faith.
The first warlike enterprises of Mohammed betray the lurking resentment we have noted. They were directed against the caravans of Mecca, belonging to his implacable enemies the Koreishites. The three first were headed by Mohammed in person, but without any material result. The fourth was confided to a Moslem, named Abdallah Ibn Jasch; who was sent out with eight or ten resolute followers on the road toward South Arabia. As it was now the holy month of Radjab, sacred from violence and rapine, Abdallah had sealed orders, not to be opened until the third day. These orders were vaguely yet significantly worded. Abdallah was to repair to the valley of Naklah, between Mecca and Tayef (the same in which Mohammed had the revelation of the Genii), where he was to watch for an expected caravan of the Koreishites. “Perhaps,” added the letter of instructions, shrewdly—“perhaps thou mayest be able to bring us some tidings of it.”
Abdallah understood the true meaning of the letter, and acted up to it. Arriving in the valley of Naklah, he descried the caravan, consisting of several camels laden with merchandise, and conducted by four men. Following it at a distance, he sent one of his men, disguised as a pilgrim, to overtake it. From the words of the latter, the Koreishites supposed his companions to be like himself, pilgrims bound to Mecca. Besides, it was the month of Radjah, when the desert might be travelled in security. Scarce had they come to a halt, however, when Abdallah and his comrades fell on them, killed one, and took two prisoners; the fourth escaped. The victors then returned to Medina with their prisoners and booty.
All Medina was scandalized at this breach of the holy month. Mohammed, finding that he had ventured too far, pretended to be angry with Abdallah, and refused to take the share of the booty offered to him. Confiding in the vagueness of his instructions, he insisted that he had not commanded Abdallah to shed blood, or commit any violence during the holy month.
The clamor still continuing, and being echoed by the Koreishites of Mecca, produced the following passage of the Koran:
“They will ask thee concerning the sacred month, whether they may make war therein. Answer: To war therein is grievous; but to deny God, to bar the path of God against his people, to drive true believers from his holy temple, and to worship idols, are sins far more grievous than to kill in the holy months.”
Having thus proclaimed divine sanction for the deed, Mohammed no longer hesitated to take his share of the booty. He delivered one of the prisoners on ransom; the other embraced Islamism.
The above passage of the Koran, however satisfactory it may have been to devout Moslems, will scarcely serve to exculpate their prophet in the eyes of the profane. The expedition of Abdallah Ibn Jasch was a sad practical illustration of the new religion of the sword. It contemplated not merely an act of plunder and revenge, a venial act in the eyes of Arabs, and justified by the new doctrines by being exercised against the enemies of the faith, but an outrage also on the holy month, that period sacred from time immemorial against violence and bloodshed, and which Mohammed himself professed to hold in reverence. The craft and secrecy also with which the whole was devised and conducted, the sealed letter of instructions to Abdallah, to be opened only at the end of three days, at the scene of projected outrage, and couched in language vague, equivocal, yet sufficiently significant to the agent—all were in direct opposition to the conduct of Mohammed in the earlier part of his career, when he dared openly to pursue the path of duty, “though the sun should be arrayed against him on the right hand, and the moon on the left;” all showed that he was conscious of the turpitude of the act he was authorizing. His disavowal of the violence committed by Abdallah, yet his bringing the Koran to his aid to enable him to profit by it with impunity, give still darker shades to this transaction; which altogether shows how immediately and widely he went wrong the moment he departed from the benevolent spirit of Christianity, which he at first endeavored to emulate. Worldly passions and worldly interests were fast getting the ascendency over that religious enthusiasm which first inspired him. As has well been observed, “the first drop of blood shed in his name in the Holy Week displayed him a man in whom the slime of earth had quenched the holy flame of prophecy.”
THE BATTLE OF BEDER.
IN the second year of the Hegira, Mohammed received intelligence that his arch foe, Abu Sofian, with a troop of thirty horsemen, was conducting back to Mecca a caravan of a thousand camels, laden with the merchandise of Syria. Their route lay through the country of Medina, between the range of mountains and the sea. Mohammed determined to intercept them. About the middle of the month Ramadhan, therefore, he sallied forth with three hundred and fourteen men, of whom eighty-three were Mohadjerins, or exiles from Mecca; sixty-one Awsites, and a hundred and seventy Khazradites. Each troop had its own banner. There were but two horses in this little army,* but there were seventy fleet camels, which the troop mounted by turns, so as to make a rapid march, without much fatigue.
*“The Arabs of the desert,” says Burckhardt, “are not rich in horses. Among the great tribes on the Red Sea, between Akaba and Mecca, and to the south and south-east of Mecca, as far as Yemen, horses are very scarce, especially among those of the mountainous districts The settled inhabitants of Hedjaz and Yemen are not much in the habit of keeping horses. The tribes most rich in horses are those who dwell in the comparatively fertile plains of Mesopotamia, on the banks of the river Euphrates, and on the Syrian plains.”—Burckhardt, ii. 50.
Othman Ibn Affan, the son-in-law of Mohammed, was now returned with his wife Rokaia from their exile in Abyssinia, and would have joined the enterprise, but his wife was ill almost unto death, so that he was obliged reluctantly to remain in Medina.
Mohammed for a while took the main road to Mecca, then leaving it to the left, turned toward the Red Sea and entered a fertile valley, watered by the brook Beder. Here he laid in wait near a ford, over which the caravans were accustomed to pass. He caused his men to dig a deep trench, and to divert the water therein, so that they might resort thither to slake their thirst, out of reach of the enemy.
ln the mean time Abu Sofian, having received early intelligence that Mohammed had sallied forth to waylay him with a superior force, dispatched a messenger named Omair, on a fleet dromedary, to summon instant relief from Mecca. The messenger arrived at the Kaaba haggard and breathless. Abu Jahl mounted the roof and sounded the alarm. All Mecca was in confusion and consternation. Henda, the wife of Abu Sofian, a woman of a fierce and intrepid nature, called upon her father Otha, her brother Al Walid, her uncle Shaiba, and all the warriors of her kindred, to arm and hasten to the relief of her husband. The brothers, too, of the Koreishite slain by Abdallah Ibn Jasch, in the valley of Naklah, seized their weapons to avenge his death. Motives of interest were mingled with eagerness for vengeance, for most of the Koreishites had property embarked in the caravan. In a little while a force of one hundred horse and seven hundred camels hurried forward on the road toward Syria. It was led by Abu Jahl, now three-score and ten years of age, a veteran warrior of the desert, who still retained the fire and almost the vigor and activity of youth, combined with the rancor of old age.
While Abu Jahl, with his forces, was hurrying on in one direction, Abu Sofian was approaching in another. On arriving at the region of danger, he preceded his caravan a considerable distance, carefully regarding every track and foot-print. At length he came upon the track of the little army of Mohammed. He knew it from the size of the kernels of the dates, which the troops had thrown by the wayside as they marched—those of Medina being remarkable for their smallness. On such minute signs do the Arabs depend in tracking their foes through the deserts.
Observing the course Mohammed had taken, Abu Sofian changed his route, and passed along the coast of the Red Sea until he considered himself out of danger. He then sent another messenger to meet any Koreishites that might have sallied forth, and to let them know that the caravan was safe, and they might return to Mecca.
The messenger met the Koreishites when in full march. On hearing that the caravan was safe, they came to a halt and held council. Some were for pushing forward and inflicting a signal punishment on Mohammed and his followers; others were for turning back. In this dilemma they sent a scout to reconnoiter the enemy. He brought back word that they were about three hundred strong; this increased the desire of those who were for battle. Others remonstrated. “Consider,” said they, “these are men who have nothing to lose; they have nothing but their swords; not one of them will fall without slaying his man. Besides, we have relatives among them; if we conquer, we will not be able to look each other in the face, having slain each other’s relatives.” These words were producing their effect, but the brothers of the Koreishite who had been slain in the valley of Naklah were instigated by Abu Jahl to cry for revenge. That fiery old Arab seconded their appeal. “Forward!” cried he; “let us get water from the brook Beder for the feast with which we shall make merry over the escape of our caravan.” The main body of the troops, therefore, elevated their standards and resumed their march, though a considerable number turned back to Mecca.
The scouts of Mohammed brought him notice of the approach of this force. The hearts of some of his followers failed them; they had come forth in the expectation of little fighting and much plunder, and were dismayed at the thoughts of such an overwhelming host; but Mohammed bade them be of good cheer, for Allah had promised him an easy victory.
The Moslems posted themselves on a rising ground, with water at the foot of it. A hut, or shelter of the branches of trees, had been hastily erected on the summit for Mohammed, and a dromedary stood before it, on which he might fly to Medina in case of defeat.
The vanguard of the enemy entered the valley panting with thirst, and hastened to the stream for drink; but Hamza, the uncle of Mohammed, set upon them with a number of his men, and slew the leader with his own hand. Only one of the vanguard escaped, who was afterward converted to the faith.
The main body of the enemy now approached with sound of trumpet. Three Koreishite warriors advancing in front, defied the bravest of the Moslems to equal combat. Two of these challengers were Otha, the father-in-law of Abu Sofian, and Al Walid, his brother-in-law. The third challenger was Shaiba, the brother of Otha. These it will be recollected had been instigated to sally forth from Mecca, by Henda, the wife of Abu Sofian. They were all men of rank in their tribe.
Three warriors of Medina stepped forward and accepted their challenge; but they cried, “No! Let the renegades of our own city of Mecca advance, if they dare.” Upon this Hamza and Ali, the uncle and cousin of Mohammed, and Obeidah Ibn al Hareth, undertook the fight. After a fierce and obstinate contest, Hamza and Ali each slew his antagonist. They then went to the aid of Obeidah, who was severely wounded and nearly overcome by Otha. They slew the Koreishite and bore away their associate, but he presently died of his wounds.
The battle now became general. The Moslems, aware of the inferiority of their number at first merely stood on the defensive, maintaining their position on the rising ground, and galling the enemy with flights of arrows whenever they sought to slake their intolerable thirst at the stream below. Mohammed remained in his hut on the hill, accompanied by Abu Beker, and earnestly engaged in prayer. In the course of the battle he had a paroxysm, or fell into a kind of trance. Coming to himself, he declared that God in a vision had promised him the victory. Rushing out of the hut, he caught up a handful of dust and cast it into the air toward the Koreishites, exclaiming, “May confusion light upon their faces.” Then ordering his followers to charge down upon the enemy: “Fight, and fear not,” cried he; “the gates of paradise are under the shade of swords. He will assuredly find instant admission who falls fighting for the faith.”
In the shock of battle which ensued, Abu Jahl, who was urging his horse into the thickest of the conflict, received a blow of a scimitar in the thigh which brought him to the ground. Abdallah Ibn Masoud put his foot upon his breast, and while the fiery veteran was still uttering imprecations and curses on Mohammed, severed his head from his body.
The Koreishites now gave way and fled. Seventy remained dead on the field, and nearly the same number were taken prisoners. Fourteen Moslems were slain, whose names remain on record as martyrs to the faith.
This signal victory was easily to be accounted for on natural principles; the Moslems being fresh and unwearied, and having the advantage of a rising ground, and a supply of water; while the Koreishites were fatigued by a hasty march, parched with thirst, and diminished in force, by the loss of numbers who had turned back to Mecca. Moslem writers, however, attribute this early triumph of the faith to supernatural agency. When Mohammed scattered dust in the air, say they, three thousand angelic warriors in white and yellow turbans, and long dazzling robes, and mounted on black and white steeds, came rushing like a blast, and swept the Koreishites before them. Nor is this affirmed on Moslem testimony alone, but given on the word of an idolater, a peasant who was attending sheep on an adjacent hill. “I was with a companion, a cousin,” said the peasant, “upon the fold of the mountain, watching the conflict, and waiting to join with the conquerors and share the spoil. Suddenly we beheld a great cloud sailing toward us, and within it were the neighing of steeds and braying of trumpets. As it approached, squadrons of angels sallied forth, and we heard the terrific voice of the archangel as he urged his mare Haizum, ‘Speed! speed! oh Haizum!’ At which awful sound the heart of my companion burst with terror, and he died on the spot; and I had well nigh shared his fate.”
This miraculous aid is repeatedly mentioned in the Koran, e.g.:
“God had already given you the victory at Beder, when ye were inferior in number. When thou saidst unto the faithful, Is it not enough for you that your Lord should assist you with three thousand angels, sent down from heaven? Verily, if ye persevere, and fear God, and your enemies come upon you suddenly, your Lord will assist you with five thousand angels, distinguished by their horses and attire.
“O true believers, ye slew not those who were slain at Beder yourselves, but God slew them. Neither didst thou, O Mohammed, cast the gravel into their eyes, when thou didst seem to cast it; but God cast it.”—Sale’s Koran, chap. iii.
When the conflict was over, Abdallah Ibn Masoud brought the head of Abu Jahl to Mohammed, who eyed the grisly trophy with exultation, exclaiming, “This man was the Pharaoh of our nation.” The true name of this veteran warrior was Amru Ibn Hasham. The Koreishites had given him the name of Abu ’lhoem, or Father of Wisdom, on account of his sagacity. The Moslems had changed it to Abu Jahl, Father of Folly. The latter appellation has adhered to him in history, and he is never mentioned by true believers without the ejaculation, “May he be accursed of God!”
The Moslems who had fallen in battle were honorably interred; as to the bodies of the Koreishites, they were contemptuously thrown into a pit which had been digged for them. The question was how to dispose of the prisoners. Omar was for striking off their heads; but Abu Beker advised that they should be given up on ransom. Mohammed observed that Omar was like Noah, who prayed for the destruction of the guilty by the deluge; but Abu Beker was like Abraham, who interceded for the guilty. He decided on the side of mercy. But two of the prisoners were put to death; one, named Nadhar, for having ridiculed the Koran as a collection of Persian tales and fables; the other, named Okba, for the attempt upon the life of Mohammed when he first preached in the Kaaba, and when he was rescued by Abu Beker. Several of the prisoners who were poor were liberated on merely making oath never again to take up arms against Mohammed or his followers. The rest were detained until ransoms should be sent by their friends.
Among the most important of the prisoners was Al Abbas, the uncle of Mohammed. He had been captured by Abu Yaser, a man of small stature. As the bystanders scoffed at the disparity of size, Al Abbas pretended that be really had surrendered to a horseman of gigantic size, mounted on a steed the like of which he had never seen before. Abu Yaser would have steadily maintained the truth of his capture, but Mohammed, willing to spare the humiliation of his uncle, intimated that the captor had been aided by the angel Gabriel.
Al Abbas would have excused himself from paying ransom, alleging that he was a Moslem in heart, and had only taken part in the battle on compulsion; but his excuse did not avail. It is thought by many that he really had a secret understanding with his nephew, and was employed by him as a spy in Mecca, both before and after the battle of Beder.
Another prisoner of great importance to Mohammed was Abul Aass, the husband of his daughter Zeinab. The prophet would fain have drawn his son-in-law to him and enrolled him among his disciples, but Abul Aass remained stubborn in unbelief. Mohammed then offered to set him at liberty on condition of his returning to him his daughter. To this the infidel agreed, and Zeid, the faithful freedman of the prophet, was sent with several companions to Mecca, to bring Zeinab to Medina; in the mean time her husband, Abul Aass, remained a hostage for the fulfillment of the compact.
Before the army returned to Medina there was a division of the spoil; for, though the caravan of Abu Sofian had escaped, yet considerable booty of weapons and camels had been taken in the battle, and a large sum of money would accrue from the ransom of the prisoners. On this occasion Mohammed ordered that the whole should be equally divided among all the Moslems engaged in the enterprise; and though it was a long-established custom among the Arabs to give a fourth part of the booty to the chief, yet he contented himself with the same share as the rest. Among the spoil which fell to his lot was a famous sword of admirable temper, called Dhul Fakar, or the Piercer. He ever afterward bore it when in battle; and his son-in-law, Ali, inherited it at his death.
This equal distribution of the booty caused great murmurs among the troops. Those who had borne the brunt of the fight, and had been most active in taking the spoil, complained that they had to share alike with those who had stood aloof from the affray, and with the old men who had remained to guard the camp. The dispute, observes Sale, resembles that of the soldiers of David in relation to spoils taken from the Amalekites; those who had been in the action insisting that they who tarried by the stuff should have no share of the spoil. The decision was the same—that they should share alike (1 Samuel 30:21-25). Mohammed, from his knowledge of Bible history, may have been guided by this decision. The division of the spoils was an important point to settle, for a leader about to enter on a career of predatory warfare. Fortunately, he had a timely revelation shortly after his return to Mecca, regulating for the future the division of all booty gained in fighting for the faith.
Such are the particulars of the famous battle of Beder, the first victory of the Saracens under the standard of Mohammed; inconsiderable, perhaps, in itself, but stupendous in its results; being the commencement of a career of victories which changed the destinies of the world.
DEATH OF THE PROPHET’S DAUGHTER ROKAIA—RESTORATION OF HIS DAUGHTER ZEINAB—EFFECT OF THE PROPHET’S MALEDICTION ON ABU LAHAB AND HIS FAMILY—FRANTIC RAGE OF HENDA, THE WIFE OF ABU SOFIAN—MOHAMMED NARROWLY ESCAPES ASSASSINATION—EMBASSY OF THE KOREISHITES—THE KING OF ABYSSINIA.
Mohammed returned in triumph to Medina with the spoils and prisoners taken in his first battle. His exultation, however, was checked by domestic grief. Rokaia, his beloved daughter, so recently restored from exile, was no more. The messenger who preceded Mohammed with tidings of his victory met the funeral train at the gate of the city, bearing her body to the tomb.
The affliction of the prophet was soothed shortly afterward by the arrival from Mecca of his daughter Zeinab, conducted by the faithful Zeid. The mission of Zeid had been attended with difficulties. The people of Mecca were exasperated by the late defeat, and the necessity of ransoming the prisoners. Zeid remained, therefore, without the walls, and sent in a message to Kenanah, the brother of Abul Aass, informing him of the compact, and appointing a place where Zeinab should be delivered into his hands. Kenanah set out to conduct her thither in a litter. On the way he was beset by a throng of Koreishites, determined to prevent the daughter of Mohammed from being restored to him. In the confusion one Habbar Ibn Aswad made a thrust at the litter with a lance, which, had not Kenanah parried it with his bow, might have proved fatal to Zeinab. Abu Sofian was attracted to the place by the noise and tumult, and rebuked Kenanah for restoring Mohammed’s daughter thus publicly, as it might be construed into a weak concession; Zeinab was taken back, therefore, to her home, and Kenanah delivered her up secretly to Zeid in the course of the following night.
Mohammed was so exasperated at hearing of the attack on his daughter that he ordered whoever should take Habbar, to burn him alive. When his rage had subsided, he modified this command. “It is for God alone,” said he, “to punish man with fire. If taken, let Habbar be put to death with the sword.”
The recent triumph of the Moslems at Beder struck the Koreishites of Mecca with astonishment and mortification. The man so recently driven a fugitive from their walls had suddenly started up a powerful foe. Several of their bravest and most important men had fallen beneath his sword; others were his captives, and awaited a humiliating ransom. Abu Lahab, the uncle of Mohammed, and always his vehement opposer, had been unable, from illness, to take the field. He died a few days after hearing of the victory, his death being hastened by the exasperation of his spirits. Pious Moslems, however, attribute it to the curse pronounced by Mohammed aforetime on him and his family, when he raised his hand to hurl a stone at the prophet on the hill of Safa. That curse, say they, fell heavily also on his son Otho, who had repudiated the prophet’s daughter Rokaia; he was torn to pieces by a lion, in the presence of a whole caravan, when on a journey to Syria.
By no one was the recent defeat at Beder felt so severely as by Abu Sofian. He reached Mecca in safety with his caravan, it is true; but it was to hear of the triumph of the man he detested, and to find his home desolate. His wife Henda met him with frantic lamentations for the death of her father, her uncle, and her brother. Rage mingled with her grief, and she cried night and day for vengeance on Hamza and Ali, by whose hands they had fallen.
It is a received law among all the Arabs, that whoever sheds the blood of a man, owes blood on that account to the family of the slain person. This ancient law is sanctioned by the Koran. “O true believers, the law of retaliation is ordained to you for the slain: the free shall die for the free.” The Blood revenge, or Thar, as it is termed in Arabic, is claimed by the relatives of all who have been killed in open war, and not merely of the actual homicide, but of all his relations, For those killed in wars between two tribes, the price of blood is required from the persons who were known to have actually killed them.
The Arab regards this blood revenge as one of his most sacred rights, as well as duties; no earthly consideration could induce him to give it up. He has a proverbial saying, “Were hell-fire to be my lot, I would not relinquish the Thar.”—See Burckhardt, v. i. 314, Notes.
Abu Sofian summoned two hundred fleet horsemen, each with a sack of meal at his saddle-bow, the scanty provisions of an Arab for a foray; as he sallied forth he vowed neither to anoint his head, perfume his beard, nor approach a female, until he had met Mohammed face to face. Scouring the country to within three miles of the gates of Medina, he slew two of the prophet’s followers, ravaged the fields, and burned the date-trees.
Mohammed sallied forth to meet him at the head of a superior force. Abu Sofian, regardless of his vow, did not await his approach, but turned bridle and fled. His troop clattered after him, throwing off their sacks of meal in the hurry of their flight; whence this scampering affair was derisively called “The war of the meal sacks.”
Moslem writers record an imminent risk of the prophet while yet in the field on this occasion. He was one day sleeping alone at the foot of a tree, at a distance from his camp, when he was awakened by a noise, and beheld Durthur, a hostile warrior, standing over him with a drawn sword. “Oh Mohammed,” cried he, “who is there now to save thee?” “God!” replied the prophet. Struck with conviction, Durthur let fall his sword, which was instantly seized upon by Mohammed. Brandishing the weapon, he exclaimed in turn, “Who is there now to save thee, oh Durthur?” “Alas, no one!” replied the soldier. “Then learn from me to be merciful.” So saying, he returned the sword. The heart of the warrior was overcome; he acknowledged Mohammed as the prophet of God, and embraced the faith.
As if the anecdote were not sufficiently marvellous, other devout Moslems affirm that the deliverance of Mohammed was through the intervention of the angel Gabriel, who, at the moment Durthur was about to strike, gave him a blow on the breast with his invisible hand, which caused him to let fall his sword.
About this time the Koreishites of Mecca bethought themselves of the relatives and disciples of Mohammed who had taken refuge from their persecutions in Abyssinia, most of whom still remained there under the protection of the Najashee or Abyssinian king. To this potentate the Koreishites sent an embassy to obtain the persons of the fugitives. One of the ambassadors was Abdallah Ibn Rabia; another was Amru Ibn Al Aass, the distinguished poet who had assailed Mohammed at the outset of his mission with lampoons and madrigals. He was now more matured in years, and as remarkable for his acute sagacity as for his poetic talents. He was still a redoubtable opponent of the faith of Islam, of which in after years he was to prove one of the bravest and most distinguished champions.
Amru and Abdallah opened their embassy in the oriental style by the parade of rich presents, and then requested, in the name of the Koreish authorities of Mecca, that the fugitives might be delivered up to them. The king was a just man, and summoned the Moslems before him to explain this new and dangerous heresy of which they were accused. Among their number was Giafar, or Jaafar, the son of Abu Taleb, and brother of Ali, consequently the cousin of Mohammed. He was a man of persuasive eloquence and a most prepossessing appearance. He stood forth on this occasion, and expounded the doctrines of Islam with zeal and power. The king, who, as has been observed, was a Nestorian Christian, found these doctrines so similar in many respects to those of his sect, and so opposed to the gross idolatry of the Koreishites, that, so far from giving up the fugitives, he took them more especially into favor and protection, and returning to Amru and Abdallah the presents they had brought, dismissed them from his court.
GROWING POWER OF MOHAMMED—HIS RESENTMENT AGAINST THE JEWS—INSULT TO AN ARAB DAMSEL BY THE JEWISH TRIBE OF KAINOKA—A TUMULT—THE BENI KAINOKA TAKE REFUGE IN THEIR CASTLE—SUBDUED AND PUNISHED BY CONFISCATION AND BANISHMENT—MARRIAGE OF OTHMAN TO THE PROPHET’S DAUGHTER OMM KOLTHUM AND OF THE PROPHET TO HAFZA.
THE battle of Beder had completely changed the position of Mohammed; he was now a triumphant chief of a growing power. The idolatrous tribes of Arabia were easily converted to a faith which flattered their predatory inclinations with the hope of spoil, and which, after all, professed but to bring them back to the primitive religion of their ancestors; the first cavalcade, therefore, which entered the gates of Medina with the plunder of a camp made converts of almost all its heathen inhabitants, and gave Mohammed the control of the city. His own tone now became altered, and he spoke as a lawgiver and a sovereign. The first evidence of this change of feeling was in his treatment of the Jews, of whom there were three principal and powerful families in Medina.
All the concessions made by him to that stiff-necked race had proved fruitless; they not only remained stubborn in unbelief, but treated him and his doctrines with ridicule. Assma, the daughter of Merwan, a Jewish poetess, wrote satires against him. She was put to death by one of his fanatic disciples. Abu Afak, an Israelite, one hundred and twenty years of age, was likewise slain for indulging in satire against the prophet. Kaab Ibn Aschraf, another Jewish poet, repaired to Mecca, after the battle of Beder, and endeavored to stir up the Koreishites to vengeance, reciting verses in which he extolled the virtues and bewailed the death of those of their tribe who had fallen in the battle. Such was his infatuation that he recited these verses in public, on his return to Medina, and in the presence of some of the prophet’s adherents who were related to the slain. Stung by this invidious hostility, Mohammed one day exclaimed in his anger, “Who will rid me of this son of Aschraf?” Within a few days afterward Kaab paid for his poetry with his life, being slain by a zealous Ansarian of the Awsite tribe.
An event at length occurred which caused the anger of Mohammed against the Jews to break out in open hostility. A damsel of one of the pastoral tribes of Arabs who brought milk to the city was one day in the quarter inhabited by the Beni Kainoka, or children of Kainoka, one of the three principal Jewish families. Here she was accosted by a number of young Israelites, who having heard her beauty extolled, besought her to uncover her face. The damsel refused an act contrary to the laws of propriety among her people. A young goldsmith, whose shop was hard by, secretly fastened the end of her veil to the bench on which she was sitting, so that when she rose to depart the garment remained, and her face was exposed to view. Upon this there was laughter and scoffing among the young Israelites, and the damsel stood in the midst confounded and abashed. A Moslem present, resenting the shame put upon her, drew his sword, and thrust it through the body of the goldsmith; he in his turn was instantly slain by the Israelites. The Moslems from a neighboring quarter flew to arms, the Beni Kainoka did the same, but being inferior in numbers, took refuge in a stronghold. Mohammed interfered to quell the tumult; but, being generally exasperated against the Israelites, insisted that the offending tribe should forthwith embrace the faith. They pleaded the treaty which he had made with them on his coming to Medina, by which they were allowed the enjoyment of their religion; but he was not to be moved. For some time the Beni Kainoka refused to yield, and remained obstinately shut up in their stronghold; but famine compelled them to surrender. Abdallah Ibn Obba Solul, the leader of the Khazradites, who was a protector of this Jewish tribe, interfered in their favor, and prevented their being put to the sword; but their wealth and effects were confiscated, and they were banished to Syria, to the number of seven hundred men.
The arms and riches accruing to the prophet and his followers from this confiscation were of great avail in the ensuing wars of the faith. Among the weapons which fell to the share of Mohammed are enumerated three swords: Medham, the Keen; al Batter, the Trenchant, and Hatef, the Deadly. Two lances, al Monthari, the Disperser, and al Monthawi, the Destroyer. A cuirass of silver, named al Fadha, and another named al Saadia, said to have been given by Saul to David, when about to encounter Goliath. There was a bow, too, called al Catum, or the Strong, but it did not answer to its name, for in the first battle in which the prophet used it he drew it with such force that he broke it in pieces. In general he used the Arabian kind of bow, with appropriate arrows and lances, and forbade his followers to use those of Persia.
Mohammed now sought no longer to conciliate the Jews; on the contrary, they became objects of his religious hostility. He revoked the regulation by which he had made Jerusalem the Kebla or point of prayer, and established Mecca in its place; toward which, ever since, the Mohammedans turn their faces when performing their devotions.
The death of the prophet’s daughter Rokaia had been properly deplored by her husband Othman. To console the latter for his loss, Omar, his brother in arms, offered him, in the course of the year, his daughter Hafza for wife. She was the widow of Hobash, a Suhamite, eighteen years of age, and of tempting beauty, yet Othman declined the match. Omar was indignant at what he conceived a slight to his daughter and to himself, and complained of it to Mohammed. “Be not grieved, Omar,” replied the prophet, “a better wife is destined for Othman, and a better husband for thy daughter.” He in effect gave his own daughter Omm Kolthum to Othman, and took the fair Hafza to wife himself. By these politic alliances he grappled both Othman and Omar more strongly to his side, while he gratified his own inclinations for female beauty. Hafza, next to Ayesha, was the most favored of his wives; and was entrusted with the coffer containing the chapters and verses of the Koran as they were revealed.
HENDA INCITES ABU SOFIAN AND THE KOREISHITES TO REVENGE THE DEATH OF HER RELATIONS SLAIN IN THE BATTLE OF BEDER—THE KOREISHITES SALLY FORTH, FOLLOWED BY HENDA AND HER FEMALE COMPANIONS—BATTLE OF OHOD —FEROCIOUS TRIUMPH OF HENDA—MOHAMMED CONSOLES HIMSELF BY MARRYING HEND, THE DAUGHTER OF OMEYA.
As the power of Mohammed increased in Medina, the hostility of the Koreishites in Mecca augmented in virulence. Abu Sofian held command in the sacred city, and was incessantly urged to warfare by his wife Henda, whose fierce spirit could take no rest, until “blood revenge” had been wreaked on those by whom her father and brother had been slain. Akrema, also, a son of Abu Jahl, and who inherited his father’s hatred of the prophet, clamored for vengeance. In the third year of the Hegira, therefore, the year after the battle of Beder, Abu Sofian took the field at the head of three thousand men, most of them Koreishites, though there were also Arabs of the tribes of Kanana and Tehama. Seven hundred were armed with corselets, and two hundred were horsemen. Akrema was one of the captains, as was also Khaled Ibn al Waled, a warrior of indomitable valor, who afterward rose to great renown. The banners were borne in front by the race of Abd al Dar, a branch of the tribe of Koreish, who had a hereditary right to the foremost place in council, the foremost rank in battle, and to bear the standard in the advance of the army.
In the rear of the host followed the vindictive Henda, with fifteen principal women of Mecca, relatives of those slain in the battle of Beder; sometimes filling the air with wailings and lamentations for the dead, at other times animating the troops with the sound of timbrels and warlike chants. As they passed through the village of Abwa, where Amina the mother of Mohammed was interred, Henda was with difficulty prevented from tearing the mouldering bones out of the grave.
Al Abbas, the uncle of Mohammed, who still resided in Mecca, and was considered hostile to the new faith, seeing that destruction threatened his nephew should that army come upon him by surprise, sent secretly a swift messenger to inform him of his danger. Mohammed was at the village of Koba when the message reached him. He immediately hastened back to Medina, and called a council of his principal adherents. Representing the insufficiency of their force to take the field, he gave it as his opinion that they should await an attack in Medina, where the very women and children could aid them by hurling stones from the house-tops. The elder among his followers joined in his opinion; but the young men, of heady valor at all times, and elated by the late victory at Beder, cried out for a fair fight in the open field.
Mohammed yielded to their clamors, but his forces, when mustered, were scarce a thousand men; one hundred only had cuirasses, and but two were horsemen. The hearts of those recently so clamorous to sally forth now misgave them, and they would fain await the encounter within the wails. “No,” replied Mohammed, “it becomes not a prophet when once he has drawn the sword to sheathe it; nor when once he has advanced, to turn back, until God has decided between him and the foe.” So saying, he led forth his army. Part of it was composed of Jews and Khazradites, led by Abdallah Ibn Obba Solul. Mohammed declined the assistance of the Jews, unless they embraced the faith of Islam, and as they refused, he ordered them back to Medina, upon which their protector, Abdallah, turned back also with his Khazradites, thus reducing the army to about seven hundred men.
With this small force Mohammed posted himself upon the hill of Ohod, about six miles from Medina. His position was partly defended by rocks and the asperities of the hill, and archers were stationed to protect him in flank and rear from the attacks of cavalry. He was armed with a helmet and two shirts of mail. On his sword was engraved, “Fear brings disgrace; forward lies honor. Cowardice saves no man from his fate.” As he was not prone to take an active part in battle, he confided his sword to a brave warrior, Abu Dudjana, who swore to wield it as long as it had edge and temper. For himself, he, as usual, took a commanding stand whence he might overlook the field.
The Koreishites, confident in their numbers, came marching to the foot of the hill with banners flying. Abu Sofian led the center; there were a hundred horsemen on each wing; the left commanded by Akrema, the son of Abu Jahl, the right by Khaled Ibn al Waled. As they advanced, Henda and her companions struck their timbrels and chanted their war song, shrieking out at intervals the names of those who had been slain in the battle of Beder. “Courage, Sons of Abd al Dar!” cried they to the standard-bearers. “Forward to the fight! close with the foe! strike home and spare not. Sharp be your swords and pitiless your hearts!”
Mohammed restrained the impatience of his troops, ordering them not to commence the fight, but to stand firm and maintain their advantage of the rising ground. Above all, the archers were to keep to their post, let the battle go as it might, lest the cavalry should fall upon his rear.
The horsemen of the left wing, led by Akrema, now attempted to take the Moslems in flank, but were repulsed by the archers, and retreated in confusion. Upon this Hamza set up the Moslem war-cry, Amit! amit! (Death! death!) and rushed down with his forces upon the center. Abu Dudjana was at his right hand, armed with the sword of Mohammed and having a red band round his head, on which was written, “Help comes from God! victory is ours!”
The enemy was staggered by the shock. Abu Dudjana dashed into the midst of them, dealing deadly blows on every side, and exclaiming, “The sword of God and his prophet!” Seven standard-bearers, of the race of Abd el Dar, were, one after the other, struck down, and the center began to yield. The Moslem archers, thinking the victory secure, forgot the commands of Mohammed, and leaving their post, dispersed in quest of spoil, crying “Booty! booty!” Upon this Khaled, rallying the horse, got possession of the ground abandoned by the archers, attacked the Moslems in rear, put some to flight, and threw the rest in confusion. In the midst of the confusion a horseman, Obbij Ibn Chalaf by name, pressed through the throng, crying, “Where is Mohammed? There is no safety while he lives.” But Mohammed, seizing a lance from an attendant, thrust it through the throat of the idolater, who fell dead from his horse. “Thus,” says the pious Al Jannabi, “died this enemy of God, who, some years before, had menaced the prophet, saying, ‘I shall find a day to slay thee.’ ‘Have a care,’ was the reply; ‘if it please Allah, thou thyself shall fall beneath my hand.’”
In the midst of the melee a stone from a sling struck Mohammed on the mouth, cutting his lip and knocking out one of his front teeth; he was wounded in the face also by an arrow, the iron head of which remained in the wound. Hamza, too, while slaying a Koreishite, was transfixed by the lance of Waksa, an Ethiopian slave, who had been promised his freedom if he should revenge the death of his master, slain by Hamza in the battle of Beder. Mosaab Ibn Omair, also, who bore the standard of Mohammed, was laid low, but Ali seized the sacred banner, and bore it aloft amid the storm of battle.
As Mosaab resembled the prophet in person, a shout was put up by the enemy that Mohammed was slain. The Koreishites were inspired with redoubled ardor at the sound; the Moslems fled in despair, bearing with them Abu Beker and Omar, who were wounded. Raab, the son of Malek, however, beheld Mohammed lying among the wounded in a ditch, and knew him by his armor. “Oh believers!” cried he, “the prophet of God yet lives. To the rescue! to the rescue!” Mohammed was drawn forth and borne up the hill to the summit of a rock, where the Moslems prepared for a desperate defense. The Koreishites, however, thinking Mohammed slain, forbore to pursue them, contenting themselves with plundering and mutilating the dead. Henda and her female companions were foremost in the savage work of vengeance; and the ferocious heroine sought to tear out and devour the heart of Hamza. Abu Sofian bore a part of the mangled body upon his lance, and descending the hill in triumph, exclaimed exultingly, “War has its vicissitudes. The battle of Ohod succeeds to the battle of Beder.”
The Koreishites having withdrawn, Mohammed descended from the rock and visited the field of battle. At sight of the body of his uncle Hamza, so brutally mangled and mutilated, he vowed to inflict like outrage on seventy of the enemy when in his power. His grief, we are told, was soothed by the angel Gabriel, who assured him that Hamza was enregistered an inhabitant of the seventh heaven, by the title of “The lion of God and of his prophet.”
The bodies of the slain were interred two and two, and three and three, in the places where they had fallen. Mohammed forbade his followers to mourn for the dead by cutting off their hair, rending their garments, and the other modes of lamentation usual among the Arabs; but he consented that they should weep for the dead, as tears relieve the overladen heart.
The night succeeding the battle was one of great disquietude, lest the Koreishites should make another attack, or should surprise Medina. On the following day he marched in the direction of that city, hovering near the enemy, and on the return of night lighting numerous watch-fires. Abu Sofian, however, had received intelligence that Mohammed was still alive. He felt himself too weak to attack the city, therefore, while Mohammed was in the field, and might come to its assistance, and he feared that the latter might be reinforced by its inhabitants, and seek him with superior numbers. Contenting himself, therefore, with the recent victory, he made a truce with the Moslems for a year, and returned in triumph to Mecca.
Mohammed sought consolation for this mortifying defeat by taking to himself another wife, Hend, the daughter of Omeya, a man of great influence. She was a widow, and had, with her husband, been among the number of the fugitives in Abyssinia. She was now twenty-eight years of age, and had a son named Salma, whence she was commonly called Omm Salma, or the Mother of Salma. Being distinguished for grace and beauty, she had been sought by Abu Beker and Omar, but without success. Even Mohammed at first met with difficulty. “Alas!” said she, “what happiness can the prophet of God expect with me? I am no longer young; I have a son, and I am of a jealous disposition.” “As to thy age,” replied Mohammed, “thou art much younger than I. As to thy son, I will be a father to him; as to thy jealous disposition, I will pray Allah to root it from thy heart.”
A separate dwelling was prepared for the bride, adjacent to the mosque. The household goods, as stated by a Moslem writer, consisted of a sack of barley, a hand-mill, a pan, and a pot of lard or butter. Such were as yet the narrow means of the prophet; or rather, such the frugality of his habits and the simplicity of Arab life.
TREACHERY OF CERTAIN JEWISH TRIBES; THEIR PUNISHMENT—DEVOTION OF THE PROPHET’S FREEDMAN ZEID; DIVORCES HIS BEAUTIFUL WIFE ZEINAB, THAT SHE MAY BECOME THE WIFE OF THE PROPHET.
THE defeat of Mohammed at the battle of Ohod acted for a time unfavorably to his cause among some of the Arab and Jewish tribes, as was evinced by certain acts of perfidy. The inhabitants of two towns, Adhal and Kara, sent a deputation to him, professing an inclination to embrace the faith, and requesting missionaries to teach them its doctrines. He accordingly sent six disciples to accompany the deputation; but on the journey, while reposing by the brook Radje within the boundaries of the Hodseitites, the deputies fell upon the unsuspecting Moslems, slew four of them, and carried the other two to Mecca, where they gave them up to the Koreishites, who put them to death.
A similar act of treachery was practiced by the people of the province of Nadjed. Pretending to be Moslems, they sought succor from Mohammed against their enemies. He sent a number of his followers to their aid, who were attacked by the Beni Suleim or Suleimites, near the brook Manna, about four days’ journey from Medina, and slain almost to a man. One of the Moslems, Amru Ibn Omeya, escaped the carnage and made for Medina. On the way he met two unarmed Jews of the Beni Amir; either mistaking these for enemies, or provoked to wanton rage by the death of his comrades, he fell upon them and slew them. The tribe, who were at peace with Mohammed, called upon him for redress. He referred the matter to the mediation of another Jewish tribe, the Beni Nadher, who had rich possessions and a castle, called Zohra, within three miles of Medina. This tribe had engaged by treaty, when he came a fugitive from Mecca, to maintain a neutrality between him and his opponents. The chief of this tribe being now applied to as a mediator, invited Mohammed to an interview. He went, accompanied by Abu Beker, Omar, Ali, and a few others. A repast was spread in the open air before the mansion of the chief. Mohammed, however, received private information that he had been treacherously decoyed hither and was to be slain as he sat at the repast: it is said that he was to be crushed by a millstone, flung from the terraced roof of the house. Without intimating his knowledge of the treason, he left the company abruptly, and hastened back to Medina.
His rage was now kindled against the whole race of Nadher, and he ordered them to leave the country within ten days on pain of death. They would have departed, but Abdallah the Khazradite secretly persuaded them to stay by promising them aid. He failed in his promise. The Beni Nadher, thus disappointed by the “Chief of the Hypocrites,” shut themselves up in their castle of Zohra, where they were besieged by Mohammed, who cut down and burned the date-trees, on which they depended for supplies. At the end of six days they capitulated, and were permitted to depart, each with a camel load of effects, arms excepted. Some were banished to Syria, others to Khaibar, a strong Jewish city and fortress, distant several days’ journey from Medina. As the tribe was wealthy, there was great spoil, which Mohammed took entirely to himself. His followers demurred that this was contrary to the law of partition revealed in the Koran; but he let them know that, according to another revelation, all booty gained, like the present, without striking a blow, was not won by man, but was a gift from God, and must be delivered over to the prophet to be expended by him in good works, and the relief of orphans, of the poor, and the traveller. Mohammed in effect did not appropriate it to his own benefit, but shared it among the Mohadjerins, or exiles from Mecca; two Nadherite Jews who had embraced Islamism, and two or three Ansarians or Auxiliaries of Medina, who had proved themselves worthy, and were poor.
We forbear to enter into details of various petty expeditions of Mohammed about this time, one of which extended to the neighborhood of Tabuk, on the Syrian frontier, to punish a horde which had plundered the caravans of Medina. These expeditions were checkered in their results, though mostly productive of booty, which now began to occupy the minds of the Moslems almost as much as the propagation of the faith. The spoils thus suddenly gained may have led to riot and debauchery, as we find a revelation of the passage of the Koran, forbidding wine and games of hazard, those fruitful causes of strife and insubordination in predatory camps.
During this period of his career Mohammed in more than one instance narrowly escaped falling by the hand of an assassin. He himself is charged with the use of insidious means to rid himself of an enemy; for it is said that he sent Amru Ibn Omeya on a secret errand to Mecca, to assassinate Abu Sofian, but that the plot was discovered, and the assassin only escaped by rapid flight. The charge, however, is not well substantiated, and is contrary to his general character and conduct.
If Mohammed had relentless enemies, he had devoted friends, an instance of which we have in the case of his freedman and adopted son Zeid Ibn Horeth. He had been one of the first converts to the faith, and one of its most valiant champions. Mohammed consulted him on all occasions, and employed him in his domestic concerns. One day he entered his house with the freedom with which a father enters the dwelling of a son. Zeid was absent, but Zeinab his wife, whom he had recently married, was at home. She was the daughter of Djasch, of the country of Kaiba, and considered the fairest of her tribe. In the privacy of home she had laid aside her veil and part of her attire, so that her beauty stood revealed to the gaze of Mohammed on his sudden entrance. He could not refrain from expressions of wonder and admiration, to which she made no reply, but repeated them all to her husband on his return. Zeid knew the amorous susceptibility of Mohammed, and saw that he had been captivated by the beauty of Zeinab. Hastening after him, he offered to repudiate his wife; but the prophet forbade it as contrary to the law. The zeal of Zeid was not to be checked; he loved his beautiful wife, but he venerated the prophet, and he divorced himself without delay. When the requisite term of separation had elapsed, Mohammed accepted, with gratitude, this pious sacrifice. His nuptials with Zeinab surpassed in splendor all his other marriages. His doors were thrown open to all comers; they were feasted with the flesh of sheep and lambs, with cakes of barley, with honey, and fruits, and favorite beverages; so they ate and drank their fill and then departed—railing against the divorce as shameful, and the marriage as incestuous.
At this critical juncture was revealed that part of the thirtythird chapter of the Koran, distinguishing relatives by adoption from relatives by blood, according to which there was no sin in marrying one who had been the wife of an adopted son. This timely revelation pacified the faithful; but, to destroy all shadow of a scruple, Mohammed revoked his adoption, and directed Zeid to resume his original appellation of Ibn Hareth, after his natural father. The beautiful Zeinab, however, boasted thenceforth a superiority over the other wives of the prophet on the score of the revelation, alleging that her marriage was ordained by heaven.
This was Mohammed’s second wife of the name of Zeinab; the first, who had died some time previous, was the daughter of Chuzelma.
EXPEDITION OF MOHAMMED AGAINST THE BENI MOSTALEK— HE ESPOUSES BARRA, A CAPTIVE—TREACHERY OF ABDALLAH IBN OBBA — AYESHA SLANDERED — HER VINDICATION — HER INNOCENCE PROVED BY A REVELATION.
AMONG the Arab tribes which ventured to take up arms against Mohammed after his defeat at Ohod, were the Beni Mostalek, a powerful race of Koreishite origin. Mohammed received intelligence of their being assembled in warlike guise under their prince Al Hareth, near the wells of Moraisi, in the territory of Kedaid, and within five miles of the Red Sea. He immediately took the field at the head of a chosen band of the faithful, accompanied by numbers of the Khazradites, led by their chief Abdallah Ibn Obba. By a rapid movement he surprised the enemy; Al Hareth was killed at the onset by the flight shot of an arrow; his troops fled in confusion after a brief resistance, in which a few were slain. Two hundred prisoners, five thousand sheep, and one thousand camels were the fruits of this easy victory. Among the captives was Barra, the daughter of Al Hareth, and wife to a young Arab of her kin. In the division of the spoil she fell to the lot of Thabet Ibn Reis, who demanded a high ransom. The captive appealed to Mohammed against this extortion, and prayed that the ransom might be mitigated. The prophet regarded her with eyes of desire, for she was fair to look upon. “I can serve thee better,” said he, “than by abating thy ransom: be my wife.” The beautiful Barra gave ready consent; her ransom was paid by the prophet to Thabet; her kindred were liberated by the Moslems, to whose lot they had fallen; most of them embraced the faith, and Barra became the wife of Mohammed after his return to Medina.
After the battle the troops crowded round the wells of Moraisi to assuage their thirst. In the press a quarrel rose between some of the Mohadjerins, or exiles of Mecca, and the Khazradites, in which one of the latter received a blow. His comrades rushed to revenge the insult, and blood would have been shed but for the interference of Mohammed. The Khazradites remained incensed, and other of the people of Medina made common cause with them. Abdallah Ibn Obba, eager to take advantage of every circumstance adverse to the rising power of Mohammed, drew his kindred and townsfolk apart. “Behold;” said he, “the insults you have brought upon yourselves by harboring these fugitive Koreishites. You have taken them to your houses and given them your goods, and now they turn upon and maltreat you. They would make themselves your masters even in your own house; but by Allah, when we return to Medina, we will see which of us is strongest.”
Secret word was brought to Mohammed of this seditious speech. Omar counselled him at once to make way with Abdallah; but the prophet feared to excite the vengeance of the kindred and adherents of the powerful Khazradite. To leave no time for mutiny, he set off immediately on the homeward march, although it was in the heat of the day, and continued on throughout the night, nor halted until the following noon, when the wearied soldiery cared for nothing but repose.
On arriving at Medina, he called Abdallah to account for his seditious expressions. He flatly denied them, pronouncing the one who had accused him a liar. A revelation from heaven, however, established the charge against him and his adherents. “These are the men,” says the Koran, “who say to the inhabitants of Medina, do not bestow anything on the refugees who are with the apostle of God, that they may be compelled to separate from him. They say, verily, if we return to Medina, the worthier will expel thence the meaner. God curse them! how are they turned aside from the truth.”
Some of the friends of Abdallah, convinced by this revelation, advised him to ask pardon of the prophet; but be spurned their counsel. “You have already,” said he, “persuaded me to give this man my countenance and friendship, and now you would have me put myself beneath his very feet.”
Nothing could persuade him that Mohammed was not an idolater at heart, and his revelations all imposture and deceit. He considered him, however, a formidable rival, and sought in every way to injure and annoy him. To this implacable hostility is attributed a scandalous story which he propagated about Ayesha, the favorite wife of the prophet.
It was the custom with Mohammed always to have one of his wives with him, on his military expeditions, as companion and solace; she was taken by lot, and on the recent occasion the lot had fallen on Ayesha. She travelled in a litter, enclosed by curtains, and borne on the back of a camel, which was led by an attendant. On the return homeward, the army, on one occasion, coming to a halt, the attendants of Ayesha were astonished to find the litter empty. Before they had recovered from their surprise, she arrived on a camel, led by a youthful Arab named Safwan Ibn al Moattel. This circumstance having come to the knowledge of Abdallah, he proclaimed it to the world after his return to Medina, affirming that Ayesha had been guilty of wantonness with the youthful Safwan.
The story was eagerly caught up and circulated by Hamna, the sister of the beautiful Zeinab, whom Mohammed had recently espoused, and who hoped to benefit her sister by the downfall of her deadly rival Ayesha; it was echoed also by Mistah, a kinsman of Abu Beker, and was celebrated in satirical verses by a poet named Hasan.
It was some time before Ayesha knew of the scandal thus circulating at her expense. Sickness had confined her to the house on her return to Medina, and no one ventured to tell her of what she was accused. She remarked, however, that the prophet was stern and silent, and no longer treated her with his usual tenderness. On her recovery she heard with consternation the crime alleged against her, and protested her innocence. The following is her version of the story.
The army on its homeward march had encamped not far from Medina, when orders were given in the night to march. The attendants, as usual, brought a camel before the tent of Ayesha, and placing the litter on the ground, retired until she could take her seat within it. As she was about to enter she missed her necklace, and returned into the tent to seek it. In the mean time the attendants lifted the litter upon the camel and strapped it fast, not perceiving that it was empty; she being slender and of little weight. When she returned from seeking the necklace, the camel was gone, and the army was on the march; whereupon she wrapped herself in her mantle and sat down, trusting that, when her absence should be discovered, some persons would be sent back in quest of her.
While thus seated, Safwan Ibn al Moattel. the young Arab, being one of the rear-guard, came up, and, recognizing her, accosted her with the usual Moslem salutation. “To God we belong, and to God we must return! Wife of the prophet. why dost thou remain behind?”
Ayesha made no reply, but drew her veil closer over her face. Safwan then alighted, aided her to mount the camel, and, taking the bridle, hastened to rejoin the army. The sun had risen, however, before he overtook it, just without the walls of Medina.
This account, given by Ayesha, and attested by Safwan Ibn al Moattel, was satisfactory to her parents and particular friends, but was scoffed at by Abdallah and his adherents, “the Hypocrites.” Two parties thus arose on the subject, and great strife ensued. As to Ayesha, she shut herself up within her dwelling, refusing all food, and weeping day and night in the bitterness of her soul.
Mohammed was sorely troubled in mind, and asked counsel of Ali in his perplexity. The latter made light of the affair, observing that his misfortune was the frequent lot of man. The prophet was but little consoled by this suggestion. He remained separated from Ayesha for a month; but his heart yearned toward her; not merely on account of her beauty, but because he loved her society. In a paroxysm of grief, he fell into one of those trances which unbelievers have attributed to epilepsy; in the course of which he received a seasonable revelation, which will be found in a chapter of the Koran. It was to this effect.
They who accuse a reputable female of adultery, and produce not four witnesses of the fact, shall be scourged with fourscore stripes, and their testimony rejected. As to those who have made the charge against Ayesha, have they produced four witnesses thereof? If they have not, they are liars in the sight of God. Let them receive, therefore, the punishment of their crime.
The innocence of the beautiful Ayesha being thus miraculously made manifest, the prophet took her to his bosom with augmented affection. Nor was he slow in dealing the prescribed castigation. It is true Abdallah Ibn Obba was too powerful a personage to be subjected to the scourge, but it fell the heavier on the shoulders of his fellow calumniators. The poet Hasan was cured for some time of his propensity to make satirical verses, nor could Hamna, though a female and of great personal charms, escape the infliction of stripes; for Mohammed observed that such beauty should have been accompanied by a gentler nature.
The revelation at once convinced the pious Ali of the purity of Ayesha; but she never forgot nor forgave that he had doubted; and the hatred thus implanted in her bosom was manifested to his great detriment in many of the most important concerns of his after life.
THE BATTLE OF THE MOAT—BRAVERY OF SAAD IBN MOAD—DEFEAT OF THE KOREISHITES—CAPTURE OF THE JEWISH CASTLE OF KORAIDA—SAAD DECIDES AS TO THE PUNISHMENT OF THE JEWS—MOHAMMED ESPOUSES REHANA, A JEWISH CAPTIVE—HIS LIFE ENDANGERED BY SORCERY; SAVED BY A REVELATION OF THE ANGEL GABRIEL.
DURING the year of truce which succeeded the battle of Ohod, Abu Sofian, the restless chief of the Koreishites, formed a confederacy with the Arab tribe of Ghatafan and other tribes of the desert, as well as with many of the Jews of the race of Nadher, whom Mohammed had driven from their homes. The truce being ended, he prepared to march upon Medina, with these confederates, their combined forces amounting to ten thousand men.
Mohammed had early intelligence of the meditated attack, but his late reverse at Ohod made him wary of taking the field against such numbers; especially as he feared the enemy might have secret allies in Medina; where he distrusted the Jewish inhabitants and the Hypocrites, the partisans of Abdallah Ibn Obba, who were numerous and powerful.
Great exertions were now made to put the city in a state of defense. Salman the Persian, who had embraced the faith, advised that a deep moat should be digged at some distance beyond the wall, on the side on which the enemy would approach. This mode of defense, hitherto unused in Arabia, was eagerly adopted by Mohammed, who set a great number of men to dig the moat, and even assisted personally in the labor. Many miracles are recorded of him during the progress of this work. At one time, it is said, he fed a great multitude from a single basket of dates, which remained full after all were satisfied. At another time he feasted a thousand men upon a roasted lamb and a loaf of barley bread; yet enough remained for all his fellow-laborers in the moat. Nor must we omit to note the wonderful blows which he gave to a rock with an iron mallet, striking off sparks which in one direction lighted up all Yemen, or Arabia the Happy; in another revealed the imperial palace at Constantinople; and in a third illumined the towers of the royal residence of Persia—all signs and portents of the future conquests of Islam.
Scarcely was the moat completed when the enemy appeared in great force on the neighboring hills. Leaving Ibn Omm Mactum, a trusty officer, to command in the city, and keep a vigilant eye on the disaffected, Mohammed sallied forth with three thousand men, whom he formed in battle array, having the deep moat in front. Abu Sofian advanced confidently with his combined force of Koreishites and Ghatafanites, but was unexpectedly checked by the moat, and by a galling fire from the Moslems drawn up beyond it. The enemy now encamped; the Koreishites in the lower part of the valley, and the Ghatafanites in the upper; and for some days the armies remained on each side of the moat, keeping up a distant combat with slings and stones and flights of arrows.
In the mean time spies brought word to Mohammed that a Jewish tribe, the Beni Koraida, who had a strong castle near the city, and had made a covenant of peace with him, were in secret league with the enemy. He now saw the difficulty with his scanty forces to man the whole extent of the moat; to guard against a perfidious attack from the Koraidites, and to maintain quiet in the city where the Jews must have secret confederates. Summoning a council of war he consulted with his captains on the policy of bribing the Ghatafanites to a separate peace by offering them a third of the date-harvest of Medina. Upon this, Saad Ibn Moad, a stout leader of the Awsites of Medina, demanded: “Do you propose this by the command of Allah, or is it an idea of your own?” “If it had been a command of Allah,” replied Mohammed, “I should never have asked your advice. I see you pressed by enemies on every side, and I seek to break their confederacy.” “Oh prophet of God!” rejoined Saad, “when we were fellow-idolaters with these people of Ghatafan, they got none of our dates without paying for them; and shall we give them up gratuitously now that we are of the true faith, and led by thee? No, by Allah! if they want our dates they must win them with their swords!”
The stout Saad had his courage soon put to the proof. A prowling party of Koreishite horsemen, among whom was Akrema, the son of Abu Jahl, and Amru, uncle of Mohammed’s first wife Khadijah, discovered a place where the moat was narrow, and putting spurs to their steeds succeeded in leaping over, followed by some of their comrades. They then challenged the bravest of the Moslems to equal combat. The challenge was accepted by Saad Ibn Moad, by Ali, and several of their companions. Ali had a close combat with Amru; they fought on horseback and on foot, until, grappling with each other, they rolled in the dust. In the end Ali was victorious, and slew his foe. The general conflict was maintained with great obstinacy; several were slain on both sides, and Saad Ibn Moad was severely wounded. At length the Koreishites gave way, and spurred their horses to recross the moat. The steed of one of them, Nawfal Ibn Abdallah, leaped short; his rider was assailed with stones while in the moat, and defied the Moslems to attack him with nobler weapons. In an instant Ali sprang down into the moat, and Nawfal soon fell beneath his sword. Ali then joined his companions in pursuit of the retreating foe, and wounded Akrema with a javelin. This skirmish was dignified with the name of the battle of the Moat.
Mohammed, still unwilling to venture a pitched battle, sent Rueim, a secretly converted Arab of the tribe of Ghatafan, to visit the camps of the confederates and artfully to sow dissensions among them. Rueim first repaired to the Koraidites, with whom he was in old habits of friendship. “What folly is this,” said he, “to suffer yourselves to be drawn by the Koreishites of Mecca into their quarrel. Bethink you how different is your situation from theirs. If defeated, they have only to retreat to Mecca, and be secure. Their allies from the desert will also retire to their distant homes, and you will be left to bear the whole brunt of the vengeance of Mohammed and the people of Medina. Before you make common cause with them, therefore, let them pledge themselves and give hostages, never to draw back until they have broken the power of Mohammed.”
He then went to the Koreishites and the tribe of Ghatafan, and warned them against confiding in the Jews of Koraida, who intended to get hostages from them, and deliver them up into the hands of Mohammed.
The distrust thus artfully sown among the confederates soon produced its effects. Abu Sofian sent word on Friday evening, to the Koraidites, to be ready to join next morning in a general assault. The Jews replied that the following day was their Sabbath, on which they could not engage in battle; at the same time they declined to join in any hostile act, unless their allies should give hostages to stand by them to the end.
The Koreishites and Ghatafanites were now convinced of the perfidy of the Koraidites, and dared not venture upon the meditated attack, lest these should fall upon them in the rear. While they lay idly in their camp a cold storm came on, with drenching rain and sweeping blasts from the desert. Their tents were blown down; their camp-fires were extinguished; in the midst of the uproar the alarm was given that Mohammed had raised the storm by enchantment, and was coming upon them with his forces. All now was panic and confusion. Abu Sofian, finding all efforts vain to produce order, mounted his camel in despair, and gave the word to retreat. The confederates hurried off from the scene of tumult and terror, the Koreishites toward Mecca, the others to their homes in the desert.
Abu Sofian, in rage and mortification, wrote a letter to Mohammed, upbraiding him with his cowardice in lurking behind a ditch, a thing unknown in Arabian warfare; and threatening to take his revenge on some future day, when they might meet in open fight, as in the field of Ohod. Mohammed hurled back a defiance, and predicted that the day was approaching when he would break in pieces the idols of the Koreishites.
The invaders having disappeared, Mohammed turned to take vengeance on the Beni Koraida, who shut themselves up in their castle, and withstood a siege of many days. At length, pinched by famine, they implored the intercession of their ancient friends and protectors, the Awsites. The latter entreated the prophet to grant these Hebrews the same terms he had formerly granted to the Beni Kainoka, at the prayer of Abdallah the Khazradite. Mohammed reflected a moment, and offered to leave their fate to the decision of Saad Ibn Moad, the Awsite chief. The Koraidites gladly agreed, knowing him to have been formerly their friend. They accordingly surrendered themselves to the number of seven hundred and were conducted in chains to Medina. Unfortunately for them, Saad considered their perfidious league with the enemy as one cause of the recent hostility. He was still smarting with the wound received in the battle of the Moat, and in his moments of pain and anger had repeatedly prayed that his life might be spared to see vengeance wreaked on the Koraidites. Such was the state of his feelings when summoned to decide upon their fate.
Being a gross, full-blooded man, he was with difficulty helped upon an ass, propped up by a leathern cushion, and supported in his seat until he arrived at the tribunal of justice. Before ascending it, he exacted an oath from all present to abide by his decision. The Jews readily took it, anticipating a favorable sentence. No sooner was he helped into the tribunal, than, extending his hand, he condemned the men to death, the women and children to slavery, and their effects to be shared among the victors.
The wretched Jews looked aghast, but there was no appeal. They were conducted to a public place since called the Market of the Koraidites, where great graves had been digged. Into these they were compelled to descend, one by one, their prince Hoya Ibn Ahktab among the number, and were successively put to death. Thus the prayer of Saad Ibn Moad for vengeance on the Koraidites was fully gratified, He witnessed the execution of the men he had condemned, but such was his excitement that his wound broke out afresh, and he died shortly afterward.
In the Castle of Koraida was found a great quantity of pikes, lances, cuirasses, and other armor; and its lands were covered with flocks, and herds, and camels. In dividing the spoil each foot soldier had one lot, each horseman three; two for his horse and one for himself. A fifth part of the whole was set apart for the prophet.
The most precious prize in the eyes of Mohammed was Rihana, daughter of Simeon, a wealthy and powerful Jew, and the most beautiful female of her tribe. He took her to himself, and, having converted her to the faith, added her to the number of his wives.
But, though thus susceptible of the charms of the Israelitish women, Mohammed became more and more vindictive in his hatred of the men; no longer putting faith in their covenants, and suspecting them of the most insidious attempts upon his life. Moslem writers attribute to the spells of Jewish sorcerers a long and languishing illness, with which he was afflicted about this time, and which seemed to defy all remedy. They describe the very charm by which it was produced. It was prepared, say they, by a Jewish necromancer from the mountains, aided by his daughters, who were equally skilled in the diabolic art. They formed a small waxen effigy of Mohammed; wound round it some of his hair, and thrust through it eleven needles. They then made eleven knots in a bow-string, blowing with their breaths on each; and, winding a string round the effigy, threw the whole into a well.
Under the influence of this potent spell Mohammed wasted away, until his friend, the angel Gabriel, revealed the secret to him in a vision. On awaking he sent Ali to the well, where the image was discovered. When it was brought to Mohammed, continues the legend, he repeated over it the two last chapters of the Koran, which had been communicated to him in the recent vision. They consist of eleven verses, and are to the following purport.
In the name of the all merciful God! I will fly for refuge to the Lord
of the light of day.
At the repetition of each one of these verses, says the legend, a knot of the bowstring came loose, a needle fell from the effigy, and Mohammed gained strength. At the end of the the eleventh verse he rose, renovated in health and vigor, as one restored to freedom after having been bound with cords.
The two final chapters of the Koran, which comprise these verses, are entitled the amulets, and considered by the superstitious Moslems effectual talismans against sorcery and magic charms.
The conduct of Mohammed in the affair narrated in this chapter has been censured as weak and vacillating, and deficient in military decision, and his measures as wanting in true greatness of mind, and the following circumstances are adduced to support these charges. When threatened with violence from without, and perfidy from within, he is for bribing a part of his confederate foes to a separate peace; but suffers himself to be, in a manner, hectored out of this crafty policy by Saad Ibn Moad; yet, subsequently, he resorts to a scheme still more subtle and crafty, by which he sows dissension among his enemies. Above all, his conduct toward the Jews has been strongly reprobated. His referring the appeal of the Beni Koraida for mercy, to the decision of one whom he knew to be bent on their destruction, has been stigmatized as cruel mockery; and the massacre of those unfortunate men in the market-place of Medina is pronounced one of the darkest pages of his history. In fact, his conduct toward this race from the time that he had power in his hands forms an exception to the general tenor of his disposition, which was forgiving and humane. He may have been especially provoked against them by proofs of treachery and deadly rancor on their part; but we see in this, as in other parts of his policy in this part of his career, instances of that worldly alloy which at times was debasing his spirit, now that he had become the Apostle of the Sword.
MOHAMMED UNDERTAKES A PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA—EVADES KHALED AND A TROOP OF HORSE SENT AGAINST HIM—ENCAMPS NEAR MECCA—NEGOTIATES WITH THE KOREISHITES FOR PERMISSION TO ENTER AND COMPLETE HIS PILGRIMAGE—TREATY FOR TEN YEARS, BY WHICH HE IS PERMITTED TO MAKE A YEARLY VISIT OF THREE DAYS—HE RETURNS TO MEDINA.
Six years had now elapsed since the flight of Mohammed from Mecca. As that city was sacred in the eyes of the Arabs and their great point of pilgrimage, his long exile from it, and his open warfare with the Koreishites, who had charge of the Kaaba, prejudiced him in the opinion of many of the tribes, and retarded the spread of his doctrines. His followers, too, who had accompanied him in his flight, languished once more to see their native home, and there was danger of their faith becoming enfeebled under a protracted exile.
Mohammed felt more and more the importance of linking the sacred city with his religion, and maintaining the ancient usages of his race. Besides, he claimed but to be a reformer, anxious to restore the simplicity and purity of the patriarchal faith. The month Doul Kaada was at hand, the month of pilgrimage, when there was a truce to warfare, and enemies might meet in peace within the holy boundaries. A timely vision assured Mohammed that he and his followers might safely avail themselves of the protection of this venerable custom to revisit the ancient shrines of Arabian worship. The revelation was joyfully received by his followers, and in the holy month he set forth for Medina on his pilgrimage, at the head of fourteen hundred men, partly Mohadjerins or Fugitives, and partly Ansarians or Auxiliaries. They took with them seventy camels to be slain in sacrifice at the Kaaba. To manifest publicly that they came in peace and not in war, they halted at Dsu Huleifa, a village about a day’s journey from Medina, where they laid aside all their weapons, excepting their sheathed swords, and thence continued on in pilgrim garb.
In the mean time a confused rumor of this movement had reached Mecca. The Koreishites, suspecting hostilities, sent forth Khaled Ibn Waled with a powerful troop of horse, to take post in a valley about two days’ journey from Mecca, and check the advance of the Moslems.
Mohammed, hearing that the main road was thus barred against him, took a rugged and difficult route through the defiles of the mountains, and, avoiding Khaled and his forces, descended into the plain near Mecca, where he encamped at Hodeiba, within the sacred boundaries. Hence he sent assurances to the Koreishites of his peaceable intentions, and claimed the immunities and rights of pilgrimage.
Envoys from the Koreishites visited his camp to make observations. They were struck with the reverence with which he was regarded by his followers. The water with which he performed his ablutions became sanctified; a hair falling from his head, or the paring of a nail, was caught up as a precious relic. One of the envoys in the course of conversation, unconsciously touched the flowing beard of the prophet; he was thrust back by the disciples, and warned of the impiety of the act. In making his report to the Koreishites on his return, “I have seen the king of Persia and the emperor of Constantinople surrounded by their courts,” said he, “but never did I behold a sovereign so revered by his subjects, as is Mohammed by his. followers.”
The Koreishites were the more loath to admit into their city an adversary to their sect, so formidable in his influence over the minds and affections of his fellow-men. Mohammed sent repeated missions to treat for a safe access to the sacred shrines, but in vain. Othman Ibn Affan, his son-in-law, was his last envoy. Several days elapsed without his return, and it was rumored that he was slain. Mohammed determined to revenge his fall. Standing under a tree, and summoning his people around him, he exacted an oath to defend him even to the death, and never to desert the standard of the faith. This ceremony is known among Mohammedans by the name of the Spontaneous Inauguration.
The reappearance of Othman in the camp restored tranquility. He was accompanied by Solhail, an ambassador from the Koreishites, to arrange a treaty of peace. They perceived the impolicy of warring with a man whose power was incessantly increasing, and who was obeyed with such fanatic devotion. The treaty proposed was for ten years, during which time Mohammed and his adherents were to have free access to Mecca as pilgrims, there to remain, three days at a time, in the exercise of their religious rites. The terms were readily accepted, and Ali was employed to draw up the treaty. Mohammed dictated the words. “Write,” said he, “these are the conditions of peace made by Mohammed the apostle of God.” “Hold!” cried Solhail, the ambassador; “had I believed thee to be the apostle of God, I should never have taken up arms against thee. Write, therefore, simply thy name, and the name of thy father.” Mohammed was fain to comply, for he felt he was not sufficiently in force at this moment to contend about forms; so he merely denominated himself in the treaty, Mohammed Ibn Abdallah (Mohammed the son of Abdallah), an abnegation which gave some little scandal to his followers. Their discontent was increased when he ordered them to shave their heads, and to sacrifice on the spot the camels brought to be offered up at the Kaaba, as it showed he had not the intention of entering Mecca, these rites being properly done at the conclusion of the ceremonials of pilgrimage. They reminded him of his vision which promised a safe entrance of the sacred city; he replied, that the present treaty was an earnest of its fulfillment, which would assuredly take place on the following year. With this explanation they had to content themselves; and having performed the ceremony, and made the sacrifice prescribed, the camp was broken up, and the pilgrim host returned, somewhat disappointed and dejected, to Medina.
EXPEDITION AGAINST THE CITY OF KHAIBAR; SIEGE—EXPLOITS OF MOHAMMED’S CAPTAINS—BATTLE OF ALI AND MARHAB—STORMING OF THE CITADEL—ALI MAKES A BUCKLER OF THE GATE— CAPTURE OF THE PLACE—MOHAMMED POISONED; HE MARRIES SAFIYA, A CAPTIVE; ALSO OMM HABIBA, A WIDOW.
To console his followers for the check their religious devotion had experienced at Mecca, Mohammed now set on foot an expedition calculated to gratify that love of plunder, which began to rival fanaticism in attaching them to his standard.
About five days’ journey to the northeast of Medina was situated the city of Khaibar, and its dependent territory. It was inhabited by Jews, who had grown wealthy by commerce as as well as agriculture. Their rich domain was partly cultivated with grain, and planted with groves of palm-trees; partly devoted to pasturage and covered with flocks and herds; and it was fortified by several castles. So venerable was its antiquity that Abulfeda, the Arabian historian, assures us that Moses, after the passage of the Red Sea, sent an army against the Amalekites, inhabiting Gothreb (Medina), and the strong city of Khaibar.
This region had become a place of refuge for the hostile Jews, driven by Mohammed from Medina and its environs, and for all those who had made themselves obnoxious to his vengeance. These circumstances, together with its teeming wealth, pointed it out as a fit and ripe object for that warfare which he had declared against all enemies of the faith.
In the beginning of the seventh year of the Hegira, he departed on an expedition against Khaibar, at the head of twelve hundred foot and two hundred horse, accompanied by Abu Beker, by Ali, by Omar, and other of his principal officers. He had two standards; one represented the sun, the other a black eagle; which last became famous in after years as the standard of Khaled.
Entering the fertile territory of Khaibar, he began his warfare by assailing the inferior castles with which it was studded. Some of these capitulated without making resistance; in which cases, being considered “gifts from God,” the spoils went to the prophet, to be disposed of by him in the way before mentioned. Others of more strength, and garrisoned by stouter hearts, had to be taken by storm.
After the capture of these minor fortresses, Mohammed advanced against the city of Khaibar. It was strongly defended by outworks, and its citadel, Al Kamus, built on a steep rock, was deemed impregnable, insomuch that Kenana Ibn al Rabi, the chief or king of the nation, had made it the depository of all his treasures.
The siege of this city was the most important enterprise the Moslems had yet undertaken. When Mohammed first came in sight of its strong and frowning walls, and its rock-built citadel, he is said to have put up the following prayer:
“Oh Allah! Lord of the seven heavens, and of all things which they cover! Lord of the seven earths, and all which they sustain! Lord of the evil spirits, and of all whom they lead astray! Lord of the winds, and of all whom they scatter and disperse! We supplicate thee to deliver into our hands this city, and all that it contains, and the riches of all its lands. To thee we look for aid against this people, and against all the perils by which we are environed.”
To give more solemnity to his prayers, he chose as his place of worship a great rock, in a stony place called Mansela, and, during all the time that he remained encamped before Khaibar, made daily seven circuits round it, as are made round the Kaaba. A mosque was erected on this rock in after times in memorial of this devout ceremonial, and it became an object of veneration to all pious Moslems.
The siege of the citadel lasted for some time, and tasked the skill and patience of Mohammed and his troops, as yet but little practiced in the attack of fortified places. They suffered too from want of provisions, for the Arabs in their hasty expeditions seldom burden themselves with supplies, and the Jews on their approach had laid waste the level country, and destroyed the palm-trees round their capital.
Mohammed directed the attacks in person; the besiegers protected themselves by trenches, and brought battering-rams to play upon the walls; a breach was at length effected, but for several days every attempt to enter was vigorously repelled. Abu Beker at one time led the assault, bearing the standard of the prophet; but, after fighting with great bravery, was compelled to retreat. The next attack was headed by Omar Ibn Khattab, who fought until the close of day with no better success. A third attack was led by Ali, whom Mohammed armed with his own scimitar, called Dhu’l-Fakâr, or the Trenchant. On confiding to his hands the sacred banner, he pronounced him “a man who loved God and his prophet; and whom God and his prophet loved. A man who knew not fear, nor ever turned his back upon a foe.”
And here it may be well to give a traditional account of the person and character of Ali. He was of the middle height, but robust and square, and of prodigious strength. He had a smiling countenance, exceedingly florid, with a bushy beard. He was distinguished for an amiable disposition, sagacious intellect, and religious zeal, and, from his undaunted courage, was surnamed the Lion of God.
Arabian writers dwell with fond exaggeration on the exploits at Khaibar of this their favorite hero. He was clad, they say, in a scarlet vest, over which was buckled a cuirass of steel. Scrambling with his followers up the great heap of stones and rubbish in front of the breach, he planted his standard on the top, determined never to recede until the citadel was taken. The Jews sallied forth to drive down the assailants. In the conflict which ensued, Ali fought hand to hand with the Jewish commander, Al Hareth, whom he slew. The brother of the slain advanced to revenge his death. He was of gigantic stature, with a double cuirass, a double turban, wound round a helmet of proof, in front of which sparkled an immense diamond. He had a sword girt to each side, and brandished a three-pronged spear, like a trident. The warriors measured each other with the eye, and accosted each other in boasting oriental style.
“I” said the Jew, “am Marhab, armed at all points, and terrible in battle.”
“And I am Ali, whom his mother, at his birth, surnamed Al Haidara (the rugged lion).”
The Moslem writers make short work of the Jewish champion. He made a thrust at Ali with his three-pronged lance, but it was dexterously parried, and before he could recover himself, a blow from the scimitar Dhu’l-Fakâr divided his buckler, passed through the helm of proof, through doubled turban and stubborn skull, cleaving his head even to his teeth. His gigantic form fell lifeless to the earth.
The Jews now retreated into the citadel, and a genera assault took place. In the heat of the action the shield of Ali was severed from his arm, leaving his body exposed; wrenching a gate, however, from its hinges, he used it as a buckler through the remainder of the fight. Abu Râfe, a servant of Mohammed, testifies to the fact. “I afterward,” says he, “examined this gate in company with seven men, and all eight of us attempted in vain to wield it.”
This stupendous feat is recorded by the historian Abulfeda, c. 24. “Abu Rafe,” observes Gibbon, “was an eye-witness; but who will be witness for Abu Rafe?” We join with the distinguished historian in his doubt; yet if we scrupulously question the testimony of an eye witness, what will become of history?
The citadel being captured, every vault and dungeon was ransacked for the wealth said to be deposited there by Kenana, the Jewish prince. None being discovered, Mohammed demanded of him where he had concealed his treasure. He declared that it had all been expended in the subsistence of his troops, and in preparations for defense. One of his faithless subjects, however, revealed the place where a great amount had been hidden. It did not equal the expectations of the victors, and Kenana was put to the torture to reveal the rest of his supposed wealth. He either could not or would not make further discoveries, so he was delivered up to the vengeance of a Moslem, whose brother he had crushed to death by a piece of millstone hurled from the wall, and who struck off his head with a single blow of his saber.
The Jews inhabiting the tract of country called Khaibar are still known in Arabia by the name of Beni Kheibar. They are divided into three tribes, under independent Sheikhs, the Beni Messiad, Beni Schahan, and Beni Anaesse. They are accused of pillaging the caravans.—Niebuhr, v. ii. p. 43.
While in the citadel of Khaibar, Mohammed came near falling a victim to Jewish vengeance. Demanding something to eat, a shoulder of lamb was set before him. At the first mouthful he perceived something unusual in the taste, and spat it forth, but instantly felt acute internal pain. One of his followers, named Baschar, who had eaten more freely, fell down and expired in convulsions. All now was confusion and consternation: on diligent inquiry, it was found that the lamb had been cooked by Zainab, a female captive, niece to Marhab, the gigantic warrior slain by Ali. Being brought before Mohammed, and charged with having infused poison into the viand, she boldly avowed it, vindicating it as a justifiable revenge for the ills he had brought upon her tribe and her family. “I thought,” said she, “if thou wert indeed a prophet, thou wouldst discover thy danger; if but a chieftain, thou wouldst fall, and we should be delivered from a tyrant.”
Arabian writers are divided as to the fate of this heroine. According to some, she was delivered up to the vengeance of the relatives of Baschar, who had died of the poison. According to others, her beauty pleaded in her behalf, and Mohammed restored her unharmed to her family.
The same writers seldom permit any remarkable event of Mohammed’s life to pass without a miracle. In the present instance, they assure us that the poisoned shoulder of lamb became miraculously gifted with speech, and warned Mohammed of his danger. If so, it was rather slow of speech, for he had imbibed sufficient poison to injure his constitution throughout the remainder of his life, affecting him often with paroxysms of pain; and in his last moments he complained that the veins of his heart throbbed with the poison of Khaibar. He experienced kinder treatment at the hands of Safiya (or Sophia), another female captive, who had still greater motives for vengeance than Zainab; for she was the recently espoused wife of Kenana, who had just been sacrificed for his wealth, and she was the daughter of Hoya Ibn Akhtab, prince of the Beni Koraida, who, with seven hundred of his people, had been put to death in the square of Medina, as has been related.
This Safiya was of great beauty; it is not surprising, therefore, that she should find instant favor in the eyes of Mohammed, and that he should seek, as usual, to add her to his harem; but it may occasion surprise that she should contemplate such a lot with complacency. Moslem writers, however, explain this by assuring us that she was supernaturally prepared for the event.
While Mohammed was yet encamped before the city, and carrying on the siege, she had a vision of the night, in which the sun descended from the firmament and nestled in her bosom. On recounting her dream to her husband Kenana in the morning, he smote her on the face, exclaiming, “Woman, you speak in parables of this Arab chief who has come against us.”
The vision of Safiya was made true, for having converted her with all decent haste to the faith of Islam, Mohammed took her to wife before he left Khaibar. Their nuptials took place on the homeward march, at Al Sahba, where the army halted for three days. Abu Ayub, one of the prophet’s most ardent disciples and marshal of his household, patrolled around the nuptial tent throughout the night, sword in hand. Safiya was one of the most favored wives of Mohammed, whom she survived for forty years of widowhood.
Besides the marriages of affection which we have recorded, the prophet, about this time, made another of policy. Shortly after his return to Medina he was gladdened by the arrival, from Abyssinia, of the residue of the fugitives. Among these was a comely widow, thirty years of age, whose husband, Abdallah, had died while in exile. She was generally known by the name of Omm Habiba, the mother of Habiba, from a daughter to whom she had given birth. This widow was the daughter of Mohammed’s arch enemy, Abu Sofian; and the prophet conceived that a marriage with the daughter might soften the hostility of the father; a politic consideration, which is said to have been either suggested or sanctioned by a revelation of a chapter of the Koran.
When Abu Sofian heard of the espousals, “By heaven,” exclaimed he, “this camel is so rampant that no muzzle can restrain him.”
MISSIONS TO VARIOUS PRINCES; TO HERACLIUS; TO KHOSRU II.; TO THE PREFECT OF EGYPT—-THEIR RESULT.
DURING the residue of the year Mohammed remained at Medina, sending forth his trusty disciples, by this time experienced captains, on various military expeditions; by which refractory tribes were rapidly brought into subjection. His views as a statesman widened as his territories increased. Though he professed, in cases of necessity, to propagate his religion by the sword, he was not neglectful of the peaceful measures of diplomacy, and sent envoys to various princes and potentates, whose dominions bordered on his political horizon, urging them to embrace the faith of Islam; which was, in effect, to acknowledge him, through his apostolic office, their superior.
Two of the most noted of these missions were to Khosru II., king of Persia, and Heraclius, the Roman emperor, at Constantinople. The wars between the Romans and the Persians, for the dominion of the East, which had prevailed from time to time through several centuries, had been revived by these two potentates with varying fortunes, and for several years past had distracted the eastern world. Countries had been overrun by either power; states and kingdoms had changed hands under alternate invasions, and according to the conquests and defeats of the warring parties. At one time Khosru with three armies, one vauntingly called the Fifty Thousand Golden Spears, had wrested Palestine, Cappadocia, Armenia, and several other great and wealthy provinces from the Roman emperor; had made himself master of Jerusalem, and carried off the Holy Cross to Persia; had invaded Africa, conquered Libya and Egypt, and extended his victories even to Carthage.
In the midst of his triumphant career, a Moslem envoy arrived bearing him a letter from Mohammed. Khosru sent for his secretary or interpreter, and ordered him to read it. The letter began as follows:
“In the name of the most merciful God! Mohammed, son of Abdallah, and apostle of God, to Khosru, king of Persia.”
“What!” cried Khosru, starting up in haughty indignation, “does one who is my slave dare to put his name first in writing to me?” So saying, he seized the letter and tore it in pieces without seeking to know its contents. He then wrote to his viceroy in Yemen, saying, “I am told there is in Medina a madman, of the tribe of Koreish, who pretends to be a prophet. Restore him to his senses; or if you cannot, send me his head.”
When Mohammed was told how Khosru had torn his letter, “Even so,” said he, “shall Allah rend his empire in pieces.”
The letter from the prophet to Heraclius was more favorably received, reaching him probably during his reverses. It was signed in characters of silver, Mohammed Azzarel, Mohammed the messenger of God, and invited the emperor to renounce Christianity, and embrace the faith of Islam. Heraclius, we are told, deposited the epistle respectfully upon his pillow, treated the envoy with distinction, and dismissed him with magnificent presents. Engrossed, however, by his Persian wars, he paid no further attention to this mission, from one whom he probably considered a mere Arab fanatic; nor attached sufficient importance to his military operations, which may have appeared mere predatory forays of the wild tribes of the desert.
Another mission of Mohammed was to the Mukowis, or governor of Egypt, who had originally been sent there by Heraclius to collect tribute; but who, availing himself of the confusion produced by the wars between the Romans and Persians, had assumed sovereign power, and nearly thrown off all allegiance to the emperor. He received the envoy with signal honor, but evaded a direct reply to the invitation to embrace the faith, observing that it was a grave matter requiring much consideration. In the mean time he sent presents to Mohammed of precious jewels; garments of Egyptian linen; exquisite honey and butter; a white she-ass, called Yafur; a white mule, called Daldal, and a fleet horse called Lazlos, or the Prancer. The most acceptable of his presents, however, were two Coptic damsels, sisters, called Mariyah (or Mary), and Shiren.
The beauty of Mariyah caused great perturbation in the mind of the prophet. He would fain have made her his concubine, but was impeded by his own law in the seventeenth chapter of the Koran, ordaining that fornication should be punished with stripes.
He was relieved from his dilemma by another revelation revoking the law in regard to himself alone, allowing him intercourse with his handmaid. It remained in full force, however, against all other Moslems. Still, to avoid scandal, and above all, not to excite the jealousy of his wives, he carried on his intercourse with the beautiful Mariyah in secret; which may be one reason why she remained long a favorite.
MOHAMMED’S PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA; HIS MARRIAGE WITH MAIMUNA—KHALED IBN AL WALED AND AMRU IBN AL AASS BECOME PROSELYTES.
THE time had now arrived when, by treaty with the Koreishites, Mohammed and his followers were permitted to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, and pass three days unmolested at the sacred shrines. He departed accordingly with a numerous and well-armed host, and seventy camels for sacrifices. His old adversaries would fain have impeded his progress, but they were overawed, and on his approach withdrew silently to the neighboring hills. On entering the bounds of Mecca, the pilgrims, according to compact and usage, laid aside all their warlike accoutrements excepting their swords, which they carried sheathed.
Great was their joy on beholding once more the walls and towers of the sacred city. They entered the gates in pilgrim garb, with devout and thankful hearts, and Mohammed performed all the ancient and customary rites, with a zeal and devotion which gratified beholders, and drew to him many converts. When he had complied with all the ceremonials he threw aside the Iram or pilgrim’s garb, and withdrew to Sarif, a hamlet two leagues distant, and without the sacred boundaries. Here he had a ceremonial of a different kind to perform, but one in which he was prone to act with unfeigned devotion. It was to complete his marriage with Maimuna, the daughter of Al Hareth, the Helalite. He had become betrothed to her on his arrival at Mecca, but had postponed the nuptials until after he had concluded the rites of pilgrimage. This was doubtless another marriage of policy, for Maimuna was fifty-one years of age, and a widow, but the connection gained him two powerful proselytes. One was Khaled Ibn al Waled, a nephew of the widow, an intrepid warrior who had come near destroying Mohammed at the battle of Ohod. He now became one of the most victorious champions of Islamism, and by his prowess obtained the appellation of “The Sword of God.”
The other proselyte was Khaled’s friend Amru Ibn al Aass, the same who assailed Mohammed with poetry and satire at the commencement of his prophetic career; who had been an ambassador from the Koreishites to the king of Abyssinia, to obtain the surrender of the fugitive Moslems, and who was henceforth destined with his sword to carry victoriously into foreign lands the faith he had once so strenuously opposed.
NOTE.—Maimuna was the last spouse of the prophet, and, old as she was at her marriage, survived all his other wives. She died many years after him, in a pavilion at Serif, under the same tree in the shade of which her nuptial tent had been pitched, and was there interred. The pious historian, Al Jannabi, who styles himself “a poor servant of Allah, hoping for the pardon of his sins through the mercy of God,” visited her tomb on returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca, in the year of the Hegira 963, A.D. 1555. “I saw there,” said he, “a dome of black marble erected in memory of Maimuna, on the very spot on which the apostle of God had reposed with her. God knows the truth! and also the reason of the black color of the stone. There is a place of ablution, and an oratory; but the building has fallen to decay.”
A MOSLEM ENVOY SLAIN IN SYRIA—EXPEDITION TO AVENGE HIS DEATH—BATTLE OF MUTA—ITS RESULTS.
AMONG the different missions which had been sent by Mohammed beyond the bounds of Arabia to invite neighboring princes to embrace his religion, was one to the governor of Bosra, the great mart on the confines of Syria, to which he had made his first caravan journey in the days of his youth. Syria had been alternately under Roman and Persian domination, but was at that time subject to the emperor, though probably in a great state of confusion. The envoy of Mohammed was slain at Muta, a town about three days’ journey eastward from Jerusalem. The one who slew him was an Arab of the Christian tribe of Gassan, and son to Shorhail, an emir, who governed Muta in the name of Heraclius.
To revenge the death of his legate, and to insure respect to his envoys in future, Mohammed prepared to send an army of three thousand men against the offending city. It was a momentous expedition, as it might, for the first time, bring the arms of Islam in collision with those of the Roman Empire; but Mohammed presumed upon his growing power, the energy of his troops, and the disordered state of Syrian affairs. The command was entrusted to his freedman Zeid, who had given such signal proof of devotion in surrendering to him his beautiful wife Zeinab. Several chosen officers were associated with him. One was Mohammed’s cousin Jaafar, son of Abu Taleb, and brother of Ali, the same who, by his eloquence, had vindicated the doctrines of Islam before the king of Abyssinia, and defeated the Koreish embassy. He was now in the prime of life, and noted for great courage and manly beauty. Another of the associate officers was Abdallah Ibn Kawaha, the poet, but who had signalized himself in arms as well as poetry. A third was the new proselyte Khaled, who joined the expedition as a volunteer, being eager to prove by his sword the sincerity of his conversion.
The orders to Zeid were to march rapidly, so as to come upon Muta by surprise, to summon the inhabitants to embrace the faith, and to treat them with lenity. Women, children, monks, and the blind were to be spared at all events; nor were any houses to be destroyed, nor trees cut down.
The little army sallied from Medina in the full confidence of coming upon the enemy unawares. On their march, however, they learned that a greatly superior force of Romans, or rather Greeks and Arabs, was advancing to meet them. A council of war was called. Some were for pausing, and awaiting further orders from Mohammed; but Abdallah, the poet, was for pushing fearlessly forward without regard to numbers. “We fight for the faith!” cried he; “if we fall, paradise is our reward. On, then, to victory or martyrdom!”
All caught a spark of the poet’s fire, or rather, fanaticism. They met the enemy near Muta, and encountered them with fury rather than valor. In the heat of the conflict Zeid received a mortal wound. The sacred banner was falling from his grasp, but was seized and borne aloft by Jaafar. The battle thickened round him, for the banner was the object of fierce contention. He defended it with desperate valor. The hand by which he held it was struck off; he grasped it with the other. That, too, was severed; he embraced it with his bleeding arms. A blow from a scimitar cleft his skull; he sank dead upon the field, still clinging to the standard of the faith. Abdallah the poet next reared the banner; but he too fell beneath the sword. Khaled, the new convert, seeing the three Moslem leaders slain, now grasped the fatal standard, but in his hand it remained aloft. His voice rallied the wavering Moslems; his powerful arm cut its way through the thickest of the enemy. If his own account may be credited, and he was one whose deeds needed no exaggeration, nine scimitars were broken in his hand by the fury of the blows given by him in this deadly conflict.
Night separated the combatants. In the morning Khaled, whom the army acknowledged as their commander, proved himself as wary as he was valiant. By dint of marches and counter-marches he presented his forces in so many points of view that the enemy were deceived as to his number, and supposed he had received a strong reinforcement. At his first charge, therefore, they retreated; their retreat soon became a flight, in which they were pursued with great slaughter. Khaled then plundered their camp, in which was found great booty. Among the slain in the field of battle was found the body of Jaafar, covered with wounds, but all in front. Out of respect to his valor, and to his relationship with the prophet, Khaled ordered that his corpse should not be buried on the spot, but borne back for honorable interment at Medina.
The army, on its return, though laden with spoil, entered the city more like a funeral train than a triumphant pageant, and was received with mingled shouts and lamentations. While the people rejoiced in the success of their arms, they mourned the loss of three of their favorite generals. All bewailed the fate of Jaafar, brought home a ghastly corpse to that city whence they had so recently seen him sally forth in all the pride of valiant manhood, the admiration of every beholder. He had left behind him a beautiful wife and infant son. The heart of Mohammed was touched by her affliction. He took the orphan child in his arms and bathed it with his tears. But most he was affected when he beheld the young daughter of his faithful Zeid approaching him. He fell on her neck and wept in speechless emotion. A bystander expressed surprise that he should give way to tears for a death which, according to Moslem doctrine, was but a passport to paradise. “Alas!” replied the prophet, “these are the tears of friendship for the loss of a friend!”
The obsequies of Jaafar were performed on the third day after the arrival of the army. By that time Mohammed had recovered his self-possession, and was again the prophet. He gently rebuked the passionate lamentations of the multitude, taking occasion to inculcate one of the most politic and consolatory doctrines of his creed. “Weep no more,” said he, “over the death of this my brother. In place of the two hands lost in defending the standard of the faith, two wings have been given him to bear him to paradise; there to enjoy the endless delights insured to all believers who fall in battle.”
It was in consequence of the prowess and generalship displayed by Khaled in this perilous fight that he was honored by Mohammed with the appellation of “The Sword of God,” by which he was afterward renowned.
DESIGNS UPON MECCA—MISSION OF ABU SOFIAN—ITS RESULT.
Mohammed, by force either of arms or eloquence, had now acquired dominion over a great number of the Arabian tribes. He had many thousand warriors under his command; sons of the desert, inured to hunger, thirst, and the scorching rays of the sun, and to whom war was a sport rather than a toil. He had corrected their intemperance, disciplined their valor, and subjected them to rule. Repeated victories had given them confidence in themselves and in their leader, whose standard they followed with the implicit obedience of soldiers and the blind fanaticism of disciples.
The views of Mohammed expanded with his means, and a grand enterprise now opened upon his mind. Mecca, his native city, the abode of his family for generations, the scene of his happiest years, was still in the hands of his implacable foes. The Kaaba, the object of devotion and pilgrimage to all the children of Ishmael, the shrine of his earliest worship, was still profaned by the emblems and rites of idolatry. To plant the standard of the faith on the walls of his native city, to rescue the holy house from profanation, restore it to the spiritual worship of the one true God, and make it the rallying point of Islamism, formed now the leading object of his ambition.
The treaty of peace existing with the Koreishites was an impediment to any military enterprise; but some casual feuds and skirmishings soon gave a pretext for charging them with having violated the treaty stipulations. The Koreishites had by this time learned to appreciate and dread the rapidly increasing power of the Moslems, and were eager to explain away, or atone for, the quarrels and misdeeds of a few heedless individuals. They even prevailed on their leader, Abu Sofian, to repair to Medina as ambassador of peace, trusting that he might have some influence with the prophet through his daughter Omm Habiba.
It was a sore trial to this haughty chief to come almost a suppliant to the man whom he had scoffed at as an impostor, and treated with inveterate hostility; and his proud spirit was doomed to still further mortification, for Mohammed, judging from his errand of the weakness of his party, and secretly bent on war, vouchsafed him no reply.
Repressing his rage, Abu Sofian sought the intermediation of Abu Beker, of Omar, and Ali; but they all rebuked and repulsed him; for they knew the secret wishes of Mohammed. He next endeavored to secure the favor of Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed and wife of Ali, by flattering a mother’s pride, entreating her to let her son Hasan, a child but six years old, be his protector; but Fatima answered haughtily, “My son is too young to be a protector; and no protection can avail against the will of the prophet of God.” Even his daughter, Omm Habiba, the wife of Mohammed, on whom Abu Sofian had calculated for influence, added to his mortification, for on his offering to seat himself on a mat in her dwelling, she hastily folded it up, exclaiming, “It is the bed of the prophet of God, and too sacred to be made the resting-place of an idolater.”
The cup of humiliation was full to overflowing, and in the bitterness of his heart Abu Sofian cursed his daughter. He now turned again to Ali, beseeching his advice in the desperate state of his embassy.
“I can advise nothing better,” replied Ali, “than for thee to promise, as the head of the Koreishites, a continuance of thy protection; and then to return to thy home.”
“But thinkest thou that promise will be of any avail?”
“I think not,” replied Ali dryly; “but I know not to the contrary.”
In pursuance of this advice, Abu Sofian repaired to the mosque, and made public declaration, in behalf of the Koreishites, that on their part the treaty of peace should be faithfully maintained; after which he returned to Mecca, deeply humiliated by the imperfect result of his mission. He was received with scoffs by the Koreishites, who observed that his declaration of peace availed nothing without the concurrence of Mohammed.
SURPRISE AND CAPTURE OF MECCA.
Mohammed now prepared for a secret expedition to take Mecca by surprise. His allies were summoned from all quarters to Medina; but no intimation was given of the object he had in view. All the roads leading to Mecca were barred to prevent any intelligence of his movements being carried to the Koreishites. With all his precautions the secret came near being discovered. Among his followers, fugitives from Mecca, was one named Hateb, whose family had remained behind, and were without connections or friends to take an interest in their welfare. Hateb now thought to gain favor for them among the Koreishites, by betraying the plans of Mohammed. He accordingly wrote a letter revealing the intended enterprise, and gave it in charge to a singing woman, named Sara, a Haschemite slave, who undertook to carry it to Mecca.
She was already on the road when Mohammed was apprised of the treachery. Ali and five others, well mounted, were sent in pursuit of the messenger. They soon overtook her, but searched her person in vain. Most of them would have given up the search and turned back, but Ali was confident that the prophet of God could not be mistaken nor misinformed. Drawing his scimitar, he swore to strike off the head of the messenger, unless the letter were produced. The threat was effectual. She drew forth the letter from among her hair.
Hateb, on being taxed with his perfidy, acknowledged it, but pleaded his anxiety to secure favor for his destitute family, and his certainty that the letter would be harmless, and of no avail against the purposes of the apostle of God. Omar spurned at his excuses, and would have struck off his head; but Mohammed, calling to mind that Hateb had fought bravely in support of the faith in the battle of the Beder, admitted his excuses and forgave him.
The prophet departed with ten thousand men on this momentous enterprise. Omar, who had charge of regulating the march and appointing the encampments, led the army by lonely passes of the mountains; prohibiting the sound of attabal or trumpet, or anything else that could betray their movements. While on the march Mohammed was joined by his uncle Al Abbas, who had come forth with his family from Mecca, to rally under the standard of the faith. Mohammed received him graciously, yet with a hint at his tardiness. “Thou art the last of the emigrants,” said he, “as I am the last of the prophets.” Al Abbas sent his family forward to Medina, while he turned and accompanied the expedition. The army reached the valley of Marr Azzahran, near to the sacred city, without being discovered. It was nightfall when they silently pitched their tents, and now Omar for the first time permitted them to light their watchfires.
In the mean time, though Al Abbas had joined the standard of the faith in all sincerity, yet he was sorely disquieted at seeing his nephew advancing against Mecca with such a powerful force and such hostile intent, and feared the entire destruction of the Koreishites, unless they could be persuaded in time to capitulate. In the dead of the night he mounted Mohammed’s white mule Fadda, and rode forth to reconnoiter. In skirting the camp he heard the tramp of men and sound of voices. A scouting party were bringing in two prisoners captured near the city. Al Abbas approached, and found the captives to be Abu Sofian and one of his captains. They were conducted to the watchfire of Omar, who recognized Abu Sofian by the light. “God be praised,” cried he, “that I have such an enemy in my hands, and without conditions.” His ready scimitar might have given fatal significance to his words, had not Al Abbas stepped forward and taken Abu Sofian under his protection, until the will of the prophet should be known. Omar rushed forth to ascertain that will, or rather to demand the life of the prisoner; but Al Abbas, taking the latter up behind him, put spurs to his mule, and was the first to reach the tent of the prophet, followed hard by Omar, clamoring for the head of Abu Sofian.
Mohammed thus beheld in his power his inveterate enemy, who had driven him from his home and country, and persecuted his family and friends; but he beheld in him the father of his wife Omm Habiba, and felt inclined to clemency. He postponed all decision in the matter until morning, giving Abu Sofian in charge of Al Abbas.
When the captain was brought before him on the following day, “Well, Abu Sofian,” cried he, “is it not at length time to know that there is no other God but God?”
“That I already knew,” replied Abu Sofian.
“Good! and is it not time for thee to acknowledge me as the apostle of God?”
“Dearer art thou to me than my father and my mother,” replied Abu Sofian, using an oriental phrase of compliment; “but I am not yet prepared to acknowledge thee a prophet.”
“Out upon thee!” cried Omar, “testify instantly to the truth, or thy head shall be severed from thy body.”
To these threats were added the counsels and entreaties of Al Abbas, who showed himself a real friend in need. The rancor of Abu Sofian had already been partly subdued by the unexpected mildness of Mohammed; so, making a merit of necessity, he acknowledged the divinity of his mission; furnishing an illustration of the Moslem maxim, “To convince stubborn unbelievers there is no argument like the sword.”
Having now embraced the faith, Abu Sofian obtained favorable terms for the people of Mecca, in case of their submission. None were to be harmed who should remain quietly in their houses; or should take refuge in the houses of Abu Sofian and Hakim; or under the banner of Abu Rawaiha.
That Abu Sofian might take back to the city a proper idea of the force brought against it, he was stationed with Al Abbas at a narrow defile where the whole army passed in review. As the various Arab tribes marched by with their different arms and ensigns, Al Abbas explained the name and country of each. Abu Sofian was surprised at the number, discipline, and equipment of the troops; for the Moslems had been rapidly improving in the means and art of war; but when Mohammed approached, in the midst of a chosen guard, armed at all points and glittering with steel, his astonishment passed all bounds. “There is no withstanding this!” cried he to Al Abbas, with an oath—“truly thy nephew wields a mighty power.”
“Even so,” replied the other; ‘‘return then to thy people; provide for their safety, and warn them not to oppose the apostle of God.”
Abu Sofian hastened back to Mecca, and assembling the inhabitants, told them of the mighty host at hand, led on by Mohammed; of the favorable terms offered in case of their submission, and of the vanity of all resistance. As Abu Sofian had been the soul of the opposition to Mohammed and his doctrines, his words had instant effect in producing acquiescence in an event which seemed to leave no alternative. The greater part of the inhabitants, therefore, prepared to witness, without resistance, the entry of the prophet.
Mohammed, in the mean time, who knew not what resistance he might meet with, made a careful distribution of his forces as he approached the city. While the main body marched directly forward, strong detachments advanced over the hills on each side. To Ali, who commanded a large body of cavalry, was confided the sacred banner, which he was to plant on Mount Hadjun, and maintain it there until joined by the prophet. Express orders were given to all the generals to practice forbearance, and in no instance to make the first attack; for it was the earnest desire of Mohammed to win Mecca by moderation and clemency, rather than subdue it by violence. It is true, all who offered armed resistance were to be cut down, but none were to be harmed who submitted quietly. Overhearing one of his captains exclaim, in the heat of his zeal, that “no place was sacred on the day of battle,” he instantly appointed a cooler-headed commander in his place.
The main body of the army advanced without molestation. Mohammed brought up the rear-guard, clad in a scarlet vest, and mounted on his favorite camel Al Kaswa. He proceeded but slowly, however; his movements being impeded by the immense multitude which thronged around him. Arrived on Mount Hadjun, where Ali had planted the standard of the faith, a tent was pitched for him. Here he alighted, put off his scarlet garment, and assumed the black turban and the pilgrim garb. Casting a look down into the plain, however, he beheld, with grief and indignation, the gleam of swords and lances, and Khaled, who commanded the left wing, in a full career of carnage. His troops, composed of Arab tribes converted to the faith, had been galled by a flight of arrows from a body of Koreishites; whereupon the fiery warrior charged into the thickest of them with sword and lance; his troops pressed after him; they put the enemy to flight, entered the gates of Mecca pell-mell with them, and nothing but the swift commands of Mohammed preserved the city from a general massacre.
The carnage being stopped, and no further opposition manifested, the prophet descended from the mount and approached the gates, seated on his camel, accompanied by Abu Beker on his right hand, and followed by Osama, the son of Zeid. The sun was just rising as he entered the gates of his native city, with the glory of a conqueror, but the garb and humility of a pilgrim. He entered, repeating verses of the Koran, which he said had been revealed to him at Medina, and were prophetic of the event. He triumphed in the spirit of a religious zealot, not of a warrior. “Unto God,” said he, “belong the hosts of heaven and earth, and God is mighty and wise. Now hath God verified unto his apostle the vision, wherein he said, ye shall surely enter the holy temple of Mecca in full security.”
Without dismounting, Mohammed repaired directly to the Kaaba, the scene of his early devotions, the sacred shrine of worship since the days of the patriarchs, and which he regarded as the primitive temple of the one true God. Here be made the seven circuits round the sacred edifice, a reverential rite from the days of religious purity; with the same devout feeling he each time touched the black stone with his staff; regarding it as a holy relic. He would have entered the Kaaba, but Othman Ibn Talha, the ancient custodian, locked the door. Ali snatched the keys, but Mohammed caused them to be returned to the venerable officer, and so won him by his kindness that he not merely threw open the doors, but subsequently embraced the faith of Islam; whereupon he was continued in his office.
Mohammed now proceeded to execute the great object of his religious aspirations, the purifying of the sacred edifice from the symbols of idolatry, with which it was crowded. All the idols in and about it, to the number of three hundred and sixty, were thrown down and destroyed. Among these the most renowned was Hobal, an idol brought from Balka, in Syria, and fabled to have the power of granting rain. It was, of course, a great object of worship among the inhabitants of the thirsty desert. There were statues of Abraham and Ishmael also, represented with divining arrows in their hands; “an outrage on their memories,” said Mohammed, “being symbols of a diabolical art which they had never practiced.” In reverence of their memories, therefore, these statues were demolished. There were paintings, also, depicting angels in the guise of beautiful women. “The angels,” said Mohammed indignantly, “are no such beings. There are celestial houris provided in paradise for the solace of true believers; but angels are ministering spirits of the Most High, and of too pure a nature to admit of sex.” The paintings were accordingly obliterated.
Even a dove, curiously carved of wood, he broke with his own hands, and cast upon the ground, as savoring of idolatry.
From the Kaaba he proceeded to the well of Zem Zem. It was sacred in his eyes, from his belief that it was the identical well revealed by the angel to Hagar and Ishmael, in their extremity; he considered the rite connected with it as pure and holy, and continued it in his faith. As he approached the well, his uncle Al Abbas presented him a cruse of the water, that he might drink, and make the customary ablution. In commemoration of this pious act, he appointed his uncle guardian of the cup of the well; an office of sacred dignity, which his descendants retain to this day.
At noon one of his followers, at his command, summoned the people to prayer from the top of the Kaaba, a custom continued ever since throughout Mohammedan countries, from minarets or towers provided in every mosque. He also established the Kebla, toward which the faithful in every part of the world should turn their faces in prayer.
He afterward addressed the people in a kind of sermon, setting forth his principal doctrines, and announcing the triumph of the faith as a fulfillment of prophetic promise. Shouts burst from the multitude in reply. “Allah Achbar! God is great!” cried they. “There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his prophet.”
The religious ceremonials being ended, Mohammed took his station on the hill Al Safa, and the people of Mecca, male and female, passed before him, taking the oath of fidelity to him as the prophet of God, and renouncing idolatry. This was in compliance with a revelation in the Koran: “God hath sent his apostle with the direction, and the religion of truth that he may exalt the same over every religion. Verily, they who swear fealty to him, swear fealty unto God; the hand of God is over their hands.” In the midst of his triumph, however, he rejected all homage paid exclusively to himself, and all regal authority. “Why dost thou tremble?” said he, to a man who approached with timid and faltering steps. “Of what dost thou stand in awe? I am no king, but the son of a Koreishite woman, who ate flesh dried in the sun.”
His lenity was equally conspicuous. The once haughty chiefs of the Koreishites appeared with abject countenances before the man they had persecuted, for their lives were in his power.
“What can you expect at my hands?” demanded he sternly.
“Mercy, oh generous brother! Mercy, oh son of a generous line!”
“Be it so !“ cried he, with a mixture of scorn and pity. “Away! begone! ye are free!”
Some of his followers who had shared his persecutions were disappointed in their anticipations of a bloody revenge, and murmured at his clemency; but he persisted in it, and established Mecca as an inviolable sanctuary, or place of refuge, so to continue until the final resurrection. He reserved to himself, however, the right on the present occasion, and during that special day, to punish a few of the people of the city, who had grievously offended, and been expressly proscribed; yet even these, for the most part, were ultimately forgiven.
Among the Koreishite women who advanced to take the oath he descried Henda, the wife of Abu Sofian; the savage woman who had animated the infidels at the battle of Ohod, and had gnawed the heart of Hamza, in revenge for the death of her father. On the present occasion she had disguised herself to escape detection; but seeing the eyes of the prophet fixed on her, she threw herself at his feet, exclaiming, “I am Henda: pardon! pardon!” Mohammed pardoned her—and was requited for his clemency by her making his doctrines the subject of contemptuous sarcasms.
Among those destined to punishment was Wacksa, the Ethiopian, who had slain Hamza; but he had fled from Mecca on the entrance of the army. At a subsequent period he presented himself before the prophet, and made the profession of faith before he was recognized. He was forgiven, and made to relate the particulars of the death of Hamza; after which Mohammed dismissed him with an injunction never again to come into his presence. He survived until the time of the Caliphat of Omar, during whose reign he was repeatedly scourged for drunkenness.
Another of the proscribed was Abdallah Ibn Saad, a young Koreishite, distinguished for wit and humor as well as for warlike accomplishments. As he held the pen of a ready writer, Mohammed had employed him to reduce the revelations of the Koran to writing. In so doing he had often altered and amended the text; nay, it was discovered that, through carelessness or design, he had occasionally falsified it, and rendered it absurd. He had even made his alterations and amendments matter of scoff and jest among his companions, observing that if the Koran proved Mohammed to be a prophet, he himself must be half a prophet. His interpolations being detected, he had fled from the wrath of the prophet, and returned to Mecca, where he relapsed into idolatry. On the capture of the city his foster-brother concealed him in his house until the tumult had subsided, when he led him into the presence of the prophet, and supplicated for his pardon. This was the severest trial of the lenity of Mohammed. The offender had betrayed his confidence; held him up to ridicule; questioned his apostolic mission, and struck at the very foundation of his faith. For some time he maintained a stern silence, hoping, as he afterward declared, some zealous disciple might strike off the offender’s head. No one, however, stirred; so, yielding to the entreaties of Othman, he granted a pardon. Abdallah instantly renewed his profession of faith, and continued a good Mussulman. His name will be found in the wars of the Caliphs. He was one of the most dexterous horsemen of his tribe, and evinced his ruling passion to the last, for he died repeating the hundredth chapter of the Koran, entitled “The war steeds.” Perhaps it was one which had experienced his interpolations.
Another of the proscribed was Akrema Ibn Abu Jahl, who on many occasions had manifested a deadly hostility to the prophet, inherited from his father. On the entrance of Mohammed into Mecca, Akrema threw himself upon a fleet horse, and escaped by an opposite gate, leaving behind him a beautiful wife, Omm Hakem, to whom he was recently married. She embraced the faith of Islam, but soon after learnt that her husband, in attempting to escape by sea to Yemen, had been driven back to port. Hastening to the presence of the prophet, she threw herself on her knees before him, loose, dishevelled, and unveiled, and implored grace for her husband. The prophet, probably more moved by her beauty than her grief, raised her gently from the earth, and told her her prayer was granted. Hurrying to the seaport, she arrived just as the vessel in which her husband had embarked was about to sail. She returned, mounted behind him, to Mecca, and brought him, a true believer, into the presence of the prophet. On this occasion, however, she was so closely veiled that her dark eyes alone were visible. Mohammed received Akrema’s profession of faith; made him commander of a battalion of Hawazenites, as the dower of his beautiful and devoted wife, and bestowed liberal donations on the youthful couple. Like many other converted enemies, Akrema proved a valiant soldier in the wars of the faith, and after signalizing himself on various occasions, fell in battle, hacked and pierced by swords and lances.
The whole conduct of Mohammed, on gaining possession of Mecca, showed that it was a religious more than a military triumph. His heart, too, softened toward his native place, now that it was in his power; his resentments were extinguished by success, and his inclinations were all toward forgiveness.
The Ansarians, or Auxiliaries of Medina, who had aided him in his campaign, began to fear that its success might prove fatal to their own interests. They watched him anxiously, as one day, after praying on the hill Al Safa, he sat gazing down wistfully upon Mecca, the scene of his early struggles and recent glory: “Verily,” said he, “thou art the best of cities, and the most beloved of Allah! Had I not been driven out from thee by my own tribe, never would I have left thee!” On hearing this, the Ansarians said, one to another, “Behold! Mohammed is conqueror and master of his native city; he will, doubtless, establish himself here, and forsake Medina!” Their words reached his ear, and he turned to them with reproachful warmth: “No!” cried he, “when you plighted to me your allegiance, I swore to live and die with you. I should not act as the servant of God, nor as his ambassador, were I to leave you.”
He acted according to his words, and Medina, which had been his city of refuge, continued to be his residence to his dying day.
Mohammed did not content himself with purifying the Kaaba and abolishing idolatry from his native city; he sent forth his captains at the head of armed bands, to cast down the idols of different tribes set up in the neighboring towns and villages, and to convert their worshippers to his faith.
Of all these military apostles, none was so zealous as Khaled, whose spirit was still fermenting with recent conversion. Arriving at Naklah, the resort of the idolatrous Koreishites, to worship at the shrine of Uzza, he penetrated the sacred grove, laid waste the temple, and cast the idol to the ground. A horrible hag, black and naked, with dishevelled hair, rushed forth, shrieking and wringing her hands; but Khaled severed her through the middle with one blow of his scimitar. He reported the deed to Mohammed, expressing a doubt whether she were priestess or evil spirit. “Of a truth,” replied the prophet, “it was Uzza herself whom thou hast destroyed.”
On a similar errand into the neighboring province of Tehama, Khaled had with him three hundred and fifty men, some of them of the tribe of Suleim, and was accompanied by Abda’lrahman, one of the earliest proselytes of the faith. His instructions from the prophet were to preach peace and goodwill, to inculcate the faith, and to abstain from violence, unless assailed. When about two days’ journey on his way to Tehama, he had to pass through the country of the tribe of Jadsima. Most of the inhabitants had embraced the faith, but some were still of the Sabean religion. On a former occasion this tribe had plundered and slain an uncle of Khaled, also the father of Abda’lrahman, and several Suleimites, as they were returning from Arabia Felix. Dreading that Khaled and his host might take vengeance for these misdeeds, they armed themselves on their approach.
Khaled was secretly rejoiced at seeing them ride forth to meet him in this military array. Hailing them with an imperious tone, he demanded whether they were Moslems or infidels. They replied in faltering accents, “Moslems.” “Why, then, come ye forth to meet us with weapons in your hands?” “Because we have enemies among some of the tribes who may attack us unawares.”
Khaled sternly ordered them to dismount and lay by their weapons. Some complied, and were instantly seized and bound; the rest fled. Taking their flight as a confession of guilt, he pursued them with great slaughter, laid waste the country, and in the effervescence of his zeal even slew some of the prisoners.
Mohammed, when he heard of this unprovoked outrage, raised his hands to heaven, and called God to witness that he was innocent of it. Khaled, when upbraided with it on his return, would fain have shifted the blame on Abda’lrahman, but Mohammed rejected indignantly an imputation against one of the earliest and worthiest of his followers. The generous Ali was sent forthwith to restore to the people of Jadsima what Khaled had wrested from them, and to make pecuniary compensation to the relatives of the slain. It was a mission congenial with his nature, and he executed it faithfully. Inquiring into the losses and sufferings of each individual, he paid him to his full content. When every loss was made good, and all blood atoned for, he distributed the remaining money among the people, gladdening every heart by his bounty. So Ali received the thanks and praises of the prophet, but the vindictive Khaled was rebuked even by those whom he had thought to please.
“Behold!” said he to Abda’lrahman, “I have avenged the death of thy father.” “Rather say,” replied the other indignantly, “thou hast avenged the death of thine uncle. Thou hast disgraced the faith by an act worthy of an idolater.”