Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

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

Part 4 out of 14

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

the deficiency of a standard. His bravest disciples, who had
been scattered by the storm, assembled round his person; and the
equal, though various, merit of the Moslems was distinguished by
the names of Mohagerians and Ansars, the fugitives of Mecca, and
the auxiliaries of Medina. To eradicate the seeds of jealousy,
Mahomet judiciously coupled his principal followers with the
rights and obligations of brethren; and when Ali found himself
without a peer, the prophet tenderly declared, that he would be
the companion and brother of the noble youth. The expedient was
crowned with success; the holy fraternity was respected in peace
and war, and the two parties vied with each other in a generous
emulation of courage and fidelity. Once only the concord was
slightly ruffled by an accidental quarrel: a patriot of Medina
arraigned the insolence of the strangers, but the hint of their
expulsion was heard with abhorrence; and his own son most eagerly
offered to lay at the apostle's feet the head of his father.

[Footnote 120: The triple inauguration of Mahomet is described by
Abulfeda (p. 30, 33, 40, 86) and Gagnier, (tom. i. p. 342, &c.,
349, &c., tom. ii. p. 223 &c.)]

From his establishment at Medina, Mahomet assumed the
exercise of the regal and sacerdotal office; and it was impious
to appeal from a judge whose decrees were inspired by the divine
wisdom. A small portion of ground, the patrimony of two orphans,
was acquired by gift or purchase; ^121 on that chosen spot he
built a house and a mosch, more venerable in their rude
simplicity than the palaces and temples of the Assyrian caliphs.
His seal of gold, or silver, was inscribed with the apostolic
title; when he prayed and preached in the weekly assembly, he
leaned against the trunk of a palm-tree; and it was long before
he indulged himself in the use of a chair or pulpit of rough
timber. ^122 After a reign of six years, fifteen hundred Moslems,
in arms and in the field, renewed their oath of allegiance; and
their chief repeated the assurance of protection till the death
of the last member, or the final dissolution of the party. It
was in the same camp that the deputy of Mecca was astonished by
the attention of the faithful to the words and looks of the
prophet, by the eagerness with which they collected his spittle,
a hair that dropped on the ground, the refuse water of his
lustrations, as if they participated in some degree of the
prophetic virtue. "I have seen," said he, "the Chosroes of
Persia and the Caesar of Rome, but never did I behold a king
among his subjects like Mahomet among his companions." The devout
fervor of enthusiasm acts with more energy and truth than the
cold and formal servility of courts.

[Footnote 121: Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, p. 44) reviles the
wickedness of the impostor, who despoiled two poor orphans, the
sons of a carpenter; a reproach which he drew from the Disputatio
contra Saracenos, composed in Arabic before the year 1130; but
the honest Gagnier (ad Abulfed. p. 53) has shown that they were
deceived by the word Al Nagjar, which signifies, in this place,
not an obscure trade, but a noble tribe of Arabs. The desolate
state of the ground is described by Abulfeda; and his worthy
interpreter has proved, from Al Bochari, the offer of a price;
from Al Jannabi, the fair purchase; and from Ahmeq Ben Joseph,
the payment of the money by the generous Abubeker On these
grounds the prophet must be honorably acquitted.]

[Footnote 122: Al Jannabi (apud Gagnier, tom. ii. p. 246, 324)
describes the seal and pulpit, as two venerable relics of the
apostle of God; and the portrait of his court is taken from
Abulfeda, (c. 44, p. 85.)]

In the state of nature, every man has a right to defend, by
force of arms, his person and his possessions; to repel, or even
to prevent, the violence of his enemies, and to extend his
hostilities to a reasonable measure of satisfaction and
retaliation. In the free society of the Arabs, the duties of
subject and citizen imposed a feeble restraint; and Mahomet, in
the exercise of a peaceful and benevolent mission, had been
despoiled and banished by the injustice of his countrymen. The
choice of an independent people had exalted the fugitive of Mecca
to the rank of a sovereign; and he was invested with the just
prerogative of forming alliances, and of waging offensive or
defensive war. The imperfection of human rights was supplied and
armed by the plenitude of divine power: the prophet of Medina
assumed, in his new revelations, a fiercer and more sanguinary
tone, which proves that his former moderation was the effect of
weakness: ^123 the means of persuasion had been tried, the season
of forbearance was elapsed, and he was now commanded to propagate
his religion by the sword, to destroy the monuments of idolatry,
and, without regarding the sanctity of days or months, to pursue
the unbelieving nations of the earth. The same bloody precepts,
so repeatedly inculcated in the Koran, are ascribed by the author
to the Pentateuch and the Gospel. But the mild tenor of the
evangelic style may explain an ambiguous text, that Jesus did not
bring peace on the earth, but a sword: his patient and humble
virtues should not be confounded with the intolerant zeal of
princes and bishops, who have disgraced the name of his
disciples. In the prosecution of religious war, Mahomet might
appeal with more propriety to the example of Moses, of the
Judges, and the kings of Israel. The military laws of the
Hebrews are still more rigid than those of the Arabian
legislator. ^124 The Lord of hosts marched in person before the
Jews: if a city resisted their summons, the males, without
distinction, were put to the sword: the seven nations of Canaan
were devoted to destruction; and neither repentance nor
conversion, could shield them from the inevitable doom, that no
creature within their precincts should be left alive. ^* The fair
option of friendship, or submission, or battle, was proposed to
the enemies of Mahomet. If they professed the creed of Islam,
they were admitted to all the temporal and spiritual benefits of
his primitive disciples, and marched under the same banner to
extend the religion which they had embraced. The clemency of the
prophet was decided by his interest: yet he seldom trampled on a
prostrate enemy; and he seems to promise, that on the payment of
a tribute, the least guilty of his unbelieving subjects might be
indulged in their worship, or at least in their imperfect faith.
In the first months of his reign he practised the lessons of holy
warfare, and displayed his white banner before the gates of
Medina: the martial apostle fought in person at nine battles or
sieges; ^125 and fifty enterprises of war were achieved in ten
years by himself or his lieutenants. The Arab continued to unite
the professions of a merchant and a robber; and his petty
excursions for the defence or the attack of a caravan insensibly
prepared his troops for the conquest of Arabia. The distribution
of the spoil was regulated by a divine law: ^126 the whole was
faithfully collected in one common mass: a fifth of the gold and
silver, the prisoners and cattle, the movables and immovables,
was reserved by the prophet for pious and charitable uses; the
remainder was shared in adequate portions by the soldiers who had
obtained the victory or guarded the camp: the rewards of the
slain devolved to their widows and orphans; and the increase of
cavalry was encouraged by the allotment of a double share to the
horse and to the man. From all sides the roving Arabs were
allured to the standard of religion and plunder: the apostle
sanctified the license of embracing the female captives as their
wives or concubines, and the enjoyment of wealth and beauty was a
feeble type of the joys of paradise prepared for the valiant
martyrs of the faith. "The sword," says Mahomet, "is the key of
heaven and of hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of God, a
night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting
or prayer: whosoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven: at
the day of judgment his wounds shall be resplendent as vermilion,
and odoriferous as musk; and the loss of his limbs shall be
supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim." The intrepid souls
of the Arabs were fired with enthusiasm: the picture of the
invisible world was strongly painted on their imagination; and
the death which they had always despised became an object of hope
and desire. The Koran inculcates, in the most absolute sense,
the tenets of fate and predestination, which would extinguish
both industry and virtue, if the actions of man were governed by
his speculative belief. Yet their influence in every age has
exalted the courage of the Saracens and Turks. The first
companions of Mahomet advanced to battle with a fearless
confidence: there is no danger where there is no chance: they
were ordained to perish in their beds; or they were safe and
invulnerable amidst the darts of the enemy. ^127

[Footnote 123: The viiith and ixth chapters of the Koran are the
loudest and most vehement; and Maracci (Prodromus, part iv. p. 59
- 64) has inveighed with more justice than discretion against the
double dealing of the impostor.]

[Footnote 124: The xth and xxth chapters of Deuteronomy, with the
practical comments of Joshua, David, &c., are read with more awe
than satisfaction by the pious Christians of the present age.
But the bishops, as well as the rabbis of former times, have beat
the drum-ecclesiastic with pleasure and success. (Sale's
Preliminary Discourse, p. 142, 143.)]

[Footnote *: The editor's opinions on this subject may be read in
the History of the Jews vol. i. p. 137. - M]

[Footnote 125: Abulfeda, in Vit. Moham. p. 156. The private
arsenal of the apostle consisted of nine swords, three lances,
seven pikes or half-pikes, a quiver and three bows, seven
cuirasses, three shields, and two helmets, (Gagnier, tom. iii. p.
328 - 334,) with a large white standard, a black banner, (p.
335,) twenty horses, (p. 322, &c.) Two of his martial sayings are
recorded by tradition, (Gagnier, tom. ii. p. 88, 334.)]

[Footnote 126: The whole subject de jure belli Mohammedanorum is
exhausted in a separate dissertation by the learned Reland,
(Dissertationes Miscellaneae, tom. iii. Dissertat. x. p. 3 -

[Footnote 127: The doctrine of absolute predestination, on which
few religions can reproach each other, is sternly exposed in the
Koran, (c. 3, p. 52, 53, c. 4, p. 70, &c., with the notes of
Sale, and c. 17, p. 413, with those of Maracci.) Reland (de
Relig. Moham. p. 61 - 64) and Sale (Prelim. Discourse, p. 103)
represent the opinions of the doctors, and our modern travellers
the confidence, the fading confidence, of the Turks]

Perhaps the Koreish would have been content with the dight
of Mahomet, had they not been provoked and alarmed by the
vengeance of an enemy, who could intercept their Syrian trade as
it passed and repassed through the territory of Medina. Abu
Sophian himself, with only thirty or forty followers, conducted a
wealthy caravan of a thousand camels; the fortune or dexterity of
his march escaped the vigilance of Mahomet; but the chief of the
Koreish was informed that the holy robbers were placed in ambush
to await his return. He despatched a messenger to his brethren
of Mecca, and they were roused, by the fear of losing their
merchandise and their provisions, unless they hastened to his
relief with the military force of the city. The sacred band of
Mahomet was formed of three hundred and thirteen Moslems, of whom
seventy-seven were fugitives, and the rest auxiliaries; they
mounted by turns a train of seventy camels, (the camels of
Yathreb were formidable in war;) but such was the poverty of his
first disciples, that only two could appear on horseback in the
field. ^128 In the fertile and famous vale of Beder, ^129 three
stations from Medina, he was informed by his scouts of the
caravan that approached on one side; of the Koreish, one hundred
horse, eight hundred and fifty foot, who advanced on the other.
After a short debate, he sacrificed the prospect of wealth to the
pursuit of glory and revenge, and a slight intrenchment was
formed, to cover his troops, and a stream of fresh water, that
glided through the valley. "O God," he exclaimed, as the numbers
of the Koreish descended from the hills, "O God, if these are
destroyed, by whom wilt thou be worshipped on the earth? -
Courage, my children; close your ranks; discharge your arrows,
and the day is your own." At these words he placed himself, with
Abubeker, on a throne or pulpit, ^130 and instantly demanded the
succor of Gabriel and three thousand angels. His eye was fixed
on the field of battle: the Mussulmans fainted and were pressed:
in that decisive moment the prophet started from his throne,
mounted his horse, and cast a handful of sand into the air: "Let
their faces be covered with confusion." Both armies heard the
thunder of his voice: their fancy beheld the angelic warriors:
^131 the Koreish trembled and fled: seventy of the bravest were
slain; and seventy captives adorned the first victory of the
faithful. The dead bodies of the Koreish were despoiled and
insulted: two of the most obnoxious prisoners were punished with
death; and the ransom of the others, four thousand drams of
silver, compensated in some degree the escape of the caravan.
But it was in vain that the camels of Abu Sophian explored a new
road through the desert and along the Euphrates: they were
overtaken by the diligence of the Mussulmans; and wealthy must
have been the prize, if twenty thousand drams could be set apart
for the fifth of the apostle. The resentment of the public and
private loss stimulated Abu Sophian to collect a body of three
thousand men, seven hundred of whom were armed with cuirasses,
and two hundred were mounted on horseback; three thousand camels
attended his march; and his wife Henda, with fifteen matrons of
Mecca, incessantly sounded their timbrels to animate the troops,
and to magnify the greatness of Hobal, the most popular deity of
the Caaba. The standard of God and Mahomet was upheld by nine
hundred and fifty believers: the disproportion of numbers was not
more alarming than in the field of Beder; and their presumption
of victory prevailed against the divine and human sense of the
apostle. The second battle was fought on Mount Ohud, six miles
to the north of Medina; ^132 the Koreish advanced in the form of
a crescent; and the right wing of cavalry was led by Caled, the
fiercest and most successful of the Arabian warriors. The troops
of Mahomet were skilfully posted on the declivity of the hill;
and their rear was guarded by a detachment of fifty archers. The
weight of their charge impelled and broke the centre of the
idolaters: but in the pursuit they lost the advantage of their
ground: the archers deserted their station: the Mussulmans were
tempted by the spoil, disobeyed their general, and disordered
their ranks. The intrepid Caled, wheeling his cavalry on their
flank and rear, exclaimed, with a loud voice, that Mahomet was
slain. He was indeed wounded in the face with a javelin: two of
his teeth were shattered with a stone; yet, in the midst of
tumult and dismay, he reproached the infidels with the murder of
a prophet; and blessed the friendly hand that stanched his blood,
and conveyed him to a place of safety Seventy martyrs died for
the sins of the people; they fell, said the apostle, in pairs,
each brother embracing his lifeless companion; ^133 their bodies
were mangled by the inhuman females of Mecca; and the wife of Abu
Sophian tasted the entrails of Hamza, the uncle of Mahomet. They
might applaud their superstition, and satiate their fury; but the
Mussulmans soon rallied in the field, and the Koreish wanted
strength or courage to undertake the siege of Medina. It was
attacked the ensuing year by an army of ten thousand enemies; and
this third expedition is variously named from the nations, which
marched under the banner of Abu Sophian, from the ditch which was
drawn before the city, and a camp of three thousand Mussulmans.
The prudence of Mahomet declined a general engagement: the valor
of Ali was signalized in single combat; and the war was
protracted twenty days, till the final separation of the
confederates. A tempest of wind, rain, and hail, overturned
their tents: their private quarrels were fomented by an insidious
adversary; and the Koreish, deserted by their allies, no longer
hoped to subvert the throne, or to check the conquests, of their
invincible exile. ^134

[Footnote 128: Al Jannabi (apud Gagnier, tom. ii. p. 9) allows
him seventy or eighty horse; and on two other occasions, prior to
the battle of Ohud, he enlists a body of thirty (p. 10) and of
500 (p. 66) troopers. Yet the Mussulmans, in the field of Ohud,
had no more than two horses, according to the better sense of
Abulfeda, (in Vit. Moham. c. xxxi. p. 65.) In the Stony province,
the camels were numerous; but the horse appears to have been less
numerous than in the Happy or the Desert Arabia.]

[Footnote 129: Bedder Houneene, twenty miles from Medina, and
forty from Mecca, is on the high road of the caravan of Egypt;
and the pilgrims annually commemorate the prophet's victory by
illuminations, rockets, &c. Shaw's Travels, p. 477.]

[Footnote 130: The place to which Mahomet retired during the
action is styled by Gagnier (in Abulfeda, c. 27, p. 58. Vie de
Mahomet, tom. ii. p. 30, 33) Umbraculum, une loge de bois avec
une porte. The same Arabic word is rendered by Reiske (Annales
Moslemici Abulfedae, p. 23) by Solium, Suggestus editior; and the
difference is of the utmost moment for the honor both of the
interpreter and of the hero. I am sorry to observe the pride and
acrimony with which Reiske chastises his fellow-laborer. Saepi
sic vertit, ut integrae paginae nequeant nisi una litura corrigi
Arabice non satis callebat, et carebat judicio critico. J. J.
Reiske, Prodidagmata ad Hagji Chalisae Tabulas, p. 228, ad
calcero Abulfedae Syriae Tabulae; Lipsiae, 1766, in 4to.]

[Footnote 131: The loose expressions of the Koran (c. 3, p. 124,
125, c. 8, p. 9) allow the commentators to fluctuate between the
numbers of 1000, 3000, or 9000 angels; and the smallest of these
might suffice for the slaughter of seventy of the Koreish,
(Maracci, Alcoran, tom. ii. p. 131.) Yet the same scholiasts
confess that this angelic band was not visible to any mortal eye,
(Maracci, p. 297.) They refine on the words (c. 8, 16) "not thou,
but God," &c. (D'Herbelot. Bibliot. Orientale p. 600, 601.)]

[Footnote 132: Geograph. Nubiensis, p. 47.]

[Footnote 133: In the iiid chapter of the Koran, (p. 50 - 53,
with Sale's notes, the prophet alleges some poor excuses for the
defeat of Ohud.

Note: Dr. Weil has added some curious circumstances, which
he gives as on good traditional authority, on the rescue of
Mahomet. The prophet was attacked by Ubeijj Ibn Challaf, whom he
struck on the neck with a mortal wound. This was the only time,
it is added, that Mahomet personally engaged in battle. (p.
128.) - M. 1845.]

[Footnote 134: For the detail of the three Koreish wars, of
Beder, of Ohud, and of the ditch, peruse Abulfeda, (p. 56 - 61,
64 - 69, 73 - 77,) Gagnier (tom. i. p. 23 - 45, 70 - 96, 120 -
139,) with the proper articles of D'Herbelot, and the abridgments
of Elmacin (Hist. Saracen. p. 6, 7) and Abulpharagius, (Dynast.
p. 102.)]

Chapter L: Description Of Arabia And Its Inhabitants.

Part VI.

The choice of Jerusalem for the first kebla of prayer
discovers the early propensity of Mahomet in favor of the Jews;
and happy would it have been for their temporal interest, had
they recognized, in the Arabian prophet, the hope of Israel and
the promised Messiah. Their obstinacy converted his friendship
into implacable hatred, with which he pursued that unfortunate
people to the last moment of his life; and in the double
character of an apostle and a conqueror, his persecution was
extended to both worlds. ^135 The Kainoka dwelt at Medina under
the protection of the city; he seized the occasion of an
accidental tumult, and summoned them to embrace his religion, or
contend with him in battle. "Alas!" replied the trembling Jews,
"we are ignorant of the use of arms, but we persevere in the
faith and worship of our fathers; why wilt thou reduce us to the
necessity of a just defence?" The unequal conflict was terminated
in fifteen days; and it was with extreme reluctance that Mahomet
yielded to the importunity of his allies, and consented to spare
the lives of the captives. But their riches were confiscated,
their arms became more effectual in the hands of the Mussulmans;
and a wretched colony of seven hundred exiles was driven, with
their wives and children, to implore a refuge on the confines of
Syria. The Nadhirites were more guilty, since they conspired, in
a friendly interview, to assassinate the prophet. He besieged
their castle, three miles from Medina; but their resolute defence
obtained an honorable capitulation; and the garrison, sounding
their trumpets and beating their drums, was permitted to depart
with the honors of war. The Jews had excited and joined the war
of the Koreish: no sooner had the nations retired from the ditch,
than Mahomet, without laying aside his armor, marched on the same
day to extirpate the hostile race of the children of Koraidha.
After a resistance of twenty-five days, they surrendered at
discretion. They trusted to the intercession of their old allies
of Medina; they could not be ignorant that fanaticism obliterates
the feelings of humanity. A venerable elder, to whose judgment
they appealed, pronounced the sentence of their death; seven
hundred Jews were dragged in chains to the market-place of the
city; they descended alive into the grave prepared for their
execution and burial; and the apostle beheld with an inflexible
eye the slaughter of his helpless enemies. Their sheep and
camels were inherited by the Mussulmans: three hundred cuirasses,
five hundred piles, a thousand lances, composed the most useful
portion of the spoil. Six days' journey to the north-east of
Medina, the ancient and wealthy town of Chaibar was the seat of
the Jewish power in Arabia: the territory, a fertile spot in the
desert, was covered with plantations and cattle, and protected by
eight castles, some of which were esteemed of impregnable
strength. The forces of Mahomet consisted of two hundred horse
and fourteen hundred foot: in the succession of eight regular and
painful sieges they were exposed to danger, and fatigue, and
hunger; and the most undaunted chiefs despaired of the event.
The apostle revived their faith and courage by the example of
Ali, on whom he bestowed the surname of the Lion of God: perhaps
we may believe that a Hebrew champion of gigantic stature was
cloven to the chest by his irresistible cimeter; but we cannot
praise the modesty of romance, which represents him as tearing
from its hinges the gate of a fortress and wielding the ponderous
buckler in his left hand. ^136 After the reduction of the
castles, the town of Chaibar submitted to the yoke. The chief of
the tribe was tortured, in the presence of Mahomet, to force a
confession of his hidden treasure: the industry of the shepherds
and husbandmen was rewarded with a precarious toleration: they
were permitted, so long as it should please the conqueror, to
improve their patrimony, in equal shares, for his emolument and
their own. Under the reign of Omar, the Jews of Chaibar were
transported to Syria; and the caliph alleged the injunction of
his dying master; that one and the true religion should be
professed in his native land of Arabia. ^137

[Footnote 135: The wars of Mahomet against the Jewish tribes of
Kainoka, the Nadhirites, Koraidha, and Chaibar, are related by
Abulfeda (p. 61, 71, 77, 87, &c.) and Gagnier, (tom. ii. p. 61 -
65, 107 - 112, 139 - 148, 268 - 294.)]

[Footnote 136: Abu Rafe, the servant of Mahomet, is said to
affirm that he himself, and seven other men, afterwards tried,
without success, to move the same gate from the ground,
(Abulfeda, p. 90.) Abu Rafe was an eye- witness, but who will be
witness for Abu Rafe?]

[Footnote 137: The banishment of the Jews is attested by Elmacin
(Hist. Saracen, p. 9) and the great Al Zabari, (Gagnier, tom. ii.
p. 285.) Yet Niebuhr (Description de l'Arabie, (p. 324) believes
that the Jewish religion, and Karaite sect, are still professed
by the tribe of Chaibar; and that, in the plunder of the
caravans, the disciples of Moses are the confederates of those of

Five times each day the eyes of Mahomet were turned towards
Mecca, ^138 and he was urged by the most sacred and powerful
motives to revisit, as a conqueror, the city and the temple from
whence he had been driven as an exile. The Caaba was present to
his waking and sleeping fancy: an idle dream was translated into
vision and prophecy; he unfurled the holy banner; and a rash
promise of success too hastily dropped from the lips of the
apostle. His march from Medina to Mecca displayed the peaceful
and solemn pomp of a pilgrimage: seventy camels, chosen and
bedecked for sacrifice, preceded the van; the sacred territory
was respected; and the captives were dismissed without ransom to
proclaim his clemency and devotion. But no sooner did Mahomet
descend into the plain, within a day's journey of the city, than
he exclaimed, "They have clothed themselves with the skins of
tigers: " the numbers and resolution of the Koreish opposed his
progress; and the roving Arabs of the desert might desert or
betray a leader whom they had followed for the hopes of spoil.
The intrepid fanatic sunk into a cool and cautious politician: he
waived in the treaty his title of apostle of God; concluded with
the Koreish and their allies a truce of ten years; engaged to
restore the fugitives of Mecca who should embrace his religion;
and stipulated only, for the ensuing year, the humble privilege
of entering the city as a friend, and of remaining three days to
accomplish the rites of the pilgrimage. A cloud of shame and
sorrow hung on the retreat of the Mussulmans, and their
disappointment might justly accuse the failure of a prophet who
had so often appealed to the evidence of success. The faith and
hope of the pilgrims were rekindled by the prospect of Mecca:
their swords were sheathed; ^* seven times in the footsteps of
the apostle they encompassed the Caaba: the Koreish had retired
to the hills, and Mahomet, after the customary sacrifice,
evacuated the city on the fourth day. The people was edified by
his devotion; the hostile chiefs were awed, or divided, or
seduced; and both Kaled and Amrou, the future conquerors of Syria
and Egypt, most seasonably deserted the sinking cause of
idolatry. The power of Mahomet was increased by the submission of
the Arabian tribes; ten thousand soldiers were assembled for the
conquest of Mecca; and the idolaters, the weaker party, were
easily convicted of violating the truce. Enthusiasm and
discipline impelled the march, and preserved the secret till the
blaze of ten thousand fires proclaimed to the astonished Koreish
the design, the approach, and the irresistible force of the
enemy. The haughty Abu Sophian presented the keys of the city,
admired the variety of arms and ensigns that passed before him in
review; observed that the son of Abdallah had acquired a mighty
kingdom, and confessed, under the cimeter of Omar, that he was
the apostle of the true God. The return of Marius and Scylla was
stained with the blood of the Romans: the revenge of Mahomet was
stimulated by religious zeal, and his injured followers were
eager to execute or to prevent the order of a massacre. Instead
of indulging their passions and his own, ^139 the victorious
exile forgave the guilt, and united the factions, of Mecca. His
troops, in three divisions, marched into the city:
eight-and-twenty of the inhabitants were slain by the sword of
Caled; eleven men and six women were proscribed by the sentence
of Mahomet; but he blamed the cruelty of his lieutenant; and
several of the most obnoxious victims were indebted for their
lives to his clemency or contempt. The chiefs of the Koreish
were prostrate at his feet. "What mercy can you expect from the
man whom you have wronged?" "We confide in the generosity of our
kinsman." "And you shall not confide in vain: begone! you are
safe, you are free" The people of Mecca deserved their pardon by
the profession of Islam; and after an exile of seven years, the
fugitive missionary was enthroned as the prince and prophet of
his native country. ^140 But the three hundred and sixty idols of
the Caaba were ignominiously broken: the house of God was
purified and adorned: as an example to future times, the apostle
again fulfilled the duties of a pilgrim; and a perpetual law was
enacted that no unbeliever should dare to set his foot on the
territory of the holy city. ^141

[Footnote 138: The successive steps of the reduction of Mecca are
related by Abulfeda (p. 84 - 87, 97 - 100, 102 - 111) and
Gagnier, (tom. ii. p. 202 - 245, 309 - 322, tom. iii. p. 1 - 58,)
Elmacin, (Hist. Saracen. p. 8, 9, 10,) Abulpharagius, (Dynast. p.

[Footnote *: This peaceful entrance into Mecca took place,
according to the treaty the following year. Weil, p. 202 - M.

[Footnote 139: After the conquest of Mecca, the Mahomet of
Voltaire imagines and perpetuates the most horrid crimes. The
poet confesses, that he is not supported by the truth of history,
and can only allege, que celui qui fait la guerre a sa patrie au
nom de Dieu, est capable de tout, (Oeuvres de Voltaire, tom. xv.
p. 282.) The maxim is neither charitable nor philosophic; and
some reverence is surely due to the fame of heroes and the
religion of nations. I am informed that a Turkish ambassador at
Paris was much scandalized at the representation of this

[Footnote 140: The Mahometan doctors still dispute, whether Mecca
was reduced by force or consent, (Abulfeda, p. 107, et Gagnier ad
locum;) and this verbal controversy is of as much moment as our
own about William the Conqueror.]

[Footnote 141: In excluding the Christians from the peninsula of
Arabia, the province of Hejaz, or the navigation of the Red Sea,
Chardin (Voyages en Perse, tom. iv. p. 166) and Reland
(Dissertat. Miscell. tom. iii. p. 61) are more rigid than the
Mussulmans themselves. The Christians are received without
scruple into the ports of Mocha, and even of Gedda; and it is
only the city and precincts of Mecca that are inaccessible to the
profane, (Niebuhr, Description de l'Arabie, p. 308, 309, Voyage
en Arabie, tom. i. p. 205, 248, &c.)]

The conquest of Mecca determined the faith and obedience of
the Arabian tribes; ^142 who, according to the vicissitudes of
fortune, had obeyed, or disregarded, the eloquence or the arms of
the prophet. Indifference for rites and opinions still marks the
character of the Bedoweens; and they might accept, as loosely as
they hold, the doctrine of the Koran. Yet an obstinate remnant
still adhered to the religion and liberty of their ancestors, and
the war of Honain derived a proper appellation from the idols,
whom Mahomet had vowed to destroy, and whom the confederates of
Tayef had sworn to defend. ^143 Four thousand Pagans advanced
with secrecy and speed to surprise the conqueror: they pitied and
despised the supine negligence of the Koreish, but they depended
on the wishes, and perhaps the aid, of a people who had so lately
renounced their gods, and bowed beneath the yoke of their enemy.
The banners of Medina and Mecca were displayed by the prophet; a
crowd of Bedoweens increased the strength or numbers of the army,
and twelve thousand Mussulmans entertained a rash and sinful
presumption of their invincible strength. They descended without
precaution into the valley of Honain: the heights had been
occupied by the archers and slingers of the confederates; their
numbers were oppressed, their discipline was confounded, their
courage was appalled, and the Koreish smiled at their impending
destruction. The prophet, on his white mule, was encompassed by
the enemies: he attempted to rush against their spears in search
of a glorious death: ten of his faithful companions interposed
their weapons and their breasts; three of these fell dead at his
feet: "O my brethren," he repeatedly cried, with sorrow and
indignation, "I am the son of Abdallah, I am the apostle of
truth! O man, stand fast in the faith! O God, send down thy
succor!" His uncle Abbas, who, like the heroes of Homer, excelled
in the loudness of his voice, made the valley resound with the
recital of the gifts and promises of God: the flying Moslems
returned from all sides to the holy standard; and Mahomet
observed with pleasure that the furnace was again rekindled: his
conduct and example restored the battle, and he animated his
victorious troops to inflict a merciless revenge on the authors
of their shame. From the field of Honain, he marched without
delay to the siege of Tayef, sixty miles to the south- east of
Mecca, a fortress of strength, whose fertile lands produce the
fruits of Syria in the midst of the Arabian desert. A friendly
tribe, instructed (I know not how) in the art of sieges, supplied
him with a train of battering-rams and military engines, with a
body of five hundred artificers. But it was in vain that he
offered freedom to the slaves of Tayef; that he violated his own
laws by the extirpation of the fruit-trees; that the ground was
opened by the miners; that the breach was assaulted by the
troops. After a siege of twenty-days, the prophet sounded a
retreat; but he retreated with a song of devout triumph, and
affected to pray for the repentance and safety of the unbelieving
city. The spoils of this fortunate expedition amounted to six
thousand captives, twenty-four thousand camels, forty thousand
sheep, and four thousand ounces of silver: a tribe who had fought
at Hoinan redeemed their prisoners by the sacrifice of their
idols; but Mahomet compensated the loss, by resigning to the
soldiers his fifth of the plunder, and wished, for their sake,
that he possessed as many head of cattle as there were trees in
the province of Tehama. Instead of chastising the disaffection
of the Koreish, he endeavored to cut out their tongues, (his own
expression,) and to secure their attachment by a superior measure
of liberality: Abu Sophian alone was presented with three hundred
camels and twenty ounces of silver; and Mecca was sincerely
converted to the profitable religion of the Koran.

[Footnote 142: Abulfeda, p. 112 - 115. Gagnier, tom. iii. p. 67
- 88. D'Herbelot, Mohammed.]

[Footnote 143: The siege of Tayef, division of the spoil, &c.,
are related by Abulfeda (p. 117 - 123) and Gagnier, (tom. iii. p.
88 - 111.) It is Al Jannabi who mentions the engines and
engineers of the tribe of Daws. The fertile spot of Tayef was
supposed to be a piece of the land of Syria detached and dropped
in the general deluge]

The fugitives and auxiliaries complained, that they who had
borne the burden were neglected in the season of victory "Alas!"
replied their artful leader, "suffer me to conciliate these
recent enemies, these doubtful proselytes, by the gift of some
perishable goods. To your guard I intrust my life and fortunes.
You are the companions of my exile, of my kingdom, of my
paradise." He was followed by the deputies of Tayef, who dreaded
the repetition of a siege. "Grant us, O apostle of God! a truce
of three years, with the toleration of our ancient worship." "Not
a month, not an hour." "Excuse us at least from the obligation of
prayer." "Without prayer religion is of no avail." They submitted
in silence: their temples were demolished, and the same sentence
of destruction was executed on all the idols of Arabia. His
lieutenants, on the shores of the Red Sea, the Ocean, and the
Gulf of Persia, were saluted by the acclamations of a faithful
people; and the ambassadors, who knelt before the throne of
Medina, were as numerous (says the Arabian proverb) as the dates
that fall from the maturity of a palm-tree. The nation submitted
to the God and the sceptre of Mahomet: the opprobrious name of
tribute was abolished: the spontaneous or reluctant oblations of
arms and tithes were applied to the service of religion; and one
hundred and fourteen thousand Moslems accompanied the last
pilgrimage of the apostle. ^144

[Footnote 144: The last conquests and pilgrimage of Mahomet are
contained in Abulfeda, (p. 121, 133,) Gagnier, (tom. iii. p. 119
- 219,) Elmacin, (p. 10, 11,) Abulpharagius, (p. 103.) The ixth
of the Hegira was styled the Year of Embassies, (Gagnier, Not. ad
Abulfed. p. 121.)]

When Heraclius returned in triumph from the Persian war, he
entertained, at Emesa, one of the ambassadors of Mahomet, who
invited the princes and nations of the earth to the profession of
Islam. On this foundation the zeal of the Arabians has supposed
the secret conversion of the Christian emperor: the vanity of the
Greeks has feigned a personal visit of the prince of Medina, who
accepted from the royal bounty a rich domain, and a secure
retreat, in the province of Syria. ^145 But the friendship of
Heraclius and Mahomet was of short continuance: the new religion
had inflamed rather than assuaged the rapacious spirit of the
Saracens, and the murder of an envoy afforded a decent pretence
for invading, with three thousand soldiers, the territory of
Palestine, that extends to the eastward of the Jordan. The holy
banner was intrusted to Zeid; and such was the discipline or
enthusiasm of the rising sect, that the noblest chiefs served
without reluctance under the slave of the prophet. On the event
of his decease, Jaafar and Abdallah were successively substituted
to the command; and if the three should perish in the war, the
troops were authorized to elect their general. The three leaders
were slain in the battle of Muta, ^146 the first military action,
which tried the valor of the Moslems against a foreign enemy.
Zeid fell, like a soldier, in the foremost ranks: the death of
Jaafar was heroic and memorable: he lost his right hand: he
shifted the standard to his left: the left was severed from his
body: he embraced the standard with his bleeding stumps, till he
was transfixed to the ground with fifty honorable wounds. ^*
"Advance," cried Abdallah, who stepped into the vacant place,
"advance with confidence: either victory or paradise is our own."
The lance of a Roman decided the alternative; but the falling
standard was rescued by Caled, the proselyte of Mecca: nine
swords were broken in his hand; and his valor withstood and
repulsed the superior numbers of the Christians. In the
nocturnal council of the camp he was chosen to command: his
skilful evolutions of the ensuing day secured either the victory
or the retreat of the Saracens; and Caled is renowned among his
brethren and his enemies by the glorious appellation of the Sword
of God. In the pulpit, Mahomet described, with prophetic rapture,
the crowns of the blessed martyrs; but in private he betrayed the
feelings of human nature: he was surprised as he wept over the
daughter of Zeid: "What do I see?" said the astonished votary.
"You see," replied the apostle, "a friend who is deploring the
loss of his most faithful friend." After the conquest of Mecca,
the sovereign of Arabia affected to prevent the hostile
preparations of Heraclius; and solemnly proclaimed war against
the Romans, without attempting to disguise the hardships and
dangers of the enterprise. ^147 The Moslems were discouraged:
they alleged the want of money, or horses, or provisions; the
season of harvest, and the intolerable heat of the summer: "Hell
is much hotter," said the indignant prophet. He disdained to
compel their service: but on his return he admonished the most
guilty, by an excommunication of fifty days. Their desertion
enhanced the merit of Abubeker, Othman, and the faithful
companions who devoted their lives and fortunes; and Mahomet
displayed his banner at the head of ten thousand horse and twenty
thousand foot. Painful indeed was the distress of the march:
lassitude and thirst were aggravated by the scorching and
pestilential winds of the desert: ten men rode by turns on one
camel; and they were reduced to the shameful necessity of
drinking the water from the belly of that useful animal. In the
mid-way, ten days' journey from Medina and Damascus, they reposed
near the grove and fountain of Tabuc. Beyond that place Mahomet
declined the prosecution of the war: he declared himself
satisfied with the peaceful intentions, he was more probably
daunted by the martial array, of the emperor of the East. But
the active and intrepid Caled spread around the terror of his
name; and the prophet received the submission of the tribes and
cities, from the Euphrates to Ailah, at the head of the Red Sea.
To his Christian subjects, Mahomet readily granted the security
of their persons, the freedom of their trade, the property of
their goods, and the toleration of their worship. ^148 The
weakness of their Arabian brethren had restrained them from
opposing his ambition; the disciples of Jesus were endeared to
the enemy of the Jews; and it was the interest of a conqueror to
propose a fair capitulation to the most powerful religion of the

[Footnote 145: Compare the bigoted Al Jannabi (apud Gagnier, tom.
ii. p. 232 - 255) with the no less bigoted Greeks, Theophanes,
(p. 276 - 227,) Zonaras (tom. ii. l. xiv. p. 86,) and Cedrenus,
(p. 421.)]

[Footnote 146: For the battle of Muta, and its consequences, see
Abulfeda (p 100 - 102) and Gagnier, (tom. ii. p. 327 - 343.).]

[Footnote *: To console the afflicted relatives of his kinsman
Jauffer, he (Mahomet) represented that, in Paradise, in exchange
for the arms which he had lost, he had been furnished with a pair
of wings, resplendent with the blushing glories of the ruby, and
with which he was become the inseparable companion of the
archangal Gabriel, in his volitations through the regions of
eternal bliss. Hence, in the catalogue of the martyrs, he has
been denominated Jauffer teyaur, the winged Jauffer. Price,
Chronological Retrospect of Mohammedan History, vol. i. p. 5. -

[Footnote 147: The expedition of Tabuc is recorded by our
ordinary historians Abulfeda (Vit. Moham. p. 123 - 127) and
Gagnier, (Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 147 - 163: ) but we have
the advantage of appealing to the original evidence of the Koran,
(c. 9, p. 154, 165,) with Sale's learned and rational notes.]

[Footnote 148: The Diploma securitatis Ailensibus is attested by
Ahmed Ben Joseph, and the author Libri Splendorum, (Gagnier, Not.
ad Abulfe dam, p. 125;) but Abulfeda himself, as well as Elmacin,
(Hist. Saracen. p. 11,) though he owns Mahomet's regard for the
Christians, (p 13,) only mentions peace and tribute. In the year
1630, Sionita published at Paris the text and version of
Mahomet's patent in favor of the Christians; which was admitted
and reprobated by the opposite taste of Salmasius and Grotius,
(Bayle, Mahomet, Rem. Aa.) Hottinger doubts of its authenticity,
(Hist. Orient. p. 237;) Renaudot urges the consent of the
Mohametans, (Hist. Patriarch. Alex. p. 169;) but Mosheim (Hist.
Eccles. p. 244) shows the futility of their opinion and inclines
to believe it spurious. Yet Abulpharagius quotes the impostor's
treaty with the Nestorian patriarch, (Asseman. Bibliot. Orient.
tom. ii. p. 418;) but Abulpharagius was primate of the

Till the age of sixty-three years, the strength of Mahomet
was equal to the temporal and spiritual fatigues of his mission.
His epileptic fits, an absurd calumny of the Greeks, would be an
object of pity rather than abhorrence; ^149 but he seriously
believed that he was poisoned at Chaibar by the revenge of a
Jewish female. ^150 During four years, the health of the prophet
declined; his infirmities increased; but his mortal disease was a
fever of fourteen days, which deprived him by intervals of the
use of reason. As soon as he was conscious of his danger, he
edified his brethren by the humility of his virtue or penitence.
"If there be any man," said the apostle from the pulpit, "whom I
have unjustly scourged, I submit my own back to the lash of
retaliation. Have I aspersed the reputation of a Mussulman? let
him proclaim my thoughts in the face of the congregation. Has any
one been despoiled of his goods? the little that I possess shall
compensate the principal and the interest of the debt." "Yes,"
replied a voice from the crowd, "I am entitled to three drams of
silver." Mahomet heard the complaint, satisfied the demand, and
thanked his creditor for accusing him in this world rather than
at the day of judgment. He beheld with temperate firmness the
approach of death; enfranchised his slaves (seventeen men, as
they are named, and eleven women;) minutely directed the order of
his funeral, and moderated the lamentations of his weeping
friends, on whom he bestowed the benediction of peace. Till the
third day before his death, he regularly performed the function
of public prayer: the choice of Abubeker to supply his place,
appeared to mark that ancient and faithful friend as his
successor in the sacerdotal and regal office; but he prudently
declined the risk and envy of a more explicit nomination. At a
moment when his faculties were visibly impaired, he called for
pen and ink to write, or, more properly, to dictate, a divine
book, the sum and accomplishment of all his revelations: a
dispute arose in the chamber, whether he should be allowed to
supersede the authority of the Koran; and the prophet was forced
to reprove the indecent vehemence of his disciples. If the
slightest credit may be afforded to the traditions of his wives
and companions, he maintained, in the bosom of his family, and to
the last moments of his life, the dignity ^* of an apostle, and
the faith of an enthusiast; described the visits of Gabriel, who
bade an everlasting farewell to the earth, and expressed his
lively confidence, not only of the mercy, but of the favor, of
the Supreme Being. In a familiar discourse he had mentioned his
special prerogative, that the angel of death was not allowed to
take his soul till he had respectfully asked the permission of
the prophet. The request was granted; and Mahomet immediately
fell into the agony of his dissolution: his head was reclined on
the lap of Ayesha, the best beloved of all his wives; he fainted
with the violence of pain; recovering his spirits, he raised his
eyes towards the roof of the house, and, with a steady look,
though a faltering voice, uttered the last broken, though
articulate, words: "O God! ..... pardon my sins....... Yes,
...... I come, ...... among my fellow-citizens on high;" and thus
peaceably expired on a carpet spread upon the floor. An
expedition for the conquest of Syria was stopped by this mournful
event; the army halted at the gates of Medina; the chiefs were
assembled round their dying master. The city, more especially
the house, of the prophet, was a scene of clamorous sorrow of
silent despair: fanaticism alone could suggest a ray of hope and
consolation. "How can he be dead, our witness, our intercessor,
our mediator, with God? By God he is not dead: like Moses and
Jesus, he is wrapped in a holy trance, and speedily will he
return to his faithful people." The evidence of sense was
disregarded; and Omar, unsheathing his cimeter, threatened to
strike off the heads of the infidels, who should dare to affirm
that the prophet was no more. The tumult was appeased by the
weight and moderation of Abubeker. "Is it Mahomet," said he to
Omar and the multitude, "or the God of Mahomet, whom you worship?

The God of Mahomet liveth forever; but the apostle was a mortal
like ourselves, and according to his own prediction, he has
experienced the common fate of mortality." He was piously
interred by the hands of his nearest kinsman, on the same spot on
which he expired: ^151 Medina has been sanctified by the death
and burial of Mahomet; and the innumerable pilgrims of Mecca
often turn aside from the way, to bow, in voluntary devotion,
^152 before the simple tomb of the prophet. ^153

[Footnote 149: The epilepsy, or falling-sickness, of Mahomet is
asserted by Theophanes, Zonaras, and the rest of the Greeks; and
is greedily swallowed by the gross bigotry of Hottinger, (Hist.
Orient. p. 10, 11,) Prideaux, (Life of Mahomet, p. 12,) and
Maracci, (tom. ii. Alcoran, p. 762, 763.) The titles (the
wrapped-up, the covered) of two chapters of the Koran, (73, 74)
can hardly be strained to such an interpretation: the silence,
the ignorance of the Mahometan commentators, is more conclusive
than the most peremptory denial; and the charitable side is
espoused by Ockley, (Hist. of the Saracens, tom. i. p. 301,)
Gagnier, (ad Abulfedam, p. 9. Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 118,)
and Sale, (Koran, p. 469 - 474.)

Note: Dr Weil believes in the epilepsy, and adduces strong
evidence for it; and surely it may be believed, in perfect
charity; and that the prophet's visions were connected, as they
appear to have been, with these fits. I have little doubt that
he saw and believed these visions, and visions they were. Weil,
p. 43. - M. 1845.]

[Footnote 150: This poison (more ignominious since it was offered
as a test of his prophetic knowledge) is frankly confessed by his
zealous votaries, Abulfeda (p. 92) and Al Jannabi, (apud Gagnier,
tom. ii. p. 286 - 288.)]

[Footnote *: Major Price, who writes with the authority of one
widely conversant with the original sources of Eastern knowledge,
and in a very candid tone, takes a very different view of the
prophet's death. "In tracing the circumstances of Mahommed's
illness, we look in vain for any proofs of that meek and heroic
firmness which might be expected to dignify and embellish the
last moments of the apostle of God. On some occasions he
betrayed such want of fortitude, such marks of childish
impatience, as are in general to be found in men only of the most
ordinary stamp; and such as extorted from his wife Ayesha, in
particular, the sarcastic remark, that in herself, or any of her
family, a similar demeanor would long since have incurred his
severe displeasure. * * * He said that the acuteness and
violence of his sufferings were necessarily in the proportion of
those honors with which it had ever pleased the hand of
Omnipotence to distinguish its peculiar favorites Price, vol. i.
p. 13. - M]

[Footnote 151: The Greeks and Latins have invented and propagated
the vulgar and ridiculous story, that Mahomet's iron tomb is
suspended in the air at Mecca, (Laonicus Chalcondyles, de Rebus
Turcicis, l. iii. p. 66,) by the action of equal and potent
loadstones, (Dictionnaire de Bayle, Mahomet, Rem. Ee. Ff.)
Without any philosophical inquiries, it may suffice, that, 1. The
prophet was not buried at Mecca; and, 2. That his tomb at Medina,
which has been visited by millions, is placed on the ground,
(Reland, de Relig. Moham. l. ii. c. 19, p. 209 - 211. Gagnier,
Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 263 - 268.)

Note: According to the testimony of all the Eastern authors,
Mahomet died on Monday the 12th Reby 1st, in the year 11 of the
Hegira, which answers in reality to the 8th June, 632, of J. C.
We find in Ockley (Hist. of Saracens) that it was on Monday the
6th June, 632. This is a mistake; for the 6th June of that year
was a Saturday, not a Monday; the 8th June, therefore, was a
Monday. It is easy to discover that the lunar year, in this
calculation has been confounded with the solar. St. Martin vol.
xi. p. 186. - M.]

[Footnote 152: Al Jannabi enumerates (Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii.
p. 372 - 391) the multifarious duties of a pilgrim who visits the
tombs of the prophet and his companions; and the learned casuist
decides, that this act of devotion is nearest in obligation and
merit to a divine precept. The doctors are divided which, of
Mecca or Medina, be the most excellent, (p. 391 - 394.)]

[Footnote 153: The last sickness, death, and burial of Mahomet,
are described by Abulfeda and Gagnier, (Vit. Moham. p. 133 - 142.

Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii. p. 220 - 271.) The most private and
interesting circumstances were originally received from Ayesha,
Ali, the sons of Abbas, &c.; and as they dwelt at Medina, and
survived the prophet many years, they might repeat the pious tale
to a second or third generation of pilgrims.]

At the conclusion of the life of Mahomet, it may perhaps be
expected, that I should balance his faults and virtues, that I
should decide whether the title of enthusiast or impostor more
properly belongs to that extraordinary man. Had I been
intimately conversant with the son of Abdallah, the task would
still be difficult, and the success uncertain: at the distance of
twelve centuries, I darkly contemplate his shade through a cloud
of religious incense; and could I truly delineate the portrait of
an hour, the fleeting resemblance would not equally apply to the
solitary of Mount Hera, to the preacher of Mecca, and to the
conqueror of Arabia. The author of a mighty revolution appears
to have been endowed with a pious and contemplative disposition:
so soon as marriage had raised him above the pressure of want, he
avoided the paths of ambition and avarice; and till the age of
forty he lived with innocence, and would have died without a
name. The unity of God is an idea most congenial to nature and
reason; and a slight conversation with the Jews and Christians
would teach him to despise and detest the idolatry of Mecca. It
was the duty of a man and a citizen to impart the doctrine of
salvation, to rescue his country from the dominion of sin and
error. The energy of a mind incessantly bent on the same object,
would convert a general obligation into a particular call; the
warm suggestions of the understanding or the fancy would be felt
as the inspirations of Heaven; the labor of thought would expire
in rapture and vision; and the inward sensation, the invisible
monitor, would be described with the form and attributes of an
angel of God. ^154 From enthusiasm to imposture, the step is
perilous and slippery: the daemon of Socrates ^155 affords a
memorable instance, how a wise man may deceive himself, how a
good man may deceive others, how the conscience may slumber in a
mixed and middle state between self-illusion and voluntary fraud.
Charity may believe that the original motives of Mahomet were
those of pure and genuine benevolence; but a human missionary is
incapable of cherishing the obstinate unbelievers who reject his
claims despise his arguments, and persecute his life; he might
forgive his personal adversaries, he may lawfully hate the
enemies of God; the stern passions of pride and revenge were
kindled in the bosom of Mahomet, and he sighed, like the prophet
of Nineveh, for the destruction of the rebels whom he had
condemned. The injustice of Mecca and the choice of Medina,
transformed the citizen into a prince, the humble preacher into
the leader of armies; but his sword was consecrated by the
example of the saints; and the same God who afflicts a sinful
world with pestilence and earthquakes, might inspire for their
conversion or chastisement the valor of his servants. In the
exercise of political government, he was compelled to abate of
the stern rigor of fanaticism, to comply in some measure with the
prejudices and passions of his followers, and to employ even the
vices of mankind as the instruments of their salvation. The use
of fraud and perfidy, of cruelty and injustice, were often
subservient to the propagation of the faith; and Mahomet
commanded or approved the assassination of the Jews and idolaters
who had escaped from the field of battle. By the repetition of
such acts, the character of Mahomet must have been gradually
stained; and the influence of such pernicious habits would be
poorly compensated by the practice of the personal and social
virtues which are necessary to maintain the reputation of a
prophet among his sectaries and friends. Of his last years,
ambition was the ruling passion; and a politician will suspect,
that he secretly smiled (the victorious impostor!) at the
enthusiasm of his youth, and the credulity of his proselytes.
^156 A philosopher will observe, that their credulity and his
success would tend more strongly to fortify the assurance of his
divine mission, that his interest and religion were inseparably
connected, and that his conscience would be soothed by the
persuasion, that he alone was absolved by the Deity from the
obligation of positive and moral laws. If he retained any
vestige of his native innocence, the sins of Mahomet may be
allowed as an evidence of his sincerity. In the support of
truth, the arts of fraud and fiction may be deemed less criminal;
and he would have started at the foulness of the means, had he
not been satisfied of the importance and justice of the end. Even
in a conqueror or a priest, I can surprise a word or action of
unaffected humanity; and the decree of Mahomet, that, in the sale
of captives, the mothers should never be separated from their
children, may suspend, or moderate, the censure of the historian.

[Footnote 154: The Christians, rashly enough, have assigned to
Mahomet a tame pigeon, that seemed to descend from heaven and
whisper in his ear. As this pretended miracle is urged by
Grotius, (de Veritate Religionis Christianae,) his Arabic
translator, the learned Pocock, inquired of him the names of his
authors; and Grotius confessed, that it is unknown to the
Mahometans themselves. Lest it should provoke their indignation
and laughter, the pious lie is suppressed in the Arabic version;
but it has maintained an edifying place in the numerous editions
of the Latin text, (Pocock, Specimen, Hist. Arabum, p. 186, 187.
Reland, de Religion. Moham. l. ii. c. 39, p. 259 - 262.)]

[Footnote 155: (Plato, in Apolog. Socrat. c. 19, p. 121, 122,
edit. Fischer.) The familiar examples, which Socrates urges in
his Dialogue with Theages, (Platon. Opera, tom. i. p. 128, 129,
edit. Hen. Stephan.) are beyond the reach of human foresight; and
the divine inspiration of the philosopher is clearly taught in
the Memorabilia of Xenophon. The ideas of the most rational
Platonists are expressed by Cicero, (de Divinat. i. 54,) and in
the xivth and xvth Dissertations of Maximus of Tyre, (p. 153 -
172, edit. Davis.)]

[Footnote 156: In some passage of his voluminous writings,
Voltaire compares the prophet, in his old age, to a fakir, "qui
detache la chaine de son cou pour en donner sur les oreilles a
ses confreres."]

[Footnote 157: Gagnier relates, with the same impartial pen, this
humane law of the prophet, and the murders of Caab, and Sophian,
which he prompted and approved, (Vie de Mahomet, tom. ii. p. 69,
97, 208.)]

Chapter L: Description Of Arabia And Its Inhabitants.

Part VII.

The good sense of Mahomet ^158 despised the pomp of royalty:
the apostle of God submitted to the menial offices of the family:
he kindled the fire, swept the floor, milked the ewes, and mended
with his own hands his shoes and his woollen garment. Disdaining
the penance and merit of a hermit, he observed, without effort or
vanity, the abstemious diet of an Arab and a soldier. On solemn
occasions he feasted his companions with rustic and hospitable
plenty; but in his domestic life, many weeks would elapse without
a tire being kindled on the hearth of the prophet. The
interdiction of wine was confirmed by his example; his hunger was
appeased with a sparing allowance of barley-bread: he delighted
in the taste of milk and honey; but his ordinary food consisted
of dates and water. Perfumes and women were the two sensual
enjoyments which his nature required, and his religion did not
forbid; and Mahomet affirmed, that the fervor of his devotion was
increased by these innocent pleasures. The heat of the climate
inflames the blood of the Arabs; and their libidinous complexion
has been noticed by the writers of antiquity. ^159 Their
incontinence was regulated by the civil and religious laws of the
Koran: their incestuous alliances were blamed; the boundless
license of polygamy was reduced to four legitimate wives or
concubines; their rights both of bed and of dowry were equitably
determined; the freedom of divorce was discouraged, adultery was
condemned as a capital offence; and fornication, in either sex,
was punished with a hundred stripes. ^160 Such were the calm and
rational precepts of the legislator: but in his private conduct,
Mahomet indulged the appetites of a man, and abused the claims of
a prophet. A special revelation dispensed him from the laws
which he had imposed on his nation: the female sex, without
reserve, was abandoned to his desires; and this singular
prerogative excited the envy, rather than the scandal, the
veneration, rather than the envy, of the devout Mussulmans. If
we remember the seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines
of the wise Solomon, we shall applaud the modesty of the Arabian,
who espoused no more than seventeen or fifteen wives; eleven are
enumerated who occupied at Medina their separate apartments round
the house of the apostle, and enjoyed in their turns the favor of
his conjugal society. What is singular enough, they were all
widows, excepting only Ayesha, the daughter of Abubeker. She was
doubtless a virgin, since Mahomet consummated his nuptials (such
is the premature ripeness of the climate) when she was only nine
years of age. The youth, the beauty, the spirit of Ayesha, gave
her a superior ascendant: she was beloved and trusted by the
prophet; and, after his death, the daughter of Abubeker was long
revered as the mother of the faithful. Her behavior had been
ambiguous and indiscreet: in a nocturnal march she was
accidentally left behind; and in the morning Ayesha returned to
the camp with a man. The temper of Mahomet was inclined to
jealousy; but a divine revelation assured him of her innocence:
he chastised her accusers, and published a law of domestic peace,
that no woman should be condemned unless four male witnesses had
seen her in the act of adultery. ^161 In his adventures with
Zeineb, the wife of Zeid, and with Mary, an Egyptian captive, the
amorous prophet forgot the interest of his reputation. At the
house of Zeid, his freedman and adopted son, he beheld, in a
loose undress, the beauty of Zeineb, and burst forth into an
ejaculation of devotion and desire. The servile, or grateful,
freedman understood the hint, and yielded without hesitation to
the love of his benefactor. But as the filial relation had
excited some doubt and scandal, the angel Gabriel descended from
heaven to ratify the deed, to annul the adoption, and gently to
reprove the apostle for distrusting the indulgence of his God.
One of his wives, Hafna, the daughter of Omar, surprised him on
her own bed, in the embraces of his Egyptian captive: she
promised secrecy and forgiveness, he swore that he would renounce
the possession of Mary. Both parties forgot their engagements;
and Gabriel again descended with a chapter of the Koran, to
absolve him from his oath, and to exhort him freely to enjoy his
captives and concubines, without listening to the clamors of his
wives. In a solitary retreat of thirty days, he labored, alone
with Mary, to fulfil the commands of the angel. When his love
and revenge were satiated, he summoned to his presence his eleven
wives, reproached their disobedience and indiscretion, and
threatened them with a sentence of divorce, both in this world
and in the next; a dreadful sentence, since those who had
ascended the bed of the prophet were forever excluded from the
hope of a second marriage. Perhaps the incontinence of Mahomet
may be palliated by the tradition of his natural or preternatural
gifts; ^162 he united the manly virtue of thirty of the children
of Adam: and the apostle might rival the thirteenth labor ^163 of
the Grecian Hercules. ^164 A more serious and decent excuse may
be drawn from his fidelity to Cadijah. During the twenty-four
years of their marriage, her youthful husband abstained from the
right of polygamy, and the pride or tenderness of the venerable
matron was never insulted by the society of a rival. After her
death, he placed her in the rank of the four perfect women, with
the sister of Moses, the mother of Jesus, and Fatima, the best
beloved of his daughters. "Was she not old?" said Ayesha, with
the insolence of a blooming beauty; "has not God given you a
better in her place?" "No, by God," said Mahomet, with an
effusion of honest gratitude, "there never can be a better! She
believed in me when men despised me; she relieved my wants, when
I was poor and persecuted by the world." ^165

[Footnote 158: For the domestic life of Mahomet, consult Gagnier,
and the corresponding chapters of Abulfeda; for his diet, (tom.
iii. p. 285 - 288;) his children, (p. 189, 289;) his wives, (p.
290 - 303;) his marriage with Zeineb, (tom. ii. p. 152 - 160;)
his amour with Mary, (p. 303 - 309;) the false accusation of
Ayesha, (p. 186 - 199.) The most original evidence of the three
last transactions is contained in the xxivth, xxxiiid, and lxvith
chapters of the Koran, with Sale's Commentary. Prideaux (Life of
Mahomet, p. 80 - 90) and Maracci (Prodrom. Alcoran, part iv. p.
49 - 59) have maliciously exaggerated the frailties of Mahomet.]

[Footnote 159: Incredibile est quo ardore apud eos in Venerem
uterque solvitur sexus, (Ammian. Marcellin. l. xiv. c. 4.)]

[Footnote 160: Sale (Preliminary Discourse, p. 133 - 137) has
recapitulated the laws of marriage, divorce, &c.; and the curious
reader of Selden's Uror Hebraica will recognize many Jewish

[Footnote 161: In a memorable case, the Caliph Omar decided that
all presumptive evidence was of no avail; and that all the four
witnesses must have actually seen stylum in pyxide, (Abulfedae
Annales Moslemici, p. 71, vers. Reiske.)]

[Footnote 162: Sibi robur ad generationem, quantum triginta viri
habent, inesse jacteret: ita ut unica hora posset undecim
foeminis satisfacere, ut ex Arabum libris refert Stus. Petrus
Paschasius, c. 2., (Maracci, Prodromus Alcoran, p. iv. p. 55.
See likewise Observations de Belon, l. iii. c. 10, fol. 179,
recto.) Al Jannabi (Gagnier, tom. iii. p. 287) records his own
testimony, that he surpassed all men in conjugal vigor; and
Abulfeda mentions the exclamation of Ali, who washed the body
after his death, "O propheta, certe penis tuus coelum versus
erectus est," in Vit. Mohammed, p. 140.]

[Footnote 163: I borrow the style of a father of the church,
(Greg. Nazianzen, Orat. iii. p. 108.)]

[Footnote 164: The common and most glorious legend includes, in a
single night the fifty victories of Hercules over the virgin
daughters of Thestius, (Diodor. Sicul. tom. i. l. iv. p. 274.
Pausanias, l. ix. p. 763. Statius Sylv. l. i. eleg. iii. v. 42.)
But Athenaeus allows seven nights, (Deipnosophist, l. xiii. p.
556,) and Apollodorus fifty, for this arduous achievement of
Hercules, who was then no more than eighteen years of age,
(Bibliot. l. ii. c. 4, p. 111, cum notis Heyne, part i. p. 332.)]

[Footnote 165: Abulfeda in Vit. Moham. p. 12, 13, 16, 17, cum
Notis Gagnier]

In the largest indulgence of polygamy, the founder of a
religion and empire might aspire to multiply the chances of a
numerous posterity and a lineal succession. The hopes of Mahomet
were fatally disappointed. The virgin Ayesha, and his ten widows
of mature age and approved fertility, were barren in his potent
embraces. The four sons of Cadijah died in their infancy. Mary,
his Egyptian concubine, was endeared to him by the birth of
Ibrahim. At the end of fifteen months the prophet wept over his
grave; but he sustained with firmness the raillery of his
enemies, and checked the adulation or credulity of the Moslems,
by the assurance that an eclipse of the sun was not occasioned by
the death of the infant. Cadijah had likewise given him four
daughters, who were married to the most faithful of his
disciples: the three eldest died before their father; but Fatima,
who possessed his confidence and love, became the wife of her
cousin Ali, and the mother of an illustrious progeny. The merit
and misfortunes of Ali and his descendants will lead me to
anticipate, in this place, the series of the Saracen caliphs, a
title which describes the commanders of the faithful as the
vicars and successors of the apostle of God. ^166

[Footnote 166: This outline of the Arabian history is drawn from
the Bibliotheque Orientale of D'Herbelot, (under the names of
Aboubecre, Omar Othman, Ali, &c.;) from the Annals of Abulfeda,
Abulpharagius, and Elmacin, (under the proper years of the
Hegira,) and especially from Ockley's History of the Saracens,
(vol. i. p. 1 - 10, 115 - 122, 229, 249, 363 - 372, 378 - 391,
and almost the whole of the second volume.) Yet we should weigh
with caution the traditions of the hostile sects; a stream which
becomes still more muddy as it flows farther from the source.
Sir John Chardin has too faithfully copied the fables and errors
of the modern Persians, (Voyages, tom. ii. p. 235 - 250, &c.)]

The birth, the alliance, the character of Ali, which exalted
him above the rest of his countrymen, might justify his claim to
the vacant throne of Arabia. The son of Abu Taleb was, in his
own right, the chief of the family of Hashem, and the hereditary
prince or guardian of the city and temple of Mecca. The light of
prophecy was extinct; but the husband of Fatima might expect the
inheritance and blessing of her father: the Arabs had sometimes
been patient of a female reign; and the two grandsons of the
prophet had often been fondled in his lap, and shown in his
pulpit as the hope of his age, and the chief of the youth of
paradise. The first of the true believers might aspire to march
before them in this world and in the next; and if some were of a
graver and more rigid cast, the zeal and virtue of Ali were never
outstripped by any recent proselyte. He united the
qualifications of a poet, a soldier, and a saint: his wisdom
still breathes in a collection of moral and religious sayings;
^167 and every antagonist, in the combats of the tongue or of the
sword, was subdued by his eloquence and valor. From the first
hour of his mission to the last rites of his funeral, the apostle
was never forsaken by a generous friend, whom he delighted to
name his brother, his vicegerent, and the faithful Aaron of a
second Moses. The son of Abu Taleb was afterwards reproached for
neglecting to secure his interest by a solemn declaration of his
right, which would have silenced all competition, and sealed his
succession by the decrees of Heaven. But the unsuspecting hero
confided in himself: the jealousy of empire, and perhaps the fear
of opposition, might suspend the resolutions of Mahomet; and the
bed of sickness was besieged by the artful Ayesha, the daughter
of Abubeker, and the enemy of Ali. ^*

[Footnote 167: Ockley (at the end of his second volume) has given
an English version of 169 sentences, which he ascribes, with some
hesitation, to Ali, the son of Abu Taleb. His preface is colored
by the enthusiasm of a translator; yet these sentences delineate
a characteristic, though dark, picture of human life.]

[Footnote *: Gibbon wrote chiefly from the Arabic or Sunnite
account of these transactions, the only sources accessible at the
time when he composed his History. Major Price, writing from
Persian authorities, affords us the advantage of comparing
throughout what may be fairly considered the Shiite Version. The
glory of Ali is the constant burden of their strain. He was
destined, and, according to some accounts, designated, for the
caliphate by the prophet; but while the others were fiercely
pushing their own interests, Ali was watching the remains of
Mahomet with pious fidelity. His disinterested magnanimity, on
each separate occasion, declined the sceptre, and gave the noble
example of obedience to the appointed caliph. He is described,
in retirement, on the throne, and in the field of battle, as
transcendently pious, magnanimous, valiant, and humane. He lost
his empire through his excess of virtue and love for the faithful
his life through his confidence in God, and submission to the
decrees of fate.

Compare the curious account of this apathy in Price, chapter
ii. It is to be regretted, I must add, that Major Price has
contented himself with quoting the names of the Persian works
which he follows, without any account of their character, age,
and authority. - M.]

The silence and death of the prophet restored the liberty of
the people; and his companions convened an assembly to deliberate
on the choice of his successor. The hereditary claim and lofty
spirit of Ali were offensive to an aristocracy of elders,
desirous of bestowing and resuming the sceptre by a free and
frequent election: the Koreish could never be reconciled to the
proud preeminence of the line of Hashem; the ancient discord of
the tribes was rekindled, the fugitives of Mecca and the
auxiliaries of Medina asserted their respective merits; and the
rash proposal of choosing two independent caliphs would have
crushed in their infancy the religion and empire of the Saracens.
The tumult was appeased by the disinterested resolution of Omar,
who, suddenly renouncing his own pretensions, stretched forth his
hand, and declared himself the first subject of the mild and
venerable Abubeker. ^* The urgency of the moment, and the
acquiescence of the people, might excuse this illegal and
precipitate measure; but Omar himself confessed from the pulpit,
that if any Mulsulman should hereafter presume to anticipate the
suffrage of his brethren, both the elector and the elected would
be worthy of death. ^168 After the simple inauguration of
Abubeker, he was obeyed in Medina, Mecca, and the provinces of
Arabia: the Hashemites alone declined the oath of fidelity; and
their chief, in his own house, maintained, above six months, a
sullen and independent reserve; without listening to the threats
of Omar, who attempted to consume with fire the habitation of the
daughter of the apostle. The death of Fatima, and the decline of
his party, subdued the indignant spirit of Ali: he condescended
to salute the commander of the faithful, accepted his excuse of
the necessity of preventing their common enemies, and wisely
rejected his courteous offer of abdicating the government of the
Arabians. After a reign of two years, the aged caliph was
summoned by the angel of death. In his testament, with the tacit
approbation of his companions, he bequeathed the sceptre to the
firm and intrepid virtue of Omar. "I have no occasion," said the
modest candidate, "for the place." "But the place has occasion
for you," replied Abubeker; who expired with a fervent prayer,
that the God of Mahomet would ratify his choice, and direct the
Mussulmans in the way of concord and obedience. The prayer was
not ineffectual, since Ali himself, in a life of privacy and
prayer, professed to revere the superior worth and dignity of his
rival; who comforted him for the loss of empire, by the most
flattering marks of confidence and esteem. In the twelfth year
of his reign, Omar received a mortal wound from the hand of an
assassin: he rejected with equal impartiality the names of his
son and of Ali, refused to load his conscience with the sins of
his successor, and devolved on six of the most respectable
companions the arduous task of electing a commander of the
faithful. On this occasion, Ali was again blamed by his friends
^169 for submitting his right to the judgment of men, for
recognizing their jurisdiction by accepting a place among the six
electors. He might have obtained their suffrage, had he deigned
to promise a strict and servile conformity, not only to the Koran
and tradition, but likewise to the determinations of two seniors.
^170 With these limitations, Othman, the secretary of Mahomet,
accepted the government; nor was it till after the third caliph,
twenty-four years after the death of the prophet, that Ali was
invested, by the popular choice, with the regal and sacerdotal
office. The manners of the Arabians retained their primitive
simplicity, and the son of Abu Taleb despised the pomp and vanity
of this world. At the hour of prayer, he repaired to the mosch
of Medina, clothed in a thin cotton gown, a coarse turban on his
head, his slippers in one hand, and his bow in the other, instead
of a walking-staff. The companions of the prophet, and the
chiefs of the tribes, saluted their new sovereign, and gave him
their right hands as a sign of fealty and allegiance.

[Footnote *: Abubeker, the father of the virgin Ayesha. St.
Martin, vol. XL, p. 88 - M.]

[Footnote 168: Ockley, (Hist. of the Saracens, vol. i. p. 5, 6,)
from an Arabian Ms., represents Ayesha as adverse to the
substitution of her father in the place of the apostle. This
fact, so improbable in itself, is unnoticed by Abulfeda, Al
Jannabi, and Al Bochari, the last of whom quotes the tradition of
Ayesha herself, (Vit. Mohammed, p. 136 Vie de Mahomet, tom. iii.
p. 236.)]

[Footnote 169: Particularly by his friend and cousin Abdallah,
the son of Abbas, who died A.D. 687, with the title of grand
doctor of the Moslems. In Abulfeda he recapitulates the important
occasions in which Ali had neglected his salutary advice, (p. 76,
vers. Reiske;) and concludes, (p. 85,) O princeps fidelium,
absque controversia tu quidem vere fortis es, at inops boni
consilii, et rerum gerendarum parum callens.]

[Footnote 170: I suspect that the two seniors (Abulpharagius, p.
115. Ockley, tom. i. p. 371,) may signify not two actual
counsellors, but his two predecessors, Abubeker and Omar.]

The mischiefs that flow from the contests of ambition are
usually confined to the times and countries in which they have
been agitated. But the religious discord of the friends and
enemies of Ali has been renewed in every age of the Hegira, and
is still maintained in the immortal hatred of the Persians and
Turks. ^171 The former, who are branded with the appellation of
Shiites or sectaries, have enriched the Mahometan creed with a
new article of faith; and if Mahomet be the apostle, his
companion Ali is the vicar, of God. In their private converse, in
their public worship, they bitterly execrate the three usurpers
who intercepted his indefeasible right to the dignity of Imam and
Caliph; and the name of Omar expresses in their tongue the
perfect accomplishment of wickedness and impiety. ^172 The
Sonnites, who are supported by the general consent and orthodox
tradition of the Mussulmans, entertain a more impartial, or at
least a more decent, opinion. They respect the memory of
Abubeker, Omar, Othman, and Ali, the holy and legitimate
successors of the prophet. But they assign the last and most
humble place to the husband of Fatima, in the persuasion that the
order of succession was determined by the decrees of sanctity.
^173 An historian who balances the four caliphs with a hand
unshaken by superstition, will calmly pronounce that their
manners were alike pure and exemplary; that their zeal was
fervent, and probably sincere; and that, in the midst of riches
and power, their lives were devoted to the practice of moral and
religious duties. But the public virtues of Abubeker and Omar,
the prudence of the first, the severity of the second, maintained
the peace and prosperity of their reigns. The feeble temper and
declining age of Othman were incapable of sustaining the weight
of conquest and empire. He chose, and he was deceived; he
trusted, and he was betrayed: the most deserving of the faithful
became useless or hostile to his government, and his lavish
bounty was productive only of ingratitude and discontent. The
spirit of discord went forth in the provinces: their deputies
assembled at Medina; and the Charegites, the desperate fanatics
who disclaimed the yoke of subordination and reason, were
confounded among the free-born Arabs, who demanded the redress of
their wrongs and the punishment of their oppressors. From Cufa,
from Bassora, from Egypt, from the tribes of the desert, they
rose in arms, encamped about a league from Medina, and despatched
a haughty mandate to their sovereign, requiring him to execute
justice, or to descend from the throne. His repentance began to
disarm and disperse the insurgents; but their fury was rekindled
by the arts of his enemies; and the forgery of a perfidious
secretary was contrived to blast his reputation and precipitate
his fall. The caliph had lost the only guard of his
predecessors, the esteem and confidence of the Moslems: during a
siege of six weeks his water and provisions were intercepted, and
the feeble gates of the palace were protected only by the
scruples of the more timorous rebels. Forsaken by those who had
abused his simplicity, the hopeless and venerable caliph expected
the approach of death: the brother of Ayesha marched at the head
of the assassins; and Othman, with the Koran in his lap, was
pierced with a multitude of wounds. ^* A tumultuous anarchy of
five days was appeased by the inauguration of Ali: his refusal
would have provoked a general massacre. In this painful
situation he supported the becoming pride of the chief of the
Hashemites; declared that he had rather serve than reign; rebuked
the presumption of the strangers; and required the formal, if not
the voluntary, assent of the chiefs of the nation. He has never
been accused of prompting the assassin of Omar; though Persia
indiscreetly celebrates the festival of that holy martyr. The
quarrel between Othman and his subjects was assuaged by the early
mediation of Ali; and Hassan, the eldest of his sons, was
insulted and wounded in the defence of the caliph. Yet it is
doubtful whether the father of Hassan was strenuous and sincere
in his opposition to the rebels; and it is certain that he
enjoyed the benefit of their crime. The temptation was indeed of
such magnitude as might stagger and corrupt the most obdurate
virtue. The ambitious candidate no longer aspired to the barren
sceptre of Arabia; the Saracens had been victorious in the East
and West; and the wealthy kingdoms of Persia, Syria, and Egypt
were the patrimony of the commander of the faithful.

[Footnote 171: The schism of the Persians is explained by all our
travellers of the last century, especially in the iid and ivth
volumes of their master, Chardin. Niebuhr, though of inferior
merit, has the advantage of writing so late as the year 1764,
(Voyages en Arabie, &c., tom. ii. p. 208 - 233,) since the
ineffectual attempt of Nadir Shah to change the religion of the
nation, (see his Persian History translated into French by Sir
William Jones, tom. ii. p. 5, 6, 47, 48, 144 - 155.)]

[Footnote 172: Omar is the name of the devil; his murderer is a
saint. When the Persians shoot with the bow, they frequently cry,
"May this arrow go to the heart of Omar!" (Voyages de Chardin,
tom. ii. p 239, 240, 259, &c.)]

[Footnote 173: This gradation of merit is distinctly marked in a
creed illustrated by Reland, (de Relig. Mohamm. l. i. p. 37;) and
a Sonnite argument inserted by Ockley, (Hist. of the Saracens,
tom. ii. p. 230.) The practice of cursing the memory of Ali was
abolished, after forty years, by the Ommiades themselves,
(D'Herbelot, p. 690;) and there are few among the Turks who
presume to revile him as an infidel, (Voyages de Chardin, tom.
iv. p. 46.)]

[Footnote *: Compare Price, p. 180. - M.]

Chapter L: Description Of Arabia And Its Inhabitants.

Part VIII.

A life of prayer and contemplation had not chilled the
martial activity of Ali; but in a mature age, after a long
experience of mankind, he still betrayed in his conduct the
rashness and indiscretion of youth. ^* In the first days of his
reign, he neglected to secure, either by gifts or fetters, the
doubtful allegiance of Telha and Zobeir, two of the most powerful
of the Arabian chiefs. They escaped from Medina to Mecca, and
from thence to Bassora; erected the standard of revolt; and
usurped the government of Irak, or Assyria, which they had vainly
solicited as the reward of their services. The mask of patriotism
is allowed to cover the most glaring inconsistencies; and the
enemies, perhaps the assassins, of Othman now demanded vengeance
for his blood. They were accompanied in their flight by Ayesha,
the widow of the prophet, who cherished, to the last hour of her
life, an implacable hatred against the husband and the posterity
of Fatima. The most reasonable Moslems were scandalized, that
the mother of the faithful should expose in a camp her person and
character; ^! but the superstitious crowd was confident that her
presence would sanctify the justice, and assure the success, of
their cause. At the head of twenty thousand of his loyal Arabs,
and nine thousand valiant auxiliaries of Cufa, the caliph
encountered and defeated the superior numbers of the rebels under
the walls of Bassora. ^!! Their leaders, Telha and Zobeir, ^@
were slain in the first battle that stained with civil blood the
arms of the Moslems. ^@@ After passing through the ranks to
animate the troops, Ayesha had chosen her post amidst the dangers
of the field. In the heat of the action, seventy men, who held
the bridle of her camel, were successively killed or wounded; and
the cage or litter, in which she sat, was stuck with javelins and
darts like the quills of a porcupine. The venerable captive
sustained with firmness the reproaches of the conqueror, and was
speedily dismissed to her proper station at the tomb of Mahomet,
with the respect and tenderness that was still due to the widow
of the apostle. ^* After this victory, which was styled the Day
of the Camel, Ali marched against a more formidable adversary;
against Moawiyah, the son of Abu Sophian, who had assumed the
title of caliph, and whose claim was supported by the forces of
Syria and the interest of the house of Ommiyah. From the passage
of Thapsacus, the plain of Siffin ^174 extends along the western
bank of the Euphrates. On this spacious and level theatre, the
two competitors waged a desultory war of one hundred and ten
days. In the course of ninety actions or skirmishes, the loss of
Ali was estimated at twenty-five, that of Moawiyah at forty-five,
thousand soldiers; and the list of the slain was dignified with
the names of five-and-twenty veterans who had fought at Beder
under the standard of Mahomet. In this sanguinary contest the
lawful caliph displayed a superior character of valor and
humanity. ^!!! His troops were strictly enjoined to await the
first onset of the enemy, to spare their flying brethren, and to
respect the bodies of the dead, and the chastity of the female
captives. He generously proposed to save the blood of the
Moslems by a single combat; but his trembling rival declined the
challenge as a sentence of inevitable death. The ranks of the
Syrians were broken by the charge of a hero who was mounted on a
piebald horse, and wielded with irresistible force his ponderous
and two-edged sword. As often as he smote a rebel, he shouted
the Allah Acbar, "God is victorious!" and in the tumult of a
nocturnal battle, he was heard to repeat four hundred times that
tremendous exclamation. The prince of Damascus already meditated
his flight; but the certain victory was snatched from the grasp
of Ali by the disobedience and enthusiasm of his troops. Their
conscience was awed by the solemn appeal to the books of the
Koran which Moawiyah exposed on the foremost lances; and Ali was
compelled to yield to a disgraceful truce and an insidious
compromise. He retreated with sorrow and indignation to Cufa;
his party was discouraged; the distant provinces of Persia, of
Yemen, and of Egypt, were subdued or seduced by his crafty rival;
and the stroke of fanaticism, which was aimed against the three
chiefs of the nation, was fatal only to the cousin of Mahomet.
In the temple of Mecca, three Charegites or enthusiasts
discoursed of the disorders of the church and state: they soon
agreed, that the deaths of Ali, of Moawiyah, and of his friend
Amrou, the viceroy of Egypt, would restore the peace and unity of
religion. Each of the assassins chose his victim, poisoned his
dagger, devoted his life, and secretly repaired to the scene of
action. Their resolution was equally desperate: but the first
mistook the person of Amrou, and stabbed the deputy who occupied
his seat; the prince of Damascus was dangerously hurt by the
second; the lawful caliph, in the mosch of Cufa, received a
mortal wound from the hand of the third. He expired in the
sixty-third year of his age, and mercifully recommended to his
children, that they would despatch the murderer by a single
stroke. ^* The sepulchre of Ali ^175 was concealed from the
tyrants of the house of Ommiyah; ^176 but in the fourth age of
the Hegira, a tomb, a temple, a city, arose near the ruins of
Cufa. ^177 Many thousands of the Shiites repose in holy ground at
the feet of the vicar of God; and the desert is vivified by the
numerous and annual visits of the Persians, who esteem their
devotion not less meritorious than the pilgrimage of Mecca.

[Footnote *: Ali had determined to supersede all the lieutenants
in the different provinces. Price, p. 191. Compare, on the
conduct of Telha and Zobeir, p. 193 - M.]

[Footnote !: See the very curious circumstances which took place
before and during her flight. Price, p. 196. - M.]

[Footnote !!: The reluctance of Ali to shed the blood of true
believers is strikingly described by Major Price's Persian
historians. Price, p. 222. - M.]

[Footnote @: See (in Price) the singular adventures of Zobeir.
He was murdered after having abandoned the army of the
insurgents. Telha was about to do the same, when his leg was
pierced with an arrow by one of his own party The wound was
mortal. Price, p. 222. - M.]

[Footnote @@: According to Price, two hundred and eighty of the
Benni Beianziel alone lost a right hand in this service, (p.
225.) - M]

[Footnote *: She was escorted by a guard of females disguised as
soldiers. When she discovered this, Ayesha was as much gratified
by the delicacy of the arrangement, as she had been offended by
the familiar approach of so many men. Price, p. 229. - M.]

[Footnote 174: The plain of Siffin is determined by D'Anville
(l'Euphrate et le Tigre, p. 29) to be the Campus Barbaricus of

[Footnote !!!: The Shiite authors have preserved a noble instance
of Ali's magnanimity. The superior generalship of Moawiyah had
cut off the army of Ali from the Euphrates; his soldiers were
perishing from want of water. Ali sent a message to his rival to
request free access to the river, declaring that under the same
circumstances he would not allow any of the faithful, though his
adversaries, to perish from thirst. After some debate, Moawiyah
determined to avail himself of the advantage of his situation,
and to reject the demand of Ali. The soldiers of Ali became
desperate; forced their way through that part of the hostile army
which commanded the river, and in their turn entirely cut off the
troops of Moawiyah from the water. Moawiyah was reduced to make
the same supplication to Ali. The generous caliph instantly
complied; and both armies, with their cattle enjoyed free and
unmolested access to the river. Price, vol. i. p. 268, 272 - M.]

[Footnote *: His son Hassan was recognized as caliph in Arabia
and Irak; but voluntarily abdicated the throne, after six or
seven months, in favor of Moawiyah St. Martin, vol. xi. p 375. -

[Footnote 175: Abulfeda, a moderate Sonnite, relates the
different opinions concerning the burial of Ali, but adopts the
sepulchre of Cufa, hodie fama numeroque religiose frequentantium
celebratum. This number is reckoned by Niebuhr to amount
annually to 2000 of the dead, and 5000 of the living, (tom. ii.
p. 208, 209.)]

[Footnote 176: All the tyrants of Persia, from Adhad el Dowlat
(A.D. 977, D'Herbelot, p. 58, 59, 95) to Nadir Shah, (A.D. 1743,
Hist. de Nadir Shah, tom. ii. p. 155,) have enriched the tomb of
Ali with the spoils of the people. The dome is copper, with a
bright and massy gilding, which glitters to the sun at the
distance of many a mile.]

[Footnote 177: The city of Meshed Ali, five or six miles from the
ruins of Cufa, and one hundred and twenty to the south of Bagdad,
is of the size and form of the modern Jerusalem. Meshed Hosein,
larger and more populous, is at the distance of thirty miles.]

The persecutors of Mahomet usurped the inheritance of his
children; and the champions of idolatry became the supreme heads
of his religion and empire. The opposition of Abu Sophian had
been fierce and obstinate; his conversion was tardy and
reluctant; his new faith was fortified by necessity and interest;
he served, he fought, perhaps he believed; and the sins of the
time of ignorance were expiated by the recent merits of the
family of Ommiyah. Moawiyah, the son of Abu Sophian, and of the
cruel Henda, was dignified, in his early youth, with the office
or title of secretary of the prophet: the judgment of Omar
intrusted him with the government of Syria; and he administered
that important province above forty years, either in a
subordinate or supreme rank. Without renouncing the fame of
valor and liberality, he affected the reputation of humanity and
moderation: a grateful people was attached to their benefactor;
and the victorious Moslems were enriched with the spoils of
Cyprus and Rhodes. The sacred duty of pursuing the assassins of
Othman was the engine and pretence of his ambition. The bloody
shirt of the martyr was exposed in the mosch of Damascus: the
emir deplored the fate of his injured kinsman; and sixty thousand
Syrians were engaged in his service by an oath of fidelity and
revenge. Amrou, the conqueror of Egypt, himself an army, was the
first who saluted the new monarch, and divulged the dangerous
secret, that the Arabian caliphs might be created elsewhere than
in the city of the prophet. ^178 The policy of Moawiyah eluded
the valor of his rival; and, after the death of Ali, he
negotiated the abdication of his son Hassan, whose mind was
either above or below the government of the world, and who
retired without a sigh from the palace of Cufa to an humble cell
near the tomb of his grandfather. The aspiring wishes of the
caliph were finally crowned by the important change of an
elective to an hereditary kingdom. Some murmurs of freedom or
fanaticism attested the reluctance of the Arabs, and four
citizens of Medina refused the oath of fidelity; but the designs
of Moawiyah were conducted with vigor and address; and his son
Yezid, a feeble and dissolute youth, was proclaimed as the
commander of the faithful and the successor on the apostle of

[Footnote 178: I borrow, on this occasion, the strong sense and
expression of Tacitus, (Hist. i. 4: ) Evulgato imperii arcano
posse imperatorem alni quam Romae fieri.]

A familiar story is related of the benevolence of one of the
sons of Ali. In serving at table, a slave had inadvertently
dropped a dish of scalding broth on his master: the heedless
wretch fell prostrate, to deprecate his punishment, and repeated
a verse of the Koran: "Paradise is for those who command their
anger: " - "I am not angry: " - "and for those who pardon
offences: " - "I pardon your offence: " - "and for those who
return good for evil: " - "I give you your liberty and four
hundred pieces of silver." With an equal measure of piety,
Hosein, the younger brother of Hassan, inherited a remnant of his
father's spirit, and served with honor against the Christians in
the siege of Constantinople. The primogeniture of the line of
Hashem, and the holy character of grandson of the apostle, had
centred in his person, and he was at liberty to prosecute his
claim against Yezid, the tyrant of Damascus, whose vices he
despised, and whose title he had never deigned to acknowledge. A
list was secretly transmitted from Cufa to Medina, of one hundred
and forty thousand Moslems, who professed their attachment to his
cause, and who were eager to draw their swords so soon as he
should appear on the banks of the Euphrates. Against the advice
of his wisest friends, he resolved to trust his person and family
in the hands of a perfidious people. He traversed the desert of
Arabia with a timorous retinue of women and children; but as he
approached the confines of Irak he was alarmed by the solitary or
hostile face of the country, and suspected either the defection
or ruin of his party. His fears were just: Obeidollah, the
governor of Cufa, had extinguished the first sparks of an
insurrection; and Hosein, in the plain of Kerbela, was
encompassed by a body of five thousand horse, who intercepted his
communication with the city and the river. He might still have
escaped to a fortress in the desert, that had defied the power of
Caesar and Chosroes, and confided in the fidelity of the tribe of
Tai, which would have armed ten thousand warriors in his defence.

In a conference with the chief of the enemy, he proposed the
option of three honorable conditions: that he should be allowed
to return to Medina, or be stationed in a frontier garrison
against the Turks, or safely conducted to the presence of Yezid.
But the commands of the caliph, or his lieutenant, were stern and
absolute; and Hosein was informed that he must either submit as a
captive and a criminal to the commander of the faithful, or
expect the consequences of his rebellion. "Do you think,"
replied he, "to terrify me with death?" And, during the short
respite of a night, ^* he prepared with calm and solemn
resignation to encounter his fate. He checked the lamentations
of his sister Fatima, who deplored the impending ruin of his
house. "Our trust," said Hosein, "is in God alone. All things,
both in heaven and earth, must perish and return to their
Creator. My brother, my father, my mother, were better than me,
and every Mussulman has an example in the prophet." He pressed
his friends to consult their safety by a timely flight: they
unanimously refused to desert or survive their beloved master:
and their courage was fortified by a fervent prayer and the
assurance of paradise. On the morning of the fatal day, he
mounted on horseback, with his sword in one hand and the Koran in
the other: his generous band of martyrs consisted only of
thirty-two horse and forty foot; but their flanks and rear were
secured by the tent-ropes, and by a deep trench which they had
filled with lighted fagots, according to the practice of the
Arabs. The enemy advanced with reluctance, and one of their
chiefs deserted, with thirty followers, to claim the partnership
of inevitable death. In every close onset, or single combat, the
despair of the Fatimites was invincible; but the surrounding
multitudes galled them from a distance with a cloud of arrows,
and the horses and men were successively slain; a truce was
allowed on both sides for the hour of prayer; and the battle at
length expired by the death of the last companions of Hosein.
Alone, weary, and wounded, he seated himself at the door of his
tent. As he tasted a drop of water, he was pierced in the mouth
with a dart; and his son and nephew, two beautiful youths, were
killed in his arms. He lifted his hands to heaven; they were
full of blood; and he uttered a funeral prayer for the living and
the dead. In a transport of despair his sister issued from the
tent, and adjured the general of the Cufians, that he would not
suffer Hosein to be murdered before his eyes: a tear trickled
down his venerable beard; and the boldest of his soldiers fell
back on every side as the dying hero threw himself among them.
The remorseless Shamer, a name detested by the faithful,
reproached their cowardice; and the grandson of Mahomet was slain
with three-and-thirty strokes of lances and swords. After they
had trampled on his body, they carried his head to the castle of
Cufa, and the inhuman Obeidollah struck him on the mouth with a
cane: "Alas," exclaimed an aged Mussulman, "on these lips have I
seen the lips of the apostle of God!" In a distant age and
climate, the tragic scene of the death of Hosein will awaken the
sympathy of the coldest reader. ^179 ^* On the annual festival of
his martyrdom, in the devout pilgrimage to his sepulchre, his
Persian votaries abandon their souls to the religious frenzy of
sorrow and indignation. ^180

[Footnote *: According to Major Price's authorities a much longer
time elapsed (p. 198 &c.) - M.]

[Footnote 179: I have abridged the interesting narrative of
Ockley, (tom. ii. p. 170 - 231.) It is long and minute: but the
pathetic, almost always, consists in the detail of little

[Footnote *: The account of Hosein's death, in the Persian Tarikh
Tebry, is much longer; in some circumstances, more pathetic, than
that of Ockley, followed by Gibbon. His family, after his
defenders were all slain, perished in succession before his eyes.

They had been cut off from the water, and suffered all the
agonies of thirst. His eldest son, Ally Akbar, after ten
different assaults on the enemy, in each of which he slew two or
three, complained bitterly of his sufferings from heat and
thirst. "His father arose, and introducing his own tongue within
the parched lips of his favorite child, thus endeavored to
alleviate his sufferings by the only means of which his enemies
had not yet been able to deprive him." Ally was slain and cut to
pieces in his sight: this wrung from him his first and only cry;
then it was that his sister Zeyneb rushed from the tent. The
rest, including his nephew, fell in succession. Hosein's horse
was wounded - he fell to the ground. The hour of prayer, between
noon and sunset, had arrived; the Imaun began the religious
duties: - as Hosein prayed, he heard the cries of his infant
child Abdallah, only twelve months old. The child was, at his
desire, placed on his bosom: as he wept over it, it was
transfixed by an arrow. Hosein dragged himself to the Euphrates:
as he slaked his burning thirst, his mouth was pierced by an
arrow: he drank his own blood. Wounded in four-and-thirty
places, he still gallantly resisted. A soldier named Zeraiah gave
the fatal wound: his head was cut off by Ziliousheng. Price, p.
402, 410. - M.]

[Footnote 180: Niebuhr the Dane (Voyages en Arabie, &c., tom. ii.
p. 208, &c.) is, perhaps, the only European traveller who has
dared to visit Meshed Ali and Meshed Hosein. The two sepulchres
are in the hands of the Turks, who tolerate and tax the devotion
of the Persian heretics. The festival of the death of Hosein is
amply described by Sir John Chardin, a traveller whom I have
often praised.]

When the sisters and children of Ali were brought in chains
to the throne of Damascus, the caliph was advised to extirpate
the enmity of a popular and hostile race, whom he had injured
beyond the hope of reconciliation. But Yezid preferred the
councils of mercy; and the mourning family was honorably
dismissed to mingle their tears with their kindred at Medina.
The glory of martyrdom superseded the right of primogeniture; and
the twelve imams, ^181 or pontiffs, of the Persian creed, are
Ali, Hassan, Hosein, and the lineal descendants of Hosein to the
ninth generation. Without arms, or treasures, or subjects, they
successively enjoyed the veneration of the people, and provoked
the jealousy of the reigning caliphs: their tombs, at Mecca or
Medina, on the banks of the Euphrates, or in the province of
Chorasan, are still visited by the devotion of their sect. Their
names were often the pretence of sedition and civil war; but
these royal saints despised the pomp of the world: submitted to
the will of God and the injustice of man; and devoted their
innocent lives to the study and practice of religion. The
twelfth and last of the Imams, conspicuous by the title of
Mahadi, or the Guide, surpassed the solitude and sanctity of his
predecessors. He concealed himself in a cavern near Bagdad: the
time and place of his death are unknown; and his votaries pretend
that he still lives, and will appear before the day of judgment
to overthrow the tyranny of Dejal, or the Antichrist. ^182 In the
lapse of two or three centuries, the posterity of Abbas, the
uncle of Mahomet, had multiplied to the number of thirty-three
thousand: ^183 the race of Ali might be equally prolific: the
meanest individual was above the first and greatest of princes;
and the most eminent were supposed to excel the perfection of
angels. But their adverse fortune, and the wide extent of the
Mussulman empire, allowed an ample scope for every bold and
artful imposture, who claimed affinity with the holy seed: the
sceptre of the Almohades, in Spain and Africa; of the Fatimites,
in Egypt and Syria; ^184 of the Sultans of Yemen; and of the
Sophis of Persia; ^185 has been consecrated by this vague and
ambiguous title. Under their reigns it might be dangerous to
dispute the legitimacy of their birth; and one of the Fatimite
caliphs silenced an indiscreet question by drawing his cimeter:
"This," said Moez, "is my pedigree; and these," casting a handful
of gold to his soldiers, - "and these are my kindred and my
children." In the various conditions of princes, or doctors, or
nobles, or merchants, or beggars, a swarm of the genuine or
fictitious descendants of Mahomet and Ali is honored with the
appellation of sheiks, or sherifs, or emirs. In the Ottoman
empire they are distinguished by a green turban; receive a
stipend from the treasury; are judged only by their chief; and,
however debased by fortune or character, still assert the proud
preeminence of their birth. A family of three hundred persons,
the pure and orthodox branch of the caliph Hassan, is preserved
without taint or suspicion in the holy cities of Mecca and
Medina, and still retains, after the revolutions of twelve
centuries, the custody of the temple, and the sovereignty of
their native land. The fame and merit of Mahomet would ennoble a
plebeian race, and the ancient blood of the Koreish transcends
the recent majesty of the kings of the earth. ^186

[Footnote 181: The general article of Imam, in D'Herbelot's
Bibliotheque, will indicate the succession; and the lives of the
twelve are given under their respective names.]

[Footnote 182: The name of Antichrist may seem ridiculous, but
the Mahometans have liberally borrowed the fables of every
religion, (Sale's Preliminary Discourse, p. 80, 82.) In the royal
stable of Ispahan, two horses were always kept saddled, one for
the Mahadi himself, the other for his lieutenant, Jesus the son
of Mary.]

[Footnote 183: In the year of the Hegira 200, (A.D. 815.) See
D'Herbelot, p. 146]

[Footnote 184: D'Herbelot, p. 342. The enemies of the Fatimites
disgraced them by a Jewish origin. Yet they accurately deduced
their genealogy from Jaafar, the sixth Imam; and the impartial
Abulfeda allows (Annal. Moslem. p. 230) that they were owned by
many, qui absque controversia genuini sunt Alidarum, homines
propaginum suae gentis exacte callentes. He quotes some lines
from the celebrated Scherif or Rahdi, Egone humilitatem induam in
terris hostium? (I suspect him to be an Edrissite of Sicily,)
cum in Aegypto sit Chalifa de gente Alii, quocum ego communem
habeo patrem et vindicem.]

[Footnote 185: The kings of Persia in the last century are
descended from Sheik Sefi, a saint of the xivth century, and
through him, from Moussa Cassem, the son of Hosein, the son of
Ali, (Olearius, p. 957. Chardin, tom. iii. p. 288.) But I cannot
trace the intermediate degrees in any genuine or fabulous
pedigree. If they were truly Fatimites, they might draw their
origin from the princes of Mazanderan, who reigned in the ixth
century, (D'Herbelot, p. 96.)]

[Footnote 186: The present state of the family of Mahomet and Ali
is most accurately described by Demetrius Cantemir (Hist. of the
Othmae Empire, p. 94) and Niebuhr, (Description de l'Arabie, p. 9
- 16, 317 &c.) It is much to be lamented, that the Danish
traveller was unable to purchase the chronicles of Arabia.]

The talents of Mahomet are entitled to our applause; but his
success has, perhaps, too strongly attracted our admiration. Are
we surprised that a multitude of proselytes should embrace the
doctrine and the passions of an eloquent fanatic? In the
heresies of the church, the same seduction has been tried and
repeated from the time of the apostles to that of the reformers.
Does it seem incredible that a private citizen should grasp the
sword and the sceptre, subdue his native country, and erect a
monarchy by his victorious arms? In the moving picture of the
dynasties of the East, a hundred fortunate usurpers have arisen
from a baser origin, surmounted more formidable obstacles, and
filled a larger scope of empire and conquest. Mahomet was alike
instructed to preach and to fight; and the union of these
opposite qualities, while it enhanced his merit, contributed to
his success: the operation of force and persuasion, of enthusiasm
and fear, continually acted on each other, till every barrier
yielded to their irresistible power. His voice invited the Arabs
to freedom and victory, to arms and rapine, to the indulgence of
their darling passions in this world and the other: the
restraints which he imposed were requisite to establish the
credit of the prophet, and to exercise the obedience of the
people; and the only objection to his success was his rational
creed of the unity and perfections of God. It is not the
propagation, but the permanency, of his religion, that deserves
our wonder: the same pure and perfect impression which he
engraved at Mecca and Medina, is preserved, after the revolutions
of twelve centuries, by the Indian, the African, and the Turkish
proselytes of the Koran. If the Christian apostles, St. Peter or
St. Paul, could return to the Vatican, they might possibly
inquire the name of the Deity who is worshipped with such
mysterious rites in that magnificent temple: at Oxford or Geneva,
they would experience less surprise; but it might still be
incumbent on them to peruse the catechism of the church, and to
study the orthodox commentators on their own writings and the
words of their Master. But the Turkish dome of St. Sophia, with
an increase of splendor and size, represents the humble
tabernacle erected at Medina by the hands of Mahomet. The
Mahometans have uniformly withstood the temptation of reducing
the object of their faith and devotion to a level with the senses
and imagination of man. "I believe in one God, and Mahomet the
apostle of God," is the simple and invariable profession of
Islam. The intellectual image of the Deity has never been
degraded by any visible idol; the honors of the prophet have
never transgressed the measure of human virtue; and his living
precepts have restrained the gratitude of his disciples within
the bounds of reason and religion. The votaries of Ali have,
indeed, consecrated the memory of their hero, his wife, and his
children; and some of the Persian doctors pretend that the divine
essence was incarnate in the person of the Imams; but their
superstition is universally condemned by the Sonnites; and their
impiety has afforded a seasonable warning against the worship of
saints and martyrs. The metaphysical questions on the attributes
of God, and the liberty of man, have been agitated in the schools
of the Mahometans, as well as in those of the Christians; but
among the former they have never engaged the passions of the
people, or disturbed the tranquillity of the state. The cause of
this important difference may be found in the separation or union
of the regal and sacerdotal characters. It was the interest of
the caliphs, the successors of the prophet and commanders of the
faithful, to repress and discourage all religious innovations:
the order, the discipline, the temporal and spiritual ambition of
the clergy, are unknown to the Moslems; and the sages of the law
are the guides of their conscience and the oracles of their
faith. From the Atlantic to the Ganges, the Koran is
acknowledged as the fundamental code, not only of theology, but
of civil and criminal jurisprudence; and the laws which regulate
the actions and the property of mankind are guarded by the
infallible and immutable sanction of the will of God. This
religious servitude is attended with some practical disadvantage;
the illiterate legislator had been often misled by his own
prejudices and those of his country; and the institutions of the
Arabian desert may be ill adapted to the wealth and numbers of
Ispahan and Constantinople. On these occasions, the Cadhi
respectfully places on his head the holy volume, and substitutes
a dexterous interpretation more apposite to the principles of
equity, and the manners and policy of the times.

His beneficial or pernicious influence on the public
happiness is the last consideration in the character of Mahomet.
The most bitter or most bigoted of his Christian or Jewish foes
will surely allow that he assumed a false commission to inculcate
a salutary doctrine, less perfect only than their own. He
piously supposed, as the basis of his religion, the truth and
sanctity of their prior revolutions, the virtues and miracles of
their founders. The idols of Arabia were broken before the
throne of God; the blood of human victims was expiated by prayer,
and fasting, and alms, the laudable or innocent arts of devotion;
and his rewards and punishments of a future life were painted by
the images most congenial to an ignorant and carnal generation.
Mahomet was, perhaps, incapable of dictating a moral and
political system for the use of his countrymen: but he breathed
among the faithful a spirit of charity and friendship;
recommended the practice of the social virtues; and checked, by
his laws and precepts, the thirst of revenge, and the oppression
of widows and orphans. The hostile tribes were united in faith
and obedience, and the valor which had been idly spent in
domestic quarrels was vigorously directed against a foreign
enemy. Had the impulse been less powerful, Arabia, free at home
and formidable abroad, might have flourished under a succession
of her native monarchs. Her sovereignty was lost by the extent
and rapidity of conquest. The colonies of the nation were
scattered over the East and West, and their blood was mingled
with the blood of their converts and captives. After the reign
of three caliphs, the throne was transported from Medina to the
valley of Damascus and the banks of the Tigris; the holy cities

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest