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The History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 5 by Edward Gibbon

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Note: Compare the Hist. Yemanae, published by Johannsen at
Bonn 1880 particularly the translator's preface. - M.]

[Footnote 29: They are described by Menander, (Excerpt. Legation
p. 149,) Procopius, (de Bell. Persic. l. i. c. 17, 19, l. ii. c.
10,) and, in the most lively colors, by Ammianus Marcellinus, (l.
xiv. c. 4,) who had spoken of them as early as the reign of

[Footnote 30: The name which, used by Ptolemy and Pliny in a more
confined, by Ammianus and Procopius in a larger, sense, has been
derived, ridiculously, from Sarah, the wife of Abraham, obscurely
from the village of Saraka, (Stephan. de Urbibus,) more plausibly
from the Arabic words, which signify a thievish character, or
Oriental situation, (Hottinger, Hist. Oriental. l. i. c. i. p. 7,
8. Pocock, Specimen, p. 33, 35. Asseman. Bibliot. Orient. tom.
iv. p. 567.) Yet the last and most popular of these etymologies
is refuted by Ptolemy, (Arabia, p. 2, 18, in Hudson, tom. iv.,)
who expressly remarks the western and southern position of the
Saracens, then an obscure tribe on the borders of Egypt. The
appellation cannot therefore allude to any national character;
and, since it was imposed by strangers, it must be found, not in
the Arabic, but in a foreign language.

Note: Dr. Clarke, (Travels, vol. ii. p. 491,) after
expressing contemptuous pity for Gibbon's ignorance, derives the
word from Zara, Zaara, Sara, the Desert, whence Saraceni, the
children of the Desert. De Marles adopts the derivation from
Sarrik, a robber, (Hist. des Arabes, vol. i. p. 36, S.L. Martin
from Scharkioun, or Sharkun, Eastern, vol. xi. p. 55. - M.]

Chapter L: Description Of Arabia And Its Inhabitants.

Part II.

The slaves of domestic tyranny may vainly exult in their
national independence: but the Arab is personally free; and he
enjoys, in some degree, the benefits of society, without
forfeiting the prerogatives of nature. In every tribe,
superstition, or gratitude, or fortune, has exalted a particular
family above the heads of their equals. The dignities of sheick
and emir invariably descend in this chosen race; but the order of
succession is loose and precarious; and the most worthy or aged
of the noble kinsmen are preferred to the simple, though
important, office of composing disputes by their advice, and
guiding valor by their example. Even a female of sense and spirit
has been permitted to command the countrymen of Zenobia. ^31 The
momentary junction of several tribes produces an army: their more
lasting union constitutes a nation; and the supreme chief, the
emir of emirs, whose banner is displayed at their head, may
deserve, in the eyes of strangers, the honors of the kingly name.

If the Arabian princes abuse their power, they are quickly
punished by the desertion of their subjects, who had been
accustomed to a mild and parental jurisdiction. Their spirit is
free, their steps are unconfined, the desert is open, and the
tribes and families are held together by a mutual and voluntary
compact. The softer natives of Yemen supported the pomp and
majesty of a monarch; but if he could not leave his palace
without endangering his life, ^32 the active powers of government
must have been devolved on his nobles and magistrates. The
cities of Mecca and Medina present, in the heart of Asia, the
form, or rather the substance, of a commonwealth. The
grandfather of Mahomet, and his lineal ancestors, appear in
foreign and domestic transactions as the princes of their
country; but they reigned, like Pericles at Athens, or the Medici
at Florence, by the opinion of their wisdom and integrity; their
influence was divided with their patrimony; and the sceptre was
transferred from the uncles of the prophet to a younger branch of
the tribe of Koreish. On solemn occasions they convened the
assembly of the people; and, since mankind must be either
compelled or persuaded to obey, the use and reputation of oratory
among the ancient Arabs is the clearest evidence of public
freedom. ^33 But their simple freedom was of a very different
cast from the nice and artificial machinery of the Greek and
Roman republics, in which each member possessed an undivided
share of the civil and political rights of the community. In the
more simple state of the Arabs, the nation is free, because each
of her sons disdains a base submission to the will of a master.
His breast is fortified by the austere virtues of courage,
patience, and sobriety; the love of independence prompts him to
exercise the habits of self-command; and the fear of dishonor
guards him from the meaner apprehension of pain, of danger, and
of death. The gravity and firmness of the mind is conspicuous in
his outward demeanor; his speech is low, weighty, and concise; he
is seldom provoked to laughter; his only gesture is that of
stroking his beard, the venerable symbol of manhood; and the
sense of his own importance teaches him to accost his equals
without levity, and his superiors without awe. ^34 The liberty of
the Saracens survived their conquests: the first caliphs indulged
the bold and familiar language of their subjects; they ascended
the pulpit to persuade and edify the congregation; nor was it
before the seat of empire was removed to the Tigris, that the
Abbasides adopted the proud and pompous ceremonial of the Persian
and Byzantine courts.

[Footnote 31: Saraceni ... mulieres aiunt in eos regnare,
(Expositio totius Mundi, p. 3, in Hudson, tom. iii.) The reign of
Mavia is famous in ecclesiastical story Pocock, Specimen, p. 69,

[Footnote 32: The report of Agatharcides, (de Mari Rubro, p. 63,
64, in Hudson, tom. i.) Diodorus Siculus, (tom. i. l. iii. c. 47,
p. 215,) and Strabo, (l. xvi. p. 1124.) But I much suspect that
this is one of the popular tales, or extraordinary accidents,
which the credulity of travellers so often transforms into a
fact, a custom, and a law.]

[Footnote 33: Non gloriabantur antiquitus Arabes, nisi gladio,
hospite, et eloquentia (Sephadius apud Pocock, Specimen, p. 161,
162.) This gift of speech they shared only with the Persians; and
the sententious Arabs would probably have disdained the simple
and sublime logic of Demosthenes.]

[Footnote 34: I must remind the reader that D'Arvieux,
D'Herbelot, and Niebuhr, represent, in the most lively colors,
the manners and government of the Arabs, which are illustrated by
many incidental passages in the Life of Mahomet.

Note: See, likewise the curious romance of Antar, the most
vivid and authentic picture of Arabian manners. - M.]

In the study of nations and men, we may observe the causes
that render them hostile or friendly to each other, that tend to
narrow or enlarge, to mollify or exasperate, the social
character. The separation of the Arabs from the rest of mankind
has accustomed them to confound the ideas of stranger and enemy;
and the poverty of the land has introduced a maxim of
jurisprudence, which they believe and practise to the present
hour. They pretend, that, in the division of the earth, the rich
and fertile climates were assigned to the other branches of the
human family; and that the posterity of the outlaw Ismael might
recover, by fraud or force, the portion of inheritance of which
he had been unjustly deprived. According to the remark of Pliny,
the Arabian tribes are equally addicted to theft and merchandise;
the caravans that traverse the desert are ransomed or pillaged;
and their neighbors, since the remote times of Job and Sesostris,
^35 have been the victims of their rapacious spirit. If a
Bedoween discovers from afar a solitary traveller, he rides
furiously against him, crying, with a loud voice, "Undress
thyself, thy aunt (my wife) is without a garment." A ready
submission entitles him to mercy; resistance will provoke the
aggressor, and his own blood must expiate the blood which he
presumes to shed in legitimate defence. A single robber, or a
few associates, are branded with their genuine name; but the
exploits of a numerous band assume the character of lawful and
honorable war. The temper of a people thus armed against mankind
was doubly inflamed by the domestic license of rapine, murder,
and revenge. In the constitution of Europe, the right of peace
and war is now confined to a small, and the actual exercise to a
much smaller, list of respectable potentates; but each Arab, with
impunity and renown, might point his javelin against the life of
his countrymen. The union of the nation consisted only in a
vague resemblance of language and manners; and in each community,
the jurisdiction of the magistrate was mute and impotent. Of the
time of ignorance which preceded Mahomet, seventeen hundred
battles ^36 are recorded by tradition: hostility was imbittered
with the rancor of civil faction; and the recital, in prose or
verse, of an obsolete feud, was sufficient to rekindle the same
passions among the descendants of the hostile tribes. In private
life every man, at least every family, was the judge and avenger
of his own cause. The nice sensibility of honor, which weighs
the insult rather than the injury, sheds its deadly venom on the
quarrels of the Arabs: the honor of their women, and of their
beards, is most easily wounded; an indecent action, a
contemptuous word, can be expiated only by the blood of the
offender; and such is their patient inveteracy, that they expect
whole months and years the opportunity of revenge. A fine or
compensation for murder is familiar to the Barbarians of every
age: but in Arabia the kinsmen of the dead are at liberty to
accept the atonement, or to exercise with their own hands the law
of retaliation. The refined malice of the Arabs refuses even the
head of the murderer, substitutes an innocent for the guilty
person, and transfers the penalty to the best and most
considerable of the race by whom they have been injured. If he
falls by their hands, they are exposed, in their turn, to the
danger of reprisals, the interest and principal of the bloody
debt are accumulated: the individuals of either family lead a
life of malice and suspicion, and fifty years may sometimes
elapse before the account of vengeance be finally settled. ^37
This sanguinary spirit, ignorant of pity or forgiveness, has been
moderated, however, by the maxims of honor, which require in
every private encounter some decent equality of age and strength,
of numbers and weapons. An annual festival of two, perhaps of
four, months, was observed by the Arabs before the time of
Mahomet, during which their swords were religiously sheathed both
in foreign and domestic hostility; and this partial truce is more
strongly expressive of the habits of anarchy and warfare. ^38

[Footnote 35: Observe the first chapter of Job, and the long wall
of 1500 stadia which Sesostris built from Pelusium to Heliopolis,
(Diodor. Sicul. tom. i. l. i. p. 67.) Under the name of Hycsos,
the shepherd kings, they had formerly subdued Egypt, (Marsham,
Canon. Chron. p. 98 - 163) &c.)

Note: This origin of the Hycsos, though probable, is by no
means so certain here is some reason for supposing them
Scythians. - M]

[Footnote 36: Or, according to another account, 1200,
(D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 75: ) the two historians
who wrote of the Ayam al Arab, the battles of the Arabs, lived in
the 9th and 10th century. The famous war of Dahes and Gabrah was
occasioned by two horses, lasted forty years, and ended in a
proverb, (Pocock, Specimen, p. 48.)]

[Footnote 37: The modern theory and practice of the Arabs in the
revenge of murder are described by Niebuhr, (Description, p. 26 -
31.) The harsher features of antiquity may be traced in the
Koran, c. 2, p. 20, c. 17, p. 230, with Sale's Observations.]

[Footnote 38: Procopius (de Bell. Persic. l. i. c. 16) places the
two holy months about the summer solstice. The Arabians
consecrate four months of the year - the first, seventh,
eleventh, and twelfth; and pretend, that in a long series of ages
the truce was infringed only four or six times, (Sale's
Preliminary Discourse, p. 147 - 150, and Notes on the ixth
chapter of the Koran, p. 154, &c. Casiri, Bibliot.
Hispano-Arabica, tom. ii. p. 20, 21.)]

But the spirit of rapine and revenge was attempered by the
milder influence of trade and literature. The solitary peninsula
is encompassed by the most civilized nations of the ancient
world; the merchant is the friend of mankind; and the annual
caravans imported the first seeds of knowledge and politeness
into the cities, and even the camps of the desert. Whatever may
be the pedigree of the Arabs, their language is derived from the
same original stock with the Hebrew, the Syriac, and the
Chaldaean tongues; the independence of the tribes was marked by
their peculiar dialects; ^39 but each, after their own, allowed a
just preference to the pure and perspicuous idiom of Mecca. In
Arabia, as well as in Greece, the perfection of language
outstripped the refinement of manners; and her speech could
diversify the fourscore names of honey, the two hundred of a
serpent, the five hundred of a lion, the thousand of a sword, at
a time when this copious dictionary was intrusted to the memory
of an illiterate people. The monuments of the Homerites were
inscribed with an obsolete and mysterious character; but the
Cufic letters, the groundwork of the present alphabet, were
invented on the banks of the Euphrates; and the recent invention
was taught at Mecca by a stranger who settled in that city after
the birth of Mahomet. The arts of grammar, of metre, and of
rhetoric, were unknown to the freeborn eloquence of the Arabians;
but their penetration was sharp, their fancy luxuriant, their wit
strong and sententious, ^40 and their more elaborate compositions
were addressed with energy and effect to the minds of their
hearers. The genius and merit of a rising poet was celebrated by
the applause of his own and the kindred tribes. A solemn banquet
was prepared, and a chorus of women, striking their tymbals, and
displaying the pomp of their nuptials, sung in the presence of
their sons and husbands the felicity of their native tribe; that
a champion had now appeared to vindicate their rights; that a
herald had raised his voice to immortalize their renown. The
distant or hostile tribes resorted to an annual fair, which was
abolished by the fanaticism of the first Moslems; a national
assembly that must have contributed to refine and harmonize the
Barbarians. Thirty days were employed in the exchange, not only
of corn and wine, but of eloquence and poetry. The prize was
disputed by the generous emulation of the bards; the victorious
performance was deposited in the archives of princes and emirs;
and we may read in our own language, the seven original poems
which were inscribed in letters of gold, and suspended in the
temple of Mecca. ^41 The Arabian poets were the historians and
moralists of the age; and if they sympathized with the
prejudices, they inspired and crowned the virtues, of their
countrymen. The indissoluble union of generosity and valor was
the darling theme of their song; and when they pointed their
keenest satire against a despicable race, they affirmed, in the
bitterness of reproach, that the men knew not how to give, nor
the women to deny. ^42 The same hospitality, which was practised
by Abraham, and celebrated by Homer, is still renewed in the
camps of the Arabs. The ferocious Bedoweens, the terror of the
desert, embrace, without inquiry or hesitation, the stranger who
dares to confide in their honor and to enter their tent. His
treatment is kind and respectful: he shares the wealth, or the
poverty, of his host; and, after a needful repose, he is
dismissed on his way, with thanks, with blessings, and perhaps
with gifts. The heart and hand are more largely expanded by the
wants of a brother or a friend; but the heroic acts that could
deserve the public applause, must have surpassed the narrow
measure of discretion and experience. A dispute had arisen, who,
among the citizens of Mecca, was entitled to the prize of
generosity; and a successive application was made to the three
who were deemed most worthy of the trial. Abdallah, the son of
Abbas, had undertaken a distant journey, and his foot was in the
stirrup when he heard the voice of a suppliant, "O son of the
uncle of the apostle of God, I am a traveller, and in distress!"
He instantly dismounted to present the pilgrim with his camel,
her rich caparison, and a purse of four thousand pieces of gold,
excepting only the sword, either for its intrinsic value, or as
the gift of an honored kinsman. The servant of Kais informed the
second suppliant that his master was asleep: but he immediately
added, "Here is a purse of seven thousand pieces of gold, (it is
all we have in the house,) and here is an order, that will
entitle you to a camel and a slave;" the master, as soon as he
awoke, praised and enfranchised his faithful steward, with a
gentle reproof, that by respecting his slumbers he had stinted
his bounty. The third of these heroes, the blind Arabah, at the
hour of prayer, was supporting his steps on the shoulders of two
slaves. "Alas!" he replied, "my coffers are empty! but these
you may sell; if you refuse, I renounce them." At these words,
pushing away the youths, he groped along the wall with his staff.

The character of Hatem is the perfect model of Arabian virtue:
^43 he was brave and liberal, an eloquent poet, and a successful
robber; forty camels were roasted at his hospitable feast; and at
the prayer of a suppliant enemy he restored both the captives and
the spoil. The freedom of his countrymen disdained the laws of
justice; they proudly indulged the spontaneous impulse of pity
and benevolence.

[Footnote 39: Arrian, in the second century, remarks (in Periplo
Maris Erythraei, p. 12) the partial or total difference of the
dialects of the Arabs. Their language and letters are copiously
treated by Pocock, (Specimen, p. 150 - 154,) Casiri, (Bibliot.
Hispano-Arabica, tom. i. p. 1, 83, 292, tom. ii. p. 25, &c.,) and
Niebuhr, (Description de l'Arabie, p. 72 - 36) I pass slightly; I
am not fond of repeating words like a parrot.]

[Footnote 40: A familiar tale in Voltaire's Zadig (le Chien et le
Cheval) is related, to prove the natural sagacity of the Arabs,
(D'Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 120, 121. Gagnier, Vie de
Mahomet, tom. i. p. 37 - 46: ) but D'Arvieux, or rather La Roque,
(Voyage de Palestine, p. 92,) denies the boasted superiority of
the Bedoweens. The one hundred and sixty-nine sentences of Ali
(translated by Ockley, London, 1718) afford a just and favorable
specimen of Arabian wit.

Note: Compare the Arabic proverbs translated by Burckhardt.
London. 1830 - M.]

[Footnote 41: Pocock (Specimen, p. 158 - 161) and Casiri
(Bibliot. Hispano- Arabica, tom. i. p. 48, 84, &c., 119, tom. ii.
p. 17, &c.) speak of the Arabian poets before Mahomet; the seven
poems of the Caaba have been published in English by Sir William
Jones; but his honorable mission to India has deprived us of his
own notes, far more interesting than the obscure and obsolete

[Footnote 42: Sale's Preliminary Discourse, p. 29, 30]

[Footnote 43: D'Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 458. Gagnier, Vie
de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 118. Caab and Hesnus (Pocock, Specimen,
p. 43, 46, 48) were likewise conspicuous for their liberality;
and the latter is elegantly praised by an Arabian poet: "Videbis
eum cum accesseris exultantem, ac si dares illi quod ab illo

Note: See the translation of the amusing Persian romance of
Hatim Tai, by Duncan Forbes, Esq., among the works published by
the Oriental Translation Fund. - M.]

The religion of the Arabs, ^44 as well as of the Indians,
consisted in the worship of the sun, the moon, and the fixed
stars; a primitive and specious mode of superstition. The bright
luminaries of the sky display the visible image of a Deity: their
number and distance convey to a philosophic, or even a vulgar,
eye, the idea of boundless space: the character of eternity is
marked on these solid globes, that seem incapable of corruption
or decay: the regularity of their motions may be ascribed to a
principle of reason or instinct; and their real, or imaginary,
influence encourages the vain belief that the earth and its
inhabitants are the object of their peculiar care. The science
of astronomy was cultivated at Babylon; but the school of the
Arabs was a clear firmament and a naked plain. In their
nocturnal marches, they steered by the guidance of the stars:
their names, and order, and daily station, were familiar to the
curiosity and devotion of the Bedoween; and he was taught by
experience to divide, in twenty-eight parts, the zodiac of the
moon, and to bless the constellations who refreshed, with
salutary rains, the thirst of the desert. The reign of the
heavenly orbs could not be extended beyond the visible sphere;
and some metaphysical powers were necessary to sustain the
transmigration of souls and the resurrection of bodies: a camel
was left to perish on the grave, that he might serve his master
in another life; and the invocation of departed spirits implies
that they were still endowed with consciousness and power. I am
ignorant, and I am careless, of the blind mythology of the
Barbarians; of the local deities, of the stars, the air, and the
earth, of their sex or titles, their attributes or subordination.
Each tribe, each family, each independent warrior, created and
changed the rites and the object of his fantastic worship; but
the nation, in every age, has bowed to the religion, as well as
to the language, of Mecca. The genuine antiquity of the Caaba
ascends beyond the Christian aera; in describing the coast of the
Red Sea, the Greek historian Diodorus ^45 has remarked, between
the Thamudites and the Sabaeans, a famous temple, whose superior
sanctity was revered by all the Arabians; the linen or silken
veil, which is annually renewed by the Turkish emperor, was first
offered by a pious king of the Homerites, who reigned seven
hundred years before the time of Mahomet. ^46 A tent, or a
cavern, might suffice for the worship of the savages, but an
edifice of stone and clay has been erected in its place; and the
art and power of the monarchs of the East have been confined to
the simplicity of the original model. ^47 A spacious portico
encloses the quadrangle of the Caaba; a square chapel,
twenty-four cubits long, twenty-three broad, and twenty-seven
high: a door and a window admit the light; the double roof is
supported by three pillars of wood; a spout (now of gold)
discharges the rain-water, and the well Zemzen is protected by a
dome from accidental pollution. The tribe of Koreish, by fraud
and force, had acquired the custody of the Caaba: the sacerdotal
office devolved through four lineal descents to the grandfather
of Mahomet; and the family of the Hashemites, from whence he
sprung, was the most respectable and sacred in the eyes of their
country. ^48 The precincts of Mecca enjoyed the rights of
sanctuary; and, in the last month of each year, the city and the
temple were crowded with a long train of pilgrims, who presented
their vows and offerings in the house of God. The same rites
which are now accomplished by the faithful Mussulman, were
invented and practised by the superstition of the idolaters. At
an awful distance they cast away their garments: seven times,
with hasty steps, they encircled the Caaba, and kissed the black
stone: seven times they visited and adored the adjacent
mountains; seven times they threw stones into the valley of Mina;
and the pilgrimage was achieved, as at the present hour, by a
sacrifice of sheep and camels, and the burial of their hair and
nails in the consecrated ground. Each tribe either found or
introduced in the Caaba their domestic worship: the temple was
adorned, or defiled, with three hundred and sixty idols of men,
eagles, lions, and antelopes; and most conspicuous was the statue
of Hebal, of red agate, holding in his hand seven arrows, without
heads or feathers, the instruments and symbols of profane
divination. But this statue was a monument of Syrian arts: the
devotion of the ruder ages was content with a pillar or a tablet;
and the rocks of the desert were hewn into gods or altars, in
imitation of the black stone ^49 of Mecca, which is deeply
tainted with the reproach of an idolatrous origin. From Japan to
Peru, the use of sacrifice has universally prevailed; and the
votary has expressed his gratitude, or fear, by destroying or
consuming, in honor of the gods, the dearest and most precious of
their gifts. The life of a man ^50 is the most precious oblation
to deprecate a public calamity: the altars of Phoenicia and
Egypt, of Rome and Carthage, have been polluted with human gore:
the cruel practice was long preserved among the Arabs; in the
third century, a boy was annually sacrificed by the tribe of the
Dumatians; ^51 and a royal captive was piously slaughtered by the
prince of the Saracens, the ally and soldier of the emperor
Justinian. ^52 A parent who drags his son to the altar, exhibits
the most painful and sublime effort of fanaticism: the deed, or
the intention, was sanctified by the example of saints and
heroes; and the father of Mahomet himself was devoted by a rash
vow, and hardly ransomed for the equivalent of a hundred camels.
In the time of ignorance, the Arabs, like the Jews and Egyptians,
abstained from the taste of swine's flesh; ^53 they circumcised
^54 their children at the age of puberty: the same customs,
without the censure or the precept of the Koran, have been
silently transmitted to their posterity and proselytes. It has
been sagaciously conjectured, that the artful legislator indulged
the stubborn prejudices of his countrymen. It is more simple to
believe that he adhered to the habits and opinions of his youth,
without foreseeing that a practice congenial to the climate of
Mecca might become useless or inconvenient on the banks of the
Danube or the Volga.

[Footnote 44: Whatever can now be known of the idolatry of the
ancient Arabians may be found in Pocock, (Specimen, p. 89 - 136,
163, 164.) His profound erudition is more clearly and concisely
interpreted by Sale, (Preliminary Discourse, p. 14 - 24;) and
Assemanni (Bibliot. Orient tom. iv. p. 580 - 590) has added some
valuable remarks.]

[Footnote 45: (Diodor. Sicul. tom. i. l. iii. p. 211.) The
character and position are so correctly apposite, that I am
surprised how this curious passage should have been read without
notice or application. Yet this famous temple had been overlooked
by Agatharcides, (de Mari Rubro, p. 58, in Hudson, tom. i.,) whom
Diodorus copies in the rest of the description. Was the Sicilian
more knowing than the Egyptian? Or was the Caaba built between
the years of Rome 650 and 746, the dates of their respective
histories? (Dodwell, in Dissert. ad tom. i. Hudson, p. 72.
Fabricius, Bibliot. Graec. tom. ii. p. 770.)

Note: Mr. Forster (Geography of Arabia, vol. ii. p. 118, et
seq.) has raised an objection, as I think, fatal to this
hypothesis of Gibbon. The temple, situated in the country of the
Banizomeneis, was not between the Thamudites and the Sabaeans,
but higher up than the coast inhabited by the former. Mr.
Forster would place it as far north as Moiiah. I am not quite
satisfied that this will agree with the whole description of
Diodorus - M. 1845.]

[Footnote 46: Pocock, Specimen, p. 60, 61. From the death of
Mahomet we ascend to 68, from his birth to 129, years before the
Christian aera. The veil or curtain, which is now of silk and
gold, was no more than a piece of Egyptian linen, (Abulfeda, in
Vit. Mohammed. c. 6, p. 14.)]

[Footnote 47: The original plan of the Caaba (which is servilely
copied in Sale, the Universal History, &c.) was a Turkish
draught, which Reland (de Religione Mohammedica, p. 113 - 123)
has corrected and explained from the best authorities. For the
description and legend of the Caaba, consult Pocock, (Specimen,
p. 115 - 122,) the Bibliotheque Orientale of D'Herbelot, (Caaba,
Hagir, Zemzem, &c.,) and Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p. 114 -

[Footnote 48: Cosa, the fifth ancestor of Mahomet, must have
usurped the Caaba A.D. 440; but the story is differently told by
Jannabi, (Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 65 - 69,) and by
Abulfeda, (in Vit. Moham. c. 6, p. 13.)]

[Footnote 49: In the second century, Maximus of Tyre attributes
to the Arabs the worship of a stone, (Dissert. viii. tom. i. p.
142, edit. Reiske;) and the reproach is furiously reechoed by the
Christians, (Clemens Alex. in Protreptico, p. 40. Arnobius
contra Gentes, l. vi. p. 246.) Yet these stones were no other
than of Syria and Greece, so renowned in sacred and profane
antiquity, (Euseb. Praep. Evangel. l. i. p. 37. Marsham, Canon.
Chron. p. 54 - 56.)]

[Footnote 50: The two horrid subjects are accurately discussed by
the learned Sir John Marsham, (Canon. Chron. p. 76 - 78, 301 -
304.) Sanchoniatho derives the Phoenician sacrifices from the
example of Chronus; but we are ignorant whether Chronus lived
before, or after, Abraham, or indeed whether he lived at all.]

[Footnote 51: The reproach of Porphyry; but he likewise imputes
to the Roman the same barbarous custom, which, A. U. C. 657, had
been finally abolished. Dumaetha, Daumat al Gendai, is noticed by
Ptolemy (Tabul. p. 37, Arabia, p. 9 - 29) and Abulfeda, (p. 57,)
and may be found in D'Anville's maps, in the mid-desert between
Chaibar and Tadmor.]

[Footnote 52: Prcoopius, (de Bell. Persico, l. i. c. 28,)
Evagrius, (l. vi. c. 21,) and Pocock, (Specimen, p. 72, 86,)
attest the human sacrifices of the Arabs in the vith century.
The danger and escape of Abdallah is a tradition rather than a
fact, (Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 82 - 84.)]

[Footnote 53: Suillis carnibus abstinent, says Solinus,
(Polyhistor. c. 33,) who copies Pliny (l. viii. c. 68) in the
strange supposition, that hogs can not live in Arabia. The
Egyptians were actuated by a natural and superstitious horror for
that unclean beast, (Marsham, Canon. p. 205.) The old Arabians
likewise practised, post coitum, the rite of ablution, (Herodot.
l. i. c. 80,) which is sanctified by the Mahometan law, (Reland,
p. 75, &c., Chardin, or rather the Mollah of Shah Abbas, tom. iv.
p. 71, &c.)]

[Footnote 54: The Mahometan doctors are not fond of the subject;
yet they hold circumcision necessary to salvation, and even
pretend that Mahomet was miraculously born without a foreskin,
(Pocock, Specimen, p. 319, 320. Sale's Preliminary Discourse, p.
106, 107.)]

Chapter L: Description Of Arabia And Its Inhabitants.

Part III.

Arabia was free: the adjacent kingdoms were shaken by the
storms of conquest and tyranny, and the persecuted sects fled to
the happy land where they might profess what they thought, and
practise what they professed. The religions of the Sabians and
Magians, of the Jews and Christians, were disseminated from the
Persian Gulf to the Red Sea. In a remote period of antiquity,
Sabianism was diffused over Asia by the science of the Chaldaeans
^55 and the arms of the Assyrians. From the observations of two
thousand years, the priests and astronomers of Babylon ^56
deduced the eternal laws of nature and providence. They adored
the seven gods or angels, who directed the course of the seven
planets, and shed their irresistible influence on the earth. The
attributes of the seven planets, with the twelve signs of the
zodiac, and the twenty-four constellations of the northern and
southern hemisphere, were represented by images and talismans;
the seven days of the week were dedicated to their respective
deities; the Sabians prayed thrice each day; and the temple of
the moon at Haran was the term of their pilgrimage. ^57 But the
flexible genius of their faith was always ready either to teach
or to learn: in the tradition of the creation, the deluge, and
the patriarchs, they held a singular agreement with their Jewish
captives; they appealed to the secret books of Adam, Seth, and
Enoch; and a slight infusion of the gospel has transformed the
last remnant of the Polytheists into the Christians of St. John,
in the territory of Bassora. ^58 The altars of Babylon were
overturned by the Magians; but the injuries of the Sabians were
revenged by the sword of Alexander; Persia groaned above five
hundred years under a foreign yoke; and the purest disciples of
Zoroaster escaped from the contagion of idolatry, and breathed
with their adversaries the freedom of the desert. ^59 Seven
hundred years before the death of Mahomet, the Jews were settled
in Arabia; and a far greater multitude was expelled from the Holy
Land in the wars of Titus and Hadrian. The industrious exiles
aspired to liberty and power: they erected synagogues in the
cities, and castles in the wilderness, and their Gentile converts
were confounded with the children of Israel, whom they resembled
in the outward mark of circumcision. The Christian missionaries
were still more active and successful: the Catholics asserted
their universal reign; the sects whom they oppressed,
successively retired beyond the limits of the Roman empire; the
Marcionites and Manichaeans dispersed their fantastic opinions
and apocryphal gospels; the churches of Yemen, and the princes of
Hira and Gassan, were instructed in a purer creed by the Jacobite
and Nestorian bishops. ^60 The liberty of choice was presented to
the tribes: each Arab was free to elect or to compose his private
religion: and the rude superstition of his house was mingled with
the sublime theology of saints and philosophers. A fundamental
article of faith was inculcated by the consent of the learned
strangers; the existence of one supreme God who is exalted above
the powers of heaven and earth, but who has often revealed
himself to mankind by the ministry of his angels and prophets,
and whose grace or justice has interrupted, by seasonable
miracles, the order of nature. The most rational of the Arabs
acknowledged his power, though they neglected his worship; ^61
and it was habit rather than conviction that still attached them
to the relics of idolatry. The Jews and Christians were the
people of the Book; the Bible was already translated into the
Arabic language, ^62 and the volume of the Old Testament was
accepted by the concord of these implacable enemies. In the
story of the Hebrew patriarchs, the Arabs were pleased to
discover the fathers of their nation. They applauded the birth
and promises of Ismael; revered the faith and virtue of Abraham;
traced his pedigree and their own to the creation of the first
man, and imbibed, with equal credulity, the prodigies of the holy
text, and the dreams and traditions of the Jewish rabbis.

[Footnote 55: Diodorus Siculus (tom. i. l. ii. p. 142 - 145) has
cast on their religion the curious but superficial glance of a
Greek. Their astronomy would be far more valuable: they had
looked through the telescope of reason, since they could doubt
whether the sun were in the number of the planets or of the fixed

[Footnote 56: Simplicius, (who quotes Porphyry,) de Coelo, l. ii.
com. xlvi p. 123, lin. 18, apud Marsham, Canon. Chron. p. 474,
who doubts the fact, because it is adverse to his systems. The
earliest date of the Chaldaean observations is the year 2234
before Christ. After the conquest of Babylon by Alexander, they
were communicated at the request of Aristotle, to the astronomer
Hipparchus. What a moment in the annals of science!]

[Footnote 57: Pocock, (Specimen, p. 138 - 146,) Hottinger, (Hist.
Orient. p. 162 - 203,) Hyde, (de Religione Vet. Persarum, p. 124,
128, &c.,) D'Herbelot, (Sabi, p. 725, 726,) and Sale,
(Preliminary Discourse, p. 14, 15,) rather excite than gratify
our curiosity; and the last of these writers confounds Sabianism
with the primitive religion of the Arabs.]

[Footnote 58: D'Anville (l'Euphrate et le Tigre, p. 130 - 137)
will fix the position of these ambiguous Christians; Assemannus
(Bibliot. Oriental. tom. iv. p. 607 - 614) may explain their
tenets. But it is a slippery task to ascertain the creed of an
ignorant people afraid and ashamed to disclose their secret

Note: The Codex Nasiraeus, their sacred book, has been
published by Norberg whose researches contain almost all that is
known of this singular people. But their origin is almost as
obscure as ever: if ancient, their creed has been so corrupted
with mysticism and Mahometanism, that its native lineaments are
very indistinct. - M.]

[Footnote 59: The Magi were fixed in the province of B hrein,
(Gagnier, Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 114,) and mingled with the
old Arabians, (Pocock, Specimen, p. 146 - 150.)]

[Footnote 60: The state of the Jews and Christians in Arabia is
described by Pocock from Sharestani, &c., (Specimen, p. 60, 134,
&c.,) Hottinger, (Hist. Orient. p. 212 - 238,) D'Herbelot,
(Bibliot. Orient. p. 474 - 476,) Basnage, (Hist. des Juifs, tom.
vii. p. 185, tom. viii. p. 280,) and Sale, (Preliminary
Discourse, p. 22, &c., 33, &c.)]

[Footnote 61: In their offerings, it was a maxim to defraud God
for the profit of the idol, not a more potent, but a more
irritable, patron, (Pocock, Specimen, p. 108, 109.)]

[Footnote 62: Our versions now extant, whether Jewish or
Christian, appear more recent than the Koran; but the existence
of a prior translation may be fairly inferred, - 1. From the
perpetual practice of the synagogue of expounding the Hebrew
lesson by a paraphrase in the vulgar tongue of the country; 2.
From the analogy of the Armenian, Persian, Aethiopic versions,
expressly quoted by the fathers of the fifth century, who assert
that the Scriptures were translated into all the Barbaric
languages, (Walton, Prolegomena ad Biblia Polyglot, p. 34, 93 -
97. Simon, Hist. Critique du V. et du N. Testament, tom. i. p.
180, 181, 282 - 286, 293, 305, 306, tom. iv. p. 206.)]

The base and plebeian origin of Mahomet is an unskilful
calumny of the Christians, ^63 who exalt instead of degrading the
merit of their adversary. His descent from Ismael was a national
privilege or fable; but if the first steps of the pedigree ^64
are dark and doubtful, he could produce many generations of pure
and genuine nobility: he sprung from the tribe of Koreish and the
family of Hashem, the most illustrious of the Arabs, the princes
of Mecca, and the hereditary guardians of the Caaba. The
grandfather of Mahomet was Abdol Motalleb, the son of Hashem, a
wealthy and generous citizen, who relieved the distress of famine
with the supplies of commerce. Mecca, which had been fed by the
liberality of the father, was saved by the courage of the son.
The kingdom of Yemen was subject to the Christian princes of
Abyssinia; their vassal Abrahah was provoked by an insult to
avenge the honor of the cross; and the holy city was invested by
a train of elephants and an army of Africans. A treaty was
proposed; and, in the first audience, the grandfather of Mahomet
demanded the restitution of his cattle. "And why," said Abrahah,
"do you not rather implore my clemency in favor of your temple,
which I have threatened to destroy?" "Because," replied the
intrepid chief, "the cattle is my own; the Caaba belongs to the
gods, and they will defend their house from injury and
sacrilege." The want of provisions, or the valor of the Koreish,
compelled the Abyssinians to a disgraceful retreat: their
discomfiture has been adorned with a miraculous flight of birds,
who showered down stones on the heads of the infidels; and the
deliverance was long commemorated by the aera of the elephant.
^65 The glory of Abdol Motalleb was crowned with domestic
happiness; his life was prolonged to the age of one hundred and
ten years; and he became the father of six daughters and thirteen
sons. His best beloved Abdallah was the most beautiful and modest
of the Arabian youth; and in the first night, when he consummated
his marriage with Amina, ^! of the noble race of the Zahrites,
two hundred virgins are said to have expired of jealousy and
despair. Mahomet, or more properly Mohammed, the only son of
Abdallah and Amina, was born at Mecca, four years after the death
of Justinian, and two months after the defeat of the Abyssinians,
^66 whose victory would have introduced into the Caaba the
religion of the Christians. In his early infancy, he was deprived
of his father, his mother, and his grandfather; his uncles were
strong and numerous; and, in the division of the inheritance, the
orphan's share was reduced to five camels and an Aethiopian
maid-servant. At home and abroad, in peace and war, Abu Taleb,
the most respectable of his uncles, was the guide and guardian of
his youth; in his twenty-fifth year, he entered into the service
of Cadijah, a rich and noble widow of Mecca, who soon rewarded
his fidelity with the gift of her hand and fortune. The marriage
contract, in the simple style of antiquity, recites the mutual
love of Mahomet and Cadijah; describes him as the most
accomplished of the tribe of Koreish; and stipulates a dowry of
twelve ounces of gold and twenty camels, which was supplied by
the liberality of his uncle. ^67 By this alliance, the son of
Abdallah was restored to the station of his ancestors; and the
judicious matron was content with his domestic virtues, till, in
the fortieth year of his age, ^68 he assumed the title of a
prophet, and proclaimed the religion of the Koran.

[Footnote 63: In eo conveniunt omnes, ut plebeio vilique genere
ortum, &c, (Hottinger, Hist. Orient. p. 136.) Yet Theophanes, the
most ancient of the Greeks, and the father of many a lie,
confesses that Mahomet was of the race of Ismael, (Chronograph.
p. 277.)]

[Footnote 64: Abulfeda (in Vit. Mohammed. c. 1, 2) and Gagnier
(Vie de Mahomet, p. 25 - 97) describe the popular and approved
genealogy of the prophet. At Mecca, I would not dispute its
authenticity: at Lausanne, I will venture to observe, 1. That
from Ismael to Mahomet, a period of 2500 years, they reckon
thirty, instead of seventy five, generations: 2. That the modern
Bedoweens are ignorant of their history, and careless of their
pedigree, (Voyage de D'Arvieux p. 100, 103.)

Note: The most orthodox Mahometans only reckon back the
ancestry of the prophet for twenty generations, to Adnan. Weil,
Mohammed der Prophet, p. 1. - M. 1845.]

[Footnote 65: The seed of this history, or fable, is contained in
the cvth chapter of the Koran; and Gagnier (in Praefat. ad Vit.
Moham. p. 18, &c.) has translated the historical narrative of
Abulfeda, which may be illustrated from D'Herbelot (Bibliot.
Orientale, p. 12) and Pocock, (Specimen, p. 64.) Prideaux (Life
of Mahomet, p. 48) calls it a lie of the coinage of Mahomet; but
Sale, (Koran, p. 501 - 503,) who is half a Mussulman, attacks the
inconsistent faith of the Doctor for believing the miracles of
the Delphic Apollo. Maracci (Alcoran, tom. i. part ii. p. 14,
tom. ii. p. 823) ascribes the miracle to the devil, and extorts
from the Mahometans the confession, that God would not have
defended against the Christians the idols of the Caaba.

Note: Dr. Weil says that the small-pox broke out in the army
of Abrahah, but he does not give his authority, p. 10. - M.

[Footnote !: Amina, or Emina, was of Jewish birth. V. Hammer,
Geschichte der Assass. p. 10. - M.]

[Footnote 66: The safest aeras of Abulfeda, (in Vit. c. i. p. 2,)
of Alexander, or the Greeks, 882, of Bocht Naser, or Nabonassar,
1316, equally lead us to the year 569. The old Arabian calendar
is too dark and uncertain to support the Benedictines, (Art. de
Verifer les Dates, p. 15,) who, from the day of the month and
week, deduce a new mode of calculation, and remove the birth of
Mahomet to the year of Christ 570, the 10th of November. Yet
this date would agree with the year 882 of the Greeks, which is
assigned by Elmacin (Hist. Saracen. p. 5) and Abulpharagius,
(Dynast. p. 101, and Errata, Pocock's version.) While we refine
our chronology, it is possible that the illiterate prophet was
ignorant of his own age.

Note: The date of the birth of Mahomet is not yet 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
Mahometan year; the year 40 or 42 of Chosroes Nushirvan, king of
Persia; the year 881 of the Seleucidan aera; the year 1316 of the
aera of Nabonassar. This leaves the point undecided between the
years 569, 570, 571, of J. C. See the Memoir of M. Silv. de
Sacy, on divers events in the history of the Arabs before
Mahomet, Mem. Acad. des Loscript. vol. xlvii. p. 527, 531. St.
Martin, vol. xi. p. 59. - M.

Dr. Weil decides on A.D. 571. Mahomet died in 632, aged 63;
but the Arabs reckoned his life by lunar years, which reduces his
life nearly to 61 (p. 21.) - M. 1845]

[Footnote 67: I copy the honorable testimony of Abu Taleb to his
family and nephew. Laus Dei, qui nos a stirpe Abrahami et semine
Ismaelis constituit, et nobis regionem sacram dedit, et nos
judices hominibus statuit. Porro Mohammed filius Abdollahi
nepotis mei (nepos meus) quo cum ex aequo librabitur e
Koraishidis quispiam cui non praeponderaturus est, bonitate et
excellentia, et intellectu et gloria, et acumine etsi opum inops
fuerit, (et certe opes umbra transiens sunt et depositum quod
reddi debet,) desiderio Chadijae filiae Chowailedi tenetur, et
illa vicissim ipsius, quicquid autem dotis vice petieritis, ego
in me suscipiam, (Pocock, Specimen, e septima parte libri Ebn

[Footnote 68: The private life of Mahomet, from his birth to his
mission, is preserved by Abulfeda, (in Vit. c. 3 - 7,) and the
Arabian writers of genuine or apocryphal note, who are alleged by
Hottinger, (Hist. Orient. p. 204 - 211) Maracci, (tom. i. p. 10 -
14,) and Gagnier, (Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 97 - 134.)]

According to the tradition of his companions, Mahomet ^69
was distinguished by the beauty of his person, an outward gift
which is seldom despised, except by those to whom it has been
refused. Before he spoke, the orator engaged on his side the
affections of a public or private audience. They applauded his
commanding presence, his majestic aspect, his piercing eye, his
gracious smile, his flowing beard, his countenance that painted
every sensation of the soul, and his gestures that enforced each
expression of the tongue. In the familiar offices of life he
scrupulously adhered to the grave and ceremonious politeness of
his country: his respectful attention to the rich and powerful
was dignified by his condescension and affability to the poorest
citizens of Mecca: the frankness of his manner concealed the
artifice of his views; and the habits of courtesy were imputed to
personal friendship or universal benevolence. His memory was
capacious and retentive; his wit easy and social; his imagination
sublime; his judgment clear, rapid, and decisive. He possessed
the courage both of thought and action; and, although his designs
might gradually expand with his success, the first idea which he
entertained of his divine mission bears the stamp of an original
and superior genius. The son of Abdallah was educated in the
bosom of the noblest race, in the use of the purest dialect of
Arabia; and the fluency of his speech was corrected and enhanced
by the practice of discreet and seasonable silence. With these
powers of eloquence, Mahomet was an illiterate Barbarian: his
youth had never been instructed in the arts of reading and
writing; ^70 the common ignorance exempted him from shame or
reproach, but he was reduced to a narrow circle of existence, and
deprived of those faithful mirrors, which reflect to our mind the
minds of sages and heroes. Yet the book of nature and of man was
open to his view; and some fancy has been indulged in the
political and philosophical observations which are ascribed to
the Arabian traveller. ^71 He compares the nations and the
regions of the earth; discovers the weakness of the Persian and
Roman monarchies; beholds, with pity and indignation, the
degeneracy of the times; and resolves to unite under one God and
one king the invincible spirit and primitive virtues of the
Arabs. Our more accurate inquiry will suggest, that, instead of
visiting the courts, the camps, the temples, of the East, the two
journeys of Mahomet into Syria were confined to the fairs of
Bostra and Damascus; that he was only thirteen years of age when
he accompanied the caravan of his uncle; and that his duty
compelled him to return as soon as he had disposed of the
merchandise of Cadijah. In these hasty and superficial
excursions, the eye of genius might discern some objects
invisible to his grosser companions; some seeds of knowledge
might be cast upon a fruitful soil; but his ignorance of the
Syriac language must have checked his curiosity; and I cannot
perceive, in the life or writings of Mahomet, that his prospect
was far extended beyond the limits of the Arabian world. From
every region of that solitary world, the pilgrims of Mecca were
annually assembled, by the calls of devotion and commerce: in the
free concourse of multitudes, a simple citizen, in his native
tongue, might study the political state and character of the
tribes, the theory and practice of the Jews and Christians. Some
useful strangers might be tempted, or forced, to implore the
rights of hospitality; and the enemies of Mahomet have named the
Jew, the Persian, and the Syrian monk, whom they accuse of
lending their secret aid to the composition of the Koran. ^72
Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the
school of genius; and the uniformity of a work denotes the hand
of a single artist. From his earliest youth Mahomet was addicted
to religious contemplation; each year, during the month of
Ramadan, he withdrew from the world, and from the arms of
Cadijah: in the cave of Hera, three miles from Mecca, ^73 he
consulted the spirit of fraud or enthusiasm, whose abode is not
in the heavens, but in the mind of the prophet. The faith which,
under the name of Islam, he preached to his family and nation, is
compounded of an eternal truth, and a necessary fiction, That
there is only one God, and that Mahomet is the apostle of God.

[Footnote 69: Abulfeda, in Vit. c. lxv. lxvi. Gagnier, Vie de
Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 272 - 289. The best traditions of the
person and conversation of the prophet are derived from Ayesha,
Ali, and Abu Horaira, (Gagnier, tom. ii. p. 267. Ockley's Hist.
of the Saracens, vol. ii. p. 149,) surnamed the Father of a Cat,
who died in the year 59 of the Hegira.

Note: Compare, likewise, the new Life of Mahomet (Mohammed
der prophet) by Dr. Weil, (Stuttgart, 1843.) Dr. Weil has a new
tradition, that Mahomet was at one time a shepherd. This
assimilation to the life of Moses, instead of giving probability
to the story, as Dr. Weil suggests, makes it more suspicious.
Note, p. 34. - M. 1845.]

[Footnote 70: Those who believe that Mahomet could read or write
are incapable of reading what is written with another pen, in the
Suras, or chapters of the Koran, vii. xxix. xcvi. These texts,
and the tradition of the Sonna, are admitted, without doubt, by
Abulfeda, (in Vit. vii.,) Gagnier, (Not. ad Abulfed. p. 15,)
Pocock, (Specimen, p. 151,) Reland, (de Religione Mohammedica, p.
236,) and Sale, (Preliminary Discourse, p. 42.) Mr. White, almost
alone, denies the ignorance, to accuse the imposture, of the
prophet. His arguments are far from satisfactory. Two short
trading journeys to the fairs of Syria were surely not sufficient
to infuse a science so rare among the citizens of Mecca: it was
not in the cool, deliberate act of treaty, that Mahomet would
have dropped the mask; nor can any conclusion be drawn from the
words of disease and delirium. The lettered youth, before he
aspired to the prophetic character, must have often exercised, in
private life, the arts of reading and writing; and his first
converts, of his own family, would have been the first to detect
and upbraid his scandalous hypocrisy, (White's Sermons, p. 203,
204, Notes, p. xxxvi. - xxxviii.)

Note: (Academ. des Inscript. I. p. 295) has observed that
the text of the seveth Sura implies that Mahomet could read, the
tradition alone denies it, and, according to Dr. Weil, (p. 46,)
there is another reading of the tradition, that "he could not
read well." Dr. Weil is not quite so successful in explaining
away Sura xxix. It means, he thinks that he had not read any
books, from which he could have borrowed. - M. 1845.]

[Footnote 71: The count de Boulainvilliers (Vie de Mahomet, p.
202 - 228) leads his Arabian pupil, like the Telemachus of
Fenelon, or the Cyrus of Ramsay. His journey to the court of
Persia is probably a fiction nor can I trace the origin of his
exclamation, "Les Grecs sont pour tant des hommes." The two
Syrian journeys are expressed by almost all the Arabian writers,
both Mahometans and Christians, (Gagnier Abulfed. p. 10.)]

[Footnote 72: I am not at leisure to pursue the fables or
conjectures which name the strangers accused or suspected by the
infidels of Mecca, (Koran, c. 16, p. 223, c. 35, p. 297, with
Sale's Remarks. Prideaux's Life of Mahomet, p. 22 - 27.
Gagnier, Not. ad Abulfed. p. 11, 74. Maracci, tom. ii. p. 400.)
Even Prideaux has observed, that the transaction must have been
secret, and that the scene lay in the heart of Arabia.]

[Footnote 73: Abulfeda in Vit. c. 7, p. 15. Gagnier, tom. i. p.
133, 135. The situation of Mount Hera is remarked by Abulfeda
(Geograph. Arab p. 4.) Yet Mahomet had never read of the cave of
Egeria, ubi nocturnae Numa constituebat amicae, of the Idaean
Mount, where Minos conversed with Jove, &c.]

It is the boast of the Jewish apologists, that while the
learned nations of antiquity were deluded by the fables of
polytheism, their simple ancestors of Palestine preserved the
knowledge and worship of the true God. The moral attributes of
Jehovah may not easily be reconciled with the standard of human
virtue: his metaphysical qualities are darkly expressed; but each
page of the Pentateuch and the Prophets is an evidence of his
power: the unity of his name is inscribed on the first table of
the law; and his sanctuary was never defiled by any visible image
of the invisible essence. After the ruin of the temple, the
faith of the Hebrew exiles was purified, fixed, and enlightened,
by the spiritual devotion of the synagogue; and the authority of
Mahomet will not justify his perpetual reproach, that the Jews of
Mecca or Medina adored Ezra as the son of God. ^74 But the
children of Israel had ceased to be a people; and the religions
of the world were guilty, at least in the eyes of the prophet, of
giving sons, or daughters, or companions, to the supreme God. In
the rude idolatry of the Arabs, the crime is manifest and
audacious: the Sabians are poorly excused by the preeminence of
the first planet, or intelligence, in their celestial hierarchy;
and in the Magian system the conflict of the two principles
betrays the imperfection of the conqueror. The Christians of the
seventh century had insensibly relapsed into a semblance of
Paganism: their public and private vows were addressed to the
relics and images that disgraced the temples of the East: the
throne of the Almighty was darkened by a cloud of martyrs, and
saints, and angels, the objects of popular veneration; and the
Collyridian heretics, who flourished in the fruitful soil of
Arabia, invested the Virgin Mary with the name and honors of a
goddess. ^75 The mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation appear
to contradict the principle of the divine unity. In their
obvious sense, they introduce three equal deities, and transform
the man Jesus into the substance of the Son of God: ^76 an
orthodox commentary will satisfy only a believing mind:
intemperate curiosity and zeal had torn the veil of the
sanctuary; and each of the Oriental sects was eager to confess
that all, except themselves, deserved the reproach of idolatry
and polytheism. The creed of Mahomet is free from suspicion or
ambiguity; and the Koran is a glorious testimony to the unity of
God. The prophet of Mecca rejected the worship of idols and men,
of stars and planets, on the rational principle that whatever
rises must set, that whatever is born must die, that whatever is
corruptible must decay and perish. ^77 In the Author of the
universe, his rational enthusiasm confessed and adored an
infinite and eternal being, without form or place, without issue
or similitude, present to our most secret thoughts, existing by
the necessity of his own nature, and deriving from himself all
moral and intellectual perfection. These sublime truths, thus
announced in the language of the prophet, ^78 are firmly held by
his disciples, and defined with metaphysical precision by the
interpreters of the Koran. A philosophic theist might subscribe
the popular creed of the Mahometans; ^79 a creed too sublime,
perhaps, for our present faculties. What object remains for the
fancy, or even the understanding, when we have abstracted from
the unknown substance all ideas of time and space, of motion and
matter, of sensation and reflection? The first principle of
reason and revolution was confirmed by the voice of Mahomet: his
proselytes, from India to Morocco, are distinguished by the name
of Unitarians; and the danger of idolatry has been prevented by
the interdiction of images. The doctrine of eternal decrees and
absolute predestination is strictly embraced by the Mahometans;
and they struggle, with the common difficulties, how to reconcile
the prescience of God with the freedom and responsibility of man;
how to explain the permission of evil under the reign of infinite
power and infinite goodness.

[Footnote 74: Koran, c. 9, p. 153. Al Beidawi, and the other
commentators quoted by Sale, adhere to the charge; but I do not
understand that it is colored by the most obscure or absurd
tradition of the Talmud.]

[Footnote 75: Hottinger, Hist. Orient. p. 225 - 228. The
Collyridian heresy was carried from Thrace to Arabia by some
women, and the name was borrowed from the cake, which they
offered to the goddess. This example, that of Beryllus bishop of
Bostra, (Euseb. Hist. Eccles. l. vi. c. 33,) and several others,
may excuse the reproach, Arabia haerese haersewn ferax.]

[Footnote 76: The three gods in the Koran (c. 4, p. 81, c. 5, p.
92) are obviously directed against our Catholic mystery: but the
Arabic commentators understand them of the Father, the Son, and
the Virgin Mary, an heretical Trinity, maintained, as it is said,
by some Barbarians at the Council of Nice, (Eutych. Annal. tom.
i. p. 440.) But the existence of the Marianites is denied by the
candid Beausobre, (Hist. de Manicheisme, tom. i. p. 532;) and he
derives the mistake from the word Roxah, the Holy Ghost, which in
some Oriental tongues is of the feminine gender, and is
figuratively styled the mother of Christ in the Gospel of the

[Footnote 77: This train of thought is philosophically
exemplified in the character of Abraham, who opposed in Chaldaea
the first introduction of idolatry, (Koran, c. 6, p. 106.
D'Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 13.)]

[Footnote 78: See the Koran, particularly the second, (p. 30,)
the fifty-seventh, (p. 437,) the fifty-eighth (p. 441) chapters,
which proclaim the omnipotence of the Creator.]

[Footnote 79: The most orthodox creeds are translated by Pocock,
(Specimen, p. 274, 284 - 292,) Ockley, (Hist. of the Saracens,
vol. ii. p. lxxxii. - xcv.,) Reland, (de Religion. Moham. l. i.
p. 7 - 13,) and Chardin, (Voyages en Perse, tom. iv. p. 4 - 28.)
The great truth, that God is without similitude, is foolishly
criticized by Maracci, (Alcoran, tom. i. part iii. p. 87 - 94,)
because he made man after his own image.]

The God of nature has written his existence on all his
works, and his law in the heart of man. To restore the knowledge
of the one, and the practice of the other, has been the real or
pretended aim of the prophets of every age: the liberality of
Mahomet allowed to his predecessors the same credit which he
claimed for himself; and the chain of inspiration was prolonged
from the fall of Adam to the promulgation of the Koran. ^80
During that period, some rays of prophetic light had been
imparted to one hundred and twenty-four thousand of the elect,
discriminated by their respective measure of virtue and grace;
three hundred and thirteen apostles were sent with a special
commission to recall their country from idolatry and vice; one
hundred and four volumes have been dictated by the Holy Spirit;
and six legislators of transcendent brightness have announced to
mankind the six successive revelations of various rites, but of
one immutable religion. The authority and station of Adam, Noah,
Abraham, Moses, Christ, and Mahomet, rise in just gradation above
each other; but whosoever hates or rejects any one of the
prophets is numbered with the infidels. The writings of the
patriarchs were extant only in the apocryphal copies of the
Greeks and Syrians: ^81 the conduct of Adam had not entitled him
to the gratitude or respect of his children; the seven precepts
of Noah were observed by an inferior and imperfect class of the
proselytes of the synagogue; ^82 and the memory of Abraham was
obscurely revered by the Sabians in his native land of Chaldaea:
of the myriads of prophets, Moses and Christ alone lived and
reigned; and the remnant of the inspired writings was comprised
in the books of the Old and the New Testament. The miraculous
story of Moses is consecrated and embellished in the Koran; ^83
and the captive Jews enjoy the secret revenge of imposing their
own belief on the nations whose recent creeds they deride. For
the author of Christianity, the Mahometans are taught by the
prophet to entertain a high and mysterious reverence. ^84
"Verily, Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, is the apostle of God,
and his word, which he conveyed unto Mary, and a Spirit
proceeding from him; honorable in this world, and in the world to
come, and one of those who approach near to the presence of God."
^85 The wonders of the genuine and apocryphal gospels ^86 are
profusely heaped on his head; and the Latin church has not
disdained to borrow from the Koran the immaculate conception ^87
of his virgin mother. Yet Jesus was a mere mortal; and, at the
day of judgment, his testimony will serve to condemn both the
Jews, who reject him as a prophet, and the Christians, who adore
him as the Son of God. The malice of his enemies aspersed his
reputation, and conspired against his life; but their intention
only was guilty; a phantom or a criminal was substituted on the
cross; and the innocent saint was translated to the seventh
heaven. ^88 During six hundred years the gospel was the way of
truth and salvation; but the Christians insensibly forgot both
the laws and example of their founder; and Mahomet was instructed
by the Gnostics to accuse the church, as well as the synagogue,
of corrupting the integrity of the sacred text. ^89 The piety of
Moses and of Christ rejoiced in the assurance of a future
prophet, more illustrious than themselves: the evangelical
promise of the Paraclete, or Holy Ghost, was prefigured in the
name, and accomplished in the person, of Mahomet, ^90 the
greatest and the last of the apostles of God.

[Footnote 80: Reland, de Relig. Moham. l. i. p. 17 - 47. Sale's
Preliminary Discourse, p. 73 - 76. Voyage de Chardin, tom. iv.
p. 28 - 37, and 37 - 47, for the Persian addition, "Ali is the
vicar of God!" Yet the precise number of the prophets is not an
article of faith.]

[Footnote 81: For the apocryphal books of Adam, see Fabricius,
Codex Pseudepigraphus V. T. p. 27 - 29; of Seth, p. 154 - 157; of
Enoch, p. 160 - 219. But the book of Enoch is consecrated, in
some measure, by the quotation of the apostle St. Jude; and a
long legendary fragment is alleged by Syncellus and Scaliger.

Note: The whole book has since been recovered in the
Ethiopic language, - and has been edited and translated by
Archbishop Lawrence, Oxford, 1881 - M.]

[Footnote 82: The seven precepts of Noah are explained by
Marsham, (Canon Chronicus, p. 154 - 180,) who adopts, on this
occasion, the learning and credulity of Selden.]

[Footnote 83: The articles of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, &c., in
the Bibliotheque of D'Herbelot, are gayly bedecked with the
fanciful legends of the Mahometans, who have built on the
groundwork of Scripture and the Talmud.]

[Footnote 84: Koran, c. 7, p. 128, &c., c. 10, p. 173, &c.
D'Herbelot, p. 647, &c.]

[Footnote 85: Koran, c. 3, p. 40, c. 4. p. 80. D'Herbelot, p.
399, &c.]

[Footnote 86: See the Gospel of St. Thomas, or of the Infancy, in
the Codex Apocryphus N. T. of Fabricius, who collects the various
testimonies concerning it, (p. 128 - 158.) It was published in
Greek by Cotelier, and in Arabic by Sike, who thinks our present
copy more recent than Mahomet. Yet his quotations agree with the
original about the speech of Christ in his cradle, his living
birds of clay, &c. (Sike, c. i. p. 168, 169, c. 36, p. 198, 199,
c. 46, p. 206. Cotelier, c. 2, p. 160, 161.)]

[Footnote 87: It is darkly hinted in the Koran, (c. 3, p. 39,)
and more clearly explained by the tradition of the Sonnites,
(Sale's Note, and Maracci, tom. ii. p. 112.) In the xiith
century, the immaculate conception was condemned by St. Bernard
as a presumptuous novelty, (Fra Paolo, Istoria del Concilio di
Trento, l. ii.)]

[Footnote 88: See the Koran, c. 3, v. 53, and c. 4, v. 156, of
Maracci's edition. Deus est praestantissimus dolose agentium (an
odd praise) ... nec crucifixerunt eum, sed objecta est eis
similitudo; an expression that may suit with the system of the
Docetes; but the commentators believe (Maracci, tom. ii. p. 113 -
115, 173. Sale, p. 42, 43, 79) that another man, a friend or an
enemy, was crucified in the likeness of Jesus; a fable which they
had read in the Gospel of St. Barnabus, and which had been
started as early as the time of Irenaeus, by some Ebionite
heretics, (Beausobre, Hist. du Manicheisme, tom. ii. p. 25,
Mosheim. de Reb. Christ. p. 353.)]

[Footnote 89: This charge is obscurely urged in the Koran, (c. 3,
p. 45;) but neither Mahomet, nor his followers, are sufficiently
versed in languages and criticism to give any weight or color to
their suspicions. Yet the Arians and Nestorians could relate some
stories, and the illiterate prophet might listen to the bold
assertions of the Manichaeans. See Beausobre, tom. i. p. 291 -

[Footnote 90: Among the prophecies of the Old and New Testament,
which are perverted by the fraud or ignorance of the Mussulmans,
they apply to the prophet the promise of the Paraclete, or
Comforter, which had been already usurped by the Montanists and
Manichaeans, (Beausobre, Hist. Critique du Manicheisme, tom. i.
p. 263, &c.;) and the easy change of letters affords the
etymology of the name of Mohammed, (Maracci, tom. i. part i. p.
15 - 28.)]

Chapter L: Description Of Arabia And Its Inhabitants.

Part IV.

The communication of ideas requires a similitude of thought
and language: the discourse of a philosopher would vibrate
without effect on the ear of a peasant; yet how minute is the
distance of their understandings, if it be compared with the
contact of an infinite and a finite mind, with the word of God
expressed by the tongue or the pen of a mortal! The inspiration
of the Hebrew prophets, of the apostles and evangelists of
Christ, might not be incompatible with the exercise of their
reason and memory; and the diversity of their genius is strongly
marked in the style and composition of the books of the Old and
New Testament. But Mahomet was content with a character, more
humble, yet more sublime, of a simple editor; the substance of
the Koran, ^91 according to himself or his disciples, is
uncreated and eternal; subsisting in the essence of the Deity,
and inscribed with a pen of light on the table of his everlasting
decrees. A paper copy, in a volume of silk and gems, was brought
down to the lowest heaven by the angel Gabriel, who, under the
Jewish economy, had indeed been despatched on the most important
errands; and this trusty messenger successively revealed the
chapters and verses to the Arabian prophet. Instead of a
perpetual and perfect measure of the divine will, the fragments
of the Koran were produced at the discretion of Mahomet; each
revelation is suited to the emergencies of his policy or passion;
and all contradiction is removed by the saving maxim, that any
text of Scripture is abrogated or modified by any subsequent
passage. The word of God, and of the apostle, was diligently
recorded by his disciples on palm-leaves and the shoulder-bones
of mutton; and the pages, without order or connection, were cast
into a domestic chest, in the custody of one of his wives. Two
years after the death of Mahomet, the sacred volume was collected
and published by his friend and successor Abubeker: the work was
revised by the caliph Othman, in the thirtieth year of the
Hegira; and the various editions of the Koran assert the same
miraculous privilege of a uniform and incorruptible text. In the
spirit of enthusiasm or vanity, the prophet rests the truth of
his mission on the merit of his book; audaciously challenges both
men and angels to imitate the beauties of a single page; and
presumes to assert that God alone could dictate this incomparable
performance. ^92 This argument is most powerfully addressed to a
devout Arabian, whose mind is attuned to faith and rapture; whose
ear is delighted by the music of sounds; and whose ignorance is
incapable of comparing the productions of human genius. ^93 The
harmony and copiousness of style will not reach, in a version,
the European infidel: he will peruse with impatience the endless
incoherent rhapsody of fable, and precept, and declamation, which
seldom excites a sentiment or an idea, which sometimes crawls in
the dust, and is sometimes lost in the clouds. The divine
attributes exalt the fancy of the Arabian missionary; but his
loftiest strains must yield to the sublime simplicity of the book
of Job, composed in a remote age, in the same country, and in the
same language. ^94 If the composition of the Koran exceed the
faculties of a man to what superior intelligence should we
ascribe the Iliad of Homer, or the Philippics of Demosthenes? In
all religions, the life of the founder supplies the silence of
his written revelation: the sayings of Mahomet were so many
lessons of truth; his actions so many examples of virtue; and the
public and private memorials were preserved by his wives and
companions. At the end of two hundred years, the Sonna, or oral
law, was fixed and consecrated by the labors of Al Bochari, who
discriminated seven thousand two hundred and seventy-five genuine
traditions, from a mass of three hundred thousand reports, of a
more doubtful or spurious character. Each day the pious author
prayed in the temple of Mecca, and performed his ablutions with
the water of Zemzem: the pages were successively deposited on the
pulpit and the sepulchre of the apostle; and the work has been
approved by the four orthodox sects of the Sonnites. ^95

[Footnote 91: For the Koran, see D'Herbelot, p. 85 - 88.
Maracci, tom. i. in Vit. Mohammed. p. 32 - 45. Sale, Preliminary
Discourse, p. 58 - 70.]

[Footnote 92: Koran, c. 17, v. 89. In Sale, p. 235, 236. In
Maracci, p. 410.

Note: Compare Von Hammer Geschichte der Assassinen p. 11. -

[Footnote 93: Yet a sect of Arabians was persuaded, that it might
be equalled or surpassed by a human pen, (Pocock, Specimen, p.
221, &c.;) and Maracci (the polemic is too hard for the
translator) derides the rhyming affectation of the most applauded
passage, (tom. i. part ii. p. 69 - 75.)]

[Footnote 94: Colloquia (whether real or fabulous) in media
Arabia atque ab Arabibus habita, (Lowth, de Poesi Hebraeorum.
Praelect. xxxii. xxxiii. xxxiv, with his German editor,
Michaelis, Epimetron iv.) Yet Michaelis (p. 671 - 673) has
detected many Egyptian images, the elephantiasis, papyrus, Nile,
crocodile, &c. The language is ambiguously styled
Arabico-Hebraea. The resemblance of the sister dialects was much
more visible in their childhood, than in their mature age,
(Michaelis, p. 682. Schultens, in Praefat. Job.)

Note: The age of the book of Job is still and probably will
still be disputed. Rosenmuller thus states his own opinion:
"Certe serioribus reipublicae temporibus assignandum esse librum,
suadere videtur ad Chaldaismum vergens sermo." Yet the
observations of Kosegarten, which Rosenmuller has given in a
note, and common reason, suggest that this Chaldaism may be the
native form of a much earlier dialect; or the Chaldaic may have
adopted the poetical archaisms of a dialect, differing from, but
not less ancient than, the Hebrew. See Rosenmuller, Proleg. on
Job, p. 41. The poetry appears to me to belong to a much earlier
period. - M.]

[Footnote 95: Ali Bochari died A. H. 224. See D'Herbelot, p.
208, 416, 827. Gagnier, Not. ad Abulfed. c. 19, p. 33.]

The mission of the ancient prophets, of Moses and of Jesus
had been confirmed by many splendid prodigies; and Mahomet was
repeatedly urged, by the inhabitants of Mecca and Medina, to
produce a similar evidence of his divine legation; to call down
from heaven the angel or the volume of his revelation, to create
a garden in the desert, or to kindle a conflagration in the
unbelieving city. As often as he is pressed by the demands of
the Koreish, he involves himself in the obscure boast of vision
and prophecy, appeals to the internal proofs of his doctrine, and
shields himself behind the providence of God, who refuses those
signs and wonders that would depreciate the merit of faith, and
aggravate the guilt of infidelity But the modest or angry tone of
his apologies betrays his weakness and vexation; and these
passages of scandal established, beyond suspicion, the integrity
of the Koran. ^96 The votaries of Mahomet are more assured than
himself of his miraculous gifts; and their confidence and
credulity increase as they are farther removed from the time and
place of his spiritual exploits. They believe or affirm that
trees went forth to meet him; that he was saluted by stones; that
water gushed from his fingers; that he fed the hungry, cured the
sick, and raised the dead; that a beam groaned to him; that a
camel complained to him; that a shoulder of mutton informed him
of its being poisoned; and that both animate and inanimate nature
were equally subject to the apostle of God. ^97 His dream of a
nocturnal journey is seriously described as a real and corporeal
transaction. A mysterious animal, the Borak, conveyed him from
the temple of Mecca to that of Jerusalem: with his companion
Gabriel he successively ascended the seven heavens, and received
and repaid the salutations of the patriarchs, the prophets, and
the angels, in their respective mansions. Beyond the seventh
heaven, Mahomet alone was permitted to proceed; he passed the
veil of unity, approached within two bow-shots of the throne, and
felt a cold that pierced him to the heart, when his shoulder was
touched by the hand of God. After this familiar, though
important conversation, he again descended to Jerusalem,
remounted the Borak, returned to Mecca, and performed in the
tenth part of a night the journey of many thousand years. ^98
According to another legend, the apostle confounded in a national
assembly the malicious challenge of the Koreish. His resistless
word split asunder the orb of the moon: the obedient planet
stooped from her station in the sky, accomplished the seven
revolutions round the Caaba, saluted Mahomet in the Arabian
tongue, and, suddenly contracting her dimensions, entered at the
collar, and issued forth through the sleeve, of his shirt. ^99
The vulgar are amused with these marvellous tales; but the
gravest of the Mussulman doctors imitate the modesty of their
master, and indulge a latitude of faith or interpretation. ^100
They might speciously allege, that in preaching the religion it
was needless to violate the harmony of nature; that a creed
unclouded with mystery may be excused from miracles; and that the
sword of Mahomet was not less potent than the rod of Moses.

[Footnote 96: See, more remarkably, Koran, c. 2, 6, 12, 13, 17.
Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, p. 18, 19) has confounded the
impostor. Maracci, with a more learned apparatus, has shown that
the passages which deny his miracles are clear and positive,
(Alcoran, tom. i. part ii. p. 7 - 12,) and those which seem to
assert them are ambiguous and insufficient, (p. 12 - 22.)]

[Footnote 97: See the Specimen Hist. Arabum, the text of
Abulpharagius, p. 17, the notes of Pocock, p. 187 - 190.
D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 76, 77. Voyages de
Chardin, tom. iv. p. 200 - 203. Maracci (Alcoran, tom. i. p. 22
- 64) has most laboriously collected and confuted the miracles
and prophecies of Mahomet, which, according to some writers,
amount to three thousand.]

[Footnote 98: The nocturnal journey is circumstantially related
by Abulfeda (in Vit. Mohammed, c. 19, p. 33,) who wishes to think
it a vision; by Prideaux, (p. 31 - 40,) who aggravates the
absurdities; and by Gagnier (tom. i. p. 252 - 343,) who declares,
from the zealous Al Jannabi, that to deny this journey, is to
disbelieve the Koran. Yet the Koran without naming either
heaven, or Jerusalem, or Mecca, has only dropped a mysterious
hint: Laus illi qui transtulit servum suum ab oratorio Haram ad
oratorium remotissimum, (Koran, c. 17, v. 1; in Maracci, tom. ii.
p. 407; for Sale's version is more licentious.) A slender basis
for the aerial structure of tradition.]

[Footnote 99: In the prophetic style, which uses the present or
past for the future, Mahomet had said, Appropinquavit hora, et
scissa est luna, (Koran, c. 54, v. 1; in Maracci, tom. ii. p.
688.) This figure of rhetoric has been converted into a fact,
which is said to be attested by the most respectable
eye-witnesses, (Maracci, tom. ii. p. 690.) The festival is still
celebrated by the Persians, (Chardin, tom. iv. p. 201;) and the
legend is tediously spun out by Gagnier, (Vie de Mahomet, tom. i.
p. 183 - 234,) on the faith, as it should seem, of the credulous
Al Jannabi. Yet a Mahometan doctor has arraigned the credit of
the principal witness, (apud Pocock, Specimen, p. 187;) the best
interpreters are content with the simple sense of the Koran. (Al
Beidawi, apud Hottinger, Hist. Orient. l. ii. p. 302;) and the
silence of Abulfeda is worthy of a prince and a philosopher.

Note: Compare Hamaker Notes to Inc. Auct. Lib. de Exped.
Memphides, p. 62 - M.]

[Footnote 100: Abulpharagius, in Specimen Hist. Arab. p. 17; and
his scepticism is justified in the notes of Pocock, p. 190 - 194,
from the purest authorities.]

The polytheist is oppressed and distracted by the variety of
superstition: a thousand rites of Egyptian origin were interwoven
with the essence of the Mosaic law; and the spirit of the gospel
had evaporated in the pageantry of the church. The prophet of
Mecca was tempted by prejudice, or policy, or patriotism, to
sanctify the rites of the Arabians, and the custom of visiting
the holy stone of the Caaba. But the precepts of Mahomet himself
inculcates a more simple and rational piety: prayer, fasting, and
alms, are the religious duties of a Mussulman; and he is
encouraged to hope, that prayer will carry him half way to God,
fasting will bring him to the door of his palace, and alms will
gain him admittance. ^101 I. According to the tradition of the
nocturnal journey, the apostle, in his personal conference with
the Deity, was commanded to impose on his disciples the daily
obligation of fifty prayers. By the advice of Moses, he applied
for an alleviation of this intolerable burden; the number was
gradually reduced to five; without any dispensation of business
or pleasure, or time or place: the devotion of the faithful is
repeated at daybreak, at noon, in the afternoon, in the evening,
and at the first watch of the night; and in the present decay of
religious fervor, our travellers are edified by the profound
humility and attention of the Turks and Persians. Cleanliness is
the key of prayer: the frequent lustration of the hands, the
face, and the body, which was practised of old by the Arabs, is
solemnly enjoined by the Koran; and a permission is formally
granted to supply with sand the scarcity of water. The words and
attitudes of supplication, as it is performed either sitting, or
standing, or prostrate on the ground, are prescribed by custom or
authority; but the prayer is poured forth in short and fervent
ejaculations; the measure of zeal is not exhausted by a tedious
liturgy; and each Mussulman for his own person is invested with
the character of a priest. Among the theists, who reject the use
of images, it has been found necessary to restrain the wanderings
of the fancy, by directing the eye and the thought towards a
kebla, or visible point of the horizon. The prophet was at first
inclined to gratify the Jews by the choice of Jerusalem; but he
soon returned to a more natural partiality; and five times every
day the eyes of the nations at Astracan, at Fez, at Delhi, are
devoutly turned to the holy temple of Mecca. Yet every spot for
the service of God is equally pure: the Mahometans indifferently
pray in their chamber or in the street. As a distinction from
the Jews and Christians, the Friday in each week is set apart for
the useful institution of public worship: the people is assembled
in the mosch; and the imam, some respectable elder, ascends the
pulpit, to begin the prayer and pronounce the sermon. But the
Mahometan religion is destitute of priesthood or sacrifice; and
the independent spirit of fanaticism looks down with contempt on
the ministers and the slaves of superstition. ^* II. The
voluntary ^102 penance of the ascetics, the torment and glory of
their lives, was odious to a prophet who censured in his
companions a rash vow of abstaining from flesh, and women, and
sleep; and firmly declared, that he would suffer no monks in his
religion. ^103 Yet he instituted, in each year, a fast of thirty
days; and strenuously recommended the observance as a discipline
which purifies the soul and subdues the body, as a salutary
exercise of obedience to the will of God and his apostle. During
the month of Ramadan, from the rising to the setting of the sun,
the Mussulman abstains from eating, and drinking, and women, and
baths, and perfumes; from all nourishment that can restore his
strength, from all pleasure that can gratify his senses. In the
revolution of the lunar year, the Ramadan coincides, by turns,
with the winter cold and the summer heat; and the patient martyr,
without assuaging his thirst with a drop of water, must expect
the close of a tedious and sultry day. The interdiction of wine,
peculiar to some orders of priests or hermits, is converted by
Mahomet alone into a positive and general law; ^104 and a
considerable portion of the globe has abjured, at his command,
the use of that salutary, though dangerous, liquor. These
painful restraints are, doubtless, infringed by the libertine,
and eluded by the hypocrite; but the legislator, by whom they are
enacted, cannot surely be accused of alluring his proselytes by
the indulgence of their sensual appetites. III. The charity of
the Mahometans descends to the animal creation; and the Koran
repeatedly inculcates, not as a merit, but as a strict and
indispensable duty, the relief of the indigent and unfortunate.
Mahomet, perhaps, is the only lawgiver who has defined the
precise measure of charity: the standard may vary with the degree
and nature of property, as it consists either in money, in corn
or cattle, in fruits or merchandise; but the Mussulman does not
accomplish the law, unless he bestows a tenth of his revenue; and
if his conscience accuses him of fraud or extortion, the tenth,
under the idea of restitution, is enlarged to a fifth. ^105
Benevolence is the foundation of justice, since we are forbid to
injure those whom we are bound to assist. A prophet may reveal
the secrets of heaven and of futurity; but in his moral precepts
he can only repeat the lessons of our own hearts.

[Footnote 101: The most authentic account of these precepts,
pilgrimage, prayer, fasting, alms, and ablutions, is extracted
from the Persian and Arabian theologians by Maracci, (Prodrom.
part iv. p. 9 - 24,) Reland, (in his excellent treatise de
Religione Mohammedica, Utrecht, 1717, p. 67 - 123,) and Chardin,
(Voyages in Perse, tom. iv. p. 47 - 195.) Marace is a partial
accuser; but the jeweller, Chardin, had the eyes of a
philosopher; and Reland, a judicious student, had travelled over
the East in his closet at Utrecht. The xivth letter of Tournefort
(Voyage du Levont, tom. ii. p. 325 - 360, in octavo) describes
what he had seen of the religion of the Turks.]

[Footnote *: Such is Mahometanism beyond the precincts of the
Holy City. But Mahomet retained, and the Koran sanctions, (Sale's
Koran, c. 5, in inlt. c. 22, vol. ii. p. 171, 172,) the sacrifice
of sheep and camels (probably according to the old Arabian rites)
at Mecca; and the pilgrims complete their ceremonial with
sacrifices, sometimes as numerous and costly as those of King
Solomon. Compare note, vol. iv. c. xxiii. p. 96, and Forster's
Mahometanism Unveiled, vol. i. p. 420. This author quotes the
questionable authority of Benjamin of Tudela, for the sacrifice
of a camel by the caliph at Bosra; but sacrifice undoubtedly
forms no part of the ordinary Mahometan ritual; nor will the
sanctity of the caliph, as the earthly representative of the
prophet, bear any close analogy to the priesthood of the Mosaic
or Gentila religions. - M.]

[Footnote 102: Mahomet (Sale's Koran, c. 9, p. 153) reproaches
the Christians with taking their priests and monks for their
lords, besides God. Yet Maracci (Prodromus, part iii. p. 69, 70)
excuses the worship, especially of the pope, and quotes, from the
Koran itself, the case of Eblis, or Satan, who was cast from
heaven for refusing to adore Adam.]

[Footnote 103: Koran, c. 5, p. 94, and Sale's note, which refers
to the authority of Jallaloddin and Al Beidawi. D'Herbelot
declares, that Mahomet condemned la vie religieuse; and that the
first swarms of fakirs, dervises, &c., did not appear till after
the year 300 of the Hegira, (Bibliot. Orient. p. 292, 718.)]

[Footnote 104: See the double prohibition, (Koran, c. 2, p. 25,
c. 5, p. 94;) the one in the style of a legislator, the other in
that of a fanatic. The public and private motives of Mahomet are
investigated by Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, p. 62 - 64) and Sale,
(Preliminary Discourse, p. 124.)]

[Footnote 105: The jealousy of Maracci (Prodromus, part iv. p.
33) prompts him to enumerate the more liberal alms of the
Catholics of Rome. Fifteen great hospitals are open to many
thousand patients and pilgrims; fifteen hundred maidens are
annually portioned; fifty-six charity schools are founded for
both sexes; one hundred and twenty confraternities relieve the
wants of their brethren, &c. The benevolence of London is still
more extensive; but I am afraid that much more is to be ascribed
to the humanity, than to the religion, of the people.]

The two articles of belief, and the four practical duties,
of Islam, are guarded by rewards and punishments; and the faith
of the Mussulman is devoutly fixed on the event of the judgment
and the last day. The prophet has not presumed to determine the
moment of that awful catastrophe, though he darkly announces the
signs, both in heaven and earth, which will precede the universal
dissolution, when life shall be destroyed, and the order of
creation shall be confounded in the primitive chaos. At the
blast of the trumpet, new worlds will start into being: angels,
genii, and men will arise from the dead, and the human soul will
again be united to the body. The doctrine of the resurrection was
first entertained by the Egyptians; ^106 and their mummies were
embalmed, their pyramids were constructed, to preserve the
ancient mansion of the soul, during a period of three thousand
years. But the attempt is partial and unavailing; and it is with
a more philosophic spirit that Mahomet relies on the omnipotence
of the Creator, whose word can reanimate the breathless clay, and
collect the innumerable atoms, that no longer retain their form
or substance. ^107 The intermediate state of the soul it is hard
to decide; and those who most firmly believe her immaterial
nature, are at a loss to understand how she can think or act
without the agency of the organs of sense.

[Footnote 106: See Herodotus (l. ii. c. 123) and our learned
countryman Sir John Marsham, (Canon. Chronicus, p. 46.) The same
writer (p. 254 - 274) is an elaborate sketch of the infernal
regions, as they were painted by the fancy of the Egyptians and
Greeks, of the poets and philosophers of antiquity.]

[Footnote 107: The Koran (c. 2, p. 259, &c.; of Sale, p. 32; of
Maracci, p. 97) relates an ingenious miracle, which satisfied the
curiosity, and confirmed the faith, of Abraham.]

The reunion of the soul and body will be followed by the
final judgment of mankind; and in his copy of the Magian picture,
the prophet has too faithfully represented the forms of
proceeding, and even the slow and successive operations, of an
earthly tribunal. By his intolerant adversaries he is upbraided
for extending, even to themselves, the hope of salvation, for
asserting the blackest heresy, that every man who believes in
God, and accomplishes good works, may expect in the last day a
favorable sentence. Such rational indifference is ill adapted to
the character of a fanatic; nor is it probable that a messenger
from heaven should depreciate the value and necessity of his own
revelation. In the idiom of the Koran, ^108 the belief of God is
inseparable from that of Mahomet: the good works are those which
he has enjoined, and the two qualifications imply the profession
of Islam, to which all nations and all sects are equally invited.

Their spiritual blindness, though excused by ignorance and
crowned with virtue, will be scourged with everlasting torments;
and the tears which Mahomet shed over the tomb of his mother for
whom he was forbidden to pray, display a striking contrast of
humanity and enthusiasm. ^109 The doom of the infidels is common:
the measure of their guilt and punishment is determined by the
degree of evidence which they have rejected, by the magnitude of
the errors which they have entertained: the eternal mansions of
the Christians, the Jews, the Sabians, the Magians, and
idolaters, are sunk below each other in the abyss; and the lowest
hell is reserved for the faithless hypocrites who have assumed
the mask of religion. After the greater part of mankind has been
condemned for their opinions, the true believers only will be
judged by their actions. The good and evil of each Mussulman will
be accurately weighed in a real or allegorical balance; and a
singular mode of compensation will be allowed for the payment of
injuries: the aggressor will refund an equivalent of his own good
actions, for the benefit of the person whom he has wronged; and
if he should be destitute of any moral property, the weight of
his sins will be loaded with an adequate share of the demerits of
the sufferer. According as the shares of guilt or virtue shall
preponderate, the sentence will be pronounced, and all, without
distinction, will pass over the sharp and perilous bridge of the
abyss; but the innocent, treading in the footsteps of Mahomet,
will gloriously enter the gates of paradise, while the guilty
will fall into the first and mildest of the seven hells. The
term of expiation will vary from nine hundred to seven thousand
years; but the prophet has judiciously promised, that all his
disciples, whatever may be their sins, shall be saved, by their
own faith and his intercession from eternal damnation. It is not
surprising that superstition should act most powerfully on the
fears of her votaries, since the human fancy can paint with more
energy the misery than the bliss of a future life. With the two
simple elements of darkness and fire, we create a sensation of
pain, which may be aggravated to an infinite degree by the idea
of endless duration. But the same idea operates with an opposite
effect on the continuity of pleasure; and too much of our present
enjoyments is obtained from the relief, or the comparison, of
evil. It is natural enough that an Arabian prophet should dwell
with rapture on the groves, the fountains, and the rivers of
paradise; but instead of inspiring the blessed inhabitants with a
liberal taste for harmony and science, conversation and
friendship, he idly celebrates the pearls and diamonds, the robes
of silk, palaces of marble, dishes of gold, rich wines,
artificial dainties, numerous attendants, and the whole train of
sensual and costly luxury, which becomes insipid to the owner,
even in the short period of this mortal life. Seventy-two
Houris, or black-eyed girls, of resplendent beauty, blooming
youth, virgin purity, and exquisite sensibility, will be created
for the use of the meanest believer; a moment of pleasure will be
prolonged to a thousand years; and his faculties will be
increased a hundred fold, to render him worthy of his felicity.
Notwithstanding a vulgar prejudice, the gates of heaven will be
open to both sexes; but Mahomet has not specified the male
companions of the female elect, lest he should either alarm the
jealousy of their former husbands, or disturb their felicity, by
the suspicion of an everlasting marriage. This image of a carnal
paradise has provoked the indignation, perhaps the envy, of the
monks: they declaim against the impure religion of Mahomet; and
his modest apologists are driven to the poor excuse of figures
and allegories. But the sounder and more consistent party adhere
without shame, to the literal interpretation of the Koran:
useless would be the resurrection of the body, unless it were
restored to the possession and exercise of its worthiest
faculties; and the union of sensual and intellectual enjoyment is
requisite to complete the happiness of the double animal, the
perfect man. Yet the joys of the Mahometan paradise will not be
confined to the indulgence of luxury and appetite; and the
prophet has expressly declared that all meaner happiness will be
forgotten and despised by the saints and martyrs, who shall be
admitted to the beatitude of the divine vision. ^110

[Footnote 108: The candid Reland has demonstrated, that Mahomet
damns all unbelievers, (de Religion. Moham. p. 128 - 142;) that
devils will not be finally saved, (p. 196 - 199;) that paradise
will not solely consist of corporeal delights, (p. 199 - 205;)
and that women's souls are immortal. (p. 205 - 209.)]

[Footnote 109: A Beidawi, apud Sale. Koran, c. 9, p. 164. The
refusal to pray for an unbelieving kindred is justified,
according to Mahomet, by the duty of a prophet, and the example
of Abraham, who reprobated his own father as an enemy of God.
Yet Abraham (he adds, c. 9, v. 116. Maracci, tom. ii. p. 317)
fuit sane pius, mitis.]

[Footnote 110: For the day of judgment, hell, paradise, &c.,
consult the Koran, (c. 2, v. 25, c. 56, 78, &c.;) with Maracci's
virulent, but learned, refutation, (in his notes, and in the
Prodromus, part iv. p. 78, 120, 122, &c.;) D'Herbelot,
(Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 368, 375;) Reland, (p. 47 - 61;) and
Sale, (p. 76 - 103.) The original ideas of the Magi are darkly
and doubtfully explored by their apologist, Dr. Hyde, (Hist.
Religionis Persarum, c. 33, p. 402 - 412, Oxon. 1760.) In the
article of Mahomet, Bayle has shown how indifferently wit and
philosophy supply the absence of genuine information.]

The first and most arduous conquests of Mahomet ^111 were
those of his wife, his servant, his pupil, and his friend; ^112
since he presented himself as a prophet to those who were most
conversant with his infirmities as a man. Yet Cadijah believed
the words, and cherished the glory, of her husband; the
obsequious and affectionate Zeid was tempted by the prospect of
freedom; the illustrious Ali, the son of Abu Taleb, embraced the
sentiments of his cousin with the spirit of a youthful hero; and
the wealth, the moderation, the veracity of Abubeker confirmed
the religion of the prophet whom he was destined to succeed. By
his persuasion, ten of the most respectable citizens of Mecca
were introduced to the private lessons of Islam; they yielded to
the voice of reason and enthusiasm; they repeated the fundamental
creed, "There is but one God, and Mahomet is the apostle of God;"
and their faith, even in this life, was rewarded with riches and
honors, with the command of armies and the government of
kingdoms. Three years were silently employed in the conversion
of fourteen proselytes, the first-fruits of his mission; but in
the fourth year he assumed the prophetic office, and resolving to
impart to his family the light of divine truth, he prepared a
banquet, a lamb, as it is said, and a bowl of milk, for the
entertainment of forty guests of the race of Hashem. "Friends and
kinsmen," said Mahomet to the assembly, "I offer you, and I alone
can offer, the most precious of gifts, the treasures of this
world and of the world to come. God has commanded me to call you
to his service. Who among you will support my burden? Who among
you will be my companion and my vizier?" ^113 No answer was
returned, till the silence of astonishment, and doubt, and
contempt, was at length broken by the impatient courage of Ali, a
youth in the fourteenth year of his age. "O prophet, I am the
man: whosoever rises against thee, I will dash out his teeth,
tear out his eyes, break his legs, rip up his belly. O prophet,
I will be thy vizier over them." Mahomet accepted his offer with
transport, and Abu Taled was ironically exhorted to respect the
superior dignity of his son. In a more serious tone, the father
of Ali advised his nephew to relinquish his impracticable design.

"Spare your remonstrances," replied the intrepid fanatic to his
uncle and benefactor; "if they should place the sun on my right
hand, and the moon on my left, they should not divert me from my
course." He persevered ten years in the exercise of his mission;
and the religion which has overspread the East and the West
advanced with a slow and painful progress within the walls of
Mecca. Yet Mahomet enjoyed the satisfaction of beholding the
increase of his infant congregation of Unitarians, who revered
him as a prophet, and to whom he seasonably dispensed the
spiritual nourishment of the Koran. The number of proselytes may
be esteemed by the absence of eighty-three men and eighteen
women, who retired to Aethiopia in the seventh year of his
mission; and his party was fortified by the timely conversion of
his uncle Hamza, and of the fierce and inflexible Omar, who
signalized in the cause of Islam the same zeal, which he had
exerted for its destruction. Nor was the charity of Mahomet
confined to the tribe of Koreish, or the precincts of Mecca: on
solemn festivals, in the days of pilgrimage, he frequented the
Caaba, accosted the strangers of every tribe, and urged, both in
private converse and public discourse, the belief and worship of
a sole Deity. Conscious of his reason and of his weakness, he
asserted the liberty of conscience, and disclaimed the use of
religious violence: ^114 but he called the Arabs to repentance,
and conjured them to remember the ancient idolaters of Ad and
Thamud, whom the divine justice had swept away from the face of
the earth. ^115

[Footnote 111: Before I enter on the history of the prophet, it
is incumbent on me to produce my evidence. The Latin, French,
and English versions of the Koran are preceded by historical
discourses, and the three translators, Maracci, (tom. i. p. 10 -
32,) Savary, (tom. i. p. 1 - 248,) and Sale, (Preliminary
Discourse, p. 33 - 56,) had accurately studied the language and
character of their author. Two professed Lives of Mahomet have
been composed by Dr. Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, seventh edition,
London, 1718, in octavo) and the count de Boulainvilliers, (Vie
de Mahomed, Londres, 1730, in octavo: ) but the adverse wish of
finding an impostor or a hero, has too often corrupted the
learning of the doctor and the ingenuity of the count. The
article in D'Herbelot (Bibliot. Orient. p. 598 - 603) is chiefly
drawn from Novairi and Mirkond; but the best and most authentic
of our guides is M. Gagnier, a Frenchman by birth, and professor
at Oxford of the Oriental tongues. In two elaborate works,
(Ismael Abulfeda de Vita et Rebus gestis Mohammedis, &c. Latine
vertit, Praefatione et Notis illustravit Johannes Gagnier, Oxon.
1723, in folio. La Vie de Mahomet traduite et compilee de
l'Alcoran, des Traditions Authentiques de la Sonna et des
meilleurs Auteurs Arabes; Amsterdam, 1748, 3 vols. in 12mo.,) he
has interpreted, illustrated, and supplied the Arabic text of
Abulfeda and Al Jannabi; the first, an enlightened prince who
reigned at Hamah, in Syria, A.D. 1310 - 1332, (see Gagnier
Praefat. ad Abulfed.;) the second, a credulous doctor, who
visited Mecca A.D. 1556. (D'Herbelot, p. 397. Gagnier, tom. iii.
p. 209, 210.) These are my general vouchers, and the inquisitive
reader may follow the order of time, and the division of
chapters. Yet I must observe that both Abulfeda and Al Jannabi
are modern historians, and that they cannot appeal to any writers
of the first century of the Hegira.

Note: A new Life, by Dr. Weil, (Stuttgart. 1843,) has added
some few traditions unknown in Europe. Of Dr. Weil's Arabic
scholarship, which professes to correct many errors in Gagnier,
in Maracci, and in M. von Hammer, I am no judge. But it is
remarkable that he does not seem acquainted with the passage of
Tabari, translated by Colonel Vans Kennedy, in the Bombay
Transactions, (vol. iii.,) the earliest and most important
addition made to the traditionary Life of Mahomet. I am inclined
to think Colonel Vans Kennedy's appreciation of the prophet's
character, which may be overlooked in a criticism on Voltaire's
Mahomet, the most just which I have ever read. The work of Dr.
Weil appears to me most valuable in its dissection and
chronological view of the Koran. - M. 1845]

[Footnote 112: After the Greeks, Prideaux (p. 8) discloses the
secret doubts of the wife of Mahomet. As if he had been a privy
counsellor of the prophet, Boulainvilliers (p. 272, &c.) unfolds
the sublime and patriotic views of Cadijah and the first

[Footnote 113: Vezirus, portitor, bajulus, onus ferens; and this
plebeian name was transferred by an apt metaphor to the pillars
of the state, (Gagnier, Not. ad Abulfed. p. 19.) I endeavor to
preserve the Arabian idiom, as far as I can feel it myself in a
Latin or French translation.]

[Footnote 114: The passages of the Koran in behalf of toleration
are strong and numerous: c. 2, v. 257, c. 16, 129, c. 17, 54, c.
45, 15, c. 50, 39, c. 88, 21, &c., with the notes of Maracci and
Sale. This character alone may generally decide the doubts of
the learned, whether a chapter was revealed at Mecca or Medina.]

[Footnote 115: See the Koran, (passim, and especially c. 7, p.
123, 124, &c.,) and the tradition of the Arabs, (Pocock,
Specimen, p. 35 - 37.) The caverns of the tribe of Thamud, fit
for men of the ordinary stature, were shown in the midway between
Medina and Damascus. (Abulfed Arabiae Descript. p. 43, 44,) and
may be probably ascribed to the Throglodytes of the primitive
world, (Michaelis, ad Lowth de Poesi Hebraeor. p. 131 - 134.
Recherches sur les Egyptiens, tom. ii. p. 48, &c.)]

Chapter L: Description Of Arabia And Its Inhabitants.

Part V.

The people of Mecca were hardened in their unbelief by
superstition and envy. The elders of the city, the uncles of the
prophet, affected to despise the presumption of an orphan, the
reformer of his country: the pious orations of Mahomet in the
Caaba were answered by the clamors of Abu Taleb. "Citizens and
pilgrims, listen not to the tempter, hearken not to his impious
novelties. Stand fast in the worship of Al Lata and Al Uzzah."
Yet the son of Abdallah was ever dear to the aged chief: and he
protected the fame and person of his nephew against the assaults
of the Koreishites, who had long been jealous of the preeminence
of the family of Hashem. Their malice was colored with the
pretence of religion: in the age of Job, the crime of impiety was
punished by the Arabian magistrate; ^116 and Mahomet was guilty
of deserting and denying the national deities. But so loose was
the policy of Mecca, that the leaders of the Koreish, instead of
accusing a criminal, were compelled to employ the measures of
persuasion or violence. They repeatedly addressed Abu Taleb in
the style of reproach and menace. "Thy nephew reviles our
religion; he accuses our wise forefathers of ignorance and folly;
silence him quickly, lest he kindle tumult and discord in the
city. If he persevere, we shall draw our swords against him and
his adherents, and thou wilt be responsible for the blood of thy
fellow-citizens." The weight and moderation of Abu Taleb eluded
the violence of religious faction; the most helpless or timid of
the disciples retired to Aethiopia, and the prophet withdrew
himself to various places of strength in the town and country.
As he was still supported by his family, the rest of the tribe of
Koreish engaged themselves to renounce all intercourse with the
children of Hashem, neither to buy nor sell, neither to marry not
to give in marriage, but to pursue them with implacable enmity,
till they should deliver the person of Mahomet to the justice of
the gods. The decree was suspended in the Caaba before the eyes
of the nation; the messengers of the Koreish pursued the
Mussulman exiles in the heart of Africa: they besieged the
prophet and his most faithful followers, intercepted their water,
and inflamed their mutual animosity by the retaliation of
injuries and insults. A doubtful truce restored the appearances
of concord till the death of Abu Taleb abandoned Mahomet to the
power of his enemies, at the moment when he was deprived of his
domestic comforts by the loss of his faithful and generous
Cadijah. Abu Sophian, the chief of the branch of Ommiyah,
succeeded to the principality of the republic of Mecca. A
zealous votary of the idols, a mortal foe of the line of Hashem,
he convened an assembly of the Koreishites and their allies, to
decide the fate of the apostle. His imprisonment might provoke
the despair of his enthusiasm; and the exile of an eloquent and
popular fanatic would diffuse the mischief through the provinces
of Arabia. His death was resolved; and they agreed that a sword
from each tribe should be buried in his heart, to divide the
guilt of his blood, and baffle the vengeance of the Hashemites.
An angel or a spy revealed their conspiracy; and flight was the
only resource of Mahomet. ^117 At the dead of night, accompanied
by his friend Abubeker, he silently escaped from his house: the
assassins watched at the door; but they were deceived by the
figure of Ali, who reposed on the bed, and was covered with the
green vestment of the apostle. The Koreish respected the piety of
the heroic youth; but some verses of Ali, which are still extant,
exhibit an interesting picture of his anxiety, his tenderness,
and his religious confidence. Three days Mahomet and his
companion were concealed in the cave of Thor, at the distance of
a league from Mecca; and in the close of each evening, they
received from the son and daughter of Abubeker a secret supply of
intelligence and food. The diligence of the Koreish explored
every haunt in the neighborhood of the city: they arrived at the
entrance of the cavern; but the providential deceit of a spider's
web and a pigeon's nest is supposed to convince them that the
place was solitary and inviolate. "We are only two," said the
trembling Abubeker. "There is a third," replied the prophet; "it
is God himself." No sooner was the pursuit abated than the two
fugitives issued from the rock, and mounted their camels: on the
road to Medina, they were overtaken by the emissaries of the
Koreish; they redeemed themselves with prayers and promises from
their hands. In this eventful moment, the lance of an Arab might
have changed the history of the world. The flight of the prophet
from Mecca to Medina has fixed the memorable aera of the Hegira,
^118 which, at the end of twelve centuries, still discriminates
the lunar years of the Mahometan nations. ^119

[Footnote 116: In the time of Job, the crime of impiety was
punished by the Arabian magistrate, (c. 21, v. 26, 27, 28.) I
blush for a respectable prelate (de Poesi Hebraeorum, p. 650,
651, edit. Michaelis; and letter of a late professor in the
university of Oxford, p. 15 - 53,) who justifies and applauds
this patriarchal inquisition.]

[Footnote 117: D'Herbelot, Bibliot. Orient. p. 445. He quotes a
particular history of the flight of Mahomet.]

[Footnote 118: The Hegira was instituted by Omar, the second
caliph, in imitation of the aera of the martyrs of the
Christians, (D'Herbelot, p. 444;) and properly commenced
sixty-eight days before the flight of Mahomet, with the first of
Moharren, or first day of that Arabian year which coincides with
Friday, July 16th, A.D. 622, (Abulfeda, Vit Moham, c. 22, 23, p.
45 - 50; and Greaves's edition of Ullug Beg's Epochae Arabum,
&c., c. 1, p. 8, 10, &c.)

Note: Chronologists dispute between the 15th and 16th of
July. St. Martin inclines to the 8th, ch. xi. p. 70. - M.]

[Footnote 119: Mahomet's life, from his mission to the Hegira,
may be found in Abulfeda (p. 14 - 45) and Gagnier, (tom. i. p.
134 - 251, 342 - 383.) The legend from p. 187 - 234 is vouched by
Al Jannabi, and disdained by Abulfeda.]

The religion of the Koran might have perished in its cradle,
had not Medina embraced with faith and reverence the holy
outcasts of Mecca. Medina, or the city, known under the name of
Yathreb, before it was sanctified by the throne of the prophet,
was divided between the tribes of the Charegites and the Awsites,
whose hereditary feud was rekindled by the slightest
provocations: two colonies of Jews, who boasted a sacerdotal
race, were their humble allies, and without converting the Arabs,
they introduced the taste of science and religion, which
distinguished Medina as the city of the Book. Some of her noblest
citizens, in a pilgrimage to the Canaba, were converted by the
preaching of Mahomet; on their return, they diffused the belief
of God and his prophet, and the new alliance was ratified by
their deputies in two secret and nocturnal interviews on a hill
in the suburbs of Mecca. In the first, ten Charegites and two
Awsites united in faith and love, protested, in the name of their
wives, their children, and their absent brethren, that they would
forever profess the creed, and observe the precepts, of the
Koran. The second was a political association, the first vital
spark of the empire of the Saracens. ^120 Seventy-three men and
two women of Medina held a solemn conference with Mahomet, his
kinsman, and his disciples; and pledged themselves to each other
by a mutual oath of fidelity. They promised, in the name of the
city, that if he should be banished, they would receive him as a
confederate, obey him as a leader, and defend him to the last
extremity, like their wives and children. "But if you are
recalled by your country," they asked with a flattering anxiety,
"will you not abandon your new allies?" "All things," replied
Mahomet with a smile, "are now common between us your blood is as
my blood, your ruin as my ruin. We are bound to each other by
the ties of honor and interest. I am your friend, and the enemy
of your foes." "But if we are killed in your service, what,"
exclaimed the deputies of Medina, "will be our reward?"
"Paradise," replied the prophet. "Stretch forth thy hand." He
stretched it forth, and they reiterated the oath of allegiance
and fidelity. Their treaty was ratified by the people, who
unanimously embraced the profession of Islam; they rejoiced in
the exile of the apostle, but they trembled for his safety, and
impatiently expected his arrival. After a perilous and rapid
journey along the sea-coast, he halted at Koba, two miles from
the city, and made his public entry into Medina, sixteen days
after his flight from Mecca. Five hundred of the citizens
advanced to meet him; he was hailed with acclamations of loyalty
and devotion; Mahomet was mounted on a she-camel, an umbrella
shaded his head, and a turban was unfurled before him to supply

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