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.
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.
While the military apostles of Mohammed were spreading his doctrines at the point of the sword in the plains, a hostile storm was gathering in the mountains. A league was formed among the Thakefites, the Hawazins, the Joshmites, the Saadites, and several other of the hardy mountain tribes of Bedouins, to check a power which threatened to subjugate all Arabia. The Saadites, or Beni Sad, here mentioned, are the same pastoral Arabs among whom Mohammed had been nurtured in his childhood, and in whose valley, according to tradition, his heart had been plucked forth and purified by an angel. The Thakefites, who were foremost in the league, were a powerful tribe, possessing the strong mountain town of Tayef and its productive territory. They were bigoted idolaters, maintaining at their capital the far-famed shrine of the female idol Al Lat. The reader will remember the ignominious treatment of Mohammed, when he attempted to preach his doctrines at Tayef; being stoned in the public square, and ultimately driven with insult from the gates. It was probably a dread of vengeance at his hands which now made the Thakefites so active in forming a league against him.
Malec Ibn Auf, the chief of the Thakefites, had the general command of the confederacy. He appointed the valley of Autas, between Honein and Tayef, as the place of assemblage and encampment; and as he knew the fickle nature of the Arabs, and their proneness to return home on the least caprice, he ordered them to bring with them their families and effects. They assembled, accordingly, from various parts, to the number of four thousand fighting men; but the camp was crowded with women and children, and encumbered with flocks and herds.
The expedient of Malec Ibn Auf to secure the adhesion of the warriors was strongly disapproved by Doraid, the chief of the Joshmites. This was an ancient warrior, upward of a hundred years old; meager as a skeleton, almost blind, and so feeble that he had to be borne in a litter on the back of a camel. Still, though unable to mingle in battle, he was potent in council from his military experience. This veteran of the desert advised that the women and children should be sent home forthwith, and the army relieved from all unnecessary encumbrances. His advice was not taken, and the valley of Autas continued to present rather the pastoral encampment of a tribe than the hasty levy of an army.
In the mean time Mohammed, hearing of the gathering storm, had sallied forth to anticipate it, at the head of about twelve thousand troops, partly fugitives from Mecca and auxiliaries from Medina, partly Arabs of the desert, some of whom had not yet embraced the faith.
In taking the field he wore a polished cuirass and helmet, and rode his favorite white mule Daldal, seldom mounting a charger, as he rarely mingled in actual fight. His recent successes and his superiority in numbers making him confident of an easy victory, he entered the mountains without precaution, and pushing forward for the enemy’s camp at Mutas, came to a deep gloomy valley on the confines of Honein. The troops marched without order through the rugged defile, each one choosing his own path. Suddenly they were assailed by showers of darts, stones, and arrows, which laid two or three of Mohammed’s soldiers dead at his feet, and wounded several others. Malec, in fact, had taken post with his ablest warriors about the heights commanding this narrow gorge. Every cliff and cavern was garrisoned with archers and slingers, and some rushed down to contend at close quarters.
Struck with a sudden panic, the Moslems turned and fled. In vain did Mohammed call upon them as their general, or appeal to them as the prophet of God. Each man sought but his own safety, and an escape from this horrible valley.
For a moment all seemed lost, and some recent but unwilling converts betrayed an exultation in the supposed reverse of fortune of the prophet.
“By heavens!” cried Abu Sofian, as he looked after the flying Moslems, “nothing will stop them until they reach the sea.”
“Ay,” exclaimed another, “the magic power of Mohammed is at an end!”
A third, who cherished a lurking revenge for the death of his father, slain by the Moslems in the battle of Ohod, would have killed the prophet in the confusion, had he not been surrounded and protected by a few devoted followers. Mohammed himself, in an impulse of desperation, spurred his mule upon the enemy; but Al Abbas seized the bridle, stayed him from rushing to certain death, and at the same time put up a shout that echoed through the narrow valley. Al Abbas was renowned for strength of lungs, and at this critical moment it was the salvation of the army. The Moslems rallied when they heard his well-known voice, and finding they were not pursued returned to the combat. The enemy had descended from the heights, and now a bloody conflict ensued in the defile. “The furnace is kindling,” cried Mohammed exultingly, as he saw the glitter of arms and flash of weapons. Stooping from his saddle and grasping a handful of dust, he scattered it in the air towards the enemy. “Confusion on their faces!” cried he, “may this dust blind them!” They were blinded accordingly, and fled in confusion, say the Moslem writers; though their defeat may rather be attributed to the Moslem superiority of force and the zeal inspired by the acclamations of the prophet. Malec and the Thakefites took refuge in the distant city of Tayef, the rest retreated to the camp in the valley of Autas.
While Mohammed remained in the valley of Honein, he sent Abu Amir, with a strong force, to attack the camp. The Hawazins made a brave defense. Abu Amir was slain; but his nephew, Abu Musa, took the command, and obtained a complete victory, killing many of the enemy. The camp afforded great booty and many captives, from the unwise expedient of Malec Ibn Auf, in encumbering it with the families and effects, the flocks and herds of the confederates; and from his disregard of the sage advice of the veteran Doraid. The fate of that ancient warrior of the desert is worthy of mention. While the Moslem troops, scattered through the camp, were intent on booty, Rabia Ibn Rafi, a young Suleimite, observed a litter borne off on the back of a camel, and pursued it, supposing it to contain some beautiful female. On overtaking it, and drawing the curtain, he beheld the skeleton form of the ancient Doraid. Vexed and disappointed, he struck at him with his sword, but the weapon broke in his hand. “Thy mother,” said the old man sneeringly, “has furnished thee with wretched weapons; thou wilt find a better one hanging behind my saddle.”
The youth seized it, but as he drew it from the scabbard, Doraid perceiving that he was a Suleimite, exclaimed, “Tell thy mother thou hast slain Doraid Ibn Simma, who has protected many women of her tribe in the day of battle.” The words were ineffectual; the skull of the veteran was cloven with his own scimitar. When Rabia, on his return to Mecca, told his mother of the deed, “Thou hast indeed slain a benefactor of thy race,” said she reproachfully. “Three women of thy family has Doraid Ibn Simma freed from captivity.”
Abu Musa returned in triumph to Mohammed, making a great display of the spoils of the camp of Autas, and the women and children whom he had captured. One of the female captives threw herself at the feet of the prophet, and implored his mercy as his foster-sister Al Shima, the daughter of his nurse Halêma, who had nurtured him in the Saadite valley. Mohammed sought in vain to recognize in her withered features the bright playmate of his infancy, but she laid bare her back, and showed a scar where he had bitten her in their childish gambols. He no longer doubted; but treated her with kindness, giving her the choice either to remain with him and under his protection, or to return to her home and kindred.
A scruple rose among the Moslems with respect to their female captives. Could they take to themselves such as were married, without committing the sin of adultery? The revelation of a text of the Koran put an end to the difficulty. “Ye shall not take to wife free women who are married unless your right hand shall have made them slaves.” According to this all women taken in war may be made the wives of the captors, though their former husbands be living. The victors of Honein failed not to take immediate advantage of this law.
Leaving the captives and the booty in a secure place, and properly guarded, Mohammed now proceeded in pursuit of the Thakefites who had taken refuge in Tayef. A sentiment of vengeance mingled with his pious ardor as he approached this idolatrous place, the scene of former injury and insult, and beheld the gate whence he had once been ignominiously driven forth. The walls were too strong, however to be stormed, and there was a protecting castle; for the first time, therefore, he had recourse to catapults, battering-rams, and other engines used in sieges, but unknown in Arabian warfare. These were prepared under the direction of Salman al Farsi, the converted Persian.
The besieged, however, repulsed every attack, galling the assailants with darts and arrows, and pouring down melted iron upon the shields of bull-hides, under covert of which they approached the walls. Mohammed now laid waste the fields, the orchards, and vineyards, and proclaimed freedom to all slaves who should desert from the city. For twenty days he carried on an ineffectual siege—daily offering up prayers midway between the tents of his wives Omm Salama and Zeinab, to whom it had fallen by lot to accompany him in this campaign. His hopes of success began to fail, and he was further discouraged by a dream, which was unfavorably interpreted by Abu Beker, renowned for his skill in expounding visions. He would have raised the siege, but his troops murmured; whereupon he ordered an assault upon one of the gates. As usual, it was obstinately defended; numbers were slain on both sides; Abu Sofian, who fought valiantly on the occasion, lost an eye, and the Moslems were finally repulsed.
Mohammed now broke up his camp, promising his troops to renew the siege at a future day, and proceeded to the place where were collected the spoils of his expedition. These, say Arabian writers, amounted to twenty-four thousand camels, forty thousand sheep, four thousand ounces of silver, and six thousand captives.
In a little while appeared a deputation from the Hawazins, declaring the submission of their tribe, and begging the restoration of their families and effects. With them came Halêma, Mohammed’s foster-nurse, now well stricken in years. The recollections of his childhood again pleaded with his heart. “Which is dearest to you,” said he to the Hawazins, “your families or your goods?” They replied, “Our families.”
“Enough,” rejoined he, “as far as it concerns Al Abbas and myself, we are ready to give up our share of the prisoners; but there are others to be moved. Come to me after noontide prayer and say, ‘We implore the ambassador of God that he counsel his followers to return us our wives and children; and we implore his followers that they intercede with him in our favor.’”
The envoys did as he advised. Mohammed and Al Abbas immediately renounced their share of the captives; their example was followed by all excepting the tribes of Tamim and Fazara, but Mohammed brought them to consent by promising them a six-fold share of the prisoners taken in the next expedition. Thus the intercession of Halêma procured the deliverance of all the captives of her tribe. A traditional anecdote shows the deference with which Mohammed treated this humble protector of his infancy. “I was sitting with the prophet,” said one of his disciples, “when all of a sudden a woman presented herself, and he rose and spread his cloth for her to sit down upon. When she went away, it was observed, ‘That woman suckled the prophet.’”
Mohammed now sent an envoy to Malec, who remained shut up in Tayef, offering the restitution of all the spoils taken from him at Honein, and a present of one hundred camels, if he would submit and embrace the faith. Malec was conquered and converted by this liberal offer, and brought several of his confederate tribes with him to the standard of the prophet. He was immediately made their chief; and proved, subsequently, a severe scourge in the cause of the faith to his late associates the Thakefites.
The Moslems now began to fear that Mohammed, in these magnanimous impulses, might squander away all the gains of their recent battles; thronging round him, therefore, they clamored for a division of the spoils and captives. Regarding them indignantly, “Have you ever,” said he, “found me avaricious, or false, or disloyal?” Then plucking a hair from the back of a camel, and raising his voice, “By Allah!” cried he, “I have never taken from the common spoil the value of that camel’s hair more than my fifth, and that fifth has always been expended for your good.”
He then shared the booty as usual; four fifths among the troops; but his own fifth he distributed among those whose fidelity he wished to insure. The Koreishites he considered dubious allies; perhaps he had overheard the exultation of some of them in anticipation of his defeat; he now sought to rivet them to him by gifts. To Abu Sofian he gave one hundred camels and forty okks of silver, in compensation for the eye lost in the attack on the gate of Tayef. To Akrema Ibn Abu Jahl, and others of like note, he gave in due proportions, and all from his own share.
Among the lukewarm converts thus propitiated, was Abbas Ibn Mardas, a poet. He was dissatisfied with his share, and vented his discontent in satirical verses. Mohammed overheard him. “Take that man hence,” said he, “and cut out his tongue.” Omar, ever ready for rigorous measures, would have executed the sentence literally, and on the spot; but others, better instructed in the prophet’s meaning, led Abbas, all trembling, to the public square where the captured cattle were collected, and bade him choose what he liked from among them.
“What!” cried the poet joyously, relieved from the horrors of mutilation, “is this the way the prophet would silence my tongue? By Allah! I will take nothing.” Mohammed, however, persisted in his politic generosity, and sent him sixty camels. From that time forward the poet was never weary of chanting the liberality of the prophet.
While thus stimulating the good-will of lukewarm proselytes of Mecca, Mohammed excited the murmurs of his auxiliaries of Medina. “See,” said they, “how he lavishes gifts upon the treacherous Koreishites, while we, who have been loyal to him through all dangers, receive nothing but our naked share. What have we done that we should be thus thrown into the background ?“
Mohammed was told of their murmurs, and summoned their leaders to his tent. “Hearken, ye men of Medina,” said he; “were ye not in discord among yourselves, and have I not brought you into harmony? Were ye not in error, and have I not brought you into the path of truth? Were ye not poor, and have I not made you rich?”
They acknowledged the truth of his words. “Look ye!” continued he, “I came among you stigmatized as a liar, yet you believed in me; persecuted, yet you protected me; a fugitive, yet you sheltered me; helpless, yet you aided me. Think you I do not feel all this? Think you I can be ungrateful? You complain that I bestow gifts upon these people, and give none to you. It is true, I give them worldly gear, but it is to win their worldly hearts. To you, who have been true, I give—myself! They return home with sheep and camels; ye return with the prophet of God among you. For by him in whose hands is the soul of Mohammed, though the whole world should go one way and ye another, I would remain with you! Which of you, then, have I most rewarded?”
The auxiliaries were moved even to tears by this appeal. “Oh, prophet of God,” exclaimed they, “we are content with our lot!”
The booty being divided, Mohammed returned to Mecca, not with the parade and exultation of a conqueror, but in pilgrim garb, to complete the rites of his pilgrimage. All these being scrupulously performed, he appointed Moad Ibn Jabal as iman, or pontiff, to instruct the people in the doctrines of Islam, and gave the government of the city into the hands of Otab, a youth but eighteen years of age; after which he bade farewell to his native place, and set out with his troops on the return to Medina.
Arriving at the village of Al Abwa, where his mother was buried, his heart yearned to pay a filial tribute to her memory, but his own revealed law forbade any respect to the grave of one who had died in unbelief. In the strong agitation of his feelings he implored from heaven a relaxation of this law. If there was any deception on an occasion of this kind, one would imagine it must have been self-deception, and that he really believed in a fancied intimation from heaven relaxing the law, in part, in the present instance, and permitting him to visit the grave. He burst into tears on arriving at this trying place of the tenderest affections; but tears were all the filial tribute he was permitted to offer. “I asked leave of God,” said he mournfully, “to visit my mother’s grave, and it was granted; but when I asked leave to pray for her, it was denied me!”
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.
SHORTLY after his return to Medina, Mohammed was afflicted by the death of his daughter Zeinab, the same who had been given up to him in exchange for her husband Abul Aass, the unbeliever, captured at the battle of Beder. The domestic affections of the prophet were strong, and he felt deeply this bereavement; he was consoled, however, by the birth of a son, by his favorite concubine Mariyah. He called the child Ibrahim, and rejoiced in the hope that this son of his old age, his only male issue living, would continue his name to after generations.
His fame, either as a prophet or a conqueror, was now spreading to the uttermost parts of Arabia, and deputations from distant tribes were continually arriving at Medina, some acknowledging him as a prophet and embracing Islamism; others submitting to him as a temporal sovereign, and agreeing to pay tribute. The talents of Mohammed rose to the exigency of the moment; his views expanded with his fortunes, and he now proceeded with statesmanlike skill to regulate the fiscal concerns of his rapidly growing empire. Under the specious appellation of alms, a contribution was levied on true believers, amounting to a tithe of the productions of the earth, where it was fertilized by brooks and rain; and a twentieth part where its fertility was the result of irrigation. For every ten camels two sheep were required; for forty head of cattle, one cow; for thirty head, a two years’ calf; for every forty sheep, one; whoever contributed more than at this rate would be considered so much the more devout, and would gain a proportionate favor in the eyes of God.
The tribute exacted from those who submitted to temporal sway, but continued in unbelief, was at the rate of one dinar in money or goods, for each adult person, bond or free.
Some difficulty occurred in collecting the charitable contributions; the proud tribe of Tamim openly resisted them, and drove away the collector. A troop of Arab horse was sent against them, and brought away a number of men, women, and children, captives. A deputation of the Tamimites came to reclaim the prisoners. Four of the deputies were renowned as orators and poets, and instead of humbling themselves before Mohammed, proceeded to declaim in prose and verse, defying the Moslems to a poetical contest.
“I am not sent by God as a poet,” replied Mohammed, “neither do I seek fame as an orator.”
Some of his followers, however, accepted the challenge, and a war of ink ensued, in which the Tamimites acknowledged themselves vanquished. So well pleased was Mohammed with the spirit of their defiance, with their poetry, and with their frank acknowledgment of defeat, that he not merely gave them up the prisoners, but dismissed them with presents.
Another instance of his susceptibility to the charms of poetry is recorded in the case of Kaab Ibn Zohair, a celebrated poet of Mecca, who had made him the subject of satirical verses, and had consequently been one of the proscribed, but had fled on the capture of the sacred city. Kaab now came to Medina to make his peace, and approaching Mohammed when in the mosque, began chanting his praises in a poem afterward renowned among the Arabs as a masterpiece. He concluded by especially extolling his clemency, “for with the prophet of God the pardon of injuries is, of all his virtues, that on which one can rely with the greatest certainty.”
Captivated with the verse, and soothed by the flattery, Mohammed made good the poet’s words, for he not merely forgave him, but taking off his own mantle, threw it upon his shoulders. The poet preserved the sacred garment to the day of his death, refusing golden offers for it. The Caliph Moawyah purchased it of his heirs for ten thousand drachmas, and it continued to be worn by the Caliphs in processions and solemn ceremonials, until the thirty-sixth Caliphat, when it was torn from the back of the Caliph Al-Most’asem Billah, by Holâga, the Tartar conqueror, and burnt to ashes.
While town after town and castle after castle of the Arab tribes were embracing the faith, and professing allegiance to Mohammed, Tayef, the stronghold of the Thakefites, remained obstinate in the worship of its boasted idol Al Lat. The inhabitants confided in their mountain position, and in the strength of their walls and castle. But, though safe from assault, they found themselves gradually hemmed in and isolated by the Moslems, so that at length they could not stir beyond their walls without being attacked. Thus threatened and harassed, they sent ambassadors to Mohammed to treat for peace.
The prophet cherished a deep resentment against this stiff-necked and most idolatrous city, which had at one time ejected him from its gates, and at another time repulsed him from its walls. His terms were conversion and unqualified submission. The ambassadors readily consented to embrace Islamism themselves, but pleaded the danger of suddenly shocking the people of Tayef, by a demand to renounce their ancient faith. In their name, therefore, they entreated permission for three years longer to worship their ancient idol Al Lat. The request was peremptorily denied. They then asked at least one month’s delay, to prepare the public mind. This likewise was refused, all idolatry being incompatible with the worship of God. They then entreated to be excused from the observance of the daily prayers.
“There can be no true religion without prayer,” replied Mohammed. In fine, they were compelled to make an unconditional submission.
Abu Sofian, Ibn Harb, and Al Mogheira were sent to Tayef, to destroy the idol Al Lat, which was of stone. Abu Sofian struck at it with a pickaxe, but missing his blow fell prostrate on his face. The populace set up a shout, considering it a good augury, but Al Mogheira demolished their hopes, and the statue, at one blow of a sledge-hammer. He then stripped it of the costly robes, the bracelets, the necklace, the earrings, and other ornaments of gold and precious stones wherewith it had been decked by its worshippers, and left it in fragments on the ground, with the women of Tayef weeping and lamenting over it.
The Thakefites continue a powerful tribe to this day, possessing the same fertile region on the eastern declivity of the Hedjas chain of mountains. Some inhabit the ancient town of Tayef, others dwell in tents and have flocks of goats and sheep. They can raise two thousand matchlocks, and defended their stronghold of Tayef in the wars with the Wahabys.—Burckhardt’s Notes, v. 2.
Among those who still defied the power of Mohammed was the Bedouin chief Amir Ibn Tufiel, head of the powerful tribe of Amir. He was renowned for personal beauty and princely magnificence; but was of a haughty spirit, and his magnificence partook of ostentation. At the great fair of Okaz, between Tayef and Naklah, where merchants, pilgrims, and poets were accustomed to assemble from all parts of Arabia, a herald would proclaim: “Whoso wants a beast of burden, let him come to Amir; is any one hungry, let him come to Amir, and he will be fed; is he persecuted, let him fly to Amir, and he will be protected.”
Amir had dazzled every one by his generosity, and his ambition had kept pace with his popularity. The rising power of Mohammed inspired him with jealousy. When advised to make terms with him; “I have sworn,” replied he haughtily, “never to rest until I had won all Arabia; and shall I do homage to this Koreishite?”
The recent conquests of the Moslems, however, brought him to listen to the counsels of his friends. He repaired to Medina, and coming into the presence of Mohammed, demanded frankly, “Wilt thou be my friend?”
“Never, by Allah!” was the reply, “unless thou dost embrace the faith of Islam.”
“And if I do, wilt thou content thyself with the sway over the Arabs of the cities, and leave to me the Bedouins of the deserts?”
Mohammed replied in the negative.
“What, then, will I gain by embracing thy faith?”
“The fellowship of all true believers.”
“I covet no such fellowship!” replied the proud Amir; and with a warlike menace he returned to his tribe.
A Bedouin chieftain of a different character was Adi, a prince of the tribe of Tai. His father Hatim had been famous, not merely for warlike deeds, but for boundless generosity, insomuch that the Arabs were accustomed to say, “as generous as Hatim.” Adi the son was a Christian; and however he might have inherited his father’s generosity, was deficient in his valor. Alarmed at the ravaging expeditions of the Moslems, he ordered a young Arab, who tended his camels in the desert, to have several of the strongest and fleetest at hand, and to give instant notice of the approach of an enemy.
It happened that Ali, who was scouring that part of the country with a band of horsemen, came in sight, bearing with him two banners, one white, the other black. The young Bedouin beheld them from afar, and ran to Adi, exclaiming, “The Moslems are at hand. I see their banners at a distance!”. Adi instantly placed his wife and children on the camels, and fled to Syria. His sister, surnamed Saffana, or the Pearl, fell into the hands of the Moslems, and was carried with other captives to Medina. Seeing Mohammed pass near to the place of her confinement, she cried to him:
“Have pity upon me, oh ambassador of God! My father is dead, and he who should have protected has abandoned me. Have pity upon me, oh ambassador of God, as God may have pity upon thee!”
“Who is thy protector?” asked Mohammed.
“Adi, the son of Hatim.”
“He is a fugitive from God and his prophet,” replied Mohammed, and passed on.
On the following day, as Mohammed was passing by, Ali, who had been touched by the woman’s beauty and her grief, whispered to her to arise and entreat the prophet once more. She accordingly repeated her prayer. “Oh prophet of God! my father is dead; my brother, who should have been my protector, has abandoned me. Have mercy upon me, as God will have mercy upon thee.”
Mohammed turned to him benignantly. “Be it so,” said he; and he not only set her free, but gave her raiment and a camel, and sent her by the first caravan bound to Syria.
Arriving in presence of her brother, she upbraided him with his desertion. He acknowledged his fault, and was forgiven. She then urged him to make his peace with Mohammed; “he is truly a prophet,” said she, “and will soon have universal sway; hasten, therefore, in time to win his favor.”
The politic Adi listened to her counsel, and hastening to Medina, greeted the prophet, who was in the mosque. His own account of the interview presents a striking picture of the simple manners and mode of life of Mohammed, now in the full exercise of sovereign power, and the career of rapid conquest. “He asked me,” says Adi, “my name, and when I gave it, invited me to accompany him to his home. On the way a weak emaciated woman accosted him. He stopped and talked to her of her affairs. This, thought I to myself, is not very kingly. When we arrived at his house he gave me a leathern cushion stuffed with palm-leaves to sit upon, while he sat upon the bare ground. This, thought I, is not very princely!
“He then asked me three times to embrace Islamism. I replied, I have a faith of my own. ‘I know thy faith,’ said he, ‘better than thou dost thyself. As prince, thou takest one-fourth of the booty from thy people. Is this Christian doctrine?’ By these words I perceived him to be a prophet, who knew more than other men.
“‘Thou dost not incline to Islamism,’ continued he, ‘because thou seest we are poor. The time is at hand when true believers will have more wealth than they will know how to manage. Perhaps thou art deterred by seeing the small number of the Moslems in comparison with the hosts of their enemies. By Allah! in a little while a Moslem woman will be able to make a pilgrimage on her camel, alone and fearless, from Kadesia to God’s temple at Mecca. Thou thinkest, probably, that the might is in the hands of the unbelievers; know that the time is not far off when we will plant our standards on the white castles of Babylon.’” [Weil’s Mohammed, p. 247.]
The politic Adi believed in the prophecy, and forthwith embraced the faith.
PREPARATIONS FOR AN EXPEDITION AGAINST SYRIA—INTRIGUES OF ABDALLAH IBN OBBA—CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE FAITHFUL—MARCH OF THE ARMY—THE ACCURSED REGION OF H AJAR—ENCAMPMENT AT TABUC—SUBJUGATION OF THE NEIGHBORING PROVINCES—KHALED SURPRISES OKAIDER AND HIS CASTLE—RETURN OF THE ARMY TO MEDINA.
Mohammed had now, either by conversion or conquest, made himself sovereign of almost all Arabia. The scattered tribes heretofore dangerous to each other, but by their disunion powerless against the rest of the world, he had united into one nation, and thus fitted for external conquest. His prophetic character gave him absolute control of the formidable power thus conjured up in the desert, and he was now prepared to lead it forth for the propagation of the faith and the extension of the Moslem power in foreign lands.
His numerous victories, and the recent affair at Muta, had at length, it is said, roused the attention of the Emperor Heraclius, who was assembling an army on the confines of Arabia to crush this new enemy. Mohammed determined to anticipate his hostilities, and to carry the standard of the faith into the very heart of Syria.
Hitherto he had undertaken his expeditions with secrecy, imparting his plans and intentions to none but his most confidential officers, and beguiling his followers into enterprises of danger. The present campaign, however, so different from the brief predatory excursions of the Arabs, would require great preparations; an unusual force was to be assembled, and all kinds of provisions made for distant marches, and a long absence. He proclaimed openly, therefore, the object and nature of the enterprise.
There was not the usual readiness to flock to his standard. Many remembered the disastrous affair at Muta, and dreaded to come again in conflict with disciplined Roman troops. The time of year also was unpropitious for such a distant and prolonged expedition. It was the season of summer heat; the earth was parched, and the springs and brooks were dried up. The date-harvest too was approaching, when the men should be at home to gather the fruit, rather than abroad on predatory enterprises.
All these things were artfully urged upon the people by Abdallah Ibn Obba, the Khazradite, who continued to be the covert enemy of Mohammed, and seized every occasion to counteract his plans. “A fine season this,” would he cry, “to undertake such a distant march in defiance of dearth and drought, and the fervid heat of the desert! Mohammed seems to think a war with Greeks quite a matter of sport; trust me, you will find it very different from a war of Arab against Arab. By Allah! methinks I already see you all in chains.”
By these and similar scoffs and suggestions, he wrought upon the fears and feelings of the Khazradites, his partisans, and rendered the enterprise generally unpopular. Mohammed, as usual, had resort to revelation. “Those who would remain behind, and refuse to devote themselves to the service of God,” said a timely chapter of the Koran, “allege the summer heat as an excuse. Tell them the fire of hell is hotter! They may hug themselves in the enjoyment of present safety, but endless tears will be their punishment hereafter.”
Some of his devoted adherents manifested their zeal at this lukewarm moment. Omar, Al Abbas, and Abda’lrahman gave large sums of money; several female devotees brought their ornaments and jewels. Othman delivered one thousand, some say ten thousand, dinars to Mohammed, and was absolved from his sins, past, present, or to come. Abu Beker gave four thousand drachmas; Mohammed hesitated to accept the offer, knowing it to be all that he possessed. “What will remain,” said he, “for thee and thy family?”“ “God and his prophet,” was the reply.
These devout examples had a powerful effect; yet it was with much difficulty that an army of ten thousand horse and twenty thousand foot was assembled. Mohammed now appointed Ali governor of Medina during his absence, and guardian of both their families. He accepted the trust with great reluctance, having been accustomed always to accompany the prophet, and share all his perils. All arrangements being completed, Mohammed marched forth from Medina on this momentous expedition. A part of his army was composed of Khazradites and their confederates, led by Abdallah Ibn Obba. This man, whom Mohammed had well denominated the Chief of the Hypocrites, encamped separately with his adherents at night, at some distance in the rear of the main army; and when the latter marched forward in the morning, lagged behind, and led his troops back to Medina. Repairing to Ali, whose dominion in the city was irksome to him and his adherents, he endeavored to make him discontented with his position, alleging that Mohammed had left him in charge of Medina solely to rid himself of an encumbrance. Stung by the suggestion, All hastened after Mohammed, and demanded if what Abdallah and his followers said were true.
“These men,” replied Mohammed, “are liars. They are the party of Hypocrites and Doubters, who would breed sedition in Medina. I left thee behind to keep watch over them, and to be a guardian to both our families. I would have thee to be to me what Aaron was to Moses; excepting that thou canst not be, like him, a prophet; I being the last of the prophets.” With this explanation, Ali returned contented to Medina.
Many have inferred from the foregoing that Mohammed intended Ali for his Caliph or successor; that being the signification of the Arabic word used to denote the relation of Aaron to Moses.
The troops who had continued on with Mohammed soon began to experience the difficulties of braving the desert in this sultry season. Many turned back on the second day, and others on the third and fourth. Whenever word was brought to the prophet of their desertion, “Let them go,” would be the reply; “if they are good for anything God will bring them back to us; if they are not, we are relieved from so many encumbrances.”
While some thus lost heart upon the march, others who had remained at Medina repented of their faint-heartedness. One, named Abu Khaithama, entering his garden during the sultry heat of the day, beheld a repast of viands and fresh water spread for him by his two wives in the cool shade of a tent. Pausing at the threshold, “At this moment,” exclaimed he, “the prophet of God is exposed to the winds and heats of the desert, and shall Khaitharna sit here in the shade beside his beautiful wives? By Allah! I will not enter the tent!” He immediately armed himself with sword and lance, and mounting his camel, hastened off to join the standard of the faith.
In the mean time the army, after a weary march of seven days, entered the mountainous district of Hajar, inhabited in days of old by the Thamudites, one of the lost tribes of Arabia. It was the accursed region, the tradition concerning which has already been related. The advance of the army, knowing nothing of this tradition, and being heated and fatigued, beheld with delight a brook running through a verdant valley, and cool caves cut in the sides of the neighboring hills, once the abodes of the heaven-smitten Thamudites. Halting along the brook, some prepared to bathe, others began to cook and make bread, while all promised themselves cool quarters for the night in the caves.
Mohammed, in marching, had kept, as was his wont, in the rear of the army to assist the weak; occasionally taking up a wayworn laggard behind him. Arriving at the place where the troops had halted, he recollected it of old, and the traditions concerning it, which had been told to him when he passed here in the days of his boyhood. Fearful of incurring the ban which hung over the neighborhood, he ordered his troops to throw away the meat cooked with the water of the brook, to give the bread kneaded with it to the camels, and to hurry away from the heaven-accursed place. Then wrapping his face in the folds of his mantle, and setting spurs to his mule, he hastened through that sinful region; the army following him as if flying from an enemy.
The succeeding night was one of great suffering; the army had to encamp without water; the weather was intensely hot, with a parching wind from the desert; an intolerable thirst prevailed throughout the camp, as though the Thamudite ban still hung over it. The next day, however, an abundant rain refreshed and invigorated both man and beast. The march was resumed with new ardor, and the army arrived, without further hardship, at Tabuc, a small town on the confines of the Roman empire, about half way between Medina and Damascus, and about ten days’ journey from either city.
Here Mohammed pitched his camp in the neighborhood of a fountain, and in the midst of groves and pasturage. Arabian traditions affirm that the fountain was nearly dry, insomuch that, when a small vase was filled for the prophet, not a drop was left; having assuaged his thirst, however, and made his ablutions, Mohammed threw what remained in the vase back into the fountain; whereupon a stream gushed forth sufficient for the troops and all the cattle.
From this encampment Mohammed sent out his captains to proclaim and enforce the faith, or to exact tribute. Some of the neighboring princes sent embassies, either acknowledging the divinity of his mission or submitting to his temporal sway. One of these was Johanna Ibn Ruba, prince of Eyla, a Christian city near the Red Sea. This was the same city about which the tradition is told, that in days of old, when its inhabitants were Jews, the old men were turned into swine, and the young men into monkeys, for fishing on the Sabbath, a judgment solemnly recorded in the Koran.
The prince of Eyla made a covenant of peace with Mohammed, agreeing to pay an annual tribute of three thousand dinars or crowns of gold. The form of the covenant became a precedent in treating with other powers.
Among the Arab princes who professed the Christian faith, and refused to pay homage to Mohammed, was Okaider Ibn Malec, of the tribe of Kenda. He resided in a castle at the foot of a mountain, in the midst of his domain. Khaled was sent with a troop of horse to bring him to terms. Seeing the castle was too strong to be carried by assault, he had recourse to stratagem. One moonlight night, as Okaider and his wife were enjoying the fresh air on the terraced roof of the castle, they beheld an animal grazing, which they supposed to be a wild ass from the neighboring mountains. Okaider, who was a keen huntsman, ordered horse and lance, and sallied forth to the chase, accompanied by his brother Hassan and several of his people. The wild ass proved to be a decoy. They had not ridden far before Khaled and his men rushed from ambush and attacked them. They were too lightly armed to make much resistance. Hassan was killed on the spot, and Okaider taken prisoner; the rest fled back to the castle, which, however, was soon surrendered. The prince was ultimately set at liberty on paying a heavy ransom and becoming a tributary.
As a trophy of the victory, Khaled sent to Mohammed the vest stripped from the body of Hassan. It was of silk, richly embroidered with gold. The Moslems gathered round, and examined it with admiration. “Do you admire this vest?” said the prophet. “I swear by him in whose hands is the soul of Mohammed, the vest which Saad, the son of Maadi, wears at this moment in paradise, is far more precious.” This Saad was the judge who passed sentence of death on seven hundred Jewish captives at Medina, at the conclusion of a former campaign.
His troops being now refreshed by the sojourn at Tabuc, and the neighboring country being brought into subjection, Mohammed was bent upon prosecuting the object of his campaign, and pushing forward into the heart of Syria. His ardor, however, was not shared by his followers. Intelligence of immense bodies of hostile troops, assembled on the Syrian borders, had damped the spirits of the army. Mohammed remarked the general discouragement, yet was loath to abandon the campaign when but half completed. Calling a council of war, he propounded the question whether or not to continue forward. To this Omar replied dryly, “If thou hast the command of God to proceed further, do so.” “If I had the command of God to proceed further,” observed Mohammed, “I should not have asked thy counsel.”
Omar felt the rebuke. He then, in a respectful tone, represented the impolicy of advancing in the face of the overwhelming force said to be collected on the Syrian frontier; he represented, also, how much Mohammed had already effected in this campaign. He had checked the threatened invasion of the imperial arms, and had received the homage and submission of various tribes and people, from the head of the Red Sea to the Euphrates: he advised him, therefore, to be content for the present year with what he had achieved, and to defer the completion of the enterprise to a future campaign.
His counsel was adopted; for, whenever Mohammed was not under strong excitement, or fancied inspiration, he was rather prone to yield up his opinion in military matters to that of his generals. After a sojourn of about twenty days, therefore, at Tabuc, he broke up his camp, and conducted his army back to Medina.
TRIUMPHAL ENTRY INTO MEDINA—PUNISHMENT OF THOSE WHO HAD REFUSED TO JOIN THE CAMPAIGN—EFFECTS OF EXCOMMUNICATION—DEATH OF ABDALLAH IBN OBBA—DISSENSIONS IN THE PROPHET’S HAREM.
THE entries of Mohammed into Medina on returning from his warlike triumphs, partook of the simplicity and absence of parade, which characterized all his actions. On approaching the city, when his household came forth with the multitude to meet him, he would stop to greet them, and take up the children of the house behind him on his horse. It was in this simple way he entered Medina, on returning from the campaign against Tabuc.
The arrival of an army laden with spoil, gathered in the most distant expedition ever undertaken by the soldiers of Islam, was an event of too great moment, not to be hailed with triumphant exultation by the community. Those alone were cast down in spirit who had refused to march forth with the army, or had deserted it when on the march. All these were at first placed under an interdict; Mohammed forbidding his faithful followers to hold any intercourse with them. Mollified, however, by their contrition or excuses, he gradually forgave the greater part of them. Seven of those who continued under interdict, finding themselves cut off from communion with their acquaintance, and marked with opprobrium amid an exulting community, became desperate, and chained themselves to the walls of the mosque, swearing to remain there until pardoned. Mohammed, on the other hand, swore he would leave them there unless otherwise commanded by God. Fortunately he received the command in a revealed verse of the Koran; but, in freeing them from their self-imposed fetters, he exacted one third of their possessions, to be expended in the service of the faith.
Among those still under interdict were Kaab Ibn Malec, Murara Ibn Rabia, and Hilal Ibn Omeya. These had once been among the most zealous of professing Moslems; their defection was, therefore, ten times more heinous in the eyes of the prophet, than that of their neighbors, whose faith had been lukewarm and dubious. Toward them, therefore, he continued implacable. Forty days they remained interdicted, and the interdict extended to communication with their wives.
The account given by Kaab Ibn Malec of his situation, while thus excommunicated, presents a vivid picture of the power of Mohammed over the minds of his adherents. Kaab declared that everybody shunned him, or regarded him with an altered mien. His two companions in disgrace did not leave their homes; he, however, went about from place to place, but no one spake to him. He sought the mosque, sat down near the prophet, and saluted him, but his salutation was not returned. On the forty-first day came a command, that he should separate from his wife. He now left the city, and pitched a tent on the hill of Sala, determined there to undergo in its severest rigor the punishment meted out to him. His heart, however, was dying away; the wide world, he said, appeared to grow narrow to him. On the fifty-first day came a messenger holding out the hope of pardon. He hastened to Medina, and sought the prophet at the mosque, who received him with a radiant countenance, and said that God had forgiven him. The soul of Kaab was lifted up from the depths of despondency, and in the transports of his gratitude, he gave a portion of his wealth in atonement of his error.
Not long after the return of the army to Medina, Abdallah Ibn Obba, the Khazradite, “the chief of the Hypocrites,” fell ill, so that his life was despaired of. Although Mohammed was well aware of the perfidy of this man, and the secret arts he had constantly practiced against him, he visited him repeatedly during his illness; was with him at his dying hour, and followed his body to the grave. There, at the urgent entreaty of the son of the deceased, he put up prayers that his sins might be forgiven.
Omar privately remonstrated with Mohammed for praying for a hypocrite; reminding him how often he had been slandered by Abdallah; but he was shrewdly answered by a text of the Koran: “Thou mayest pray for the ‘Hypocrites’ or not, as thou wilt; but though thou shouldest pray seventy times, yet will they not be forgiven.”
The prayers at Abdallah’s grave, therefore, were put up out of policy, to win favor with the Khazradites, and the powerful friends of the deceased; and in this respect the prayers were successful, for most of the adherents of the deceased became devoted to the prophet, whose sway was thenceforth undisputed in Medina. Subsequently he announced another revelation, which forbade him to pray by the death-bed or stand by the grave of any one who died in unbelief.
But though Mohammed exercised such dominion over his disciples, and the community at large, he had great difficulty in governing his wives, and maintaining tranquillity in his harem. He appears to have acted with tolerable equity in his connubial concerns, assigning to each of his wives a separate habitation, of which she was sole mistress, and passing the twenty-four hours with them by turns. It so happened, that on one occasion, when he was sojourning with Hafsa, the latter left her dwelling to visit her father. Returning unexpectedly, she surprised the prophet with his favorite and fortunate slave Mariyah, the mother of his son Ibrahim. The jealousy of Hafsa was vociferous. Mohammed endeavored to pacify her, dreading lest her outcries should rouse his whole harem to rebellion; but she was only to be appeased by an oath on his part never more to cohabit with Mariyah. On these terms she forgave the past and promised secrecy.
She broke her promise, however, and revealed to Ayesha the infidelity of the prophet; and in a little while it was known throughout the harem. His wives now united in a storm of reproaches; until, his patience being exhausted, he repudiated Hafsa, and renounced all intercourse with the rest. For a month he lay alone on a mat in a separate apartment; but Allah, at length, in consideration of his lonely state, sent down the first and sixth chapters of the Koran, absolving him from the oath respecting Mariyah, who forthwith became the companion of his solitary chamber.
The refractory wives were now brought to a sense of their error, and apprised by the same revelation, that the restrictions imposed on ordinary men did not apply to the prophet. In the end he took back Hafsa, who was penitent; and he was reconciled to Ayesha, whom he tenderly loved, and all the rest were in due time received into favor; but he continued to cherish Mariyah, for she was fair to look upon, and was the mother of his only son.
ABU BEKER CONDUCTS THE YEARLY PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA—MISSION OF ALl TO ANNOUNCE A REVELATION.
THE sacred month of yearly pilgrimage was now at hand, but Mohammed was too much occupied with public and domestic concerns to absent himself from Medina: he deputed Abu Beker, therefore, to act in his place as emir or commander of the pilgrims, who were to resort from Medina to the holy city. Abu Beker accordingly departed at the head of three hundred pilgrims, with twenty camels for sacrifice.
Not long afterward, Mohammed summoned his son-in-law and devoted disciple Ali, and, mounting him on Al Adha, or the slit-eared, the swiftest of his camels, urged him to hasten with all speed to Mecca, there to promulgate before the multitude of pilgrims assembled from all parts, an important sura, or chapter of the Koran, just received from heaven.
Ali executed his mission with his accustomed zeal and fidelity. He reached the sacred city in the height of the great religious festival. On the day of sacrifice, when the ceremonies of pilgrimage were completed by the slaying of the victims in the valley of Mina, and when Abu Beker had preached and instructed the people in the doctrines and rites of Islamism, Ali rose before an immense multitude assembled at the hill Al Akaba, and announced himself a messenger from the prophet, bearing an important revelation. He then read the sura, or chapter of the Koran, of which he was the bearer; in which the religion of the sword was declared in all its rigor. It absolved Mohammed from all truce or league with idolatrous and other unbelievers, should they in any wise have been false to their stipulations, or given aid to his enemies. It allowed unbelievers four months of toleration from the time of this announcement, during which months they might “go to and fro about the earth securely,” but at the expiration of that time all indulgence would cease; war would then be made in every way, at every time, and in every place, by open force or by stratagem, against those who persisted in unbelief; no alternative would be left them but to embrace the faith or pay tribute. The holy months and the holy places would no longer afford them protection. “When the months wherein ye are not allowed to attack them shall be passed,” said the revelation, “kill the idolatrous wherever ye shall find them, or take them prisoners; besiege them, or lay in wait for them.” The ties of blood and friendship were to be alike disregarded; the faithful were to hold no communion with their nearest relatives and dearest friends, should they persist in idolatry. After the expiration of the current year, no unbeliever was to be permitted to tread the sacred bounds of Mecca, nor to enter the temple of Allah, a prohibition which continues to the present day.
This stringent chapter of the Koran is thought to have been provoked, in a great measure, by the conduct of some of the Jewish and idolatrous Arabs, with whom Mohammed had made covenants, but who had repeatedly played him false, and even made treacherous attempts upon his life. It evinces, however, the increased confidence he felt in consequence of the death of his insidious and powerful foe, Abdallah Ibn Obba, and the rapid conversion or subjugation of the Arab tribes. It was, in fact, a decisive blow for the exclusive domination of his faith.
When Abu Beker and Ali returned to Mecca, the former expressed surprise and dissatisfaction that he had not been made the promulgator of so important a revelation, as it seemed to be connected with his recent mission, but he was pacified by the assurance that all new revelations must be announced by the prophet himself, or by some one of his immediate family.
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 DEATH-BED AND THE GRAVE—HIS GROWING INFIRMITIES—HIS VALEDICTORY PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA, AND HIS CONDUCT AND PREACHING WHILE THERE.
THE promulgation of the last-mentioned chapter of the Koran, with the accompanying denunciation of exterminating war against all who should refuse to believe or submit, produced hosts of converts and tributaries; so that, toward the close of the month, and in the beginning of the tenth year of the Hegira, the gates of Medina were thronged with envoys from distant tribes and princes. Among those who bowed to the temporal power of the prophet was Farwa, lieutenant of Heraclius, in Syria, and governor of Amon, the ancient capital of the Ammonites. His act of submission, however, was disavowed by the emperor, and punished with imprisonment.
Mohammed felt and acted more and more as a sovereign, but his grandest schemes as a conqueror were always sanctified by his zeal as an apostle. His captains were sent on more distant expeditions than formerly, but it was always with a view to destroy idols and bring idolatrous tribes to subjection; so that his temporal power but kept pace with the propagation of his faith. He appointed two lieutenants to govern in his name in Arabia Felix; but a portion of that rich and important country having shown itself refractory, Ali was ordered to repair thither at the head of three hundred horsemen, and bring the inhabitants to reason.
The youthful disciple expressed a becoming diffidence to undertake a mission where he would have to treat with men far older and wiser than himself; but Mohammed laid one hand upon his lips, and the other upon his breast, and raising his eyes to heaven, exclaimed, “Oh, Allah! loosen his tongue and guide his heart!” He gave him one rule for his conduct as a judge. “When two parties come before thee, never pronounce in favor of one until thou hast heard the other.” Then giving into his hands the standard of the faith, and placing the turban on his head, he bade him farewell.
When the military missionary arrived in the heretical region of Yemen, his men, indulging their ancient Arab propensities, began to sack, to plunder, and destroy. Ali checked their excesses, and arresting the fugitive inhabitants, began to expound to them the doctrines of Islam. His tongue, though so recently consecrated by the prophet, failed to carry conviction, for he was answered by darts and arrows; whereupon he returned to the old argument of the sword, which he urged with such efficacy that, after twenty unbelievers had been slain, the rest avowed themselves thoroughly convinced. This zealous achievement was followed by others of a similar kind, after each of which he dispatched messengers to the prophet, announcing a new triumph of the faith.
While Mohammed was exulting in the tidings of success from every quarter, he was stricken to the heart by one of the severest of domestic bereavements. Ibrahim, his son by his favorite concubine Mariyah, a child but fifteen months old, his only male issue, on whom reposed his hope of transmitting his name to posterity, was seized with a mortal malady, and expired before his eyes. Mohammed could not control a father’s feelings as he bent in agony over this blighted blossom of his hopes. Yet even in this trying hour he showed that submission to the will of God which formed the foundation of his faith. “My heart is sad,” murmured he, “and mine eyes overflow with tears at parting with thee, oh, my son! And still greater would be my grief, did I not know that I must soon follow thee; for we are of God; from him we came, and to him we must return.”
Abda’lrahman seeing him in tears, demanded: “Hast thou not forbidden us to weep for the dead?” “No,” replied the prophet. “I have forbidden ye to utter shrieks and outcries, to beat your faces and rend your garments: these are suggestions of the evil one; but tears shed for a calamity are as balm to the heart, and are sent in mercy.”
He followed his child to the grave, where amidst the agonies of separation, he gave another proof that the elements of his religion were ever present to his mind. “My son! my son!” exclaimed he as the body was committed to the tomb, “say God is my Lord! the prophet of God was my father, and Islamism is my faith!” This was to prepare his child for the questioning by examining angels, as to religious belief, which, according to Moslem creed, the deceased would undergo while in the grave.
One of the funeral rites of the Moslems is for the Mulakken or priest to address the deceased when in the grave, in the following words: “O servant of God! O son of a handmaid of God! know that, at this time, there will come down to thee two angels commissioned respecting thee and the like of thee; when they say to thee, ‘Who is thy Lord!’ answer them, ‘God is my Lord;’ in truth, and when they ask thee concerning thy prophet, or the man who hath been sent unto you, say to them, ‘Mohammed is the apostle of God,’ with veracity, and when they ask thee concerning thy religion, say to them, ‘Islamism is my religion.’ And when they ask thee concerning thy book of direction, say to them, ‘The Koran is my book of direction, and the Moslems are my brothers;’ and when they ask thee concerning thy Kebla, say to them, ‘The Kaaba is my Kebla, and I have lived and died in the assertion that there is no deity but God, and Mohammed is God’s apostle,’ and they will say, ‘Sleep, O servant of God, in the protection of God!’”—See Lane’s Modern Egyptians, vol. ii. p. 338.
An eclipse of the sun which happened about that time was interpreted by some of his zealous followers as a celestial sign of mourning for the death of Ibrahim; but the afflicted father rejected such obsequious flattery. “The sun and the moon,” said he, “are among the wonders of God, through which at times he signifies his will to his servant; but their eclipse has nothing to do either with the birth or death of any mortal.”
The death of Ibrahim was a blow which bowed him toward the grave. His constitution was already impaired by the extraordinary excitements and paroxysms of his mind, and the physical trials to which he had been exposed; the poison, too, administered to him at Khaibar had tainted the springs of life, subjected him to excruciating pains, and brought on a premature old age. His religious zeal took the alarm from the increase of bodily infirmities, and he resolved to expend his remaining strength in a final pilgrimage to Mecca, intended to serve as a model for all future observances of the kind.
The announcement of his pious intention brought devotees from all parts of Arabia, to follow the pilgrim-prophet. The streets of Medina were crowded with the various tribes from the towns and cities, from the fastnesses of the mountains, and the remote parts of the desert, and the surrounding valleys were studded with their tents. It was a striking picture of the triumph of a faith, these recently disunited, barbarous, and warring tribes brought together as brethren, and inspired by one sentiment of religious zeal.
Mohammed was accompanied on this occasion by his nine wives, who were transported on litters. He departed at the head of an immense train, some say of fifty-five, others ninety, and others a hundred and fourteen thousand pilgrims. There was a large number of camels also, decorated with garlands of flowers and fluttering streamers, intended to be offered up in sacrifice.
The first night’s halt was a few miles from Medina, at the village of Dhu’l Holaifa, where, on a former occasion, he and his followers had laid aside their weapons and assumed the pilgrim garb. Early on the following morning, after praying in the mosque, he mounted his camel, Al Aswa, and entering the plain of Baida, uttered the prayer or invocation called in Arabic Talbijah, in which he was joined by all his followers. The following is the import of this solemn invocation: “Here am I in thy service, oh God! Here am I in thy service! Thou hast no companion. To thee alone belongeth worship. From thee cometh all good. Thine alone is the kingdom. There is none to share it with thee.”
This prayer, according to Moslem tradition, was uttered by the patriarch Abraham, when, from the top of the hill of Kubeis, near Mecca, he preached the true faith to the whole human race, and so wonderful was the power of his voice that it was heard by every living being throughout the world; insomuch that the very child in the womb responded, “Here am I in thy service, oh God!”
In this way the pilgrim host pursued its course, winding in a lengthened train of miles, over mountain and valley, and making the deserts vocal at times with united prayers and ejaculations. There were no longer any hostile armies to impede or molest it, for by this time the Islam faith reigned serenely over all Arabia. Mohammed approached the sacred city over the same heights which he had traversed in capturing it, and he entered through the gate Beni Scheiba, which still bears the name of The Holy.
A few days after his arrival he was joined by Ali, who had hastened back from Yemen; and who brought with him a number of camels to be slain in sacrifice.
As this was to be a model pilgrimage, Mohammed rigorously observed all the rites which he had continued in compliance with patriarchal usage, or introduced in compliance with revelation. Being too weak and infirm to go on foot, he mounted his camel, and thus performed the circuits round the Kaaba, and the journeyings to and fro, between the hills of Safa and Merwa.
When the camels were to be offered up in sacrifice, he slew sixty-three with his own hand, one for each year of his age, and Ali, at the same time, slew thirty-seven on his own account.
Mohammed then shaved his head, beginning on the right side and ending on the left. The locks thus shorn away were equally divided among his disciples, and treasured up as sacred relics. Khaled ever afterward wore one in his turban, and affirmed that it gave him supernatural strength in battle.
Conscious that life was waning away within him, Mohammed, during this last sojourn in the sacred city of his faith, sought to engrave his doctrines deeply in the minds and hearts of his followers. For this purpose he preached frequently in the Kaaba from the pulpit, or in the open air from the back of his camel. “Listen to my words,” would he say, “for I know not whether, after this year, we shall ever meet here again. Oh, my hearers, I am but a man like yourselves; the angel of death may at any time appear, and I must obey his summons.”
He would then proceed to inculcate not merely religious doctrines and ceremonies, but rules for conduct in all the concerns of life, public and domestic; and the precepts laid down and enforced on this occasion have had a vast and durable influence on the morals, manners, and habitudes of the whole Moslem world.
It was doubtless in view of his approaching end, and in solicitude for the welfare of his relatives and friends after his death, and especially of his favorite Ali, who, he perceived, had given dissatisfaction in the conduct of his recent campaign in Yemen, that he took occasion, during a moment of strong excitement and enthusiasm among his hearers, to address to them a solemn adjuration.
“Ye believe,” said he, “that there is but one God; that Mohammed is his prophet and apostle; that paradise and hell are truths; that death and the resurrection are certain; and that there is an appointed time when all who rise from the grave must be brought to judgment.”
They all answered, “We believe these things.” He then adjured them solemnly by these dogmas of their faith ever to hold his family, and especially Ali, in love and reverence. “Whoever loves me,” said he, “let him receive Ali as his friend. May God uphold those who befriend him, and may he turn from his enemies.”
It was at the conclusion of one of his discourses in the open air, from the back of his camel, that the famous verse of the Koran is said to have come down from heaven in the very voice of the Deity. “Evil to those this day, who have denied your religion. Fear them not; fear me. This day I have perfected your religion, and accomplished in you my grace. It is my good pleasure that Islamism be your faith.”
On hearing these words, say the Arabian historians, the camel Al Karwa, on which the prophet was seated, fell on its knees in adoration. These words, add they, were the seal and conclusion of the law, for after them there were no further revelations.
Having thus fulfilled all the rites and ceremonies of pilgrimage, and made a full exposition of his faith, Mohammed bade a last farewell to his native city, and, putting himself at the head of his pilgrim army, set out on his return to Medina.
As he came in sight of it, he lifted up his voice and exclaimed, “God is great! God is great! There is but one God; he has no companion. His is the kingdom. To him alone belongeth praise. He is almighty. He hath fulfilled his promise. He has stood by his servant, and alone dispersed his enemies. Let us return to our homes and worship and praise him!”
Thus ended what has been termed the valedictory pilgrimage, being the last made by the prophet.
OF THE TWO FALSE PROPHETS AL ASWAD AND MOSEILMA.
THE health of Mohammed continued to decline after his return to Medina; nevertheless his ardor to extend his religious empire was unabated, and he prepared, on a great scale, for the invasion of Syria and Palestine. While he was meditating foreign conquest, however, two rival prophets arose to dispute his sway in Arabia. One was named Al Aswad, the other Moseilma; they received from the faithful the well-merited appellation of “The two Liars.”
Al Aswad, a quick-witted man, and gifted with persuasive eloquence, was originally an idolater, then a convert to Islamism, from which he apostatized to set up for a prophet, and establish a religion of his own. His fickleness in matters of faith gained him the appellation of Ailhala, or “The Weathercock.” In emulation of Mohammed he pretended to receive revelations from heaven through the medium of two angels. Being versed in juggling arts and natural magic, he astonished and confounded the multitude with spectral illusions, which he passed off as miracles, insomuch that certain Moslem writers believe he was really assisted by two evil genii or demons. His schemes, for a time, were crowned with great success, which shows how unsettled the Arabs were in those days in matters of religion, and how ready to adopt any new faith.
Budhân, the Persian whom Mohammed had continued as viceroy of Arabia Felix, died in this year; whereupon Al Aswad, now at the head of a powerful sect, slew his son and successor, espoused his widow after putting her father to death, and seized upon the reins of government. The people of Najran invited him to their city; the gates of Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, were likewise thrown open to him, so that, in a little while, all Arabia Felix submitted to his sway.
The news of this usurpation found Mohammed suffering in the first stages of a dangerous malady, and engrossed by preparations for the Syrian invasion. Impatient of any interruption to his plans, and reflecting that the whole danger and difficulty in question depended upon the life of an individual, he sent orders to certain of his adherents, who were about Al Aswad, to make way with him openly or by stratagem, either way being justifiable against enemies of the faith, according to the recent revelation promulgated by Ali. Two persons undertook the task, less, however, through motives of religion than revenge. One, named Rais, had received a mortal offense from the usurper; the other, named Firuz the Dailemite, was cousin to Al Aswad’s newly espoused wife and nephew of her murdered father. They repaired to the woman, whose marriage with the usurper had probably been compulsory, and urged upon her the duty, according to the Arab law of blood, of avenging the deaths of her father and her former husband. With much difficulty they prevailed upon her to facilitate their entrance at the dead of night into the chamber of Al Aswad, who was asleep. Firuz stabbed him in the throat with a poniard. The blow was not effectual. Al Aswad started up, and his cries alarmed the guard. His wife, however, went forth and quieted them. “The prophet,” said she, “is under the influence of divine inspiration.” By this time the cries had ceased, for the assassins had stricken off the head of their victim. When the day dawned the standard of Mohammed floated once more on the walls of the city, and a herald proclaimed, by sound of trumpet, the death of Al Aswad, otherwise called the Liar and Impostor. His career of power began and was terminated within the space of four months. The people, easy of faith, resumed Islamism with as much facility as they had abandoned it.
Moseilma, the other impostor, was an Arab of the tribe of Honeifa, and ruled over the city and province of Yamama, situated between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Persia. In the ninth year of the Hegira he had come to Mecca at the head of an embassy from his tribe, and had made profession of faith between the hands of Mohammed; but, on returning to his own country, had proclaimed that God had gifted him likewise with prophecy, and appointed him to aid Mohammed in converting the human race. To this effect he likewise wrote a Koran, which he gave forth as a volume of inspired truth. His creed was noted for giving the soul a humiliating residence in the region of the abdomen. Being a man of influence and address, he soon made hosts of converts among his credulous countrymen. Rendered confident by success, he addressed an epistle to Mohammed, beginning as follows:
“From Moseilma the prophet of Allah, to Mohammed the prophet of Allah! Come now, and lot us make a partition of the world, and let half be thine and half be mine.”
This letter came also to the hands of Mohammed while bowed down by infirmities and engrossed by military preparations. He contented himself for the present with the following reply:
“From Mohammed the prophet of God, to Moseilma the Liar! The earth is the Lord’s, and he giveth it as an inheritance to such of his servants as find favor in his sight. Happy shall those be who live in his fear.”
In the urgency of other affairs, the usurpation of Moseilma remained unchecked. His punishment was reserved for a future day.
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.
IT was early in the eleventh year of the Hegira that, after unusual preparations, a powerful army was ready to march for the invasion of Syria. It would almost seem a proof of the failing powers of Mohammed’s mind, that he gave the command of such an army, on such an expedition, to Osama, a youth but twenty years of age, instead of some one of his veteran and well-tried generals. It seems to have been a matter of favor, dictated by tender and grateful recollections. Osama was the son of Zeid, Mohammed’s devoted freedman, who had given the prophet such a signal and acceptable proof of devotion in relinquishing to him his beautiful wife Zeinab. Zeid had continued to the last the same zealous and self-sacrificing disciple, and had fallen bravely fighting for the faith in the battle of Muta.
Mohammed was aware of the hazard of the choice he had made, and feared the troops might be insubordinate under so young a commander. In a general review, therefore, he exhorted them to obedience, reminding them that Osama’s father, Zeid, had commanded an expedition of this very kind, against the very same people, and had fallen by their hands; it was but a just tribute to his memory, therefore, to give his son an opportunity of avenging his death. Then placing his banner in the hands of the youthful general, he called upon him to fight valiantly the fight of the faith against all who should deny the unity of God. The army marched forth that very day, and encamped at Djorf, a few miles from Medina; but circumstances occurred to prevent its further progress.
That very night Mohammed had a severe access of the malady which for some time past had affected him, and which was ascribed by some to the lurking effects of the poison given to him at Khaibar. It commenced with a violent pain in the head, accompanied by vertigo, and the delirium which seems to have mingled with all his paroxysms of illness. Starting up in the mid-watches of the night from a troubled dream, he called upon an attendant slave to accompany him, saying he was summoned by the dead who lay interred in the public burying-place of Medina to come and pray for them. Followed by the slave, he passed through the dark and silent city, where all were sunk in sleep, to the great burying-ground, outside of the walls.
Arrived in the midst of the tombs, he lifted up his voice and made a solemn apostrophe to their tenants. “Rejoice, ye dwellers in the grave!” exclaimed he. “More peaceful is the morning to which ye shall awaken, than that which attends the living. Happier is your condition than theirs. God has delivered you from the storms with which they are threatened, and which shall follow one another like the watches of a stormy night, each darker than that which went before.”
After praying for the dead, he turned and addressed his slave. “The choice is given me,” said he, “either to remain in this world to the end of time, in the enjoyment of all its delights, or to return sooner to the presence of God; and I have chosen the latter.”
From this time his illness rapidly increased, though he endeavored to go about as usual, and shifted his residence from day to day, with his different wives, as he had been accustomed to do. He was in the dwelling of Maimona, when the violence of his malady became so great, that he saw it must soon prove fatal. His heart now yearned to be with his favorite wife Ayesha, and pass with her the fleeting residue of life. With his head bound up, and his tottering frame supported by Ali and Fadhl, the son of Al Abbas, be repaired to her abode. She, likewise, was suffering with a violent pain in the head, and entreated of him a remedy.
“Wherefore a remedy?” said he, “Better that thou shouldst die before me. I could then close thine eyes, wrap thee in thy funeral garb, lay thee in the tomb, and pray for thee.”
“Yes,” replied she, “and then return to my house and dwell with one of thy other wives, who would profit by my death.”
Mohammed smiled at this expression of jealous fondness, and resigned himself into her care. His only remaining child, Fatima, the wife of Ali, came presently to see him. Ayesha used to say that she never saw any one resemble the prophet more in sweetness of temper, than this his daughter. He treated her always with respectful tenderness. When she came to him, he used to rise up, go toward her, take her by the hand, and kiss it, and would seat her in his own place. Their meeting on this occasion is thus related by Ayesha, in the traditions preserved by Abulfeda.
“‘Welcome, my child!’ said the prophet, and made her sit beside him. He then whispered something in her ear, at which she wept. Perceiving her affliction, he whispered something more, and her countenance brightened with joy. ‘What is the meaning of this?’ said I to Fatima. ‘The prophet honors thee with a mark of confidence never bestowed on any of his wives.’ ‘I cannot disclose the secret of the prophet of God,’ replied Fatima. Nevertheless, after his death, she declared that at first he announced to her his impending death; but, seeing her weep, consoled her with the assurance that she would shortly follow him, and become a princess in heaven, among the faithful of her sex.”
In the second day of his illness, Mohammed was tormented by a burning fever, and caused vessels of water to be emptied on his head and over his body, exclaiming, amidst his paroxysms, “Now I feel the poison of Khaibar rending my entrails.”
When somewhat relieved, he was aided in repairing to the mosque, which was adjacent to his residence. Here, seated in his chair, or pulpit, he prayed devoutly; after which, addressing the congregation, which was numerous, “If any of you,” said he, “have aught upon his conscience, let him speak out, that I may ask God’s pardon for him.”
Upon this a man, who had passed for a devout Moslem, stood forth and confessed himself a hypocrite, a liar, and a weak disciple. “Out upon thee!” cried Omar, “why dost thou make known what God hath suffered to remain concealed?” But Mohammed turned rebukingly to Omar. “Oh son of Khattab,” said he, “better is it to blush in this world, than suffer in the next.” Then lifting his eyes to heaven, and praying for the self-accused, “Oh God,” exclaimed he, “give him rectitude and faith, and take from him all weakness in fulfilling such of thy commands as his conscience dictates.”
Again addressing the congregation, “Is there any one among you,” said he, “whom I have stricken; here is my back, let him strike me in return. Is there any one whose character I have aspersed; let him now cast reproach upon me. Is there any one from whom I have taken aught unjustly; let him now come forward and be indemnified.”
Upon this, a man among the throng reminded Mohammed of a debt of three dinars of silver, and was instantly repaid with interest. “Much easier is it,” said the prophet, “to bear punishment in this world than throughout eternity.”
He now prayed fervently for the faithful who had fallen by his side in the battle of Ohod, and for those who had suffered for the faith in other battles; interceding with them in virtue of the pact which exists between the living and the dead.
After this he addressed the Mohadjerins or Exiles, who had accompanied him from Mecca, exhorting them to hold in honor the Ansarians, or allies of Medina. “The number of believers,” said be, “will increase, but that of the allies never can. They were my family; with whom I found a home. Do good to those who do good to them, and break friendship with those who are hostile to them.”
He then gave three parting commands:
First.—Expel all idolaters from Arabia.
Second.—Allow all proselytes equal privileges with yourselves.
Third.—Devote yourselves incessantly to prayer.
His sermon and exhortation being finished, he was affectionately supported back to the mansion of Ayesha, but was so exhausted on arriving there that he fainted.
His malady increased from day to day, apparently with intervals of delirium; for he spoke of receiving visits from the angel Gabriel, who came from God to inquire after the state of his health; and told him that it rested with himself to fix his dying moment; the angel of death being forbidden by Allah to enter his presence without his permission.
In one of his paroxysms he called for writing implements, that he might leave some rules of conduct for his followers. His attendants were troubled, fearing he might do something to impair the authority of the Koran. Hearing them debate among themselves, whether to comply with his request, he ordered them to leave the room, and when they returned said nothing more on the subject.
On Friday, the day of religious assemblage, he prepared, notwithstanding his illness, to officiate in the mosque, and had water again poured over him to refresh and strengthen him, but on making an effort to go forth, fainted. On recovering, he requested Abu Beker to perform the public prayers; observing, “Allah has given his servant the right to appoint whom he pleases in his place.” It was afterward maintained by some that he thus intended to designate this long-tried friend and adherent as his successor in office; but Abu Beker shrank from construing the words too closely.
Word was soon brought to Mohammed, that the appearance of Abu Beker in the pulpit had caused great agitation, a rumor being circulated that the prophet was dead. Exerting his remaining strength, therefore, and leaning on the shoulders of Ali and Al Abbas, he made his way into the mosque, where his appearance spread joy throughout the congregation. Abu Beker ceased to pray, but Mohammed bade him proceed, and taking his seat behind him in the pulpit, repeated the prayers after him. Then addressing the congregation, “I have heard,” said he, “that a rumor of the death of your prophet filled you with alarm; but has any prophet before me lived forever, that ye think I would never leave you? Everything happens according to the will of God, and has its appointed time, which is not to be hastened nor avoided. I return to him who sent me; and my last command to you is, that ye remain united; that ye love, honor, and uphold each other; that ye exhort each other to faith and constancy in belief, and to the performance of pious deeds; by these alone men prosper; all else leads to destruction.”
In concluding his exhortation he added, “I do but go before you; you will soon follow me. Death awaits us all; let no one then seek to turn it aside from me. My life has been for your good; so will be my death.”
These were the last words he spake in public; he was again conducted back by Ali and Abbas to the dwelling of Ayesha.
On a succeeding day there was an interval during which he appeared so well that Ali, Abu Beker, Omar, and the rest of those who had been constantly about him, absented themselves for a time, to attend to their affairs. Ayesha alone remained with him. The interval was but illusive. His pains returned with redoubled violence. Finding death approaching he gave orders that all his slaves should be restored to freedom, and all the money in the house distributed among the poor; then raising his eyes to heaven, “God be with me in the death struggle,” exclaimed he.
Ayesha now sent in haste for her father and Hafza. Left alone with Mohammed, she sustained his head on her lap, watching over him with tender assiduity, and endeavoring to soothe his dying agonies. From time to time he would dip his hand in a vase of water, and with it feebly sprinkle his face. At length raising his eyes and gazing upward for a time with unmoving eyelids, “Oh Allah!” ejaculated he, in broken accents, “be it so!—among the glorious associates in paradise!”
“I knew by this,” said Ayesha, who related the dying scene, “that his last moment had arrived, and that he had made choice of supernal existence.”
In a few moments his hands were cold, and life was extinct. Ayesha laid his head upon the pillow, and beating her head and breast, gave way to loud lamentations. Her outcries brought the other wives of Mohammed, and their clamorous grief soon made the event known throughout the city. Consternation seized upon the people, as if some prodigy had happened. All business was suspended. The army which had struck its tents was ordered to halt, and Osama, whose foot was in the stirrup for the march, turned his steed to the gates of Medina, and planted his standard at the prophet’s door.
The multitude crowded to contemplate the corpse, and agitation and dispute prevailed even in the chamber of death. Some discredited the evidence of their senses. “How can he be dead?” cried they. “Is he not our mediator with God? How then can he be dead? Impossible! He is but in a trance, and carried up to heaven like Isa (Jesus) and the other prophets.”
The throng augmented about the house, declaring with clamor that the body should not be interred; when Omar, who had just heard the tidings, arrived. He drew his scimitar, and pressing through the crowd, threatened to strike off the hands and feet of any one who should affirm that the prophet was dead. “He has but departed for a time,” said he, “as Musa (Moses) the son of Imram, went up forty days into the mountain; and like him he will return again.”
Abu Beker, who had been in a distant part of the city, arrived in time to soothe the despair of the people, and calm the transports of Omar. Passing into the chamber, he raised the cloth which covered the corpse, and kissing the pale face of Mohammed, “Oh thou!” exclaimed he, “who wert to me as my father and my mother; sweet art thou even in death, and living odors dost thou exhale! Now livest thou in everlasting bliss, for never will Allah subject thee to a second death.”
Then covering the corpse, he went forth and endeavored to silence Omar, but finding it impossible, he addressed the multitude: “Truly if Mohammed is the sole object of your adoration, he is dead; but if it be God you worship, he cannot die. Mohammed was but the prophet of God, and has shared the fate of the apostles and holy men who have gone before him. Allah, himself has said in his Koran that Mohammed was but his ambassador, and was subject to death. What then! will you turn the heel upon him, and abandon his doctrine because he is dead? Remember your apostasy harms not God, but insures your own condemnation; while the blessings of God will be poured out upon those who continue faithful to him.”
The people listened to Abu Beker with tears and sobbings, and as they listened, their despair subsided. Even Omar was convinced but not consoled, throwing himself on the earth, and bewailing the death of Mohammed, whom he remembered as his commander and his friend.
The death of the prophet, according to the Moslem historians Abulfeda and Al Jannabi, took place on his birthday, when he had completed his sixty-third year. It was in the eleventh year of the Hegira, and the 632d year of the Christian era.
The body was prepared for sepulture by several of the dearest relatives and disciples. They affirmed that a marvellous fragrance which, according to the evidence of his wives and daughters, emanated from his person during life, still continued; so that, to use the words of Ali, “it seemed as if he were, at the same time, dead and living.”
The body having been washed and perfumed, was wrapped in three coverings; two white, and the third of the striped cloth of Yemen. The whole was then perfumed with amber, musk, aloes, and odoriferous herbs. After this it was exposed in public, and seventy-two prayers were offered up.
The body remained three days unburied, in compliance with oriental custom, and to satisfy those who still believed in the possibility of a trance. When the evidences of mortality could no longer be mistaken, preparations were made for interment. A dispute now arose as to the place of sepulture. The Mohadjerins or disciples from Mecca contended for that city, as being the place of his nativity; the Ansarians claimed for Medina, as his asylum and the place of his residence, during the last ten years of his life. A third party advised that his remains should be transported to Jerusalem, as the place of sepulture of the prophets. Abu Beker, whose word had always the greatest weight, declared it to have been the expressed opinion of Mohammed, that a prophet should be buried in the place where he died. This in the present instance was complied with to the very letter, for a grave was digged in the house of Ayesha, beneath the very bed on which Mohammed had expired.
NOTE.—The house of Ayesha was immediately adjacent to the mosque; which was at that time a humble edifice with clay walls, and a roof thatched with palm-leaves, and supported by the trunks of trees. It has since been included in a spacious temple, on the plan of a colonnade, enclosing an oblong square, 165 paces by 130, open to the heavens, with four gates of entrance. The colonnade, of several rows of pillars, of various sizes, covered with stucco and gaily painted, supports a succession of small white cupolas on the four sides of the square. At the four corners are lofty and tapering minarets.
Near the south-east corner of the square is an enclosure, surrounded by an iron railing, painted green, wrought with filigree work and interwoven with brass and gilded wire; admitting no view of the interior, excepting through small windows, about six inches square. This enclosure, the great resort of pilgrims, is called the Hadgira, and contains the tombs of Mohammed, and his two friends and early successors, Abu Beker and Omar. Above this sacred enclosure rises a lofty dome surmounted with a gilded globe and crescent, at the first sight of which, pilgrims, as they approach Medina, salute the tomb of the prophet with profound inclinations of the body and appropriate prayers. The marvellous tale, so long considered veritable, that the coffin of Mohammed remained suspended in the air without any support, and which Christian writers accounted for by supposing that it was of iron, and dexterously placed midway between two magnets, is proved to be an idle fiction.
The mosque has undergone changes. It was at one time partially thrown down and destroyed in an awful tempest, but was rebuilt by the Soldan of Egypt. It has been enlarged and embellished by various Caliphs, and in particular by Waled I., under whom Spain was invaded and conquered. It was plundered of its immense votive treasures by the Wahabees when they took and pillaged Medina. It is now maintained, though with diminished splendor, under the care of about thirty Agas, whose chief is called Sheikh Al Haram, or chief of the Holy House. He is the principal personage in Medina. Pilgrimage to Medina, though considered a most devout and meritorious act, is not imposed on Mohammedans, like pilgrimage to Mecca, as a religious duty, and has much declined in modern days.
The foregoing particulars are from Burckhardt, who gained admission into Medina, as well as into Mecca, in disguise and at great peril; admittance into these cities being prohibited to all but Moslems.
PERSON AND CHARACTER OF MOHAMMED, AND SPECULATIONS ON HIS PROPHETIC CAREER.
Mohammed, according to accounts handed down by tradition from his contemporaries, was of the middle stature, square built and sinewy, with large hands and feet. In his youth he was uncommonly strong and vigorous; in the latter part of his life he inclined to corpulency. His head was capacious, well shaped, and well set on a neck which rose like a pillar from his ample chest. His forehead was high, broad at the temples and crossed by veins extending down to the eyebrows, which swelled whenever he was angry or excited. He had an oval face, marked and expressive features, an aquiline nose, black eyes, arched eyebrows, which nearly met, a mouth large and flexible, indicative of eloquence; very white teeth, somewhat parted and irregular; black hair, which waved without a curl on his shoulders, and a long and very full beard.
His deportment, in general, was calm and equable; he sometimes indulged in pleasantry, but more commonly was grave and dignified; though he is said to have possessed a smile of captivating sweetness. His complexion was more ruddy than is usual with Arabs, and in his excited and enthusiastic moments there was a glow and radiance in his countenance, which his disciples magnified into the supernatural light of prophecy.
His intellectual qualities were undoubtedly of an extraordinary kind. He had a quick apprehension, a retentive memory, a vivid imagination, and an inventive genius. Owing but little to education, he had quickened and informed his mind by close observation, and stored it with a great variety of knowledge concerning the systems of religion current in his day, or handed down by tradition from antiquity. His ordinary discourse was grave and sententious, abounding with those aphorisms and apologues so popular among the Arabs; at times he was excited and eloquent, and his eloquence was aided by a voice musical and sonorous.
He was sober and abstemious in his diet, and a rigorous observer of fasts. He indulged in no magnificence of apparel, the ostentation of a petty mind; neither was his simplicity in dress affected, but the result of a real disregard to distinction from so trivial a source. His garments were sometimes of wool, sometimes of the striped cotton of Yemen, and were often patched. He wore a turban, for he said turbans were worn by the angels; and in arranging it he let one end hang down between his shoulders, which he said was the way they wore it. He forbade the wearing of clothes entirely of silk; but permitted a mixture of thread and silk. He forbade also red clothes and the use of gold rings. He wore a seal ring of silver, the engraved part under his finger close to the palm of his hand, bearing the inscription, “Mohammed the messenger of God.” He was scrupulous as to personal cleanliness, and observed frequent ablutions. In some respects he was a voluptuary. “There are two things in this world,” would he say, “which delight me, women and perfumes. These two things rejoice my eyes and render me more fervent in devotion.” From his extreme cleanliness, and the use of perfumes and of sweet-scented oil for his hair, probably arose that sweetness and fragrance of person, which his disciples considered innate and miraculous. His passion for the sex had an influence over all his affairs. It is said that when in the presence of a beautiful female, he was continually smoothing his brow and adjusting his hair, as if anxious to appear to advantage.
The number of his wives is uncertain. Abulfeda, who writes with more caution than other of the Arabian historians, limits it to fifteen, though some make it as much as twenty-five. At the time of his death he had nine, each in her separate dwelling, and all in the vicinity of the mosque at Medina. The plea alleged for his indulging in a greater number of wives than he permitted to his followers, was a desire to beget a race of prophets for his people. If such indeed were his desire, it was disappointed. Of all his children, Fatima the wife of Ali alone survived him, and she died within a short time after his death. Of her descendants none excepting her eldest son Hassan ever sat on the throne of the Caliphs.
In his private dealings he was just. He treated friends and strangers, the rich and poor, the powerful and the weak, with equity, , and was beloved by the common people for the affability with which he received them, and listened to their complaints.
He was naturally irritable, but had brought his temper under great control, so that even in the self-indulgent intercourse of domestic life he was kind and tolerant. “I served him from the time I was eight years old,” said his servant Anas, “and he never scolded me for any thing, though things were spoiled by me.”
The question now occurs, Was he the unprincipled impostor that he has been represented? Were all his visions and revelations deliberate falsehoods, and was his whole system a tissue of deceit? In considering this question we must bear in mind that he is not chargeable with many extravagancies which exist in his name. Many of the visions and revelations handed down as having been given by him are spurious. The miracles ascribed to him are all fabrications of Moslem zealots. He expressly and repeatedly disclaimed all miracles excepting the Koran; which, considering its incomparable merit, and the way in which it had come down to him from heaven, he pronounced the greatest of miracles. And here we must indulge a few observations on this famous document. While zealous Moslems and some of the most learned doctors of the faith draw proofs of its divine origin from the inimitable excellence of its style and composition, and the avowed illiteracy of Mohammed, less devout critics have pronounced it a chaos of beauties and defects; without method or arrangement; full of obscurities, incoherencies, repetitions, false versions of scriptural stories, and direct contradictions. The truth is that the Koran as it now exists is not the same Koran delivered by Mohammed to his disciples, but has undergone many corruptions and interpolations. The revelations contained in it were given at various times, in various places, and before various persons; sometimes they were taken down by his secretaries or disciples on parchment, on palm-leaves, or the shoulder-blades of sheep, and thrown together in a chest, of which one of his wives had charge; sometimes they were merely treasured up in the memories of those who heard them. No care appears to have been taken to systematize and arrange them during his life; and at his death they remained in scattered fragments, many of them at the mercy of fallacious memories. It was not until some time after his death that Abu Beker undertook to have them gathered together and transcribed. Zeid Ibn Thabet, who had been one of the secretaries of Mohammed, was employed for the purpose. He professed to know many parts of the Koran by heart, having written them down under the dictation of the prophet; other parts he collected piecemeal from various hands, written down in the rude way we have mentioned, and many parts he took down as repeated to him by various disciples who professed to have heard them uttered by the prophet himself. The heterogeneous fragments thus collected were thrown together without selection, without chronological order, and without system of any kind. The volume thus formed during the Caliphat of Abu Beker was transcribed by different hands, and many professed copies put in circulation and dispersed throughout the Moslem cities. So many errors, interpolations, and contradictory readings soon crept into these copies, that Othman, the third Caliph, called in the various manuscripts, and forming what he pronounced the genuine Koran, caused all the others to be destroyed.
This simple statement may account for many of the incoherencies, repetitions, and other discrepancies charged upon this singular document. Mohammed, as has justly been observed, may have given the same precepts, or related the same apologue at different times, to different persons in different words; or various persons may have been present at one time, and given various versions of his words; and reported his apologues and scriptural stories in different ways, according to their imperfect memoranda or fallible recollections. Many revelations given by him as having been made in foregone times to the prophets, his predecessors, may have been reported as having been given as relations made to himself. It has been intimated that Abu Beker, in the early days of his Caliphat, may have found it politic to interpolate many things in the Koran, calculated to aid him in emergencies, and confirm the empire of Islamism. What corruptions and interpolations may have been made by other and less scrupulous hands, after the prophet’s death, we may judge by the daring liberties of the kind taken by Abdallah Ibn Saad, one of his secretaries, during his lifetime.
From all these circumstances it will appear, that even the documentary memorials concerning Mohammed abound with vitiations, while the traditional are full of fable. These increase the difficulty of solving the enigma of his character and conduct. His history appears to resolve itself into two grand divisions. During the first part, up to the period of middle life, we cannot perceive what adequate object he had to gain by the impious and stupendous imposture with which he stands charged. Was it riches? His marriage with Khadijah had already made him wealthy, and for years preceding his pretended vision he had manifested no desire to increase his store. Was it distinction? He already stood high in his native place, as a man of intelligence and probity. He was of the illustrious tribe of Koreish, and of the most honored branch of that tribe. Was it power? The guardianship of the Kaaba, and with it the command of the sacred city, had been for generations in his immediate family, and his situation and circumstances entitled him to look forward with confidence to that exalted trust. In attempting to subvert the faith in which he had been brought up, he struck at the root of all these advantages. On that faith were founded the fortunes and dignities of his family. To assail it must draw on himself the hostility of his kindred, the indignation of his fellow-citizens, and the horror and odium of all his countrymen, who were worshippers at the Kaaba.
Was there anything brilliant in the outset of his prophetic career to repay him for these sacrifices, and to lure him on? On the contrary, it was begun in doubt and secrecy. For years it was not attended by any material success. In proportion as he made known his doctrines, and proclaimed his revelations, they subjected him to ridicule, scorn, obloquy, and finally to an inveterate persecution; which ruined the fortunes of himself and his friends; compelled some of his family and followers to take refuge in a foreign land; obliged him to hide from sight in his native city, and finally drove him forth a fugitive to seek an uncertain home elsewhere. Why should he persist for years in a course of imposture which was thus prostrating all his worldly fortunes, at a time of life when it was too late to build them up anew?
In the absence of sufficient worldly motives, we are compelled to seek some other explanation of his conduct in this stage of his most enigmatical history; and this we have endeavored to set forth in the early part of this work; where we have shown his enthusiastic and visionary spirit gradually wrought up by solitude, fasting, prayer, and meditation, and irritated by bodily disease into a state of temporary delirium, in which he fancies he receives a revelation from heaven, and is declared a prophet of the Most High. We cannot but think there was self-deception in this instance; and that he believed in the reality of the dream or vision; especially after his doubts had been combated by the zealous and confiding Khadijah, and the learned and crafty Waraka.
Once persuaded of his divine mission to go forth and preach the faith, all subsequent dreams and impulses might be construed to the same purport; all might be considered intimations of the divine will, imparted in their several ways to him as a prophet. We find him repeatedly subject to trances and ecstasies in times of peculiar agitation and excitement, when he may have fancied himself again in communication with the Deity, and these were almost always followed by revelations.
The general tenor of his conduct up to the time of his flight from Mecca, is that of an enthusiast acting under a species of mental delusion; deeply imbued with a conviction of his being a divine agent for religious reform; and there is something striking and sublime in the luminous path which his enthusiastic spirit struck out for itself through the bewildering maze of adverse faiths and wild traditions; the pure and spiritual worship of the one true God, which he sought to substitute for the blind idolatry of his childhood.
All the parts of the Koran supposed to have been promulgated by him at this time, incoherently as they have come down to us, and marred as their pristine beauty must be in passing through various hands, are of a pure and elevated character, and breathe poetical if not religious inspiration. They show that he had drunk deep of the living waters of Christianity, and if he had failed to imbibe them in their crystal purity, it might be because he had to drink from broken cisterns, and streams troubled and perverted by those who should have been their guardians. The faith he had hitherto inculcated was purer than that held forth by some of the pseudo Christians of Arabia, and his life, so far, had been regulated according to its tenets.
Such is our view of Mohammed and his conduct during the early part of his career, while he was a persecuted and ruined man in Mecca. A signal change, however, took place, as we have shown in the foregoing chapters, after his flight to Medina, when, in place of the mere shelter and protection which he sought, he finds himself revered as a prophet, implicitly obeyed as a chief, and at the head of a powerful, growing, and warlike host of votaries. From this time worldly passions and worldly schemes too often give the impulse to his actions, instead of that visionary enthusiasm which, even if mistaken, threw a glow of piety on his earlier deeds. The old doctrines of forbearance, long-suffering, and resignation, are suddenly dashed aside; he becomes vindictive toward those who have hitherto oppressed him, and ambitious of extended rule. His doctrines, precepts, and conduct become marked by contradictions, and his whole course is irregular and unsteady. His revelations, henceforth, are so often opportune and fitted to particular emergencies, that we are led to doubt his sincerity, and that he is any longer under the same delusion concerning them. Still, it must be remembered, as we have shown, that the records of these revelations are not always to be depended upon. What he may have uttered as from his own will may have been reported as if given as the will of God. Often, too, as we have already suggested, he may have considered his own impulses as divine intimations; and that, being an agent ordained to propagate the faith, all impulses and conceptions toward that end might be part of a continued and divine inspiration.
If we are far from considering Mohammed the gross and impious impostor that some have represented him, so also are we indisposed to give him credit for vast forecast, and for that deeply concerted scheme of universal conquest which has been ascribed to him. He was, undoubtedly, a man of great genius and a suggestive imagination, but it appears to us that he was, in a great degree, the creature of impulse and excitement, and very much at the mercy of circumstances. His schemes grew out of his fortunes, and not his fortunes out of his schemes. He was forty years of age before be first broached his doctrines. He suffered year after year to steal away before he promulgated them out of his own family. When he fled from Mecca thirteen years had elapsed from the announcement of his mission, and from being a wealthy merchant he had sunk to be a ruined fugitive. When he reached Medina he had no idea of the worldly power that awaited him; his only thought was to build a humble mosque where he might preach; and his only hope that he might be suffered to preach with impunity. When power suddenly broke upon him he used it for a time in petty forays and local feuds. His military plans expanded with his resources, but were by no means masterly, and were sometimes unsuccessful. They were not struck out with boldness, nor executed with decision; but were often changed in deference to the opinions of warlike men about him, and sometimes at the suggestion of inferior minds, who occasionally led him wrong. Had he, indeed, conceived from the outset the idea of binding up the scattered and conflicting tribes of Arabia into one nation by a brotherhood of faith, for the purpose of carrying out a scheme of external conquest, he would have been one of the first of military projectors; but the idea of extended conquest seems to have been an after-thought produced by success. The moment he proclaimed the religion of the sword, and gave the predatory Arabs a taste of foreign plunder, that moment he was launched in a career of conquest, which carried him forward with its own irresistible impetus. The fanatic zeal with which he had inspired his followers did more for his success than his military science; their belief in his doctrine of predestination produced victories which no military calculation could have anticipated. In his dubious outset, as a prophet, he had been encouraged by the crafty counsels of his scriptural oracle Waraka; in his career as a conqueror he had Omar, Khaled, and other fiery spirits by his side to urge him on, and to aid him in managing the tremendous power which he had evoked into action. Even with all their aid, he had occasionally to avail himself of his supernatural machinery as a prophet, and in so doing may have reconciled himself to the fraud by considering the pious end to be obtained.
His military triumphs awakened no pride nor vainglory, as they would have done had they been effected for selfish purposes. In the time of his greatest power, he maintained the same simplicity of manners and appearance as in the days of his adversity. So far from affecting regal state, he was displeased if, on entering a room, any unusual testimonial of respect were shown him. If he aimed at universal dominion, it was the dominion of the faith: as to the temporal rule which grew up in his hands, as he used it without ostentation, so he took no step to perpetuate it in his family.
The riches which poured in upon him from tribute and the spoils of war were expended in promoting the victories of the faith, and in relieving the poor among its votaries; insomuch that his treasury was often drained of its last coin. Omar Ibn Al Hareth declares that Mohammed, at his death, did not leave a golden dinar nor a silver dirhem, a slave nor a slave girl, nor anything but his gray mule Daldal, his arms, and the ground which he bestowed upon his wives, his children, and the poor. “Allah,” says an Arabian writer, “offered him the keys of all the treasures of the earth; but he refused to accept them.”
It is this perfect abnegation of self, connected with this apparently heartfelt piety, running throughout the various phases of his fortune, which perplex one in forming a just estimate of Mohammed’s character. However he betrayed the alloy of earth after he had worldly power at his command, the early aspirations of his spirit continually returned and bore him above all earthly things. Prayer, that vital duty of Islamism, and that infallible purifier of the soul, was his constant practice. “Trust in God,” was his comfort and support in times of trial and despondency. On the clemency of God, we are told, he reposed all his hopes of supernal happiness. Ayesha relates that on one occasion she inquired of him, “Oh prophet, do none enter paradise but through God’s mercy?” “None—none—none!” replied he, with earnest and emphatic repetition. “But you, oh prophet, will not you enter excepting through his compassion?” Then Mohammed put his hand upon his head, and replied three times, with great solemnity, “Neither shall I enter paradise unless God cover me with his mercy!”
When he hung over the death-bed of his infant son Ibrahim, resignation to the will of God was exhibited in his conduct under this keenest of afflictions; and the hope of soon rejoining his child in paradise was his consolation. When he followed him to the grave, he invoked his spirit, in the awful examination of the tomb, to hold fast to the foundations of the faith, the unity of God, and his own mission as a prophet. Even in his own dying hour, when there could be no longer a worldly motive for deceit, he still breathed the same religious devotion, and the same belief in his apostolic mission. The last words that trembled on his lips ejaculated a trust of soon entering into blissful companionship with the prophets who had gone before him.
It is difficult to reconcile such ardent, persevering piety, with an incessant system of blasphemous imposture; nor such pure and elevated and benignant precepts as are contained in the Koran, with a mind haunted by ignoble passions, and devoted to the grovelling interests of mere mortality; and we find no other satisfactory mode of solving the enigma of his character and conduct, than by supposing that the ray of mental hallucination which flashed upon his enthusiastic spirit during his religious ecstasies in the midnight cavern of Mount Hara, continued more or less to bewilder him with a species of monomania to the end of his career, and that he died in the delusive belief of his mission as a prophet.
OF THE ISLAM FAITH.
IN an early chapter of this work we have given such particulars of the faith inculcated by Mohammed as we deemed important to the understanding of the succeeding narrative: we now, though at the expense of some repetition, subjoin a more complete summary, accompanied by a few observations.
The religion of Islam, as we observed on the before-mentioned occasion, is divided into two parts: FAITH and PRACTICE:—and first of faith. This is distributed under six different heads, or articles, viz.: 1st, faith in God; 2d, in his angels; 3d, in his Scriptures or Koran; 4th, in his prophets; 5th, in the resurrection and final judgment; 6th, in predestination. Of these we will briefly treat in the order we have enumerated them.
FAITH IN GOD.—Mohammed inculcated the belief that there is, was, and ever will be, one only God, the creator of all things; who is single, immutable, omniscient, omnipotent, all merciful, and eternal. The unity of God was specifically and strongly urged, in contradistinction to the Trinity of the Christians. It was designated, in the profession of faith, by raising one finger, and exclaiming, “La illaha il Allah!” There is no God but God—to which was added, “Mohammed Resoul Allah!” Mohammed is the prophet of God.
FAITH IN ANGELS. —The beautiful doctrine of angels, or ministering spirits, which was one of the most ancient and universal of oriental creeds, is interwoven throughout the Islam system. They are represented as ethereal beings, created from fire, the purest of elements, perfect in form and radiant in beauty, but without sex; free from all gross or sensual passion, and all the appetites and infirmities of frail humanity; and existing in perpetual and unfading youth. They are various in their degrees and duties, and in their favor with the Deity. Some worship around the celestial throne; others perpetually hymn the praises of Allah; some are winged messengers to execute his orders, and others intercede for the children of men.
The most distinguished of this heavenly host are four arch-angels. Gabriel, the angel of revelations, who writes down the divine decrees; Michael, the champion, who fights the battles of the faith; Azrail, the angel of death; and Israfil, who holds the awful commission to sound the trumpet on the day of resurrection. There was another angel named Azazil, the same as Lucifer, once the most glorious of the celestial band: but he became proud and rebellious. When God commanded his angels to worship Adam, Azazil refused, saying, “Why should I, whom thou hast created of fire, bow down to one whom thou hast formed of clay?” For this offense he was accursed and cast forth from paradise, and his name changed to Eblis, which signifies despair. In revenge of his abasement, he works all kinds of mischief against the children of men, and inspires them with disobedience and impiety.
Among the angels of inferior rank is a class called Moakkibat: two of whom keep watch upon each mortal, one on the right hand, the other on the left, taking note of every word and action. At the close of each day they fly up to heaven with a written report, and are replaced by two similar angels on the following day. According to Mohammedan tradition, every good action is recorded ten times by the angel on the right; and if the mortal commit a sin, the same benevolent spirit says to the angel on the left, “Forbear for seven hours to record it; peradventure he may repent and pray and obtain forgiveness.”
Besides the angelic orders Mohammed inculcates a belief in spiritual beings called Gins or Genii, who, though likewise created of fire, partake of the appetites and frailties of the children of the dust, and like them are ultimately liable to death. By beings of this nature, which haunt the solitudes of the desert, Mohammed, as we have shown, professed to have been visited after his evening orisons in the solitary valley of Al Naklah.
When the angel Azazil rebelled and fell and became Satan or Eblis, he still maintained sovereignty over these inferior spirits; who are divided by Orientalists into Dives and Peri: the former ferocious and gigantic; the latter delicate and gentle, subsisting on perfumes. It would seem as if the Peri were all of the female sex, though on this point there rests obscurity. From these imaginary beings it is supposed the European fairies are derived.
Besides these there are other demi-spirits called Tacwins or Fates, being winged females of beautiful forms, who utter oracles and defend mortals from the assaults and machinations of evil demons.
There is vagueness and uncertainty about all the attributes given by Mohammed to these half-celestial beings: his ideas on the subject having been acquired from various sources. His whole system of intermediate spirits has a strong though indistinct infusion of the creeds and superstitions of the Hebrews, the Magians, and the Pagans or Sabeans.
The third article of faith is a belief in the KORAN, as a book of divine revelation. According to the Moslem creed a book was treasured up in the seventh heaven, and had existed there from all eternity, in which were written down all the decrees of God and all events, past, present, or to come. Transcripts from these tablets of the divine will were brought down to the lowest heaven by the angel Gabriel, and by him revealed to Mohammed from time to time, in portions adapted to some event or emergency. Being the direct words of God, they were all spoken in the first person.
Of the way in which these revelations were taken down or treasured up by secretaries and disciples, and gathered together by Abu Beker after the death of Mohammed, we have made sufficient mention. The compilation, for such in fact it is, forms the Moslem code of civil and penal as well as religious law, and is treated with the utmost reverence by all true believers. A zealous pride is shown in having copies of it splendidly bound and ornamented. An inscription on the cover forbids any one to touch it who is unclean, and it is considered irreverent, in reading it, to hold it below the girdle. Moslems swear by it, and take omens from its pages, by opening it and reading the first text that meets the eye. With all its errors and discrepancies, if we consider it mainly as the work of one man, and that an unlettered man, it remains a stupendous monument of solitary legislation.
Besides the Koran or written law, a number of precepts and apologues which casually fell from the lips of Mohammed were collected after his death from ear-witnesses, and transcribed into a book called the Sonna or Oral Law. This is held equally sacred with the Koran by a sect of Mohammedans thence called Sonnites; others reject it as apocryphal; these last are termed Schiites. Hostilities and persecutions have occasionally taken place between these sects almost as virulent as those which, between Catholics and Protestants, have disgraced Christianity. The Sonnites are distinguished by white, the Schiites by red turbans; hence the latter have received from their antagonists the appellation of Kussilbachi, or Red Heads.
It is remarkable that circumcision, which is invariably practiced by the Mohammedans, and forms a distinguishing rite of their faith, to which all proselytes must conform, is neither mentioned in the Koran nor the Sonna. It seems to have been a general usage in Arabia, tacitly adopted from the Jews, and is even said to have been prevalent throughout the East before the time of Moses.
It is said that the Koran forbids the making likenesses of any living thing, which has prevented the introduction of portrait-painting among Mohammedans. The passage of the Koran, however, which is thought to contain the prohibition, seems merely an echo of the second commandment, held sacred by Jews and Christians, not to form images or pictures for worship. One of Mohammed’s standards was a black eagle. Among the most distinguished Moslem ornaments of the Alhambra at Granada is a fountain supported by lions carved of stone, and some Moslem monarchs have had their effigies stamped on their coins.
Another and an important mistake with regard to the system of Mohammed is the idea that it denies souls to the female sex, and excludes them from paradise. This error arises from his omitting to mention their enjoyments in a future state, while he details those of his own sex with the minuteness of a voluptuary. The beatification of virtuous females is alluded to in the 56th Sura of the Koran, and also in other places, although from the vagueness of the language a cursory reader might suppose the Houris of paradise to be intended.
The fourth article of faith relates to the PROPHETS. Their number amounts to two hundred thousand, but only six are supereminent, as having brought new laws and dispensations upon earth, each abrogating those previously received wherever they varied or were contradictory. These six distinguished prophets were Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed.
The fifth article of Islam faith is on the RESURRECTION and the FINAL JUDGMENT. On this awful subject Mohammed blended some of the Christian belief with certain notions current among the Arabian Jews. One of the latter is the fearful tribunal of the Sepulchre. When Azrail, the angel of death, has performed his office, and the corpse has been consigned to the tomb, two black angels, Munkar and Nakeer, of dismal and appalling aspect, present themselves as inquisitors; during whose scrutiny the soul is reunited to the body. The defunct, being commanded to sit up, is interrogated as to the two great points of faith, the unity of God, and the divine mission of Mohammed, and likewise as to the deeds done by him during life; and his replies are recorded in books against the day of judgment. Should they be satisfactory, his soul is gently drawn forth from his lips, and his body left to its repose; should they be otherwise, he is beaten about the brows with iron clubs, and his soul wrenched forth with racking tortures. For the convenience of this awful inquisition, the Mohammedans generally deposit their dead in hollow or vaulted sepulchres; merely wrapped in funeral clothes, but not placed in coffins.
The space of time between death and resurrection is called Berzak, or the Interval. During this period the body rests in the grave, but the soul has a foretaste, in dreams or visions, of its future doom.
The souls of prophets are admitted at once into the full fruition of paradise. Those of martyrs, including all who die in battle, enter into the bodies or crops of green birds, who feed on the fruits and drink of the streams of paradise. Those of the great mass of true believers are variously disposed of, but, according to the most received opinion, they hover, in a state of seraphic tranquillity, near the tombs. Hence the Moslem usage of visiting the graves of their departed friends and relatives, in the idea that their souls are the gratified witnesses these testimonials of affection.
Many Moslems believe that the souls of the truly faithful assume the forms of snow-white birds, and nestle beneath the throne of Allah; a belief in accordance with an ancient superstition of the Hebrews, that the souls of the just will have a place in heaven under the throne of glory.
With regard to the souls of infidels, the most orthodox opinion is that they will be repulsed by angels both from heaven and earth, and cast into the cavernous bowels of the earth, there to await in tribulation the day of judgment.
THE DAY OF RESURRECTION will be preceded by signs and portents in heaven and earth. A total eclipse of the moon; a change in the course of the sun, rising in the west instead of the east; wars and tumults; a universal decay of faith; the advent of Antichrist; the issuing forth of Gog and Magog to desolate the world; a great smoke, covering the whole earth—these and many more prodigies and omens affrighting and harassing the souls of men, and producing a wretchedness of spirit and a weariness of life; insomuch that a man passing by a grave shall envy the quiet dead, and say, “Would to God I were in thy place!”
The last dread signal of the awful day will be the blast of a trumpet by the archangel Israfil. At the sound thereof the earth will tremble; castles and towers will be shaken to the ground, and mountains levelled with the plains. The face of heaven will be darkened; the firmament will melt away, and the sun, the moon, and stars will fall into the sea. The ocean will be either dried up, or will boil and roll in fiery billows.
At the sound of that dreadful trump a panic will fall on the human race; men will fly from their brothers, their parents, and their wives; and mothers, in frantic terror, abandon the infant at the breast. The savage beasts of the forests and the tame animals of the pasture will forget their fierceness and their antipathies, and herd together in affright.
The second blast of the trumpet is the blast of extermination. At that sound, all creatures in heaven and on earth and in the waters under the earth, angels and genii and men and animals, all will die; excepting the chosen few especially reserved by Allah. The last to die will be Azrail, the angel of death!
Forty days, or, according to explanations, forty years of continued rain will follow this blast of extermination; then will be sounded for the third time the trumpet of the archangel Israfil; it is the call to judgment! At the sound of this blast the whole space between heaven and earth will be filled with the souls of the dead flying in quest of their respective bodies. Then the earth will open; and there will be a rattling of dry bones, and a gathering together of scattered limbs; the very hairs will congregate together, and the whole body be reunited, and the soul will re-enter it, and the dead will rise from mutilation, perfect in every part and naked as when born. The infidels will grovel with their faces on the earth, but the faithful will walk erect; as to the truly pious, they will be borne aloft on winged camels, white as milk, with saddles of fine gold.
Every human being will then be put upon his trial as to the manner in which he has employed his faculties, and the good and evil actions of his life. A mighty balance will be poised by the angel Gabriel; in one of the scales, termed Light, will be placed his good actions; in the other, termed Darkness, his evil deeds. An atom or a grain of mustard-seed will suffice to turn this balance; and the nature of the sentence will depend on the preponderance of either scale. At that moment retribution will be exacted for every wrong and injury. He who has wronged a fellow-mortal will have to repay him with a portion of his own good deeds, or, if he have none to boast of, will have to take upon himself a proportionate weight of the other’s sins.
The trial of the balance will be succeeded by the ordeal of the bridge. The whole assembled multitude will have to follow Mohammed across the bridge Al Serát, as fine as the edge of a scimitar, which crosses the gulf of Jehennam or Hell. Infidels and sinful Moslems will grope along it darkling and fall into the abyss; but the faithful, aided by a beaming light, will cross with the swiftness of birds and enter the realms of paradise. The idea of this bridge, and of the dreary realms of Jehennam, is supposed to have been derived partly from the Jews, but chiefly from the Magians.
Jehennam is a region fraught with all kinds of horrors. The very trees have writhing serpents for branches, bearing for fruit the heads of demons. We forbear to dwell upon the particulars of this dismal abode, which are given with painful and often disgusting minuteness. It is described as consisting of seven stages, one below the other, and varying in the nature and intensity of torment. The first stage is allotted to Atheists, who deny creator and creation, and believe the world to be eternal. The second for Manicheans and others that admit two divine principles; and for the Arabian idolaters of the era of Mohammed. The third is for the Brahmins of India; the fourth for the Jews; the fifth for Christians; the sixth for the Magians or Ghebers of Persia; the seventh for hypocrites, who profess without believing in religion.
The fierce angel Thabeck, that is to say, the executioner, presides over this region of terror.
We must observe that the general nature of Jehennam, and the distribution of its punishments, have given rise to various commentaries and expositions among the Moslem doctors. It is maintained by some, and it is a popular doctrine, that none of the believers in Allah and his prophets will be condemned to eternal punishment. Their sins will be expiated by proportionate periods of suffering, varying from nine hundred to nine thousand years.
Some of the most humane among the Doctors contend against eternity of punishment to any class of sinners, saying that, as God is all merciful, even infidels will eventually be pardoned. Those who have an intercessor, as the Christians have in Jesus Christ, will be first redeemed. The liberality of these worthy commentators, however, does not extend so far as to admit them into paradise among true believers; but concludes that, after long punishment, they will be relieved from their torments by annihilation.
Between Jehennam and paradise is Al Araf or the Partition, a region destitute of peace or pleasure, destined for the reception of infants, lunatics, idiots, and such other beings as have done neither good nor evil. For such, too, whose good and evil deeds balance each other; though these may be admitted to paradise through the intercession of Mohammed, on performing an act of adoration, to turn the scales in their favor. It is said that the tenants of this region can converse with their neighbors on either hand, the blessed and the condemned; and that Al Araf appears a paradise to those in hell and a hell to those in paradise.
AL JANET, OR THE GARDEN.—When the true believer has passed through all his trials, and expiated all his sins, he refreshes himself at the Pool of the Prophet. This is a lake of fragrant water, a month’s journey in circuit, fed by the river Al Cauther, which flows from paradise. The water of this lake is sweet as honey, cold as snow, and clear as crystal; he who once tastes of it will never more be tormented by thirst; a blessing dwelt upon with peculiar zest by Arabian writers, accustomed to the parching thirst of the desert.
After the true believer has drunk of this water of life, the gate of paradise is opened to him by the angel Rushvan. The same prolixity and minuteness which occur in the description of Jehennam, are lavished on the delights of paradise, until the imagination is dazzled and confused by the details. The soil is of the finest wheaten flour, fragrant with perfumes, and strewed with pearls and hyacinths instead of sands and pebbles.
Some of the streams are of crystal purity, running between green banks enamelled with flowers; others are of milk, of wine and honey; flowing over beds of musk, between margins of camphire, covered with moss and saffron! The air is sweeter than the spicy gales of Sabea, and cooled by sparkling fountains. Here, too, is Taba, the wonderful tree of life, so large that a fleet horse would need a hundred years to cross its shade. The boughs are laden with every variety of delicious fruit, and bend to the hand of those who seek to gather.
The inhabitants of this blissful garden are clothed in raiment sparkling with jewels; they wear crowns of gold enriched with pearls and diamonds, and dwell in sumptuous palaces or silken pavilions, reclining on voluptuous couches. Here every believer will have hundreds of attendants, bearing dishes and goblets of gold, to serve him with every variety of exquisite viand and beverage. He will eat without satiety, and drink without inebriation; the last morsel and the last drop will be equally relished with the first; he will feel no repletion, and need no evacuation.
The air will resound with the melodious voice of Israfil, and the songs of the daughters of paradise; the very rustling of the trees will produce ravishing harmony, while myriads of bells, hanging among their branches, will be put in dulcet motion by airs from the throne of Allah.
Above all, the faithful will be blessed with female society to the full extent even of oriental imaginings. Besides the wives he had on earth, who will rejoin him in all their pristine charms, he will be attended by the Hur al Oyun, or Houris, so called from their large black eyes; resplendent beings, free from every human defect or frailty; perpetually retaining their youth and beauty, and renewing their virginity. Seventy-two of these are allotted to every believer. The intercourse with them will be fruitful or not according to their wish, and the offspring will grow within an hour to the same stature with the parents.
That the true believer may be fully competent to the enjoyments of this blissful region, he will rise from the grave in the prime of manhood, at the age of thirty, of the stature of Adam, which was thirty cubits; with all his faculties improved to a state of preternatural perfection, with the abilities of a hundred men, and with desires and appetites quickened rather than sated by enjoyment.
These and similar delights are promised to the meanest of the faithful; there are gradations of enjoyment, however, as of merit; but, as to those prepared for the most deserving, Mohammed found the powers of description exhausted, and was fain to make use of the text from Scripture, that they should be such things “as eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.”
The expounders of the Mohammedan law differ in their opinions as to the whole meaning of this system of rewards and punishments. One set understanding everything in a figurative, the other in a literal sense. The former insist that the prophet spake in parable, in a manner suited to the coarse perceptions and sensual natures of his hearers; and maintain that the joys of heaven will be mental as well as corporeal; the resurrection being of both soul and body. The soul will revel in a supernatural development and employment of all its faculties; in a knowledge of all the arcana of nature; the full revelation of everything past, present, and to come. The enjoyments of the body will be equally suited to its various senses, and perfected to a supernatural degree.
The same expounders regard the description of Jehennam as equally figurative; the torments of the soul consisting in the anguish of perpetual remorse for past crimes, and deep and ever-increasing despair for the loss of heaven; those of the body in excruciating and never-ending pain.
The other doctors, who construe everything in a literal sense, are considered the most orthodox, and their sect is beyond measure the most numerous. Most of the particulars in the system of rewards and punishments, as has been already observed, have close affinity to the superstitions of the Magians and the Jewish Rabbins. The Houri, or black-eyed nymphs, who figure so conspicuously in the Moslem’s paradise, are said to be the same as the Huram Behest of the Persian Magi, and Mohammed is accused by Christian investigators of having purloined much of his description of heaven from the account of the New Jerusalem in the Apocalypse; with such variation as is used by knavish jewellers, when they appropriate stolen jewels to their own use.
The sixth and last article of the Islam faith is PREDESTINATION, and on this Mohammed evidently reposed his chief dependence for the success of his military enterprises. He inculcated that every event had been predetermined by God, and written down in the eternal tablet previous to the creation of the world. That the destiny of every individual, and the hour of his death, were irrevocably fixed, and could neither be varied nor evaded by any effort of human sagacity or foresight. Under this persuasion, the Moslems engaged in battle without risk; and, as death in battle was equivalent to martyrdom, and entitled them to an immediate admission into paradise, they had in either alternative, death or victory, a certainty of gain.
This doctrine, according to which men by their own free will can neither avoid sin nor avert punishment, is considered by many Mussulmen as derogatory to the justice and clemency of God; and several sects have sprung up, who endeavor to soften and explain away this perplexing dogma; but the number of these doubters is small, and they are not considered orthodox.
The doctrine of Predestination was one of those timely revelations to Mohammed, that were almost miraculous from their seasonable occurrence. It took place immediately after the disastrous battle of Ohod, in which many of his followers, and among them his uncle Hamza, were slain. Then it was, in a moment of gloom and despondency, when his followers around him were disheartened, that he promulgated this law, telling them that every man must die at the appointed hour, whether in bed or in the field of battle. He declared, moreover, that the angel Gabriel had announced to him the reception of Hamza into the seventh heaven, with the title of Lion of God and of the Prophet. He added, as he contemplated the dead bodies, “I am witness for these, and for all who have been slain for the cause of God, that they shall appear in glory at the resurrection, with their wounds brilliant as vermilion and odoriferous as musk.”
What doctrine could have been devised more calculated to hurry forward, in a wild career of conquest, a set of ignorant and predatory soldiers than this assurance of booty if they survived, and paradise if they fell?* It rendered almost irresistible the Moslem arms; but it likewise contained the poison that was to destroy their dominion. From the moment the successors of the prophet ceased to be aggressors and conquerors, and sheathed the sword definitively, the doctrine of predestination began its baneful work. Enervated by peace, and the sensuality permitted by the Koran—which so distinctly separates its doctrines from the pure and self-denying religion of the Messiah—the Moslem regarded every reverse as preordained by Allah, and inevitable; to be borne stoically, since human exertion and foresight were vain. “Help thyself and God will help thee,” was a precept never in force with the followers of Mohammed, and its reverse has been their fate. The crescent has waned before the cross, and exists in Europe, where it was once so mighty, only by the suffrage, or rather the jealousy, of the great Christian powers, probably ere long to furnish another illustration, that “they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”
* The reader may recollect that a belief in predestination, or destiny, was encouraged by Napoleon, and had much influence on his troops.
The articles of religious practice are fourfold: Prayer, including ablution, Alms, Fasting, Pilgrimage.
ABLUTION is enjoined as preparative to PRAYER, purity of body being considered emblematical of purity of soul. It is prescribed in the Koran with curious precision. The face, arms, elbows, feet, and a fourth part of the head, to be washed once; the hands, mouth, and nostrils, three times, the ears to be moistened with the residue of the water used for the head, and the teeth to be cleaned with a brush. The ablution to commence on the right and terminate on the left; in washing the hands and feet to begin with the fingers and toes; where water is not to be had, fine sand may be used.
PRAYER is to be performed five times every day, viz.: the first in the morning, before sunrise; the second at noon; the third in the afternoon, before sunset; the fourth in the evening, between sunset and dark; the fifth between twilight and the first watch, being the vesper prayer. A sixth prayer is volunteered by many between the first watch of the night and the dawn of day. These prayers are but repetitions of the same laudatory ejaculation, “God is great! God is powerful! God is all powerful!” and are counted by the scrupulous upon a string of beads. They may be performed at the mosque, or in any clean place. During prayer the eyes are turned to the Kebla, or point of the heaven in the direction of Mecca; which is indicated in every mosque by a niche called Al Mehrab, and externally by the position of the minarets and doors. Even the postures to be observed in prayer are prescribed, and the most solemn act of adoration is by bowing the forehead to the ground. Females in praying are not to stretch forth their arms, but to fold them on their bosoms. They are not to make as profound inflections as the men. They are to pray in a low and gentle tone of voice. They are not permitted to accompany the men to the mosque, lest the minds of the worshippers should be drawn from their devotions. In addressing themselves to God, the faithful are enjoined to do so with humility; putting aside costly ornaments and sumptuous apparel.
Many of the Mohammedan observances with respect to prayer were similar to those previously maintained by the Sabeans; others agreed with the ceremonials prescribed by the Jewish Rabbins. Such were the postures, inflections, and prostrations, and the turning of the face toward the Kebla, which, however, with the Jews, was in the direction of the temple at Jerusalem.
Prayer, with the Moslem, is a daily exercise; but on Friday there is a sermon in the mosque. This day was generally held sacred among oriental nations as the day on which man was created. The Sabean idolaters consecrated it to Astarte or Venus, the most beautiful of the planets and brightest of the stars. Mohammed adopted it as his Sabbath, partly perhaps from early habitude, but chiefly to vary from the Saturday of the Jews and Sunday of the Christians.
The second article of religious practice is CHARITY, or the giving of alms. There are two kinds of alms, viz.: those prescribed by law, called Zacat, like tithes in the Christian church, to be made in specified proportions, whether in money, wares, cattle, corn, or fruit; and voluntary gifts, termed Sadakat, made at the discretion of the giver. Every Moslem is enjoined, in one way or the other, to dispense a tenth of his revenue in relief of the indigent and distressed.
The third article of practice is FASTING, also supposed to have been derived from the Jews. In each year for thirty days, during the month Rhamadan, the true believer is to abstain rigorously, from the rising to the setting of the sun, from meat and drink, baths, perfumes, the intercourse of the sexes, and all other gratifications and delights of the senses. This is considered a great triumph of self-denial, mortifying and subduing the several appetites, and purifying both body and soul. Of these three articles of practice the Prince Abdalasis used to say, “Prayer leads us half way to God; fasting conveys us to his threshold, but alms conduct us into his presence.”
PILGRIMAGE is the fourth grand practical duty enjoined upon Moslems. Every true believer is bound to make one pilgrimage to Mecca in the course of his life, either personally or by proxy. In the latter case his name must be mentioned in every prayer offered up by his substitute.
Pilgrimage is incumbent only on free persons of mature age, sound intellect, and who have health and wealth enough to bear the fatigues and expenses of the journey. The pilgrim before his departure from home arranges all his affairs, public and domestic, as if preparing for his death.
On the appointed day, which is either Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, as being propitious for the purpose, he assembles his wives, children, and all his household, and devoutly commends them and all his concerns to the care of God during his holy enterprise. Then passing one end of his turban beneath his chin to the opposite side of his head, like the attire of a nun, and grasping a stout staff of bitter almonds, he takes leave of his household, and sallies from the apartment, exclaiming, “In the name of God I undertake this holy work, confiding in his protection. I believe in him, and place in his hands my actions and my life.”
On leaving the portal he turns his face toward the Kebla, repeats certain passages of the Koran, and adds, “I turn my face to the Holy Kaaba, the throne of God, to accomplish the pilgrimage commanded by his law, and which shall draw me near to him.”
He finally puts his foot in the stirrup, mounts into the saddle, commends himself again to God, almighty, all-wise, all-merciful, and sets forth on his pilgrimage. The time of departure is always calculated so as to insure an arrival at Mecca at the beginning of the pilgrim month Dhu’l-hajji.
Three laws are to be observed throughout this pious journey:
1. To commence no quarrel.
2. To bear meekly all harshness and reviling.
3. To promote peace and good-will among his companions in the caravan.
He is, moreover, to be liberal in his donations and charities throughout his pilgrimage.
When arrived at some place in the vicinity of Mecca, he allows his hair and nails to grow, strips himself to the skin, and assumes the Ihram or pilgrim garb, consisting of two scarfs, without seams or decorations, and of any stuff excepting silk. One of these is folded round the loins, the other thrown over the neck and shoulders, leaving the right arm free. The head is uncovered, but the aged and infirm are permitted to fold something round it in consideration of alms given to the poor. Umbrellas are allowed as a protection against the sun, and indigent pilgrims supply their place by a rag on the end of a staff.
The instep must be bare; and peculiar sandals are provided for the purpose, or a piece of the upper leather of the shoe is cut out. The pilgrim, when thus attired, is termed Al Mohrem.
The Ihram of females is an ample cloak and veil, enveloping the whole person, so that, in strictness, the wrists, the ankles, and even the eyes should be concealed.
When once assumed, the Ihram must be worn until the pilgrimage is completed, however unsuited it may be to the season or the weather. While wearing it, the pilgrim must abstain from all licentiousness of language; all sensual intercourse; all quarrels and acts of violence; he must not even take the life of an insect that infests him; though an exception is made in regard to biting dogs, to scorpions, and birds of prey.
On arriving at Mecca, he leaves his baggage in some shop, and, without attention to any worldly concern, repairs straightway to the Kaaba, conducted by one of the Metowefs or guides, who are always at hand to offer their services to pilgrims.
Entering the mosque by the Bab el Salam, or Gate of Salutation, he makes four prostrations, and repeats certain prayers as he passes under the arch. Approaching the Kaaba, he makes four prostrations opposite the Black Stone, which he then kisses; or, if prevented by the throng, he touches it with his right hand, and kisses that. Departing from the Black Stone, and keeping the building on his left hand, he makes the seven circuits, the three first quickly, the latter four with slow and solemn pace. Certain prayers are repeated in a low voice, and the Black Stone kissed, or touched, at the end of every circuit.
The Towaf, or procession, round the Kaaba was an ancient ceremony, observed long before the time of Mohammed, and performed by both sexes entirely naked. Mohammed prohibited this exposure, and prescribed the Ihram, or pilgrim dress. The female Hajji walk the Towaf generally during the night; though occasionally they perform it mingled with the men in the daytime. [Burckhardt’s Travels in Arabia, vol. i. p. 260. Lond. edit., 1829.]
The seven circuits being completed, the pilgrim presses his breast against the wall between the Black Stone and the door of the Kaaba, and with outstretched arms prays for pardon of his sins.
He then repairs to the Makam, or station of Abraham, makes four prostrations, prays for the intermediation of the Patriarch, and thence to the well Zem Zem, and drinks as much of the water as he can swallow.
During all this ceremonial the uninstructed Hajji has his guide or Metowef close at his heels, muttering prayers for him to repeat. He is now conducted out of the mosque by the gate Bab el Zafa to a slight ascent about fifty paces distant, called the Hill of Zafa, when, after uttering a prayer with uplifted hands, he commences the holy promenade, called the Saa or Say. This lies through a straight and level street, called Al Messa, six hundred paces in length, lined with shops like a bazaar, and terminating at a place called Merowa. The walk of the Say is in commemoration of the wandering of Hagar over the same ground, in search of water for her child Ishmael. The pilgrim, therefore, walks at times slowly, with an inquisitive air, then runs in a certain place, and again walks gravely, stopping at times and looking anxiously back.
Having repeated the walk up and down this street seven times, the Hajji enters a barber’s shop at Merowa; his head is shaved, his nails pared, the barber muttering prayers and the pilgrim repeating them all the time. The paring and shearing are then buried in consecrated ground, and the most essential duties of the pilgrimage are considered as fulfilled.
The greater part of the particulars concerning Mecca and Medina, and their respective pilgrimages, are gathered from the writings of that accurate and indefatigable traveller, Burckhardt, who, in the disguise of a pilgrim, visited these shrines and complied with all the forms and ceremonials. His works throw great light upon the manners and customs of the East, and practice of the Mohammedan faith.
The facts related by Burckhardt have been collated with those of other travellers and writers, and many particulars have been interwoven with them from other sources.
On the ninth of the month Al Dhu’l-hajji, the pilgrims make a hurried and tumultuous visit to Mount Arafat, where they remain until sunset; then pass the night in prayer at an Oratory, called Mozdalifa, and before sunrise next morning repair to the valley of Mena, where they throw seven stones at each of three pillars, in imitation of Abraham, and some say also of Adam, who drove away the devil from this spot with stones, when disturbed by him in his devotions.
Such are the main ceremonies which form this great Moslem rite of pilgrimage; but, before concluding this sketch of Islam faith, and closing this legendary memoir of its founder, we cannot forbear to notice one of his innovations, which has entailed perplexity on all his followers, and particular inconvenience on pious pilgrims.
The Arabian year consists of twelve lunar months, containing alternately thirty and twenty-nine days, and making three hundred and fifty-four in the whole, so that eleven days were lost in every solar year. To make up the deficiency, a thirteenth or wandering month was added to every third year, previous to the era of Mohammed, to the same effect as one day is added in the Christian calendar to every leap-year. Mohammed, who was uneducated and ignorant of astronomy, retrenched this thirteenth or intercalary month, as contrary to the divine order of revolutions of the moon, and reformed the calendar by a divine revelation during his last pilgrimage. This is recorded in the ninth sura or chapter of the Koran, to the following effect:
“For the number of months is twelve, as was ordained by Allah, and recorded on the eternal tables* on the day wherein he created the heaven and the earth.
* The eternal tables or tablet was of white pearl, extended from east to west and from earth to heaven. All the decrees of God were recorded on it, and all events past, present, and to come, to all eternity. It was guarded by angels.
“Transfer not a sacred month unto another month, for verily it is an innovation of the infidels.”
The number of days thus lost amount in 33 years to 363. It becomes necessary, therefore, to add an intercalary year at the end of each thirty-third year to reduce the Mohammedan into the Christian era.
One great inconvenience arising from this revelation of the prophet is, that the Moslem months do not indicate the season, as they commence earlier by eleven days every year. This at certain epochs is a sore grievance to the votaries to Mecca, as the great pilgrim month Dhu’l-hajji, during which they are compelled to wear the Ihram, or half-naked pilgrim garb, runs the round of the seasons, occurring at one time in the depth of winter, at another in the fervid heat of summer.
Thus Mohammed, though according to legendary history he could order the moon from the firmament and make her revolve about the sacred house, could not control her monthly revolutions; and found that the science of numbers is superior even to the gift of prophecy, and sets miracles at defiance.