History of the Saracens/Life of Mohammed/Part I

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History of the Saracens by Simon Ockley
Life of Mohammed, Part I

The Arabians, who are also by the Greek, and in imitation of them, by Latin writers, called Saracens, are divided by their historians into three classes: 1. The primitive Arabians, who inhabited Arabia immediately after the flood: of whom nothing now remains but the names of their tribes, as Adites, Thamudites, &c. and some traditional stories of their punishment for not hearkening to the prophets sent to reclaim them; which stories, however fabulous, have not only served to furnish the Arabian poets with subjects and allusions, but are mentioned in a serious manner by Mohammed,[1] in the Koran,[2] in order to deter his followers from disbelieving his mission and rejecting his doctrine. 2. The second class are the pure Arabians, descended from Kaktan or Joktan the son of Heber, spoken of Gen. x. 25. The Arab historians make Joktan the father of two sons, not mentioned in the Bible, or mentioned under different names: one of them, called Yáarab, they say was the father of the Arabs who inhabited Yeman, or Arabia Felix; and the other son Jorham settled in the province of Hejaz; hither they tell us Abraham, upon Sarah’s complaint, carried Ishmael, who married Ra’ala the daughter of the twelfth king of the Jorhamites by wham he had twelve sons. From these, and their posterity intermarrying with the pure Arabians, sprang the Most-Arabi or mixt Arabians, called Ishmaelites and Hagarens. This does not agree with Scripture, which tells us, that the mother of Ishmael took him a wife out of the land of Egypt, Gen. xxi. 21. But here I would have it once for all observed, that we shall often find the Arab writers give different accounts of persons and things from what we meet with in sacred history. They had no ancient writings, their memorials of ancient times were handed down to them by tradition;[3] they are besides much given to fable; no wonder then that they deviate so from the truth. Thus they tell the most absurd stories of Adam and Eve: they mention Noah’s flood, but instead of eight, as the Scripture informs us, pretend eighty persons were saved in the ark: they will have it that it was not Isaac but Ishmael whom Abraham was about to offer, &c. In general, though Mohammed professed great regard for the Old and New Testaments, he miserably corrupted the histories of both by fables; some borrowed out of the Jewish Talmud, others from spurious authors, and some probably forged in his own brain, or that of his assistants.

The Arabs are now, as they were in ancient times, of two sorts. Some inhabit towns, maintaining themselves by their flocks, agriculture, the fruit of their palm-trees, by trade or merchandise; others live in tents, removing from place to place, as they find grass and water for their cattle, feeding chiefly upon the milk and flesh of camels, a diet which is said by an Arabian physician to dispose them to fierceness and cruelty.[4] The latter class, though strictly just among themselves, often commit robberies upon merchants and travellers; and excuse themselves by alleging the hard usage of their progenitor Ishmael, and think they have a right to indemnify themselves, not only upon the posterity of Isaac, but also upon every body else who falls in their way. The Arabs were, before the time of Mohammed, divided into several tribes; each tribe had a king or head: and they were often at war with one another.

The religion of the ancient Arabians, according to their traditions, was derived from Abraham and Ishmael. These patriarchs it was pretended built the temple of Mecca, which from its form, was called the Kaaba or Square; and was their kebla, or place towards which they turned their faces when they prayed, as the Jews turned theirs towards the temple of Jerusalem. The Kaaba was held by them in great veneration, as it is also by the present Mohammedans, who are persuaded it is all but coeval with the world. For they say, that when Adam was cast out of paradise (which they place in the seventh heaven), he begged of God that he might be permitted to erect upon earth a building like that he had seen the angels go round in heaven; and that in answer to his prayer, a representation of that house in curtains of light was let down, and placed at Mecca, directly under the original, in a way that he might go round it, and turn his face towards it when he prayed. After Adam’s death, Seth, they tell us, built the Kaaba of stone and clay, in the same place; but, being destroyed by the deluge, it was rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael. The Kaaba, which has been several times rebuilt or repaired,[5] is a square stone building, the length whereof from north to south is twenty-four cubits, the breadth from east to west twenty-three, and the height twenty-seven cubits. The door, which is on the east side the threshold, has four cubits above the ground, so that, there being no steps[6] adjoining to it, they who come to worship may touch the threshold with their foreheads, or kiss it. The black stone, which the Mohammedans hold in great reverence, and believe to be one of the stones of paradise, which fell down with Adam from heaven, is a small stone set in silver and fixed in the south-east corner of the Kaaba, about four feet from the ground. It is said to be white within, but to have been turned black on the outside by the sins of the people, or more probably by the kisses of the pilgrims.[7] Upon the ground on the north-side of the Kaaba there is a stone called the sepulchre of Ishmael; there is also another stone called the station of Abraham, which they say being used by him for a scaffold rose higher with him as the walls of the building rose; and that, after he had done building, he stood upon it and prayed, and left on it the prints of his feet. Round three sides of the Kaaba, and at no great distance from it, stands a row of pillars, which are joined at the bottom by a low balustrade, and at the top by bars of silver. Without this enclosure, are buildings used for oratories, by the different sects of Mohammedans; there also is the treasury, and a small edifice raised over the sacred well Zemzem.[8] All these buildings are enclosed at a considerable distance by a magnificent colonnade surmounted with small cupolas, and at the four corners there are as many steeples adorned like cupolas, with gilded spires and crescents; between the pillars of both enclosures hang a number of lamps, which are constantly lighted up at night.[9]

The Kaaba is supported by pillars of aloe-wood, between which hang silver lamps, and a spout of gold carries off the rain-water from the roof. The walls on the outside are hung with a rich covering of black damask, adorned with a band of gold, which is changed every year at the expense of the Turkish emperor.[10] The Kaaba is properly the temple, but the whole territory of Mecca is held sacred, and distinguished by small turrets, some at seven and others at ten miles’ distance from the city. Within these precincts it is not lawful to attack an enemy, or even to hunt or fowl.

Mohammed was born at Mecca, an ancient city of Arabia, about the year of our Lord 571, for historians do not agree about the precise year.[11] He was of the tribe of Koreish, the noblest of that part of the country. Arab writers make him to be descended in a right line from Ishmael, the son of Abraham but do not pretend to any certainty in the remote part of his genealogy; for our purpose it will be enough to commence much later, but with a well authenticated fact. The great grandfather of Mohammed was Hashem, whose descendants were from him called Hashemites.[12] He managed to obtain the presidency over the Kaaba, and, what went with it, the government of Mecca, which had been some time in the tribe of the Koreishites.[13] After his death it went to his son Abda’l Motalleb; who had thirteen sons, whose names I shall here set down, because we shall meet with some of them in the following history. Abdallah, Hamza, Al Abbas, Abu Taleb, Abu Laheb, Al Gidak, Al Hareth, Jahel, Al Mokawam, Dorar, Al Zobeir, Kelham, Abdal Kaaba. The eldest of them, Abdallah, who, on account of the integrity of his character and the comeliness of his person, is said to have been his father’s favourite, married Amina, of the tribe also of the Koreishites, by whom he had Mohammed. Upon the marriage of Abdallah, it is related that no fewer than two hundred young damsels, who were in love with him, died in despair. We should here observe, that the Mohammedan historians are often very extravagant in their accounts of persons and things that have any relation to their prophet. Thus Abulfeda, one of the gravest of them, tells us of four miraculous events that happened at the birth of Mohammed: 1. That the palace of Cosroes, king of Persia, was so shaken, that fourteen of its towers fell to the ground; 2. That the sacred fires of the Persians, which had been kept incessantly burning for 1000 years, went out all at once; 3. That the lake Sawa sank; 4. That the river Tigris overflowed its banks. By these prodigies, and by a dream of the high-priest of Persia, which seemed to forebode some impending calamity from Arabia, Cosroes being naturally alarmed, sent for a famous diviner to inform him what they portended; he received for answer, that fourteen kings and queens should reign in Persia, and that then what was to come to pass would happen. Some legendary writers relate a great many more wonderful things, enough to shock the belief of the most credulous. They may be seen in Maracci.[14] I shall give only two of them as a sample of the rest: 1. They assert that Mohammed came into the world surrounded with a light, which not only illuminated the chamber wherein he lay, but also the whole country round about. 2. That as soon as he was born he fell upon his knees, and bending all except his two fore-fingers, with uplifted hands, and his face turned towards heaven, pronounced distinctly these words, “Allah acbar,” &c. that is, “God is great: there is no other God but one, and I am his prophet.”

Abdallah dying while Mohammed was an infant, or, according to some, before he was born, he was by his mother put to a wet-nurse named Halima. Here again we have more miracles, even in Abulfeda. The nurse, who, while this blessed infant was with her, was in greater affluence than ever she had been before, was one day put in a great fright by her own son, who came running out of the field, and told her that two men in white had just seized Mohammed, laid him on the ground, and ripped open his belly. Upon this, she and her husband went out to him, and found him upon his legs; but when she asked him, What is the matter with you, child? he confirmed the tale of his belly being cut up. Hearing this, the husband said, I am afraid he has contracted some bad disease; and Halima herself, who had before been very desirous to keep the child, was now as eager to get rid of him, and carried him home at once to Amina. On being asked what was the reason she had thus changed her mind, the nurse said she was afraid the devil had made some attack upon him; but the mother replied, “Out upon you, why should the devil hurt my child?” Some authors tell us, that when the angels ripped up Mohammed’s belly they took out his heart, and squeezed out of it the black drop, which they believe is the consequence of original sin, and, the source of all sinful thoughts, being found in the heart of every person descended from Adam, except only the Virgin Mary and her son Jesus. It is a wonder they did not except Mohammed also, whom they look upon to be the most perfect creature that God ever made; but of whom we shall find in the sequel that his heart was not entirely cleansed from the black drop.

Mohammed’s mother dying when he was six years old, he was taken care of by his grandfather, Abda’l Motalleb, who at his death, which happened two years after, left him under the guardianship of his son Abu Taleb. By this uncle, whose business was merchandise, Mohammed was brought up, and at the age of thirteen went with him into Syria. At fourteen he joined his kinsmen in the impious war,[15] where the Koreishites gained the victory. With Abu Taleb he continued till he was twenty-five, when he became a factor to Kadija, the widow of a rich merchant at Mecca, who had left her all his wealth. He managed the affairs of his mistress so well, and so ingratiated himself into her favour, that after keeping him three years in her service, she bestowed on him her hand. The legendary writers, in their account of this circumstance, tell us, Kadija fell in love with Mohammed owing to the wonderful things that befell him in his last journey from Bostra in Syria, of which some were related to her by the slaves who had accompanied him, and of some she was herself an eye-witness. But that which made the greatest impression on her heart was, that the angel Gabriel carried all the way a cloud over his head, to screen him from the scorching heat of the sun, which in that country is very intense. But surely there was little need of a miracle to induce a widow of forty-five, who had already buried two husbands, to take for a third a young man of twenty-eight, possessed, as Mohammed is said to have been, of a handsome person and agreeable manners.[16]

From the age of thirteen or fourteen to twenty-five very little is related of Mohammed, except a fabulous story of his being seen when very young by a monk of Bostra in Syria, called Bahira, who foretold his future grandeur. Boulainvilliers, indeed, who has left an unfinished account of his life, has thought fit to fill up the chasm with inventions of his own. He tells us, that during this interval his uncle Abu Taleb prepared him for the wars he was afterwards to be engaged in, by inuring him to hunting and martial exercises. Contrary to all history, he makes him twenty when he first travelled into Syria, and carries him to Damascus, to Baalbec, to Elia or Jerusalem, and to the capital of Persia, places which no other writer ever mentions him as visiting. These accounts he pretends to have taken from Arabian authors, but does not name a single authority. In short, Boulainvilliers[17] has given to the world, instead of a history, a politico-theological romance founded upon the life of Mohammed, whom he supposes, in these imaginary voyages, to have made such observations, and to have furnished his mind with such political ideas as enabled him to form those great designs he afterwards put in execution.

The following, however, seems to be the truth of the matter. Raised by his advantageous match with Kadija to an equality with the principal men of the city, he may very naturally have conceived the idea of aiming at the government of it. And this is the more probable as it belonged to his family, and in a regular succession ought to have come to him; but in consequence of his father and grandfather both dying when he was a minor, it had fallen to his uncle Abu Taleb. From his marriage nearly to the time of his pretended revelation, all that we hear of him on authority is, that by Kadija he had four sons. Upon the birth of the eldest, who was named Casem, he took, according to the custom of the Arabians, the surname Abu’l Casem, i. e. the father of Casem. His sons all died in their infancy; but his daughters, Fatima, Zainab, Rokaia, and Omm Colthum, lived to be married, and will be mentioned hereafter, as occasion arises.

It is probable that he employed himself for some years in the care of his family, and the prosecution of his trade; conforming all the while to the idolatrous superstition of his countrymen. By the Christian writers he is said to have been profligate in his morals; but nothing of the kind, as was to be expected, is mentioned by any Mohammedan author. However this may be, in the thirty-eighth year of his life he began to affect solitude, retiring frequently into a cave of mount Hara, near Mecca, to spend his time in fasting, prayer, and meditation. Here he is supposed to have composed so much of the Koran as he first published. Mohammed, who, it is agreed on all hands, could neither read nor write, has evidently borrowed many things from the Old and New Testaments, and from the Jewish Talmud. His assistants in the work are said to have been Abdia, the son of Salem, who was a Persian Jew, and a Nestorian monk named Bahira by the eastern, and Sergius by the western writers. From a statement we shall presently give from Abulfeda, it seems probable that Waraka was also in the secret, if he did not lend a helping hand. In his Koran, chap. xvi. the impostor complains that his enemies charged him with being assisted by that Persian Jew, but endeavours to clear himself in these words: “They say, certainly some man teaches him; he whom they mean speaks a barbarous language; but the Koran is in the Arabic tongue, full of instruction and eloquence.”[18] As for the monk, he is said to have murdered him, when he had no further occasion for him. No doubt he took what care he could to conceal his being assisted.

Abulfeda, after relating Mohammed’s marriage with Kadija, has a digression, wherein he speaks of the prefecture of the Kaaba going from Nabet, the son of Ishmael, to the Jorhamites, next to the Kozaites, and from them to the Koreishites. The last pulled down the temple and began to rebuild it. But when the walls were raised up to the height at which the black stone was to be set, a dispute arose as to which of the tribes should have the honour of placing it. The Koreishites being unable to settle the question, Mohammed, who stood by, ordered a garment to be spread upon the ground, and the stone to be laid in the middle of it, and then all the tribes together to take hold of it round the edges and lift it up. When they had raised it high enough the prophet took the stone and put it into its place. From Abulfeda’s manner of relating this transaction, its date is not fixed to this part of his life; but an Arab writer, cited by Gagnier, says it was done when Mohammed was a little boy. In all probability it is only a fiction, invented to excite a high opinion of his wisdom.[19]

The following account, which is taken verbatim from Abulfeda, is the statement already alluded to. “When the apostle of God (whom God bless[20]) was forty years old, God sent him to the black and the red (i. e. to all mankind), that by a new law he might abolish the ancient laws. His first entrance upon this prophetic office was by a true night vision; for the most high God had inspired him with a love of retirement and solitude, so that he spent a month every year in the cave of Mount Hara. When the year of his mission was come he went, in the month Ramadan, with some of his family, into the cave. Here, as soon as the night fell wherein the glorious God very greatly honoured him, Gabriel (upon whom be peace) came to him and said, ‘Read,’ And when the prophet answered, ‘I cannot read,’ he said again, ‘Read: In the name of the Lord who hath created,’ &c. reciting the words as far as, ‘he taught man what he knew not,’ v. 5.[21] Upon this the prophet, going to the middle of the mountain, and hearing a voice from heaven saying, ‘O Mohammed, thou art the apostle of God, and I am Gabriel,’ stood still in his place looking upon Gabriel, till at length Gabriel departed, when the prophet also went away. Soon after he came to Kadija, and told her what he had seen; she said, ‘I am very glad of this good news; I swear by him in whose hand the soul of Kadija is, I verily hope you are the prophet of this nation.’ And when she had said this she went to her kinsman, Waraka, son of Nawfal. Now Waraka had read the books, and heard many discourses, of Jews and Christians. To him, therefore, Kadija related what the apostle of God had said.; and Waraka replied, ‘By the most holy God, and by him in whose hand is the soul of Waraka, what you say, Kadija, is true, for the glorious law brought by Moses, the son of Amram, foretold his coming. No doubt he is the prophet of this nation.’ Then Kadija returned to the apostle of God, and told him what Waraka had said; whereupon the apostle of God said a prayer, and went to the Kaaba, and, after compassing it seven times, returned to his own house.[22]

After this, revelations followed thickly one after another. Kadija was the first of mortals that embraced Islamism,[23] so that nobody preceded her. In the book called Al Sahih there is a tradition, that the apostle of God said, among men there have been many perfect; but among women only four: Asia, the wife of Pharaoh; Mary, daughter of Amram; Kadija, daughter of Cowalled; and Fatima, daughter of Mohammed.”[24]

According to this statement, Kadija was the first disciple of Mohammed. Some authors, however, assert that she did not come in so readily as is here related, but for some time rejected the stories he told her as delusions of the devil. Others again say she declared she would not believe except she also should see Gabriel; but upon her husband telling her she had not virtue enough to see an angel, she was satisfied, and became a believer. His second convert was his cousin Ali, who had lived with him some time, and was then not above ten or eleven years old. The third was his slave Zaid, to whom he gave his freedom. In imitation of this, it became a law among the Mohammedans to emancipate those of their slaves who should turn to their religion. The fourth convert was Abubeker, one of the most considerable men in Mecca, and whose example was soon followed by Othman son of Affán Abdal Rahman son of Aws, Saad son of Abu Wakas, Zobeir son of Al Awam, and Telha son of Obeidolla, and Abu Obeida. These were some of the principal men of the city, and were afterwards the generals of Mohammed’s army, and assisted him in establishing his imposture and his empire. Abulfeda says, “Mohammed made his converts in secret for three years; but after this period he was commanded to preach to those of his tribe. Upon this he ordered Ali to invite his kinsmen, about forty in number, to an entertainment, and to set before them a lamb and a large vessel of milk. When they had done eating and drinking, he began to preach; but being interrupted by Abu Laheb, he invited them to a like feast the next day, and when it was over, he harangued them in the following words: ‘I do not know any man in Arabia can make you a better present than I now bring you; I offer you the good both of this world, and of the other life: the great God has commanded me to call you to him. Who then will be my vizier (i. e. take part of the burden with me), my brother, my deputy?’ When all were silent, Ali said, ‘I will; and I will beat out the teeth, pull out the eyes, rip up the bellies, and break the legs of all that oppose you, I will be your vizier over them.’ Then the apostle of God embracing Ali about the neck, said, ‘This is my brother, my ambassador, my deputy, pay him obedience.’ At this they all fell a laughing, and said to Abu Taleb, ‘You are now to be obedient to your son.’

“Mohammed, not at all discouraged by the opposition of his tribe, continued to upbraid them with their idolatry, and the perverseness and infidelity of their ancestors and of their nation. This provoked them to that degree, that they went to Abu Taleb to complain of his nephew, and desired him to interpose, who, however, dismissed them with a civil answer. However, as Mohammed persisted in his purpose, they went to him a second time, and threatened to use force. Upon this, Abu Taleb sent for his nephew and said to him, ‘Thus and thus have your countrymen spoken to me;’ but Mohammed imagining his uncle to be against him, replied, : Uncle, if they could set the sun against me on my right hand, and the moon on my left, I would never drop the affair.’ ‘Well,’ says Abu Taleb, ‘tell me what answer I shall give them: as for me,’ confirming his words with an oath, ‘I will never give you up.’ The whole tribe now consulted about banishing all who embraced Islamism; but Abu Taleb protected his nephew, though he did not come into his new religion.” After this, Hamza, another of his uncles, resenting an affront that Abu Jehel, whom he bitterly hated, had offered to Mohammed, became one of his proselytes, as did also Omar, the son of Al Ketabi, another of the principal men of Mecca, and Abubeker’s successor in the Caliphate. Previously to his conversion, Omar was violently set against the prophet. At last his anger rose to such a height, that having girded on a sword, he went in search of him with an intent to kill him. By the way, he called in at his own sister’s, where the twentieth chapter of the Koran was reading. Omar demanded to see the book, and upon his sister’s refusal, gave her a violent slap on the face, who then gave it to him, upon his promising to restore it her again. No sooner had he read a little of it, when he cried out, “O how fine is this! how I reverence it! I have a great desire to be a believer.” He immediately inquired where Mohammed was to be found, and, being told, went to the apostle, who, taking hold of his clothes and pulling him forcibly to him, said, “O son of Al Ketabi, what do you stop at? Why would you stay till the roof of the house falls upon your head?” Upon Omar’s replying, “I come hither that I may believe in God and his apostle,” the apostle gave praise to God, and thus was completed the conversion of Omar.

And now, finding he made such progress, the Koreishites cruelly persecuted the followers of Mohammed. On this account he gave leave to as many of them as had no family to hinder it, to leave Mecca, which they did, to the number of eighty-three men and eighteen women, with their little ones. They fled to the king of Ethiopia, to whom the Koreishites sent two persons with a present of skins, desiring him to send back the fugitives. This the king not only refused to do, but, as the Mohammedan writers assert, embraced Islamism himself. In the eighth year of Mohammed’s mission, the Koreishites pledged themselves by a written compact not to intermarry with the Hashemites, or to have any dealings with them. This deed was placed in the Kaaba, where, it is said, a worm ate out every word of the deed, except the name of God. Upon this the whole tribe held a public meeting, and cancelled the agreement.[25]

“In the tenth year of the mission of the prophet died Abu Taleb. Before his death, whilst he was very ill, the apostle of God said to him, ‘Uncle, make the profession which will entitle you to happiness at the day of the resurrection;’ and Abu Taleb answered, ‘So I would, nephew, if it were not for the disgrace; for if I should do so, the Koreishites would say I did it for fear of death.’ In his last moments he began to move his lips, and Al Abbas, putting his ear close to them, said, ‘O nephew, he has repeated the words that you exhorted him to say.’ Upon hearing this, the apostle of God said, ‘Praised be God who has directed you, dear uncle.’”

Very soon after Kadija died also.[26] Whereupon, Mohammed, meeting with more and more opposition at Mecca, where Abu Sofian, his mortal enemy, bore the chief sway, took a journey to Taïf, a town about sixty miles east of Mecca, wherein Al Abbas, another of his uncles, often resided, to try if he could make any converts there; but having no success, he returned to Mecca, where his followers were greatly mortified by the repulse he had met with.

Mohammed, however, continued his preaching, even, says Abulfeda, at the hazard of his life; going occasionally among the pilgrims, and calling to them, “O ye of such and such a tribe (which he named), I am the apostle of God, who commands you to serve God, and not to associate any other with him; and to believe and testify that I am a true apostle.” One time, being at a place called Alkaba (a mountain north of Mecca), where there were some pilgrims from Yathreb, he addressed them, and made converts of six. These, upon their return to Yathreb, spread his fame there, and propagated Islamism with great success.

The chief points of religion which, besides some moral duties, Mahommed first insisted upon were, the unity of God, a resurrection, and a future state of rewards and punishments. The only profession necessary to be made in order to be one of his disciples consisted of these two articles: “There is no God but one,” and “Mohammed is his prophet.” The former was in opposition, not only directly to all who worship idols, or own a plurality of gods, but indirectly against Christians also, as holding the divinity of our blessed Saviour, and the doctrine of the Trinity. The profession of the second article was the most essential means he could take to bind his followers to swallow everything, how absurd soever, that he should propose to them for belief or practice. Islamism, he declared, was not a new religion, but a restoration to its original purity of the ancient religion, taught and practised by the prophets Adam, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. He did indeed purge the religion of the Arabians, which in his time was rank idolatry, from some gross abuses, as Sabæism, or the worship of the host of heaven, the worship of idols, and divination. In order, however, to make his new system the more acceptable to his countrymen, he retained several of their old superstitious services, such as frequent washing, the pilgrimage to Mecca, with the absurd ceremonies appendant to it, of going seven times round the Kaaba, throwing stones to drive away the devil, &c.

The fewness of the things he proposed to their profession and belief certainly made it more easy for him to gain proselytes. And although the paradise he promised them was, as we shall see hereafter, very gross and sensual, it was nevertheless very well suited to the taste of the people he had to deal with, while, on the other hand, the hell with which he threatened unbelievers was terrible. He may be supposed to have dwelt much on the latter subject, as it is so frequently repeated in the Koran. By his artful, insinuating address, in which he is said to have exceeded all men living, he surmounted all difficulties that lay in his way. At his first setting out upon his prophetic office, he bore all affronts without seeming to resent them; and when any of his followers were injured he recommended patience to them, and

for that purpose, it is said, proposed the Christian martyrs for their imitation. He was obliging to every body; the rich he flattered, the poor he relieved with alms: and by his behaviour appeared the most humane, friendly person in the world, so long as he found it necessary to wear the mask, which we shall hereafter find him, upon occasions, pulling off and throwing aside.

In the tenth year of his mission, Mohammed gave his daughter Fatima, then nine years old, in marriage to Ali. The dowry given by Ali upon that occasion was twelve ounces of ostrich plumes (a thing of some value in that country), and a breastplate; all indeed that he had to give.[27] In the same year, according to Elmakin (for authors vary as to the precise date of many of his most considerable transactions), Mohammed, to strengthen his interest, as well as perhaps to gratify his inclination, married Ayesha, daughter of Abubeker, and Sawda, daughter of Sama.[28] To these two wives he added, some time after, Hafsa, daughter of Omar. Ayesha was then but seven years old, and therefore this marriage was not consummated till two years after, when she was nine years old, at which age, we are told, women in that country are ripe for marriage. An Arabian author cited by Maracci,[29] says that Abubeker was very averse to the giving him his daughter so young, but that Mohammed pretended a divine command for it; whereupon he sent her to him with a basket of dates, and when the girl was alone with him, he stretched out his blessed hand (these are the author’s words), and rudely took hold of her clothes; upon which she looked fiercely at him, and said, “People call you the faithful man,[30] but your behaviour to me shows you are a perfidious one.” And with these words she got out of his hands, and, composing her clothes, went and complained to her father. The old gentleman, to calm her resentment, told her she was new betrothed to Mohammed, and that made him take liberties with her, as if she had been his wife.

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. Ockley writes Mahomet, but as the name is pronounced in Arabic, Muhammed, or Mohammed, and the latter is the orthography most generally adopted, it has been followed here. The name is derived from the past participle of the verb hamad signifying “praised,” or “most glorious.”
  2. Koran signifies a book, Al is the Arabic article the; the word Alcoran was formerly adopted in almost all the European languages; but as Sale, Gibbon, and most of our modern authors write Koran, it is preferred here.
  3. Pocock. Specim. Arab. Histor. p. 55.
  4. Idem, p. 88.
  5. “Ten thousand angels were appointed to guard the structure from accidents; but they seem, from the history of the holy building, to have been often remiss in their duty.” —Burckhardt’s Arabia, p. 162.
  6. There are movable steps to use when the Kaaba is to be cleaned, or the lamps therein lighted up.
  7. “Being in want of a stone to fix into the corner of the building as a mark from whence the Towaf, or holy walk round it, was to commence, Ismael went in search of one. On his way he met the angel Gabriel, holding in his hand the famous black stone. It was then of a refulgent bright colour, but became black, says El Azraky, in consequence of its having suffered repeatedly by fire, before and after the introduction of Islamism. Others say its colour was changed by the sins of those who touched it. At the day of judgment, it is to bear witness in favour of all those who have touched it with sincere hearts, and will be endowed with sight and speech.” —Burckhardt’s Arabia, p. 163.
  8. “The Mohammedans are persuaded that the well Zemzem is the very spring which gushed out for the relief of Ismael, when Hagar his mother wandered with him in the desert; and some pretend it was so named from her calling to him, when she spied it, in the Egyptian tongue, ‘Zem, zem,’ that is, I ‘stay, stay;’ though it seems rather to have had the name from the murmuring of its waters. The water of this well is holy, and is highly reverenced; being not only drunk with particular devotion by the pilgrims, but also sent in bottles, as a great rarity, to most parts of the Mohammedan dominions. Abdallah, surnamed Al Hâfedh, from his great memory, particularly as to the traditions of Mohammed, gave out that he acquired that faculty by drinking large draughts of Zemzem water, to which I believe it is about as efficacious as that of Helicon to the inspiring of a poet.” —Sale. Mr. Lane, in his notes to the Arabian Nights, tells us, that “The water of this well is believed to possess miraculous virtues, and is therefore brought away in bottles or flasks by many of the pilgrims, to be used, when occasion may require, as medicine, or to be sprinkled on grave-linen. A bottle of it is a common and acceptable present from a pilgrim, and a guest is sometimes treated with a sip of this holy water.” Pitts, an old English traveller, found the water brackish, and says, the pilgrims drink it so inordinately that “they are not only much purged, but their flesh breaks out all in pimples; and this they called the purging of their spiritual corruption.”
  9. Burckhardt, in describing the Kaaba at the present day, says, “The effect of the whole scene, the mysterious drapery, the profusion of gold and silver, the blaze of lamps, and the kneeling multitude, surpasses anything the imagination could have pictured.”
  10. “A new covering for the Kaaba is sent from Cairo every year with the great caravan of pilgrims: it is carried in procession through that city, and is believed to be one of the chief means of procuring safety to the attendants through their arduous and dangerous journey.” —Lane’s Arab. Nights.
  11. “The date of the birth of Mohammed is not fixed with precision. It is only known from Oriental authors that he was born on a Monday, the 10th Reby 1st, the third month of the Mohammedan year; the 40th or 42nd of Cosroes Nushirvam, king of Persia; the year 881 of the Seleucidan æra; the year 1316 of the æra of Nabonnassar. This leaves the point undecided between the years 569, 570, 571, of Jesus Christ. See the Memoir of M. Silv. de Sacy, on divers events in the History of the Arabs before Mohammed, Mem. Acad. des Inscripts. vol. xlvii, pp. 527, 531. St. Martin, vol. ix. p. 59. Dr. Weil decides on a.d. 571. Mohammed died in 632, aged 63; but the Arabs reckoned his life by lunar years, which reduces his life nearly to 61.” —Milman’s Gibbon.
  12. Even to this day the chief magistrate both at Mecca and Medina, who must always be of the race of Mohammed, is invariably styled “The Prince of the Hashemites.”
  13. Abulfeda informs us that the custody of the Kaaba and presidency of Mecca had been formerly in the possession of the tribe of the Kozaites, till at length they fell into the hands of Abu Gabshan, a weak and silly man, whom Kosa, the grandfather of Hashem, circumvented while in a drunken humour, and bought of him the keys of the temple and the government of Mecca for a bottle of wine. A war between the Koreishites and Kozaites was the result, which, however, ended in the defeat of the latter, and the whole possession of Mecca remained to the Koreishites, and was held by Kosa and his posterity in a right line down to Mohammed.
  14. Refutation Alcorani, fol. 1698.
  15. The Arabs had four months in which it was not lawful to go to war; this war was in one of those months.
  16. “The nuptials of the prophet and his bride were celebrated with great festivity, mirth, music, and dancing; heaven is said to have been filled with unwonted joy, and the whole earth intoxicated with delight. Some Arab writers add, that a voice from the skies pronounced the union happy; that the boys and girls of Paradise were led out on the joyous occasion in their bridal robes; that the hills and valleys capered for gladness at the sounds of unearthly music; and that fragrance was breathed through all nature.”
  17. Gagnier says he could find no historians that verify the account given by Boulainvilliers; and exposes the bad design he seems to have had in view, in the encomiums he lavishes on the impostor and his false religion.—Pref. au Vie de Mohammed.
  18. See Sale’s Koran, chap. xvi. with the Notes thereon.
  19. Schlegel mentions the circumstance, and says, that at the time the honour fell to the lot of Mohammed, he was a stripling of fifteen. He also states, that at an early age, long before he announced himself as a prophet, his poetry, which far outshone that of his competitors, had raised him to a high degree of honour and consideration.—Phil. of History. In reference to this, we annex the following illustration from Herbelot: Lebid, the most distinguished Arabian poet of the time, and one of the seven whose verses constituted the Moallakat, a series of prizes suspended in the Kaaba, was still an idolater when Mohammed commenced publishing his laws. One of his poems commenced with this verse: “All praise is vain which does not refer to God: and all good which proceeds not from him is but a shadow;” and no other poet could be found to compete with it. At length, the chapter of the Koran, entitled Barat, was attached to a gate in the same temple, and Lebid was so overcome by the verses at the commencement, as to declare that they could only be produced by the inspiration of God, and he immediately embraced Islamism. When Mohammed was apprised of the conversion of Lebid, the finest genius of his time, he was exceedingly delighted, and requested him to answer the invectives and satires of Amilicais and other infidel poets who wrote against the new religion and its followers. Amasi, however, states, that after he had became a Mussulman, he wrote on no other subject save the praising of God for his conversion. He is said to have uttered the following sentence on his death-bed: “I am told that all that is new is pleasant; but I find it not so in death, even though it be a novelty.” Ben Caschem also attributes to him the following, which is the finest sentence which ever fell from the lips of an Arab:—
    “All is vain which is not of God.”
    Lebid lived to the age of 140 years, and died in the year 141 of the Hejira.
  20. In the Koran the followers of the impostor are forbidden, when they address him, to call him by his name, Mohammed. This was too familiar; they were therefore commanded to say, O prophet, or O apostle of God. This author never mentions the apostle of God without adding these words, “whom God bless,” or the initial letters of these words, “W. G. b.” Generally, indeed, Mohammedan writers seldom name an angel, or a person whom they regard as a prophet, or as eminent for piety, without adding “peace be to him.”
  21. This is generally believed to be the first passage of the Koran revealed to Mohammed, though it is the beginning of the ninety-sixth chapter of that book. It runs thus, as divided into verses in Maracci’s edition. “1. Read in the name of the Lord, who hath created. 2. He hath created man of coagulated blood. 3. Read by the most beneficent Lord. 4. Who taught by the pen. 5. Who taught man what he knew not.” The rest of the chapter has no connexion with the beginning, but is taken up in upbraiding and threatening one of his enemies, supposed to be Abu Jehel.
  22. Warakah-bin-Nawfal was a cousin of Kadija. In the days of ignorance he learned the Christian religion, translated the gospel into Arabic, gave himself up to devotion, and opposed the worship of idols. He lived to a great age, and towards the end of his life became blind.—Notes to the Mischat.
  23. Islam, or Islamism, is said by Prideaux, to signify the Saving religion; by Sale, resigning one’s self to God; by Pocock, obedience to God and his prophet. It also means the Mohammedan world. It is, therefore, of the same acceptation among the Mohammedans, as the words Christianity, and Christendom among Christians. Moslem, or Mussulman, is a derivation from Eslam or Islam, and is the common name of Mohammedans, without distinction of sect or opinion. In grammatical accuracy, Moslem is the singular of the word, Mussulman is the dual, and Mussulminn, the plural. But in conformity with the usages of the best writers, we shall use the words Moslem and Mussulman in the singular, and Moslems and Mussulmans in the plural. Mussulmen is decidedly wrong, and has never been used by any author of note.—Mills.
  24. The wickedness of women is a subject upon which the stronger sex among the Arabs, with an affected feeling of superior virtue, often dwell in common conversation. That women are deficient in judgment or good sense is held as a fact not to be disputed even by themselves, as it rests on an assertion of the prophet; but that they possess a superior degree of cunning is pronounced equally certain and notorious. Their general depravity is declared to be much greater than that of men. ‘I stood,’ said the prophet, ‘at the gate of Paradise; and, lo, most of its inmates were the poor: and I stood at the gate of hell; and, lo, most of its inmates were women.’ In allusion to women, the caliph Omar said, ‘Consult them, and do the contrary of what they advise.’ A truly virtuous wife is, of course, excepted in this rule: such a person is as much respected by Mussulmans, as she is (at least, according to their own account) rarely met [footnote continues on p. 15] with by them. When woman was created, the devil, we are told, was delighted, and said, ‘Thou art half of my host, and thou art the depository of my secret, and thou art my arrow, with which I shoot, and miss not.’ What are termed by us affairs of gallantry were very common among the Pagan Arabs, and are scarcely less so among their Moslem posterity. They are, however, unfrequent among most tribes of Bedawees, and among the descendants of those tribes not long settled as cultivators. I remember being roused from the quiet that I generally enjoyed in an ancient tomb in which I resided at Thebes, by the cries of a young woman in the neighbourhood, whom an Arab was severely beating for an impudent proposal that she had made to him.”—Lane’s Arab. Nights, vol. i. pp. 33, 39. Thomas Moore has thus wittily versified the above sentiment of Omar:—
    “Whene’er you’re in doubt, said a sage I once knew,
    ’Twixt two lines of conduct which course to pursue,
    Ask a woman’s advice, and whate’er she advise,
    Do the very reverse and you’re sure to be wise.”
  25. Some say that the hand of the notary who drew up the writing was dried up as soon as he had finished it. The Mussulman writers, however, do not agree amongst themselves about this miracle. Maracci quotes an account in which it is asserted that the name of God was eaten out of the instrument, wherever it occurred, every other part of it being perfectly legible; upon which, it was observed, that as God had been averse to the drawing up of the instrument before them, he had taken care that everything relating, to him in it should be obliterated, and that everything that was the effect of their wickedness should remain.
  26. Of Mohammed’s affection for his wife Kadija, Abulfeda relates the following anecdote. His subsequent wife Ayesha one day reproached him with his grief on her account. “Was she not old?” said Ayesha, with the insolence of blooming beauty; “has not God given you a younger, a better, and a more beautiful wife in her place!” “More beautiful, truly,” said the prophet, “and younger, but not better. There cannot be a better: she believed in me when men despised me—she relieved my wants when I was poor and persecuted.” Mr. Burckhardt informs us that the tomb of Kadija is still remaining, and is regularly visited by hadjys (pilgrims), especially on Friday mornings. It is enclosed by a square wall, and presents no objects of curiosity except the tomb-stone, which has a fine inscription in Cufic characters, containing a passage from the Koran, from the chapter entitled, Souret el Kursy.—Arabia, p. 172.
  27. It was a custom among the Arabs for the bridegroom to make a present to the father of the bride.
  28. According to the Mishcat, Sawda was not a favourite wife of Mohammed’s. Razin says, that once when he proposed to divorce her, she said, “Keep me with your wives, and do not divorce me; peradventure I may be of the number of your wives in Paradise; and I give up my turn to Ayesha.” —Book xiii. chap. x.
  29. Marac. Vita Mahometis, p. 23.
  30. Abulfeda says he was called Al Amin, “the faithful one,” when he was young.