restless, inclined to melancholy, and possessing an extreme sensibility, being unable to endure the slightest unpleasant odour or the least physical pain.
Simple in his habits, kind and courteous in his demeanour, and agreeable in conversation, he gained many over to his side, as much by the charm of his manners as by the doctrine which he preached.
Mohammed had already reached his fortieth year when the first revelations came to him. They were the almost natural outcome of his mode of life and habit of thought, and especially of his physical constitution. From youth upwards he had suffered from a nervous disorder which tradition calls epilepsy, but the symptoms of which more closely resemble certain hysterical phenomena well known and diagnosed in the present time, and which are almost always accompanied with hallucinations, abnormal exercise of the mental functions, and not unfrequently with a certain amount of deception, both voluntary and otherwise.
He was also in the habit of passing long periods in solitude and deep thought; and he was profoundly impressed with the falsehood and immorality of the religion of his compatriots and with horror at their vicious and inhuman practices, and had for his best friends men, such as his cousin Waraqah and Zâid ibn Amr, who had, professedly, been long seeking after the truth and who had publicly renounced the popular religion.
At length, during one of his solitary sojournings on Mount ʿHirâ, a wild and lonely mountain near Mecca, an angel appeared to him and bade him ‘ READ!’ ‘ I am no reader!’ Mohammed replied in great trepidation, whereon the angel shook him violently and again bade him read.
- In Arabic iqraʼ; a great difference of opinion exists even among Mohammedans about the exact meaning of this word. I have followed the most generally accepted tradition that it has its ordinary signification of ‘ reading,’ and this is supported by the reference immediately afterwards to writing; others take it to mean ‘ recite!’ Sprenger imagines it to mean ‘ read the Jewish and Christian scriptures,’ which, however ingenious, is, as an Arab would say, bârid, singularly frigid and foreign to the spirit of the language.