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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
Battle of Aiznadin.
Occurrences before Damascus.—Exploits of Thomas.—Aban Ibn Zeid and his
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
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
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
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
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
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
Some apology may seem necessary for presenting a life of Mohammed at the
present day, when no new fact can be added to those already known concerning
him. Many years since, during a residence in Madrid, the author projected
a series of writings illustrative of the domination of the Arabs in Spain.
These were to be introduced by a sketch of the life of the founder of the
Islam faith, and the first mover of Arabian conquest. Most of the particulars
for this were drawn from Spanish sources, and from Gagnier’s translation
of the Arabian historian Abulfeda, a copy of which the author found in
the Jesuits’ Library of the Convent of St. Isidro, at Madrid.
Not having followed out in its extent, the literary plan devised, the manuscript
life lay neglected among the author’s papers until the year 1831, when
he revised and enlarged it for the Family Library of Mr. John Murray. Circumstances
prevented its publication at the time, and it again was thrown aside for
During his last residence in Spain, the author beguiled the tediousness
of a lingering indisposition, by again revising the manuscript, profiting
in so doing by recent lights thrown on the subject by different writers,
and particularly by Dr. Gustav Weil, the very intelligent and learned librarian
of the University of Heidelberg, to whose industrious researches and able
disquisitions, he acknowledges himself greatly indebted. [Mohammed der Prophet sein Leben und seine Lehre. Stuttgart. 1843]
Such is the origin of the work now given to the public; on which the author
lays no claim to novelty of fact, nor profundity of research. It still
bears the type of a work intended for a family library; in constructing
which the whole aim of the writer has been to digest into an easy, perspicuous,
and flowing narrative, the admitted facts concerning Mohammed, together
with such legends and traditions as have been wrought into the whole system
of oriental literature; and at the same time to give such a summary of
his faith as might be sufficient for the more general reader. Under such
circumstances, he has not thought it worth while to incumber his pages
with a scaffolding of references and citations, nor depart from the old
English nomenclature of oriental names. [Editor's note: standardized by this editor.]
PRELIMINARY NOTICE OF ARABIA AND THE ARABS.
DURING a long succession of ages, extending from the earliest period of
recorded history down to the seventh century of the Christian era, that
great chersonese or peninsula formed by the Red Sea, the Euphrates, the
Gulf of Persia, and the Indian Ocean, and known by the name of Arabia,
remained unchanged and almost unaffected by the events which convulsed
the rest of Asia, and shook Europe and Africa to their center. While kingdoms
and empires rose and fell; while ancient dynasties passed away; while the
boundaries and names of countries were changed, and their inhabitants were
exterminated or carried into captivity, Arabia, though its frontier provinces
experienced some vicissitudes, preserved in the depths of its deserts its
primitive character and independence, nor had its nomadic tribes ever bent
their haughty necks to servitude.
The Arabs carry back the traditions of their country to the highest antiquity.
It was peopled, they say, soon after the deluge, by the progeny of Shem,
the son of Noah, who gradually formed themselves into several tribes, the
most noted of which are the Adites and Thamudites. All these primitive
tribes are said to have been either swept from the earth in punishment
of their iniquities, or obliterated, in subsequent modifications of the
races, so that little remains concerning them but shadowy traditions and
a few passages in the Koran. They are occasionally mentioned in oriental
history as the “old primitive Arabians”—the “lost tribes.”
The primitive population of the peninsula is ascribed, by the same authorities, to Kahtan or Joctan, a descendant in the fourth generation from Shem. His posterity spread over the southern part of the peninsula and along the Red Sea. Yarab, one of his sons, founded the kingdom of Yemen, where the territory of Araba was called after him; whence the Arabs derive the names of themselves and their country. Jurham, another son, founded the kingdom of Hedjaz, over which his descendants bore sway for many generations. Among these people Hagar and her son Ishmael were kindly received, when exiled from their home by the patriarch Abraham. In the process of time Ishmael married the daughter of Modâd, a reigning prince of the line of Jurham; and thus a stranger and a Hebrew became grafted on the original Arabian stock. It proved a vigorous graft. Ishmael’s wife bore him twelve sons, who acquired dominion over the country, and whose prolific race, divided into twelve tribes, expelled or overran and obliterated the primitive stock of Joctan.
Such is the account given by the peninsular Arabs of their origin;
Besides the Arabs of the peninsula, who were all of the Shemitic race, there were others called Cushites, being descended from Cush the son of Ham. They inhabited the banks of the Euphrates and the Persian Gulf. The name of Cush is often given in Scripture to the Arabs generally as well as to their country. It must be the Arabs of this race who at present roam the deserted regions of ancient Assyria, and have been employed recently in disinterring the long-buried ruins of Nineveh. They are sometimes distinguished as the Syro-Arabians. The present work relates only to the Arabs of the peninsula, or Arabia Proper.
and Christian writers cite it as containing the fulfillment of the covenant
of God with Abraham, as recorded in Holy Writ. “And Abraham said unto God,
O that Ishmael might live before thee! And God said, As for Ishmael, I
have heard thee. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful,
and will multiply him exceedingly: twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation” (Genesis 17:18, 20).
These twelve princes with their tribes are further spoken of in the Scriptures
(Genesis 25:18) as occupying the country “from Havilah unto Shur, that
is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria;” a region identified by
sacred geographers with part of Arabia. The description of them agrees
with that of the Arabs of the present day. Some are mentioned as holding
towns and castles, others as dwelling in tents, or having villages in the
wilderness. Nebaioth and Kedar, the two first-born of Ishmael, are most
noted among the princes for their wealth in flocks and herds, and for the
fine wool of their sheep. From Nebaioth came the Nabathai who inhabited
Stony Arabia; while the name of Kedar is occasionally given in Holy Writ
to designate the whole Arabian nation. “Woe is me,” says the Psalmist,
“that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar.” Both appear
to have been the progenitors of the wandering or pastoral Arabs; the free
rovers of the desert. “The wealthy nation,” says the prophet Jeremiah,
“that dwelleth without care; which have neither gates nor bars, which dwell
A strong distinction grew up in the earliest times between the Arabs who “held towns and castles,” and those who “dwelt in tents.” Some of the former occupied the fertile wadies, or valleys, scattered here and there among the mountains, where these towns and castles were surrounded by vineyards and orchards, groves of palm-trees, fields of grain, and well-stocked pastures. They were settled in their habits, devoting themselves to the cultivation of the soil and the breeding of cattle.
Others of this class gave themselves up to commerce, having ports and cities
along the Red Sea; the southern shores of the peninsula and the Gulf of
Persia, and carrying on foreign trade by means of ships and caravans. Such
especially were the people of Yemen, or Arabia the Happy, that land of
spices, perfumes, and frankincense; the Sabaea of the poets; the Sheba
of the sacred Scriptures. They were among the most active mercantile navigators
of the eastern seas. Their ships brought to their shores the myrrh and
balsams of the opposite coast of Berbera, with the gold, the spices, and
other rich commodities of India and tropical Africa. These, with the products
of their own country, were transported by caravans across the deserts to
the semi-Arabian states of Ammon, Moab, and Edom or Idumea to the Phoenician
ports of the Mediterranean, and thence distributed to the western world.
The camel has been termed the ship of the desert; the caravan may be termed
its fleet. The caravans of Yemen were generally fitted out, manned, conducted,
and guarded by the nomadic Arabs, the dwellers in tents, who, in this respect,
might be called the navigators of the desert. They furnished the innumerable
camels required, and also contributed to the freight by the fine fleeces
of their countless flocks. The writings of the prophets show the importance,
in scriptural times, of this inland chain of commerce by which the rich
countries of the south, India, Ethiopia, and Arabia the Happy, were linked
with ancient Syria.
Ezekiel, in his lamentations for Tyre, exclaims, “Arabia, and all the princes
of Kedar, they occupied with thee in lambs, and rams, and goats; in these
were they thy merchants. The merchants of Sheba and Raamah occupied in
thy fairs with chief of all spices, and with all precious stones and gold.
Haran, and Canneh, and Eden, [Haran, Canna, and Aden, ports on the Indian Sea.] the merchants of Sheba, Asshur, and Chelmad, were thy merchants.” And
Isaiah, speaking to Jerusalem, says: “The multitude of camels shall cover
thee; the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come;
they shall bring gold and incense. . . .All the flocks of Kedar shall be
gathered together unto thee; the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee”
(Isaiah 60:6, 7).
The agricultural and trading Arabs, however, the dwellers in towns and cities, have never been considered the true type of the race. They became softened by settled and peaceful occupations, and lost much of their original stamp by an intercourse with strangers. Yemen, too, being more accessible than the other parts of Arabia, and offering greater temptation to the spoiler, had been repeatedly invaded and subdued.
It was among the other class of Arabs, the rovers of the desert, the “dwellers
in tents,” by far the most numerous of the two, that the national character
was preserved in all its primitive force and freshness. Nomadic in their
habits, pastoral in their occupations, and acquainted by experience and
tradition with all the hidden resources of the desert, they led a wandering
life, roaming from place to place in quest of those wells and springs which
had been the resort of their forefathers since the days of the patriarchs;
encamping wherever they could find date-trees for shade, and sustenance
and pasturage for their flocks, and herds, and camels; and shifting their
abode whenever the temporary supply was exhausted.
These nomadic Arabs were divided and subdivided into innumerable petty
tribes or families, each with its Sheikh or Emir, the representative of
the patriarch of yore, whose spear, planted beside his tent, was the ensign
of command. His office, however, though continued for many generations
in the same family, was not strictly hereditary, but depended upon the
good-will of the tribe. He might be deposed, and another of a different
line elected in his place. His power, too, was limited, and depended upon
his personal merit and the confidence reposed in him. His prerogative consisted
in conducting negotiations of peace and war; in leading his tribe against
the enemy; in choosing the place of encampment, and in receiving and entertaining
strangers of note. Yet, even in these and similar privileges, he was controlled
by the opinions and inclinations of his people.
In summer the wandering Arabs, says Burckhardt, seldom remain above three
or four days on the same spot; as soon as their cattle have consumed the
herbage near a watering place, the tribe removes in search of pasture,
and the grass again springing up, serves for a succeeding camp. The encampments
vary in the number of tents, from six to eight hundred; when the tents
are but few, they are pitched in a circle; but more considerable numbers
in a straight line, or a row of single tents, especially along a rivulet,
sometimes three or four behind as many others. In winter, when water and
pasture never fail, the whole tribe spreads itself over the plain in parties
of three or four tents each, with an interval of half an hour’s distance
between each party. The Sheikh’s tent is always on the side on which enemies
or guests may be expected. To oppose the former and to honor the latter,
is the Sheikh’s principal business. Every father of a family sticks his
lance into the ground by the side of his tent, and ties his horse in front.
There also his camels repose at night.—Burckhardt, Notes on Bedouins, vol. i. p. 33.
The following is descriptive of the Arabs of Assyria, though it is applicable, in a great degree, to the whole race:
“It would be difficult to describe the appearance of a large tribe when migrating to new pastures. We soon found ourselves in the midst of wide-spreading flocks of sheep and camels. As far as the eye could reach, to the right, to the left, and in front, still the same moving crowd. Long lines of asses and bullocks, laden with black tents, huge caldrons, and variegated carpets; aged women and men, no longer able to walk, tied on the heap of domestic furniture; infants crammed into saddlebags, their tiny heads thrust through the narrow opening, balanced on the animal’s back by kids or lambs tied on the opposite side; young girls clothed only in the close-fitting Arab shirt which displayed rather than concealed their graceful forms; mothers with their children on their shoulders; boys driving flocks of lambs; horsemen armed with their long tufted spears, scouring the plain on their fleet mares; riders urging their dromedaries with their short hooked sticks, and leading their high-bred steeds by the halter; colts galloping among the throng—such was the motley crowd through which we had to wend our way.”—Layard’s Nineveh, i. 4.
However numerous and minute might be the divisions of a tribe, the links
of affinity were carefully kept in mind by the several sections. All the
Sheikhs of the same tribe acknowledge a common chief called the Sheikh
of Sheikhs, who, whether ensconced in a rock-built castle, or encamped
amid his flocks and herds in the desert, might assemble under his standard
all the scattered branches on any emergency affecting the common weal.
The multiplicity of these wandering tribes, each with its petty prince
and petty territory, but without a national head, produced frequent collisions.
Revenge, too, was almost a religious principle among them. To avenge a
relative slain was the duty of his family, and often involved the honor
of his tribe; and these debts of blood sometimes remained unsettled for
generations, producing deadly feuds.
The necessity of being always on the alert to defend his flocks and herds
made the Arab of the desert familiar from his infancy with the exercise
of arms. None could excel him in the use of the bow, the lance, and the
scimitar, and the adroit and graceful management of the horse. He was a
predatory warrior also; for though at times he was engaged in the service
of the merchant, furnishing him with camels and guides and drivers for
the transportation of his merchandise, he was more apt to lay contributions
on the caravan or plunder it outright in its toilful progress through the
desert. All this he regarded as a legitimate exercise of arms; looking
down upon the gainful sons of traffic as an inferior race, debased by sordid
habits and pursuits.
Such was the Arab of the desert, the dweller in tents, in whom was fulfilled
the prophetic destiny of his ancestor Ishmael: “He will be a wild man;
his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him.”
[Genesis 16:12.] Nature had fitted him for his destiny. His form was light and meager, but sinewy and active, and capable of sustaining great fatigue and hardship. He was temperate and even abstemious, requiring but little food, and that of the simplest kind. His mind, like his body, was light and agile. He eminently possessed the intellectual attributes of the Shemitic race, penetrating sagacity, subtle wit, a ready conception, and a brilliant imagination. His sensibilities were quick and acute, though not lasting; a proud and daring spirit was stamped on his sallow visage and flashed from his dark and kindling eye. He was easily aroused by the appeals of eloquence, and charmed by the graces of poetry. Speaking a language copious in the extreme, the words of which have been compared to gems and flowers, he was naturally an orator; but he delighted in proverbs and apothegms, rather than in sustained flights of declamation, and was prone to convey his ideas in the oriental style by apologue and parable.
Though a restless and predatory warrior, he was generous and hospitable.
He delighted in giving gifts; his door was always open to the wayfarer,
with whom he was ready to share his last morsel; and his deadliest foe,
having once broken bread with him, might repose securely beneath the inviolable
sanctity of his tent.
In religion the Arabs, in what they term the Days of Ignorance, partook largely of the two faiths, the Sabean and the Magian, which at that time prevailed over the eastern world. The Sabean, however, was the one to which they most adhered. They pretended to derive it from Sabi the son of Seth, who, with his father and his brother Enoch, they supposed to be buried in the pyramids. Others derive the name from the Hebrew word, Saba, or the Stars, and trace the origin of the faith to the Assyrian shepherds, who as they watched their flocks by night on their level plains, and beneath their cloudless skies, noted the aspects and movements of the heavenly bodies, and formed theories of their good and evil influences on human affairs; vague notions which the Chaldean philosophers and priests reduced to a system, supposed to be more ancient even than that of the Egyptians.
By others it is derived from still higher authority, and claimed to be
the religion of the antediluvian world. It survived, say they, the deluge,
and was continued among the patriarchs. It was taught by Abraham, adopted
by his descendants, the children of Israel, and sanctified and confirmed
in the tablets of the law, delivered unto Moses amid the thunder and lightning
of Mount Sinai.
In its original state the Sabean faith was pure and spiritual; inculcating a belief in the unity of God, the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments, and the necessity of a virtuous and holy life to obtain a happy immortality. So profound was the reverence of the Sabeans for the Supreme Being, that they never mentioned his name, nor did they venture to approach him, but through intermediate intelligences or angels. These were supposed to inhabit and animate the heavenly bodies, in the same way as the human body is inhabited and animated by a soul. They were placed in their respective spheres to supervise and govern the universe in subserviency to the Most High. In addressing themselves to the stars and other celestial luminaries, therefore, the Sabeans did not worship them as deities, but sought only to propitiate their angelic occupants as intercessors with the Supreme Being; looking up through these created things to God the great Creator.
By degrees this religion lest its original simplicity and purity, and became
obscured by mysteries, and degraded by idolatries. The Sabeans, instead
of regarding the heavenly bodies as the habitations of intermediate agents,
worshipped them as deities; set up graven images in honor of them, in sacred
groves and in the gloom of forests; and at length enshrined these idols
in temples, and worshipped them as if instinct with divinity. The Sabean
faith too underwent changes and modifications in the various countries
through which it was diffused. Egypt has long been accused of reducing
it to the most abject state of degradation; the statues, hieroglyphics,
and painted sepulchres of that mysterious country, being considered records
of the worship, not merely of celestial intelligences, but of the lowest
order of created beings, and even of inanimate objects. Modern investigation
and research, however, are gradually rescuing the most intellectual nation
of antiquity from this aspersion, and as they slowly lift the veil of mystery
which hangs over the tombs of Egypt, are discovering that all these apparent
objects of adoration were but symbols of the varied attributes of the one
Supreme Being, whose name was too sacred to be pronounced by mortals. Among
the Arabs the Sabean faith became mingled with wild superstitions, and
degraded by gross idolatry. Each tribe worshipped its particular star or
planet, or set up its particular idol. Infanticide mingled its horrors
with their religious rites. Among the nomadic tribes the birth of a daughter
was considered a misfortune, her sex rendering her of little service in
a wandering and predatory life, while she might bring disgrace, upon her
family by misconduct or captivity. Motives of unnatural policy, therefore,
may have mingled with their religious feelings, in offering up female infants
as sacrifices to their idols, or in burying them alive.
The rival sect of Magians or Guebres (fire worshippers), which, as we have
said, divided the religious empire of the East, took its rise in Persia,
where, after a while, its oral doctrines were reduced to writing by its
great prophet and teacher Zoroaster, in his volume of the Zendavesta. The
creed, like that of the Sabeans, was originally simple and spiritual, inculcating
a belief in one supreme and eternal God, in whom and by whom the universe
exists: that he produced, through his creating word, two active principles,
Ormusd, the principle or angel of light or good, and Ahriman, the principle
or angel of darkness or evil: that these formed the world out of a mixture
of their opposite elements, and were engaged in a perpetual contest in
the regulation of its affairs. Hence the vicissitudes of good and evil,
accordingly as the angel of light or darkness has the upper hand: this
contest would continue until the end of the world, when there would be
a general resurrection and a day of judgment; the angel of darkness and
his disciples would then be banished to an abode of woeful gloom, and their
opponents would enter the blissful realms of ever-during light.
The primitive rites of this religion were extremely simple. The Magians
had neither temples, altars, nor religious symbols of any kind, but addressed
their prayers and hymns directly to the Deity, in what they conceived to
be his residence, the sun. They reverenced this luminary as being his abode,
and as the source of the light and heat of which all the other heavenly
bodies were composed; and they kindled fires upon the mountain tops to
supply light during its absence. Zoroaster first introduced the use of
temples, wherein sacred fire, pretended to be derived from heaven, was
kept perpetually alive through the guardianship of priests, who maintained
a watch over it night and day.
In process of time this sect, like that of the Sabeans, lost sight of the
divine principle in the symbol, and came to worship light or fire, as the
real deity, and to abhor darkness as Satan or the devil. In their fanatic
zeal, the Magians would seize upon unbelievers and offer them up in the
flames to propitiate their fiery deity.
To the tenets of these two sects reference is made in that beautiful text
of the wisdom of Solomon: “Surely vain are all men by nature who are ignorant
of God, and could not, by considering the work, acknowledge the work master;
but deemed either fire, or wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the
stars, or the violent water, or the lights of heaven, to be gods, which
govern the world.”
Of these two faiths the Sabean, as we have before observed, was much the most prevalent among the Arabs; but in an extremely degraded form, mingled with all kinds of abuses, and varying among the various tribes. The Magian faith prevailed among those tribes which, from their frontier position, had frequent intercourse with Persia; while other tribes partook of the superstitions and idolatries of the nations on which they bordered.
Judaism had made its way into Arabia at an early period, but very vaguely
and imperfectly. Still many of its rites and ceremonies, and fanciful traditions,
became implanted in the country. At a later day, however, when Palestine
was ravaged by the Romans, and the city of Jerusalem taken and sacked,
many of the Jews took refuge among the Arabs; became incorporated with
the native tribes; formed themselves into communities; acquired possession
of fertile tracts; built castles and strongholds, and rose to considerable
power and influence.
The Christian religion had likewise its adherents among the Arabs. St.
Paul himself declares, in his epistle to the Galatians, that soon after
he had been called to preach Christianity among the heathens, he “went
into Arabia.” The dissensions, also, which rose in the Eastern church,
in the early part of the third century, breaking it up into sects, each
persecuting the others as it gained the ascendency, drove many into exile
into remote parts of the East; filled the deserts of Arabia with anchorites,
and planted the Christian faith among some of the principal tribes.
The foregoing circumstances, physical and moral, may give an idea of the causes which maintained the Arabs for ages in an unchanged condition. While their isolated position and their vast deserts protected them from conquest, their internal feuds and their want of a common tie, political or religious, kept them from being formidable as conquerors. They were a vast aggregation of distinct parts; full of individual vigor, but wanting coherent strength. Although their nomadic life rendered them hardy and active; although the greater part of them were warriors from infancy, yet their arms were only wielded against each other, excepting some of the frontier tribes, which occasionally engaged as mercenaries in external wars. While, therefore, the other nomadic races of Central Asia, possessing no greater aptness for warfare, had, during a course of ages, successively overrun and conquered the civilized world, this warrior race, unconscious of its power, remained disjointed and harmless in the depths of its native deserts.
The time at length arrived when its discordant tribes were to be united
in one creed, and animated by one common cause; when a mighty genius was
to arise, who should bring together these scattered limbs, animate them
with his own enthusiastic and daring spirit, and lead them forth, a giant
of the desert, to shake and overturn the empires of the earth.
BIRTH AND PARENTAGE OF MOHAMMED—HIS INFANCY AND
Mohammed, the great founder of the faith of Islam, was born in Mecca, in
April, in the year 569 of the Christian era. He was of the valiant and
illustrious tribe of Koreish, of which there were two branches, descended
from two brothers, Haschem and Abd Schems. Haschem, the progenitor of Mohammed,
was a great benefactor of Mecca. This city is situated in the midst of
a barren and stony country, and in former times was often subject to scarcity
of provisions. At the beginning of the sixth century, Haschem established
two yearly caravans, one in the winter to South Arabia or Yemen; the other
in the summer to Syria. By these means abundant supplies were brought to
Mecca, as well as a great variety of merchandise. The city became a commercial
mart, and the tribe of Koreish, which engaged largely in these expeditions,
became wealthy and powerful. Haschem, at this time, was the guardian of
the Kaaba, the great shrine of Arabian pilgrimage and worship, the custody
of which was confided to none but the most honorable tribes and families,
in the same manner as in old times the temple of Jerusalem was entrusted
only to the care of the Levites. In fact, the guardianship of the Kaaba
was connected with civil dignities and privileges, and gave the holder
of it the control of the sacred city.
On the death of Haschem, his son, Abd al Motâlleb, succeeded to his honors, and inherited his patriotism. He delivered the holy city from an invading army of troops and elephants, sent by the Christian princes of Abyssinia, who at that time held Yemen in subjection. These signal services rendered by father and son confirmed the guardianship of the Kaaba in the line of Haschem, to the great discontent and envy of the line of Abd Schems.
Abd al Motâlleb had several sons and daughters. Those of his sons who figure
in history were, Abu Taleb, Abu Lahab, Abbas, Hamza, and Abdallah. The
last named was the youngest and best beloved. He married Amina, a maiden
of a distant branch of the same illustrious stock of Koreish. So remarkable
was Abdallah for personal beauty and those qualities which win the affections
of women, that, if Moslem traditions are to be credited, on the night of
his marriage with Amina, two hundred virgins of the tribe of Koreish died
of broken hearts.
Mohammed was the first and only fruit of the marriage thus sadly celebrated. His birth, according to similar traditions with the one just cited, was accompanied by signs and portents announcing a child of wonder. His mother suffered none of the pangs of travail. At the moment of his coming into the world, a celestial light illumined the surrounding country, and the new-born child, raising his eyes to heaven, exclaimed: “God is great! There is no God but God, and I am his prophet.”
Heaven and earth, we are assured, were agitated at his advent. The Lake
Sawa shrank back to its secret springs, leaving its borders dry; while
the Tigris, bursting its bounds, overflowed the neighboring lands. The
palace of Khosru the King of Persia shook to its foundations, and several
of its towers were toppled to the earth. In that troubled night Kadhi,
or the Judge of Persia, beheld, in a dream, a ferocious camel conquered
by an Arabian courser. He related his dream in the morning to the Persian
monarch, and interpreted it to portend danger from the quarter of Arabia.
In the same eventful night the sacred fire of Zoroaster, which, guarded
by the Magi, had burned without interruption for upward of a thousand years,
was suddenly extinguished, and all the idols in the world fell down. The
demons, or evil genii, which lurk in the stars and the signs of the zodiac,
and exert a malignant influence over the children of men, were cast forth
by the pure angels, and hurled, with their arch leader, Eblis, or Lucifer,
into the depths of the sea.
The relatives of the new-born child, say the like authorities, were filled with awe and wonder. His mother’s brother, an astrologer, cast his nativity, and predicted that he would rise to vast power, found an empire, and establish a new faith among men. His grandfather, Abd al Motâlleb, gave a feast to the principal Koreishites, the seventh day after his birth, at which he presented this child, as the dawning glory of their race, and gave him the name of Mohammed, indicative of his future renown.
Such are the marvellous accounts given by Moslem writers of the infancy
of Mohammed, and we have little else than similar fables about his early
years. He was scarce two months old when his father died, leaving him no
other inheritance than five camels, a few sheep, and a female slave of
Ethiopia, named Barakat. His mother, Amina, had hitherto nurtured him,
but care and sorrow dried the fountains of her breast, and the air of Mecca
being unhealthy for children, she sought a nurse for him among the females
of the neighboring Bedouin tribes. These were accustomed to come to Mecca
twice a year, in spring and autumn, to foster the children of its inhabitants;
but they looked for the offspring of the rich, where they were sure of
ample recompense, and turned with contempt from this heir of poverty. At
length Halęma, the wife of a Saadite shepherd, was moved to compassion,
and took the helpless infant to her home. It was in one of the pastoral
valleys of the mountains.
The Beni Sad (or children of Sad) date from the most remote antiquity, and with the Katan Arabs, are the only remnants of the primitive tribes of Arabia. Their valley is among the mountains which range southwardly from the Tayef.— Burckhardt on the Bedouins, vol. ii. p. 47.
Many were the wonders related by Halęma of her infant charge. On the journey from Mecca, the mule which bore him became miraculously endowed with speech, and proclaimed aloud that he bore on his back the greatest of prophets, the chief of ambassadors, the favorite of the Almighty. The sheep bowed to him as he passed; as he lay in his cradle and gazed at the moon it stooped to him in reverence.
The blessing of heaven, say the Arabian writers, rewarded the charity of
Halęma. While the child remained under her roof, everything around her
prospered. The wells and springs were never dried up; the pastures were
always green; her flocks and herds increased tenfold; a marvellous abundance
reigned over her fields, and peace prevailed in her dwelling.
The Arabian legends go on to extol the almost supernatural powers, bodily
and mental, manifested by this wonderful child at a very early age. He
could stand alone when three months old; run abroad when he was seven,
and at ten could join other children in their sports with bows and arrows.
At eight months he could speak so as to be understood; and in the course
of another month could converse with fluency, displaying a wisdom astonishing
to all who heard him.
At the age of three years, while playing in the fields with his foster-brother, Masroud, two angels in shining apparel appeared before them. They laid Mohammed gently upon the ground, and Gabriel, one of the angels, opened his breast, but without inflicting any pain. Then taking forth his heart, he cleansed it from all impurity, wringing from it those black and bitter drops of original sin, inherited from our forefather Adam, and which lurk in the hearts of the best of his descendants, inciting them to crime. When he had thoroughly purified it, he filled it with faith and knowledge and prophetic light, and replaced it in the bosom of the child. Now, we are assured by the same authorities, began to emanate from his countenance that mysterious light which had continued down from Adam, through the sacred line of prophets, until the time of Isaac and Ishmael; but which had lain dormant in the descendants of the latter, until it thus shone forth with renewed radiance from the features of Mohammed.
At this supernatural visitation, it is added, was impressed between the
shoulders of the child the seal of prophecy, which continued throughout
life the symbol and credential of his divine mission; though unbelievers
saw nothing in it but a large mole, the size of a pigeon’s egg.
When the marvellous visitation of the angel was related to Halęma and her
husband, they were alarmed lest some misfortune should be impending over
the child, or that his supernatural visitors might be of the race of evil
spirits or genii, which haunt the solitudes of the desert, wreaking mischief
on the children of men. His Saadite nurse, therefore, carried him back
to Mecca, and delivered him to his mother Amina.
He remained with his parent until his sixth year, when she took him with her to Medina, on a visit to her relatives of the tribe of Adij, but on her journey homeward she died, and was buried at Abwa, a village between Medina and Mecca. Her grave, it will be found, was a place of pious resort and tender recollection to her son, at the latest period of his life.
The faithful Abyssinian slave, Barakat, now acted as a mother to the orphan
child, and conducted him to his grandfather Abd al Motâlleb, in whose household
he remained for two years, treated with care and tenderness. Abd al Motâlleb
was now well stricken in years; having outlived the ordinary term of human
existence. Finding his end approaching, he called to him his eldest son,
Abu Taleb, and bequeathed Mohammed to his especial protection. The good
Abu Taleb took his nephew to his bosom, and ever afterward was to him as
a parent. As the former succeeded to the guardianship of the Kaaba at the
death of his father, Mohammed continued for several years in a kind of
sacerdotal household, where the rites and ceremonies of the sacred house
were rigidly observed. And here we deem it necessary to give a more especial
notice of the alleged origin of the Kaaba, and of the rites and traditions
and superstitions connected with it, closely interwoven as they are with
the faith of Islam and the story of its founder.
TRADITIONS CONCERNING MECCA AND THE KAABA.
WHEN Adam and Eve were cast forth from Paradise, say Arabian traditions,
they fell in different parts of the earth; Adam on a mountain of the island
of Serendib, or Ceylon; Eve in Arabia on the borders of the Red Sea, where
the port of Joddah is now situated. For two hundred years they wandered
separate and lonely about the earth, until, in consideration of their penitence
and wretchedness, they were permitted to come together again on Mount Arafat,
not far from the present city of Mecca. In the depth of his sorrow and
repentance, Adam, it is said, raised his hands and eyes to heaven, and
implored the clemency of God; entreating that a shrine might be vouchsafed
to him similar to that at which he had worshipped when in Paradise, and
round which the angels used to move in adoring processions.
The supplication of Adam was effectual. A tabernacle or temple formed of
radiant clouds was lowered down by the hands of angels, and placed immediately
below its prototype in the celestial paradise. Toward this heaven-descended
shrine Adam thenceforth turned when in prayer, and round it he daily made
seven circuits in imitation of the rites of the adoring angels.
At the death of Adam, say the same traditions, the tabernacle of clouds
passed away, or was again drawn up to heaven; but another, of the same
form and in the same place, was built of stone and clay by Seth, the son
of Adam. This was swept away by the deluge. Many generations afterward,
in the time of the patriarchs, when Hagar and her child Ishmael were near
perishing with thirst in the desert, an angel revealed to them a spring
or well of water, near to the ancient site of the tabernacle. This was
the well of Zem Zem, held sacred by the progeny of Ishmael to the present
day. Shortly afterward two individuals of the gigantic race of the Amalekites,
in quest of a camel which had strayed from their camp, discovered this
well, and, having slaked their thirst, brought their companions to the
place. Here they founded the city of Mecca, taking Ishmael and his mother
under their protection. They were soon expelled by the proper inhabitants
of the country, among whom Ishmael remained. When grown to man’s estate,
he married the daughter of the ruling prince, by whom he had a numerous
progeny, the ancestors of the Arabian people. In process of time, by God’s
command he undertook to rebuild the Kaaba, on the precise site of the original
tabernacle of clouds. In this pious work he was assisted by his father
Abraham. A miraculous stone served Abraham as a scaffold, rising and sinking
with him as he built the walls of the sacred edifice. It still remains
there an inestimable relic, and the print of the patriarch’s foot is clearly
to be perceived on it by all true believers.
While Abraham and Ishmael were thus occupied, the angel Gabriel brought
them a stone, about which traditional accounts are a little at variance;
by some it is said to have been one of the precious stones of Paradise,
which fell to the earth with Adam, and was afterward lost in the slime
of the deluge, until retrieved by the angel Gabriel. The more received
tradition is, that it was originally the guardian angel appointed to watch
over Adam in Paradise, but changed into a stone and ejected thence with
him at his fall, as a punishment for not having been more vigilant. This
stone Abraham and Ishmael received with proper reverence, and inserted
it in a corner of the exterior wall of the Kaaba,where it remains to the
present day, devoutly kissed by worshippers each time they make a circuit
of the temple. When first inserted in the wall it was, we are told, a single
jacinth of dazzling whiteness, but became gradually blackened by the kisses
of sinful mortals. At the resurrection it will recover its angelic form,
and stand forth a testimony before God in favor of those who have faithfully
performed the rites of pilgrimage.
Such are the Arabian traditions, which rendered the Kaaba and the well of Zem Zem objects of extraordinary veneration from the remotest antiquity among the people of the East, and especially the descendants of Ishmael. Mecca, which encloses these sacred objects within its walls, was a holy city many ages before the rise of Mohammedanism, and was the resort of pilgrims from all parts of Arabia. So universal and profound was the religious feeling respecting this observance, that four months in every year were devoted to the rites of pilgrimage, and held sacred from all violence and warfare. Hostile tribes then laid aside their arms; took the heads from their spears; traversed the late dangerous deserts in security; thronged the gates of Mecca clad in the pilgrim’s garb; made their seven circuits round the Kaaba in imitation of the angelic host; touched and kissed the mysterious black stone; drank and made ablutions at the well Zem Zem in memory of their ancestor Ishmael; and having performed all the other primitive rites of pilgrimage returned home in safety, again to resume their weapons and their wars.
Among the religious observances of the Arabs in these their “days of ignorance;”
that is to say, before the promulgation of the Moslem doctrines, fasting
and prayer had a foremost place. They had three principal fasts within
the year; one of seven, one of nine, and one of thirty days. They prayed
three times each day; about sunrise, at noon, and about sunset; turning
their faces in the direction of the Kaaba, which was their kebla, or point
of adoration. They had many religious traditions, some of them acquired
in early times from the Jews, and they are said to have nurtured their
devotional feelings with the book of Psalms, and with a book said to be
by Seth, and filled with moral discourses.
Brought up, as Mohammed was, in the house of the guardian of the Kaaba, the ceremonies and devotions connected with the sacred edifice may have given an early bias to his mind, and inclined it to those speculations in matters of religion by which it eventually became engrossed. Though his Moslem biographers would fain persuade us his high destiny was clearly foretold in his childhood by signs and prodigies, yet his education appears to have been as much neglected as that of ordinary Arab children; for we find that he was not taught either to read or write. He was a thoughtful child, however; quick to observe, prone to meditate on all that he observed, and possessed of an imagination fertile, daring, and expansive. The yearly influx of pilgrims from distant parts made Mecca a receptacle for all kinds of floating knowledge, which he appears to have imbibed with eagerness and retained in a tenacious memory; and as he increased in years, a more extended sphere of observation was gradually opened to him.
FIRST JOURNEY OF MOHAMMED WITH THE CARAVAN TO SYRIA.
Mohammed was now twelve years of age, but, as we have shown, he had an
intelligence far beyond his years. The spirit of inquiry was awake within
him, quickened by intercourse with pilgrims from all parts of Arabia. His
uncle Abu Taleb, too, beside his sacerdotal character as guardian of the
Kaaba, was one of the most enterprising merchants of the tribe of Koreish,
and had much to do with those caravans set on foot by his ancestor Haschem,
which traded to Syria and Yemen. The arrival and departure of those caravans,
which thronged the gates of Mecca and filled its streets with pleasing
tumult, were exciting events to a youth like Mohammed, and carried his
imagination to foreign parts. He could no longer repress the ardent curiosity
thus aroused; but once, when his uncle was about to mount his camel to
depart with the caravan for Syria, clung to him, and entreated to be permitted
to accompany him: “For who, oh my uncle,” said he, “will take care of me
when thou art away?”
The appeal was not lost upon the kind-hearted Abu Taleb. He bethought him,
too, that the youth was of an age to enter upon the active scenes of Arab
life, and of a capacity to render essential service in the duties of the
caravan; he readily, therefore, granted his prayer, and took him with him
on the journey to Syria.
The route lay through regions fertile in fables and traditions, which it
is the delight of the Arabs to recount in the evening halts of the caravan.
The vast solitudes of the desert, in which that wandering people pass so
much of their lives, are prone to engender superstitious fancies; they
have accordingly peopled them with good and evil genii, and clothed them
with tales of enchantment, mingled up with wonderful events which happened
in days of old. In these evening halts of the caravan, the youthful mind
of Mohammed doubtless imbibed many of those superstitions of the desert
which ever afterward dwelt in his memory, and had a powerful influence
over his imagination. We may especially note two traditions which he must
have heard at this time, and which we find recorded by him in after years
in the Koran. One related to the mountainous district of Hedjar. Here,
as the caravan wound its way through silent and deserted valleys, caves
were pointed out in the sides of the mountains once inhabited by the Beni
Thamud, or children of Thamud, one of the “lost tribes” of Arabia; and
this was the tradition concerning them.
They were a proud and gigantic race, existing before the time of the patriarch
Abraham. Having fallen into blind idolatry, God sent a prophet of the name
of Saleh, to restore them to the right way. They refused, however, to listen
to him unless he should prove the divinity of his mission by causing a
camel, big with young, to issue from the entrails of a mountain. Saleh
accordingly prayed, and lo! a rock opened, and a female camel came forth,
which soon produced a foal. Some of the Thamudites were convinced by the
miracle, and were converted by the prophet from their idolatry; the greater
part, however, remained in unbelief. Saleh left the camel among them as
a sign, warning them that a judgment from heaven would fall on them, should
they do her any harm. For a time the camel was suffered to feed quietly
in their pastures, going forth in the morning and returning in the evening.
It is true, that when she bowed her head to drink from a brook or well,
she never raised it until she had drained the last drop of water; but then
in return she yielded milk enough to supply the whole tribe. As, however,
she frightened the other camels from the pasture, she became an object
of offense to the Thamudites, who hamstrung and slew her. Upon this there
was a fearful cry from heaven, and great claps of thunder, and in the morning
all the offenders were found lying on their faces, dead. Thus the whole
race was swept from the earth, and their country was laid forever afterward
under the ban of heaven.
This story made a powerful impression on the mind of Mohammed, insomuch that in after years he refused to let his people encamp in the neighborhood, but hurried them away from it as an accursed region.
Another tradition, gathered on this journey, related to the city of Eyla,
situated near the Red Sea. This place, he was told, had been inhabited
in old times by a tribe of Jews, who lapsed into idolatry and profaned
the Sabbath, by fishing on that sacred day; whereupon the old men were
transformed into swine, and the young men into monkeys.
We have noted these two traditions especially because they are both cited
by Mohammed as instances of divine judgment on the crime of idolatry, and
evince the bias his youthful mind was already taking on that important
Moslem writers tell us, as usual, of wonderful circumstances which attended
the youth throughout this journey, giving evidence of the continual guardianship
of heaven. At one time, as he traversed the burning sands of the desert,
an angel hovered over him unseen, sheltering him with his wings; a miracle,
however, which evidently does not rest on the evidence of an eye-witness;
at another time he was protected by a cloud which hung over his head during
the noontide heat; and on another occasion, as he sought the scanty shade
of a withered tree, it suddenly put forth leaves and blossoms.
After skirting the ancient domains of the Moabites and the Ammonites, often
mentioned in the sacred Scriptures, the caravan arrived at Bosra, or Bostra,
on the confines of Syria, in the country of the tribe of Manasseh, beyond
the Jordan. In Scripture days it had been a city of the Levites, but now
was inhabited by Nestorian Christians. It was a great mart, annually visited
by the caravans; and here our wayfarers came to a halt, and encamped near
a convent of Nestorian monks.
By this fraternity Abu Taleb and his nephew were entertained with great
hospitality. One of the monks, by some called Sergius, by others Bahira,
[Some assert that these two names indicate two monks who held conversations
with Mohammed.] on conversing with Mohammed, was surprised at the precocity of his intellect,
and interested by his eager desire for information, which appears to have
had reference, principally, to matters of religion. They had frequent conversations
together on such subjects, in the course of which the efforts of the monk
must have been mainly directed against that idolatry in which the youthful
Mohammed had hitherto been educated; for the Nestorian Christians were
strenuous in condemning not merely the worship of images, but even the
casual exhibition of them; indeed, so far did they carry their scruples
on this point, that even the cross, that general emblem of Christianity,
was in a great degree included in this prohibition.
Many have ascribed that knowledge of the principles and traditions of the
Christian faith displayed by Mohammed in after life, to those early conversations
with this monk; it is probable, however, that he had further intercourse
with the latter in the course of subsequent visits which he made to Syria.
Moslem writers pretend that the interest taken by the monk in the youthful stranger arose from his having accidentally perceived between his shoulders the seal of prophecy. He warned Abu Taleb, say they, when about to set out on his return to Mecca, to take care that his nephew did not fall into the hands of the Jews; foreseeing with the eye of prophecy the trouble and opposition he was to encounter from that people.
It required no miraculous sign, however, to interest a sectarian monk,
anxious to make proselytes, in an intelligent and inquiring youth, nephew
of the guardian of the Kaaba, who might carry back with him to Mecca the
seeds of Christianity sown in his tender mind; and it was natural that
the monk should be eager to prevent his hoped-for convert, in the present
unsettled state of his religious opinions, from being beguiled into the
Mohammed returned to Mecca, his imagination teeming with the wild tales and traditions picked up in the desert, and his mind deeply impressed with the doctrines imparted to him in the Nestorian convent. He seems ever afterward to have entertained a mysterious reverence for Syria, probably from the religious impressions received there. It was the land whither Abraham the patriarch had repaired from Chaldea, taking with him the primitive worship of the one true God. “Verily,” he used to say in after years, “God has ever maintained guardians of his word in Syria; forty in number; when one dies another is sent in his room; and through them the land is blessed.” And again: “Joy be to the people of Syria, for the angels of the kind God spread their wings over them.” [Mischât-ul-Masâbih, vol. ii. p. 812.]
NOTE—The conversion of Abraham from the idolatry into which the world had fallen after the deluge is related in the sixth chapter of the Koran. Abraham’s father, Azer, or Zerah, as his name is given in the Scriptures, was a statuary and an idolater.
“And Abraham said unto his father Azer, ‘Why dost thou take graven images
for gods? Verily, thou and thy people are in error.’
“Then was the firmament of heaven displayed unto Abraham, that he might
see how the world was governed.
“When night came, and darkness overshadowed the earth, he beheld a bright
star shining in the firmament, and cried out to his people who were astrologers,
‘This, according to your assertions, is the Lord.’
“But the star set, and Abraham said, ‘I have no faith in gods that set.’
“He beheld the moon rising, and exclaimed, ‘Assuredly, this is the Lord.’
But the moon likewise set, and he was confounded, and prayed unto God,
saying, ‘Direct me, lest I become as one of these people, who go astray.’
“When he saw the sun rising, he cried out, ‘This is the most glorious of
all; this of a certainty is the Lord.’ But the sun also set. Then said
Abraham, ‘I believe not, oh my people, in those things which ye call gods.
Verily, I turn my face unto Him, the Creator, who hath formed both the
heavens and the earth.’”
COMMERCIAL OCCUPATIONS OF MOHAMMED—HIS MARRIAGE WITH KHADIJAH.
Mohammed was now completely launched in active life, accompanying his uncles in various expeditions. At one time, when about sixteen years of age, we find him with his uncle Zobier, journeying with the caravan to Yemen; at another time acting as armor-bearer to the same uncle, who led a war-like expedition of Koreishites in aid of the Kenanites against the tribe of Hawazan. This is cited as Mohammed’s first essay in arms, though he did little else than supply his uncle with arrows in the heat of the action, and shield him from the darts of the enemy. It is stigmatized among Arabian writers as al Fadjar, or the impious war, having been carried on during the sacred months of pilgrimage.
As Mohammed advanced in years he was employed by different persons as commercial
agent or factor in caravan journeys to Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere; all
which tended to enlarge the sphere of his observation, and to give him
a quick insight into character and a knowledge of human affairs.
He was a frequent attender of fairs also, which, in Arabia, were not always
mere resorts of traffic, but occasionally scenes of poetical contests between
different tribes, where prizes were adjudged to the victors, and their
prize poems treasured up in the archives of princes. Such, especially,
was the case with the fair of Ocadh; and seven of the prize poems adjudged
there were hung up as trophies in the Kaaba. At these fairs, also, were
recited the popular traditions of the Arabs, and inculcated the various
religious faiths which were afloat in Arabia. From oral sources of this
kind Mohammed gradually accumulated much of that varied information as
to creeds and doctrines which he afterward displayed.
There was at this time residing in Mecca a widow, named Khadijah, of the
tribe of Koreish. She had been twice married. Her last husband, a wealthy
merchant, had recently died, and the extensive concerns of the house were
in need of a conductor. A nephew of the widow, named Chuzima, had become
acquainted with Mohammed in the course of his commercial expeditions, and
had noticed the ability and integrity with which he acquitted himself on
all occasions. He pointed him out to his aunt as a person well qualified
to be her factor. The personal appearance of Mohammed may have strongly
seconded this recommendation; for he was now about twenty-five years of
age, and extolled by Arabian writers for his manly beauty and engaging
manners. So desirous was Khadijah of securing his services, that she offered
him double wages to conduct a caravan which she was on the point of sending
off to Syria. Mohammed consulted his uncle Abu Taleb, and by his advice
accepted the offer. He was accompanied and aided in the expedition by the
nephew of the widow, and by her slave Maisara, and so highly satisfied
was Khadijah with the way in which he discharged his duties, that, on his
return, she paid him double the amount of his stipulated wages. She afterward
sent him to the southern parts of Arabia on similar expeditions, in all
which he gave like satisfaction.
Khadijah was now in her fortieth year, a woman of judgment and experience.
The mental qualities of Mohammed rose more and more in her estimation,
and her heart began to yearn toward the fresh and comely youth. According
to Arabian legends, a miracle occurred most opportunely to confirm and
sanctify the bias of her inclinations. She was one day with her handmaids,
at the hour of noon, on the terraced roof of her dwelling, watching the
arrival of a caravan conducted by Mohammed. As it approached, she beheld,
with astonishment, two angels overshadowing him with their wings to protect
him from the sun. Turning, with emotion, to her handmaids, “Behold!” said
she, “the beloved of Allah, who sends two angels to watch over him!”
Whether or not the handmaidens looked forth with the same eyes of devotion
as their mistress, and likewise discerned the angels, the legend does not
mention. Suffice it to say, the widow was filled with a lively faith in
the superhuman merits of her youthful steward, and forthwith commissioned
her trusty slave, Maisara, to offer him her hand. The negotiation is recorded
with simple brevity. “Mohammed,” demanded Maisara, “why dost thou not marry?”
“I have not the means,” replied Mohammed. “Well, but if a wealthy dame
should offer thee her hand; one also who is handsome and of high birth?”
“And who is she?” “Khadijah!” “How is that possible?” “Let me manage it.”
Maisara returned to his mistress and reported what had passed. An hour
was appointed for an interview, and the affair was brought to a satisfactory
arrangement with that promptness and sagacity which had distinguished Mohammed
in all his dealings with the widow. The father of Khadijah made some opposition
to the match, on account of the poverty of Mohammed, following the common
notion that wealth should be added to wealth; but the widow wisely considered
her riches only as the means of enabling her to follow the dictates of
her heart. She gave a great feast, to which were invited her father and
the rest of her relatives, and Mohammed’s uncles Abu Taleb and Hamza, together
with several others of the Koreishites. At this banquet wine was served
in abundance, and soon diffused good humor round the board. The objections
to Mohammed’s poverty were forgotten; speeches were made by Abu Taleb on
the one side, and by Waraka, a kinsman of Khadijah, on the other, in praise
of the proposed nuptials; the dowry was arranged, and the marriage formally
Mohammed then caused a camel to be killed before his door, and the flesh distributed among the poor. The house was thrown open to all comers; the female slaves of Khadijah danced to the sound of timbrels, and all was revelry and rejoicing. Abu Taleb, forgetting his age and his habitual melancholy, made merry on the occasion. He had paid down from his purse a dower of twelve and a half okks of gold, equivalent to twenty young camels. Halęma, who had nursed Mohammed in his infancy, was summoned to rejoice at his nuptials, and was presented with a flock of forty sheep, with which she returned, enriched and contented, to her native valley, in the desert of the Saadites.
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.
THE marriage with Khadijah placed Mohammed among the most wealthy of his
native city. His moral worth also gave him great influence in the community.
Allah, says the historian Abulfeda, had endowed him with every gift necessary
to accomplish and adorn an honest man; he was so pure and sincere; so free
from every evil thought, that he was commonly known by the name of Al Amin,
or The Faithful.
The great confidence reposed in his judgment and probity caused him to be frequently referred to as arbiter in disputes between his townsmen. An anecdote is given as illustrative of his sagacity on such occasions. The Kaaba having been injured by fire, was undergoing repairs, in the course of which the sacred black stone was to be replaced. A dispute arose among the chiefs of the various tribes, as to which was entitled to perform so august an office, and they agreed to abide by the decision of the first person who should enter by the gate al Haram. That person happened to be Mohammed. Upon hearing their different claims, he directed that a great cloth should be spread upon the ground, and the stone laid thereon; and that a man from each tribe should take hold of the border of the cloth. In this way the sacred stone was raised equally and at the same time by them all to a level with its allotted place, in which Mohammed fixed it with his own hands.
Four daughters and one son were the fruit of the marriage with Khadijah. The son was named Kasim, whence Mohammed was occasionally called Abu Kasim, or the father of Kasim, according to Arabian nomenclature. This son, however, died in his infancy.
For several years after his marriage he continued in commerce, visiting the great Arabian fairs, and making distant journeys with the caravans. His expeditions were not as profitable as in the days of his stewardship, and the wealth acquired with his wife diminished rather than increased in the course of his operations. That wealth, in fact, had raised him above the necessity of toiling for subsistence, and given him leisure to indulge the original bias of his mind; a turn for reverie and religious speculation, which he had evinced from his earliest years. This had been fostered in the course of his journeyings, by his intercourse with Jews and Christians, originally fugitives from persecution, but now gathered into tribes, or forming part of the population of cities. The Arabian deserts, too, rife as we have shown them with fanciful superstitions, had furnished aliment for his enthusiastic reveries. Since his marriage with Khadijah, also, he had a household oracle to influence him in his religious opinions. This was his wife’s cousin Waraka, a man of speculative mind and flexible faith; originally a Jew, subsequently a Christian, and withal a pretender to astrology. He is worthy of note as being the first on record to translate parts of the Old and New Testament into Arabic. From him Mohammed is supposed to have derived much of his information respecting those writings, and many of the traditions of the Mishnu and the Talmud, on which he draws so copiously in his Koran.
The knowledge thus variously acquired and treasured up in an uncommonly
retentive memory, was in direct hostility to the gross idolatry prevalent
in Arabia, and practiced at the Kaaba. That sacred edifice had gradually
become filled and surrounded by idols, to the number of three hundred and
sixty, being one for every day of the Arab year. Hither had been brought
idols from various parts, the deities of other nations, the chief of which,
Hobal, was from Syria, and supposed to have the power of giving rain. Among
these idols, too, were Abraham and Ishmael, once revered as prophets and
progenitors, now represented with divining arrows in their hands, symbols
Mohammed became more and more sensible of the grossness and absurdity of this idolatry, in proportion as his intelligent mind contrasted it with the spiritual religions, which had been the subjects of his inquiries. Various passages in the Koran show the ruling idea which gradually sprang up in his mind, until it engrossed his thoughts and Influenced all his actions. That idea was a religious reform. It had become his fixed belief, deduced from all that he had learned and meditated, that the only true religion had been revealed to Adam at his creation, and been promulgated and practiced in the days of innocence. That religion inculcated the direct and spiritual worship of one true and only God, the creator of the universe.
It was his belief, furthermore, that this religion, so elevated and simple,
had repeatedly been corrupted and debased by man, and especially outraged
by idolatry; wherefore a succession of prophets, each inspired by a revelation
from the Most High, had been sent from time to time, and at distant periods,
to restore it to its original purity. Such was Noah, such was Abraham,
such was Moses, and such was Jesus Christ. By each of these the true religion
had been reinstated upon earth, but had again been vitiated by their followers.
The faith as taught and practiced by Abraham when he came out of the land
of Chaldea seems especially to have formed a religious standard in his
mind, from his veneration for the patriarch as the father of Ishmael, the
progenitor of his race.
It appeared to Mohammed that the time for another reform was again arrived.
The world had once more lapsed into blind idolatry. It needed the advent
of another prophet, authorized by a mandate from on high, to restore the
erring children of men to the right path, and to bring back the worship
of the Kaaba to what it had been in the days of Abraham and the patriarchs.
The probability of such an advent, with its attendant reforms, seems to
have taken possession of his mind, and produced habits of reverie and meditation,
incompatible with the ordinary concerns of life and the bustle of the world.
We are told that he gradually absented himself from society, and sought
the solitude of a cavern on Mount Hara, about three leagues north of Mecca,
where, in emulation of the Christian anchorites of the desert, he would
remain days and nights together, engaged in prayer and meditation. In this
way he always passed the month of Ramadhan, the holy month of the Arabs.
Such intense occupation of the mind on one subject, accompanied by fervent
enthusiasm of spirit, could not but have a powerful effect upon his frame.
He became subject to dreams, to ecstasies and trances. For six months successively,
according to one of his historians, he had constant dreams bearing on the
subject of his waking thoughts. Often he would lose all consciousness of
surrounding objects, and lie upon the ground as if insensible. Khadijah,
who was sometimes the faithful companion of his solitude, beheld these
paroxysms with anxious solicitude, and entreated to know the cause; but
he evaded her inquiries, or answered them mysteriously. Some of his adversaries
have attributed them to epilepsy, but devout Moslems declare them to have
been the workings of prophecy; for already, say they, the intimations of
the Most High began to dawn, though vaguely, on his spirit; and his mind
labored with conceptions too great for mortal thought. At length, say they,
what had hitherto been shadowed out in dreams, was made apparent and distinct
by an angelic apparition and a divine annunciation.
It was in the fortieth year of his age when this famous revelation took
place. Accounts are given of it by Moslem writers as if received from his
own lips, and it is alluded to in certain passages of the Koran. He was
passing, as was his wont, the month of Ramadhan in the cavern of Mount
Hara, endeavoring by fasting, prayer, and solitary meditation, to elevate
his thoughts to the contemplation of divine truth. It was on the night
called by Arabs Al Kader, or the Divine Decree; a night in which, according
to the Koran, angels descend to earth, and Gabriel brings down the decrees
of God. During that night there is peace on earth, and a holy quiet reigns
over all nature until the rising of the morn.
As Mohammed, in the silent watches of the night, lay wrapped in his mantle, he heard a voice calling upon him; uncovering his head, a flood of light broke upon him of such intolerable splendor that he swooned away. On regaining his senses, he beheld an angel in a human form, which, approaching from a distance, displayed a silken cloth covered with written characters. “Read!” said the angel.
“I know not how to read!” replied Mohammed.
“Read!” repeated the angel, “in the name of the Lord, who has created all
things; who created man from a clot of blood. Read in the name of the Most
High, who taught man the use of the pen; who sheds on his soul the ray
of knowledge, and teaches him what before he knew not.”
Upon this Mohammed instantly felt his understanding illumined with celestial light, and read what was written on the cloth, which contained the decrees of God, as afterward promulgated in the Koran. When he had finished the perusal, the heavenly messenger announced, “Oh, Mohammed, of a verity, thou art the prophet of God! and I am his angel Gabriel!”
Mohammed, we are told, came trembling and agitated to Khadijah in the morning, not knowing whether what he had heard and seen was indeed true, and that he was a prophet decreed to effect that reform so long the object of his meditations; or whether it might not be a mere vision, a delusion of the senses, or, worse than all, the apparition of an evil spirit.
Khadijah, however, saw everything with the eye of faith, and the credulity
of an affectionate woman. She saw in it the fruition of her husband’s wishes,
and the end of his paroxysms and privations. “Joyful tidings dost thou
bring!” exclaimed she. “By him, in whose hand is the soul of Khadijah,
I will henceforth regard thee as the prophet of our nation. Rejoice,” added
she, seeing him still cast down; “Allah will not suffer thee to fall to
shame. Hast thou not been loving to thy kinsfolk, kind to thy neighbors,
charitable to the poor, hospitable to the stranger, faithful to thy word,
and ever a defender of the truth?”
Khadijah hastened to communicate what she had heard to her cousin Waraka,
the translator of the Scriptures; who, as we have shown, had been a household
oracle of Mohammed in matters of religion. He caught at once, and with
eagerness, at this miraculous annunciation. “By him in whose hand is the
soul of Waraka,” exclaimed he; “thou speakest true, oh Khadijah! The angel
who has appeared to thy husband is the same who, in days of old, was sent
to Moses, the son of Amram. His annunciation is true. Thy husband is indeed
The zealous concurrence of the learned Waraka is said to have had a powerful effect in fortifying the dubious mind of Mohammed.
NOTE.—Dr. Gustav Weil, in a note to Mohammed der Prophet, discusses the question of Mohammed’s being subject to attacks of epilepsy;
which has generally been represented as a slander of his enemies and of
Christian writers. It appears, however, to have been asserted by some of
the oldest Moslem biographers, and given on the authority of persons about
him. He would be seized, they said, with violent trembling followed by
a kind of swoon, or rather convulsion, during which perspiration would
stream from his forehead in the coldest weather; he would lie with his
eyes closed, foaming at the mouth, and bellowing like a young camel. Ayesha,
one of his wives, and Zeid, one of his disciples, are among the persons
cited as testifying to that effect. They considered him at such times as
under the influence of a revelation. He had such attacks, however, in Mecca,
before the Koran was revealed to him. Khadijah feared that he was possessed
by evil spirits, and would have called in the aid of a conjuror to exorcise
them, but he forbade her. He did not like that any one should see him during
these paroxysms. His visions, however, were not always preceded by such
attacks. Hareth Ibn Haschem, it is said, once asked him in what manner
the revelations were made. “Often,” replied he, “the angel appears to me
in a human form, and speaks to me. Sometimes I hear sounds like the tinkling
of a bell, but see nothing. [A ringing in the ears is a symptom of epilepsy.]
When the invisible angel has departed, I am possessed of what he has revealed.”
Some of his revelations he professed to receive direct from God, others
in dreams; for the dreams of prophets, he used to say, are revelations.
The reader will find this note of service in throwing some degree of light
upon the enigmatical career of this extraordinary man.
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.
FOR a time Mohammed confided his revelations merely to his own household.
One of the first to avow himself a believer was his servant Zeid, an Arab
of the tribe of Kalb. This youth had been captured in childhood by a freebooting
party of Koreishites, and had come by purchase or lot into the possession
of Mohammed. Several years afterward his father, hearing of his being in
Mecca, repaired thither, and offered a considerable sum for his ransom.
“If he chooses to go with thee,” said Mohammed, “he shall go without ransom;
but if he chooses to remain with me, why should I not keep him?” Zeid preferred
to remain, having ever, he said, been treated more as a son than as a slave.
Upon this, Mohammed publicly adopted him, and he had ever since remained
with him in affectionate servitude. Now, on embracing the new faith, he
was set entirely free, but it will be found that he continued through life
that devoted attachment which Mohammed seems to have had the gift of inspiring
in his followers and dependents.
The early steps of Mohammed in his prophetic career were perilous and doubtful,
and taken in secrecy. He had hostility to apprehend on every side: from
his immediate kindred, the Koreishites of the line of Haschem, whose power
and prosperity were identified with idolatry; and still more from the rival
line of Abd Schems, who had long looked with envy and jealousy on the Haschemites,
and would eagerly raise the cry of heresy and impiety to dispossess them
of the guardianship of the Kaaba. At the head of this rival branch of Koreish
was Abu Sofian, the son of Harb, grandson of Omeya, and great-grandson
of Abd Schems. He was an able and ambitious man, of great wealth and influence,
and will be found one of the most persevering and powerful opponents of
Niebuhr (Travels, vol. ii.) speaks of the tribe of Harb, which possessed
several cities, and a number of villages in the highlands of Hedjas, a
mountainous range between Mecca and Medina. They have castles on precipitous
rocks, and harass and lay under contribution the caravans. It is presumed
that this tribe takes its name from the father of Abu Sofian, as did the
great line of the Omeyades from his grandfather.
Under these adverse circumstances the new faith was propagated secretly
and slowly, insomuch that for the first three years the number of converts
did not exceed forty; these, too, for the most part, were young persons,
strangers, and slaves. Their meetings for prayer were held in private,
either at the house of one of the initiated, or in a cave near Mecca. Their
secrecy, however, did not protect them from outrage. Their meetings were
discovered; a rabble broke into their cavern, and a scuffle ensued. One
of the assailants was wounded in the head by Saad, an armorer, thenceforth
renowned among the faithful as the first of their number who shed blood
in the cause of Islam.
One of the bitterest opponents of Mohammed was his uncle, Abu Lahab, a wealthy man, of proud spirit and irritable temper. His son Otha had married Mohammed’s third daughter, Rokaia, so that they were doubly allied. Abu Lahab, however, was also allied to the rival line of Koreish, having married Omm Jemil, sister of Abu Sofian, and he was greatly under the control of his wife and his brother-in-law. He reprobated what he termed the heresies of his nephew, as calculated to bring disgrace upon their immediate line, and to draw upon it the hostilities of the rest of the tribe of Koreish. Mohammed was keenly sensible of the rancorous opposition of this uncle, which he attributed to the instigations of his wife, Omm Jemil. He especially deplored it, as he saw that it affected the happiness of his daughter Rokaia, whose inclination to his doctrines brought on her the reproaches of her husband and his family.
These and other causes of solicitude preyed upon his spirits, and increased the perturbation of his mind. He became worn and haggard, and subject more and more to fits of abstraction. Those of his relatives who were attached to him noticed his altered mien, and dreaded an attack of illness; others scoffingly accused him of mental hallucination; and the foremost among these scoffers was her uncle’s wife, Omm Jemil, the sister of Aba Sofian.
The result of this disordered state of mind and body was another vision,
or revelation, commanding him to “arise, preach, and magnify the Lord.”
He was now to announce, publicly and boldly, his doctrines, beginning with
his kindred and tribe. Accordingly, in the fourth year of what is called
his mission, he summoned all the Koreishites of the line of Haschem to
meet him on the hill of Safa, in the vicinity of Mecca, when he would unfold
matters important to their welfare. They assembled there, accordingly,
and among them came Mohammed’s hostile uncle, Abu Lahab, and with him his
scoffing wife, Omm Jemil. Scarce had the prophet begun to discourse of
his mission, and to impart his revelations, when Abu Lahab started up in
a rage, reviled him for calling them together on so idle an errand, and
catching up a stone, would have hurled it at him. Mohammed turned upon
him a withering look, cursed the hand thus raised in menace, and predicted
his doom to the fire of Jehennam; with the assurance that his wife, Omm
Jemil, would hear the bundle of thorns with which the fire would be kindled.
The assembly broke up in confusion. Abu Lahab and his wife, exasperated at the curse dealt out to them, compelled their son, Otha, to repudiate his wife, Rokaia, and sent her back weeping to Mohammed. She was soon indemnified, however, by having a husband of the true faith, being eagerly taken to wife by Mohammed’s zealous disciple, Othman Ibn Affan.
Nothing discouraged by the failure of his first attempt, Mohammed called
a second meeting of the Haschemites at his own house, where, having regaled
them with the flesh of a lamb, and given them milk to drink, he stood forth
and announced, at full length, his revelations received from heaven, and
the divine command to impart them to those of his immediate line. “Oh,
children of Abd al Motâlleb,” cried he, with enthusiasm, “to you, of all
men, has Allah vouchsafed these most precious gifts. In his name I offer
you the blessings of this world, and endless joys hereafter. Who among
you will share the burden of my offer? Who will be my brother: my lieutenant,
All remained silent; some wondering, others smiling with incredulity and
derision. At length Ali, starting up with youthful zeal, offered himself
to the service of the prophet, though modestly acknowledging his youth
and physical weakness. [By an error of translators, Ali is made to accompany his offer of adhesion by an extravagant threat against all who should oppose Mohammed.] Mohammed threw his arms round the generous youth, and pressed him to his
bosom. “Behold my brother, my vizier, my vicegerent,” exclaimed he; “let
all listen to his words, and obey him.”
The outbreak of such a stripling as Ali, however, was answered by a scornful
burst of laughter of the Koreishites, who taunted Abu Taleb, the father
of the youthful proselyte, with having to bow down before his son, and
yield him obedience.
But though the doctrines of Mohammed were thus ungraciously received by
his kindred and friends, they found favor among the people at large, especially
among the women, who are ever prone to befriend a persecuted cause. Many
of the Jews, also, followed him for a time, but when they found that he
permitted his disciples to eat the flesh of the camel, and of other animals
forbidden by their law, they drew back and rejected his religion as unclean.
Mohammed now threw off all reserve, or rather was inspired with increasing enthusiasm, and went about openly and earnestly proclaiming his doctrines, and giving himself out as a prophet, sent by God to put an end to idolatry, and to mitigate the rigor of the Jewish and the Christian law. The hills of Safa and Kubeis, sanctified by traditions concerning Hagar and Ishmael, were his favorite places of preaching, and Mount Hara was his Sinai, whither he retired occasionally, in fits of excitement and enthusiasm, to return from its solitary cave with fresh revelations of the Koran.
The good old Christian writers, on treating of the advent of one whom they
denounce as the Arab enemy of the church, make superstitious record of
divers prodigies which occurred about this time, awful forerunners of the
troubles about to agitate the world. In Constantinople, at that time the
seat of Christian empire, were several monstrous births and prodigious
apparitions, which struck dismay into the hearts of all beholders. In certain
religious processions in that neighborhood, the crosses on a sudden moved
of themselves, and were violently agitated, causing astonishment and terror.
The Nile, too, that ancient mother of wonders, gave birth to two hideous
forms, seemingly man and woman, which rose out of its waters, gazed about
them for a time with terrific aspect, and sank again beneath the waves.
For a whole day the sun appeared to be diminished to one third of its usual
size, shedding pale and baleful rays. During a moonless night a furnace
light glowed throughout the heavens, and bloody lances glittered in the
All these, and sundry other like marvels, were interpreted into signs of coming troubles. The ancient servants of God shook their heads mournfully, predicting the reign of anti-christ at hand; with vehement persecution of the Christian faith, and great desolation of the churches; and to such holy men who have passed through the trials and troubles of the faith, adds the venerable Padre Jayme Bleda, it is given to understand and explain these mysterious portents, which forerun disasters of the church; even as it is given to ancient mariners to read in the signs of the air, the heavens, and the deep, the coming tempest which is to overwhelm their bark.
Many of these sainted men were gathered to glory before the completion
of their prophecies. There, seated securely in the empyreal heavens, they
may have looked down with compassion upon the troubles of the Christian
world; as men on the serene heights of mountains look down upon the tempests
which sweep the earth and sea, wrecking tall ships, and rending lofty towers.
OUTLINES OF THE MOHAMMEDAN FAITH.
THOUGH it is not intended in this place to go fully into the doctrines promulgated by Mohammed, yet it is important to the right appreciation of his character and conduct, and of the events and circumstances set forth in the following narrative, to give their main features.
It must be particularly borne in mind that Mohammed did not profess to
set up a new religion; but to restore that derived, in the earliest times,
from God himself. “We follow,” says the Koran, “the religion of Abraham
the orthodox, who was no idolater. We believe in God and that which hath
been sent down to us, and that which hath been sent down unto Abraham and
Ishmael, and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and that which was delivered
unto Moses and Jesus, and that which was delivered unto the prophets from
the Lord; we make no distinction between any of them, and to God we are
resigned.” [Koran, chap. ii.]
The Koran [Derived from the Arabic word Kora, to read or teach.], which was the great book of his faith, was delivered in portions from time to time, according to the excitement of his feelings or the exigency of circumstances. It was not given as his own work, but as a divine revelation; as the very words of God. The Deity is supposed to speak in every instance. “We have sent thee down the book of truth, confirming the scripture which was revealed before it, and preserving the same in its purity.” [Koran, ch. v.]
The law of Moses, it was said, had for a time been the guide and rule of
human conduct. At the coming of Jesus Christ it was superseded by the Gospel;
both were now to give place to the Koran, which was more full and explicit
than the preceding codes, and intended to reform the abuses which had crept
into them through the negligence or the corruptions of their professors.
It was the completion of the law; after it there would be no more divine
revelations. Mohammed was the last, as he was the greatest, of the line
of prophets sent to make known the will of God.
The unity of God was the corner-stone of this reformed religion. “There is no God but God,” was its leading dogma. Hence it received the name of the religion of Islam,§ an Arabian word, implying submission to God. To this leading dogma was added, “Mohammed is the prophet of God;” an addition authorized, as it was maintained, by the divine annunciation, and important to procure a ready acceptation of his revelations.
§ Some etymologists derive Islam from Salem or Aslama, which signifies
salvation. The Christians form from it the term Islamism, and the Jews
have varied it into Ismailism, which they intend as a reproach, and an
allusion to the origin of the Arabs as descendants of Ishmael.
From Islam the Arabians drew the terms Moslem or Muslem, and Musulman, a professor of the faith of Islam. These terms are in the singular number and make Musliman in the dual, and Muslimen in the plural. The French and some other nations follow the idioms of their own languages in adopting or translating the Arabic terms, and form the plural by the addition of the letter s; writing Musulman and Musulmans. A few English writers, of whom Gibbon is the chief, have imitated them, imagining that they were following the Arabian usage. Most English authors, however, follow the idiom of their own language, writing Moslem and Moslems, Musulman and Musulmen: this usage is also the more harmonious.
Besides the unity of God, a belief was inculcated in his angels or ministering
spirits; in his prophets; in the resurrection of the body; in the last
judgment and a future state of rewards and punishments, and in predestination.
Much of the Koran may be traced to the Bible, the Mishnu, and the Talmud
of the Jews,* especially its wild though often beautiful traditions concerning
the angels, the prophets, the patriarchs, and the good and evil genii.
He had at an early age imbibed a reverence for the Jewish faith, his mother,
it is suggested, having been of that religion.
*The Mishnu of the Jews, like the Sonna of the Mohammedans, is a collection of traditions
forming the Oral law. It was compiled in the second century by Judah Hakkodish,
a learned Jewish Rabbi, during the reign of Antoninus Pius, the Roman Emperor.
The Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonish Talmud are both commentaries on
the Mishnu. The former was compiled at Jerusalem, about three hundred years
after Christ, and the latter in Babylonia, about two centuries later. The
Mishnu is the most ancient record possessed by the Jews except the Bible.
The system laid down in the Koran, however, was essentially founded on
the Christian doctrines inculcated in the New Testament; as they had been
expounded to him by the Christian sectarians of Arabia. Our Saviour was
to be held in the highest reverence as an inspired prophet, the greatest
that had been sent before the time of Mohammed, to reform the law; but
all idea of his divinity was rejected as impious, and the doctrine of the
Trinity was denounced as an outrage on the unity of God. Both were pronounced
errors and interpolations of the expounders; and this, it will be observed,
was the opinion of some of the Arabian sects of Christians.
The worship of saints and the introduction of images and paintings representing them, were condemned as idolatrous lapses from the pure faith of Christ, and such, we have already observed, were the tenets of the Nestorians, with whom Mohammed is known to have had much communication.
All pictures representing living things were prohibited. Mohammed used
to say that the angels would not enter a house in which there were such
pictures, and that those who made them would be sentenced, in the next
world, to find souls for them, or be punished.
Most of the benignant precepts of our Saviour were incorporated in the
Koran. Frequent almsgiving was enjoined as an imperative duty, and the
immutable law of right and wrong, “Do unto another as thou wouldst he should
do unto thee,” was given for the moral conduct of the faithful.
“Deal not unjustly with others,” says the Koran, “and ye shall not be dealt
with unjustly. If there be any debtor under a difficulty of paying his
debt, let his creditor wait until it be easy for him to do it; but if he
remit it in alms, it will be better for him.”
Mohammed inculcated a noble fairness and sincerity in dealing. “Oh merchants!”
would he say, “falsehood and deception are apt to prevail in traffic, purify
it therefore with alms; give something in charity as an atonement; for
God is incensed by deceit in dealing, but charity appeases his anger. He
who sells a defective thing, concealing its defect, will provoke the anger
of God and the curses of the angels.
“Take not advantage of the necessities of another to buy things at a sacrifice:
rather relieve his indigence.
“Feed the hungry, visit the sick, and free the captive if confined unjustly.
“Look not scornfully upon thy fellow man; neither walk the earth with insolence; for God loveth not the arrogant and vainglorious. Be moderate in thy pace, and speak with a moderate tone; for the most ungrateful of all voices is the voice of asses.”
The following words of Mohammed, treasured up by one of his disciples, appear to have been suggested by a passage in Matthew 25:35-45:
“Verily, God will say at the day of resurrection, ‘Oh sons of Adam! I was
sick, and ye did not visit me.’ Then they will say, ‘How could we visit
thee? for thou art the Lord of the universe, and art free from sickness.’
And God will reply, ‘Knew ye not that such a one of my servants was sick,
and ye did not visit him? Had you visited that servant, it would have been
counted to you as righteousness.’ And God will say, ‘Oh sons of Adam! I
asked you for food, and ye gave it me not.’ And the sons of Adam will say,
‘How could we give thee food, seeing thou art the sustainer of the universe,
and art free from hunger?’ And God will say, ‘Such a one of my servants
asked you for bread, and ye refused it. Had you given him to eat, ye would
have received your reward from me.’ And God will say, ‘Oh sons of Adam!
I asked you for water, and ye gave it me not.’ They will reply, ‘Oh, our
supporter! How could we give thee water, seeing thou art the sustainer
of the universe, and not subject to thirst?’ And God will say, ‘Such a
one of my servants asked you for water, and ye did not give it to him.
Had ye done so, ye would have received your reward from me.’”
Idolatry of all kinds was strictly forbidden; indeed it was what Mohammed
held in most abhorrence. Many of the religious usages, however, prevalent
since time immemorial among the Arabs, to which be had been accustomed
from infancy, and which were not incompatible with the doctrine of the
unity of God, were still retained. Such was the pilgrimage to Mecca, including
all the rights connected with the Kaaba, the well of Zem Zem, and other
sacred places in the vicinity; apart from any worship of the idols by which
they had been profaned.
The old Arabian rite of prayer, accompanied or rather preceded by ablution,
was still continued. Prayers indeed were enjoined at certain hours of the
day and night; they were simple in form and phrase, addressed directly
to the Deity with certain inflections, or at times a total prostration
of the body, and with the face turned toward the Kebla, or point of adoration.
At the end of each prayer the following verse from the second chapter of
the Koran was recited. It is said to have great beauty in the original
Arabic, and is engraved on gold and silver ornaments, and on precious stones
worn as amulets. “God! There is no God but He, the living, the ever living;
he sleepeth not, neither doth he slumber. To him belongeth the heavens,
and the earth, and all that they contain. Who shall intercede with him
unless by his permission? He knoweth the past and the future, but no one
can comprehend anything of his knowledge but that which he revealeth. His
sway extendeth over the heavens and the earth, and to sustain them both
is no burden to him. He is the High, the Mighty!”
Mohammed was strenuous in enforcing the importance and efficacy of prayer.
“Angels,” said he, “come among you both by night and day; after which those
of the night ascend to heaven, and God asks them how they left his creatures.
We found them, say they, at their prayers, and we left them at their prayers.”
The doctrines in the Koran respecting the resurrection and final judgment,
were in some respects similar to those of the Christian religion, but were
mixed up with wild notions derived from other sources; while the joys of
the Moslem heaven, though partly spiritual, were clogged and debased by
the sensualities of earth, and infinitely below the ineffable purity and
spiritual blessedness of the heaven promised by our Saviour.
Nevertheless, the description of the last day, as contained in the eighty-first chapter of the Koran, and which must have been given by Mohammed at the outset of his mission at Mecca, as one of the first of his revelations, partakes of sublimity.
“In the name of the all merciful God! a day shall come when the sun will
be shrouded, and the stars will fall from the heavens.
“When the camels about to foal will be neglected, and wild beasts will
herd together through fear.
“When the waves of the ocean will boil, and the souls of the dead again
be united to the bodies.
“When the female infant that has been buried alive will demand, for what
crime was I sacrificed? and the eternal books will be laid open.
“When the heavens will pass away like a scroll, and hell will burn fiercely;
and the joys of paradise will be made manifest.
“On that day shall every soul make known that which it hath performed.
“Verily, I swear to you by the stars which move swiftly and are lost in
the brightness of the sun, and by the darkness of the night, and by the
dawning of the day, these are not the words of an evil spirit, but of an
angel of dignity and power, who possesses the confidence of Allah, and
is revered by the angels under his command. Neither is your companion,
Mohammed, distracted. He beheld the celestial messenger in the light of
the clear horizon, and the words revealed to him are intended as an admonition
unto all creatures.”
NOTE.—To exhibit the perplexed maze of controversial doctrines from which
Mohammed had to acquire his notions of the Christian faith, we subjoin
the leading points of the jarring sects of oriental Christians alluded
to in the foregoing article; all of which have been pronounced heretical
The Sabellians, so called from Sabellius, a Libyan priest of the third century, believed in the unity of God, and that the Trinity expressed but three different states or relations, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, all forming but one substance, as a man consists of body and soul.
The Arians, from Arius, an ecclesiastic of Alexandria in the fourth century,
affirmed Christ to be the Son of God, but distinct from him and inferior
to him, and denied the Holy Ghost to be God.
The Nestorians, from Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople in the fifth century,
maintained that Christ had two distinct natures, divine and human; that
Mary was only his mother, and Jesus a man, and that it was an abomination
to style her, as was the custom of the church, the Mother of God.
The Monophysites maintained the single nature of Christ, as their name
betokens. They affirmed that he was combined of God and man, so mingled
and united as to form but one nature.
The Eutychians, from Eutyches, abbot of a convent in Constantinople in the fifth century, were a branch of the Monophysites, expressly opposed to the Nestorians. They denied the double nature of Christ, declaring that he was entirely God previous to the incarnation, and entirely man during the incarnation.
The Jacobites, from Jacobus, bishop of Edessa, in Syria, in the sixth century,
were a very numerous branch of the Monophysites, varying but little from
the Eutychians. Most of the Christian tribes of Arabs were Jacobites.
The Mariamites, or worshippers of Mary, regarded the Trinity as consisting
of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Virgin Mary.
The Collyridians were a sect of Arabian Christians, composed chiefly of
females. They worshipped the Virgin Mary as possessed of divinity, and
made offerings to her of a twisted cake, called coIlyris, whence they derived
The Nazaraeans, or Nazarenes, were a sect of Jewish Christians, who considered
Christ as the Messiah, as born of a Virgin by the Holy Ghost, and as possessing
something of a divine nature; but they conformed in all other respects
to the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law.
The Ebionites, from Ebion, a converted Jew who lived in the first century, were also a sect of judaizing Christians, little differing from the Nazaraeans. They believed Christ to be a pure man, the greatest of the prophets, but denied that he had any existence previous to being born of the Virgin Mary. This sect, as well as that of the Nazaraeans, had many adherents in Arabia.
Many other sects might be enumerated, such as the Corinthians, Maronites,
and Marcionites, who took their names from learned and zealous leaders;
and the Docetes and Gnostics, who were subdivided into various sects of
subtle enthusiasts. Some of these asserted the immaculate purity of the
Virgin Mary, affirming that her conception and delivery were effected like
the transmission of the rays of light through a pane of glass, without
impairing her virginity: an opinion still maintained strenuously in substance
by Spanish Catholics.
Most of the Docetes asserted that Jesus Christ was of a nature entirely
divine; that a phantom, a mere form without substance, was crucified by
the deluded Jews, and that the crucifixion and resurrection were deceptive
mystical exhibitions at Jerusalem for the benefit of the human race.
The Carpocratians, Basilidians, and Valentinians, named after three Egyptian
controversialists, contended that Jesus Christ was merely a wise and virtuous
mortal, the son of Joseph and Mary, selected by God to reform and instruct
mankind; but that a divine nature was imparted to him at the maturity of
his age, and period of his baptism, by St. John. The former part of this
creed, which is that of the Ebionites, has been revived, and is professed
by some of the Unitarian Christians, a numerous and increasing sect of
Protestants of the present day.
It is sufficient to glance at these dissensions, which we have not arranged in chronological order, but which convulsed the early Christian church, and continued to prevail at the era of Mohammed, to acquit him of any charge of conscious blasphemy in the opinions he inculcated concerning the nature and mission of our Saviour.
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.
THE greatest difficulty with which Mohammed had to contend at the outset of his prophetic career was the ridicule of his opponents. Those who had known him from his infancy—who had seen him a boy about the streets of Mecca, and afterward occupied in all the ordinary concerns of life, scoffed at his assumption of the apostolic character. They pointed with a sneer at him as he passed, exclaiming, “Behold the grandson of Abd al Motâlleb, who pretends to know what is going on in heaven!” Some who had witnessed his fits of mental excitement and ecstasy considered him insane; others declared that he was possessed with a devil, and some charged him with sorcery and magic.
When he walked the streets he was subject to those jeers and taunts and insults which the vulgar are apt to vent upon men of eccentric conduct and unsettled mind. If he attempted to preach, his voice was drowned by discordant noises and ribald songs; nay, dirt was thrown upon him when he was praying in the Kaaba.
Nor was it the vulgar and ignorant alone who thus insulted him. One of
his most redoubtable assailants was a youth named Amru; and as he subsequently
made a distinguished figure in Mohammedan history, we would impress the
circumstances of this, his first appearance, upon the mind of the reader.
He was the son of a courtesan of Mecca, who seems to have rivalled in fascination
the Phrynes and Aspasias of Greece, and to have numbered some of the noblest
of the land among her lovers. When she gave birth to this child, she mentioned
several of the tribe of Koreish who had equal claims to the paternity.
The infant was declared to have most resemblance to Aass, the oldest of
her admirers, whence, in addition to his name of Amru, he received the
designation of Ibn al Aass, the son of Aass.
Nature had lavished her choicest gifts upon this natural child, as if to
atone for the blemish of his birth. Though young, he was already one of
the most popular poets of Arabia, and equally distinguished for the pungency
of his satirical effusions and the captivating sweetness of his serious
When Mohammed first announced his mission, this youth assailed him with
lampoons and humorous madrigals; which, falling in with the poetic taste
of the Arabs, were widely circulated, and proved greater impediments to
the growth of Islamism than the bitterest persecution.
Those who were more serious in their opposition demanded of Mohammed supernatural proofs of what he asserted. “Moses and Jesus, and the rest of the prophets,” said they, “wrought miracles to prove the divinity of their missions. If thou art indeed a prophet, greater than they, work the like miracles.”
The reply of Mohammed may be gathered from his own words in the Koran.
“What greater miracle could they have than the Koran itself: a book revealed
by means of an unlettered man; so elevated in language, so incontrovertible
in argument, that the united skill of men and devils could compose nothing
comparable. What greater proof could there be that it came from none but
God himself? The Koran itself is a miracle.”
They demanded, however, more palpable evidence; miracles addressed to the
senses; that he should cause the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear, the blind
to see, the dead to rise; or that he should work changes in the face of
nature: cause fountains to gush forth; change a sterile place into a garden,
with palm-trees and vines and running streams; cause a palace of gold to
rise, decked with jewels and precious stones; or ascend by a ladder into
heaven in their presence. Or, if the Koran did indeed, as he affirmed,
come down from heaven, that they might see it as it descended, or behold
the angels who brought it; and then they would believe.
Mohammed replied sometimes by arguments, sometimes by denunciations. He
claimed to be nothing more than a man sent by God as an apostle. Had angels,
said he, walked familiarly on earth, an angel had assuredly been sent on
this mission; but woeful had been the case of those who, as in the present
instance, doubted his word. They would not have been able, as with me,
to argue, and dispute, and take time to be convinced; their perdition would
have been instantaneous. “God,” added he, “needs no angel to enforce my
mission. He is a sufficient witness between you and me. Those whom he shall
dispose to be convinced will truly believe; those whom he shall permit
to remain in error will find none to help their unbelief. On the day of
resurrection they will appear blind, and deaf, and dumb, and grovelling
on their faces. Their abode will be in the eternal flames of Jehennam.
Such will be the reward of their unbelief.
“You insist on miracles. God gave to Moses the power of working miracles.
What was the consequence? Pharaoh disregarded his miracles, accused him
of sorcery, and sought to drive him and his people from the land; but Pharaoh
was drowned, and with him all his host. Would ye tempt God to miracles,
and risk the punishment of Pharaoh?”
It is recorded by Al Maalem, an Arabian writer, that some of Mohammed’s disciples at one time joined with the multitude in this cry for miracles, and besought him to prove, at once, the divinity of his mission, by turning the hill of Safa into gold. Being thus closely urged he betook himself to prayer; and having finished, assured his followers that the angel Gabriel had appeared to him, and informed him that, should God grant his prayer, and work the desired miracle, all who disbelieved it would be exterminated. In pity to the multitude, therefore, who appeared to be a stiff-necked generation, he would not expose them to destruction: so the hill of Safa was permitted to remain in its pristine state.
Other Moslem writers assert that Mohammed departed from his self-prescribed
rule, and wrought occasional miracles, when he found his hearers unusually
slow of belief. Thus we are told that, at one time, in presence of a multitude,
he called to him a bull, and took from his horns a scroll containing a
chapter of the Koran, just sent down from heaven. At another time, while
discoursing in public, a white dove hovered over him, and, alighting on
his shoulder, appeared to whisper in his ear; being, as he said, a messenger
from the Deity. On another occasion he ordered the earth before him to
be opened, when two jars were found, one filled with honey, the other with
milk, which he pronounced emblems of the abundance promised by heaven to
all who should obey his law.
Christian writers have scoffed at these miracles; suggesting that the dove
had been tutored to its task, and sought grains of wheat which it had been
accustomed to find in the ear of Mohammed; that the scroll had previously
been tied to the horns of the bull, and the vessels of milk and honey deposited
in the ground. The truer course would be to discard these miraculous stories
altogether, as fables devised by mistaken zealots; and such they have been
pronounced by the ablest of the Moslem commentators.
There is no proof that Mohammed descended to any artifices of the kind
to enforce his doctrines or establish his apostolic claims. He appears
to have relied entirely on reason and eloquence, and to have been supported
by religious enthusiasm in this early and dubious stage of his career.
His earnest attacks upon the idolatry which had vitiated and superseded
the primitive worship of the Kaaba, began to have a sensible effect, and
alarmed the Koreishites. They urged Abu Taleb to silence his nephew or
to send him away; but finding their entreaties unavailing, they informed
the old man that if this pretended prophet and his followers persisted
in their heresies, they should pay for them with their lives.
Abu Taleb hastened to inform Mohammed of these menaces, imploring him not
to provoke against himself and family such numerous and powerful foes.
The enthusiastic spirit of Mohammed kindled at the words.
“Oh my uncle!” exclaimed he, “though they should array the sun against
me on my right hand, and the moon on my left, yet, until God should command
me, or should take me hence, would I not depart from my purpose.”
He was retiring with dejected countenance, when Abu Taleb called him back.
The old man was as yet unconverted, but he was struck with admiration of
the undaunted firmness of his nephew, and declared that, preach what he
might, he would never abandon him to his enemies. Feeling that of himself
he could not yield sufficient protection, he called upon the other descendants
of Haschem and Abd al Motâlleb to aid in shielding their kinsman from the
persecution of the rest of the tribe of Koreish; and so strong is the family
tie among the Arabs, that though it was protecting him in what they considered
a dangerous heresy, they all consented excepting his uncle, Abu Lahab.
The animosity of the Koreishites became more and more virulent, and proceeded
to personal violence. Mohammed was assailed and nearly strangled in the
Kaaba, and was rescued with difficulty by Abu Beker, who himself suffered
personal injury in the affray. His immediate family became objects of hatred,
especially his daughter Rokaia and her husband, Othman Ibn Affan. Such
of his disciples as had no powerful friends to protect them were in peril
of their lives. Full of anxiety for their safety, Mohammed advised them
to leave his dangerous companionship for the present, and take refuge in
Abyssinia. The narrowness of the Red Sea made it easy to reach the African
shore. The Abyssinians were Nestorian Christians, elevated by their religion
above their barbarous neighbors. Their najashee or king was reputed to
be tolerant and just. With him Mohammed trusted his daughter and his fugitive
disciples would find refuge.
Othman Ibn Affan was the leader of this little band of Moslems, consisting of eleven men and four women. They took the way by the sea-coast to Jodda, a port about two days’ journey to the east of Mecca, where they found two Abyssinian vessels at anchor, in which they embarked, and sailed for the land of refuge.
This event, which happened in the fifth year of the mission of Mohammed,
is called the first Hegira or Flight, to distinguish it from the second
Hegira, the flight of the prophet himself from Mecca to Medina. The kind
treatment experienced by the fugitives induced others of the same faith
to follow their example, until the number of Moslem refugees in Abyssinia
amounted to eighty-three men and eighteen women, besides children.
The Koreishites finding that Mohammed was not to be silenced, and was daily making converts, passed a law banishing all who should embrace his faith. Mohammed retired before the storm, and took refuge in the house of a disciple named Orkham, situated on the hill of Safa. This hill, as has already been mentioned, was renowned in Arabian tradition as the one on which Adam and Eve were permitted to come once more together, after the long solitary wandering about the earth which followed their expulsion from paradise. It was likewise connected in tradition with the fortunes of Hagar and Ishmael.
Mohammed remained for a month in the house of Orkham, continuing his revelations and drawing to him sectaries from various parts of Arabia. The hostility of the Koreishites followed him to his retreat. Abu Jahl, an Arab of that tribe, sought him out, insulted him with opprobrious language, and even personally maltreated him. The outrage was reported to Hamza, an uncle of Mohammed, as he returned to Mecca from hunting. Hamza was no proselyte to Islamism, but he was pledged to protect his nephew. Marching with his bow unstrung in his hand to an assemblage of the Koreishites, where Abu Jahl was vaunting his recent triumph, he dealt the boaster a blow over the head that inflicted a grievous wound. The kinsfolk of Abu Jahl rushed to his assistance, but the brawler stood in awe of the vigorous arm and fiery spirit of Hamza, and sought to pacify him. “Let him alone,” said he to his kinsfolk; “in truth I have treated his nephew very roughly.” He alleged in palliation of his outrage the apostasy of Mohammed; but Hamza was not to be appeased. “Well!” cried he, fiercely and scornfully, “I also do not believe in your gods of stone; can you compel me?” Anger produced in his bosom what reasoning might have attempted in vain. He forthwith declared himself a convert; took the oath of adhesion to the prophet, and became one of the most zealous and valiant champions of the new faith.
OMAR IBN AL KHATTAB, NEPHEW OF ABU JAHL, 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 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 hatred of Abu Jahl to the prophet was increased by the severe punishment
received at the hands of Hamza. He had a nephew named Omar Ibn al Khattâb;
twenty-six years of age; of gigantic stature, prodigious strength, and
great courage. His savage aspect appalled the bold, and his very walking-staff
struck more terror into beholders than another man’s sword. Such are the
words of the Arabian historian, Abu Abdallah Mohamed Ibn Omal Alwakedi,
and the subsequent feats of this warrior prove that they were scarce chargeable
Instigated by his uncle Abu Jahl, this fierce Arab undertook to penetrate
to the retreat of Mohammed, who was still in the house of Orkham, and to
strike a poniard to his heart. The Koreishites are accused of having promised
him one hundred camels and one thousand ounces of gold for this deed of
blood; but this is improbable, nor did the vengeful nephew of Abu Jahl
need a bribe.
As he was on his way to the house of Orkham he met a Koreishite, to whom he imparted his design. The Koreishite was a secret convert to Islamism, and sought to turn him from his bloody errand. “Before you slay Mohammed,” said he, “and draw upon yourself the vengeance of his relatives, see that your own are free from heresy.” “Are any of mine guilty of backsliding?” demanded Omar with astonishment. “Even so,” was the reply; “thy sister Amina and her husband Seid.”
Omar hastened to the dwelling of his sister, and, entering it abruptly,
found her and her husband reading the Koran. Seid attempted to conceal
it, but his confusion convinced Omar of the truth of the accusation, and
heightened his fury. In his rage he struck Seid to the earth, placed his
foot upon his breast, and would have plunged his sword into it, had not
his sister interposed. A blow on the face bathed her visage in blood. “Enemy
of Allah!” sobbed Amina, “dost thou strike me thus for believing in the
only true God? In despite of thee and thy violence, I will persevere in
the true faith. Yes,” added she with fervor, “‘There is no God but God,
and Mohammed is his prophet;’ and now, Omar, finish thy work!”
Omar paused, repented of his violence, and took his foot from the bosom
“Show me the writing,” said he. Amina, however, refused to let him touch
the sacred scroll until he had washed his hands. The passage which he read
is said to have been the twentieth chapter of the Koran, which thus begins:
“In the name of the most merciful God! We have not sent down the Koran to inflict misery on mankind, but as a monitor, to teach him to believe in the true God, the creator of the earth and the lofty heavens.
“The all merciful is enthroned on high, to him belongeth whatsoever is
in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, and in the regions under
“Dost thou utter thy prayers with a loud voice? know that there is no need.
God knoweth the secrets of thy heart; yea, that which is most hidden.
“Verily, I am God; there is none beside me. Serve me, serve none other.
Offer up thy prayer to none but me.”
The words of the Koran sank deep into the heart of Omar. He read farther,
and was more and more moved, but when he came to the parts treating of
the resurrection and of judgment his conversion was complete.
He pursued his way to the house of Orkham, but with an altered heart. Knocking
humbly at the door, he craved admission. “Come in, son of al Khattâb,”
exclaimed Mohammed. “What brings thee hither?”
“I come to enroll my name among the believers of God and his prophet.”
So saying, he made the Moslem profession of faith.
He was not content until his conversion was publicly known. At his request
Mohammed accompanied him instantly to the Kaaba, to perform openly the
rites of Islamism. Omar walked on the left hand of the prophet, and Hamza
on the right, to protect him from injury and insult, and they were followed
by upward of forty disciples. They passed in open day through the streets
of Mecca, to the astonishment of its inhabitants. Seven times did they
make the circuit of the Kaaba, touching each time the sacred black stone,
and complying with all the other ceremonials. The Koreishites regarded
this procession with dismay, but dared not approach nor molest the prophet,
being deterred by the looks of those terrible men of battle, Hamza and
Omar; who, it is said, glared upon them like two lions that had been robbed
of their young.
Fearless and resolute in everything, Omar went by himself the next day
to pray as a Moslem in the Kaaba, in open defiance of the Koreishites.
Another Moslem, who entered the temple, was interrupted in his worship,
and rudely treated; but no one molested Omar, because he was the nephew
of Abu Jahl. Omar repaired to his uncle. “I renounce thy protection,” said
he. “I will not be better off than my fellow-believers.” From that time
he cast his lot with the followers of Mohammed, and was one of his most
Such was the wonderful conversion of Omar, afterward the most famous champion
of the Islam faith. So exasperated were the Koreishites by this new triumph
of Mohammed, that his uncle, Abu Taleb, feared they might attempt the life
of his nephew, either by treachery or open violence. At his earnest entreaties,
therefore, the latter, accompanied by some of his principal disciples,
withdrew to a kind of castle, or stronghold, belonging to Abu Taleb, in
the neighborhood of the city.
The protection thus given by Abu Taleb, the head of the Haschemites, and by others of his line, to Mohammed and his followers, although differing from them in faith, drew on them the wrath of the rival branch of the Koreishites, and produced a schism in the tribe. Abu Sofian, the head of that branch, availed himself of the heresies of the prophet to throw discredit, not merely upon such of his kindred as had embraced his faith, but upon the whole line of Haschem, which, though dissenting from his doctrines, had, through mere clannish feelings, protected him. It is evident the hostility of Abu Sofian arose, not merely from personal hatred or religious scruples, but from family feud. He was ambitious of transferring to his own line the honors of the city so long engrossed by the Haschemites. The last measure of the kind-hearted Abu Taleb, in placing Mohammed beyond the reach of persecution, and giving him a castle as a refuge, was seized upon by Abu Sofian and his adherents, as a pretext for a general ban of the rival line. They accordingly issued a decree, forbidding the rest of the tribe of Koreish from intermarrying, or holding any intercourse, even of bargain or sale, with the Haschemites, until they should deliver up their kinsman, Mohammed, for punishment. This decree, which took place in the seventh year of what is called the mission of the prophet, was written on parchment and hung up in the Kaaba. It reduced Mohammed and his disciples to great straits, being almost famished at times in the stronghold in which they had taken refuge. The fortress was also beleaguered occasionally by the Koreishites, to enforce the ban in all its rigor, and to prevent the possibility of supplies.
The annual season of pilgrimage, however, when hosts of pilgrims repair
from all parts of Arabia to Mecca, brought transient relief to the persecuted
Moslems. During that sacred season, according to immemorial law and usage
among the Arabs, all hostilities were suspended, and warring tribes met
in temporary peace to worship at the Kaaba. At such times Mohammed and
his disciples would venture from their stronghold and return to Mecca.
Protected also by the immunity of the holy month, Mohammed would mingle
among the pilgrims and preach and pray: propound his doctrines, and proclaim
his revelations. In this way he made many converts, who, on their return
to their several homes, carried with them the seeds of the new faith to
distant regions. Among these converts were occasionally the princes or
heads of tribes, whose example had an influence on their adherents. Arabian
legends give a pompous and extravagant account of the conversion of one
of these princes; which, as it was attended by some of the most noted miracles
recorded of Mohammed, may not be unworthy of an abbreviated insertion.
The prince in question was Habib Ibn Malec, surnamed the Wise on account
of his vast knowledge and erudition; for he is represented as deeply versed
in magic and the sciences, and acquainted with all religions, to their
very foundations, having read all that had been written concerning them,
and also acquired practical information, for he had belonged to them all
by turns, having been Jew, Christian, and one of the Magi. It is true,
he had had more than usual time for his studies and experience having,
according to Arabian legend, attained to the age of one hundred and forty
years. He now came to Mecca at the head of a powerful host of twenty thousand
men, bringing with him a youthful daughter, Satiha, whom he must have begotten
in a ripe old age; and for whom he was putting up prayers at the Kaaba,
she having been struck dumb and deaf, and blind, and deprived of the use
of her limbs.
Abu Sofian and Abu Jahl, according to the legend, thought the presence
of this very powerful, very idolatrous, and very wise old prince, at the
head of so formidable a host, a favorable opportunity to effect the ruin
of Mohammed. They accordingly informed Habib the Wise of the heresies of
the pretended prophet, and prevailed upon the venerable prince to summon
him into his presence at his encampment in the Valley of Flints, there
to defend his doctrines, in the hope that his obstinacy in error would
draw upon him banishment or death.
The legend gives a magnificent account of the issuing forth of the idolatrous
Koreishites, in proud array, on horseback and on foot, led by Abu Sofian
and Abu Jahl, to attend the grand inquisition in the Valley of Flints:
and of the oriental state in which they were received by Habib the Wise,
seated under a tent of crimson, on a throne of ebony, inlaid with ivory
and sandalwood and covered with plates of gold.
Mohammed was in the dwelling of Khadijah when he received a summons to
this formidable tribunal. Khadijah was loud in her expressions of alarm,
and his daughters hung about his neck, weeping and lamenting, for they
thought him going to certain death; but he gently rebuked their fears,
and bade them trust in Allah.
Unlike the ostentatious state of his enemies, Abu Sofian and Abu Jahl,
he approached the scene of trial in simple guise, clad in a white garment,
with a black turban, and a mantle which had belonged to his grandfather
Abd al Motalleb, and was made of the stuff of Aden. His hair floated below
his shoulders, the mysterious light of prophecy beamed from his countenance;
and though he had not anointed his beard, nor used any perfumes, excepting
a little musk and camphor for the hair of his upper lip, yet wherever he
passed a bland odor diffused itself around, being, say the Arabian writers,
the fragrant emanations from his person.
He was preceded by the zealous Abu Beker, clad in a scarlet vest and a
white turban, with his mantle gathered up under his arms, so as to display
his scarlet slippers.
A silent awe, continues the legend, fell upon the vast assemblage as the
prophet approached. Not a murmur, not a whisper was to be heard. The very
brute animals were charmed to silence; and the neighing of the steed, the
bellowing of the camel, and the braying of the ass were mute.
The venerable Habib received him graciously: his first question was to
the point. “They tell thou dost pretend to be a prophet sent from God?
Is it so?”
“Even so,” replied Mohammed. “Allah has sent me to proclaim the veritable faith.”
“Good,” rejoined the wary sage, “but every prophet has given proof of his mission by signs and miracles. Noah had his rainbow; Solomon his mysterious ring; Abraham the fire of the furnace, which became cool at his command; Isaac the ram, which was sacrificed in his stead; Moses his wonder-working rod, and Jesus brought the dead to life, and appeased tempests with a word. If, then, thou art really a prophet, give us a miracle in proof.”
The adherents of Mohammed trembled for him when they heard this request,
and Abu Jahl clapped his hands and extolled the sagacity of Habib the Wise.
But the prophet rebuked him with scorn. “Peace! dog of thy race!” exclaimed
he; “disgrace of thy kindred, and of thy tribe.” He then calmly proceeded
to execute the wishes of Habib.
The first miracle demanded of Mohammed was to reveal what Habib had within
his tent, and why he had brought it to Mecca.
Upon this, says the legend, Mohammed bent toward the earth and traced figures upon the sand. Then raising his head, he replied, “Oh Habib! thou hast brought hither thy daughter, Satiha, deaf and dumb, and lame and blind, in the hope of obtaining relief of Heaven. Go to thy tent; speak to her, and hear her reply, and know that God is all powerful.”
The aged prince hastened to his tent. His daughter met him with light step and extended arms, perfect in all her faculties, her eyes beaming with joy, her face clothed with smiles, and more beauteous than the moon in an unclouded night.
The second miracle demanded by Habib was still more difficult. It was that Mohammed should cover the noontide heaven with supernatural darkness, and cause the moon to descend and rest upon the top of the Kaaba.
The prophet performed this miracle as easily as the first. At his summons,
a darkness blotted out the whole light of day. The moon was then seen straying
from her course and wandering about the firmament. By the irresistible
power of the prophet, she was drawn from the heavens and rested on the
top of the Kaaba. She then performed seven circuits about it, after the
manner of the pilgrims, and having made a profound reverence to Mohammed,
stood before him with lambent wavering motion, like a flaming sword; giving
him the salutation of peace, and hailing him as a prophet.
Not content with this miracle, pursues the legend, Mohammed compelled the
obedient luminary to enter by the right sleeve of his mantle, and go out
by the left; then to divide into two parts, one of which went toward the
east, and the other toward the west, and meeting in the center of the firmament,
reunited themselves into a round and glorious orb.
It is needless to say that Habib the Wise was convinced, and converted
by these miracles, as were also four hundred and seventy of the inhabitants
of Mecca. Abu Jahl, however, was hardened in unbelief, exclaiming that
all was illusion and enchantment produced by the magic of Mohammed.
NOTE.—The miracles here recorded are not to be found in the pages of the
accurate Abulfeda, nor are they maintained by any of the graver of the
Moslem writers; but they exist in tradition, and are set forth with great
prolixity by apocryphal authors, who insist that they are alluded to in
the fifty-forth chapter of the Koran. They are probably as true as many
other of the wonders related of the prophet. It will be remembered that
he himself claimed but one miracle, “the Koran.”
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.
THREE years had elapsed since Mohammed and his disciples took refuge in the castle of Abu Taleb. The ban or decree still existed in the Kaaba, cutting them off from all intercourse with the rest of their tribe. The sect, as usual, increased under persecution. Many joined it in Mecca; murmurs arose against the unnatural feud engendered among the Koreishites, and Abu Sofian was made to blush for the lengths to which he had carried his hostility against some of his kindred.
All at once it was discovered that the parchment in the Kaaba, on which
the decree had been written, was so substantially destroyed that nothing
of the writing remained but the initial words, “In thy name, oh Almighty
God!” The decree was, therefore, declared to be annulled, and Mohammed
and his followers were permitted to return to Mecca unmolested. The mysterious
removal of this legal obstacle has been considered by pious Moslems another
miracle wrought by supernatural agency in favor of the prophet; though
unbelievers have surmised that the document, which was becoming embarrassing
in its effects to Abu Sofian himself, was secretly destroyed by mortal
The return of Mohammed and his disciples to Mecca was followed by important conversions, both of inhabitants of the city and of pilgrims from afar. The chagrin experienced by the Koreishites from the growth of this new sect was soothed by tidings of victories of the Persians over the Greeks, by which they conquered Syria and a part of Egypt. The idolatrous Koreishites exulted in the defeat of the Christian Greeks, whose faith, being opposed to the worship of idols, they assimilated to that preached by Mohammed. The latter replied to their taunts and exultations by producing the thirtieth chapter of the Koran, opening with these words: “The Greeks have been overcome by the Persians, but they shall overcome the latter in the course of a few years.”
The zealous and believing Abu Beker made a wager of ten camels that this
prediction would be accomplished within three years. “Increase the wager,
but lengthen the time,” whispered Mohammed. Abu Beker staked one hundred
camels, but made the time nine years. The prediction was verified, and
the wager won. This anecdote is confidently cited by Moslem doctors as
a proof that the Koran came down from heaven, and that Mohammed possessed
the gift of prophecy. The whole, if true, was no doubt a shrewd guess into
futurity, suggested by a knowledge of the actual state of the warring powers.
Not long after his return to Mecca, Mohammed was summoned to close the
eyes of his uncle, Abu Taleb, then upward of four-score years of age, and
venerable in character as in person. As the hour of death drew nigh, Mohammed
exhorted his uncle to make the profession of faith necessary, according
to the Islam creed, to secure a blissful resurrection.
A spark of earthly pride lingered in the breast of the dying patriarch. “Oh son of my brother!” replied he, “should I repeat those words, the Koreishites would say, I did so through fear of death.”
Abulfeda, the historian, insists that Abu Taleb actually died in the faith.
Al Abbas, he says, hung over the bed of his expiring brother, and perceiving
his lips to move, approached his ear to catch his dying words. They were
the wished-for confession. Others affirm that his last words were, “I die
in the faith of Abd al Motâlleb.” Commentators have sought to reconcile
the two accounts by asserting that Abd al Motâlleb, in his latter days,
renounced the worship of idols, and believed in the unity of God.
Scarce three days had elapsed from the death of the venerable Abu Taleb, when Khadijah, the faithful and devoted wife of Mohammed, likewise sank into the grave. She was sixty-five years of age. Mohammed wept bitterly at her tomb, and clothed himself in mourning for her, and for Abu Taleb, so that this year was called the year of mourning. He was comforted in his affliction, says the Arabian author, Abu Horaira, by an assurance from the angel Gabriel that a silver palace was allotted to Khadijah in Paradise, as a reward for her great faith and her early services to the cause.
Though Khadijah had been much older than Mohammed at the time of their
marriage, and past the bloom of years when women are desirable in the East,
and though the prophet was noted for an amorous temperament, yet he is
said to have remained true to her to the last, nor ever availed himself
of the Arabian law, permitting a plurality of wives, to give her a rival
in his house. When, however, she was laid in the grave, and the first transport
of his grief had subsided, he sought to console himself for her loss by
entering anew into wedlock, and henceforth indulged in a plurality of wives.
He permitted, by his law, four wives to each of his followers; but did
not limit himself to that number; for he observed that a prophet, being
peculiarly gifted and privileged, was not bound to restrict himself to
the same laws as ordinary mortals.
His first choice was made within a month after the death of Khadijah, and
fell upon a beautiful child named Ayesha, the daughter of his faithful
adherent, Abu Beker. Perhaps he sought by this alliance to grapple Abu
Beker still more strongly to his side; he being one of the bravest and
most popular of his tribe. Ayesha, however, was but seven years of age,
and, though females soon bloom and ripen in those eastern climes, she was
yet too young to enter into the married state. He was merely betrothed
to her, therefore, and postponed their nuptials for two years, during which
time he caused her to be carefully instructed in the accomplishments proper
to an Arabian maiden of distinguished rank.
Upon this wife, thus chosen in the very blossom of her years, the prophet
doted more passionately than upon any of those whom he subsequently married.
All these had been previously experienced in wedlock; Ayesha, he said,
was the only one who came a pure unspotted virgin to his arms.
Still, that he might not be without due solace while Ayesha was attaining
the marriageable age, he took as a wife Sawda, the widow of Sokran, one
of his followers. She had been nurse to his daughter Fatima, and was one
of the faithful who fled into Abyssinia from the early persecutions of
the people of Mecca. It is pretended that, while in exile, she had a mysterious
intimation of the future honor which awaited her; for she dreamt that Mohammed
laid his head upon her bosom. She recounted the dream to her husband Sokran,
who interpreted it as a prediction of his speedy death, and of her marriage
with the prophet.
The marriage, whether predicted or not, was one of mere expediency. Mohammed
never loved Sawda with the affection he manifested for his other wives.
He would even have put her away in after years, but she implored to be
allowed the honor of still calling herself his wife; proffering that, whenever
it should come to her turn to share the marriage bed, she would relinquish
her right to Ayesha. Mohammed consented to an arrangement which favored
his love for the latter, and Sawda continued, as long as she lived, to
be nominally his wife.
Mohammed soon became sensible of the loss he had sustained in the death of Abu Taleb, who had been not merely an affectionate relative, but a steadfast and powerful protector, from his great influence in Mecca. At his death there was no one to check and counteract the hostilities of Abu Sofian and Abu Jahl, who soon raised up such a spirit of persecution among The Koreishites that Mohammed found it unsafe to continue in his native place. He set out, therefore, accompanied by his freedman Zeid, to seek a refuge at Tayef, a small walled town, about seventy miles from Mecca, inhabited by the Thakifites, or Arabs of the tribe of Thakeef. It was one of the favored places of Arabia, situated among vineyards and gardens. Here grew peaches and plums, melons and pomegranates; figs, blue and green, the nebeck-tree producing the lotus, and palm-trees with their clusters of green and golden fruit. So fresh were its pastures and fruitful its fields, contrasted with the sterility of the neighboring deserts, that the Arabs fabled it to have originally been a part of Syria, broken off and floated hither at the time of the deluge.
Mohammed entered the gates of Tayef with some degree of confidence, trusting
for protection to the influence of his uncle Al Abbas, who had possessions
there. He could not have chosen a worse place of refuge. Tayef was one
of the strong-holds of idolatry. Here was maintained in all its force the
worship of El Lŕt, one of the female idols already mentioned. Her image
of stone was covered with jewels and precious stones, the offerings of
her votaries; it was believed to be inspired with life, and the intercession
of El Lŕt was implored as one of the daughters of God.
Mohammed remained about a month in Tayef, seeking in vain to make proselytes
among its inhabitants. When he attempted to preach his doctrines, his voice
was drowned by clamors. More than once he was wounded by stones thrown
at him, and which the faithful Zeid endeavored in vain to ward off. So
violent did the popular fury become at last that he was driven from the
city, and even pursued for some distance beyond the walls by an insulting
rabble of slaves and children.
Thus driven ignominiously from his hoped-for place of refuge, and not daring to return openly to his native city, he remained in the desert until Zeid should procure a secret asylum for him among his friends in Mecca. In this extremity he had one of those visions or supernatural visitations which appear always to have occurred in lonely or agitated moments, when we may suppose him to have been in a state of mental excitement. It was after the evening prayer, he says, in a solitary place in the valley of Naklah, between Mecca and Tayef. He was reading the Koran, when he was overheard by a passing company of Gins or Genii. These are spiritual beings, some good, others bad, and liable like man to future rewards and punishments. “Hark! give ear!” said the Genii one to the other. They paused and listened as Mohammed continued to read. “Verily,” said they at the end, “we have heard an admirable discourse, which directeth unto the right institution; wherefore we believe therein.”
This spiritual visitation consoled Mohammed for his expulsion from Tayef,
showing that though he and his doctrines might be rejected by men, they
were held in reverence by spiritual intelligences. At least, so we may
infer from the mention he makes of it in the forty-sixth and seventy-second
chapters of the Koran. Thenceforward he declared himself sent for the conversion
of these genii as well as of the human race.
NOTE.—The belief in genii was prevalent throughout the East, long before
the time of Mohammed. They were supposed to haunt solitary places, particularly
toward nightfall; a superstition congenial to the habits and notions of
the inhabitants of lonely and desert countries. The Arabs supposed every
valley and barren waste to have its tribe of genii, who were subject to
a dominant spirit, and roamed forth at night to beset the pilgrim and the
traveller. Whenever, therefore, they entered a lonely valley toward the
close of evening, they used to supplicate the presiding spirit or lord
of the place to protect them from the evil genii under his command.
Those columns of dust raised by whirling eddies of wind, and which sweep
across the desert, are supposed to be caused by some evil genius or sprite
of gigantic size.
The serpents which occasionally infest houses were thought to be often genii, some infidels and some believers. Mohammed cautioned his followers to be slow to kill a house serpent. “Warn him to depart; if he do not obey, then kill him, for it is a sign that he is a mere reptile or an infidel genius.”
It is fabled that in earlier times the genii had admission to heaven, but
were expelled on account of their meddling propensities. They have ever
since been of a curious and prying nature, often attempting to clamber
up to the constellations; thence to peep into heaven, and see and overhear
what is going on there. They are, however, driven thence by angels with
flaming swords; and those meteors called shooting stars are supposed by
Mohammedans to be darted by the guardian angels at these intrusive genii.
Other legends pretend that the earth was originally peopled by these genii, but they rebelled against the Most High, and usurped terrestrial dominion, which they maintained for two thousand years. At length, Azazil, or Lucifer, was sent against them, and defeated them, overthrowing their mighty king Gian ben Gian, the founder of the pyramids, whose magic buckler of talismanic virtue fell subsequently into the hands of king Solomon the Wise, giving him power over the spells and charms of magicians and evil genii. The rebel spirits, defeated and humiliated, were driven into an obscure corner of the earth. Then it was that God created man, with less dangerous faculties and powers, and gave him the world for a habitation.
The angels, according to Moslem notions, were created from bright gems;
the genii from fire without smoke, and Adam from clay.
Mohammed, when in the seventy-second chapter of the Koran he alludes to
the visitation of the genii in the valley of Naklah, makes them give the
following frank account of themselves:
“We formerly attempted to pry into what was transacting in heaven, but
we found the same guarded by angels with flaming darts; and we sat on some
of the seats thereof to hear the discourse of its inhabitants; but whoso
listeneth now finds a flame prepared to guard the celestial confines. There
are some among us who are Moslems, and there are others who swerve from
righteousness. Whoso embraceth Islamism seeketh the true direction; but
those who swerve from righteousness shall be fuel for the fire of Jehennam.”
NIGHT JOURNEY OF THE PROPHET FROM MECCA TO JERUSALEM, AND THENCE TO THE
AN asylum being provided for Mohammed in the house of Mutem Ibn Adi, one
of his disciples, he ventured to return to Mecca. The supernatural visitation
of genii in the valley of Naklah was soon followed by a vision or revelation
far more extraordinary, and which has ever since remained a theme of comment
and conjecture among devout Mohammedans. We allude to the famous night
journey to Jerusalem, and thence to the seventh heaven. The particulars
of it, though given as if in the very words of Mohammed, rest merely on
tradition; some, however, cite texts corroborative of it, scattered here
and there in the Koran.
We do not pretend to give this vision or revelation in its amplitude and
wild extravagance, but will endeavor to seize upon its most essential features.
The night on which it occurred is described as one of the darkest and most awfully silent that had ever been known. There was no crowing of cocks nor barking of dogs; no howling of wild beasts nor hooting of owls. The very waters ceased to murmur, and the winds to whistle; all nature seemed motionless and dead. In the mid watches of the night Mohammed was roused by a voice, crying, “Awake, thou sleeper!” The angel Gabriel stood before him. His forehead was clear and serene, his complexion white as snow, his hair floated on his shoulders; he had wings of many dazzling hues, and his robes were sown with pearls and embroidered with gold.
He brought Mohammed a white steed of wonderful form and qualities, unlike
any animal he had ever seen; and in truth it differs from any animal ever
before described. It had a human face, but the cheeks of a horse; its eyes
were as jacinths and radiant as stars. It had eagle’s wings all glittering
with rays of light; and its whole form was resplendent with gems and precious
stones. It was a female, and from its dazzling splendor and incredible
velocity was called Al Borak, or Lightning.
Mohammed prepared to mount this supernatural steed, but as he extended
his hand, it drew back and reared.
“Be still, oh Borak!” said Gabriel; “respect the prophet of God. Never
wert thou mounted by mortal man more honored of Allah.”
“Oh Gabriel!” replied Al Borak, who at this time was miraculously endowed
with speech; “did not Abraham of old, the friend of God, bestride me when
he visited his son Ishmael? Oh Gabriel! is not this the mediator, the intercessor,
the author of the profession of faith?”
“Even so, oh Borak, this is Mohammed Ibn Abdallah, of one of the tribes of Arabia the Happy, and of the true faith. He is chief of the sons of Adam, the greatest of the divine legates, the seal of the prophets. All creatures must have his intercession before they can enter paradise. Heaven is on his right hand, to be the reward of those who believe in him: the fire of Jehennam is on his left hand, into which all shall be thrust who oppose his doctrines.”
“Oh Gabriel!” entreated Al Borak; “by the faith existing between thee and
him, prevail on him to intercede for me at the day of the resurrection.”
“Be assured, oh Borak!” exclaimed Mohammed, “that through my intercession
thou shalt enter paradise.”
No sooner had he uttered these words than the animal approached and submitted
to be mounted, then rising with Mohammed on its back, it soared aloft far
above the mountains of Mecca.
As they passed like lightning between heaven and earth, Gabriel cried aloud, “Stop, oh Mohammed! descend to the earth, and make the prayer with two inflections of the body.”
They alighted on the earth, and having made the prayer—
“Oh friend and well beloved of my soul,” said Mohammed, “why dost thou
command me to pray in this place?”
“Because it is Mount Sinai, on which God communed with Moses.”
Mounting aloft, they again passed rapidly between heaven and earth, until
Gabriel called out a second time, “Stop, oh Mohammed! descend and make
the prayer with two inflections.”
They descended, Mohammed prayed, and again demanded, “Why didst thou command me to pray in this place?”
“Because it is Bethlehem, where Jesus the Son of Mary was born.”
They resumed their course through the air, until a voice was heard on the
right, exclaiming, “Oh Mohammed, tarry a moment, that I may speak to thee;
of all created beings I am most devoted to thee.”
But Borak pressed forward, and Mohammed forbore to tarry, for he felt that
it was not with him to stay his course, but with God, the all-powerful
Another voice was now heard on the left, calling on Mohammed in like words to tarry; but Borak still pressed forward, and Mohammed tarried not. He now beheld before him a damsel of ravishing beauty, adorned with all the luxury and riches of the earth. She beckoned him with alluring smiles: “Tarry a moment, oh Mohammed, that I may talk with thee. I, who, of all beings, am the most devoted to thee.” But still Borak pressed on, and Mohammed tarried not; considering that it was not with him to stay his course, but with God the all-powerful and glorious.
Addressing himself, however, to Gabriel, “What voices are those I have
heard?” said he; “and what damsel is this who has beckoned to me?”
“The first, oh Mohammed, was the voice of a Jew; hadst thou listened to
him, all thy nation would have been won to Judaism.
“The second was the voice of a Christian; hadst thou listened to him, thy people would have inclined to Christianity.
“The damsel was the world, with all its riches, its vanities, and allurements;
hadst thou listened to her, thy nation would have chosen the pleasures
of this life, rather than the bliss of eternity, and all would have been
doomed to perdition.”
Continuing their aerial course, they arrived at the gate of the holy temple at Jerusalem, where, alighting from Al Borak, Mohammed fastened her to the rings where the prophets before him had fastened her. Then entering the temple he found there Abraham, and Moses, and Isa (Jesus), and many more of the prophets. After he had prayed in company with them for a time, a ladder of light was let down from heaven, until the lower end rested on the Shakra, or foundation stone of the sacred house, being the stone of Jacob. Aided by the angel Gabriel, Mohammed ascended this ladder with the rapidity of lightning.
Being arrived at the first heaven, Gabriel knocked at the gate. Who is
there? was demanded from within. Gabriel. Who is with thee? Mohammed. Has
he received his mission? He has. Then he is welcome! and the gate was opened.
This first heaven was of pure silver; and in its resplendent vault the stars are suspended by chains of gold. In each star an angel is placed sentinel, to prevent the demons from scaling the sacred abodes. As Mohammed entered an ancient man approached him, and Gabriel said, “Here is thy father Adam, pay him reverence.” Mohammed did so, and Adam embraced him, calling him the greatest among his children, and the first among the prophets.
In this heaven were innumerable animals of all kinds, which Gabriel said were angels, who, under these forms, interceded with Allah for the various races of animals upon earth. Among these was a cock of dazzling whiteness, and of such marvellous height that his crest touched the second heaven, though five hundred years’ journey above the first. This wonderful bird saluted the ear of Allah each morning with his melodious chant. All creatures on earth, save man, are awakened by his voice, and all the fowls of his kind chant hallelujahs in emulation of his note.*
*There are three to which, say the Moslem doctors, God always lends a willing
ear: the voice of him who reads the Koran; of him who prays for pardon;
and of this cock who crows to the glory of the Most High. When the last
day is near, they add, Allah will bid this bird to close his wings and
chant no more. Then all the cocks on earth will cease to crow, and their
silence will be a sign that the great day of Judgment is impending.
The Reverend Dr. Humphrey Prideaux, Dean of Norwich, in his Life of Mohammed,
accuses him of having stolen this wonderful cock from the tract Bava Bartha
of the Babylonish Talmud. “wherein,” says he, “we have a story of such
a prodigious bird, called Zig, which, standing with his feet on the earth,
reacheth up to the heavens with his head, and with the spreading of his
wings darkeneth the whole orb of the sun, and causeth a total eclipse thereof.
This bird the Chaldee paraphrast on the Psalms says Is a cock, and that
he crows before the Lord; and the Chaldee paraphrast on Job tells us of
his crowing every morning before the Lord, and that God giveth him wisdom
for that purpose.”
They now ascended to the second heaven. Gabriel, as before, knocked at
the gate; the same questions and replies were exchanged; the door opened
and they entered.
This heaven was all of polished steel, and dazzling splendor. Here they
found Noah, who, embracing Mohammed, hailed him as the greatest among the
Arrived at the third heaven, they entered with the same ceremonies. It
was all studded with precious stones, and too brilliant for mortal eyes.
Here was seated an angel of immeasurable height, whose eyes were seventy
thousand days’ journey apart. He had at his command a hundred thousand
battalions of armed men. Before him was spread a vast book, in which he
was continually writing and blotting out.
“This, oh Mohammed,” said Gabriel, “is Azrael, the angel of death, who is in the confidence of Allah. In the book before him he is continually writing the names of those who are to be born, and blotting out the names of those who have lived their allotted time, and who, therefore, instantly die.”
They now mounted to the fourth heaven, formed of the finest silver. Among
the angels who inhabited it was one five hundred days’ journey in height.
His countenance was troubled, and rivers of tears ran from his eyes. “This,”
said Gabriel, “is the angel of tears, appointed to weep over the sins of
the children of men, and to predict the evils which await them.”
The fifth heaven was of the finest gold. Here Mohammed was received by
Aaron with embraces and congratulations. The avenging angel dwells in this
heaven, and presides over the element of fire. Of all the angels seen by
Mohammed, he was the most hideous and terrific. His visage seemed of copper,
and was covered with wens and warts. His eyes flashed lightning, and he
grasped a flaming lance. He sat on a throne surrounded by flames, and before
him was a heap of red-hot chains. Were he to alight upon earth in his true
form, the mountains would be consumed, the seas dried up, and all the inhabitants
would die with terror. To him, and the angels his ministers, is entrusted
the execution of divine vengeance on infidels and sinners.
Leaving this awful abode, they mounted to the sixth heaven, composed of
a transparent stone, called Hasala, which may be rendered carbuncle. Here
was a great angel, composed half of snow and half of fire; yet the snow
melted not, nor was the fire extinguished. Around him a choir of lesser
angels continually exclaimed, “Oh Allah! who hast united snow and fire,
unite all thy faithful servants in obedience to thy law.”
“This,” said Gabriel, “is the guardian angel of heaven and earth. It is
he who dispatches angels unto individuals of thy nation, to incline them
in favor of thy mission, and call them to the service of God; and he will
continue to do so until the day of resurrection.”
Here was the prophet Musa (Moses), who, however, instead of welcoming Mohammed with joy, as the other prophets had done, shed tears at sight of him.
“Wherefore dost thou weep?” inquired Mohammed. “Because I behold a successor
who is destined to conduct more of his nation into paradise than ever I
could of the backsliding children of Israel.”
Mounting hence to the seventh heaven, Mohammed was received by the patriarch Abraham. This blissful abode is formed of divine light, and of such transcendent glory that the tongue of man cannot describe it. One of its celestial inhabitants will suffice to give an idea of the rest. He surpassed the whole earth in magnitude, and had seventy thousand heads; each head seventy thousand mouths; each mouth seventy thousand tongues; each tongue spoke seventy thousand different languages, and all these were incessantly employed in chanting the praises of the Most High.
While contemplating this wonderful being Mohammed was suddenly transported aloft to the lotus-tree, called Sedrat, which flourishes on the right hand of the invisible throne of Allah. The branches of this tree extend wider than the distance between the sun and the earth. Angels more numerous than the sands of the sea-shore, or of the beds of all the streams and rivers, rejoice beneath its shade. The leaves resemble the ears of an elephant; thousands of immortal birds sport among its branches, repeating the sublime verses of the Koran. Its fruits are milder than milk and sweeter than honey. If all the creatures of God were assembled, one of these fruits would be sufficient for their sustenance. Each seed encloses a houri, or celestial virgin, provided for the felicity of true believers. From this tree issue four rivers; two flow into the interior of paradise, two issue beyond it, and become the Nile and Euphrates.
Mohammed and his celestial guide now proceeded to Al Mamour, or the House
of Adoration, formed of red jacinths or rubies, and surrounded by innumerable
lamps, perpetually burning. As Mohammed entered the portal, three vases
were offered him, one containing wine, another milk, and the third honey.
He took and drank of the vase containing milk.
“Well hast thou done; auspicious is thy choice,” exclaimed Gabriel. “Hadst
thou drunk of the wine, thy people had all gone astray.”
The sacred house resembles in form the Kaaba at Mecca, and is perpendicularly above it in the seventh heaven. It is visited every day by seventy thousand angels of the highest order. They were at this very time making their holy circuit, and Mohammed, joining with them, walked round it seven times.
Gabriel could go no farther. Mohammed now traversed, quicker than thought,
an immense space; passing through two regions of dazzling light, and one
of profound darkness. Emerging from this utter gloom, he was filled with
awe and terror at finding himself in the presence of Allah, and but two
bow-shots from his throne. The face of the Deity was covered with twenty
thousand veils, for it would have annihilated man to look upon its glory.
He put forth his hands, and placed one upon the breast and the other upon
the shoulder of Mohammed, who felt a freezing chill penetrate to his heart
and to the very marrow of his bones. It was followed by a feeling of ecstatic
bliss, while a sweetness and fragrance prevailed around, which none can
understand but those who have been in the divine presence.
Mohammed now received from the Deity himself, many of the doctrines contained in the Koran; and fifty prayers were prescribed as the daily duty of all true believers.
When he descended from the divine presence and again met with Moses, the
latter demanded what Allah had required. “That I should make fifty prayers
“And thinkest thou to accomplish such a task? I have made the experiment
before thee. I tried it with the children of Israel, but in vain; return,
then, and beg a diminution of the task.”
Mohammed returned accordingly, and obtained a diminution of ten prayers;
but when he related his success to Moses, the latter made the same objection
to the daily amount of forty. By his advice Mohammed returned repeatedly,
until the number was reduced to five.
Moses still objected. “Thinkest thou to exact five prayers daily from thy
people? By Allah! I have had experience with the children of Israel, and
such a demand is vain; return, therefore, and entreat still further mitigation
of the task.”
“No,” replied Mohammed, “I have already asked indulgence until I am ashamed.” With these words he saluted Moses and departed.
By the ladder of light he descended to the temple of Jerusalem, where he
found Borak fastened as he had left her, and mounting, was borne back in
an instant to the place whence he had first been taken.
This account of the vision, or nocturnal journey, is chiefly according to the words of the historians Abulfeda, Al Bokhari, and Abu Horeira, and is given more at large in the Life of Mohammed by Gagnier. The journey itself has given rise to endless commentaries and disputes among the doctors. Some affirm that it was no more than a dream or vision of the night, and support their assertion by a tradition derived from Ayesha, the wife of Mohammed, who declared that, on the night in question, his body remained perfectly still, and it was only in spirit that he made his nocturnal journey. In giving this tradition, however, they did not consider that at the time the journey was said to have taken place, Ayesha was still a child, and, though espoused, had not become the wife of Mohammed.
Others insist that he made the celestial journey bodily, and that the whole
was miraculously effected in so short a space of time, that, on his return,
he was able to prevent the complete overturn of a vase of water which the
angel Gabriel had struck with his wing on his departure.
Others say that Mohammed only pretended to have made the nocturnal journey
to the temple of Jerusalem, and that the subsequent ascent to heaven was
a vision. According to Ahmed ben Joseph, the nocturnal visit to the temple
was testified by the patriarch of Jerusalem himself. “At the time,” says
he, “that Mohammed sent an envoy to the emperor Heraclius, at Constantinople,
inviting him to embrace Islamism, the patriarch was in the presence of
the emperor. The envoy having related the nocturnal journey of the prophet,
the patriarch was seized with astonishment, and informed the emperor of
a circumstance coinciding with the narrative of the envoy. ‘It is my custom,’
said he, ‘never to retire to rest at night until I have fastened every
door of the temple. On the night here mentioned, I closed them according
to my custom, but there was one which it was impossible to move. Upon this,
I sent for the carpenters, who, having inspected the door, declared that
the lintel over the portal, and the edifice itself, had settled to such
a degree that it was out of their power to close the door. I was obliged,
therefore, to leave it open. Early in the morning at the break of day I
repaired thither, and behold, the stone placed at the corner of the temple
was perforated, and there were vestiges of the place where Al Borak had
been fastened. Then, said I, to those present, this portal would not have
remained fixed unless some prophet had been here to pray.’”
Traditions go on to say that when Mohammed narrated his nocturnal journey to a large assembly in Mecca, many marvelled yet believed, some were perplexed with doubt, but the Koreishites laughed it to scorn. “Thou sayest that thou hast been to the temple of Jerusalem,” said Abu Jahl; “prove the truth of thy words by giving a description of it.”
For a moment Mohammed was embarrassed by the demand, for he had visited
the temple in the night, when its form was not discernible; suddenly, however,
the angel Gabriel stood by his side, and placed before his eyes an exact
type of the sacred edifice, so that he was enabled instantly to answer
the most minute questions.
The story still transcended the belief even of some of his disciples, until
Abu Beker, seeing them wavering in their faith, and in danger of backsliding,
roundly vouched for the truth of it; in reward for which support, Mohammed
gave him the title of Al Seddek, or the Testifier to the Truth, by which
he was thenceforth distinguished.
As we have already observed, this nocturnal journey rests almost entirely upon tradition, though some of its circumstances are vaguely alluded to in the Koran. The whole may be a fanciful superstructure of Moslem fanatics on one of those visions or ecstasies to which Mohammed was prone, and the relation of which caused him to be stigmatized by the Koreishites as a madman.