Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 6.djvu/274

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148
Ⅶ, 77-83.
the qur′ân.


And Lot, when he said to his people, ‘ Do ye approach an abomination which no one in all the world ever anticipated you in ? verily, ye approach men with lust rather than women — nay, ye are a people who exceed.’ 80 But his people's answer only was to say, ‘ Turn them out of your village, verily, they are a people who pretend to purity.’ But we saved him and his people, except his wife, who was of those who lingered ; and we rained down upon them a rain; — see then how was the end of the sinners !

And unto Midian did we send their brother


    kind, and if asked to which of his national saints the camel belonged you will find that he has never even thought of the question at all. There is no point in attributing the mysterious footprint to the camel of Mohammed, for the celebrated “ night journey ” to heaven, the Prophet's only recorded aeronautic trip, was performed on Borak, a creature with the feet of a mule. But Mohammed has a legend in the Qur′ân of a certain “ Nebi Saleh,” who was sent as a prophet to the people of Thamûd, and whose divine mission was attested by the production of a she-camel from the rock. The author of “ El Islám ” certainly did visit the Sinaitic mountains, and may in all probability have taken the story from the national traditions of the Peninsula. The origin and history of Nebi Saleh is quite unknown to the present Bedawin inhabitants, but they nevertheless regard him with more national veneration than even Moses himself. I should therefore conclude that the Nebi Saleh of the tomb in Wady es Sheikl, the prophet of the camel′s footprint, and the Saleh of the Qur′ân are identical, and that the “ people of Thamûd ” are the Saracen inhabitants of Sinai, who preceded the Mohammedan invasion. Who then was Nebi Saleh ? Looking at the veneration in which his memory is held, and at the character of the miracle attributed to him — the rock smitten with a rod, and a live camel, the greatest of Bedawin blessings, miraculously produced therefrom — with the subsequent rebellion of the people for whom the Prophet worked the sign, I fancy we may recognise in the tradition a distorted reminiscence of the Israelitish lawgiver himself.’