Page:Sacred Books of the East - Volume 6.djvu/52

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the qurʼân

and one of the greatest poets of his age. He, too, set up as a prophet, but with so little success that he had to retire from the business at an early period of his career. It was probably his wonderful facility in language that induced him to imitate Mohammed’s example, and rely upon the 'miraculous' eloquence of his language in support of his pretensions to inspiration. He, however, missed the opportunities which Mohammed had; he was no great reformer himself, and there was no urgent need of a reform at the time. Moreover, he was entirely destitute of religious feeling, and, even in his earliest poems, so blasphemes and sneers at holy names that his most devoted commentators are frequently at a loss to find excuses for him.

In forming our estimate of Mohammed’s character, therefore, and of the religion which we are accustomed to call by his name, we must put aside the theories of imposture and enthusiasm, as well as that of divine inspiration. Even the theory of his being a great political reformer does not contain the whole truth; and although it is certain that his personal character exercised a most important influence on his doctrine, yet it is not by any means evident that it even moulded it into its present shape.

The enthusiasm which he himself inspired, and the readiness with which such men as Abu Bekr and Omar, Arabs of the noblest birth, ranged themselves amongst his followers, who consisted for the most part of men of the lowest rank, slaves, freedmen, and the like, prove that he could have been no mere impostor.

The early portions of the Qurʼân are the genuine rhapsodies of an enthusiast who believed himself inspired, and Mohammed himself points to them in the later Surahs as irrefragable proofs of the divine origin of his mission. In his later history, however, there are evidences of that tendency to pious fraud which the profession of a prophet necessarily involves. Although commenced in perfect good faith, such a profession must place the enthusiast at last in an embarrassing position, and the very desire to prove the truth of what he himself believes may reduce him to