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.
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.
“IN the conquests of Syria, Persia, and Egypt,” says a modern writer, “the fresh and vigorous enthusiasm of the personal companions and proselytes of Mohammed was exercised and expended, and the generation of warriors whose simple fanaticism had been inflamed by the preaching of the pseudo prophet, was in a great measure consumed in the sanguinary and perpetual toils of ten arduous campaigns.”
We shall now see the effect of those conquests on the national character and habits; the avidity of place and power and wealth superseding religious enthusiasm; and the enervating luxury and soft voluptuousness of Syria and Persia sapping the rude but masculine simplicity of the Arabian desert. Above all, the single-mindedness of Mohammed and his two immediate successors is at an end. Other objects beside the mere advancement of Islamism distract the attention of its leading professors; and the struggle for worldly wealth and worldly sway, for the advancement of private ends, and the aggrandizement of particular tribes and families, destroy the unity of the empire, and beset the Caliphat with intrigue, treason, and bloodshed.
It was a great matter of reproach against the Caliph Othman that he was injudicious in his appointments, and had an inveterate propensity to consult the interests of his relatives and friends before that of the public. One of his greatest errors in this respect was the removal of Amru Ibn Al Aass from the government of Egypt, and the appointment of his own foster-brother, Abdallah Ibn Saad, in his place. This was the same Abdallah who, in acting as amanuensis to Mohammed, and writing down his revelations, had interpolated passages of his own, sometimes of a ludicrous nature. For this and for his apostasy he had been pardoned by Mohammed at the solicitation of Othman, and had ever since acted with apparent zeal, his interest coinciding with his duty.
He was of a courageous spirit, and one of the most expert horsemen of Arabia; but what might have fitted him to command a horde of the desert was insufficient for the government of a conquered province. He was new and inexperienced in his present situation; whereas Amru had distinguished himself as a legislator as well as a conqueror, and had already won the affections of the Egyptians by his attention to their interests, and his respect for their customs and habitudes. His dismission was, therefore, resented by the people, and a disposition was manifested to revolt against the new governor.
The emperor Constantine, who had succeeded to his father Heraclius, hastened to take advantage of these circumstances. A fleet and army were sent against Alexandria under a prefect named Manuel. The Greeks in the city secretly co-operated with him, and the metropolis was, partly by force of arms, partly by treachery, recaptured by the imperialists without much bloodshed.
Othman, made painfully sensible of the error he had committed, hastened to revoke the appointment of his foster-brother, and reinstated Amru in the command in Egypt. That able general went instantly against Alexandria with an army, in which were many Copts, irreconcilable enemies of the Greeks. Among these was the traitor Makawkas, who, from his knowledge of the country and his influence among its inhabitants, was able to procure abundant supplies for the army.
The Greek garrison defended the city bravely and obstinately. Amru, enraged at having thus again to lay siege to a place which he had twice already taken, swore, by Allah, that if he should master it a third time, he would render it as easy of access as a brothel. He kept his word, for when he took the city he threw down the walls and demolished all the fortifications. He was merciful, however, to the inhabitants, and checked the fury of the Saracens, who were slaughtering all they met. A mosque was afterward erected on the spot at which he stayed the carnage, called the Mosque of Mercy. Manuel, the Greek general, found it expedient to embark with all speed with such of his troops as he could save, and make sail for Constantinople.
Scarce, however, had Amru quelled every insurrection and secured the Moslem domination in Egypt, when he was again displaced from the government, and Abdallah Ibn Saad appointed a second time in his stead.
Abdallah had been deeply mortified by the loss of Alexandria, which had been ascribed to his incapacity; he was emulous too of the renown of Amru, and felt the necessity of vindicating his claims to command by some brilliant achievement. The north of Africa presented a new field for Moslem enterprise. We allude to that vast tract extending west from the desert of Libya or Barca, to Cape Non, embracing more than two thousand miles of sea-coast; comprehending the ancient divisions of Mamarica, Cyrenaica, Carthage, Numidia, and Mauritania; or, according to modern geographical designations, Barca, Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers, and Morocco.
A few words respecting the historical vicissitudes of this once powerful region may not be inappropriate. The original inhabitants are supposed to have come at a remote time from Asia; or rather, it is said that an influx of Arabs drove the original inhabitants from the sea-coast to the mountains, and the borders of the interior desert, and continued their nomade and pastoral life along the shores of the Mediterranean. About nine hundred years before the Christian era, the Phoenicians of Tyre founded colonies along the coast; of these Carthage was the greatest. By degrees it extended its influence along the African shores and the opposite coast of Spain, and rose in prosperity and power until it became a rival republic to Rome. On the wars between Rome and Carthage it is needless to dilate. They ended in the downfall of the Carthaginian republic and the domination of Rome over Northern Africa.
This domination continued for about four centuries, until the Roman prefect Bonifacius invited over the Vandals from Spain to assist him in a feud with a political rival. The invitation proved fatal to Roman ascendancy. The Vandals, aided by the Moors and Berbers, and by numerous Christian sectarians recently expelled from the Catholic Church, aspired to gain possession of the country, and succeeded. Genseric, the Vandal general, captured and pillaged Carthage, and having subjugated Northern Africa, built a navy, invaded Italy, and sacked Rome. The domination of the Vandals by sea and land lasted above half a century. In 533 and 534 Africa was regained by Belisarius for the Roman empire, and the Vandals were driven out of the land. After the departure of Belisarius the Moors rebelled, and made repeated attempts to get the dominion, but were as often defeated with great loss, and the Roman sway was once more established.
All these wars and changes had a disastrous effect on the African provinces. The Vandals had long disappeared; many of the Moorish families had been extirpated; the wealthy inhabitants had fled to Sicily and Constantinople; and a stranger might wander whole days over regions once covered with towns and cities, and teeming with population, without meeting a human being.
For near a century the country remained sunk in apathy and inaction, until now it was to be roused from its torpor by the all-pervading armies of Islam.
Soon after the reappointment of Abdallah to the government of Egypt, he set out upon the conquest of this country, at the head of forty thousand Arabs. After crossing the western boundary of Egypt he had to traverse the desert of Libya, but his army was provided with camels accustomed to the sandy wastes of Arabia, and, after a toilsome march, he encamped before the walls of Tripoli, then, as now, one of the most wealthy and powerful cities of the Barbary coast. The place was well fortified, and made good resistance. A body of Greek troops which were sent to reinforce it were surprised by the besiegers on the sea-coast, and dispersed with great slaughter.
The Roman prefect Gregorius having assembled an army of one hundred and twenty thousand men, a great proportion of whom were the hastily levied and undisciplined tribes of Barbary, advanced to defend his province. He was accompanied by an Amazonian daughter of wonderful beauty, who had been taught to manage the horse, to draw the bow, and wield the scimitar, and who was always at her father’s side in battle.
Hearing of the approach of this army, Abdallah suspended the siege and advanced to meet it. A brief parley took place between the hostile commanders. Abdallah proposed the usual alternatives, profession of Islamism or payment of tribute. Both were indignantly rejected. The armies engaged before the walls of Tripoli. Abdallah, whose fame was staked on this enterprise, stimulated his troops by word and example, and charged the enemy repeatedly at the head of his squadrons. Wherever he pressed the fortune of the day would incline in favor of the Moslems; but on the other hand Gregorius fought with desperate bravery, as the fate of the province depended on this conflict; and wherever he appeared his daughter was at his side, dazzling all eyes by the splendor of her armor and the heroism of her achievements. The contest was long, arduous, and uncertain. It was not one drawn battle, but a succession of conflicts, extending through several days, beginning at early dawn, but ceasing toward noon, when the intolerable heat of the sun obliged both armies to desist, and seek the shade of their tents.
The prefect Gregorius was exasperated at being in a manner held at bay by an inferior force, which he had expected to crush by the superiority of numbers. Seeing that Abdallah was the life and soul of his army, he proclaimed a reward of one hundred thousand pieces of gold and the hand of his daughter to the warrior who should bring him his head.
The excitement caused among the Grecian youth by this tempting prize made the officers of Abdallah tremble for his safety. They represented to him the importance of his life to the army and the general cause, and prevailed upon him to keep aloof from the field of battle. His absence, however, produced an immediate change, and the valor of his troops, hitherto stimulated by his presence, began to languish.
Zobeir, a noble Arab of the tribe of Koreish, arrived at the field of battle with a small reinforcement, in the heat of one of the engagements. He found the troops fighting to a disadvantage, and looked round in vain for the general. Being told that he was in his tent, he hastened thither and reproached him with his inactivity. Abdallah blushed, but explained the reason of his remaining passive. “Retort on the infidel commander his perfidious bribe,” cried Zobeir; “proclaim that his daughter as a captive, and one hundred thousand pieces of gold, shall be the reward of the Moslem who brings his head.” The advice was adopted, as well as the following stratagem suggested by Zobeir. On the next morning Abdallah sent forth only sufficient force to keep up a defensive fight; but when the sun had reached its noontide height, and the panting troops retired as usual to their tents, Abdallah and Zobeir sallied forth at the head of the reserve, and charged furiously among the fainting Greeks. Zobeir singled out the prefect, and slew him after a well-contested fight. His daughter pressed forward to avenge his death, but was surrounded and made prisoner. The Grecian army was completely routed, and fled to the opulent town of Safetula, which was taken and sacked by the Moslems.
The battle was over, Gregorius had fallen, but no one came forward to claim the reward set upon his head. His captive daughter, however, on beholding Zobeir, broke forth into tears and exclamations, and thus revealed the modest victor. Zobeir refused to accept the maiden or the gold. He fought, he said, for the faith, not for earthly objects, and looked for his reward in paradise, In honor of his achievements he was sent with tidings of this victory to the Caliph; but when he announced it, in the great mosque at Medina, in presence of the assembled people, he made no mention of his own services. His modesty enhanced his merits in the eyes of the public, and his name was placed by the Moslems beside of those of Khaled and Amru.
Abdallah found his forces too much reduced and enfeebled by battle and disease to enable him to maintain possession of the country he had subdued, and after a campaign of fifteen months he led back his victorious, but diminished army into Egypt, encumbered with captives and laden with booty.
He afterward, by the Caliph’s command, assembled an army in the Thebaid or Upper Egypt, and thence made numerous successful excursions into Nubia, the Christian king of which was reduced to make a humiliating treaty, by which he bound himself to send annually to the Moslem commander in Egypt a great number of Nubian or Ethiopian slaves by way of tribute.
MOAWYAH, EMIR OF SYRIA—HIS NAVAL VICTORIES—OTHMAN LOSES THE PROPHET’S RING—SUPPRESSES ERRONEOUS COPIES OF THE KORAN—CONSPIRACIES AGAINST HIM—HIS DEATH.
AMONG the distinguished Moslems who held command of the distant provinces during the Caliphat of Othman, was Moswyah Ibn Abu Sofian. As his name denotes, he was the son of Abu Sofian, the early foe and subsequent proselyte of Mohammed. On his father’s death he had become chief of the tribe of Koreish, and head of the family of Omeya or Ommiah. The late Caliph Omar, about four years before his death, had appointed him emir, or governor of Syria, and he was continued in that office by Othman. He was between thirty and forty years of age, enterprising, courageous, of quick sagacity, extended views, and lofty aims. Having the maritime coast and ancient ports of Syria under his command, he aspired to extend the triumphs of the Moslem arms by sea as well as land. He had repeatedly endeavored, but in vain, to obtain permission from Omar to make a naval expedition, that Caliph being always apprehensive of the too wide and rapid extension of the enterprises of his generals. Under Othman he was more successful, and in the twenty-seventh year of the Hegira was permitted to fit out a fleet, with which he launched forth on the Sea of Tarshish, or the Phoenician Sea, by both which names the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea was designated in ancient times.
His first enterprise was against the island of Cyprus, which was still held in allegiance to the emperor of Constantinople. The Christian garrison was weak, and the inhabitants of the island soon submitted to pay tribute to the Caliph.
His next enterprise was against the island of Aradus, where he landed his troops and besieged the city or fortress, battering it with military engines. The inhabitants made vigorous resistance, repelled him from the island, and it was only after he had come a second time, with superior force, that he was able to subdue it. He then expelled the natives, demolished the fortifications, and set fire to the city.
His most brilliant achievement, however, was a battle with a large fleet, in which the emperor was cruising in the Phoenician Sea. It was called in Arab history The Battle of Masts, from the forest of masts in the imperial fleet. The Christians went into action singing psalms and elevating the cross, the Moslems repeating texts of the Koran, shouting Allah Achbar, and waving the standard of Islam. The battle was severe; the imperial fleet dispersed, and the emperor escaped by dint of sails and oars.
Moawyah now swept the seas victoriously, made landings on Crete and Malta, captured the island of Rhodes, demolished its famous colossal statue of brass, and, having broken it to pieces, transported the fragments to Alexandria, where they were sold to a Jewish merchant of Edissa, and were sufficient to load nine hundred camels. He had another fight with a Christian fleet in the bay of Feneke, by Castel Rosso, in which both parties claimed the victory. He even carried his expeditions along the coasts of Asia Minor, and to the very port of Constantinople.
These naval achievements, a new feature in Arab warfare, rendered Moawyah exceedingly popular in Syria, and laid the foundation for that power and importance to which he subsequently attained.
It is worthy of remark how the triumphs of an ignorant people, who had heretofore dwelt obscurely in the midst of their deserts, were overrunning all the historical and poetical regions of antiquity. They had invaded and subdued the once mighty empires on land, they had now launched forth from the old scriptural ports of Tyre and Sidon, swept the Sea of Tarshish, and were capturing the isles rendered famous by classic fable.
In the midst of these foreign successes an incident, considered full of sinister import, happened to Othman. He accidentally dropped in a brook a silver ring, on which was inscribed “Mohammed the apostle of God.” It had originally belonged to Mohammed, and since his death had been worn by Abu Beker, Omar, and Othman, as the symbol of command, as rings had been considered throughout the East from the earliest times. The brook was searched with the most anxious care, but the ring was not to be found. This was an ominous loss in the eyes of the superstitious Moslems.
It happened about this time that, scandalized by the various versions of the Koran, and the disputes that prevailed concerning their varying texts, he decreed, in a council of the chief Moslems, that all copies of the Koran which did not agree with the genuine one in the hands of Hafza, the widow of Mohammed, should be burnt. Seven copies of Hafza’s Koran were accordingly made; six were sent to Mecca, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Bassora, and Cufa, and one was retained in Medina. All copies varying from these were to be given to the flames. This measure caused Othman to be called the Gatherer of the Koran. It, at any rate, prevented any further vitiation of the sacred Scripture of Islam, which has remained unchanged from that time to the present. Besides this pious act, Othman caused a wall to be built round the sacred house of the Kaaba, and enlarged and beautified the mosque of the prophet in Medina.
Notwithstanding all this, disaffection and intrigue were springing up round the venerable Caliph in Medina. He was brave, open-handed, and munificent, but he wanted shrewdness and discretion; was prone to favoritism; very credulous, and easily deceived.
Murmurs rose against him on all sides, and daily increased in virulence. His conduct, both public and private, was reviewed, and circumstances, which had been passed by as trivial, were magnified into serious offenses. He was charged with impious presumption in having taken his stand, on being first made Caliph, on the uppermost step of the pulpit, where Mohammed himself used to stand, whereas Abu Beker had stood one step lower, and Omar two. A graver accusation and one too well merited, was that he had displaced men of worth, eminent for their services, and given their places to his own relatives and favorites. This was especially instanced in dismissing Amru Ibn al Aass from the government of Egypt, and appointing in his stead his own brother Abdallah Ibn Saad, who had once been proscribed by Mohammed. Another accusation was, that he had lavished the public money upon parasites, giving one hundred thousand dinârs to one, four hundred thousand to another, and no less than five hundred and four thousand upon his secretary of state, Merwân Ibn Hakem, who had, it was said, an undue ascendency over him, and was, in fact, the subtle and active spirit of his government. The last sum, it was alleged, was taken out of a portion of the spoils of Africa, which had been set apart for the family of the prophet.
The ire of the old Caliph was kindled at having his lavish liberality thus charged upon him as a crime. He mounted the pulpit and declared that the money in the treasury belonged to God, the distribution to the Caliph at his own discretion as successor of the prophet; and he prayed God to confound whoever should gainsay what he had set forth.
Upon this Ammar Ibn Yaser, one of the primitive Moslems, of whom Mohammed himself had said that he was filled with faith from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, rose and disputed the words of Othman, whereupon some of the Caliph’s kindred of the house of Ommiah fell upon the venerable Ammar and beat him until he fainted.
The outrage offered to the person of one of the earliest disciples and especial favorites of the prophet was promulgated far and wide, and contributed to the general discontent, which now assumed the aspect of rebellion. The ringleader of the disaffected was Ibn Caba, formerly a Jew. This son of mischief made a factious tour from Yemen to Hidschaf, thence to Bassora, to Cufa, to Syria, and Egypt, decrying the Caliph and the emirs he had appointed; declaring that the Caliphat had been usurped by Othman from Ali, to whom it rightly belonged, as the nearest relative of the prophet, and suggesting by word of mouth and secret correspondence, that the malcontents should assemble simultaneously in various parts under pretext of a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The plot of the renegade Jew succeeded. In the fullness of time deputations arrived from all parts. One amounting to a hundred and fifty persons from Bassora; another of two hundred under Malec Alashtar from Cufa; a third of six hundred from Egypt headed by Mahomet, the son of Abu Beker, and brother of Ayesha, together with numbers of a sect of zealots called Karegites, who took the lead. These deputies encamped like an army within a league of Medina and summoned the Caliph by message either to redress their grievances or to abdicate.
Othman in consternation applied to Ali to go forth and pacify the multitude. He consented on condition that Othman would previously make atonement for his errors from the pulpit. Harassed and dismayed, the aged Caliph mounted the pulpit, and with a voice broken by sobs and tears, exclaimed, “My God, I beg pardon of thee, and turn to thee with penitence and sorrow.” The whole assemblage were moved and softened, and wept with the Caliph.
Merwân, the intriguing and well-paid secretary of Othman, and the soul of his government, had been absent during these occurrences, and on returning reproached the Caliph with what he termed an act of weakness. Having his permission, he addressed the populace in a strain that soon roused them to tenfold ire. Ali, hereupon, highly indignant, renounced any further interference in the matter.
Naile, the wife of Othman, who had heard the words of Merwân, and beheld the fury of the people, warned her husband of the storm gathering over his head, and prevailed upon him again to solicit the mediation of Ali. The latter suffered himself to be persuaded, and went forth among the insurgents. Partly by good words and liberal donations from the treasury, partly by a written promise from the Caliph to redress all their grievances, the insurgents were quieted, all but the deputies from Egypt who came to complain against the Caliph’s fosterbrother; Abdallah Ibn Saad, who they said had oppressed them with exactions, and lavished their blood in campaigns in Barbary, merely for his own fame and profit, without retaining a foothold in the country. To pacify these complainants, Othman displaced Abdallah from the government, and left them to name his successor. They unanimously named Mahomet, the brother of Ayesha, who had in fact been used by that intriguing woman as a firebrand to kindle this insurrection; her object being to get Telha appointed to the Caliphat.
The insurgent camp now broke up. Mahomet with his followers set out to take possession of his post, and the aged Caliph flattered himself he would once more be left in peace.
Three days had Mahomet and his train been on their journey, when they were overtaken by a black slave on a dromedary. They demanded who he was, and whither he was travelling so rapidly. He gave himself out as a slave of the secretary Merwân, bearing a message from the Caliph to his emir in Egypt. “I am the emir,” said Mahomet. “My errand,” said the slave, “is to the emir Abdallah Ibn Saad.” He was asked if he had a letter, and on his prevaricating was searched. A letter was found concealed in a water-flask. It was from the Caliph, briefly ordering the emir, on the arrival of Mahomet Ibn Abu Beker, to make way with him secretly, destroy his diploma, and imprison, until further orders, those who had brought complaints to Medina.
Mahomet Ibn Abu Beker returned furious to Medina, and showed the perfidious letter to Ali, Zobeir, and Telha, who repaired with him to Othman. The latter denied any knowledge of the letter. It must then, they said, be a forgery of Merwân’s, and requested that he might be summoned. Othman would not credit such treason on the part of his secretary, and insisted it must have been a treacherous device of one of his enemies. Medina was now in a ferment. There was a gathering of the people. All were incensed at such an atrocious breach of faith, and insisted that if the letter originated with Othman, he should resign the Caliphat; if with Merwân, that he should receive the merited punishment. Their demands had no effect upon the Caliph.
Mahomet Ibn Abu Beker now sent off swift messengers to recall the recent insurgents from the provinces, who were returning home, and to call in aid from the neighboring tribes. The dwelling of Othman was beleaguered; the alternative was left him to deliver up Merwân or to abdicate. He refused both. His life was now threatened. He barricadoed himself in his dwelling. The supply of water was cut off. If he made his appearance on the terraced roof he was assailed with stones. Ali, Zobeir, and Telha endeavored to appease the multitude, but they were deaf to their entreaties. Saad Ibn al Aass advised the Caliph, as the holy month was at hand, to sally forth on a pilgrimage to Mecca, as the piety of the undertaking and the sanctity of the pilgrim garb would protect him. Othman rejected the advice. “If they seek my life,” said he, “they will not respect the pilgrim garb.”
Ali, Zobeir, and Telha, seeing the danger imminent, sent their three sons, Hassan, Abdallah, and Mahomet, to protect the house. They stationed themselves by the door, and for some time kept the rebels at bay; but the rage of the latter knew no bounds. They stormed the house; Hassan was wounded in its defense. The rebels rushed in; among the foremost was Mahomet, the brother of Ayesha, and Ammer Ibn Yaser, whom Othman had ordered to be beaten. They found the venerable Caliph seated on a cushion, his beard flowing on his breast; the Koran open on his lap, and his wife Naile beside him.
One of the rebels struck him on the head, another stabbed him repeatedly with a sword, and Mahomet Ibn Abu Beker thrust a javelin into his body after he was dead. His wife was wounded in endeavoring to protect him, and her life was only saved through the fidelity of a slave. His house was plundered, as were some of the neighboring houses, and two chambers of the treasury.
As soon as the invidious Ayesha heard that the murder was accomplished, she went forth in hypocritical guise loudly bewailing the death of a man to whom she had secretly been hostile, and joining with the Ommiah family in calling for blood revenge.
The noble and virtuous Ali, with greater sincerity, was incensed at his sons for not sacrificing their lives in defense of the Caliph, and reproached the sons of Telha and Zobeir with being lukewarm. “Why are you so angry, father of Hassan?” said Telha; “had Othman given up Merwân this evil would not have happened.”
In fact, it has been generally affirmed that the letter really was written by Merwân, without the knowledge of the Caliph, and was intended to fall into the hands of Mahomet, and produce the effect which resulted from it. Merwân, it is alleged, having the charge of the correspondence of the Caliphat, had repeatedly abused the confidence of the weak and superannuated Othman in like manner, but not with such a nefarious aim. Of late he had secretly joined the cabal against the Caliph.
The body of Othman lay exposed for three days, and was then buried in the clothes in which he was slain, unwashed and without any funeral ceremony. He was eighty-two years old at the time of his death, and had reigned nearly twelve years. The event happened in the thirty-fifth year of the Hegira, in the year 655 of the Christian era. Notwithstanding his profusion and the sums lavished upon his favorites, immense treasures were found in his dwelling, a considerable part of which he had set apart for charitable purposes.
CANDIDATES FOR THE CALIPHAT—INAUGURATION OF ALI, FOURTH CALIPH—HE UNDERTAKES MEASURES OF REFORM—THEIR CONSEQUENCES—CONSPIRACY OF AYESHA—SHE GETS POSSESSION OF BASSORA.
WE have already seen that the faith of Islam had begun to lose its influence in binding together the hearts of the faithful, and uniting their feelings and interests in one common cause. The factions which sprang up at the very death of Mohammed had increased with the election of every successor, and candidates for the succession multiplied as the brilliant successes of the Moslem arms elevated victorious generals to popularity and renown. On the assassination of Othman, four candidates were presented for the Caliphat; and the fortuitous assemblage of deputies from the various parts of the Moslem empire threatened to make the election difficult and tumultuous.
The most prominent candidate was Ali, who had the strongest natural claim, being cousin and son-in-law of Mohammed, and his children by Fatima being the only posterity of the prophet. He was of the noblest branch of the noble race of Koreish. He possessed the three qualities most prized by Arabs—courage, eloquence, and munificence. His intrepid spirit had gained him from the prophet the appellation of The Lion of God; specimens of his eloquence remain in some verses and sayings preserved among the Arabs; and his munificence was manifested in sharing among others, every Friday, what remained in the treasury. Of his magnanimity we have given repeated instances; his noble scorn of everything false and mean, and the absence in his conduct of everything like selfish intrigue.
His right to the Caliphat was supported by the people of Cufa, the Egyptians, and a great part of the Arabs who were desirous of a line of Caliphs of the blood of Mohammed. He was opposed, however, as formerly, by the implacable Ayesha, who, though well stricken in years, retained an unforgiving recollection of his having once questioned her chastity.
A second candidate was Zobeir, the same warrior who distinguished himself by his valor in the campaign of Barbary, by his modesty in omitting to mention his achievements, and in declining to accept their reward. His pretensions to the Caliphat were urged by the people of Bassora.
A third candidate was Telha, who had been one of the six electors of Othman, and who had now the powerful support of Ayesha.
A fourth candidate was Moawyah, the military governor of Syria, and popular from his recent victories by sea and land. He had, moreover, immense wealth to back his claims, and was head of the powerful tribe of Koreish; but he was distant from the scene of election, and in his absence his partisans could only promote confusion and delay.
It was a day of tumult and trouble in Medina. The body of Othman was still unburied. His wife Naile, at the instigation of Ayesha, sent off his bloody vest to be carried through the distant provinces, a ghastly appeal to the passions of the inhabitants.
The people, apprehending discord and disunion, clamored for the instant nomination of a Caliph. The deputations, which had come from various parts with complaints against Othman, became impatient. There were men from Babylonia and Mesopotamia, and other parts of Persia; from Syria and Egypt, as well as from the three divisions of Arabia; these assembled tumultuously, and threatened the safety of the three candidates, Ali, Telha, and Zobeir, unless an election were made in four-and-twenty hours.
In this dilemma, some of the principal Moslems repaired to Ali, and entreated him to accept the office. He consented with reluctance, but would do nothing clandestinely, and refused to take their hands, the Moslem mode at that time of attesting fealty, unless it were in public assembly at the mosque; lest he should give cause of cavil or dispute to his rivals. He refused, also, to make any promises or conditions. “If I am elected Caliph,” said he, “I will administer the government with independence, and deal with you all according to my ideas of justice. If you elect another, I will yield obedience to him, and be ready to serve him as his vizier.” They assented to everything he said, and again entreated him to accept, for the good of the people and of the faith.
On the following morning there was a great assemblage of the people at the mosque, and Ali presented himself at the portal. He appeared in simple Arab style, clad in a thin cotton garb girded round his loins, a coarse turban, and using a bow as a walking-staff. He took off his slippers in reverence of the place, and entered the mosque, bearing them in his left hand.
Finding that Telha and Zobeir were not present, he caused them to be sent for. They came, and knowing the state of the public mind, and that all immediate opposition would be useless, offered their hands in token of allegiance. Ali paused, and asked them if their hearts went with their hands. “Speak frankly,” said he; “if you disapprove of my election, and will accept the office, I will give my hand to either of you.” They declared their perfect satisfaction, and gave their hands. Telha’s right arm had been maimed in the battle of Ohod, and he stretched it forth with difficulty. The circumstance struck the Arabs as an evil omen. “It is likely to be a lame business that is begun with a lame hand,” muttered a bystander. Subsequent events seemed to justify the foreboding.
Moawyah, the remaining candidate, being absent at his government in Syria, the whole family of Ommiah, of which he was the head, withdrew from the ceremony. This likewise boded future troubles.
After the inauguration, Telha and Zobeir, with a view, it is said, to excite disturbance, applied to Ali to investigate and avenge the death of Othman. Ali, who knew that such a measure would call up a host of enemies, evaded the insidious proposition. It was not the moment, he said, for such an investigation. The event had its origin in old enmities and discontents instigated by the devil, and when the devil once gained a foothold, he never relinquished it willingly. The very measure they recommended was one of the devil’s suggesting, for the purpose of fomenting disturbances. “However,” added he, “if you will point out the assassins of Othman, I will not fail to punish them according to their guilt.”
While Ali thus avoided the dangerous litigation, he endeavored to cultivate the good will of the Koreishites, and to strengthen himself against apprehended difficulties with the family of Ommiah. Telha and Zobeir, being disconcerted in their designs, now applied for important commands—Telha for the government of Cufa, and Zobeir for that of Bassora; but Ali again declined complying with their wishes; observing that he needed such able counsellors at hand in his present emergencies. They afterward separately obtained permission from him to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, and set off on that devout errand with piety on their lips, but crafty policy in their breasts; Ayesha had already repaired to the holy city, bent upon opposition to the government of the man she hated.
Ali was now Caliph, but did not feel himself securely fixed in his authority. Many abuses had grown up during the dotage of his predecessor, which called for redress, and most of the governments of provinces were in the hands of persons in whose affection and fidelity he felt no confidence. He determined upon a general reform; and as a first step, to remove from office all the governors who had been appointed by the superannuated Othman. This measure was strongly opposed by some of his counsellors. They represented to him that he was not yet sufficiently established to venture upon such changes; and that he would make powerful enemies of men who, if left in office, would probably hasten to declare allegiance to him, now that he was Caliph.
Ali was not to be persuaded. “Sedition,” he said, “like fire, is easily extinguished at the commencement; but the longer it burns the more fiercely it blazes.”
He was advised, at least, to leave his formidable rival Moawyah, for the present, in the government of Syria, as he was possessed of great wealth and influence, and a powerful army, and might rouse that whole province to rebellion; and in such case might be joined by Telha and Zobeir, who were both disappointed and disaffected men. He had recently shown his influence over the feelings of the people under his command; when the bloody vest of Othman arrived in the province, he had displayed it from the pulpit of the mosque in Damascus. The mosque resounded with lamentations mingled with clamors for the revenge of blood; for Othman had won the hearts of the people of Syria by his munificence. Some of the noblest inhabitants of Damascus swore to remain separate from their wives, and not to lay their heads on a pillow until blood for blood had atoned for the death of Othman. Finally the vest had been hoisted as a standard, and had fired the Syrian army with a desire for vengeance.
Ali’s counsellor represented all these things to him. “Suffer Moawyah, therefore,” added he, “to remain in command until he has acknowledged your government, and then he may be displaced without turmoil. Nay, I will pledge myself to bring him bound hand and foot into your presence.”
Ali spurned at this counsel, and swore he would practice no such treachery, but would deal with Moawyah with the sword alone. He commenced immediately his plan of reform, with the nomination of new governors devoted to his service. Abdallah Ibn Abbas was appointed to Arabia Felix, Ammar Ibn Sahel to Cufa, Othman Ibn Hanif to Bassora, Sahel Ibn Hanif to Syria, and Saad Ibn Kais to Egypt. These generals lost no time in repairing to their respective governments, but the result soon convinced Ali that he had been precipitate.
Jaali, the governor of Arabia Felix, readily resigned his post to Abdallah Ibn Abbas, and retired to Mecca; but he took with him the public treasure, and delivered it into the hands of Ayesha, and her confederates Telha and Zobeir, who were already plotting rebellion.
Othman Ibn Hanif, on arriving at Bassorah to take the command, found the people discontented and rebellious, and having no force to subjugate them, esteemed himself fortunate in escaping from their hands and returning to the Caliph.
When Ammar Ibn Sahel reached the confines of Cufa, he learnt that the people were unanimous in favor of Abu Musa Alashari, their present governor, and determined to support him by fraud or force. Ammar had no disposition to contend with them, the Cufians being reputed the most treacherous and perfidious people of the East; so he turned the head of his horse, and journeyed back mortified and disconcerted to Ali.
Saad Ibn Kais was received in Egypt with murmurs by the inhabitants, who were indignant at the assassination of Othman, and refused to submit to the government of Ali until justice was done upon the perpetrators of that murder. Saad prudently, therefore, retraced his steps to Medina.
Sahel Ibn Hanif had no better success in Syria. He was met at Tabuc by a body of cavalry, who demanded his name and business. “For my name,” said he, “I am Sahel, the son of Hanif; and for my business, I am governor of this province, as lieutenant of the Caliph Ali, commander of the Faithful.” They assured him in reply, that Syria had already an able governor in Moawyah, son of Abu Sofian, and that to their certain knowledge there was not room in the province for the sole of his foot; so saying, they unsheathed their scimitars.
The new governor, who was not provided with a body of troops sufficient to enforce his authority, returned also to the Caliph with this intelligence. Thus of the five governors so promptly sent forth by Ali in pursuance of his great plan of reform, Abdallah Ibn Abbas was the only one permitted to assume his post.
When Ali received tidings of the disaffection of Syria he wrote a letter to Moawyah, claiming his allegiance, and transmitted it by an especial messenger. The latter was detained many days by the Syrian commander, and then sent back, accompanied by another messenger, bearing a sealed letter superscribed “From Moawyah to Ali.” The two couriers arrived at Medina in the cool of the evening, the hour of concourse, and passed through the multitude bearing the letter aloft on a staff, so that all could see the superscription. The people thronged after the messengers into the presence of Ali. On opening the letter it was found to be a perfect blank, in token of contempt and defiance.
Ali soon learned that this was no empty bravado. He was apprised by his own courier that an army of sixty thousand men was actually on foot in Syria, and that the bloody garment of Othman, the standard of rebellion, was erected in the mosque at Damascus. Upon this he solemnly called Allah and the prophet to witness that he was not guilty of that murder; but made active preparations to put down the rebellion by force of arms, sending missives into all the provinces, demanding the assistance of the faithful.
The Moslems were now divided into two parties; those who adhered to Ali, among whom were the people of Medina generally: and the Motazeli, or Separatists, who were in the opposition. The latter were headed by the able and vindictive Ayesha, who had her headquarters at Mecca, and with the aid of Telha arid Zobeir, was busy organizing an insurrection. She had induced the powerful family of Ommiah to join her cause, and had sent couriers to all the governors of provinces whom Ali had superseded, inviting them to unite in the rebellion. The treasure brought to her by Jaali, the displaced governor of Arabia Felix, furnished her with the means of war, and the bloody garment of Othman proved a powerful auxiliary.
A council of the leaders of this conspiracy was held at Mecca. Some inclined to join the insurgents in Syria, but it was objected that Moawyah was sufficiently powerful in that country without their aid. The intrepid Ayesha was for proceeding immediately to Medina and attacking Ali in his capital, but it was represented that the people of Medina were unanimous in his favor, and too powerful to be assailed with success. It was finally determined to march for Bassora, Telha assuring them that he had a strong party in that city, and pledging himself for its surrender.
A proclamation was accordingly made by sound of trumpet through the streets of Mecca to the following effect:
“In the name of the Most High God. Ayesha, Mother of the Faithful, accompanied by the chiefs Telha and Zobeir, is going in person to Bassora. All those of the faithful who burn with a desire to defend the faith and avenge the death of the Caliph Othman, have only to present themselves and they shall be furnished with all necessaries for the journey.”
Ayesha sallied forth from one of the gates of Mecca, borne in a litter placed on the back of a strong camel named Alascar. Telha and Zobeir attended her on each side, followed by six hundred persons of some note, all mounted on camels, and a promiscuous multitude of about six thousand on foot.
After marching some distance, the motley host stopped to refresh themselves on the bank of a rivulet near a village. Their arrival aroused the dogs of the village, who surrounded Ayesha and barked at her most clamorously. Like all Arabs, she was superstitious, and considered this an evil omen. Her apprehensions were increased on learning that the name of the village was Jowab. “My trust is in God,” exclaimed she, solemnly. “To him do I turn in time of trouble”—a text from the Koran, used by Moslems in time of extreme danger. In fact, she called to mind some proverb of the prophet about the dogs of Jowab, and a prediction that one of his wives would be barked at by them when in a situation of imminent peril. “I will go no further,” cried Ayesha; “I will halt here for the night.” So saying, she struck her camel on the leg to make him kneel that she might alight.
Telha and Zobeir, dreading any delay, brought some peasants whom they had suborned to assign a different name to the village, and thus quieted her superstitious fears. About the same time some horsemen, likewise instructed by them, rode up with a false report that Ali was not far distant with a body of troops. Ayesha hesitated no longer, but mounting nimbly on her camel, pressed to the head of her little army, and they all pushed forward with increased expedition toward Bassora. Arrived before the city, they had hoped, from the sanguine declarations of Telha, to see it throw open its gates to receive them; the gates, however, remained closely barred. Othman Ibn Hanef, whom Ali had sent without success to assume the government of Cufa, was now in command at Bassora, whither he had been invited by a part of the inhabitants.
Ayesha sent a summons to the governor to come forth and join the standard of the faithful, or at least to throw open his gates; but he was a timid, undecided man, and confiding the defense of the city to his lieutenant Ammar, retired in great tribulation within his own dwelling in the citadel, and went to prayers.
Ammar summoned the people to arms, and called a meeting of the principal inhabitants in the mosque. He soon found out, to his great discouragement, that the people were nearly equally divided into two factions—one for Ali, since he was regularly elected Caliph, the other composed of partisans of Telha. The parties, instead of deliberating, fell to reviling, and ended by throwing dust in each other’s faces.
In the mean time Ayesha and her host approached the walls, and many of the inhabitants went forth to meet her. Telha and Zobeir alternately addressed the multitude, and were followed by Ayesha, who harangued them from her camel. Her voice, which she elevated that it might be heard by all, became shrill and sharp, instead of intelligible, and provoked the merriment of some of the crowd. A dispute arose as to the justice of her appeal; mutual revilings again took place between the parties; they gave each other the lie, and again threw dust in each other’s faces. One of the men of Bassora then turned and reproached Ayesha. “Shame on thee, oh Mother of the Faithful!” said he. “The murder of the Caliph was a grievous crime, but was a less abomination than thy forgetfulness of the modesty of thy sex. Wherefore dost thou abandon thy quiet home, and thy protecting veil, and ride forth like a man barefaced on that accursed camel, to foment quarrels and dissensions among the faithful?”
Another of the crowd scoffed at Telha and Zobeir. “You have brought your mother with you,” cried he; “why did you not also bring your wives?”
Insults were soon followed by blows, swords were drawn, a skirmish ensued, and they fought until the hour of prayer separated them.
Ayesha sat down before Bassora with her armed host, and some days passed in alternate skirmishes and negotiations. At length a truce was agreed upon, until deputies could be sent to Medina to learn the cause of these dissensions among the Moslems, and whether Telha and Zobeir agreed voluntarily to the election of Ali, or did so on compulsion: if the former, they should be considered as rebels; if the latter, their partisans in Bassora should be considered justified in upholding them.
The insurgents, however, only acquiesced in this agreement to get the governor in their power, and so gain possession of the city. They endeavored to draw him to their camp by friendly messages, but he apparently suspected their intentions, and refused to come forth until the answer should be received from Medina. Upon this Telha and Zobeir, taking advantage of a stormy night, gained an entrance into the city with a chosen band, and surprised the governor in the mosque, where they took him prisoner, after killing forty of his guard. They sent to Ayesha to know what they should do with their captive. “Let him be put to death,” was her fierce reply. Upon this one of her women interceded. “I adjure thee,” said she, “in the name of Allah and the companions of the apostle, do not slay him.” Ayesha was moved by this adjuration, and commuted his punishment into forty stripes and imprisonment. He was doomed, however, to suffer still greater evils before he escaped from the hands of his captors. His beard was plucked out hair by hair, one of the most disgraceful punishments that can be inflicted on an Arab. His eyebrows were served in the same manner, and he was then contemptuously set at liberty.
The city of Bassora was now taken possession of without further resistance. Ayesha entered it in state, supported by Telha and Zobeir, and followed by her troops and adherents. The inhabitants were treated with kindness, as friends who had acted through error; and every exertion was made to secure their good-will, and to incense them against Ali, who was represented as a murderer and usurper.
ALI DEFEATS THE REBELS UNDER AYESHA—HIS TREATMENT OF HER.
WHEN Ali heard of the revolt at Mecca, and the march against Bassora, he called a general meeting in the mosque, and endeavored to stir up the people to arm and follow him in pursuit of the rebels; but, though he spoke with his usual eloquence, and was popular in Medina, a coldness and apathy pervaded the assembly. Some dreaded a civil war; others recollected that the leader of the rebels, against whom they were urged to take up arms, was Ayesha, the favorite wife of the prophet, the Mother of the Faithful; others doubted whether Ali might not, in some degree, be implicated in the death of Othman, which had been so artfully charged against him.
At length a Moslem of distinction, Ziyad Ibn Hantelah, rose with generous warmth, and stepping up to Ali, “Let whosoever, will hold back,” cried he; “we will go forward.”
At the same time two Ansars, or doctors of the law, men of great weight, pronounced with oracular voice, “The Imam Othman, master of the two testimonies, did not die by the hand of the master of the two testimonies;” * that is to say, “Othman was not slain by Ali.”
* The two testimonies mean the two fundamental beliefs of the Moslem creed: “There is but one God. Mohammed is the apostle of God.” The Caliph, as Imam or pontiff of the Mussulman religion, is master of the two testimonies.
The Arabs are a mercurial people, and acted upon by sudden impulses. The example of Ziyad, and the declaration of the two Ansars, caused an immediate excitement. Abu Kotada, an Ansar of distinction, drew his sword. “The apostle of God,” said he, “upon whom be peace, girt me with this sword. It has long been sheathed. I now devote it to the destruction of these deceivers of the faithful.”
A matron in a transport of enthusiasm exclaimed, “Oh Commander of the Faithful, if it were permitted by our law, I myself would go with thee; but here is my cousin, dearer to me than my own life; he shall follow thee and partake of thy fortunes.”
Ali profited by the excitement of the moment, and making a hasty levy marched out of Medina at the head of about nine hundred men, eager to overtake the rebels before they should reach Bassora. Hearing, however, that Ayesha was already in possession of that city, he halted at a place called Arrabdah until he should be joined by reinforcements; sending messengers to Abu Musa Alashair, governor of Cufa, and to various other commanders, ordering speedy succor. He was soon joined by his eldest son Hassan, who undertook to review his conduct and lecture him on his policy. “I told you,” said he, “when the Caliph Othman was besieged, to go out of the city, lest you should be implicated in his death. I told you not to be inaugurated until deputies from the Arabian tribes were present. Lastly, I told you when Ayesha and her two confederates took the field, to keep at home until they should be pacified; so that, should any mischief result, you might not be made responsible. You have not heeded my advice, and the consequence is that you may now be murdered to-morrow, with nobody to blame but yourself.”
Ali listened with impatience to this filial counsel, or rather censure; when it was finished he replied, “Had I left the city when Othman was besieged, I should myself have been surrounded. Had I waited for my inauguration until all the tribes came in, I should have lost the votes of the people of Medina, the ‘Helpers,’ who have the privilege of disposing of the government. Had I remained at home after my enemies had taken the field, like a wild beast lurking in its hole, I should like a wild beast have been digged out and destroyed. If I do not look after my own affairs, who will look after them? If I do not defend myself, who will defend me? Such are my reasons for acting as I have acted; and now, my son, hold your peace.” We hear of no further counsels from Hassan.
Ali had looked for powerful aid from Abu Musa Alashair, governor of Cufa, but he was of a lukewarm spirit, and cherished no good will to the Caliph, from his having sent Othman Ibn Hanef to supplant him, as has been noticed. He therefore received his messengers with coldness, and sent a reply full of evasions. Ali was enraged at this reply; and his anger was increased by the arrival about the same time of the unfortunate Othman Ibn Hanef, who had been so sadly scourged and maltreated and ejected from his government at Bassora. What most grieved the heart of the ex-governor was the indignity that had been offered to his person. “Oh Commander of the Faithful,” said he, mournfully, “when you sent me to Bassora I had a beard, and now, alas, I have not a hair on my chin!”
Ali commiserated the unfortunate man who thus deplored the loss of his beard more than of his government, but comforted him with the assurance that his sufferings would be counted to him as merits. He then spoke of his own case; the Caliphs, his predecessors, had reigned without opposition; but, for his own part, those who had joined in electing him, had proved false to him. “Telha and Zobeir,” said he, “have submitted to Abu Beker, Oman, and Othman; why have they arrayed themselves against me? By Allah, they shall find that I am not one jot inferior to my predecessors!”
Ali now sent more urgent messages to Abu Musa, governor of Cufa, by his son Hassan and Ammar Ibn Yaser, his general of the horse, a stern old soldier, ninety years of age, the same intrepid spokesman who, for his hardihood of tongue, had been severely maltreated by order of the Caliph Othman. They were reinforced by Alashtar, a determined officer, who had been employed in the previous mission, and irritated by the prevarications of Abu Musa.
Hassan and Ammar were received with ceremonious respect by the governor, and their mission was discussed, according to usage, in the mosque, but Alashtar remained with the guard that had escorted them. The envoys pressed their errand with warmth, urging the necessity of their sending immediate succor to the Caliph. Abu Musa, however, who prided himself more upon words than deeds, answered them by an evasive harangue; signifying his doubts of the policy of their proceeding; counselling that the troops should return to Medina, that the whole matter in dispute should be investigated, and the right to rule amicably adjusted. “It is a bad business,” added he, “and he that meddles least with it stands less chance of doing wrong. For what says the prophet touching an evil affair of the kind? He who sleepeth in it is more secure than he that waketh; he that lyeth than he that sitteth; he that sitteth than he that standeth; he that standeth than he that walketh; and he that walketh than he that rideth. Sheathe, therefore, your swords, take the heads from your lances, and the strings from your bows, and receive him that is injured into your dwellings, until all matters are adjusted and reconciled.”
The ancient general, Ammar, replied to him tartly, that he had misapplied the words of the prophet, which were meant to rebuke such servants as himself, who were better sitting than standing, and sleeping than awake. Abu Musa would have answered him with another long harangue in favor of non-resistance, but was interrupted by the sudden entrance of a number of his soldiers, bearing evidence of having been piteously beaten. While Abu Musa had been holding forth at the mosque, Alashtar, the hardy officer who remained with the escort, had seized upon the castle of Cufa, caused the garrison to be soundly scourged, and sent them to the mosque to cut short the negotiation. This prompt measure of Alashtar placed the cold-spirited conduct of Abu Musa in so ridiculous a light that the feelings of the populace were instantly turned against him. Hassan, the son of Ali, seized upon the moment to address the assembly. He maintained the innocence of his father in regard to the assassination of Othman. “His father,” he said, “had either done wrong, or had suffered wrong. If he had done wrong, God would punish him. If he had suffered wrong, God would help him. The case was in the hand of the Most High. Telha and Zobeir, who were the first to inaugurate him, were the first to turn against him. What had he done, as Caliph, to merit such opposition? What injustice had he committed? What covetous or selfish propensity had he manifested? I am going back to my father,” added Hassan; “those who are disposed to render him assistance may follow me.”
His eloquence was powerfully effective, and the people of Cufa followed him to the number of nearly nine thousand. In the mean time the army of Ali had been reinforced from other quarters, and now amounted to thirty thousand men, all of whom had seen service. When he appeared with his force before Bassora, Ayesha and her confederates were dismayed, and began to treat of conciliation. Various messages passed between the hostile parties, and Telha and Zobeir, confiding in the honorable faith of Ali, had several interviews with him.
When these late deadly enemies were seen walking backward and forward together, in sight of either army, and holding long conversations, it was confidently expected that a peace would be effected; and such would have been the case had no malign influence interfered; for Ali, with his impressive eloquence, touched the hearts of his opponents, when he reproached them with their breach of faith, and warned them against the judgments of heaven. “Dost thou not remember,” said he to Zobeir, “how Mohammed once asked thee if thou didst not love his dear son Ali? and when thou answered yea, dost thou not remember his reply: ‘Nevertheless a day will come when thou wilt rise up against him, and draw down miseries upon him and upon all the faithful?’”
“I remember it well,” replied Zobeir, “and had I remembered it before, never would I have taken up arms against you.”
He returned to his camp determined not to fight against Ali, but was overruled by the vindictive Ayesha. Every attempt at pacification was defeated by that turbulent woman, and the armies were at length brought to battle. Ayesha took the field on that memorable occasion, mounted in a litter on her great camel Alascar, and rode up and down among her troops, animating them by her presence and her voice. The fight was called, from that circumstance, The Battle of the Camel, and also the battle of Karibah, from the field on which it was fought.
It was an obstinate and bloody conflict, for Moslem was arrayed against Moslem, and nothing is so merciless and unyielding as civil war. In the heat of the fight Merwan Ibn Hakem, who stood near Ali, noticed Telha endeavoring to goad on the flagging valor of his troops. “Behold the traitor Telha,” cried he, “but lately one of the murderers of Othman, now the pretended avenger of his blood.” So saying, he let fly an arrow and wounded him in the leg. Telha writhed with the pain; and at the same moment his horse reared and threw him. In the dismay and anguish of the moment he imprecated the vengeance of Allah upon his own head for the death of Othman. Seeing his boot full of blood, he made one of his followers take him up behind him on his horse and convey him to Bassora. Finding death approaching, he called to one of Ali’s men who happened to be present, “Give me your hand,” said the dying penitent, “that I may put mine in it, and thus renew my oath of fealty to Ali.” With these words he expired. His dying speech was reported to Ali, and touched his generous heart. “Allah,” said he, “would not call him to heaven until he had blotted out his first breach of his word by this last vow of fidelity.”
Zobeir, the other conspirator, had entered into the battle with a heavy heart. His previous conversation with Ali had awakened compunction in his bosom. He now saw that old Ammar Ibn Yaser, noted for probity and rectitude, was in the Caliph’s host; and he recollected hearing Mohammed say that Ammar Ibn Yaser would always be found on the side of truth and justice. With a boding spirit he drew out of the battle and took the road toward Mecca. As he was urging his melancholy way he came to a valley crossed by the brook Sabaa, where Hanef Ibn Kais was encamped with a horde of Arabs, awaiting the issue of the battle, ready to join the conqueror and share the spoil. Hanef knew him at a distance. “Is there no one,” said he, “to bring me tidings of Zobeir?” One of his men, Amru Ibn Jarmuz, understood the hint, and spurred to overtake Zobeir. The latter, suspecting his intentions, bade him keep at a distance. A short conversation put them on friendly terms, and they both dismounted and conversed together. The hour of prayers arrived. “Salat” (to prayers!) cried Zobeir. “Salat,” replied Amru; but as Zobeir prostrated himself in supplication, Amru struck off his head, and hastened with it, as a welcome trophy, to Ali. That generous conqueror shed tears over the bleeding head of one who was once his friend. Then turning to his slayer, “Hence, miscreant!” cried he, “and carry thy tidings to Ben Safiah in hell!” So unexpected a malediction, where he expected a reward, threw Amru into a transport of rage and desperation; he uttered a rhapsody of abuse upon Ali, and then, drawing his sword, plunged it into his own bosom.
Such was the end of the two leaders of the rebels. As to Ayesha, the implacable soul of the revolt, she had mingled that day in the hottest of the fight. Tabari, the Persian historian, with national exaggeration, declares that the heads of threescore and ten men were cut off that held the bridle of her camel, and that the enclosed litter in which she rode was bristled all over with darts and arrows. At last her camel was hamstringed, and sank with her to the ground, and she remained there until the battle was concluded.
Ayesha might have looked for cruel treatment at the hands of Ali, having been his vindictive and persevering enemy, but he was too magnanimous to triumph over a fallen foe. It is said some reproachful words passed between them, but he treated her with respect, gave her an attendance of forty females, and sent his sons Hassan and Hosein to escort her a day’s journey toward Medina, where she was confined to her own house, and forbidden to intermeddle any more with affairs of state. He then divided the spoils among the heirs of his soldiers who were slain, and appointed Abdallah Ibn Abbas governor of Bassora. This done, he repaired to Cufa, and in reward of the assistance he had received from its inhabitants, made that city the seat of his Caliphat. These occurrences took place in the thirty-fifth year of the Hegira, the 655th of the Christian era.
BATTLES BETWEEN ALI AND MOAWYAH—THEIR CLAIMS TO THE CALIPHAT LEFT TO ARBITRATION; THE RESULT—DECLINE OF THE POWER OF ALI—LOSS OF EGYPT.
THE victory at Karibah had crushed the conspiracy of Ayesha, and given Ali quiet dominion over Egypt, Arabia, and Persia; still his most formidable adversary remained unsubdued. Moawyah Ibn Abu Sofian held sway over the wealthy and populous province of Syria; he had immense treasures and a powerful army at his command; he had the prejudices of the Syrians in his favor, who had been taught to implicate Ali in the murder of Othman, and refused to acknowledge him as Caliph. Still further to strengthen himself in defiance of the sovereign power, he sought the alliance of Amru, who had been displaced from the government of Egypt by Ali, and was now a discontented man in Palestine. Restoration to that command was to be the reward of his successful co-operation with Moawyah in deposing Ali; the terms were accepted; Amru hastened to Damascus at the head of a devoted force; and finding the public mind ripe for his purpose, gave the hand of allegiance to Moawyah in presence of the assembled army, and proclaimed him Caliph, amid the shouts of the multitude.
Ali had in vain endeavored to prevent the hostility of Moawyah, by all conciliatory means; when he heard of this portentous alliance he took the field and marched for Syria, at the head of ninety thousand men. The Arabians, with their accustomed fondness for the marvellous, signalize his entrance into the confines of Syria with an omen. Having halted his army in a place where there was no water, he summoned a Christian hermit, who lived in a neighboring cave, and demanded to be shown a well. The anchorite assured him that there was nothing but a cistern, in which there were scarce three buckets of rain water. Ali maintained that certain prophets of the people of Israel had abode there in times of old, and had digged a well there. The hermit replied that a well did indeed exist there, but it had been shut up for ages, and all traces of it lost, and it was only to be discovered and reopened by a predestined hand. He then, says the Arabian tradition, produced a parchment scroll written by Simeon ben Safa (Simon Cephas), one of the greatest apostles of Jesus Christ, predicting the coming of Mohammed, the last of the prophets, and that this well would be discovered and reopened by his lawful heir and successor.
Ali listened with becoming reverence to this prediction; then turning to his attendants and pointing to a spot, “Dig there,” said he. They digged, and after a time came to an immense stone, which having removed with difficulty, the miraculous well stood revealed, affording a seasonable supply to the army, and an unquestionable proof of the legitimate claim of Ali to the Caliphat. The venerable hermit was struck with conviction; he fell at the feet of Ali, embraced his knees, and never afterward would leave him.
It was on the first day of the thirty-seventh year of the Hegira (18th June, A.D. 657), that Ali came in sight of the army of Moawyah, consisting of eighty thousand men, encamped on the plain of Seffein, on the banks of the Euphrates, on the confines of Babylonia and Syria. Associated with Moawyah was the redoubtable Amru, a powerful ally both in council and in the field. The army of Ali was superior in number; in his host, too, he had several veterans who had fought under Mohammed in the famous battle of Beder, and thence prided themselves in the surname of Shahabah; that is to say, Companions of the Prophet. The most distinguished of these was old Ammar Ibn Yaser, Ali’s general of horse, who had fought repeatedly by the side of Mohammed. He was ninety years of age, yet full of spirit and activity, and idolized by the Moslem soldiery.
The armies lay encamped in sight of each other, but as it was the first month of the Moslem year, a sacred month, when all warfare is prohibited, it was consumed in negotiations; for Ali still wished to avoid the effusion of kindred blood. His efforts were in vain, and in the next month hostilities commenced; still Ali drew his sword with an unwilling hand; he charged his soldiers never to be the first to fight; never to harm those who fled, and never to do violence to a woman. Moawyah and Amru were likewise sensible of the unnatural character of this war; the respective leaders, therefore, avoided any general action, and months passed in mere skirmishings. These, however, were sharp and sanguinary, and in the course of four months Moawyah is said to have lost five-and-forty thousand men, and Ali more than half that number.
Among the slain on the part of Ali were five-and-twenty of the Shahabah, the veterans of Beder, and companions of the prophet. Their deaths were deplored even by the enemy; but nothing caused greater grief than the fall of the brave old Ammar Ibn Yaser, Ali’s general of horse, and the patriarch of Moslem chivalry. Moawyah and Amru beheld him fall. “Do you see,” cried Moawyah, “what precious lives are lost in our dissensions?” “See,” exclaimed Amru; “would to God I had died twenty years since!”
Ali forgot his usual moderation on beholding the fate of his brave old general of the horse, and putting himself at the head of twelve thousand cavalry, made a furious charge to avenge his death. The ranks of the enemy were broken by the shock; but the heart of Ali soon relented at the sight of carnage. Spurring within call of Moawyah, “How long,” cried he, “shall Moslem blood be shed like water in our strife? Come forth, and let Allah decide between us. Whichever is victor in the fight, let him be ruler.”
Amru was struck with the generous challenge, and urged Moawyah to accept it; but the latter shunned an encounter with an enemy surnamed “The Lion,” for his prowess, and who had always slain his adversary in single fight. Amru hinted at the disgrace that would attend his refusal; to which Moawyah answered with a sneer, “You do wisely to provoke a combat that may make you governor of Syria.”
A desperate battle at length took place, which continued throughout the night. Many were slain on both sides; but most on the part of the Syrians. Alashtar was the hero of this fight; he was mounted upon a piebald horse, and wielded a two-edged sword; every stroke of that terrible weapon clove down a warrior, and every stroke was accompanied by the shout of Allah Achbar! He was heard to utter that portentous exclamation, say the Arabian historians, four hundred times during the darkness of the night.
The day dawned disastrously upon the Syrians. Alashtar was pressing them to their very encampment, and Moawyah was in despair, when Amru suggested an expedient, founded on the religious scruples of the Moslems. On a sudden the Syrians elevated the Koran on the points of their lances. “Behold the book of God,” cried they. “Let that decide our differences.” The soldiers of Ali instantly dropped the points of their weapons. It was in vain Ali represented that this was all a trick, and endeavored to urge them on. “What!” cried they, “do you refuse to submit to the decision of the book of God?”
Ali found that to persist would be to shock their bigot prejudices, and to bring a storm upon his own head; reluctantly, therefore, he sounded a retreat; but it required repeated blasts to call off Alashtar, who came, his scimitar dripping with blood, and murmuring at being, as he said, tricked out of so glorious a victory.
Umpires were now appointed to settle this great dispute according to the dictates of the Koran. Ali would have nominated on his part Abdallah Ibn Abbas, but he was objected to, as being his cousin-german. He then named the brave Alashtar, but he was likewise set aside, and Abu Musa pressed upon him, an upright, but simple and somewhat garrulous man, as has already been shown. As to Moawyah, he managed on his part to have Amru Ibn al Aass appointed, the shrewdest and most sagacious man in all Arabia. The two rival leaders then retired, Ali to Cufa, and Moawyah to Damascus, leaving generals in command of their respective armies.
The arbitrators met several months afterward at Jumat al Joudel, in presence of both armies, who were pledged to support their decision. Amru, who understood the weak points of Musa’s character, treated him with great deference, and after having won his confidence, persuaded him that, to heal these dissensions, and prevent the shedding of kindred blood, it would be expedient to set aside both candidates and let the faithful elect a third. This being agreed upon, a tribunal was erected between the armies, and Amru, through pretended deference, insisted that Musa should be the first to ascend it and address the people. Abu Musa accordingly ascended, and proclaimed with a loud voice, “I depose Ali and Moawyah from the office to which they pretend, even as I draw this ring from my finger.” So saying, he descended.
Amru now mounted in his turn. “You have heard,” said he, “how Musa on his part has deposed Ali; I on my part depose him also; and I adjudge the Caliphat to Moawyah, and invest him with it, as I invest my finger with this ring; and I do it with justice, for he is the rightful successor and avenger of Othman.”
Murmurs succeeded from the partisans of Ali, and from Abu Musa, who complained of the insincerity of Amru. The Syrians applauded the decision, and both parties, being prevented from hostilities by a solemn truce, separated without any personal violence, but with mutual revilings and augmented enmity. A kind of religious feud sprang up, which continued for a long time between the house of Ali and that of Ommiah; they never mentioned each other without a curse, and pronounced an excommunication upon each other whenever they harangued the people in the mosque.
The power of Ali now began to wane; the decision pronounced against him influenced many of his own party, and a revolt was at length stirred up among his followers, by a set of fanatic zealots called Karigites or seceders, who insisted that he had done wrong in referring to the judgment of men what ought to be decided by God alone; and that he had refused to break the truce and massacre his enemies when in his power, though they had proved themselves to be the enemies of God; they therefore renounced allegiance to him; appointed Abdallah Ibn Waheb as their leader, and set up their standard at Naharwan, a few miles from Bagdad, whither the disaffected repaired from all quarters, until they amounted to twenty-five thousand.
The appearance of Ali with an army brought many of them to their senses. Willing to use gentle measures, he caused a standard to be erected outside of his camp, and proclaimed a pardon to such of the malcontents as should rally round it. The rebel army immediately began to melt away until Abdallah Ibn Waheb was left with only four thousand adherents. These, however, were fierce enthusiasts, and their leader was a fanatic. Trusting that Allah and the prophet would render him miraculous assistance, he attacked the army of Ali with his handful of men, who fought with such desperation that nine only escaped. These served as firebrands to enkindle future mischief.
Moawyah had now recourse to a stratagem to sow troubles in Egypt, and ultimately to put it in the hands of Amru. Ali, on assuming the Caliphat, had appointed Saad Ibn Kais to the government of that province, who administered its affairs with ability. Moawyah now forged a letter from Saad to himself, professing devotion to his interests, and took measures to let it fall into the hands of Ali. The plan was successful. The suspicions of Ali were excited; he recalled Saad and appointed in his place Mahomet, son of Abu Beker, and brother of Ayesha. Mahomet began to govern with a high hand, proscribing and exiling the leaders of the Othman faction, who made the murder of the late Caliph a question of party. This immediately produced commotions and insurrections, and all Egypt was getting into a blaze. Ali again sought to remedy the evil by changing the governor, and dispatched Malec Shutur, a man of prudence and ability, to take the command. In the course of his journey Malec lodged one night at the house of a peasant, on the confines of Arabia and Egypt. The peasant was a creature of Moawyah’s, and poisoned his unsuspecting guest with a pot of honey. Moawyah followed up this treacherous act by sending Amru with six thousand horse to seize upon Egypt in its present stormy state. Amru hastened with joy to the scene of his former victories, made his way rapidly to Alexandria, united his force with that of Ibn Sharig, the leader of the Othman party, and they together routed Mahomet Ibn Abu Beker, and took him prisoner. The avengers of Othman reviled Mahomet with his assassination of that Caliph, put him to death, enclosed his body in the carcass of an ass, and burnt both to ashes. Then Amru assumed the government of Egypt as lieutenant of Moawyah.
When Ayesha heard of the death of her brother, she knelt down in the mosque, and in the agony of her heart invoked a curse upon Moawyah and Amru, an invocation which she thenceforth repeated at the end of all her prayers. Ali, also, was afflicted at the death of Mahomet, and exclaimed, “The murderers will answer for this before God.”
PREPARATIONS OF ALl FOR THE INVASION OF SYRIA— HIS ASSASSINATION.
THE loss of Egypt was a severe blow to the fortunes of Ali, and he had the mortification subsequently to behold his active rival make himself master of Hejaz, plant his standard on the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina, and ravage the fertile province of Yemen. The decline of his power affected his spirits, and he sank at times into despondency. His melancholy was aggravated by the conduct of his own brother Okail, who, under pretense that Ali did not maintain him in suitable style, deserted him in his sinking fortunes, and went over to Moawyah, who rewarded his unnatural desertion with ample revenues.
Still Ali meditated one more grand effort. Sixty thousand devoted adherents pledged themselves to stand by him to the death, and with these he prepared to march into Syria. While preparations were going on, it chanced that three zealots, of the sect of Karigites, met as pilgrims in the mosque of Mecca, and fell into conversation about the battle of Naharwan, wherein four thousand of their brethren had lost their lives. This led to lamentations over the dissensions and dismemberment of the Moslem empire, all which they attributed to the ambition of Ali, Moawyah, and Amru. The Karigites were a fanatic sect, and these men were zealots of that dangerous kind who are ready to sacrifice their lives in the accomplishment of any bigot plan. In their infuriate zeal they determined that the only way to restore peace and unity to Islam would be to destroy those three ambitious leaders, and they devoted themselves to the task, each undertaking to dispatch his victim. The several assassinations were to be effected at the same time, on Friday, the seventeenth of the month Ramadan, at the hour of prayer; and that their blows might be infallibly mortal, they were to use poisoned weapons.
The names of the conspirators were Barak Ibn Abdallah, Amru Ibn Asi, and Abda’lrahman Ibn Melgem. Barak repaired to Damascus and mingled in the retinue of Moawyah on the day appointed, which was the Moslem sabbath; then, as the usurper was officiating in the mosque as pontiff, Barak gave him what he considered a fatal blow. The wound was desperate, but the life of Moawyah was saved by desperate remedies; the assassin was mutilated of hands and feet and suffered to live, but was slain in after years by a friend of Moawyah.
Amru Ibn Asi, the second of these fanatics, entered the mosque in Egypt on the same day and hour, and, with one blow killed Karijah, the Imam, who officiated, imagining him to be Amru Ibn al Aass, who was prevented from attending the mosque through illness. The assassin being led before his intended victim, and informed of his error, replied with the resignation of a predestinarian, “I intended Amru; but Allah intended Karijah.” He was presently executed.
Abda’lrahman, the third assassin, repaired to Cufa, where Ali held his court. Here he lodged with a woman of the sect of the Karigites, whose husband had been killed in the battle of Naharwân. To this woman he made proposals of marriage, but she replied she would have no man who could not bring her, as a dowry, three thousand drachms of silver, a slave, a maid-servant, and the head of Ali. He accepted the conditions, and joined two other Karigites, called Derwan and Shabib, with him in the enterprise. They stationed themselves in the mosque to await the coming of the Caliph.
Ali had recently been afflicted with one of his fits of despondency, and had uttered ejaculations which were afterward considered presages of his impending fate. In one of his melancholy moods he exclaimed, with a heavy sigh, “Alas, my heart! there is need of patience, for there is no remedy against death!” In parting from his house to go to the mosque, there was a clamor among his domestic fowls, which he interpreted into a fatal omen. As he entered the mosque the assassins drew their swords and pretended to be fighting among themselves; Derwan aimed a blow at the Caliph, but it fell short, and struck the gate of the mosque; a blow from Abda’lrahman was better aimed, and wounded Ali in the head. The assassins then separated and fled. Derwan was pursued and slain at the threshold of his home; Shabib distanced his pursuers and escaped. Abda’lrahman, after some search, was discovered hidden in a corner of the mosque, his sword still in his hand. He was dragged forth and brought before the Caliph. The wound of Ali was pronounced mortal; he consigned his murderer to the custody of his son Hassan, adding, with his accustomed clemency “Let him want for nothing; and, if I die of my wound, let him not be tortured; let his death be by a single blow.” His orders, according to the Persian writers, were strictly complied with, but the Arabians declare that he was killed by piecemeal; and the Moslems opposed to the sect of Ali hold him up as a martyr.
The death of Ali happened within three days after receiving his wound: it was in the fortieth year of the Hegira, A.D. 660. He was about sixty-three years of age, of which he had reigned not quite five. His remains were interred about five miles from Cufa; and, in after times, a magnificent tomb, covered by a mosque, with a splendid dome, rose over his grave, and it became the site of a city called Meshed Ali, or, the Sepulchre of Ali, and was enriched and beautified by many Persian monarchs.
We make no concluding comments on the noble and generous character of Ali, which has been sufficiently illustrated throughout all the recorded circumstances of his life. He was one of the last and worthiest of the primitive Moslems, who imbibed his religious enthusiasm from companionship with the prophet himself; and who followed, to the last, the simplicity of his example. He is honorably spoken of as the first Caliph who accorded some protection to Belles-Lettres. He indulged in the poetic vein himself, and many of his maxims and proverbs are preserved, and have been translated into various languages. His signet bore this inscription: “The kingdom belongs to God.” One of his sayings shows the little value he set upon the transitory glories of this world. “Life is but the shadow of a cloud; the dream of a sleeper.”
By his first wife, Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed, he had three sons, Mohassan, who died young, and Hassan and Hosein, who survived him. After her death he had eight other wives, and his issue, in all, amounted to fifteen sons and eighteen daughters. His descendants, by Fatima, are distinguished among Moslems as descendants of the prophet, and are very numerous, being reckoned both by the male and female line. They wear turbans of a peculiar fashion, and twist their hair in a different manner from other Moslems. They are considered of noble blood, and designated in different countries by various titles, such as Sheriffs, Fatimites, and Emirs. The Persians venerate Ali as next to the prophet, and solemnize the anniversary of his martyrdom. The Turks hold him in abhorrence, and for a long time, in their prayers, accompanied his name with execrations, but subsequently abated in their violence. It is said that Ali was born in the Kaaba, or holy temple of Mecca, where his mother was suddenly taken in labor, and that he was the only person of such distinguished birth.
SUCCESSION OF HASSAN, FIFTH CALIPH—HE ABDICATES IN FAVOR OF MOAWYAH.
IN his dying moments, Ali had refused to nominate a successor, but his eldest son Hassan, then in his 37th year, was elected without opposition. He stood high in the favor of the people, partly from his having been a favorite with his grandfather, the prophet, to whom in his features he bore a strong resemblance; but chiefly from the moral excellence of his character, for he was upright, sincere, benevolent, and devout. He lacked, however, the energy and courage necessary to a sovereignty, where the scepter was a sword; and he was unfitted to command in the civil wars which distracted the empire, for he had a horror of shedding Moslem blood. He made a funeral speech over his father’s remains, showing that his death was coincident with great and solemn events. “He was slain,” said he, “on the same night of the year in which the Koran was transmitted to earth; in which Isa (Jesus) was taken up to heaven, and in which Joshua, the son of Nun, was killed. By Allah! none of his predecessors surpassed him, nor will he ever be equalled by a successor.”
Then Kais, a trusty friend of the house of Ali, commenced the inauguration of the new Caliph. “Stretch forth thy hand,” said he to Hassan, “in pledge that thou wilt stand by the book of God, and the tradition of the apostle, and make war against all opposers.” Hassan complied with the ceremonial, and was proclaimed Caliph, and the people were called upon to acknowledge allegiance to him, and engage to maintain peace with his friends, and war with his enemies. Some of the people, however, with the characteristic fickleness of Babylonians, murmured at the suggestion of further warfare, and said, we want no fighting Caliph.
Had Hassan consulted his own inclination, he would willingingly have clung to peace, and submitted to the usurpations of Moawyah; but he was surrounded by valiant generals eager for action, and stimulated by his brother Hosein, who inherited the daring character of their father; besides, there were sixty thousand fighting men, all ready for the field, and who had been on the point of marching into Syria under Ali. Unwillingly, therefore, he put himself at the head of this force and commenced his march. Receiving intelligence that Moawyah had already taken the field and was advancing to meet him, he sent Kais in the advance, with 12,000 light troops, to hold the enemy in check, while he followed with the main army. Kais executed his commission with spirit, had a smart skirmish with the Syrians, and having checked them in their advance, halted and put himself in a position to await the coming of the Caliph.
Hassan, however, had already become sensible of his incompetency to military command. There was disaffection among some of his troops, who were people of Irak or Babylonia, disinclined to this war. On reaching the city of Madayn, an affray took place among the soldiers in which one was slain; a fierce tumult succeeded; Hassan attempted to interfere, but was jostled and wounded in the throng, and obliged to retire into the citadel. He had taken refuge from violence, and was in danger of treason, for the nephew of the governor of Madayn proposed to his uncle, now that he had Hassan within his castle, to make him his prisoner, and send him in chains to Moawyah. “A curse upon thee for a traitor and an infidel!” cried the honest old governor; “wouldst thou betray the son of the daughter of the Apostle of God?”
The mild-tempered Caliph, who had no ambition of command, was already disheartened by its troubles. He saw that he had an active and powerful enemy to contend with, and fickleness and treachery among his own people; he sent proposals to Moawyah, offering to resign the Caliphat to him, on condition that he should be allowed to retain the money in the public treasury at Cufa, and the revenues of a great estate in Persia, and that Moawyah would desist from all evil speaking against his deceased father. Moawyah assented to the two former of these stipulations, but would only consent to refrain from speaking evil of Ali in presence of Hassan; and indeed such was the sectarian hatred already engendered against Ali, that, under the sway of Moawyah, his name was never mentioned in the mosques without a curse, and such continued to be the case for several generations under the dominion of the house of Ommiah.
Another condition exacted by Hassan, and which ultimately proved fatal to him, was that he should be entitled to resume the Caliphat on the death of Moawyah, who was above a score of years his senior. These terms being satisfactorily adjusted, Hassan abdicated in favor of Moawyah, to the great indignation of his brother Hosein, who considered the memory of their father Ali dishonored by this arrangement. The people of Cufa refused to comply with that condition relative to the public treasury, insisting upon it that it was their property. Moawyah, however, allowed Hassan an immense revenue, with which he retired with his brother to Medina, to enjoy that ease and tranquillity which he so much prized. His life was exemplary and devout, and the greater part of his revenue was expended in acts of charity.
Moawyah seems to have been well aware of the power of gold in making the most distasteful things palatable. An old beldame of the lineage of Haschem, and branch of Ali, once reproached him with having supplanted that family, who were his cousins, and with having acted toward them as Pharaoh did toward the children of Israel. Moawyah gently replied, “May Allah pardon what is past,” and inquired what were her wants. She said two thousand pieces of gold for her poor relations, two thousand as a dower for her children, and two thousand as a support for herself. The money was given instantly, and the tongue of the clamorous virago was silenced.
REIGN OF MOAWYAH I., SIXTH CALIPH—ACCOUNT OF HIS ILLEGITIMATE BROTHER ZEYAD—DEATH OF AMRU.
MOAWYAH now, in the forty-first year of the Hegira, assumed legitimate dominion over the whole Moslem empire. The Karigites, it is true, a fanatic sect opposed to all regular government, spiritual or temporal, excited an insurrection in Syria, but Moawyah treated them with more thorough rigor than his predecessors, and finding the Syrians not sufficient to cope with them, called in his new subjects, the Babylonians, to show their allegiance by rooting out this pestilent sect; nor did he stay his hand until they were almost exterminated.
With this Caliph commenced the famous dynasty of the Ommiades or Omeyades, so called from Ommiah his great-grandfather; a dynasty which lasted for many generations, and gave some of the most brilliant names to Arabian history. Moawyah himself gave indications of intellectual refinement. He surrounded himself with men distinguished in science or gifted with poetic talent, and from the Greek provinces and islands which he had subdued, the Greek sciences began to make their way, and under his protection to exert their first influence on the Arabs.
One of the measures adopted by Moawyah to strengthen himself in the Caliphat excited great sensation, and merits particular detail. At the time of the celebrated flight of Mohammed, Abu Sofian, father of Moawyah, at that time chief of the tribe of Koreish, and as yet an inveterate persecutor of the prophet, halted one day for refreshment at the house of a publican in Tayef. Here he became intoxicated with wine, and passed the night in the arms of the wife of a Greek slave, named Somyah, who in process of time made him the father of a male child. Abu Sofian, ashamed of this amour, would not acknowledge the child, but left him to his fate; hence he received the name of Ziyad Ibn Abihi, that it is to say, Ziyad the son of nobody.
The boy, thus deserted, gave early proof of energy and talent. When scarce arrived at manhood, he surprised Amru Ibn al Aass by his eloquence and spirit in addressing a popular assembly. Amru, himself illegitimate, felt a sympathy in the vigor of this spurious offset. “By the prophet!” exclaimed he, “if this youth were but of the noble race of Koreish, he would drive all the tribes of Arabia before him with his staff!”
Ziyad was appointed cadi or judge, in the reign of Omar, and was distinguished by his decisions. On one occasion, certain witnesses came before him accusing Mogeirah Ibn Seid, a distinguished person of unblemished character, with incontinence, but failed to establish the charge; whereupon Ziyad dismissed the accused with honor, and caused his accusers to be scourged with rods for bearing false witness. This act was never forgotten by Mogeirah, who, becoming afterward one of the counsellors of the Caliph Ali, induced him to appoint Ziyad lieutenant or governor of Persia, an arduous post of high trust, the duties of which he discharged with great ability.
After the death of Ali and the abdication of Hassan, events which followed hard upon each other, Ziyad, who still held sway over Persia, hesitated to acknowledge Moawyah as Caliph. The latter was alarmed at this show of opposition, fearing lest Ziyad should join with the family of Haschem, the kindred of the prophet, who desired the elevation of Hosein; he, therefore, sent for Mogeirah, the former patron of Ziyad, and prevailed upon him to mediate between them. Mogeirah repaired to Ziyad in person, bearing a letter of kindness and invitation from the Caliph, and prevailed on him to accompany him to Cufa. On their arrival Moawyah embraced Ziyad, and received him with public demonstrations of respect and affection, as his brother by the father’s side. The fact of their consanguinity was established on the following day, in full assembly, by the publican of Tayef, who bore testimony to the intercourse between Abu Sofian and the beautiful slave.
This decision, enforced by the high hand of authority, elevated Ziyad to the noblest blood of Koreish, and made him eligible to the highest offices, though in fact the strict letter of the Mohammedan law would have pronounced him the son of the Greek slave, who was husband of his mother.
The family of the Ommiades were indignant at having the base-born offspring of a slave thus introduced among them; but Moawyah disregarded these murmurs; he had probably gratified his own feelings of natural affection, and he had firmly attached to his interest a man of extensive influence, and one of the ablest generals of the age.
Moawyah found good service in his valiant though misbegotten brother. Under the sway of incompetent governors the country round Bassora had become overrun with thieves and murderers, and disturbed by all kinds of tumults. Ziyad was put in the command, and hastened to take possession of his turbulent post. He found Bassora a complete den of assassins; not a night but was disgraced by riot and bloodshed, so that it was unsafe to walk the streets after dark. Ziyad was an eloquent man, and he made a public speech terribly to the point. He gave notice that he meant to rule with the sword, and to wreak unsparing punishment on all offenders; he advised all such, therefore, to leave the city. He warned all persons from appearing in public after evening prayers, as a patrol would go the rounds and put every one to death who should be found in the streets. He carried this measure into effect. Two hundred persons were put to death by the patrol during the first night, only five during the second, and not a drop of blood was shed afterward, nor was there any further tumult or disturbance.
Moawyah then employed him to effect the same reforms in Khorassan and many other provinces, and the more he had to execute, the more was his ability evinced, until his mere name would quell commotion, and awe the most turbulent into quietude. Yet he was not sanguinary nor cruel, but severely rigid in his discipline, and inflexible in the dispensation of justice. It was his custom, wherever he held sway, to order the inhabitants to leave their doors open at night, with merely a hurdle at the entrance to exclude cattle, engaging to replace anything that should be stolen; and so effective was his police that no robberies were committed.
Though Ziyad had whole provinces under his government, he felt himself not sufficiently employed; he wrote to the Caliph, therefore, complaining that, while his left hand was occupied in governing Babylonia, his right hand was idle; and he requested the government of Arabia Petrea also, which the Caliph gladly granted him, to the great terror of its inhabitants, who dreaded so stern a ruler. But the sand of Ziyad was exhausted. He was attacked with the plague when on the point of setting out for Arabia. The disease made its appearance with an ulcer in his hand, and the agony made him deliberate whether to smite it off. As it was a case of conscience among predestinarians, he consulted a venerable cadi. “If you die,” said the old expounder of the law, “you go before God without that hand, which you have cut off to avoid appearing in his presence. If you live, you give a by-name to your children, who will be called the sons of the cripple. I advise you, therefore, to let it alone.” The intensity of the pain, however, made him determine on amputation, but the sight of the fire and cauterizing irons again deterred him. He was surrounded by the most expert physicians, but, say the Arabians, “It was not in their power to reverse the sealed decree.” He died in the forty-fifth year of the Hegira and of his own age, and the people he had governed with so much severity considered his death a deliverance. His son Obeidallah, though only twenty-five years of age, was immediately invested by the Caliph with the government of Khorassan, and gave instant proofs of inheriting the spirit of his father. On his way to his government he surprised a large Turkish force, and put them to such sudden flight that their queen left one of her buskins behind, which fell into the hands of her pursuers, and was estimated, from the richness of its jewels, at two thousand pieces of gold.
Ziyad left another son named Salem, who was, several years afterward, when but twenty-four years of age, appointed to the government of Khorassan, and rendered himself so beloved by the people that upward of twenty thousand children were named after him. He had a third son called Kameil, who was distinguished for sagacity and ready wit, and he furthermore left from his progeny a dynasty of princes in Arabia Felix, who ruled under the denomination of the children of Ziyad.
The wise measures of Moawyah produced a calm throughout his empire, although his throne seemed to be elevated on the surface of a volcano. He had reinstated the famous Amru Ibn al Aass in the government of Egypt, allowing him to enjoy the revenues of that opulent province, in gratitude for his having proclaimed him Caliph during his contest with Ali; but stipulating that he should maintain the forces stationed there. The veteran general did not long enjoy this post, as he died in the forty-third year of the Hegira, A.D. 663, as full of honors as of years. In him the cause of Islam lost one of its wisest men and most illustrious conquerors. “Show me,” said Omar to him on one occasion, “the sword with which you have fought so many battles and slain so many infidels.” The Caliph expressed surprise when he unsheathed an ordinary scimitar. “Alas!” said Amru, “the sword without the arm of the master is no sharper nor heavier than the sword of Farezdak the poet.”
Mohammed, whose death preceded that of Amru upward of thirty years, declared, that there was no truer Moslem than he would prove to be, nor one more steadfast in the faith. Although Amru passed most of his life in the exercise of arms, he found time to cultivate the softer arts which belong to peace. We have already shown that he was an orator and a poet. The witty lampoons, however, which he wrote against the prophet in his youth, he deeply regretted in his declining age. He sought the company of men of learning and science, and delighted in the conversation of philosophers. He has left some proverbs distinguished for pithy wisdom, and some beautiful poetry, and his dying advice to his children was celebrated for manly sense and affecting pathos.
SIEGE OF CONSTANTINOPLE—TRUCE WITH THE EMPEROR—MURDER OF HASSAN—DEATH OF AYESHA.
THE Caliph Moawyah being thoroughly established in his sovereignty, was ambitious of foreign conquests, which might shed luster on his name, and obliterate the memory of these civil wars. He was desirous, also, of placing his son Yezid in a conspicuous light, and gaining for him the affections of the people; for he secretly entertained hopes of making him his successor. He determined, therefore, to send him with a great force to attempt the conquest of Constantinople, at that time the capital of the Greek and Roman empire. This indeed was a kind of holy war; for it was fulfilling one of the most ardent wishes of Mohammed, who had looked forward to the conquest of the proud capital of the Caesars as one of the highest triumphs of Islam, and had promised full pardon of all their sins to the Moslem army that should achieve it.
The general command of the army in this expedition was given to a veteran named Sophian, and he was accompanied by several of those old soldiers of the faith, battered in the wars, and almost broken down by years, who had fought by the side of the prophet at Beder and Ohod, and were, therefore, honored by the title of “Companions,” and who now showed among the ashes of age the sparks of youthful fire, as they girded on their swords for this sacred enterprise.
Hosein, the valiant son of Ali, also accompanied this expedition; in which, in fact, the flower of Moslem chivalry engaged. Great preparations were made by sea and land, and sanguine hopes entertained of success; the Moslem troops were numerous and hardy, inured to toil and practiced in warfare, and they were animated by the certainty of paradise, should they be victorious. The Greeks, on the other hand, were in a state of military decline, and their emperor, Constantine, a grandson of Heraclius, disgraced his illustrious name by indolence and incapacity.
It is singular and to be lamented, that of this momentous expedition we have very few particulars, notwithstanding that it lasted long, and must have been checkered by striking vicissitudes. The Moslem fleet passed without impediment through the Dardanelles, and the army disembarked within seven miles of Constantinople. For many days they pressed the siege with vigor, but the city was strongly garrisoned by fugitive troops from various quarters, who had profited by sad experience in the defense of fortified towns; the walls were strong and high; and the besieged made use of Greek fire, to the Moslems a new and terrific agent of destruction.
Finding all their efforts in vain, the Moslems consoled themselves by ravaging the neighboring coasts of Europe and Asia, and on the approach of winter retired to the island of Cyzicus, about eighty miles from Constantinople, where they had established their headquarters.
Six years were passed in this unavailing enterprise; immense sums were expended; thousands of lives were lost by disease; ships and crews, by shipwreck and other disasters, and thousands of Moslems were slain, gallantly fighting for paradise under the walls of Constantinople. The most renowned of these was the venerable Abu Ayub, in whose house Mohammed had established his quarters when he first fled to Medina, and who had fought by the side of the prophet at Beder and Ohod. He won an honored grave; for though it remained for ages unknown, yet nearly eight centuries after this event, when Constantinople was conquered by Mahomet II., the spot was revealed in a miraculous vision, and consecrated by a mausoleum and mosque, which exist to this day, and to which the grand seigniors of the Ottoman empire repair to be belted with the scimitar on their accession to the throne.
The protracted war with the Greeks revived their military ardor, and they assailed the Moslems in their turn. Moawyah found the war which he had provoked threatening his own security. Other enemies were pressing on him; age, also, had sapped his bodily and mental vigor, and he became so anxious for safety and repose that he in a manner purchased a truce of the emperor for thirty years, by agreeing to pay an annual tribute of three thousand pieces of gold, fifty slaves, and fifty horses of the noblest Arabian blood.
Yezid, the eldest son of Moawyah, and his secretly-intended successor, had failed to establish a renown in this enterprise, and if Arabian historians speak true, his ambition led him to a perfidious act sufficient to stamp his name with infamy. He is accused of instigating the murder of the virtuous Hassan, the son of Ali, who had abdicated in favor of Moawyah, but who was to resume the Caliphat on the death of that potentate. It is questionable whether Hassan would ever have claimed this right, for he was of quiet, retired habits, and preferred the security and repose of a private station. He was strong, however, in the affection of the people, and to remove out of the way so dangerous a rival, Yezid, it is said, prevailed upon one of his wives to poison him, promising to marry her in reward of her treason. The murder took place in the forty-ninth year of the Hegira, A.D. 669, when Hassan was forty-seven years of age. In his last agonies, his brother Hosein inquired at whose instigation he supposed himself to have been poisoned, that he might avenge his death, but Hassan refused to name him. “This world,” said he, “is only a long night; leave him alone until he and I shall meet in open daylight, in the presence of the Most High.”
Yezid refused to fulfill his promise of taking the murderess to wife, alleging that it would be madness to entrust himself to the embraces of such a female; he, however, commuted the engagement for a large amount in money and jewels, Moawyah is accused of either countenancing or being pleased with a murder which made his son more eligible to the succession, for it is said that when he heard of the death of Hassan, “he fell down and worshipped.”
Hassan had been somewhat uxorious; or rather, he had numerous wives, and was prone to change them when attracted by new beauties. One of them was the daughter of Yezdegird, the last king of the Persians, and she bore him several children. He had, altogether, fifteen sons and five daughters, and contributed greatly to increase the race of Sheriffs, or Fatimites, descendants from the prophet. In his testament he left directions that he should be buried by the sepulchre of his grandsire Mohammed; but Ayesha, whose hatred for the family of Ali went beyond the grave, declared that the mansion was hers, and refused her consent; he was, therefore, interred in the common burial-ground of the city.
Ayesha, herself, died some time afterward, in the fifty-eighth year of the Hegira, having survived the prophet forty-seven years. She was often called the Prophetess, and generally denominated the Mother of the Faithful, although she had never borne any issue to Mohammed, and had employed her widowhood in intrigues to prevent Ali and his children, who were the only progeny of the prophet, from sitting on the throne of the Caliphs. All the other wives of Mohammed who survived him passed the remainder of their lives in widowhood; but none, save her, seem to have been held in especial reverence.
MOSLEM CONQUESTS IN NORTHERN AFRICA—ACHIEVEMENTS OF ACBAH; HIS DEATH.
The conquest of Northern Africa, so auspiciously commenced by Abdallah Ibn Saad, had been suspended for a number of years by the pressure of other concerns, and particularly by the siege of Constantinople, which engrossed a great part of the Moslem forces; in the mean time Cyrene had shaken off the yoke, all Cyrenaica was in a state of insurrection, and there was danger that the places which had been taken and the posts which had been established by the Arab conquerors would be completely lost.
The Caliph Moawyah now looked round for some active and able general, competent to secure and extend his sway along the African sea-coast. Such a one he found in Acbah Ibn Nafe el Fehri, whom he dispatched from Damascus with ten thousand horse. Acbah made his way with all speed into Africa, his forces augmenting as he proceeded, by the accession of barbarian troops. He passed triumphantly through Cyrenaica; laid close siege to the city of Cyrene, and retook it, notwithstanding its strong walls and great population; but in the course of the siege many of its ancient and magnificent edifices were destroyed.
Acbah continued his victorious course westward, traversing wildernesses sometimes barren and desolate, sometimes entangled with forests, and infested by serpents and savage animals, until he reached the domains of ancient Carthage, the present territory of Tunis. Here he determined to found a city to serve as a stronghold, and a place of refuge in the heart of these conquered regions. The site chosen was a valley closely wooded, and abounding with lions, tigers, and serpents. The Arabs give a marvellous account of the founding of the city. Acbah, say they, went forth into the forest, and adjured its savage inhabitants. “Hence! avaunt! wild beasts and serpents! Hence, quit this wood and valley!” This solemn adjuration he repeated three several times, on three several days, and not a lion, tiger, leopard, nor serpent, but departed from the place.
Others, less poetic, record that he cleared away a forest which had been a lurking place not merely for wild beasts and serpents, but for rebels and barbarous hordes; that he used the wood in constructing walls for his new city, and when these were completed, planted his lance in the center, and exclaimed to his followers, “This is your caravan.” Such was the origin of the city of Kairwan or Caerwan, situated thirty-three leagues southeast of Carthage, and twelve from the sea on the borders of the great desert. Here Acbah fixed his seat of government, erecting mosques and other public edifices, and holding all the surrounding country in subjection.
While Acbah was thus honorably occupied, the Caliph Moawyah, little aware of the immense countries embraced in these recent conquests, united them with Egypt under one command, as if they had been two small provinces, and appointed Muhegir Ibn Omm Dinar, one of the Ansari, as emir or governor. Muhegir was an ambitious, or rather an envious and perfidious man. Scarce had he entered upon his government when he began to sicken with envy of the brilliant fame of Acbah and his vast popularity, not merely with the army, but throughout the country; he accordingly made such unfavorable reports of the character and conduct of that general, in his letters to the Caliph, that the latter was induced to displace him from the command of the African army, and recall him to Damascus.
The letter of recall being sent under cover to Muhegir, he transmitted it by Muslama Ibn Machlad, one of his generals, to Acbah, charging his envoy to proceed with great caution, and to treat Acbah with profound deference, lest the troops, out of their love for him, should resist the order for his deposition. Muslama found Acbah in his camp at Cyrene, and presented him the Caliph’s letter of recall, and a letter from Muhegir as governor of the province, letting him know that Muslama and the other generals were authorized to arrest him should he hesitate to obey the command of the Caliph.
There was no hesitation on the part of Acbah. He at once discerned whence the blow proceeded. “Oh God!” exclaimed he, “spare my life until I can vindicate myself from the slanders of Muhegir Ibn Omm Dinar.” He then departed instantly, without even entering his house; made his way with all speed to Damascus, and appeared before Moawyah in the presence of his generals and the officers of his court. Addressing the Caliph with noble indignation, “I have traversed deserts,” said he, “and encountered savage tribes; I have conquered towns and regions, and have brought their infidel inhabitants to the knowledge of God and his law. I have built mosques and palaces, and fortified our dominion over the land, and in reward I have been degraded from my post, and summoned hither as a culprit. I appeal to your justice, whether I have merited such treatment?”
Moawyah felt rebuked by the magnanimous bearing of his general, for he was aware that he had been precipitate in condemning him on false accusations. “I am already informed,” said he, “of the true nature of the case. I now know who is Muhegir, and who is Acbah; return to the command of the army, and pursue your glorious career of conquest.”
Although it was not until the succeeding Caliphat that Acbah resumed the command in Africa, we will anticipate dates in order to maintain unbroken the thread of his story. In passing through Egypt he deposed Muslama from a command, in which he had been placed by Muhegir, and ordered him to remain in one of the Egyptian towns a prisoner at large.
He was grieved to perceive the mischief that had been done in Africa, during his absence, by Muhegir, who, out of mere envy and jealousy, had endeavored to mar and obliterate all traces of his good deeds; dismantling the cities he had built, destroying his public edifices at Caerwan, and transferring the inhabitants to another place. Acbah stripped him of his command, placed him in irons, and proceeded to remedy the evils he had perpetrated. The population was restored to Caerwan, its edifices were rebuilt, and it rose from its temporary decline more prosperous and beautiful than ever. Acbah then left Zohair Ibn Kais in command of this metropolis, and resumed his career of western conquest, carrying Muhegir with him in chains. He crossed the kingdom of Numidia, now Algiers, and the vast regions of Mauritania, now Morocco, subduing their infidel inhabitants or converting them with the sword, until, coming to the western shores of Africa, he spurred his charger into the waves of the Atlantic until they rose to his saddle girths; then raising his scimitar toward heaven, “Oh Allah!” cried the zealous Moslem, “did not these profound waters prevent me, still further would I carry the knowledge of thy law, and the reverence of thy holy name.”
While Acbah was thus urging his victorious way to the uttermost bounds of Mauritania, tidings overtook him that the Greeks and barbarians were rising in rebellion in his rear; that the mountains were pouring down their legions, and that his city of Caerwan was in imminent danger. He had in fact incurred the danger against which the late Caliph Omar had so often cautioned his too adventurous generals. Turning his steps he hastened back, marching at a rapid rate. As he passed through Zab or Numidia, he was harassed by a horde of Berbers or Moors, headed by Aben Cahina, a native chief of daring prowess, who had descended from the fastnesses of the mountains, in which he had taken refuge from the invaders. The warrior, with his mountain band, hung on the rear of the army, picking off stragglers, and often carrying havoc into the broken ranks, but never venturing on a pitched battle. He gave over his pursuit as they crossed the bounds of Numidia.
On arriving at Caerwan Acbah found everything secure, the rebellion having been suppressed by the energy and bravery of Zohair, aided by an associate warrior, Omar Ibn Ali, of the tribe of Koreish.
Acbah now distributed a part of his army about the neighborhood, formed of the residue a flying camp of cavalry, and leaving Zohair and his brave associate to maintain the safety of the metropolis, returned to scour the land of Zab, and take vengeance on the Berber chief who had harassed and insulted him when on the march.
He proceeded without opposition as far as a place called Téhuda; when in some pass or defile he found himself surrounded by a great host of Greeks and Berbers, led on by the mountain chief Aben Cahina. In fact, both Christians and Moors, who had so often been in deadly conflict in these very regions, had combined to drive these new intruders from the land.
Acbah scanned the number and array of the advancing enemy, and saw there was no retreat, and that destruction was inevitable. He marshalled his little army of horsemen, however, with great calmness, put up the usual prayers, and exhorted his men to fight valiantly. Summoning Muhegir to his presence, “This,” said he, “is a day of liberty and gain for all true Moslems, for it is a day of martyrdom. I would not deprive you of so great a chance for paradise.” So saying, he ordered his chains to be taken off.
Muhegir thanked him for the favor, and expressed his determination to die in the cause of the faith. Acbah then gave him arms and a horse, and both of them, drawing their swords, broke the scabbards in token that they would fight until victory or death. The battle was desperate, and the carnage terrible. Almost all the Moslems fought to the very death, asking no quarter. Acbah was one of the last of his devoted band, and his corpse was found, scimitar in hand, upon a heap of the enemy whom he had slain.
MOAWYAH NAMES HIS SUCCESSOR—HIS LAST ACTS AND DEATH—TRAITS OF HIS CHARACTER.
MOAWYAH was now far advanced in years, and aware that he had not long to live; he sought therefore to accomplish a measure which he had long contemplated, and which was indicative of his ambitious character and his pride of family. It was to render the Caliphat hereditary, and to perpetuate it in his line. For this purpose he openly named his son Yezid as his successor, and requested the different provinces to send deputies to Damascus to perform the act of fealty to him. The nomination of a successor was what the prophet himself had not done, and what Abu Beker, Omar, and Othman had therefore declined to do; the attempt to render the Caliphat hereditary was in direct opposition to the public will manifested repeatedly in respect to Ali; Yezid, to whom he proposed to bequeath the government, was publicly detested, yet, notwithstanding all these objections, such influence had Moawyah acquired over the public mind that delegates arrived at Damascus from all parts, and gave their hands to Yezid in pledge of future fealty. Thus was established the dynasty of the Ommiades, which held the Caliphat for nearly a hundred years. There were fourteen Caliphs of this haughty line, known as the Pharaohs of the house of Omaya (or rather Ommiah). The ambition of rule manifested in Moawyah, the founder of the dynasty, continued even among his remote descendants, who exercised sovereignty nearly four centuries afterward in Spain. One of them, anxious to ascend the throne in a time of turbulence and peril, exclaimed, “Only make me king to-day, and you may kill me to-morrow!”
The character of the Caliph had much changed in the hands of Moawyah, and in the luxurious city of Damascus assumed more and more the state of the oriental sovereigns which it superseded. The frugal simplicity of the Arab, and the stern virtues of the primitive disciples of Islam, were softening down and disappearing among the voluptuous delights of Syria. Moawyah, however, endeavored to throw over his favorite city of Damascus some of the sanctity with which Mecca and Medina were invested. For this purpose he sought to transfer to it, from Medina, the pulpit of the prophet, as also his, walking-staff; “for such precious relics of the apostle of God,” said he, “ought not to remain among the murderers of Othman.”
The staff was found after great search, but when the pulpit was about to be removed, there occurred so great an eclipse of the sun that the stars became visible. The superstitious Arabs considered this a signal of divine disapprobation, and the pulpit was suffered to remain in Medina.
Feeling his end approaching, Moawyah summoned his son Yezid to his presence, and gave advice full of experience and wisdom. “Confide in the Arabs,” said he, “as the sure foundation of your power. Prize the Syrians, for they are faithful and enterprising, though prone to degenerate when out of their own country. Gratify the people of Irak in all their demands, for they are restless and turbulent, and would unsheathe a hundred thousand scimitars against thee on the least provocation.”
“There are four rivals, my son,” added he, “on whom thou must keep a vigilant eye. The first is Hosein, the son of Ali, who has great influence in Irak, but he is upright and sincere, and thy own cousin; treat him, therefore, with clemency, if he fall within thy power. The second is Abdallah Ibn Omar; but he is a devout man, and will eventually come under allegiance to thee. The third is Abda’Irahman; but he is a man of no force of mind, and merely speaks from the dictates of others; he is, moreover, incontinent, and a gambler; he is not a rival to be feared. The fourth is Abdallah Ibn Zobeir; he unites the craft of the fox with the strength and courage of the lion. If he appear against thee, oppose him valiantly; if he offer peace, accept it, and spare the blood of thy people. If he fall within your power, cut him to pieces!”
Moawyah was gathered to his fathers in the sixtieth year of the Hegira, A. D. 679, at the age of seventy, or, as some say, seventy-five years, of which he had reigned nearly twenty. He was interred in Damascus, which he had made the capital of the Moslem empire, and which continued to be so during the dynasty of the Ommiades. The inscription of his signet was, “Every deed hath its meed;” or, according to others, “All power rests with God.”
Though several circumstances in his reign savor of crafty, and even treacherous policy, yet he bears a high name in Moslem history. His courage was undoubted, and of a generous kind; for though fierce in combat, he was clement in victory. He prided himself greatly upon being of the tribe of Koreish, and was highly aristocratical before he attained to sovereign power; yet he was affable and accessible at all times, and made himself popular among his people. His ambition was tempered with some considerations of justice. He assumed the throne, it is true, by the aid of the scimitar, without regular election; but he subsequently bought off the right of his rival Hassan, the legitimate Caliph, and transcended munificently all the stipulations of his purchase, presenting him, at one time, with four million pieces of gold. One almost regards with incredulity the stories of immense sums passing from hand to hand among these Arab conquerors, as freely as bags of dates in their native deserts; but it must be recollected they had the plundering of the rich empires of the East, and as yet were flush with the spoils of recent conquests.
The liberality of Moawyah is extolled as being beyond all bounds; one instance on record of it, however, savors of policy. He gave Ayesha a bracelet valued at a hundred thousand pieces of gold, that had formerly perhaps sparkled on the arm of some Semiramis; but Ayesha, he knew, was a potent friend and a dangerous enemy.
Moawyah was sensible to the charms of poetry, if we may judge from the following anecdotes:
A robber, who had been condemned by the Cadi to have his head cut off, appealed to the Caliph in a copy of verses, pleading the poverty and want by which he had been driven. Touched by the poetry, Moawyah reversed the sentence, and gave the poet a purse of gold, that he might have no plea of necessity for repeating the crime.
Another instance was that of a young Arab, who had married a beautiful damsel, of whom he was so enamored that he lavished all his fortune upon her. The governor of Cufa, happening to see her, was so struck with her beauty that he took her from the youth by force. The latter made his complaint to the Caliph in verse, poured forth with Arab eloquence, and with all the passion of a lover, praying redress or death. Moawyah, as before, was moved by the poetic appeal, and sent orders to the governor of Cufa to restore the wife to her husband. The governor, infatuated with her charms, entreated the Caliph to let him have the enjoyment of her for one year, and then to take his head. The curiosity of the Caliph was awakened by this amorous contest, and he caused the female to be sent to him. Struck with her ravishing beauty, with the grace of her deportment, and the eloquence of her expressions, he could not restrain his admiration; and in the excitement of the moment told her to choose between the young Arab, the governor of Cufa, and himself. She acknowledged the honor proffered by the Caliph to be utterly beyond her merit; but avowed that affection and duty still inclined her to her husband. Her modesty and virtue delighted Moawyah even more than her beauty; he restored her to her husband, and enriched them both with princely munificence.
SUCCESSION OF YEZID, SEVENTH CALIPH—FINAL FORTUNES OF HOSEIN, THE SON OF ALI.
YEZID, the son of Moawyah, succeeded to the Caliphat without the ceremony of an election. His inauguration took place in the new moon of the month Rajeb, in the sixtieth year of the Hegira, coincident with the seventh day of April in the year of our Lord 680. He was thirty-four years of age, and is described as tall and thin, with a ruddy countenance pitted with the small-pox, black eyes, curled hair, and a comely beard. He was not deficient in talent, and possessed the popular gift of poetry. The effect of his residence among the luxuries and refinements of Syria was evinced in a fondness for silken raiment and the delights of music; but he was stigmatized as base-spirited, sordid, and covetous; grossly sensual, and scandalously intemperate.
Notwithstanding all this, he was readily acknowledged as Caliph throughout the Moslem empire, excepting by Mecca, Medina, and some cities of Babylonia. His first aim was to secure undisputed possession of the Caliphat. The only competitors from whom he had danger to apprehend were Hosein, the son of Ali, and Abdallah, the son of Zobeir. They were both at Medina, and he sent orders to Waled Ibn Otbah, the governor of that city, to exact from them an oath of fealty. Waled, who was of an undecided character, consulted Merwân Ibn Hâkem, formerly secretary of Othman, and suspected of forging the letter which effected the ruin of that Caliph. He was in fact one of the most crafty as well as able men of the age. His advice to the governor was to summon Hosein and Abdallah to his presence, before they should hear of the death of Moawyah, and concert any measures of opposition; then to tender to them the oath of fealty to Yezid, and, should they refuse, to smite off their heads.
Hosein and Abdallah discovered the plot in time to effect their escape with their families to Mecca, where they declared themselves openly in opposition to Yezid. In a little while Hosein received secret messages from the people of Cufa, inviting him to their city, assuring him not merely of protection, but of joyful homage as the son of Ali, the legitimate successor of the prophet. He had only, they said, to show himself in their city, and all Babylonia would rise in arms in his favor.
Hosein sent his cousin, Muslim Ibn Okail, to ascertain the truth of these representations, and to foment the spirit of insurrection should it really exist among the people of Cufa. Muslim made his way, almost unattended, and with great peril and hardship, across the deserts of Irak. On arriving at Cufa he was well received by the party of Hosein; they assured him that eighteen thousand men were ready to sacrifice their blood and treasure in casting down the usurper and upholding the legitimate Caliph. Every day augmented the number of apparent zealots in the cause, until it amounted to one hundred and forty thousand. Of all this Muslim sent repeated accounts to Hosein, urging him to come on, and assuring him that the conspiracy had been carried on with such secrecy that Nu’mân Ibn Baschir, the governor of Cufa, had no suspicion of it.
But though the conspiracy had escaped the vigilance of Nu’mân, intimation of it had reached the Caliph Yezid at Damascus, who sent instant orders to Obeid’allah, the emir of Bassora, to repair with all speed to Cufa, displace its negligent governor, and take that place likewise under his command.
Obeid’allah was the son of Ziyad, and inherited all the energy of his father. Aware that the moment was critical, he set off from Bassora with about a score of fleet horsemen. The people of Cufa were on the lookout for the arrival of Hosein, which was daily expected, when Obeid’allah rode into the city in the twilight at the head of his troopers. He wore a black turban, as was the custom likewise with Hosein. The populace crowded round him, hailing the supposed grandson of the prophet.
“Stand off!” cried the horsemen fiercely. “It is the emir Obeid’allah.”
The crowd shrank back abashed and disappointed, and the emir rode on to the castle. The popular chagrin increased when it was known that he had command of the province; for he was reputed a second Ziyad in energy and decision. His measures soon proved his claims to that character. He discovered and disconcerted the plans of the conspirators; drove Muslim to a premature outbreak; dispersed his hasty levy, and took him prisoner. The latter shed bitter tears on his capture; not on his own account, but on the account of Hosein, whom he feared his letters and sanguine representations had involved in ruin, by inducing him to come on to Cufa. The head of Muslim was struck off and sent to the Caliph.
His letters had indeed produced the dreaded effect. On receiving them Hosein prepared to comply with the earnest invitation of the people of Cufa. It was in vain his friends reminded him of the proverbial faithlessness of these people; it was in vain they urged him to wait until they had committed themselves, by openly taking the field. It was in vain that his near relative Abdallah Ibn Abbas urged him at least to leave the females of his family at Mecca, lest he should be massacred in the midst of them, like the Caliph Othman. Hosein, in the true spirit of a Moslem and predestinarian, declared he would leave the event to God, and accordingly set out with his wives and children, and a number of his relatives, escorted by a handful of Arab troops.
Arrived in the confines of Babylonia, he was met by a body of a thousand horse, led on by Harro, an Arab of the tribe of Temimah. He at first supposed them to be a detachment of his partisans sent to meet him, but was soon informed by Harro that he came from the emir Obeid’allah to conduct him and all the people with him to Cufa.
Hosein haughtily refused to submit to the emir’s orders, and represented that he came in peace, invited by the inhabitants of Cufa, as the rightful Caliph. He set forth at the same time the justice of his claims, and endeavored to enlist Harro in his cause; but the latter, though in no wise hostile to him, avoided committing himself, and urged him to proceed quietly to Cufa under his escort.
While they were yet discoursing, four horsemen rode up accompanied by a guide. One of these named Thirmah was known to Hosein, and was reluctantly permitted by Harro to converse with him apart. Hosein inquired about the situation of things at Cufa. “The nobles,” replied the other, “are now against you to a man; some of the common people are still with you; by to-morrow, however, not a scimitar but will be unsheathed against you.”
Hosein inquired about Kais, a messenger whom he had sent in advance to apprise his adherents of his approach. He had been seized on suspicion, ordered as a test, by Obeid’allah, to curse Hosein and his father Ali, and on his refusing had been thrown headlong from the top of the citadel.
Hosein shed tears at hearing the fate of his faithful messenger. “There be some,” said he, in the words of the Koran, “who are already dead, and some who living expect death. Let their mansions, oh God, be in the gardens of paradise, and receive us with them to thy mercy.”
Thirmah represented to Hosein that his handful of followers would be of no avail against the host prepared to oppose him in the plains of Cufa, and offered to conduct him to the impregnable mountains of Aja, in the province of Naja, where ten thousand men of the tribe of Tay might soon be assembled to defend him. He declined his advice, however, and advanced toward Kadesia, the place famous for the victory over the Persians. Harro and his cavalry kept pace with him, watching every movement, but offering no molestation. The mind of Hosein, however, was darkened by gloomy forebodings. A stupor at times hung over his faculties as he rode slowly along; he appeared to be haunted with a presentiment of death.
“We belong to God, and to God we must return,” exclaimed he as he roused himself at one time from a dream or reverie. He had beheld in his phantasy a horseman who had addressed him in warning words: “Men travel in the night, and their destiny travels in the night to meet them.” This he pronounced a messenger of death.
In this dubious and desponding mood he was brought to a halt, near the banks of the Euphrates, by the appearance of four thousand men, in hostile array, commanded by Amar Ibn Saad. These, likewise, had been sent out by the emir Obeid’allah, who was full of uneasiness lest there should be some popular movement in favor of Hosein. The latter, however, was painfully convinced by this repeated appearance of hostile troops, without any armament in his favor, that the fickle people of Cufa were faithless to him. He held a parley with Amar, who was a pious and good man, and had come out very unwillingly against a descendant of the prophet, stated to him the manner in which he had been deceived by the people of Cufa, and now offered to return to Mecca. Amar dispatched a fleet messenger to apprise the emir of this favorable offer, hoping to be excused from using violence against Hosein. Obeid’allah wrote in reply: “Get between him and the Euphrates; cut him off from the water as he did Othman; force him to acknowledge allegiance to Yezid, and then we will treat of terms.”
Amar obeyed these orders with reluctance, and the little camp of Hosein suffered the extremities of thirst. Still he could not be brought to acknowledge Yezid as Caliph. He now offered three things, either to go to Damascus and negotiate matters personally with Yezid; to return into Arabia; or to repair to some frontier post in Khorassan and fight against the Turks. These terms were likewise transmitted by Amar to Obeid’allah.
The emir was exasperated at these delays, which he considered as intended to gain time for tampering with the public feeling. His next letter to Amar was brief and explicit. “If Hosein and his men submit and take the oath of allegiance, treat them kindly; if they refuse, slay them—ride over them—trample them under the feet of thy horses!” This letter was sent by Shamar, a warrior of note, and of a fierce spirit. He had private instructions. “If Amar fail to do as I have ordered, strike off his head and take command of his troops.” He was furnished also with a letter of protection, and passports for four of the sons of Ali, who had accompanied their brother Hosein.
Amar, on receiving the letter of the emir, had another parley with Hosein. He found him in front of his tent conversing with his brother Al Abbas, just after the hour of evening prayer, and made known to him the peremptory demand of the emir and its alternative. He also produced the letter of protection and the passports for his brothers, but they refused to accept them.
Hosein obtained a truce until the morning to consider the demand of the emir; but his mind was already made up. He saw that all hope of honorable terms was vain, and he resolved to die.
After the departure of Amar, he remained seated alone at the door of his tent, leaning on his sword, lost in gloomy cogitation on the fate of the coming day. A heaviness again came over him, with the same kind of portentous fantasies that he had already experienced. The approach of his favorite sister, Zenaib, roused him. He regarded her with mournful significance. “I have just seen,” said he, “in a dream, our grandsire the prophet, and he said, ‘Thou wilt soon be with me in paradise.’”
The boding mind of Zenaib interpreted the portent. “Woe unto us and our family,” cried she, smiting her breast; “our mother Fatima is dead, and our father Ali and our brother Hassan! Alas for the desolation of the past and the destruction that is to come!” So saying, her grief overcame her, and she fell into a swoon. Hosein raised her tenderly, sprinkled water in her face, and restored her to consciousness. He entreated her to rely with confidence on God, reminding her that all the people of the earth must die, and everything that exists must perish, but that God, who created them, would restore them and take them to himself. “My father, and my mother, and my brother,” said he, “were better than I, yet they died, and every Moslem has had an example in the death of the apostle of God.” Taking her then by the hand, he led her into the tent, charging her, in case of his death, not to give way thus to immoderate sorrow.
He next addressed his friends and followers. “These troops by whom we are surrounded,” said he, “seek no life but mine, and will be contented with my death. Tarry not with me, therefore, to your destruction, but leave me to my fate.”
“God forbid,” cried Al Abbas, “that we should survive your fall;” and his words were echoed by the rest.
Seeing his little band thus determined to share his desperate fortunes, Hosein prepared to sell their lives dear, and make their deaths a memorable sacrifice. By his orders all the tents were disposed in two lines, and the cords interwoven so as to form barriers on both sides of the camp, while a deep trench in the rear was filled with wood, to be set on fire in case of attack. It was assailable, therefore, only in front. This done, the devoted band, conscious that the next day was to be their last, passed the night in prayer, while a troop of the enemy’s horse kept riding round to prevent their escape.
When the morning dawned, Hosein prepared for battle. His whole force amounted only to twoscore foot soldiers and two-and-thirty horse; but all were animated with the spirit of martyrs. Hosein and several of his chief men washed, anointed, and perfumed themselves; “for in a little while,” said they, “we shall be with the black-eyed Houris of paradise.”
His steadfastness of soul, however, was shaken by the loud lamentations of his sisters and daughters, and the thought of the exposed and desolate state in which his death would leave them. He called to mind, too, the advice which he had neglected of Abdallah Ibn Abbas, to leave his women in safety at Mecca. “God will reward thee, Abdallah!” exclaimed he, in the fullness of his feelings.
A squadron of thirty horse, headed by Harro, now wheeled up, but they came as friends and allies. Harro repented him of having given the first check to Hosein, and now came in atonement to fight and die for him. “Alas for you men of Cufa!” cried he, as Amar and his troops approached; “you have invited the descendant of the prophet to your city, and now you come to fight against him. You have cut off from him and his family the waters of the Euphrates, which are free even to infidels and the beasts of the field, and have shut him up like a lion in the toils.”
Amar began to justify himself and to plead the orders of the emir; but the fierce Shamar cut short all parley by letting fly an arrow into the camp of Hosein, calling all to witness that he struck the first blow. A skirmish ensued, but the men of Hosein kept within their camp, where they could only be reached by the archers. From time to time there were single combats in defiance, as was customary with the Arabs. In these the greatest loss was on the side of the enemy, for Hosein’s men fought with the desperation of men resolved on death.
Amar now made a general assault, but the camp, being open only in front, was successfully defended. Shamar and his followers attempted to pull down the tents, but met with vigorous resistance. He thrust his lance through the tent of Hosein, and called for fire to burn it. The women ran out shrieking. “The fire of Jehennam be thy portion!” cried Hosein; “wouldst thou destroy my family?”
Even the savage Shamar stayed his hand at the sight of defenseless women, and he and his band drew off with the loss of several of their number.
Both parties desisted from the fight at the hour of noontide prayer; and Hosein put up the prayer of Fear, which is only used in time of extremity.
When the prayers were over the enemy renewed the assault, but chiefly with arrows from a distance. The faithful followers of Hosein were picked off one by one, until he was left almost alone; yet no one ventured to close upon him. An arrow from a distance pierced his little son Abdallah, whom he had upon his knee. Hosein caught his blood in the hollow of his hand and threw it toward heaven. “Oh God,” exclaimed he, “if thou withholdest help from us, at least take vengeance on the wicked for this innocent blood.”
His nephew, a beautiful child with jewels in his ears, was likewise wounded in his arms. “Allah will receive thee, my child,” said Hosein; “thou wilt soon be with thy forefathers in paradise.”
At this moment Zeinab rushed forth, imprecating the vengeance of Heaven upon the murderers of her family. Her voice was overpowered by the oaths and curses of Shamar, who closed with his men upon Hosein. The latter fought desperately, and laid many dead around him, but his strength was failing him; it became a massacre rather than a fight; he sank to the earth, and was stripped ere life was extinct. Thirty wounds were counted in his body, and four-and-thirty bruises. His head was then cut off to be sent to Obeid’allah, and Shamar, with his troops, rode forward and backward over the body, as he had been ordered, until it was trampled into the earth.
Seventy-two followers of Hosein were slain in this massacre, seventeen of whom were descendants from Fatima. Eighty-eight of the enemy were killed, and a great number wounded. All the arms and furniture of Hosein and his family were taken as lawful spoils, although against the command of Amar.
Shamar dispatched one of his troopers to bear the head of Hosein to the emir Obeid’allah. He rode with all speed, but arrived at Cufa after the gates of the castle were closed. Taking the gory trophy to his own house until morning, he showed it with triumph to his wife; but she shrank from him with horror, as one guilty of the greatest outrage to the family of the prophet, and from that time forward renounced all intercourse with him.
When the head was presented to Obeid’allah, he smote it on the mouth with his staff. A venerable Arab present was shocked at his impiety. “By Allah!” exclaimed he, “I have seen those lips pressed by the sacred lips of the prophet!”
As Obeid’allah went forth from the citadel, he beheld several women, meanly attired and seated disconsolately on the ground at the threshold. He had to demand three times who they were, before he was told that it was Zeinab, sister of Hosein, and her maidens. “Allah be praised,” cried he, with ungenerous exultation, “who has brought this proud woman to shame, and wrought death upon her family.” “Allah be praised,” retorted Zeinab, haughtily, “who hath glorified our family by his holy apostle Mohammed. As to my kindred, death was decreed to them, and they have gone to their resting-place; but God will bring you and them together, and will judge between you.”
The wrath of the emir was inflamed by this reply, and his friends, fearful he might be provoked to an act of violence, reminded him that she was a woman and unworthy of his anger.
“Enough,” cried he; “let her revile; Allah has given my soul full satisfaction in the death of her brother, and the ruin of her rebellious race.”
“True!” replied Zeinab, “you have indeed destroyed our men, and cut us up root and branch. If that be any satisfaction to your soul, you have it.”
The emir looked at her with surprise. “Thou art, indeed,” said he, “a worthy descendant of Ali, who was a poet and a man of courage.”
“Courage,” replied Zeinab, “is not a woman’s attribute; but what my heart dictates my tongue shall utter.”
The emir cast his eyes on Ali, the son of Hosein, a youth just approaching manhood, and ordered him to be beheaded. The proud heart of Zeinab now gave way. Bursting into tears she flung her arms round her nephew. “Hast thou not drunk deep enough of the blood of our family?” cried she to Obeid’allah; “and dost thou thirst for the blood of this youth? Take mine too with it, and let me die with him.
The emir gazed on her again, and with greater astonishment; he mused for awhile, debating with himself, for he was disposed to slay the lad; but was moved by the tenderness of Zeinab. At length his better feelings prevailed, and the life of Ali was spared.
The head of Hosein was transmitted to the Caliph Yezid, at Damascus, in charge of the savage-hearted Shamar; and with it were sent Zeinab and her women, and the youth Ali. The latter had a chain round his neck, but the youth carried himself proudly, and would never vouchsafe a word to his conductors.
When Shamar presented the head with the greetings of Obeid’allah, the Caliph shed tears, for he recalled the dying counsel of his father with respect to the son of Ali. “Oh Hosein!” ejaculated he, “hadst thou fallen into my hands thou wouldst not have been slain.” Then giving vent to his indignation against the absent Obeid’allah, “The curse of God,” exclaimed he, “be upon the son of Somyah.”
A sneer at Obeid’allah’s illegitimate descent from Somyah, the wife of a Greek slave.
He had been urged by one of his courtiers to kill Ali, and extinguish the whole generation of Hosein, but milder counsels prevailed. When the women and children were brought before him, in presence of the Syrian nobility, he was shocked at their mean attire, and again uttered a malediction on Obeid’allah. In conversing with Zeinab, he spoke with disparagement of her father Ali and her brother Hosein, but the proud heart of this intrepid woman again rose to her lips, and she replied with a noble scorn and just invective that shamed him to silence.
Yezid now had Zeinab and the other females of the family of Hosein treated with proper respect; baths were provided for them, and apparel suited to their rank; they were entertained in his palace, and the widowed wives of his father Moawyah came and kept them company, and joined with them in mourning for Hosein. Yezid acted also with great kindness toward Ali and Amru, the sons of Hosein, taking them with him in his walks. Amru was as yet a mere child. Yezid asked him one day jestingly, “Wilt thou fight with my son Khaled?” The urchin’s eye flashed fire. “Give him a knife,” cried he, “and give me one!” “Beware of this child,” said a crafty old courtier who stood by, and who was an enemy to the house of Ali. “Beware of this child; depend upon it, one serpent is the parent of another.”
After a time when the family of Hosein wished to depart for Medina, Yezid furnished them abundantly with every comfort for the journey, and a safe convoy under a careful officer, who treated them with all due deference. When their journey was accomplished, Zeinab and Fatima, the young daughter of Hosein, would have presented their conductor with some of their jewels, but the worthy Syrian declined their offer. “Had I acted for reward,” said he, “less than these jewels would have sufficed; but what I have done was for the love of God, and for the sake of your relationship to the prophet.”
The Persians hold the memory of Hosein in great veneration, entitling him Shahed or the Martyr, and Seyejed or Lord; and he and his lineal descendants for nine generations are enrolled among the twelve Imams or Pontiffs of the Persian creed. The anniversary of his martyrdom is called Rus Hosein (the day of Hosein), and is kept with great solemnity. A splendid monument was erected in after years on the spot where he fell, and was called in Arabic Meshed Hosein, The Sepulchre of Hosein. The Shyites, or sectaries of Ali, relate divers prodigies as having signalized his martyrdom. The sun withdrew his light, the stars twinkled at noonday and clashed against each other, and the clouds rained showers of blood. A supernatural light beamed from the head of the martyr, and a flock of white birds hovered around it. These miracles, however, are all stoutly denied by the sect of Moslems called Sonnites, who hold Ali and his race in abomination.
INSURRECTION OF ABDALLAH IBN ZOBEIR—MEDINA TAKEN AND SACKED—MECCA BESIEGED—DEATH OF YEZID.
The death of Hosein had removed one formidable rival of Yezid, but gave strength to the claims of another, who was scarcely less popular. This was Abdallah, the son of Zobeir; honored for his devotion to the faith, beloved for the amenity of his manners, and of such adroit policy that he soon managed to be proclaimed Caliph by the partisans of the house of Haschem, and a large portion of the people of Medina and Mecca. The martyrdom, as he termed it, of Hosein furnished him a theme for public harangues, with which, after his inauguration, be sought to sway the popular feelings. He called to mind the virtues of that grandson of the prophet, his pious watchings, fastings, and prayers; the perfidy of the people of Cufa, to which he had fallen a victim; the lofty heroism of his latter moments, and the savage atrocities which had accompanied his murder. The public mind was heated by these speeches; the enthusiasm awakened for the memory of Hosein was extended to his politic eulogist. An Egyptian soothsayer, famed for skill in divination, and who had studied the prophet Daniel, declared that Abdallah would live and die a king; and this operated powerfully in his favor among the superstitious Arabs, so that his party rapidly increased in numbers.
The Caliph Yezid, although almost all the provinces of the empire were still in allegiance to him, was alarmed at the movements of this new rival. He affected, however, to regard him with contempt, and sent a silver collar to Merwân Ibn Hakem, then governor of Medina, directing him to put it round the neck of the “mock Caliph,” should he persist in his folly, and send him in chains to Damascus. Merwân, however, who was of a wily character himself, and aware of the craft and courage of Abdallah, and his growing popularity in Medina, evaded the execution of the order.
Yezid had no better success in his endeavors to crush the rising power of Abdallah at Mecca. In vain he repeatedly changed his governors of that city; each in his turn was outwitted by the superior sagacity of Abdallah, or overawed by the turbulent discontent of the people.
Various negotiations took place between Yezid and these disaffected cities, and dispatches were sent from the latter to Damascus; but these only rendered the schism in the Caliphat more threatening. The deputies brought back accounts of the dissolute life of Yezid, which shocked the pious and abstemious Arabs of the sacred cities. They represented him as destitute of religion and morality; neglectful of the hours of worship; a gross sensualist addicted to wine and banqueting; an effeminate voluptuary, passing his time amid singing and dancing women, listening to music and loose minstrelsy, and surrounded by dogs and eunuchs.
The contempt and loathing caused by their representations were fomented by the partisans of Abdallah Ibn Zobeir, and extended to the whole house of Ommiah, of which Yezid was a member. Open rebellion at length broke out in a manner characteristic of the Arabs. During an assemblage in the mosque of Medina, one of the conspirators threw his turban on the ground, exclaiming, “I cast off Yezid as I cast off this turban.” Another seconded him with the exclamation, “I cast off Yezid as I cast off this shoe.” Heaps of shoes and turbans soon showed that the feeling was unanimous.
The next move was to banish the house of Ommiah and all its dependents; but these, to the number of a thousand, took refuge in the palace of Merwân Ibn Hakem, the governor, who was of that race. Here they were closely besieged and sent off to Yezid, imploring instant succor.
It was with difficulty Yezid could prevail upon any of his generals to engage in so unpopular a cause. Meslem Ibn Okbah, a stout-hearted but infirm old general, at length undertook it; but observed, with contempt, that a thousand men who suffered themselves to be cooped up like fowls, without fighting, scarce deserved assistance.
When the troops were about to depart, Yezid rode about among them, his scimitar by his side, and an Arab bow across his shoulder, calling upon them to show their loyalty and courage. His instructions to Meslem were to summon the city of Medina, three days in succession, before he made any assault; if it refused to surrender, he should, after taking it, give it up to three days’ pillage. He charged him, however, to be careful of the safety of the youth Ali, son of Hosein, who was in the city, but had taken no part in the rebellion.
Meslem departed at the head of twelve thousand horse and five thousand foot. When he arrived before Medina he found a huge trench digged round the city, and great preparations made for defense. On three successive days he summoned it to surrender, and on each day received a refusal. On the fourth day he attacked it by storm, making his assault on the east side, that the besieged might be blinded by the rising sun. The city held out until most of its prime leaders were slain; it would then have capitulated, but the stern old general compelled an unconditional surrender.
Meslem entered the city sword in hand, and sent instantly for Ali, the youthful son of Hosein, whom he placed on his own camel, and furnished with a trusty guard. His next care was to release the thousand men of the house of Ommiah from confinement, lest they should be involved in the sacking of the city; this done, he abandoned the place for three days to his soldiery, and a scene of slaughter, violence, and rapine ensued, too horrible to be detailed. Those of the inhabitants who survived the massacre were compelled to submit as slaves and vassals of Yezid. The rigid severity of old Meslem, which far surpassed his orders, gained him the appellation of Musreph, or The Extortionate. His memory has ever been held in odium by the Moslems, for the outrages which he permitted in this sacred city. This capture of Medina took place at night, in the sixty-third year of the Hegira, and the year 682 of the Christian era.
The old general now marched on to wreak the same fate upon Mecca; but his fires were burnt out; he died on the march of fatigue, infirmity, and old age, and the command devolved on a Syrian general named Hozein Ibn Thamir. The latter led his force up to the walls of Mecca, where Abdallah Ibn Zobeir commanded in person. For the space of forty days he besieged the city, battering the walls with engines brought from Syria. In the course of the siege a part of the Kaaba was beaten down and the rest burnt. Some ascribe the fire to the engines of the besiegers; others affirm that Abdallah, hearing a shouting in the night, caused a flaming brand to be elevated on a lance to discover the cause, and that the fire communicated to the veil which covered the edifice.
Mecca was reduced to extremity, and the inhabitants began to dread the fate of Medina, when a swift messenger brought to Abdallah Ibn Zobeir the joyful tidings of the death of Yezid. He immediately mounted the walls and demanded of the besiegers why they continued to fight, seeing that their master Yezid was no more. They regarded his words as a mere subterfuge, and continued the attack with increased vigor. The intelligence, however, was speedily confirmed.
Hozein now held a conference with Abdallah; he expressed an ardent desire to put an end to all further effusion of kindred blood, and proffered the allegiance of himself and his army, in which were some of the leading men of Syria. Abdallah, for once, was too cautious for his own good. He shrank from trusting himself with Hozein and his army; he permitted them, however, at their earnest request, to walk in religious procession round the ruins of the Kaaba, of course without arms; after which Hozein and his host departed on the march homeward; and the late beleaguered family of Ommiah accompanied them to Syria.
The death of the Caliph Yezid took place at Hawwarin, in Syria, in the sixty-fourth year of the Hegira, A.D. 683, in the thirty-ninth year of his age, after a reign of three years and six months. He was cut down In the flower of his days, say the Moslem writers, in consequence of his impiety, in ordering the sacking of Medina, the burial-place of the prophet; for the latter had predicted, “Whoever injureth Medina, shall melt away even as salt melteth in water.” The Persian writers also, sectarians of Ali, hold the memory of Yezid in abhorrence, charging him with the deaths of Hassan and Hosein, and accompany his name with the imprecation, “May he be accursed of God!”
INAUGURATION OF MOAWYAH II., EIGHTH CALIPH—HIS ABDICATION AND DEATH—MERWAN IBN HAKEM AND ABDALLAH IBN ZOBEIR, RIVAL CALIPHS—CIVIL WARS IN SYRIA.
ON the death of Yezid, his son, Moawyah II., was proclaimed at Damascus, being the third Caliph of the house of Ommiah. He was in the twenty-first year of his age, feeble in mind and body, and swayed in his opinions and actions by his favorite teacher, Omar Almeksus, of the sect of the Kadarii, who maintain the free-will of men, and that a contrary opinion would make God the author of sin.
Moawyah assumed the supreme authority with extreme reluctance, and felt his incompetency to its duties; for the state of his health obliged him to shun daylight and keep in darkened rooms; whence the Arabs, in their propensity to by-names, gave him the derisive appellation of Abuleilah, “Father of the Night.”
He abdicated at the end of six months, alleging his incompetency. The Ommiades were indignant at his conduct; they attributed it, and probably with reason, to the counsels of the sage Omar Almeksus, on whom they are said to have wreaked their rage by burying him alive.
Moawyah refused to nominate a successor. His grandfather Moawyah, he said, had wrested the scepter from the hands of a better man; his father Yezid had not merited so great a trust, and he himself being unworthy and unfit to wield it, was equally unworthy to appoint a successor; he left the election, therefore, to the chiefs of the people. In all which he probably spake according to the dictates of the sage Omar Almeksus.
As soon as he had thrown off the cares of government he shut himself up in the twilight gloom of his chamber, whence he never stirred until his death, which happened soon after, caused, some say, by the plague, others by poison. His own diseased frame and morbid temperament, however, account sufficiently for his dissolution.
The election of a Caliph again distracted the Moslem empire. The leading men at Damascus determined upon Merwân Ibn Hakem, of the family of Ommiah, and once the secretary of state of Othman, who had so craftily managed the correspondence of that unfortunate Caliph. He was now well stricken in years; tall and meager, with a pale face and yellow beard, doubtless tinged according to oriental usage. Those who elected him took care to stipulate that he should not nominate any of his posterity as his successor; but should be succeeded by Khaled, the son of Yezid, as yet a minor. Merwân, in his eagerness for power, pledged himself without hesitation; how faithfully he redeemed his pledge will be seen hereafter.
While this election was held at Damascus, Abdallah Ibn Zobeir was acknowledged as Caliph in Mecca, Medina, and throughout Arabia, as also in Khorassan, in Babylonia, and in Egypt.
Another candidate for the supreme power unexpectedly arose in Obeid’allah Ibn Ziyad, the emir of Bassora, the same who had caused the massacre of Hosein. He harangued an assemblage of the people of Bassora on the state of the contending factions in Syria and Arabia; the importance of their own portion of the empire, so capable of sustaining itself in independence, and the policy of appointing some able person as a protector to watch over the public weal until these dissensions should cease, and a Caliph be unanimously appointed. The assembly was convinced by his reasoning, and urged him to accept the appointment. He declined it repeatedly, with politic grace, but was at length prevailed upon; and the leaders gave him their hands, promising allegiance to him as a provisional chief, until a Caliph should be regularly elected. His authority, however, was but of short duration. The people of Cufa, who had experienced his tyranny as governor, rejected with scorn his election as protector; their example reacted upon the fickle Bassorians, who suddenly revoked their late act of allegiance, rose in tumultuous opposition to the man they had so recently honored, and Obeid’allah was fain to disguise himself in female attire, and take refuge in the house of an adherent. During his sway, however, he had secured an immense amount of gold from the public treasury. This he now shared among his partisans, and distributed by handfuls among the multitude; but though he squandered in this way above two hundred thousand pieces of gold upon the populace, and raised a few transient tumults in his favor, he was ultimately obliged to fly for his life, and his effects were pillaged by the rabble. So fared it with the temporary tyrant who smote the gory head of the virtuous Hosein.
He fled by night at the head of only a hundred men; after a time weariness compelled him to exchange the camel on which he was mounted for an ass. In this humble plight, with drooping head, and legs dangling to the ground, journeyed the imperious Obeid’allah, who, but the day before, was governor of Babylonia, and aspired to the throne of the Caliphs. One of his attendants, noticing his dejection, and hearing him mutter to himself, supposed him smitten with contrition, and upbraiding himself with having incurred these calamities, as a judgment for the death of Hosein: he ventured to suggest his thoughts and to offer consolation; but Obeid’allah quickly let him know that his only repentance and self-reproach were for not having attacked the faithless Bassorians, and struck off their heads at the very outbreak of their revolt. Obeid’allah effected his escape into Syria; and arrived at Damascus in time to take an active part in the election of Merwân to the Caliphat; in the mean time Bassora declared its allegiance to Ibn Abdallah Zobeir.
The claims of Merwân to the Caliphat were acknowledged in Syria alone, but Syria, if undivided, was an empire in itself. It was divided, however. A powerful faction, headed by Dehac Ibn Kais, late governor of Cufa, disputed the pretensions of Merwân, and declared for Abdallah. They appeared in arms in the plain near Damascus. Merwân took the field against them in person; a great and sanguinary battle took place; Dehac and fourscore of the flower of Syrian nobility were slain, and an immense number of their adherents. Victory declared for Merwân. He called off his soldiers from the pursuit, reminding them that the fugitives were their brethren.
When the head of Dehac was brought to him he turned from it with sorrow. “Alas!” exclaimed he, “that an old and worn-out man like myself should occasion the young and vigorous to be cut to pieces!”
His troops hailed him as Caliph beyond all dispute, and bore him back in triumph to Damascus. He took up his abode in the palace of his predecessors, Moawyah and Yezid; but now came a harder part of his task. It had been stipulated that at his death Khaled the son of Yezid should be his successor; it was now urged that he should marry the widow of Yezid, the mother of the youth, and thus make himself his legitimate guardian.
The aged Merwân would fain have evaded this condition, but it was forced upon him as a measure of policy, and he complied; no sooner, however, was the marriage solemnized than he left his capital and his bride, and set off with an army for Egypt, to put down the growing ascendency of Abdallah in that region. He sent in advance Amru Ibn Saad, who acted with such promptness and vigor that while the Caliph was yet on the march he received tidings that the lieutenant of Abdallah had been driven from the province, and the Egyptians brought under subjection: whereupon Merwân turned his face again toward Damascus.
Intelligence now overtook him that an army under Musab, brother of Abdallah, was advancing upon Egypt. The old Caliph again faced about, and resumed his march in that direction, but again was anticipated by Amru, who routed Musab in a pitched battle, and completely established the sway of Merwân over Egypt. The Caliph now appointed his son Abd’alaziz to the government of that important country, and once more returned to Damascus, whither he was soon followed by the victorious Amru.
STATE OF AFFAIRS IN KHORASSAN—CONSPIRACY AT CUFA—FACTION OF THE PENITENTS; THEIR FORTUNES—DEATH OF THE CALIPH MERWAN.
IN the present divided state of the Moslem empire, the people of Khorassan remained neuter, refusing to acknowledge either Caliph. They appointed Salem, the son of Ziyad, to act as regent, until the unity of the Moslem government should be restored. He continued for a length of time in this station, maintaining the peace of the province, and winning the hearts of the inhabitants by his justice, equity, and moderation.
About this time there was a sudden awakening among the sect of Ali, in Babylonia. The people of Cufa, proverbially fickle and faithless, were seized with tardy remorse for the fate of Hosein, of which they were conscious of being the cause. Those who had not personally assisted in his martyrdom formed an association to avenge his death. Above a hundred of the chief men of the country joined them; they took the name of The Penitents, to express their contrition for having been instrumental in the death of the martyr; and they chose for their leader one of the veteran companions of the prophet, the venerable Solyman Ibn Sorâd, who devoted his gray hairs to this pious vengeance.
The awakening spread far and wide; in a little while upward of sixteen thousand names were enrolled; a general appeal to arms was anticipated throughout the country, and the veteran Solyman called upon all true Moslems disposed to prosecute this “holy war,” to assemble at a place called Nochaila. Before the appointed time, however, the temporary remorse of the people of Cufa had subsided; the enthusiasm for the memory of Hosein had cooled throughout the province; intriguing meddlers, jealous of the appointment of Solyman, had been at work, and when the veteran came to the place of assemblage he found but an inconsiderable number prepared for action.
He now dispatched two horsemen to Cufa, who arrived there at the hour of the last evening prayer, galloped through the streets to the great mosque, rousing the Penitents with the war cry of “Vengeance for Hosein.” The call was not lost on the real enthusiasts; a kind of madness seized upon many of the people, who thronged after the couriers, echoing the cry of vengeance. The cry penetrated into the depths of the houses. One man tore himself from the arms of a beautiful and tenderly beloved wife, and began to arm for battle. She asked him if he were mad. “No!” cried he, “but I hear the summons of the herald of God, and I fly to avenge the death of Hosein.” “And in whose protection do you leave our child?” “I commend him and thee to the protection of Allah!” So saying, he departed.
Another called for a lance and steed; told his daughter that he fled from crime to penitence; took a hurried leave of his family and galloped to the camp of Solyman.
Still, when the army of Penitents was mustered on the following day it did not exceed four thousand. Solyman flattered himself, however, that reinforcements, promised him from various quarters, would join him when on the march. He harangued his scanty host, roused their ardor, and marched them to the place of Hosein’s murder, where they passed a day and night in prayer and lamentation. They then resumed their march. Their intention was to depose both Caliphs, Merwân and Abdallah, to overthrow the family of Ommiah, and restore the throne to the house of Ali; but their first object was vengeance on Obeid’allah, the son of Ziyad, to whom they chiefly ascribed the murder of Hosein. The aged Solyman led his little army of enthusiasts through Syria, continually disappointed of recruits, but unabated in their expectation of aid from Heaven, until they were encountered by Obeid’allah with an army of twenty thousand horsemen, and cut in pieces.
In the midst of these internal feuds and dissensions, a spark of the old Saracen spirit was aroused by the news of disastrous reverses in Northern Africa. We have recorded in a former chapter the heroic but disastrous end of Acbah on the plains of Numidia, where he and his little army were massacred by a Berber host, led on by Aben Cahina. That Moorish chieftain, while flushed with victory, had been defeated by Zohair before the walls of Caerwan, and the spirits of the Moslems had once more revived; especially on the arrival of reinforcements sent by Abd’alaziz from Egypt. A sad reverse, however, again took place. A large force of imperialists, veteran and well armed soldiers from Constantinople, were landed on the African coast to take advantage of the domestic troubles of the Moslems, and drive them from their African possessions. Being joined by the light troops of Barbary, they attacked Zobeir in open field. He fought long and desperately, but being deserted by the Egyptian reinforcements, and overpowered by numbers, was compelled to retreat to Barca, while the conquering foe marched on to Caerwan, captured that city, and made themselves masters of the surrounding country.
It was the tidings of this disastrous reverse, and of the loss of the great outpost of Moslem conquest in Northern Africa, that roused the Saracen spirit from its domestic feuds. Abd’almâlec, the eldest son of the Caliph Merwân, who had already served in Africa, was sent with an army to assist Zobeir. He met that general in Barca, where he was again collecting an army. They united their forces, retraced the westward route of victory, defeated the enemy in every action, and replaced the standard of the faith on the walls of Caerwan. Having thus wiped out the recent disgraces, Abd’almâlec left Zobeir in command of that region, and returned covered with glory to sustain his aged father in the Caliphat at Damascus.
The latter days of Merwân had now arrived. He had been intriguing and faithless in his youth; he was equally so in his age. In his stipulations on receiving the Caliphat he had promised the succession to Khaled, the son of Yezid; he had since promised it to his nephew Amru, who had fought his battles and confirmed his power; in his latter days he caused his own son Abd’almâlec, fresh from African exploits, to be proclaimed his successor, and allegiance to be sworn to him. Khaled, his stepson, reproached him with his breach of faith; in the heat of reply, Merwân called the youth by an opprobrious epithet, which brought in question the chastity of his mother. This unlucky word is said to have caused the sudden death of Merwân. His wife, the mother of Khaled, is charged with having given him poison; others say that she threw a pillow on his face while he slept, and sat on it until he was suffocated. He died in the 65th year of the Hegira, A.D. 684, after a brief reign of not quite a year.
INAUGURATION OF ABD’ALMALEC, THE ELEVENTH CALIPH—STORY OF AL MOKTAR, THE AVENGER.
ON the death of Merwâtn, his son Abd’almâlec was inaugurated Caliph at Damascus, and acknowledged throughout Syria and Egypt, as well as in the newly-conquered parts of Africa. He was in the full vigor of life, being about forty years of age; his achievements in Africa testify his enterprise, activity, and valor, and he was distinguished for wisdom and learning. From the time of his father’s inauguration he had been looking forward to the probability of becoming his successor, and ambition of sway had taken place of the military ardor of his early youth. When the intelligence of his father’s death reached him, he was sitting cross-legged, in oriental fashion, with the Koran open on his knees. He immediately closed the sacred volume, and rising, exclaimed, “Fare thee well, I am called to other matters.”
The accession to sovereign power is said to have wrought a change in his character. He had always been somewhat superstitious; he now became attentive to signs, omens, and dreams, and grew so sordid and covetous that the Arabs, in their propensity to give characteristic and satirical surnames, used to call him Rafhol Hejer, that is to say, Sweat-Stone, equivalent to our vulgar epithet of skinflint.
Abdallah Ibn Zobeir was still acknowledged as Caliph by a great portion of the Moslem dominions, and held his seat of government at Mecca; this gave him great influence over the true believers, who resorted in pilgrimage to the Kaaba. Abd’almâlec determined to establish a rival place of pilgrimage within his own dominions. For this purpose he chose the temple of Jerusalem, sacred in the eyes of the Moslems, as connected with the acts and revelations of Moses, of Jesus, and of Mohammed, and as being surrounded by the tombs of the prophets. He caused this sacred edifice to be enlarged so as to include within its walls the steps upon which the Caliph Omar prayed on the surrender of that city. It was thus converted into a mosque, and the venerable and sanctified stone called Jacob’s pillow, on which the patriarch is said to have had his dream, was presented for the kisses of pilgrims, in like manner as the black stone of the Kaaba.
There was at this time a general of bold if not ferocious character, who played a sort of independent part in the troubles and commotions of the Moslem empire. He was the son of Abu Obeidah, and was sometimes called Al Thakifi, from his native city Thayef, but won for himself the more universal appellation of Al Moktâr, or the Avenger. The first notice we find of him is during the short reign of Hassan, the son of Ali, being zealously devoted to the family of that Caliph. We next find him at Cufa, harboring and assisting Muslem, the emissary of Hosein, and secretly fomenting the conspiracy in favor of the latter. When the emir Obeid’allah came to Cufa, he was told of the secret practices of Al Moktâr, and questioned him on the subject. Receiving a delusive reply, he smote him over the face with his staff, and struck out one of his eyes. He then cast him into prison, where he lay until the massacre of Hosein. Intercessions were made in his favor with the Caliph Yezid, who ordered his release. The emir executed the order, but gave Al Moktâr notice that if, after the expiration of three days, he were found within his jurisdiction, his life should be forfeit.
Al Moktâr departed, uttering threats and maledictions. One of his friends who met him inquired concerning the loss of his eye. “It was the act of that son of a wanton, Obeid’allah,” said he, bitterly; “but may Allah confound me if I do not one day cut him in pieces.” Blood revenge for the death of Hosein became now his ruling thought. “May Allah forsake me,” he would say, “if I do not kill as many in vengeance of that massacre as were destroyed to avenge the blood of John, the son of Zacharias, on whom be peace!”
He now repaired to Mecca, and presented himself before Abdallah Ibn Zobeir, who had recently been inaugurated; but he would not take the oath of allegiance until the Caliph had declared his disposition to revenge the murder of Hosein. “Never,” said he, “will the affairs of Abdallah prosper, until I am at the head of his army taking revenge for that murder.”
Al Moktâr fought valiantly in defense of the sacred city while besieged; but when the siege was raised in consequence of the death of Yezid, and Abdallah became generally acknowledged, he found the Caliph growing cold toward him, or toward the constant purpose of his thoughts; he left him therefore, and set out for Cufa, visiting all the mosques on the way, haranguing the people on the subject of the death of Hosein, and declaring himself his avenger.
On arriving at Cufa he found his self-appointed office of avenger likely to be forestalled by the veteran Solyman, who was about to depart on his mad enterprise with his crazy Penitents. Calling together the sectaries of Ali, he produced credentials from Mahomet, the brother of Hosein, which gained for him their confidence, and then represented to them the rashness and futility of the proposed expedition; and to his opposition may be ascribed the diminished number of volunteers that assembled at the call of Solyman.
While thus occupied he was arrested on a charge of plotting an insurrection with a view to seize upon the province, and was thrown into the same prison in which he had been confined by Obeid’allah. During his confinement he kept up a correspondence with the sectaries of Ali by letters conveyed in the lining of a cap. On the death of the Caliph Merwân he was released from prison, and found himself head of the Alians, or powerful sect of Ali, who even offered their adhesion to him as Caliph, on condition that he would govern according to the Koran, and the Sonna or traditions, and would destroy the murderers of Hosein and his family.
Al Moktâr entered heartily upon the latter part of his duties, and soon established his claim to the title of Avenger. The first on whom he wreaked his vengeance was the ferocious Shamar, who had distinguished himself in the massacre of Hosein. Him he overcame and slew. The next was Caulah, who cut off the head of Hosein and conveyed it to the emir Obeid’allah. Him he beleaguered in his dwelling, and killed, and gave his body to the flames. His next victim was Amar Ibn Saad, the commander of the army that surrounded Hosein; with him he slew his son, and sent both of their heads to Mahomet, the brother of Hosein. He then seized Adi Ibn Hathem, who had stripped the body of Hosein while the limbs were yet quivering with life. Him he handed over to some of the sect of Ali, who stripped him, set him up as a target, and discharged arrows at him until they stood out from his body like the quills of a porcupine. In this way Al Moktâr went on, searching out the murderers of Hosein wherever they were to be found, and inflicting on them a diversity of deaths.
Sustained by the Alians, or sect of Ali, he now maintained a military sway in Cufa, and held, in fact, a sovereign authority over Babylonia; he felt, however, that his situation was precarious; an army out of Syria, sent by Abd’almâlec, was threatening him on one side; and Musab, brother of the Caliph Abdallah, was in great force at Bassora menacing him on the other. He now had recourse to stratagems to sustain his power, and accomplish his great scheme of vengeance. He made overtures to Abdallah, offering to join him with his forces. The wary Caliph suspected his sincerity, and required, as proofs of it, the oath of allegiance from himself and his people, and a detachment to proceed against the army of Abd’almâlec.
Al Moktâr promptly sent off an officer, named Serjabil, with three thousand men, with orders to proceed to Medina. Abdallah, still wary and suspicious, dispatched a shrewd general, Abbas Ibn Sahel, with a competent force to meet Serjabil and sound his intentions, and if he were convinced there was lurking treachery, to act accordingly.
Abbas and Serjabil encountered at the head of their troops on the highway to Medina. They had an amicable conference, in which Abbas thought he discovered sufficient proof of perfidy. He took measures accordingly. Finding the little army of Serjabil almost famished for lack of provisions, he killed a great number of fat sheep and distributed them among the hungry troops. A scene of hurry and glad confusion immediately took place. Some scattered themselves about the neighborhood in search of fuel; some were cooking, some feasting. In this unguarded moment Abbas set upon them with his troops, slew Serjabil and nearly four hundred of his men; but gave quarter to the rest, most of whom enlisted under his standard.
Al Moktâr, finding that his good faith was doubted by Abdallah, wrote privately to Mahomet, brother of Hosein, who was permitted by the Caliph to reside in Mecca, where he led a quiet inoffensive life, offering to bring a powerful army to his assistance if he would take up arms. Mahomet sent a verbal reply, assuring Al Moktâr of his belief in the sincerity of his offers; but declining all appeal to arms, saying he was resolved to bear his lot with patience, and leave the event to God. As the messenger was departing, he gave him a parting word: “Bid Al Moktâr fear God and abstain from shedding blood.”
The pious resignation and passive life of Mahomet were of no avail. The suspicious eye of Abdallah was fixed upon him. The Cufians of the sect of Ali, and devotees to the memory of Hosein, who yielded allegiance to neither of the rival Caliphs, were still permitted to make their pilgrimages to the Kaaba, and when in Mecca did not fail to do honor to Mahomet Ibn Ali and his family. The secret messages of Al Moktâr to Mahomet were likewise known. The Caliph Abdallah, suspecting a conspiracy, caused Mahomet and his family, and seventeen of the principal pilgrims from Cufa, to be arrested, and confined in the edifice by the sacred well Zem Zem, threatening them with death unless by a certain time they gave the pledge of allegiance.
From their prison they contrived to send a letter to Al Moktâr, apprising him of their perilous conditions. He assembled the Alians, or sect of Ali, at Cufa, and read the letter. “This comes,” said he, “from Mahomet, the son of Ali and brother of Hosein. He and his family, the purest of the house of your prophet, are shut up like sheep destined for the slaughter. Will you desert them in their extremity, and leave them to be massacred as you did the martyr Hosein and his family?”
The appeal was effectual; the Alians cried out to be led to Mecca. Al Moktâr marshalled out seven hundred and fifty men, bold riders, hard fighters, well armed and fleetly mounted, arranged them in small troops to follow each other at considerable intervals, troop after troop like the waves of the sea; the leader of the first troop, composed of a hundred and fifty men, was Abu Abdallah Aljodali. He set off first; the others followed at sufficient distance to be out of sight, but all spurred forward, for no time was to be lost.
Abu Abdallah was the first to enter Mecca. His small troop awakened no alarm. He made his way to the well of Zem Zem, crying, “Vengeance for Hosein;” drove off the guard and broke open the prison house, whence he liberated Mahomet Ibn Ali and his family.
The tumult brought the Caliph and his guard. Abu Abdallah would have given them battle, but Mahomet interfered, and represented that it was impious to fight within the precincts of the Kaaba. The Caliph, seeing the small force that was with Abdallah, would on his part have proceeded to violence, when lo, the second troop of hard riders spurred up; then the third, and presently all the rest, shouting “Allah Achbar,” and “Vengeance for Hosein.”
The Caliph, taken by surprise, lost all presence of mind. He knew the popularity of Mahomet Ibn Ali and his family, and dreaded an insurrection. Abu Abdallah in the moment of triumph would have put him to death, but his hand was stayed by the pious and humane Mahomet. The matter was peaceably adjusted. The Caliph was left unmolested; Mahomet distributed among his friends and adherents a great sum of money, which had been sent to him by Al Moktâr, and then with his family departed in safety from Mecca.
Al Moktâr had now to look to his safety at home; his old enemy Obeid’allah, former emir of Cufa, was pressing forward at the head of an army of the Caliph Abd’almâlec, to recover that city, holding out to his troops a promise of three days’ sack and pillage. Al Moktâr called on the inhabitants to take arms against their former tyrant and the murderer of Hosein. A body of troops sallied forth headed by Ibrahim, the son of Alashtar. To give a mysterious sanctity to the expedition, Al Moktâr caused a kind of throne covered with a veil to be placed on a mule, and led forth with the army; to be to them what the ark was to the children of Israel, a sacred safeguard. On going into battle, the following prayer was to be offered up at it: “Oh God! keep us in obedience to thee, and help us in our need.” To which all the people were to respond, “Amen!”
The army of Ibrahim encountered the host of Obeid’allah on the plains, at some distance from Cufa. They rushed forward with a holy enthusiasm inspired by the presence of their ark: “Vengeance for Hosein!” was their cry, and it smote upon the heart of Obeid’allah. The battle was fierce and bloody; the Syrian force, though greatly superior, was completely routed; Obeid’allah was killed, fighting with desperate valor, and more of his soldiers were drowned in the flight than were slaughtered in the field. This signal victory was attributed, in a great measure, to the presence of the ark or veiled throne, which thenceforward was regarded almost with idolatry.
Ibrahim caused the body of Obeid’allah to be burned to ashes, and sent his head to Al Moktâr. The gloomy heart of the avenger throbbed with exultation as he beheld this relic of the man who had oppressed, insulted, and mutilated him; he recollected the blow over the face which had deprived him of an eye, and smote the gory head of Obeid’allah, even as he had been smitten.
Thus, says the royal and pious historian Abulfeda, did Allah make use of the deadly hate of Al Moktâr to punish Obeid’allah, the son of Ziyad, for the martyrdom of Hosein.
The triumph of Al Moktâr was not of long duration. He ruled over a fickle people, and he ruled them with a rod of iron. He persecuted all who were not, or whom he chose to consider as not, of the Hosein party, and he is charged with fomenting an insurrection of the slaves against the chief men of the city of Cufa. A combination was at length formed against him, and an invitation was sent to Musab Ibn Zobeir, who had been appointed emir of Bassora, by his brother, the Caliph Abdallah.
The invitation was borne by one Shebet, an enthusiast who made his entrance into Bassora on a mule with cropt ears and tail, his clothes rent, exclaiming with a loud voice, “Ya, gautha! Ya gautha! Help! help!” He delivered his message in a style suited to his garb, but accompanied it by letters from the chief men of Cufa, which stated their grievances in a more rational manner. Musab wrote instantly to Al Mohalleb, the emir of Persia, one of the ablest generals of the time, to come to his aid with men and money; and on his arrival, joined forces with him to attack the Avenger in his seat of power.
Al Moktâr did not wait to be besieged. He took the field with his accustomed daring, and gave battle beneath the walls of his capital. It was a bloody fight; the presence of the mysterious throne had its effect upon the superstitious minds of the Cufians, but Al Moktâr had become hateful from his tyranny, and many of the first people were disaffected to him. His army was routed; he retreated into the royal citadel of Cufa, and defended it bravely and skillfully, until he received a mortal wound. Their chief being killed, the garrison surrendered at discretion, and Musab put every man to the sword, to the number of seven thousand.
Thus fell Al Moktâr Ibn Abu Obeidah, in his sixty-seventh year, after having defeated the ablest generals of three Caliphs, and by the sole power of his sword made himself the independent ruler of all Babylonia. He is said never to have pardoned an enemy, to have persecuted with inveterate hate all who were hostile to the family of Ali, and in vengeance of the massacre of Hosein to have shed the blood of nearly fifty thousand men, exclusive of those who were slain in battle. Well did he merit the title of the Avenger.
MUSAB IBN ZOBEIR TAKES POSSESSION OF BABYLONIA—USURPATION OF AMRU IBN SAAD; HIS DEATH—EXPEDITION OF ABD’ALMALEC AGAINST MUSAB—THE RESULT—OMENS; THEIR EFFECT UPON ABD’ALMALEC—EXPLOITS OF AL MOHALLEB.
THE death of Al Moktâr threw the province of Babylonia, with its strong capital, Cufa, into the hands of Musab Ibn Zobeir, brother to the Caliph Abdallah. Musab was well calculated to win the favor of the people. He was in the flower of his days, being but thirty-six years of age, comely in person, engaging in manners, generous in spirit, and of consummate bravery, though not much versed in warfare. He had been an intimate friend of Abd’almâlec before the latter was made Caliph, but he was brother to the rival Caliph, and connected by marriage with families in deadly opposition to the house of Ommiah. Abd’almâlec, therefore, regarded him as a formidable foe, and, warned by the disasters of his army under Obeid’allah, resolved now to set out at the head of a second expedition in person, designed for the invasion of Babylonia.
In setting forth on this enterprise he confided the government of Damascus to his cousin, Amru Ibn Saad; he did this in consideration of the military skill of Amru, though secretly there was a long nourished hate between them. The origin of this hatred shows the simplicity of Saracen manners in those days. When boys, Abd’almâlec and Amru were often under the care of an old beldame of their family, who used to prepare their meals, and produce quarrels between them in the allotment of their portions. These childish disputes became fierce quarrels and broils as they grew up together, and were rivals in their youthful games and exercises. In manhood they ripened into deadly jealousy and envy, as they became conquering generals; but the elevation of Abd’almâlec to the Caliphat sank deep into the heart of Amru, as a flagrant wrong; the succession having been promised to him by his uncle, the late Caliph Merwân, as a reward for having subjugated Egypt. As soon, therefore, as Abd’almâlec had departed from Damascus, Amru, not content with holding the government of the city, aspired to the sovereignty of Syria, as his rightful dominion.
Abd’almâlec heard of the usurpation while on the march, returned rapidly in his steps, and a bloody conflict ensued between the forces of the rival cousins in the streets of Damascus. The women rushed between them; held up their children and implored the combatants to desist from this unnatural warfare. Amru laid down his arms, and articles of reconciliation were drawn up and signed by the cousins.
Abd’almâlec proved faithless to his engagements. Getting Amru into his power by an artful stratagem, he struck off his head, put to death the principal persons who had supported him in his usurpation, and banished his family. As the exiles were about to depart, he demanded of the widow of Amru the written articles of pacification which he had exchanged with her husband. She replied that she had folded them up in his winding-sheet, to be at hand at the final day of judgment.
Abd’almâlec now resumed his march for Babylonia. He had sent agents before him to tamper with the fidelity of the principal persons. One of these, Ibrahim Ibn Alashtar, he had offered to make emir if he would serve his cause. Ibrahim, who was of incorruptible integrity, showed the letter to Musab, warned him that similar attempts must have been made to sap the fidelity of other persons of importance, and advised him to use the scimitar freely, wherever he suspected disaffection; but Musab was too just and merciful to act thus upon mere suspicion. The event showed that Ibrahim understood the fickle and perfidious nature of the people of Irak.
A battle took place on the margin of the desert not far from Palmyra. It commenced with a gallant charge of cavalry, headed by Ibrahim Ibn Alashtar, which broke the ranks of the Syrians and made great havoc. Abd’aImâlec came up with a reinforcement, anti rallied his scattered troops. In making a second charge, however, Ibrahim was slain, and now the perfidy of the Cufians became apparent. Musab’s general of horse wheeled round and spurred ignominiously from the field; others of the leaders refused to advance. Musab called loudly for Ibrahim; but seeing his lifeless body on the ground, “Alas!” he exclaimed, “there is no Ibrahim for me this day.”
Turning to his son Isa, a mere stripling, yet who had fought with manly valor by his side, “Fly, my son,” cried he; “fly to thy uncle Abdallah at Mecca; tell him of my fate, and of the perfidy of the men of Irak.” Isa, who inherited the undaunted spirit of the family of Zobeir, refused to leave his father. “Let us retreat,” said he, “to Bassora, where you will still find friends, and may thence make good your return to Mecca.” “No, my son!” replied Musab, “never shall it be said among the men of Koreish, that I fled the field of battle, or entered the temple of Mecca a vanquished general!”
During an interval of the battle, Abd’almâlec sent Musab an offer of his life. His reply was, he had come to conquer or to die. The conflict was soon at an end. The troops who had adhered to Musab were cut to pieces, his son Isa was slain by his side, and he himself, after being repeatedly wounded with arrows, was stabbed to the heart, and his head struck off.
When Abd’almâlec entered Cufa in triumph, the fickle inhabitants thronged to welcome him and take the oath of allegiance, and he found himself in quiet possession of both Babylonia and Persian Irak. He distributed great sums of money to win the light affections of the populace, and gave a sumptuous banquet in the citadel to which all were welcome.
In the height of the banquet, when all was revelry, a thought passed through the mind of the Caliph, as to the transient duration of all human grandeur. “Alas!” he ejaculated, “how sweetly we might live, if a shadow would but last!” The same vein of melancholy continued when the banquet was over, and he walked about the castle with an old gray-headed inhabitant, listening to his account of its antiquities and traditions. Every reply of the old man to his questions about things or persons began with the words, “This was—That was—He was.”
“Alas!” sighed the Caliph, repeating a verse from an Arabian poet; “everything new soon runneth to decay, and of every one that is, it is soon said, He was!”
While thus conversing, the head of Musab was brought to him, and he ordered a thousand dinars of gold to the soldier who brought it, but he refused the reward, “I slew him,” he said, “not for money, but to avenge a private wrong.” The old chronicler of the castle now broke forth on the wonderful succession of events. “I am fourscore and ten years old,” said he, “and have outlived many generations. In this very castle I have seen the head of Hosein presented to Obeid’allah, the son of Ziyad; then the head of Obeid’allah to Al Moktâr; then the head of Al Moktâr to Musab, and now that of Musab to yourself.” The Caliph was superstitious, and the words of the old man sounded ominously as the presage of a brief career to himself. He determined that his own head should not meet with similar fate within that castle’s walls, and gave orders to raze the noble citadel of Cufa to the foundation.
Abd’almâlec now appointed his brother Besher Ibn Merwan to the government of Babylonia; and as he was extremely young, he gave him, as chief counsellor, or vizier, a veteran named Musa Ibn Nosseyr, who had long enjoyed the confidence of the family of Merwan, as had his father before him. It is said by some that his father Nosseyr was a liberated slave of the Caliph’s brother Abd’alaziz, and employed by in him high functions. So great was the confidence of the Caliph in Musa that he entrusted him with all the military rolls of the province, and signified to him that in future the responsibility would rest upon him. On taking possession of his government, Besher delivered his seal of office into the hands of Musa, and entrusted him with the entire management of affairs. This Musa, it will be found, rose afterward to great renown.
The Caliph also appointed Khaled Ibn Abdallah to the command at Bassora, after which he returned to his capital of Damascus. The province of Babylonia, however, was not destined to remain long at peace. There was at this time a powerful Moslem sect in Persia, a branch of the Motalazites, called Azarakites from the name of their founder Ibn Al Azarak, but known also by the name of Separatists. They were enemies of all regular government, and fomenters of sedition and rebellion. During the sway of the unfortunate Musab they had given him great trouble by insurrections in various parts of the country, accompanied by atrocious cruelties. They had been kept in check, however, by Mohalleb, the lieutenant of Musab and one of the ablest generals of the age, who was incessantly on the alert at the head of the army, and never allowed their insurrections to come to any head.
Mohalleb was on a distant command at the time of the invasion and conquest. As soon as he heard of the defeat and death of Musab, and the change in the government of Irak, he hastened to Bassora to acknowledge allegiance to Abd’almâlec. Khaled accepted his services, in the name of the Caliph, but instead of returning him to the post he had so well sustained at the head of the army, appointed him supervisor or collector of tributes, and gave the command of the forces to his own brother, named Abd’alaziz. The change was unfortunate. The Azarakites had already taken breath, and acquired strength during the temporary absence of their old adversary, Mohalleb; but as soon as they heard he was no longer in command, they collected all their forces and made a rapid inroad into Irak.
Abd’alaziz advanced to meet them; but he was new to his own troops, being a native of Mecca, and he knew little of the character of the enemy. He was entirely routed, and his wife, a woman of great beauty, taken captive. A violent dispute arose among the captors as to the ransom of their prize, some valuing her at one hundred thousand dinars; until a furious zealot, indignant that her beauty should cause dissension among them, struck off her head.
The Caliph Abd’almâlec was deeply grieved when he heard of this defeat, and wrote to Khaled, emir of Bassora, reproving him for having taken the command of the army from Mohalleb, a man of penetrating judgment, and hardened in war, and given it to Abd’alaziz, “a mere Arab of Mecca.” He ordered him, therefore, to replace Mohalleb forthwith, and wrote also to his brother Besher, emir of Babylonia, to send the general reinforcements.
Once more Mohalleb proved his generalship by defeating the Azrakites in a signal and bloody battle near the city of Ahwâz; nor did he suffer them to rally, but pursued them over the borders and into the heart of the mountains, until his troops lost almost all their horses, and returned crowned with victory, but wayworn and almost famished.
The effect of all these internal wars was to diminish, for a time, the external terror of the Moslem name. The Greek emperor, during the recent troubles, had made successful incursions into Syria; and Abd’almâlec, finding enemies enough among those of his own faith, had been fain to purchase a humiliating truce of the Christian potentate by an additional yearly tribute of fifty thousand ducats.
ABD’ALMALEC MAKES WAR UPON HIS RIVAL CALIPH IN MECCA— SIEGE OF THE SACRED CITY—DEATH OF ABDALLAH—DEMOLITION AND RECONSTRUCTION OF THE KAABA.
Abd’almâlec, by his recent victories, had made himself sovereign of all the eastern part of the Moslem dominions; he had protected himself also from the Christian emperor by a disgraceful augmentation of tribute; he now determined to carry a war against his rival Abdallah, to the very gates of Mecca, and make himself sovereign of an undivided empire.
The general chosen for this important enterprise was Al Hejagi (or Hedjadgi) Ibn Yusef, who rose to renown as one of the ablest and most eloquent men of that era. He set off from Damascus with but two thousand men, but was joined by Taric Ibn Amar with five thousand more. Abd’almâlec had made proclamations beforehand, promising protection and favor to such of the adherents of Abdallah as should come unto his allegiance, and he trusted that many of the inhabitants of Mecca would desert to the standard of Al Hejagi.
Abdallah sent forth troops of horse to waylay and check the advance of the army, but they were easily repulsed, and Al Hejagi arrived without much difficulty before the sacred city. Before proceeding to hostilities he discharged arrows over the walls, carrying letters, in which the inhabitants were assured that he came merely to release them from the tyranny of Abdallah, and were invited to accept the most favorable terms, and abandon a man who would fain die with the title of Caliph, though the ruins of Mecca should be his sepulchre.
The city was now assailed with battering-rams and catapultas; breaches were made in the walls; the houses within were shattered by great stones, or set on fire by flaming balls of pitch and naphtha.
A violent storm of thunder and lightning killed several of the besiegers, and brought them to a pause. “Allah is wreaking his anger upon us,” said they, “for assailing his holy city.” Al Hejagi rebuked their superstitious fears and compelled them to renew the attack, setting them an example by discharging a stone with his own hands.
On the following day there was another storm, which did most injury to the garrison. “You perceive,” said Al Hejagi, “the thunder strikes your enemies as well as yourselves.”
The besieged held out valiantly, and repulsed every assault. Abdallah, though now aged and infirm, proved himself a worthy son of Zobeir. During the early part of the siege he resided chiefly in the Kaaba; that sacred edifice, therefore, became an object of attack; a part of it was battered down by stones, and it was set on fire repeatedly by the balls of naphtha. He therefore abandoned it, and retired to his own dwelling. He was sustained throughout all this time of peril by the presence and counsels of his mother, a woman of masculine spirit and unfailing energy, though ninety years of age. She was the granddaughter of Abu Beker, and proved herself worthy of her descent. She accompanied her son to the ramparts, caused refreshments to be distributed among the fighting men, was consulted in every emergency and present in every danger.
The siege continued with unremitting strictness; many of Abdallah’s most devoted friends were killed; others became disheartened: nearly ten thousand of the inhabitants deserted to the enemy; even two of the Caliph’s sons, Hamza and Koheib, forsook him, and made terms for themselves with the besiegers.
In this forlorn state, his means of defense almost exhausted, and those who ought to have been most faithful deserting him, Abdallah was tempted by an offer of his own terms on condition of surrender.
He turned to his aged mother for advice. “Judge for yourself, my son,” said the resolute descendant of Abu Beker. “If you feel that your cause is just, persevere. Your father Zobeir died for it, as did many of your friends. Do not bend your neck to the scorn of the haughty race of Ommiah. How much better an honorable death than a dishonored life for the brief term you have yet to live.”
The Caliph kissed her venerable forehead. “Thy thoughts are my own,” said he, “nor has any other motive than zeal for God induced me thus far to persevere. From this moment, consider thy son as dead, and refrain from immoderate lamentation.” “My trust is in God,” replied she, “and I shall have comfort in thee, my son, whether I go before or follow thee.”
As she took a parting embrace, she felt a coat of mail under the outer garments of Abdallah, and told him to put it off, as unsuited to a martyr prepared to die. “I have worn it,” replied he, “that I might be the better able to defend thee, my mother.” He added that he had little fear of death, but a horror of the insults and exposures to which his body might be subjected after death.
“A sheep once killed, my son, feels not the flaying.” With these words she gave him, to rouse his spirits, a cordial draught in which was a strong infusion of musk, and Abdallah went forth a self-devoted martyr.
This last sally of the veteran Caliph struck terror and astonishment into the enemy. At the head of a handful of troops he repulsed them from the breach, drove them into the ditch, and slew an incredible number with his own hand; others, however, thronged up in their place; he fought until his followers were slain, his arrows expended, and he had no weapon but sword and lance. He now retreated, step by step, with his face to the foe, disputing every inch of ground, until he arrived in a narrow place where he could only be assailed in front. Here he made his last stand. His opponents, not daring to come within reach of his weapons, assailed him from a distance with darts and arrows, and when these missiles were expended, with bricks and tiles and stones. A blow on the head from a stone made him totter, and the blood streamed down his face and beard. His assailants gave a shout; but he recovered himself and uttered a verse of a poet, “The blood of our wounds falls on our instep, not on our heels,” implying that he had not turned his back upon the foe. At length he sank under repeated wounds and bruises, and the enemy closing upon him cut off his head. Thus died Abdallah the son of Zobeir, in the seventy-third year of the Hegira, and the seventy-second year of his own age, after a stormy and disastrous reign of nine years.
Taric Ibn Amar, struck with admiration of his persevering valor, exclaimed, “Never did woman bear a braver son!” “How is this,” cried Al Hejagi; “do you speak thus of an enemy of the Commander of the Faithful?” But Abd’almâlec, when the speech was reported to him, concurred in the praise of his fallen rival. “By Allah!” exclaimed he, “what Taric hath spoken is the truth.” When the tidings of AbdaIlah’s death were brought to his aged mother, she experienced a revulsion of nature which she had not known for fifty years, and died of hemorrhage.
Abdallah was said to unite the courage of the lion with the craftiness of the fox. He was free from any glaring vice, but reputed to be sordidly covetous and miserly, insomuch that he wore the same garment for several years. It was a saying in Arabia that he was the first example of a man being at the same time brave and covetous; but the spoils of foreign conquest were fast corrupting the chivalrous spirit of the Arab conquerors. He was equally renowned for piety, being according to tradition so fixed and immovable in prayer that a pigeon once perched upon his head mistaking him for a statue.
With the death of Abdallah ended the rival Caliphat, and the conquering general received the oaths of allegiance of the Arabs for Abd’almâlec. His conduct, however, toward the people of Mecca and Medina was as cruel and oppressive as his military operations had been brilliant. He inflicted severe punishments for trivial offenses, sometimes on mere suspicion; and marked many with stamps of lead upon the neck, to disgrace them in the public eye. His most popular act was the reconstruction of the dilapidated Kaaba on the original form which it had borne before the era of the prophet.
For a time the people of Mecca and Medina groaned under his tyranny, and looked back with repining to the gentler sway of Abdallah; and it was a cause of general joy throughout those cities when the following circumstances caused him to be removed from their government and promoted to a distant command.
Though the death of Abdallah had rendered Abd’almâlec, sole sovereign of the Moslem empire, the emir of Khorassan, Abdallah Ibn Hazem, who had been appointed by his rival, hesitated to give in his allegiance. His province, so distant and great in extent, might make him a dangerous rebel; Abd’almâlec, therefore, sent a messenger, claiming his oath of fealty, and proffering him in reward the government of Khorassan for seven years, with the enjoyment of all its revenues; at the same time he sent him the head of the deceased Caliph, to intimate the fate he might expect should he prove refractory.
The emir, instead of being intimidated, was filled with horror, and swore never to acknowledge Abd’almâlec as Commander of the Faithful. He reverently washed and embalmed the head, folded it in fine linen, prayed over it, and sent it to the family of the deceased Caliph at Medina. Then summoning the messenger, he made him eat the epistle of Abd’almâlec in his presence, and dismissed him with the assurance that his sacred character of herald alone saved his head.
It was to go against this refractory but high-minded emir that Al Hejagi was called off from his command in Arabia. He entered Khorassan with a powerful army, defeated the emir in repeated battles, and at length slew him and reduced the province to obedience.
The vigor, activity, and indomitable courage displayed by Al Hejagi in these various services pointed him out as the very man to take charge of the government of Babylonia, or Irak, recently vacated by the death of the Caliph’s brother Besher; and he was accordingly sent to break that refractory province into more thorough obedience.
The province of Babylonia, though formerly a part of the Persian empire, had never been really Persian in character. Governed by viceroys, it had partaken of the alien feeling of a colony; forming a frontier between Persia and Arabia, and its population made up from both countries, it was deficient in the virtues of either. The inhabitants had neither the simplicity and loyalty of the Arabs of the desert, nor the refinement and cultivation of the Persians of the cities. Restless, turbulent, factious, they were ever ready to conspire against their rulers, to desert old faiths, and to adopt new sects and heresies. Before the conquest by the Moslems, when Irak was governed by a Persian satrap, and Syria by an imperial prefect, a spirit of rivalry and hostility existed between these frontier provinces; the same had revived during the division of the Caliphat; and while Syria was zealous in its devotion to the house of Ommiah, Irak had espoused the cause of Ali. Even since the reunion and integrity of the Caliphat, it still remained a restless, unsteady part of the Moslem empire; the embers of old seditions still lurked in its bosom, ready at any moment once more to burst forth into flame. We shall see how Al Hejagi fared in his government of that most combustible province.
ADMINISTRATION OF AL HEJAGI AS EMIR OF BABYLONIA.
AL HEJAGI, aware of the nature of the people over whom he was to rule, took possession of his government in military style. Riding into Cufa at the head of four thousand horse, he spurred on to the mosque, alighted at the portal, and ascending the pulpit delivered an harangue to the multitude, that let them know the rigorous rule they were to expect. He had come, he said, “to make the wicked man bear his own burden, and wear his own shoe;” and, as he looked round on the densely-crowded assemblage, he intimated he saw before him turbaned heads ripe for mowing, and beards which required to be moistened with blood.
His sermon was carried out in practice; he ruled with a rigorous hand, swearing he would execute justice in a style that should put to shame all who had preceded, and serve as an example to all who might follow him. He was especially severe, and even cruel, toward all who had been in any way implicated in the assassination of the Caliph Othman. One person, against whom he came prepared to exercise the utmost severity, was the veteran Musa Ibn Nosseyr, who had officiated as prime minister to the deceased emir Basher. He had been accused of appropriating and squandering the taxes collected in the province, and the Caliph had lent a too ready ear to the accusation. Fortunately, the following letter, from a friend in Damascus, apprised Musa in time of his danger.
“Thy deposition is signed; orders have been dispatched to Al Hejagi to seize on thy person and inflict on thee the most severe punishment; so away! away! thy safety depends on the fleetness of thy horse. If thou succeed in placing thyself under the protection of Abd’alaziz Ibn Merwân, all will go well with thee.”
Musa lost no time, but mounted his steed and fled to Damascus, where Abd’alaziz was then sojourning, having arrived with the tribute of Egypt. Abd’alaziz received with protecting kindness the veteran adherent of the family, and accompanied him before the Caliph. “How darest thou show thy beard here?” exclaimed Abd’almalec. “Why should I hide it?” replied the veteran; “what have I done to offend the Commander of the Faithful?” “Thou hast disobeyed my orders, and squandered my treasures.” “I did no such thing,” replied Musa, firmly; “I have always acted like a faithful subject; my intentions have been pure; my actions true.” “By Allah,” cried the Caliph, “thou shalt make thy defalcation good fifty times over.” The veteran was about to make an angry reply, but at a sign from Abd’alaziz he checked himself, and bowing his head, “Thy will be done,” said he, “oh Commander of the Faithful.” He was fined fifty thousand dinars of gold; which, however, Abd’alaziz enabled him to pay; and, on his return to his government in Egypt, took his old favorite with him. How he further indemnified Musa for his maltreatment will be shown hereafter.
To resume the affairs of Al Hejagi in Irak. Having exercised the rod of government in Cufa, he proceeded to Bassora, where he was equally sharp with his tongue and heavy with his hand. The consequence was, as usual, an insurrection. This suited his humor. He was promptly in the field; defeated the rebels in a pitched battle; sent the heads of eighteen of their leaders to the Caliph, and then returned to the administration of affairs at Bassora. He afterward sent two of his lieutenants to suppress a new movement among the Azarakite sectaries, who were defeated and driven out of the province.
In the 76th year of the Hegira a conspiracy was formed against the life of Abd’almâlec, by two Karigite fanatics, named Shebib Ibn Zeid and Saleh Ibn Mari. Their conspiracy was discovered and defeated, but they made their escape and repaired to the town of Daras, in Mesopotamia, where they managed to get together adherents to the number of one hundred and twenty men. Saleh was smooth-tongued and seductive, having a melodious voice and a great command of figurative language. He completely fascinated and bewildered his companion Shebib, and their infatuated followers, mingling his inflammatory harangues with pious precepts and expositions of the Koran. In the end he was hailed Commander of the Faithful by the motley crew, and gravely accepted the office. This men were all armed, but most of them were on foot; he therefore led them to a neighboring village, where they seized upon the best horses in the name of Allah and the prophet, to whom they referred the owners for payment.
Mahomet, brother of Abd’almâlec, who was at that time emir of Mesopotamia, was moved to laughter when he heard of this new Caliph and his handful of rabble followers, and ordered Adi, one of his officers, to take five hundred men and sweep them from the province.
Adi shook his head doubtfully. “One madman,” said he, “is more dangerous than five soldiers in their senses.”
“Take one thousand then,” said the emir; and with that number, well armed and mounted, Adi set out in quest of the fanatics. He found them and their pseudo Caliph living in free quarters on the fat of the land, and daily receiving recruits in straggling parties of two, and three, and four at a time, armed with such weapons as they could catch up in their haste. On the approach of Adi they prepared for battle, having full confidence that a legion of angels would fight on their side.
Adi held a parley, and endeavored to convince them of the absurdity of their proceedings, or to persuade them to carry their marauding enterprises elsewhere; but Saleh, assuming the tone of Caliph as well as sectarian, admonished Adi and his men to conform to his doctrines, and come into his allegiance. The conference ended while it was yet the morning hour. Adi still forbore to attack such a handful of misguided men, and paid dearly for his forbearance. At noontide, when he and his men were engaged in the customary prayer, and their steeds were feeding, the enthusiast band charged suddenly upon them with the cry of Allah Achbar! Adi was slain in the onset, and his body was trampled under foot; his troops were slaughtered or dispersed, and his camp and horses, with a good supply of arms, became welcome booty to the victors.
The band of sectarians increased in numbers and in daring after this signal exploit. Al Hejagi sent five thousand veteran troops against them, under Al Hareth Alamdani. These came by surprise upon the two leaders, Saleh and Shebib, with a party of only ninety men, at a village on the Tigris not far from Mosul, the capital of Mesopotamia. The fanatic chiefs attacked the army with a kind of frantic courage, but Saleh, the mock Caliph, was instantly killed, with a score of his followers. Shebib was struck from his horse, but managed to keep together the remnant of his party; made good his retreat with them into Montbagi, a dismantled fortress, and swung to and secured the ponderous gate.
The victors kindled a great fire against the gate, and waited patiently until it should burn down, considering their prey secure.
As the night advanced, Shebib, who from his desolate retreat watched anxiously for some chance of escape, perceived, by the light of the fire, that the greater part of the besiegers, fatigued by their march, were buried in deep sleep. He now exacted from his men an oath of implicit obedience, which they took between his hands. He then caused them to steep most of their clothing in a tank of water within the castle, after which, softly drawing the bolts of the flaming gate, they threw it down on the fire kindled against it; flung their wet garments on the burning bridge thus suddenly formed, and rushed forth scimitar in hand.
Instead of contenting themselves with an escape, the crazy zealots charged into the very heart of the sleeping camp and wounded the general before an alarm was given. The soldiers started awake in the midst of havoc and confusion; supposing themselves surprised by a numerous army, they fled in all directions, never ceasing their flight until they had taken refuge in Mosul or Jukhi, or some other walled city.
Shebib established himself amid the abundance of the deserted camp; scarce any of his men had been killed or wounded in this midnight slaughter; he considered himself therefore invincible; proclaimed himself Commander of the Faithful, and partisans crowded to his standard. Strengthened by numbers, he led his fanatic horde against Cufa, and had the address and good fortune to make himself master of it, Al Hejagi, the emir, being absent at Bassora. He was soon joined by his wife Gazala; established himself as Caliph with some ceremonial, and doubtless his vagabond sway was more acceptable to the people of Cufa than the iron rule of Al Hejagi.
The mock Caliphat, however, was of brief duration. Al Hejagi, reinforced by troops from Syria, marched in person against Cufa. He was boldly met in the plains near that city by Shebib, at the head of four thousand men. The fanatics were defeated, and Gazala, the wife of the mock Caliph, who had accompanied her husband to the field, was slain. Shebib with a remnant of his force cut his way through the Syrian army, crossed and recrossed the Tigris, and sought refuge and reinforcements in the interior of Persia. He soon returned into Irak, with a force inconsiderable in numbers, but formidable for enthusiasm and desperate valor. He was encountered at the bridge of Dojail al Awaz. Here a sudden and unexpected end was put to his fanatic career. His horse struck his fore feet on some loose stones on the margin of the bridge, and threw his rider into the stream. He rose twice to the surface, and each time uttered a pious ejaculation. “What God decrees is just!” was the first exclamation. “The will of God be done!” was the second, and the waters closed over him. His followers cried with loud lamentations, “The Commander of the Faithful is no more!” and every man betook himself to flight. The water was dragged with a net, the body was found and decapitated, and the head sent to Al Hejagi, who transmitted it to the Caliph. The heart of this enthusiast was also taken out of his breast, and is said to have been as hard as stone. He was assuredly a man of extraordinary daring.
Arabian writers say that the manner of Shebib’s death was predicted before his birth. His mother was a beautiful Christian captive, purchased at a public sale by Yezid Ibn Naim for his harem. Just before she gave birth to Shebib, she had a dream that a coal of fire proceeded from her, and, after enkindling a flame over the firmament, fell into the sea and was extinguished. This dream was interpreted that she would give birth to a man-child, who would prove a distinguished warrior, but would eventually be drowned. So strong was her belief in this omen, that when she heard, on one occasion, of his defeat and of his alleged death on the battle-field, she treated the tidings as an idle rumor, saying it was by water only her son would die. At the time of Shebib’s death he had just passed his fiftieth year.
The emir Al Hejagi was destined to have still farther commotions in his turbulent and inconstant province. A violent feud existed between him and Abda’lrahman Ibn Mohammed, a general subject to his orders. To put an end to it, or to relieve himself from the presence of an enemy, he sent him on an expedition to the frontiers against the Turks. Abda’lrahman set out on his march, but when fairly in the field, with a force at his command, conceived a project either of revenge or ambition.
Addressing his soldiers in a spirited harangue, he told them that their numbers were totally inadequate to the enterprise; that the object of Al Hejagi in sending him on such a dangerous service with such incompetent means was to effect his defeat and ruin, and that they had been sent to be sacrificed with him.
The harangue produced the desired effect. The troops vowed devotion to Abda’lrahman and vengeance upon the emir. Without giving their passion time to cool, he led them back to put their threats in execution. Al Hejagi heard of the treason, and took the field to meet them, but probably was not well seconded by the people of Babylonia, for he was defeated in a pitched battle. Abda’lrahman then marched to the city of Bassora; the inhabitants welcomed him as their deliverer from a tyrant, and, captivated by his humane and engaging manners, hailed him as Caliph. Intoxicated by his success, he gravely assumed the title, and proceeded toward Cufa. Encountering Al Hejagi on the way, with a hastily levied army, he gave him another signal defeat, and then entered Cufa in triumph, amid the shouts of its giddy populace, who were delighted with any change that released them from the yoke of Al Hejagi.
Abda’lrahman was now acknowledged Caliph throughout the territories bordering on the Euphrates and the Tigris, a mighty empire in ancient days, and still important from its population, for he soon had on foot an army of one hundred thousand men.
Repeated defeat had but served to rouse the energy of Al Hejagi. He raised troops among such of the people of Irak as remained faithful to Abd’almâlec, received reinforcements from the Caliph, and by dint of indefatigable exertions was again enabled to take the field.
The two generals, animated by deadly hate, encamped their armies at places not far apart. Here they remained between three and four months, keeping vigilant eye upon each other, and engaged in incessant conflicts, though never venturing upon a pitched battle.
The object of Al Hejagi was to gain an advantage by his superior military skill, and he succeeded. By an artful maneuver he cut off Abda’lrahman, with a body of five thousand men, from his main army, compelled him to retreat, and drove him to take refuge in a fortified town, where, being closely besieged, and having no hope of escape, he threw himself headlong from a lofty tower, rather than fall into the hands of his cruel enemy.
Thus terminated the rebellion of this second mock Caliph, and Al Hejagi, to secure the tranquillity of Irak, founded a strong city on the Tigris, called Al Wazab, or the Center, from its lying at equal distance from Cufa, Bassora, Bagdad, and Ahwâz, about fifty leagues from each.
Al Hejagi, whom we shall have no further occasion to mention, continued emir of Irak until his death, which took place under the reign of the next Caliph, in the ninety-fifth year of the Hegira, and the fifty-fourth of his own age. He is said to have caused the death of one hundred and twenty thousand persons, independent of those who fell in battle, and that, at the time of his death, he left fifty thousand confined in different prisons. Can we wonder that he was detested as a tyrant?
In his last illness, say the Arabian historian, he sent for a noted astrologer, and asked him whether any great general was about to end his days. The learned man consulted the stars, and replied, that a great captain named Kotaib, or “The Dog,” was at the point of death. “That,” said the dying emir, “is the name my mother used to call me when a child.” He inquired of the astrologer if he was assured of his prediction. The sage, proud of his art, declared that it was infallible. “Then,” said the emir, “I will take you with me, that I may have the benefit of your skill in the other world.” So saying, he caused his head to be struck off.
The tyranny of this general was relieved at times by displays of great magnificence and acts of generosity, if not clemency. He spread a thousand tables at a single banquet, and bestowed a million dirhems of silver at a single donation.
On one occasion, an Arab, ignorant of his person, spoke of him, in his presence, as a cruel tyrant. “Do you know me,” said Al Hejagi, sternly. “I do not,” replied the Arab. “I am Al Hejagi!” “That may be,” replied the Arab, quickly; “but do you know me? I am of the family of Zobeir, who are fools in the full of the moon; and if you look upon the heavens you will see that this is my day.” The emir laughed at his ready wit, and dismissed him with a present.
On another occasion, when separated from his party while hunting, he came to a spring where an Arab was feeding his camels, and demanded drink. The Arab bade him, rudely, to alight and help himself. It was during the rebellion of Abda’lrahman. After he had slaked his thirst he demanded of the Arab whether he was for the Caliph Abd’almâlec. The Arab replied “No; for the Caliph had sent the worst man in the world to govern the province.” Just then a bird, passing overhead, uttered a croaking note. The Arab turned a quick eye upon the emir. “Who art thou?” cried he, with consternation. “Wherefore the question?” “Because I understand the language of birds, and he says that thou art chief of yon horsemen that I see approaching.”
The emir smiled, and when his attendants came up, bade them to bring the camel-driver with them. On the next day he sent for him, had meat set before him, and bade him eat. Before he complied, the Arab uttered a grace, “Allah grant that the end of this meal be as happy as the beginning.”
The emir inquired if he recollected their conversation of yesterday. “Perfectly! but I entreat thee to forget it, for it was a secret which should be buried in oblivion.”
“Here are two conditions for thy choice,” said the emir; “recant what thou hast said and enter into my service, or abide the decision of the Caliph, to whom thy treasonable speech shall be repeated.” “There is a third course,” replied the Arab, “which is better than either. Send me to my own home, and let us be strangers to each other as heretofore.”
The emir was amused by the spirit of the Arab, and dismissed him with a thousand dirhems of silver.
There were no further troubles in Irak during the lifetime of Al Hejagi, and even the fickle, turbulent, and faithless people of Cufa became submissive and obedient. Abulfaragius says that this general died of eating dirt. It appears that he was subject to dyspepsia or indigestion, for which he used to eat Terra Lemnia and other medicinal or absorbent earths. Whether he fell a victim to the malady or the medicine is not clearly manifest.
RENUNCIATION OF TRIBUTE TO THE EMPEROR—BATTLES IN NORTHERN AFRICA—THE PROPHET QUEEN CAHINA; HER ACHIEVEMENTS AND FATE.
THE seventy-second year of the Hegira saw the Moslem dominions at length free from rebellion and civil war, and united under one Caliph. Abd’almâlec now looked abroad, and was anxious to revive the foreign glories of Islam, which had declined during the late vicissitudes. His first movement was to throw off the galling tribute to the Greek emperor. This, under Moawyah I., had originally been three thousand dinars of gold, but had been augmented to three hundred and sixty-five thousand, being one thousand for every day in the Christian year. It was accompanied by three hundred and sixty-five female slaves, and three hundred and sixty-five Arabian horses of the most generous race.
Not content with renouncing the payment of tribute, Abd’almâlec sent Alid, one of his generals, on a ravaging expedition into the imperial dominions, availing himself of a disaffection evinced to the new emperor Leontius. Alid returned laden with spoils. The cities of Lazuca and Baruncium were likewise delivered up to the Moslems through the treachery of Sergius, a Christian general.
Abd’almâlec next sought to vindicate the glory of the Moslem arms along the northern coast of Africa. There, also, the imperialists had taken advantage of the troubles of the Caliphat, to reverse the former successes of the Moslems, and to strengthen themselves along the sea-coast, of which their navy aided them to hold possession. Zohair, who had been left by Abd’almâlec in command of Barca, had fallen into an ambush and been slain with many of his men, and the posts still held by the Moslems were chiefly in the interior.
In the seventy-seventh year of the Hegira, therefore, Abd’almâlec sent Hossán Ibn An-no’mán, at the head of forty thousand choice troops, to carry out the scheme of African conquest. That general pressed forward at once with his troops against the city of Carthage, which, though declined from its ancient might and glory, was still an important seaport, fortified with lofty walls, haughty towers, and powerful bulwarks, and had a numerous garrison of Greeks and other Christians. Hossán proceeded according to the old Arab mode; beleaguering it and reducing it by a long siege; he then assailed it by storm, scaled its lofty walls with ladders, and made himself master of the place. Many of the inhabitants fell by the edge of the sword; many escaped by sea to Sicily and Spain. The walls were then demolished, the city was given up to be plundered by the soldiery, the meanest of whom was enriched by booty. Particular mention is made among the spoils of victory of a great number of female captives of rare beauty.
The triumph of the Moslem host was suddenly interrupted. While they were revelling in the ravaged palaces of Carthage, a fleet appeared before the port, snapped the strong chain which guarded the entrance, and sailed into the harbor. It was a combined force of ships and troops from Constantinople and Sicily, reinforced by Goths from Spain, all under the command of the prefect John, a patrician general of great valor and experience.
Hossán felt himself unable to cope with such a force; he withdrew, however, in good order, and conducted his troops laden with spoils to Tripoli and Caerwân, and having strongly posted them, he awaited reinforcements from the Caliph. These arrived in the course of time, by sea and land. Hossán again took the field, encountered the prefect John, not far from Utica, defeated him in a pitched battle, and drove him to embark the wrecks of his army and make all sail for Constantinople.
Carthage was again assailed by the victors, and now its desolation was complete, for the vengeance of the Moslems gave that majestic city to the flames. A heap of ruins and the remains of a noble aqueduct are all the relics of a metropolis that once valiantly contended for dominion with Rome, the mistress of the world.
The imperial forces were now expelled from the coasts of Northern Africa, but the Moslems had not yet achieved the conquest of the country. A formidable enemy remained in the person of a native and heroic queen, who was revered by her subjects as a saint or prophetess. Her real name was Dhabba, but she is generally known in history by the surname, given to her by the Moslems, of Cahina or the Sorceress. She has occasionally been confounded with her son Aben, or rather Ibn Cahina, of whom mention has been made in a previous chapter.
Under the sacred standard of this prophet queen were combined the Moors of Mauritania and the Berbers of the mountains, and of the plains bordering on the interior deserts. Roving and independent tribes, which had formerly warred with each other, now yielded implicit obedience to one common leader, whom they regarded with religious reverence. The character of marabout or saint has ever had vast influence over the tribes of Africa. Under this heroic woman the combined host had been reduced to some degree of discipline, and inspired with patriotic ardor, and were now prepared to make a more effective struggle for their native land than they had yet done under their generals.
After repeated battles, the emir Hossán was compelled to retire with his veteran but diminished army to the frontiers of Egypt. The patriot queen was not satisfied with this partial success. Calling a council of war of the leaders and principal warriors of the different hordes: “This retreat of the enemy,” said she, “is but temporary; they will return in greater force. What is it that attracts to our land these Arab spoilers? The wealth of our cities, the treasures of silver and gold digged from the bowels of the earth, the fruits of our gardens and orchards, the produce of our fields. Let us demolish our cities, return these accursed treasures into the earth, fell our fruit trees, lay waste our fields, and spread a barrier of desolation between us and the country of these robbers!”
The words of the royal prophetess were received with fanatic enthusiasm by her barbarian troops, the greater part of whom, collected from the mountains and from distant parts, had little share in the property to be sacrificed. Walled towns were forthwith dismantled, majestic edifices were tumbled into ruins, groves of fruit trees were hewn down, and the whole country from Tangier to Tripoli was converted from a populous and fertile region into a howling and barren waste. A short time was sufficient to effect a desolation which centuries have not sufficed to remedy.
This sacrificial measure of Queen Cahina, however patriotic its intention, was fatal in the end to herself. The inhabitants of the cities and the plains, who had beheld their property laid waste by the infuriated zeal of their defenders, hailed the return of the Moslem invaders as though they had been the saviors of the land.
The Moslems, as Cahina predicted, returned with augmented forces; but when she took the field to oppose them, the ranks of her army were thinned; the enthusiasm which had formerly animated them was at an end: they were routed, after a sanguinary battle, and the heroine fell into the hands of the enemy. Those who captured her spared her life, because she was a woman and a queen. When brought into the presence of Hossán, she maintained her haughty and fierce demeanor. He proposed the usual conditions, of conversion or tribute. She refused both with scorn, and fell a victim to her patriotism and religious constancy, being beheaded in the presence of the emir.
Hossán Ibn An-no’mán now repaired to Damascus, to give the Caliph an account of his battles and victories, bearing an immense amount of booty, and several signal trophies. The most important of the latter was a precious box containing the embalmed head of the slaughtered Cahina. He was received with great distinction, loaded with honors, and the government of Barca was added to his military command.
This last honor proved fatal to Hossán. Abd’alaziz Ibn Merwan, the Caliph’s brother, was at that time emir of Egypt, and considered the province of Barca a part of the territories under his government. He had, accordingly, appointed one of his officers to command it as his lieutenant. He was extremely displeased and disconcerted, therefore, when he was told that Hossán had solicited and obtained the government of that province. Sending for the latter, as he passed through Egypt on his way to his post, he demanded whether it was true that in addition to his African command he was really appointed governor of Barca. Being answered in the affirmative, he appeared still to doubt; whereupon Hossán produced the mandate of the Caliph. Finding it correct, Abd’alaziz urged him to resign the office. “Violence only,” said Hossán, “shall wrest from me an honor conferred by the Commander of the Faithful.” “Then I deprive thee of both governments,” exclaimed the emir, in a passion, “and will appoint a better man in thy stead; and my brother will soon perceive the benefit he derives from the change.” So saying, he tore the diploma in pieces.
It is added that, not content with depriving Hossán of his command, he despoiled him of all his property, and carried his persecution so far that the conqueror of Carthage, the slayer of the patriot queen, within a brief time after her death, and almost amid the very scenes of his triumphs, died of a broken heart. His cruel treatment of the heroic Cahina reconciles us to the injustice wreaked upon himself.
MUSA IBN NOSSEYR MADE EMIR OF NORTHERN AFRICA—HIS CAMPAIGNS AGAINST THE BERBERS.
THE general appointed by the Caliph’s brother, Abd’alaziz Ibn Merwân, to the command in Northern .Africa, was Musa Ibn Nosseyr, the same old adherent of the Merwân family that had been prime counsellor of the Caliph’s brother Besher, when emir of Irak, and had escaped by dint of hoof from the clutches of Al Hejagi, when the latter was about to arrest him on a charge of squandering the public funds. Abd’alaziz, it will be remembered, assisted him to pay the fifty thousand dinars of gold, in which he was mulcted by the Caliph, and took him with him to Egypt; and it may have been with some view to self-reimbursement that the Egyptian emir now took the somewhat bold step of giving him the place assigned to Hossán by Abd’almâlac.
At the time of his appointment Musa was sixty years of age. He was still active and vigorous, of noble presence, and concealed his age by tinging his hair and beard with henna. He had three brave sons who aided him in his campaigns, and in whom he took great pride. The eldest he had named Abd’alaziz, after his patron; he was brave and magnanimous, in the freshness of his youth, and his father’s right hand in all his enterprises. Another of his sons he had called Merwân, the family name of Abd’alaziz and the Caliph.
Musa joined the army at its African encampment, and addressed his troops in frank and simple language. “I am a plain soldier like yourselves,” said he; “whenever I act well, thank God, and endeavor to imitate me. When I do wrong, reprove me, that I may amend; for we are all sinners and liable to err. If any one has at any time a complaint to make, let him state it frankly, and it shall be attended to. I have orders from the emir Abd’alaziz (to whom God be bountiful!) to pay you three times the amount of your arrears. Take it, and make good use of it.” It is needless to say that the address, especially the last part, was received with acclamations.
While Musa was making his harangue, a sparrow fluttered into his bosom. Interpreting it as a good omen, he called for a knife, cut off the bird’s head, besmeared the bosom of his vest with the blood, and scattering the feathers in the air above his head: “Victory! Victory!” he cried, “by the master of the Kaaba, victory is ours!”
It is evident that Musa understood the character and foibles of his troops; he soon won their favor by his munificence, and still more by his affability; always accosting them with kind words and cheerful looks; carefully avoiding the error of those reserved commanders, shut up in the fancied dignity of station, who looked, he said, “as if God had tied a knot in their throats, so that they could not utter a word.”
“A commander,” he used to say, “ought to consult wise and experienced men in every undertaking; but when he has made up his mind, he should be firm and steady of purpose. He should be brave, adventurous, at times even rash, confiding in his good fortune, and endeavoring to do more than is expected of him. He should be doubly cautious after victory, doubly brave after defeat.”
Musa found a part of Eastern Africa,* forming the present states of Tunis and Algiers, in complete confusion and insurrection. A Berber chief, Warkattáf by name, scoured night and day the land between Zaghwan and Caerwan. The Berbers had this advantage: if routed in the plains they took refuge in the mountains, which ran parallel to the coast, forming part of the great chain of Atlas; in the fastness of these mountains they felt themselves secure; but should they be driven out of these they could plunge into the boundless deserts of the interior, and bid defiance to pursuit.
* Northern Africa, extending from Egypt to the extremity of Mauritania, was subdivided into Eastern and Western Africa.
The energy of Musa rose with the difficulty of his enterprise. “Take courage,” would he say to his troops. “God is on our side, and will enable us to cope with our enemies, however strong their holds. By Allah! I’ll carry the war into yon haughty mountains, nor cease until we have seized upon their passes, surmounted their summits, and made ourselves masters of the country beyond.”
His words were not an empty threat. Having vanquished the Berbers in the plains, he sent his sons Abd’alaziz and Merwân with troops in different directions, who attacked the enemy in their mountain-holds, and drove them beyond to the borders of the Southern desert. Warkattáf was slain with many of his warriors, and Musa had the gratification of seeing his sons return triumphant from their different expeditions, bringing to the camp thousands of captives and immense booty. Indeed the number of prisoners of both sexes, taken in these campaigns, is said to have amounted to three hundred thousand, of whom one fifth; or sixty thousand, formed the Caliph’s share.
Musa hastened to write an account of his victories to his patron Abd’alaziz Ibn Merwân, and as he knew covetousness to be the prime failing of the emir, he sent him, at the same time, a great share of the spoils, with choice horses and female slaves of surpassing beauty.
The letter and the present came most opportunely. Abd’alaziz had just received a letter from his brother, the Caliph, rebuking him for having deposed Hossán, a brave, experienced and fortunate officer, and given his office to Musa, a man who had formerly incurred the displeasure of the government; and he was ordered forthwith to restore Hossán to his command.
In reply, Abd’alaziz transmitted the news of the African victories. “I have just received from Musa,” writes he, “the letter which I enclose, that thou mayest peruse it, and give thanks to God.”
Other tidings came to the same purport, accompanied by a great amount of booty. The Caliph’s feelings toward Musa immediately changed. He at once saw his fitness for the post he occupied, and confirmed the appointment of Abd’alaziz, making him emir of Africa. He, moreover, granted yearly pensions of two hundred pieces of gold to himself and one hundred to each of his sons, and directed him to select from among his soldiers five hundred of those who had most distinguished themselves in battle, or received most wounds, and give them each thirty pieces of gold. Lastly, he revoked the fine formerly imposed upon him of fifty thousand dinars of gold, and authorized him to reimburse himself out of the Caliph’s share of the spoil.
This last sum Musa declined to receive for his own benefit, but publicly devoted it to the promotion of the faith and the good of its professors. Whenever a number of captives were put up for sale after a victory, he chose from among them those who were young, vigorous, intelligent, of noble origin, and who appeared disposed to be instructed in the religion of Islam. If they were converted, and proved to have sufficient talent, he gave them their liberty, and appointed them to commands in his army; if otherwise, he returned them to the mass of captives, to be disposed of in the usual manner.
The fame of Musa’s victories, and of the immense spoil collected by his troops, brought recruits to his standard from Egypt and Syria, and other distant parts; for rapine was becoming more and more the predominant passion of the Moslems. The army of Musa was no longer composed, like the primitive armies of the faith, merely of religious zealots. The campaigns in foreign countries, and the necessity, at distant points, of recruiting the diminished ranks from such sources as were at hand, had relaxed the ancient scruples as to unity of faith, and men of different creeds now fought under the standard of Islam without being purified by conversion. The army was, therefore, a motley host of every country and kind; Arabs and Syrians, Persians and Copts, and nomadic Africans; arrayed in every kind of garb, and armed with every kind of weapon. Musa had succeeded in enlisting in his service many of the native tribes; a few of them were Christians, a greater proportion idolaters, but the greatest number professed Judaism. They readily amalgamated with the Arabs, having the same nomad habits, and the same love of war and rapine. They even traced their origin to the same Asiatic stock. According to their traditions five colonies, or tribes, came in ancient times from Sabaea, in Arabia the Happy, being expelled thence with their king Ifrique. From these descended the five most powerful Berber tribes, the Zenhagians, Muzamudas, Zenetes, Gomeres, and Hoares.
Musa artfully availed himself of these traditions, addressed the conquered Berbers as Aulad-arabi (sons of the Arabs), and so soothed their pride by this pretended consanguinity, that many readily embraced the Moslem faith, and thousands of the bravest men of Numidia enrolled themselves of their own free will in the armies of Islam.
Others, however, persisted in waging stubborn war with the invaders of their country, and among these the most powerful and intrepid were the Zenetes. They were a free, independent, and haughty race. Marmol, in his description of Africa, represents them as inhabiting various parts of the country. Some leading a roving life about the plains, living in tents like the Arabs; others having castles and strongholds in the mountains; others, very troglodytes, infesting the dens and caves of Mount Atlas, and others wandering on the borders of the Libyan desert.
The Gomeres were also a valiant and warlike tribe; inhabiting the mountains of the lesser Atlas, in Mauritania, bordering the frontiers of Ceuta, while the Muzamudas lived in the more western part of that extreme province, where the great Atlas advances into the Atlantic Ocean.
In the eighty-third year of the Hegira, Musa made one of his severest campaigns against a combined force of these Berber tribes, collected under the banners of their several princes. They had posted themselves in one of the fastnesses of the Atlas mountains, to which the only approach was through different gorges and defiles. All these were defended with great obstinacy, but were carried, one after the other, after several days of severe fighting.
The armies at length found themselves in presence of each other, when a general conflict was unavoidable. As they were drawn out, regarding each other with menacing aspect, a Berber chief advanced, and challenged any one of the Moslem cavaliers to single combat. There was a delay in answering to the challenge; whereupon Musa turned to his son Merwân, who had charge of the banners, and told him to meet the Berber warrior. The youth handed his banner to his brother, Abd’alaziz, and stepped forward with alacrity. The Berber, a stark and seasoned warrior of the mountains, regarded with surprise and almost scorn an opponent scarce arrived at manhood. “Return to the camp,” cried he; “I would not deprive thine aged father of so comely a son.” Merwân replied but with his weapon, assailing his adversary so vigorously that he retreated and sprang upon his horse. He now urged his steed upon the youth, and made a thrust at him with a javelin, but Merwân seized the weapon with one hand, and with the other thrust his own javelin through the Berber’s side, burying it in the flanks of the steed; so that both horse and rider were brought to the ground and slain.
The two armies now closed in a general struggle; it was bloody and desperate, but ended in the complete defeat of the Berbers. Kasleyah, their king, fell fighting to the last. A vast number of captives were taken; among them were many beautiful maidens, daughters of princes and military chiefs. At the division of the spoil, Musa caused these high-born damsels to stand before him, and bade Merwân, his son, who had so recently distinguished himself, to choose among them. The youth chose one who was a daughter of the late king Kasleyah. She appears to have found solace for the loss of her father in the arms of a youthful husband; and ultimately made Merwân the father of two sons, Musa and Abd’almâlec.
NAVAL ENTERPRISES OF MUSA—CRUISINGS OF HIS SON ABDOLOLA—DEATH OF ABD’ALMALEC.
The bold and adventurous spirit of Musa Ibn Nosseyr was not content with victories on land. “Always endeavor to do more than is expected of thee,” was his maxim, and he now aspired to achieve triumphs on the sea. He had ports within his province, whence the Phoenicians and Carthaginians, in the days of their power, had fitted out maritime enterprises. Why should he not do the same?
The feelings of the Arab conquerors had widely changed in regard to naval expeditions. When Amru, the conqueror of Egypt, was at Alexandria, the Caliph Omar required of him a description of the Mediterranean. “It is a great pool,” replied Amru, “which some foolhardy people furrow; looking like ants on logs of wood.” The answer was enough for Omar, who was always apprehensive that the Moslems would endanger their conquests by rashly-extended enterprises. He forbade all maritime expeditions. Perhaps he feared that the inexperience of the Arabs would expose them to defeat from the Franks and Romans, who were practiced navigators.
Moawyah, however, as we have shown, more confident of the Moslem capacity for nautical warfare, had launched the banner of Islam on the sea from the ancient ports of Tyre and Sidon, and had scoured the eastern waters of the Mediterranean. The Moslems now had armaments in various ports of Syria and Egypt, and warred with the Christians by sea as well as by land. Abd’almâlec had even ordered Musa’s predecessor, Hossán, to erect an arsenal at Tunis; Musa now undertook to carry those orders into effect, to found dock-yards, and to build a fleet for his proposed enterprise.
At the outset he was surrounded by those sage doubters who are ever ready to chill the ardor of enterprise. They pronounced the scheme rash and impracticable. A gray-headed Berber, who had been converted to Islam, spoke in a different tone. “I am one hundred and twenty years old,” said he, “and I well remember hearing my father say, that when the Lord of Carthage thought of building his city, the people all, as at present, exclaimed against it as impracticable; one alone rose and said, Oh king, put thy hand to the work and it will be achieved; for the kings, thy predecessors, persevered and achieved every thing they undertook, whatever might be the difficulty. And I say to thee, Oh emir, put thy hand to this work, and God will help thee!”
Musa did put his hand to the work, and so effectually that by the conclusion of the eighty-fourth year of the Hegira, A.D. 703, the arsenal and dock-yard were complete, and furnished with maritime stores, and there was a numerous fleet in the port of Tunis.
About this time a Moslem fleet, sent by Abd’alaziz, the emir of Egypt, to make a ravaging descent on the coast of Sardinia, entered the port of Susa, which is between Caerwan and Tunis. Musa sent provisions to the fleet, but wrote to the commander, Attá Ibn Rafi, cautioning him that the season was too late for his enterprise, and advising him to remain in port until more favorable time and weather.
Attá treated his letter with contempt, as the advice of a landsman; and, having refitted his vessels, put to sea. He landed on an island, called by the Arab writers Salsalah, probably Linosa or Lampedosa; made considerable booty of gold, silver and precious stones, and again set sail on his plundering cruise. A violent storm arose, his ships were dashed on the rocky coast of Africa, and he and nearly all his men were drowned.
Musa, hearing of the disaster, dispatched his son, Abd’alaziz, with a troop of horse to the scene of the shipwreck, to render all the assistance in his power, ordering that the vessels and crews which survived the storm should repair to the port of Tunis; all which was done. At the place of the wreck Abd’alaziz found a heavy box cast up on the sea-shore; on being opened, its contents proved to be the share of spoil of one of the warriors of the fleet who had perished in the sea.
The author of the tradition from which these facts are gleaned, adds, that one day he found an old man sitting on the sea-shore with a reed in his hand, which he attempted to take from him. A scuffle ensued; he wrested the reed from his hands, and struck him with it over his head; when lo, it broke, and out fell gold coins and pearls and precious stones. Whether the old man, thus hardly treated, was one of the wrecked cruisers, or a wrecker seeking to profit by their misfortunes, is not specified in the tradition. The anecdote shows in what a random way the treasures of the earth were in those days scattered about the world by the predatory hosts of Islam.
The surviving ships having been repaired, and added to those recently built at Tunis, and the season having become favorable, Musa, early in the eighty-fifth year of the Hegira, declared his intention to undertake, in person, a naval expedition. There was a universal eagerness among the troops to embark; Musa selected about a thousand of the choicest of his warriors, especially those of rank and family, so that the enterprise was afterward designated The Expedition of the Nobles. He did not, however, accompany it as he had promised; he had done so merely to enlist his bravest men in the undertaking; the command was given to his son Abdolola, to give him an opportunity to distinguish himself; for the reputation of his sons was as dear to Musa as his own.
It was, however, a mere predatory cruise; a type of the ravaging piracies from the African ports in after ages. Abdolola coasted the fair island of Sicily with his ships, landed on the western side and plundered a city, which yielded such abundant spoil that each of the thousand men embarked in the cruise received one hundred dinars of gold for his share. This done, the fleet returned to Africa.
Soon after the return of his ships, Musa received news of the death of his patron Abd’alaziz, which was followed soon after by tidings of the death of the Caliph. On hearing of the death of the latter, Musa immediately sent a messenger to Damascus to take the oath of allegiance, in his name, to the new Caliph; to inform him of the naval achievements of his son Abdolola, and to deliver to him his share of the immense booty gained. The effect of course was to secure his continuance in office as emir of Africa.
The malady which terminated in the death of Abd’almâlec is supposed to have been the dropsy. It was attended in its last stages with excessive thirst, which was aggravated by the prohibition of his physicians that any water should be given to him, lest it should cause certain death. In the paroxysms of his malady the expiring Caliph demanded water of his son Waled; it was withheld through filial piety. His daughter Fatima approached with a flagon, but Waled interfered and prevented her; whereupon the Caliph threatened him with disinheritance and his malediction. Fatima handed to him the flagon, he drained it at a draught, and almost instantly expired. He was about sixty years old at the time of his death, and had reigned about twenty years. Abulfeda gives him a character for learning, courage, and foresight. He certainly showed ability and management in reuniting, under his sway, the dismembered portions of the Moslem empire, and quelling the various sects that rose in arms against him. His foresight with regard to his family also was crowned with success, as four of his sons succeeded him, severally, in the Caliphat.
He evinced an illiberal spirit of hostility to the memory of Ali, carrying it to such a degree that he would not permit the poet Ferazdak to celebrate in song the virtues of any of his descendants. Perhaps this may have gained for Abd’almâlec another by-name with which some of the Arab writers have signalized his memory, calling him the “Father of Flies;” for so potent, say they, was his breath, that any fly which alighted on his lips died on the spot.
INAUGURATION OF WALED, TWELFTH CALIPH—REVIVAL OF THE ARTS UNDER HIS REIGN—HIS TASTE FOR ARCHITECTURE— ERECTION OF MOSQUES—CONQUESTS OF HIS GENERALS.
WALED, the eldest son of Abd’almâlec, was proclaimed Caliph at Damascus immediately on the death of his father, in the eighty-sixth year of the Hegira, and the year 705 of the Christian era. He was about thirty-eight years of age, and is described as being tall and robust, with a swarthy complexion, a face much pitted with the smallpox, and a broad flat nose; in other respects, which are left to our conjecture, he is said to have been of a good countenance. His habits were indolent and voluptuous, yet he was of a choleric temper, and somewhat inclined to cruelty.
During the reign of Waled the arts began to develop themselves under the Moslem sway; finding a more genial home in the luxurious city of Damascus than they had done in the holy cities of Mecca or Medina. Foreign conquests had brought the Arabs in contact with the Greeks and the Persians. Intercourse with them, and residence in their cities, had gradually refined away the gross habits of the desert; had awakened thirst for the sciences, and a relish for the elegancies of cultivated life. Little skilled in the principles of government, accustomed in their native deserts to the patriarchal rule of separate tribes, without any extended scheme of policy or combined system of union, the Arabs, suddenly masters of a vast and continually widening empire, had to study the art of governing in the political institutions of the countries they conquered. Persia, the best organized monarchy in Asia, held out a model by which they were fain to profit; and in their system of emirs vested with the sway of distant and powerful provinces, but strictly responsible to the Caliph, we see a copy of the satraps or viceroys, the provincial depositaries of the power of the Khosrus.
Since Moawyah had moved the seat of the Caliphat to Damascus, a change had come over the style of the Moslem court. It was no longer, as in the days of Omar, the conference of a poorly clad Arab chieftain with his veteran warriors and gray-beard companions, seated on their mats in the corner of a mosque: the Moslem Caliph at Damascus had now his divan, in imitation of the Persian monarch; and his palace began to assume somewhat of oriental state and splendor.
In nothing had the Moslem conquerors showed more ignorance of affairs than in financial matters. The vast spoils acquired in their conquests, and the tribute and taxes imposed on subjugated countries, had for a time been treated like the chance booty caught up in predatory expeditions in the deserts. They were amassed in public treasuries without register or account, and shared and apportioned without judgment, and often without honesty. Hence continual frauds and peculations; hence those charges, so readily brought and readily believed, against generals and governors in distant stations, of enormous frauds and embezzlements, and hence that grasping avarice, that avidity of spoil and treasure, which were more and more destroying the original singleness of purpose of the soldiers of Islam.
Moawyah was the first of the Caliphs who ordered that registers of tribute and taxes, as well as of spoils, should be kept in the Islamite countries, in their respective languages; that is to say, in the Greek language in Syria, and in the Persian language in Irak; but Abd’almâlec went further, and ordered that they should all be kept in Arabic. Nothing, however, could effectually check the extortion and corruption which was prevailing more and more in the administration of the conquered provinces. Even the rude Arab soldier, who in his desert would have been content with his tent of hair-cloth, now aspired to the possession of fertile lands, or a residence amid the voluptuous pleasures of the city.
Waled had grown up amid the refinements and corruptions of the transplanted Caliphat. He was more of a Greek and Persian than an Arab in his tastes, and the very opposite of that primitive Moslem, Omar, in most of his habitudes. On assuming the sovereign power he confirmed all the emirs or governors of provinces, and also the generals appointed by his father. On these he devolved all measures of government and warlike duties; for himself, he led a soft, luxurious life amidst the delights of his harem. Yet, though he had sixty-three wives, he does not appear to have left any issue. Much of his time was devoted to the arts, and especially the art of architecture, in which he left some noble monuments to perpetuate his fame.
He caused the principal mosque at Cairo to be demolished, and one erected of greater majesty, the pillars of which had gilded capitals. He enlarged and beautified the grand mosque erected on the site of the temple of Solomon, for he was anxious to perpetuate the pilgrimage to Jerusalem established by his father. He gave command that the bounds of the mosque at Medina should be extended so as to include the tomb of the prophet, and the nine mansions of his wives. He furthermore ordered that all the buildings round the Kaaba at Mecca should be thrown down, and a magnificent quadrangular mosque erected, such as is to be seen at the present day. For this purpose he sent a body of skillful Syrian architects from Damascus.
Many of the faithful were grieved, particularly those well stricken in years, the old residents of Mecca, to see the ancient simplicity established by the prophet, violated by the splendor of this edifice, especially as the dwellings of numerous individuals were demolished to furnish a vast square for the foundations of the new edifice, which now enclosed within its circuit the Kaaba, the well of Zem Zem, and the stations of different sects of Moslems which came in pilgrimage.
All these works were carried on under the supervision of his emirs, but the Caliph attended in person to the erection of a grand mosque in his capital of Damascus. In making arrangements for this majestic pile he cast his eyes on the superb church of St. John the Baptist, which had been embellished by the Roman emperors during successive ages, and enriched with the bones and relics of saints and martyrs. He offered the Christians forty thousand dinars of gold for this holy edifice; but they replied, gold was of no value in comparison with the sacred bones enshrined within its walls.
The Caliph, therefore, took possession of the church on his own authority, and either demolished or altered it so as to suit his purpose in the construction of his mosque, and did not allow the Christian owners a single dirhem of compensation. He employed twelve thousand workmen constantly in this architectural enterprise, and one of his greatest regrets in his last moments was that he should not live to see it completed.
The architecture of these mosques was a mixture of Greek and Persian, and gave rise to the Saracenic style, of which Waled may be said to be founder. The slender and graceful palm-tree may have served as a model for its columns, as the clustering trees and umbrageous forests of the north are thought to have thrown their massive forms and shadowy glooms into Gothic architecture. These two kinds of architecture have often been confounded, but the Saracenic takes the precedence; the Gothic borrowed graces and embellishments from it in the times of the Crusades.
While the Caliph Waled lived indolently and voluptuously at Damascus, or occupied himself in erecting mosques, his generals extended his empire in various directions. Moslema Ibn Abd’almâlec, one of his fourteen brothers, led an army into Asia Minor, invaded Cappadocia, and laid siege to Tyana, a strong city garrisoned with imperial troops. It was so closely invested that it could receive no provisions; but the besiegers were equally in want of supplies. The contest was fierce on both sides, for both were sharpened and irritated by hunger, and it became a contest which could hold out longest against famine.
The duration of the siege enabled the emperor to send reinforcements to the place, but they were raw, undisciplined recruits, who were routed by the hungry Moslems, their camp captured, and their provisions greedily devoured. The defeat of these reinforcements rendered the defense of the city hopeless, and the pressure of famine hastened a capitulation, the besieged not being aware that the besiegers were nearly as much famished as themselves. Moslema is accused by Christian writers of having violated the conditions of surrender; many of the inhabitants were driven forth into the deserts, and many of the remainder were taken for slaves. In a subsequent year Moslema made a successful incursion into Pontus and Armenia, a great part of which he subjugated, and took the city of Amasia, after a severely contested siege. He afterward made a victorious campaign into Galatia, ravaging the whole province, and bearing away rich spoils and numerous captives.
While Moslema was thus bringing Asia Minor into subjection, his son Khatiba, a youth of great bravery, was no less successful in extending the empire of the faith toward the East. Appointed to the government of Khorassan, he did not content himself with attending to the affairs of his own province, but crossing the Oxus, ravaged the provinces of Turkistan, defeated a great army of Turks and Tartars, by which he had been beleaguered and reduced to great straits, and took the capital city of Bochara, with many others of inferior note.
He defeated also Magourek, the Khan of Charism, and drove him to take refuge in the great city of Samarcand. This city, anciently called Marcanda, was one of the chief marts of Asia, as well for the wares imported from China and Tangut across the desert of Cobi, as of those brought through the mountains of the great Thibet, and those conveyed from India to the Caspian Sea. It was, therefore, a great resort and resting-place for caravans from all quarters. The surrounding country was renowned throughout the East for fertility, and ranked among the paradises or gardens of Asia.
To this city Khatiba laid siege, but the inhabitants set him at defiance, being confident of the strength of their walls, and aware that the Arabs had no battering-rams, nor other engines necessary for the attack of fortified places. A long and close siege, however, reduced the garrison to great extremity, and finding that the besiegers were preparing to carry the place by storm, they capitulated, agreeing to pay an annual tribute of one thousand dinars of gold and three thousand slaves.
Khatiba erected a magnificent mosque in that metropolis, and officiated personally in expounding the doctrines of Islam, which began soon to supersede the religion of the Magians or Ghebers.
Extensive victories were likewise achieved in India during the reign of Waled, by Mohamed Ibn Casem, a native of Thayef, one of his generals, who conquered the kingdom of Sindia, or Sinde, killed its sovereign in battle, and sent his head to the Caliph; overran a great part of Central India, and first planted the standard of Islam on the banks of the Ganges, the sacred river of the Hindoos.
FURTHER TRIUMPHS OF MUSA IBN NOSSEYR—NAVAL ENTERPRISES—DESCENTS IN SICILY, SARDINIA, AND MALLORCA—INVASION OF TINGITANIA—PROJECTS FOR THE INVASION OF SPAIN—CONCLUSION.
To return to affairs in Africa. During the first years of the Caliphat of Waled the naval armaments fitted out by Musa in the ports of Eastern Africa continued to scour the Mediterranean and carry terror and devastation into its islands. One of them coasted the island of Sicily in the eighty-sixth year of the Hegira, and attacked the city of Syracuse; but the object appears to have been mere plunder, not to retain possession. Another ravaged the island of Sardinia, sacked its cities, and brought off a vast number of prisoners and immense booty. Among the captives were Christian women of great beauty, and highly prized in the Eastern harems. The command of the sea was ultimately given by Musa to his son Abdolola, who added to his nautical reputation by a descent upon the island of Mallorca.
While Abdolola was rejoicing his father’s heart by exploits and triumphs on the sea, Abd’alaziz contributed no less to his pride and exultation by his achievements on land. Aided by this favorite son, Musa carried the terror of the Moslem arms to the western extremity of Mount Atlas, subduing Fez, Duquella, Morocco, and Sus. The valiant tribes of the Zenetes at length made peace, and entered into compact with him; from other tribes Musa took hostages, and by degrees the sway of the Caliph was established throughout western Almagreb to Cape Non on the Atlantic.
Musa was not a ferocious conqueror. The countries subjected by his arms became objects of his paternal care. He introduced law and order, instructed the natives in the doctrines of Islam, and defended the peaceful cultivators of the fields and residents in the cities against the incursions of predatory tribes. In return they requited his protection by contributing their fruits and flocks to the support of the armies, and furnishing steeds matchless for speed and beauty.
One region, however, yet remained to be subjugated before the conquest of Northern Africa would be complete; the ancient Tingis, or Tingitania, the northern extremity of Almagreb. Here the continent of Africa protruded boldly to meet the continent of Europe; a narrow strait intervened—the strait of Hercules, the gate of the Mediterranean Sea. Two rocky promontories appeared to guard it on each side, the far-famed pillars of Hercules. Two rock-built cities, Ceuta and Tangiers, on the African coast, were the keys of this gate, and controlled the neighboring sea-board. These had been held in ancient times by the Berber kings, who made this region their stronghold, and Tangiers their seat of power; but the keys had been wrested from their hands at widely-separated periods, first by the Vandals, and afterward by the Goths, the conquerors of the opposite country of Spain; and the Gothic Spaniards had now held military possession for several generations.
Musa seems to have reserved this province for his last African campaign. He stationed his son Merwân, with ten thousand men, in a fortified camp on the frontier, while Taric Ibn Zeyad, a veteran general scarred in many a battle, scoured the country from the fountains or head waters of the river Moluya to the mountains of Aldaran. The province was bravely defended by a Gothic noble, Count Julian by name, but he was gradually driven to shut himself up in Ceuta. Meantime Tangiers yielded to the Moslem arms after an obstinate defense, and was strongly garrisoned by Arab and Egyptian troops, and the command given to Taric. An attempt was made to convert the Christian inhabitants to the faith of Islam; the Berber part easily conformed, but the Gothic persisted in unbelief, and rather than give up their religion, abandoned their abodes, and crossed over to Andaluz with the loss of all their property.
Musa now advanced upon Ceuta, into which Count Julian had drawn all his troops. He attempted to carry it by storm, but was gallantly repulsed, with the loss of many of his best troops. Repeated assaults were made with no better success; the city was situated on a promontory, and strongly fortified. Musa now laid waste the surrounding country, thinking to reduce the place by famine, but the proximity of Spain enabled the garrison to receive supplies and reinforcements across the straits.
Months were expended in this protracted and unavailing siege. According to some accounts Musa retired personally from the attempt, and returned to his seat of government at Caerwan, leaving the army and province in charge of his son Merwân and Taric in command of Tangiers.
And now occurred one of the most memorable pieces of treason in history. Count Julian, who had so nobly defended his post and checked the hitherto irresistible arms of Islam, all at once made secret offers, not merely to deliver up Ceuta to the Moslem commander, but to betray Andaluz itself into his hands. The country he represented as rife for a revolt against Roderick, the Gothic king, who was considered a usurper; and he offered to accompany and aid the Moslems in a descent upon the coast, where he had numerous friends ready to flock to his standard.
Of the private wrongs received by Count Julian from his sovereign, which provoked him to this stupendous act of treason, we shall here say nothing. Musa was startled by his proposition. He had long cast a wistful eye at the mountains of Andaluz, brightening beyond the strait, but hitherto the conquest of Northern Africa had tasked all his means. Even now he feared to trust too readily to a man whose very proposition showed an utter want of faith. He determined, therefore, to dispatch Taric Ibn Zeyad on a reconnoitering expedition to coast the opposite shores, accompanied by Count Julian, and ascertain the truth of his representations.
Taric accordingly embarked with a few hundred men in four merchant vessels, crossed the straits under the guidance of Count Julian, who, on landing, dispatched emissaries to his friends and adherents, summoning them to a conference at Jesirah al Khadra, or the Green Island, now Algeziras. Here, in presence of Taric, they confirmed all that Julian had said of the rebellious disposition of the country, and of their own readiness to join the standard of an invader. A plundering cruise along the coast convinced Taric of the wealth of the country, and he returned to the African shores with ample spoils and female captives of great beauty.
A new career of conquest seemed thus opening upon Musa. His predecessor, Acbah, had spurred his steed into the waves of the Atlantic, and sighed that there were no further lands to conquer; but here was another quarter of the world inviting the triumphs of Islam. He forthwith wrote to the Caliph, giving a glowing account of the country thus held out for conquest; a country abounding in noble monuments and wealthy cities; rivalling Syria in the fertility of its soil and the beauty of its climate; Yemen, or Arabia the Happy, in its temperature; India in its flowers and spices; Hegiaz in its fruits and productions; Cathay in its precious and abundant mines; Aden in the excellence of its ports and harbors. “With the aid of God,” added he, “I have reduced to obedience the Zenetes and the other Berber tribes of Zab and Derâr, Zaara, Mazamuda, and Sus: the standard of Islam floats triumphant on the walls of Tangiers; thence to the opposite coast of Andaluz is but a space of twelve miles. Let but the Commander of the Faithful give the word, and the conquerors of Africa will cross into that land, there to carry the knowledge of the true God and the law of the Koran.”
The Arab spirit of the Caliph was roused by this magnificent prospect of new conquests. He called to mind a tradition that Mohammed had promised the extension of his law to the uttermost regions of the West; and he now gave full authority to Musa to proceed in his pious enterprise, and carry the sword of Islam into the benighted land of Andaluz.
We have thus accomplished our self-allotted task. We have set forth, in simple and succinct narrative, a certain portion of this wonderful career of fanatical conquest. We have traced the progress of the little cloud which rose out of the deserts of Arabia, “no bigger than a man’s hand,” until it has spread out and overshadowed the ancient quarters of the world and all their faded glories. We have shown the handful of proselytes of a pseudo prophet, driven from city to city, lurking in dens and caves of the earth; but at length rising to be leaders of armies and mighty conquerors; overcoming in pitched battle the Roman cohort, the Grecian phalanx, and the gorgeous hosts of Persia; carrying their victories from the gates of the Caucasus to the western descents of Mount Atlas; from the banks of the Ganges to the Sus, the ultimate river in Mauritania; and now planting their standard on the pillars of Hercules, and threatening Europe with like subjugation.
Here, however, we stay our hand. Here we lay down our pen. Whether it will ever be our lot to resume this theme, to cross with the Moslem hosts the strait of Hercules, and narrate their memorable conquest of Gothic Spain, is one of those uncertainties of mortal life and aspirations of literary zeal which beguile us with agreeable dreams, but too often end in disappointment.