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With Notes bv 



The splendid fiftieth chapter of Gibbon's 
History of the ' Decline and fall of the Ro- 
man Empire,' with the learned and judicious 
notes of Dean Milman and Dr. William 
Smith, may be regarded as at once a bril- 
liant and accurate Life of the Arabian pro- 
phet. The narrative of Gibbon favorably 
exhibits his characteristic qualities of com- 
prehensiveness, breadth of vision, and sus- 
tained eloquence. The notes of Dean Mil- 
man correct any ecclesiastical errors, and 
make all necessary additions from the point 
of view of Church history. In the notes of 
Dr. William Smith we have the last results 
of Oriental scholarship in regard to Mahom- 
et's (or Mohammed's) Life. Most of Gib- 
bon's notes, which contain little more than 
references to his authorities, which would 
encumber the page and add nothing of in- 
terest to the reader, have been omitted. 

iv JEditor^s Preface. 

Those that are retained are referred to by 
letters. The notes of Milman and Dr. Smith 
are respectively designated by their initials, 
and referred to by figures. Following our 
general plan, we here give a summary of 
Gibbon's life. 

Gibbon, Edward, was born at Putney, in 
the county of Surrey, on the 27th of April, 
1737. He has given us in his ( Autobiog- 
raphy,' copious particulars concerning his 
life and writings. From his own account 
we learn that in childhood his health was 
very delicate, and that his early education 
was principally conducted by his aunt, Mrs. 
Porten. At the age of nine he was sent to 
a boarding-school at Kingston-upon-Thames, 
where he remained for two years, but made 
little progress, in consequence of the fre- 
quent interruption of his studies by illness. 
The same cause prevented his attention to 
study at Westminster school, whither he 
was sent in 1749, and " his riper age was 
left to acquire the beauties of the Latin and 
the rudiments of the Greek tongue." After 

Editors Preface, 

residing for a short time with the Rev. 
Philip Francis, the translator of Horace, he 
was removed in 1752 to Oxford, where he 
was matriculated as a gentleman commoner 
of Magdalen College in his fifteenth year. 
Though his frequent absence from school 
had prevented him from obtaining much 
knowledge of Latin and Greek, his love of 
reading had led him to peruse many his- 
torical and geographical works ; and he ar- 
rived at Oxford, according to his own ac- 
count, " with a stock of erudition that might 
have puzzled a doctor, and a degree of igno- 
rance of which a school-boy would have been 
ashamed." His imperfect education was 
not improved during his residence at Ox- 
ford ; his tutors he describes as easy men, 
who preferred receiving the fees to attend- 
ing to the instruction of their pupils ; and 
after leading a somewhat dissipated life 
for fourteen months, he was compelled to 
leave Oxford in consequence of having em- 
braced the Roman Catholic faith. His 
conversion was effected by the perusal of 

vi Editors Preface. 

Dr. Middleton's 'Free Inquiry into the Mi- 
raculous Powers possessed by the Church 
in the Early Ages,' in which he attemi)ts to 
show that all the leading doctrines of the 
Roman Catholic Church are supported by 
the miracles of the early fathers, and that 
therefore the doctrines of the Church ot 
Rome must be true, or the miracles false. 
Gibbon's early education had taught him to 
revere the authority of these fathers; he was 
induced to read some works, especially ' Bos- 
suet's Variations,' in favor of the Roman 
faith; and in 1753, he, " solemnly, though 
privately, abjured the errors of heresy." 
With the object of reclaiming him to Prot- 
estanism, his father sent him to Lausanne 
in Switzerland, to reside with M. Pavillard, 
a Calvinist minister. The arguments of 
Pavillard and his own studies had the effect 
which his father desired ; in the following year 
he professed his belief in the doctrines of the 
Protestant Church, and according to his own 
statement, " suspended his religious inquiries, 
acquiescing with implicit belief in the tenets 

Editors Preface. vii 

and mysteries which are adopted by the gen- 
eral consent of Catholics and Protestants." 
He remained in Switzerland for five years, 
during which time he paid great attention to 
study, and assiduously endeavored to remedy 
the defects of his early education. 

During his residence at Lausanne, he had 
become perfectly acquainted with the French 
language, in which he composed his first 
work, entitled ' Essai sur l'Etude de la Lit- 
terature,' which was published in 1761. " It 
was received with more favor on the Conti- 
nent, than in England, where it was little 
read, and speedily forgotten." His studies 
after his return to England were much in- 
terrupted by attention to his duties in the 
Hampshire militia, in which he was appointed 
captain, and the knowledge of military tac- 
tics, which he acquired in the service, was 
not, to use his own words, " useless to the 
.historian of the Roman Empire." During 
his visit to Rome in 1764, " as he sat musing 
amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the 
barefooted friars were singing vespers in the 

viii JEJditor's Preface 

Temple of Jupiter, the idea of writing the 
decline and fall of the city first started to 
his mind." Many years, however, elapsed 
before he began the composition of the ' De- 
cline and Fall.' On his return to England, 
he commenced a work on the Revolutions of 
Florence and Switzerland; and in conjunc- 
tion with a Swiss friend of the name of Dey- 
verdun, published in 1767 and 1768, two 
volumes of a work entitled ' Memoires Lit- 
teraries de la grande Bretagne.' His next 
work, which appeared in 1770, was a ' Re- 
ply to Bishop Warburton's Interpretation 
of the Sixth Book of the Mneid: In 1774 
he was returned to parliament by the interest 
of Lord Eliot for the borough of Liskeard ; 
and fbr eight sessions he steadily supported 
by his vote, though he never spoke, the min- 
istry of Lord North, for which he was re- 
warded by being made one of the commis- 
sioners of trade and plantations, with a sal- 
ary of £800 a year. In the next parlia- 
ment he sat for the borough of Lymington, 
but resigned his seat on the dissolution of 

Editors Preface, ix 

Lord North's ministry, when he lost " his 
convenient salary, after having enjoyed it 
about three years." During the time in 
which he was a member of parliament, he 
published in the French language, at the re- 
quest of the ministry, a pamphlet entitled 
' Memoire Justificatif,' in reply to the French 
manifesto, and in vindication of the justice 
of the British arms. In 1776, the first vol- 
ume of the ' Decline and Fall of the Roman 
Empire ' appeared in 4to., and was received 
by the public in the most favorable manner : 
the first impression was exhausted in a few 
days ; a second and third edition were 
scarcely adequate to the demand." The 
second and third volumes, which terminated 
the history of the fall of the Western Em- 
pire, were published in 1731. 

In 1783 he left England, and retired to 
Lausanne, to reside permanently with his 
friend M. Deyverdun. From this time to 
1787 he was engaged in the composition of 
the last three volumes of his great work, 
which appeared in 1788. He spent some 

Editors Preface. 

time that year in England to superintend 
the publication, and again returned to Lau- 
sanne, where he remained till 1793, when 
the death of Lady Sheffield recalled him to 
his native country to console his friend. 
He died in London on the 16th of Janu- 
ary, 1794. 

The ' Decline and Fall of the Roman Em- 
pire ' comprises the history of the world 
for nearly thirteen centuries, from the reign 
of the Antonines to the taking of Constan- 
tinople by the Turks. It was a great ac- 
cession to literature; Niebuhr indeed pro- 
nounced it " a work never to be excelled." 
It connects ancient and modern history, and 
contains information on many subjects which 
historians generally neglect, and sometimes 
unsuccessfully attempt. In the most con- 
venient edition of the ' Decline and Fall,' 
that edited by Dr. William Smith, 8 vols. 
8vo., 1854-55, are embodied the more im- 
portant notes of Guizot, the equally valuable 
ones of Wenck, the German translator, with 
those by Dean Milman, intended to correct 

Editor'' s Preface. xi 

the ecclesiastical bias of the historian, and 
a judicious selection from the comments of 
other authorities, while the references are 
throughout verified. His ' Miscellaneous 
Works, with Memoirs of his life and writings 
composed by himself,' were published by 
Lord Sheffield in 2 vols. 4to., 1796 ; to which 
a third volume was added in 1815. The 
1 Miscellaneous Works ' were reprinted in 
the same year in 5 vols. 8vo. This collection 
contains a republication of some of the works 
which have been already mentioned ; and in 
addition to these, a large ' Collection of 
Letters written by or to Mr. Gibbon ; ' Ab- 
stracts of the Books he read, with Reflec- 
tions ; ' Extracts from his Journal ; ' ' Out- 
lines of the History of the World ; ' ' A 
Dissertation on the Subject of L'Homme au 
Masque de Fer ; ' ' Antiquities- of the House 
of Brunswick ; ' Memoire sur la Monarchic 
des Medes ; ' ' Nomina Gentesque Antiquae 
Italise;' 'Remarks on Blackstone's Com- 
mentaries ; ' l On the Position of the Merid- 
ional Line, and the supposed Circumnavi- 

tii Editor'' s Preface, 

gation of Africa by the Ancients,' and other 
pieces of less importance. 

A splendid and reliable Life of the foun- 
der of a religion, that strove many centuries 
with Christianity for the mastery of the 
world, that failed because every thing human 
fails in a conflict with the divine, must be a 
welcome book. To the thoughtful, whether 
young or old, who are striving to look be- 
neath the surface in the complicated history 
of the world, we heartily recommend it. 

0. W. WlGHX 

March, 1859. 


The genius of the Arabian prophet, the 
manners of his nation, and the spirit of 
his religion, involve the causes of the 
decline and fall of the Eastern empire; 
and our eyes are curiously intent on 
one of the most memorable revolutions, 
which have impressed a new and lasting 
character on the nations of the globe. 1 

1 The best works on the ancient geography and ante- 
Mahometan history of Arabia are 'The Historical Geography 
of Arabia,' by the Bev. Charles Forster, 2 vols. 8vo., London, 
1844, and 'Essai sur VHistoire des Arabes avant lTslamisme, 
pendant Fcpoque de Mahomet, et jusqu'a la reduction de 
toutes lcs tribus sous la loi Musulmane, 1 by A. P. Caussin de 
Perceval, Professeur d'Arabe an College Royal de France, 8 
vols. 8vo., Paris, 1847-184S. Of the latter work there is an 
able account in the Calcutta Review, No. xli. — S. — Of modern 
travellers may be mentioned the adventurer who called him- 
self Ali Bey ; but, above all, the intelligent, the enterprising, 
the accurate Burckhardt. — M. 

10 Life of Mahomet 

In the vacant space between Persia, 
Syria, Egypt, and JEthiopia,the Arabian 
peninsula may be conceived as a trian- 
gle of spacious but irregular dimensions. 
From the northern point of Beles a on 
the Euphrates, a line of fifteen hundred 
miles is terminated by the straits of 
Babelmandel and the land of frankin- 
cense. About half this length may be 
allowed for the middle breadth, from 
east to west, from Bassora to Suez, from 
the Persian gulf to the Red sea. The 
sides of the triangle are gradually en- 
larged, and the southern basis presents 
a front of a thousand miles to the In- 
dian ocean. The entire surface of the 
peninsula exceeds in a fourfold pro- 
portion that of Germany or France ; 
but the far greater part has been justly 
stigmatized with the epithets of the 
stony and the sandy. Even the wilds 

• It was in this place, the paradise or garden of a satrap, 
that Xenophon and the Greeks first passed the Euphrates. 

L ife of Ma hornet . 11 

of Tartar j are decked, by the hand of 
nature, with lofty trees and luxuriant 
herbage ; and the lonesome traveller 
derives a sort of comfort and society 
from the presence of vegetable life. 
But in the dreary waste of Arabia, a 
boundless level of sand is intersected 
by sharp and naked mountains ; and 
the face of the desert, without shade or 
shelter, is scorched by the direct and 
intense rays of the tropical sun. Instead 
of refreshing breezes, the winds, par- 
ticularly from the south-west, diffuse a 
noxious and even deadly vapor ; the 
hillocks of sand which they alternately 
raise and scatter, are compared to the 
billows of the ocean, and whole cara- 
vans, whole armies, have been lost and 
buried in the whirlwind. The common 
benefits of water are an object of desire 
and contest ; and such is the scarcity of 
wood, that some art is requisite to pre- 
serve and propagate the element of fire. 

12 X*ife of Mahomet. 

Arabia is destitute of navigable rivers, 
which fertilize the soil, and convey its 
produce to the adjacent regions ; the 
torrents that fall from the hills are im- 
bibed by the thirsty earth : the rare and 
hardy plants, the tamarind or the acacia, 
that strike their roots into the clefts of 
the rocks, are nourished by the dews of 
night ; a scanty supply of rain is col- 
lected in cisterns and aqueducts ; the 
wells and springs are the secret treasure 
of the desert ; and the pilgrim of Mecca, 8 
after many a dry and sultry march, is 
disgusted by the taste of the waters, 
which have rolled over a bed of sulphur 
or salt. Such is the general and genuine 
picture of the climate of Arabia. The 
experience of evil enhances the value 
of any local or partial enjoyments. A 
shady grove, a green pasture, a stream 

» In the thirty days, or stations, between Cairo and Mecca, 
there are fifteen destitute of good water. See the route of the 
Padjees, in Shaw*s Travels, p. 477. 

Life of Mahomet, 13 

of fresh water, are sufficient to attract a 
colony of sedentary Arabs to the fortu- 
nate spots which can afford food and re- 
freshment to themselves and their cattle, 
and which encourage their industry in 
the cultivation of the palm-tree and the 
vine. The high lands that border on the 
Indian ocean are distinguished by their 
superior plenty of wood and water ; the 
air is more temperate, the fruits are 
more delicious, the animals and the 
human race more numerous ; the fer- 
tility of the soil invites and rewards 
the toil of the husbandman ; and the 
peculiar gifts of frankincense* and coffee 
have attracted in different ages the 
merchants of the world. If it be com- 
pared with the rest of the jDeninsula, 

a The aromatics, especially the thus or frankincense, of 

irabia, occupy the twelfth book of Pliny. Our great poet 

(Paradise Lost, 1. iv.) introduces, in a simile, the spicy odors 

that are blown by the north-east wind from the Sabsean 

coast : 

Many a league, 

Pleased with the grateful scent, old Ocean smiles. 

14 Life of Mahomet. 

this sequestered region may truly de- 
serve the appellation of the happy • 
and the splendid coloring of fancy and 
fiction has been suggested by contrast, 
and countenanced by distance. It was 
for this earthly paradise that nature had 
reserved her choicest favors and her 
most curious workmanship : the incom- 
patible blessings of luxury and inno- 
cence were ascribed to the natives: 
the soil was impregnated with gold a 
and gems, and both the land and sea 
were taught to exhale the odors of 
aromatic sweets. This division of the 

» Agatharcides affirms that lumps of pare gold were found 
from the size of an olive to that of a nut; that iron was twico, 
and silver ten times, the value of gold, (de Mari Kubro, p. 
60.) These real or imaginary treasures are vanished, and no 
gold mines are at present known in Arabia. (Niebuhr, De- 
scription, p. 124.) * 

1 A brilliant passage in the geographical poem of Diony- 
bius Perie.setes embodies the notions of the ancients on the 
wealth and fertility of Yemen. Greek mythology, and the 
traditions of the "gorgeous east," of India as well as Arabia, 
\re mingled together in indiscriminate splendor. Compare 
on the southern coast of Arabia the recent travels of Lieut, 
delisted.— M. 

Life of Mahomet. 15 

sandy, the stony, and the happy, so 
familiar to the Greeks and Latins, is 
unknown to the Arabians themselves : 
and it is singular enough, that a country, 
whose language and inhabitants have 
ever been the same, should scarcely re- 
tain a vestige of its ancient geography. 
The maritime districts of Bahrein and 
Oman are opposite to the realm of 
Persia. The kingdom of Yemen dis- 
plays the limits, or at least the situa- 
tion, of Arabia Fselix : the name of 
Neged is extended over the inland space : 
and the birth of Mahomet has illustrat- 
ed the province of Hejaz^ along the coast 
of the Red sea. 

The measure of the population is re- 
gulated by the means of subsistence ; 

1 Hejaz means the "barrier" or "frontier," as lying be- 
tween the southern and northern merchants, or, in other 
words, between Arabia Felix and Arabia Petrrca. It is a 
mountainous district, and includes Medina as well as Mecca. 
It occupies the space between Neged (Najd) and the Ked 
Sea. Sprenger, Life of Mohammed, p. 14; C. de Perceval, 
Essai, &c, vol. i. p. 3.— S. 

16 Eife of Mahomet. 

and the inhabitants of this vast pen- 
insula might be outnumbered by the 
subjects of a fertile and industrious 
province. Along the shores of the Per- 
sian gulf, of the ocean, and even of the 
Red sea, the Icthyophagi, or fish-eaters, 
continued to wander in quest of their 
precarious food. In this primitive and 
abject state, which ill deserves the name 
of society, the human brute, without 
arts or laws, almost without sense or 
language, is poorly distinguished from 
the rest of the animal creation. Gene 
rations and ages might roll away in 
silent oblivion, and the helpless savage 
was restrained from multiplying his 
race, by the wants and pursuits which 
confined his existence to the narrow 
margin of the sea-coast. Bat in an 
early period of antiquity the great body 
of the Arabs had emerged from this 
scene of misery ; and as the naked wil- 
derness could not maintain a people 

Life of Mahomet. 17 

of hunters, they rose at once to the 
more secure and plentiful condition of 
the pastoral life. The same life is uni- 
formly pursued by the roving tribes of 
the desert ; and in the portrait of the 
modern Bedoweens, we may trace the 
features of their ancestors, who, in the 
age of Moses or Mahomet, dwelt under 
similar tents, and conducted their horses, 
and camels, and sheep, to the same 
springs and the same pastures. Our 
toil is lessened, and our wealth is in- 
creased, by our dominion over the use- 
ful animals ; and the Arabian shepherd 
had acquired the absolute possession of 
a faithful friend and laborious slave.* 
Arabia, in the opinion of the naturalist, 
is the genuine and original country of 
the horse J the climate most propitious, 
not indeed to the size, but to the spirit 

* Bead (it is no unpleasant task) the incomparable articles 
of the Horse and the Camel, in the Natural History of M. de 


18 Life of Mahomet. 

and swiftness, of that generous animal. 
The merit of the Barb, the Spanish, and 
the English breed, is derived from a 
mixture of Arabian blood: the Bedo- 
weens preserve, with superstitious care, 
the honors and the memory of the 
purest race : the males are sold at a 
high price, but the females are seldom 
alienated ; and the birth of a noble 
foal was esteemed, among the tribes, as 
a subject of joy and mutual congratu- 
lation. These horses are educated in 
the tents, among the children of the 
Arabs, with a tender familiarity, which 
trains them in the habits of gentleness 
and attachment. They are accustomed 
only to walk and to gallop : their sen- 
sations are not blunted by the inces- 
sant abuse of the spur and the whip ; 
their powers are reserved for the mo- 
ments of flight and pursuit ; but no 
sooner do they feel the touch of the 
hijid or the stirrup, than they dart 

Life of Jfahomet. 19 

&way with the swiftness of the wind ; 
and if their friend be dismounted in 
the rapid career, they instantly stop till 
he has recovered his seat. In the 
sands of Africa and Arabia, the camel 
jA a sacred and precious gift. That 
strong and patient beast of burthen can 
perform, without eating or drinking, a 
journey of several days ; and a reser- 
voir of fresh water is preserved in a 
large bag, a fifth stomach of the animal, 
whose body is imprinted with the 
marks of servitude : the larger breed is 
capable of transporting a weight of a 
thousand pounds ; and the dromedary, 
of a lighter and more active frame, out- 
strips the fleetest courser in the race. 
Alive or dead, almost every part of 
the camel is serviceable to man : her 
milk is plentiful and nutritious : the 
young and tender flesh has the taste 
of veal : a valuable salt is extract- 
ed from the urine : the dung supplies 

20 -Life of Mahomet. 

the deficiency of fuel ; and the long 
hair, which falls each year and is re- 
newed, is coarsely manufactured into 
the garments, the furniture, and the 
tents of the Bedoweens. In the rainy 
seasons they consume the rare and in- 
sufficient herbage of the desert : during 
the heats of summer and the scarcity of 
winter, they remove their encamp- 
ments, to the sea-coast, the hills of 
Yemen, or the neighborhood of the 
Euphrates, and have often extorted the 
dangerous licence of visiting the banks 
of the Nile, and the villages of Syria 
and Palestine. The life of a wandering 
Arab is a life of danger and distress ; 
and though sometimes, by rapine or 
exchange, he may appropriate the fruits 
of industry, a private citizen of Europe 
is in possession of more solid and pleas- 
ing luxury than the proudest emir, who 
marches in the field at the head of ten 
thousand horse. 

Life of Mahomet . 21 

Yet an essential difference may be 
found between the hordes of Scythia 
and the Arabian tribes ; since many of 
the latter were collected into towns, 
and employed in the labors of trade 
and' agriculture. A part of their time 
and industry was still devoted to the 
management of their cattle : they min- 
gled, in peace and war, with their 
brethren of the desert ; and the Bedo- 
weens derived from their useful inter- 
course, some supply of their wants, and 
some rudiments of art and knowledge. 
Among the forty-two cities of Arabia, 
enumerated by Abulfeda, the most 
ancient and populous were situate in 
the happy Yemen : the towers of 
Saana, and the marvellous reservoir of 
Merab, 1 were constructed by the kings 
of the Homerites ; but their profane 

1 The town never recovered the inundation which took 
place from the bursting of a large reservoir of water — an 
<vent of great importance in the Arabian annals, and dia- 
eussed at considerable length by modern orientalists. — M. 

22 Life of Mahomet. 

lustre was eclipsed by the prophetic 
glories of Medina, and Mecca, 1 near the 
Red sea, and at the distance from each 
other of two hundred and seventy miles. 
The last of these holy places was known 
to the Greeks under the name of Ma- 
coraba ; and the termination of the 
word is expressive of its greatness, 
which, has not indeed, in the most 
flourishing period, exceeded the size and 
populousness of Marseilles. 2 Some latent 
motive, perhaps of superstition, must 
have impelled the founders, in the 
choice of a most unpromising situation. 

1 Even in the time of Gibbon, Mecca had not been so in- 
accessible to Europeans. It had been visited by Ludovico 
Barthema, and by one Joseph Pitts of Exeter, who was taken 
prisoner by the Moors, and forcibly converted to Mahomet 
anism. His volume is a curious though plain account of hi3 
sufferings and travels. Since that time Mecca has been en- 
tered, and the ceremonies witnessed, by Dr. Seetzen, whose 
papers were unfortunately lost ; by the Spaniard who called 
Himself Ali Bey; and lastly, by Burckhardt, whose descrip- 
tion leaves nothing wanting to satisfy the curiosity. — M. 

2 Mr. Forster identifies the Greek name with the Arabic 
Mecharab, "the warlike city," or "the city of the Harb." 
Geogr. of Arabia, vol. i. p. 265. — S. 

Life of Mahomet. 23 

They erected their habitations of mud 
or stone, in a plain about two miles long 
and one mile broad, at the foot of three 
barren mountains : the soil is a rock ; 
the water even of the holy well of Zem- 
zem is bitter or brackish ;* the pastures 
are remote from the city ; and grapes 
are transported above seventy miles 
from the gardens of Tayef. The fame 
and spirit of the Koreishites, who 
reigned in Mecca, were conspicuous 
among the Arabian tribes ; but their 
ungrateful soil refused the labors of 
agriculture, and their position was 
favorable to the enterprises of trade. 
By the sea-port of Gedda, at the dis- 
tance only of forty miles, they inaintaiii- 

1 Burckhardt, however, observes : — " The water is heavy 
n its taste, and sometimes in its color resembles milk, but it 
s perfectly sweet, and differs very much from that of the 
brackish wells dispersed over the town." (Travels in Arabia, 
p. 144.) Elsewhere he says : — '* It seems probable that the 
town of Mecca owed its origin to this well ; for many miles 
round no sweet water is found, nor is there in any part of the 
country 60 copious a supply. 11 (Ibid, p. 145). — S. 

24 Eife of Mahomet. 

ed an easy correspondence with Abys- 
sinia; and that Christian kingdom af- 
forded the first refuge to the disciples 
of Mahomet. 1 The treasures of Africa 
were conveyed over the peninsula of 
Gerrha or Katif, in the province of 
Bahrein, a city built, as it is said, of 
rock-salt, by the Chaldean exiles ; and 
from thence, with the native pearls of 
the Persian gulf, they were floated on 
rafts to the mouth of the Euphrates. 
Mecca is placed almost at an equal dis- 
tance, a month's journey, between Ye- 
men on the right, aud Syria on the left 
hand. The former was the winter, the 
latter the summer, station of her cara- 
vans ; and their seasonable arrival re- 
lieved the ships of India from the tedious 
and troublesome navigation of the Red 
sea. In the markets of Saaua and Me- 
rab, in the harbors of Oman and Aden, 
the camels of the Koreishites were laden 
with a precious cargo of aromatics ; a 

£if e of Mahomet. 25 

supply of corn and manufactures was 
purchased in the fairs of Bostra and 
Damascus ; the lucrative exchange dif- 
fused plenty and riches in the streets 
of Mecca ; and the noblest of her sons 
united the love of arms with the pro- 
fession of merchandise. "^ 

The perpetual independence of the 
Arabs has been the theme of praise 
among strangers and natives ; and the 
arts of controversy transform this sin- 
gular event into a prophecy and a mira- 
cle, in favor of the posterity of Ismael. 
Some exceptions, that can neither be 
dissembled nor eluded, render this mode 
of reasoning as indiscreet as it is super- 
fluous ; the kingdom of Yemen has been 
successively subdued by the Abyssin- 
lans, the Persians, the sultans of Egypt, 
and the Turks : the holy cities of Mecca 
and Medina have repeatedly bowed 
under a Scythian tyrant ; and the Ro- 
man province of Arabia embraced the 

26 Life of Mahomet, 

peculiar wilderness in which Ismael and 
his sons must have pitched their tents 
in the face of their brethren. Yet these 
exceptions are temporary or local ; the 
body of the nation has escaped the } T oke 
of the. most powerful monarchies : the 
arms of Sesostris and Cyrus, of Pom- 
pey and Trajan, could never achieve 
the conquest of Arabia ; the present 
sovereign of the Turks a may exercise a 
shadow of jurisdiction, but his pride is 
reduced to solicit the friendship of a 
people, whom it is dangerous to pro- 
voke, and fruitless to attack. The ob- 
vious causes of their freedom are in- 
scribed on the character and country 
of the Arabs. Many ages before Ma- 
homet, their intrepid valor had been 

a Niebuhr (Description de l'Arabie, p. 302, 303, 329—331) 
affords the most recent and authentic intelligence of the 
Turkish empire in Arabia. 1 

1 Niebuhr's, notwithstanding the multitude of later trav» 
ellers, maintains its ground as the classical work on Arabia. 
— M. 

Life of Mahomet. 27 

Beverly felt by their neighbors in of- 
fensive and defensive war. The pa- 
tient and active virtues of a soldier are 
insensibly nursed in the habits and dis- 
cipline of a pastoral life. The care of 
the sheep and camels is abandoned to 
the women of the tribe ; but the mar- 
tial youth, under the banner of the 
emir, is ever on horseback, and in the 
field, to practise the exercise of the bow, 
the javelin, and the scymitar. The 
long memory of their independence is 
the firmest pledge of its perpetuity, and 
succeeding generations are animated to 
prove their descent, and to maintain 
their inheritance. Their domestic feuds 
are suspended on the approach of a 
common enemy ; and in their last hos- 
tilities against the Turks, the caravan 
of Mecca was attacked and pillaged by 
fourscore thousand of the confederates. 
When they advance to battle, the hope 
of victor v is in the front ; in the rear, 

28 Life of Mahomet. 

the assurance of a retreat. Their horses 
and camels, who in eight or ten days 
can perform a march of four or five 
hundred miles, disappear before the 
conqueror ; the secret waters of the 
desert elude his search ; and his victo- 
rious troops are consumed with thirst, 
hunger, and fatigue, in the pursuit of 
an invisible foe, who scorns his efforts, 
and safely reposes in the heart of the 
burning solitude. The arms and deserts 
of the Bedoweens are not only the safe- 
guards of their own freedom, but the 
barriers also of the Happy Arabia, 
whose inhabitants, remote from war, 
are enervated by the luxury of the soil 
and climate. The legions of Augus- 
tus melted away in disease and lassi- 
tude ; and it is only by a naval power 
that the reduction of Yemen has been 
successfully attempted. When Ma- 
homet erected his holy standard, that 
kingdom was a province of the Persian 

Life of Mahomet. 29 

empire ; yet seven princes of the Ho- 
merites still reigned in the mountains ; 
and the vicegerent of Chosroes was 
tempted to forget his distant country 
and his unfortunate master. The his- 
torians of the age of Justinian repre- 
sent the state of the independent Arabs, 
who were divided by interest or affec- 
tion in the long quarrel of the east : the 
tribe of Gassan was allowed to encamp 
on the Syrian territory : the princes of 
Hira were permitted to form a city 
about forty miles to the southward of 
the ruins of Babylon. Their service in 
the field was speedy and vigorous ; but 
their friendship was venal, their faith 
inconstant, their enmity capricious : it 
was an easier task to excite than to dis- 
arm these roving barbarians ; and, in 
the familiar intercourse of war, they 
learned to see,and to despise,the splendid 
weakness both of Rome and of Persia. 
From Mecca to the Euphrates, the 

SO Lift of Mahomet. 

Arabian tribes were confounded by the 
Greeks and Latins, under the general 
appellation of Saracens, a name which 
every Christian mouth has been taught 
to pronounce with terror and abhor- 

The slaves of domestic tyranny may 
vainly exult in their national indepen- 
dence : but the Arab is personally 
free ; and he enjoys, in some degree, 
the benefits of society, without forfeit- 
ing the prerogatives of nature. In 
every tribe, superstition, or gratitude, 
or fortune, has exalted a particular 
family above the heads of their equals. 
The dignities of sheick and emir invari- 
ably descend in this chosen race ; but the 
order of succession is loose and precari- 
ous, and the most worthy or aged of the 
noble kinsmen are preferred to the sim- 
ple, though important, office of compos- 
ing disputes by their advice, and guiding 
valor by their example. Even a fe- 

Life of Mahomet. 31 

male of sense and spirit has been per- 
mitted to command the countrymen of 
Zenobia. The momentary junction of 
several tribes produces an army ; their 
more lasting union constitutes a na- 
tion ; and the supreme chief, the emir 
of emirs, whose banner is displayed at 
their head, may deserve, in the eyes of 
strangers,the honors of the kingly name. 
If the Arabian princes abuse their 
power, they are quickly punished by 
the desertion of their subjects, who had 
been accustomed to a mild and parental 
jurisdiction. Their spirit is free, their 
steps are unconfirmed, the desert is open, 
and the tribes and families are held to- 
gether by a mutual and voluntary com- 
pact. The softer natives of Yemen 
supported the pomp and majesty of a 
monarch ; but if he could not leave his 
palace without endangering his life, the 
active powers of government must havfe 
been devolved on his nobles and mag- 

32 Life of Mahomet. 

istrates. The cities of Mecca and 
Medina present, in the heart of Asia, 
the form, or rather the substance, of a 
commonwealth. The grandfather of 
Mahomet, and his lineal ancestors, ap 
pear, in foreign and domestic transac- 
tions as the princes of their country ; 
but they reigned, like Pericles at 
Athens, or the Medici at Florence, by 
the opinion of their wisdom and integ- 
rity ; their influence was divided with 
their patrimony ; and the sceptre was 
transferred from the uncles of the 
prophet to a younger branch of the 
tribe of Koreish. On solemn occasions 
they convened the assembly of the peo- 
ple ; and since mankind must be either 
compelled or persuaded to obey, the 
use and reputation of oratory among 
the ancient Arabs is the clearest evi- 
dence of public freedom. But their 
simple freedom was of a very different 
cast from the nice and artificial machi- 

£if e °f Mahomet. 33 

nery of the Greek and Horn an republics, 
in which each member possessed an un- 
divided share of the civil and political 
rights of the community. In the more 
simple state of the Arabs, the nation is 
free, because each of her sons disdains a 
base submission to the will of a master. 
His breast is fortified with the austere 
virtues of courage, patience, and sobri- 
ety ; the love of independence prompts 
him to exeicise the habits of self-com- 
mand ; and the fear of dishonor guards 
him from the meaner apprehension of 
pain, of danger, and of death. The 
gravity and firmness of the mind is 
conspicuous in his outward demeanor ; 
his speech is slow, weighty, and con 
cise ; he is seldom provoked to laughter ; 
his only gesture is that of stroking his 
beard, the venerable symbol of man- 
hood ; and the sense of his own impor- 
tance teaches him to accost his equals 
without levity, and his superiors with- 

34 Life of Mahomet. 

out awe. 1 The liberty of the Saracens 
survived their conquests : the first 
saliphs indulged the bold and familiar 
language of their subjects; they as- 
cended the pulpit to persuade and edify 
the congregation ; nor was it before the 
seat of empire was removed to the 
Tigris, that the Abbassides adopted the 
proud and pompous ceremonial of the 
Persian and Byzantine courts. 

In the study of nations and men, we 
may observe the causes that render 
them hostile pr friendly to each other, 
that tend to narrow or enlarge, to mol- 
lify or exasperate, the social character. 
The separation of the Arabs from the 
rest of mankind, has accustomed them 
to confound the ideas of stranger and 
enemy ; and the poverty of the land 
has introduced a maxim of jurispru- 
dence, which they believe and practise 

1 See the curious romance of Antar, the most vivid and 
♦uthentic picture of Arabian manners. — M. 

Life of Mahomet. S5 

to the present hour. They pretend, 
that in the division of the earth, .the 
rich and fertile climates were assigned 
to the other branches of the human 
family ; and that the posterity of the 
outlaw Ismael might recover, by fraud 
or force, the portion of the inheritance 
of which he had been unjustly deprived. 
According to the remark of Pliny, the 
Arabian tribes are equally addicted to 
theft and merchandise : the caravans 
that traverse the desert are ransomed 
or pillaged ; and their neighbors, since 
the remote times of Job and Sesostris, 
have been the victims of their rapa- 
cious spirit. If a Bedoween discovers 
from afar a solitary traveller, he rides 
furiously against him, crying, with a 
loud voice, " Undress thyself, thy aunt 
(my wife) is without a garment." A 
readv submission entitles him to mercv ; 
resistance will provoke the aggressor, 
and his own blood must expiate the 

86 Life of Mahomet. 

blood which he presumes to shed in 
legitimate defence. A single robber, 
or a few associates, are branded with 
their genuine name ; but the exploits 
of a numerous band assume the charac 
ter of lawful and honorable war. The 
temper of a people, thus armed against 
mankind, was doubly inflamed by the 
domestic license of rapine, murder, and 
revenge. In the constitution of Europe, 
the right of peace and war is now con- 
fined to a small, and the actual exercise 
to a much smaller, list of respectable 
potentates ; but each Arab, with im- 
punity and renown, might point his 
javelin against the life of his country- 
man. The union of the nation con- 
sisted only in a vague resemblance of 
language and manners ; and in each 
community, the jurisdiction of the mag- 
istrate was mute and impotent. Of 
the time of ignorance which preceded 
Mahomet, seventeen hundred battles 

Life of Mahomet. 37 

are recorded by tradition : hostility was 
embittered with the rancor of civil fac- 
tion ; and the recital, in prose or verse, 
of an obsolete feud, was sufficient to re- 
kindle the same passions among the de- 
scendants of the hostile tribes. In pri- 
vate life, every man, at least every 
family, was the judge and avenger of 
its own cause. The nice sensibility of 
honor, which weighs the insult rather 
than the injury, sheds its deadly venom 
on the quarrels of the Arabs : the honor 
of their women, and of their beards, is 
most easily wounded ; an indecent ac- 
tion, a contemptuous word, can be ex- 
piated only by the blood of the offender ; 
and such is their patient inveteracy, 
that they expect whole months and 
years the opportunity of revenge. A 
fine or compensation for murder is 
familiar to the barbarians of every age ; 
but in Arabia the kinsmen of the dead 
are at liberty to accept the atonement, 

38 £{fe of Mahomet. 

or to exercise with their own hands the 
law of retaliation. The refined malic-e 
of the Arabs refuses even the head of 
the murderer, substitutes an innocent 
to the guilty person, and transfers the 
penalty to the best and most considera- 
ble of the race by whom they have been 
injured. If he falls by their hands, 
they are exposed in their turn to the 
danger of reprisals ; the interest and 
principal of the bloody debt are accu- 
mulated ; the individuals of either family 
lead a life of malice and suspicion, and 
fifty years may sometimes elapse before 
the account of vengeance be finally 
settled. This sanguinary spirit, igno- 
rant of pity or forgiveness, has been 
moderated, however, by the maxims of 
honor, which require in every private 
encounter some decent equality of age 
and strength, of numbers and weapons. 
An annual festival of two, perhaps of 
four, months, was observed by the 

Life of Mahomet. 39 

Arabs before the time of Mahomet, 
during which their swords were relig- 
ously sheathed both in foreign and do- 
mestic hostility ; and this partial truce 
is more strongly expressive of the habits 
of anarchy and warfare. 

But the spirit of rapine and revenge 
was attempered by the milder influence 
of trade and literature. The solitary 
peninsula is encompassed by the most 
civilized nations of the ancient world ; 
the merchant is the friend of mankind ; 
and the annual caravans imported the 
first seeds of knowledge and politeness 
into the cities, and even the camps, of 
the desert. Whatever may be the pedi- 
gree of the Arabs, their language is de- 
rived from the same original stock 
with the Hebrew, the Syriac, and the 
Chaldean tongues ; the independence of 
the tribes was marked by their peculiar 
dialects ; but each, after their own, 
allowed a just preference to the pure 

40 Eife of Mahomet, 

and perspicuous idiom of Mecca. In 
Arabia, as well as in Greece, the per- 
fection of language outstripped the r& 
tinement of manners ; and her speech 
could diversify the fourscore names of 
honey, the two hundred of a serpent, 
the five hundred of a lion, the thousand 
of a sword, at a time when this copious 
dictionary was intrusted to the memory 
of an illiterate people. The monu- 
ments of the Homerites were inscribed 
with an obsolete and mysterious char- 
acter ; but the Oufic letters, the ground- 
work of the present alphabet, were in- 
vented on the banks of the Euphrates ; 
and the recent invention was taught at 
Mecca by a stranger who settled in that 
city after the birth of Mahomet. The 
arts of grammar, of metre, and of 
rhetoric, were unknown to the free-born 
eloquence of the Arabians ; but their 
penetration was sharp, their fancy luxu- 
riant, their wit strong and sententious, 8 

» Stated from the one hundred and sixty-nine sentences 

Life of Mahomet. 41 

and their more elaborate compositions 
were addressed with energy and effect 
to the minds of their hearers. The 
genius and merit of a rising poet was 
celebrated by the applause of his own 
and the kindred tribes. A solemn 
banquet was prepared, and a chorus of 
women, striking their tymbals, and dis- 
playing the pomp of their nuptials, sung 
in the presence of their sons and hus- 
bands the felicity of their native tribe — 
that a champion had now appeared to 
vindicate their rights — that a herald 
had raised his voice to immortalize 
their renown. The distant or hostile 
tribes resorted to an annual fair, which 
was abolished by the fanaticism of the 
first Moslems — a national assembly that 
must have contributed to refine and 
harmonize the barbarians. Thirty days 

of Ali (translated by Ockley, London, 1718), which afford a 
just and favorable specimen of Arabian wit. ' 

1 Compare the Arabio proverbs translated by Burckhardt. 
London, 1830.— M. 

42 Life of Mahomet. 

were employed in the exchange, not 
only of corn and wine, but of eloquence 
and poetry. The prize was disputed 
by the generous emulation of the bards ; 
the victorious performance was deposit- 
ed in the archives of princes, and 
emirs ; and we may read in our own 
language, the seven original poems 
which were inscribed in letters of gold, 
and suspended in the temple of Mecca. 
The Arabian poets were the historians 
and moralists of the age ; and if they 
sympathized with the prejudices, they 
inspired and crowned the virtues, of 
their countrymen. The indissoluble 
union of generosity and valor was the 
darling theme of their song ; and when 
they pointed their keenest satire against 
a despicable race, they affirmed, in the 
bitterness of reproach, that the men 
knew not how to give, nor the women 
to deny. The same hospitality, which 
was practised by Abraham, and cele 

Life of Mahomet. 43 

brated by Homer, is still renewed in 
the camps of the Arabs. The ferocious 
Bedoweens, the terror of the desert, 
embrace, without inquiry or hesitation, 
the stranger who dares to confide in 
their honor and to enter their tent. 
His treatment is kind and respectful ; 
he shares the wealth, or the poverty, of 
his host ; and, after a needful repose, 
he is dismissed on his way, with thanks, 
with blessings, and perhaps with gifts. 
The heart and hand are more largely 
expanded by the wants of a brother or 
a friend ; but the heroic acts that could 
deserve the public applause, must have 
surpassed the narrow measure of dis- 
cretion and experience. A dispute 
had arisen, who, among the citizens of 
Mecca, was entitled to the prize of gen- 
erosity ; and a successive application was 
made to the three w T ho were deemed most 
worthy of the trial. Abdallah, the son 
of Abdas, had undertaken a distant 

44 Life of Mahomet. 

journey, and his foot was in the stirrup 
when he heard the voice of a suppliant, 
" O son of the uncle of the apostle of 
God, I am a traveller and in distress !" 
He instantly dismounted, to present the 
pilgrim with his camel, her rich ca- 
parison, and a purse of four thousand 
pieces of gold, excepting only the 
sword, either for its intrinsic value, or 
as the gift of an honored kinsman. 
The servant of Kais informed the second 
suppliant that his master was asleep ; 
but he immediately added, " Here is a 
purse of seven thousand pieces of gold, 
(it is all we have in the house,) and 
here is an order, that will entitle you 
to a camel and a slave ;" the master, as 
soon as he awoke, praised and enfran- 
chised his faithful steward with a gentle 
reproof, that by respecting his slumbers 
he had stinted his bounty. The third 
of these heroes, the blind Arabah, at 
the hour of prayer, was supporting his 

Life of Mahomet. 45 

steps on the shoulders of two slaves. 
"Alas!" he replied, "my coffers are 
empty ! but these you may sell ; if you 
refuse, I renounce them." At these 
words, pushing away the youths, he 
groped along the wall with his staff. 
The character of Hatem is the perfect 
model of Arabian virtue ; * he was brave 
and liberal, an eloquent poet, and a 
successful robber: forty camels were 
roasted at his hospitable feasts ; and at 
the prayer of a suppliant enemy, he 
restored both the captives and the spoil. 
The freedom of his countrymen disdain- 
ed the laws of justice ; they proudly 
indulged the spontaneous impulse of 
pity and benevolence. 

The religion of the Arabs, as well as 
of the Indians, consisted in the worship 
of the sun, the moon, and the fixed 

1 See the translation of the amusing Persian romance of 
Hatim Tai, by Duncan Forbes, Esq., among the works pub- 
Ushed by the Oriental Translation Fund.— M. 

46 Life of Mahomet. 

Btars ; a primitive and specious mode 
of superstition. The bright luminaries 
of the sky display the visible image of 
the Deity : their number and distance 
convey to a philosophic, or even a 
vulgar, eye, the idea of boundless 
space : the character of eternity is 
marked on these solid globes, that seem 
incapable of corruption or decay : the 
regularity of their motions may be as- 
cribed to a principle of reason or in- 
stinct ; and their real or imaginary in- 
fluence encourages the vain belief that 
the earth and its inhabitants are the 
object of their peculiar care. The 
science of astronomy was cultivated at 
Babylon ; but the school of the Arabs 
was a clear firmament and a naked 
plain. In their nocturnal marches, 
they steered by the guidance of tin 
stars ; their names, and order, and 
daily station, were familiar to the curi- 
osity and devotion of the Bedoween ; 

Life of Mahomet. 47 

and he was tanglit by experience to 
divide in twenty-eight parts the zodiac 
of the moon, and to bless the constella- 
tions who refreshed, with salutary rains, 
the thirst of the desert. The reign of 
the heavenly orbs could not be extend- 
ed beyond the visible sphere ; and some 
metaphysical powers were necessary to 
sustain the transmigration of souls and 
the resurrection of bodies : a camel was 
left to perish on the grave, that he might 
serve his master in another life ; and 
the invocation of departed spirits im- 
plies that they were still endowed with 
consciousness and power. I am igno- 
rant, and I am careless, of the blind 
mythology of the barbarians ; of the 
local deities, of the stars, the air, ana 
the earth, of their sex or titles, their 
attributes, or subordination. Eacn 
tribe, each family, each independent 
warrior, created and changed the rite? 
and the object of his fantastic worship 

48 Life cf 3Iahomet. 

but the nation, in every age, has bowed 
to the religion, as well as to the lan- 
guage, of Mecca. The genuine antiquity 
of the Caaba ascends beyond th 
Christian era : in describing the coas 
of the Red Sea, the Greek historian 
Diodorns has remarked, between the 
Thamndites and the Sabians, a famous 
temple, 1 wdiose superior sanctity w r as 
revered by all the Arabians ; the linen 
or silken veil, which is annually renew- 
ed by the Turkish emperor, was first 
offered by a pious king of the Homer- 
ites, who reigned seven hundred years 
before the time of Mahomet. A tent, 
or a cavern, might suffice for the wor- 
ship of the savages, but an edifice of 

1 Mr. Forster (Geography of Arabia, vol. ii. p. 118 et 
g3q.) has raised an objection, as I think, fatal to this hypo- 
thesis of Gibbon. The temple, situated in the country of the 
Banizomeneis, was not between the Thamudites and the 
Sabians, but higher up than the coast inhabited by the for- 
mer. Mr. Forster would place it as far north as Moilah. I 
am not quite satisfied that this will agree with the whole 
inscription of Diodorus. — M. 1845. 

£if e of Mahomet. 49 

Btone and clay has been erected in its 
place ; and the art and power of the 
monarchs of the east have been con- 
fined to the simplicity of the original 
model. A spacious portico includes 
the quadrangle of the Caaba — a square 
chapel, twenty -four cubits long, twenty- 
three broad, and twenty-seven high : a 
door and a window admit the light ; 
the double roof is supported by three 
pillars of wood ; a spout (now of gold) 
discharges the rain-water, and the well 
Zemzem is protected by a dome from 
accidental pollution. The tribe of 
Koreish, by fraud or force, had ac- 
quired the custody of the Caaba : the 
sacerdotal office devolved through four 
lineal descents to the grandfather of 
Mahomet ; and the family of the 
liashemites, from whence he sprung, 
was the most respectable and sacred 
in the eyes of their country. The pre- 
cincts of Mecca enjoyed the rights of 

50 Life of Mahomet. 

sanctuary; and, in the last month of 
each year, the city and temple were 
crowded with a long train of pilgrims, 
who presented their vows and offerings 
in the house of God. The same rites, 
which are now accomplished by the 
faithful inussulman, were invented and 
practised by the superstition of the 
idolaters. At an awful distance they 
cast away their garments : seven times, 
with hasty steps, they encircled the 
Caaba, and kissed the black stone : 
seven times they visited and adored the 
adjacent mountains : seven times they 
threw stones into the valley of Mina : 
and the pilgrimage was achieved, as at 
the present hour, by a sacrifice of sheep 
and camels, and the burial of their hair 
and nails in the consecrated ground. 
Each tribe either found or introduced 
in the Caaba their domestic worship : 
the temple was adorned, or defiled, with 
three hundred and sixty idols of men, 

Life of Mahomet, 51 

eagles, lions, and antelopes ; and most 
conspicuous was the statue of Hebal, of 
red agate, holding in his hand seven 
arrows, without heads or feathers, the 
instruments and symbols of profane 
divination. But this statue was a 
monument of Syrian arts: the devotion 
of the ruder ages was content with a 
pillar or a tablet : and the rocks of the 
desert were hewn into gods or altars, in 
imitation of the black stone of Mecca, 
which is deeply tainted with the re- 
proach of an idolatrous origin. From 
Japan to Peru, the use of sacrifice has 
universally prevailed ; and the votary 
has expressed his gratitude, or fear, by 
destroying, or consuming, in honor of 
the gods, the dearest and most precious 
\i their gifts. The life of a man is the 
most precious oblation to deprecate a 
public calamity ; the altars of Phoenicia 
and Egypt, of Pome and Carthage, have 
been polluted with human gore ; the 

52 Life of Mahomet, 

cruel practice was long preserved 
amoDg the Arabs ; in the third century, 
a boy was annually sacrificed by the tribe 
of Dumatians ; and a royal captive was 
piously slaughtered by the prince of 
the Saracens, the ally and soldier of 
the emperor Justinian. 1 A parent who 
drags his son to the altar, exhibits the 
most painful and sublime effort of fa- 
naticism : the deed, or the intention,was 
sanctified by the example of saints and 
heroes ; and the father of Mahomet 
himself was devoted by a rash vow, 
and hardly ransomed for the equivalent 
of a hundred camels. In the time of 
ignorance, the Arabs, like the Jews 
and Egyptians, abstained from the taste 
of swine's flesh ; they circumcised their 
children at the age of puberty : the 

1 A writer in the ' Calcutta Review ' (No. xliii. p. 15) 
maintains that the sacrifice of human beings in Arabia was 
#nly incidental, and in the case of violent and cruel tyrants ; 
inhere it is alleged to have been done uniformly and on 
Manciple, the authority seems doubtful. — S. 

Life of Mahomet, 53 

same customs, without the censure or 
the precept of the Koran, have been 
silently transmitted to their posterity 
and proselytes. It has been sagaciously 
conjectured, that the artful legislatoi 
indulged the stubborn prejudices of 
his countrymen. It is more simple to 
believe that he adhered to the habits 
and opinions of his youth, without 
foreseeing that a practice congenial to 
the climate of Mecca, might become 
useless or inconvenient on the banks of 
the Danube or the Yolga. 

Arabia was free : the adjacent king- 
doms were shaken by the storms of con- 
quest and tyranny, and the persecuted 
sects fled to the happy land where they 
might profess what they thought, and 
practise what they professed. The re- 
ligions of the Sabians and Magians, of 
the Jews and Christians, were dissemi- 
nated from the Persian gulf to the Red 
Sea. In a remote period of antiquity, 

54 Life of Mahomet. 

Sabianism was diffused over Asia by 
the science of the Chaldeans and the 
arms of the Assyrians. From the ob- 
servations of two thousand years, the 
priests and astronomers of Babylon de- 
duced the eternal laws of nature and 
providence. They adored the seven 
gods, or angels, who directed the course 
of the seven planets, and shed their 
irresistible influence on the earth. The 
attributes of the seven planets, with the 
twelve signs of the zodiac, and the 
twenty-four constellations of the north- 
ern and southern hemisphere, were rep- 
resented by images and talismans ; the 
seven days of the week were dedicated 
to their respective deities : the Sabians 
prayed thrice each day ; and the tem- 
ple of the moon at Haran w T as the term 
of their pilgrimage. But the flexible 
genius of their faith was always ready 
either to teach or to learn : in the tra- 
dition of the creation, the deluge, and 

Life, of Mahomet. 55 

the patriarchs, they held a singular 
agreement with their Jewish captives ; 
they appealed to the secret books of 
Adam, Seth, and Enoch ; and a slight 
infusion of the gospel has transformed 
the last remnant of the polytheists into 
the Christians of St. John, in the ter- 
ritory of Bassora. 1 The altars of Babylon 
were overturned by the Magians ; but 
the injuries of the Sabians were reveng- 
ed by the sword of Alexander ; Persia 
groaned above five hundred years under 
a foreign yoke ; and the purest disciples 
of Zoroaster escaped from the conta- 
gion of idolatry, and breathed with 
their adversaries the freedom of the 
desert. Seven hundred years before 
the death of Mahomet, the Jews w T ere 
ettled in Arabia ; and a far greater 

1 The Codex Nasiraeus, their sacred book, has been pub- 
ished by Norberg, whose researches contain almost all that 
known of this singular people. But their origin is almost 
as obscure as ever: if ancient, their creed has been so cor- 
rupted with mysticism and Mahometanism. that its native 
ineaments are very indistinct. — M. 

56 Life of Mahomet, 

multitude was expelled from the holy 
land in the wars of Titus and Hadrian. 
The industrious exiles aspired to liberty 
and power : they erected synagogues 
in the cities, and castles in the wilder- 
ness ; and their Gentile converts were 
confounded with the children of Israel, 
whom they resembled in the outward 
mark of circumcision. The Christian 
missionaries were still more active and 
successful : the Catholics asserted their 
universal reign ; the sects whom they 
oppressed successively retired beyond 
the limits of the Roman empire ; the 
Marcionites and the Manichseans dis- 
persed their phantastic opinions and 
apocryphal gospels ; the churches of 
Yemen, and the princes of Hira and 
Gassan, were instructed in a purer 
creed by the Jacobite and Nestorian 
bishops. The liberty of choice was 
presented to the tribes ; each Arab was 
free to elect or to compose his private 

Life of Mahomet, 57 

religion ; and the rude superstition of 
his house was mingled with the sublime 
theology of saints and philosophers. 
A fundamental article of faith was in- 
culcated by the consent of the learned 
strangers ; the existence of one supreme 
God, who is exalted above the powers 
of heaven and earth, but who lias often 
revealed himself to mankind by the 
ministry of his angels and prophets, and 
whose grace or justice has interrupted, 
by seasonable miracles, the order of 
nature. The most rational of the Arabs 
acknowledged his power, though they 
neglected his worship ; and it was habit 
rather than conviction that still attach- 
ed them to the relics of idolatry. The 
Jews and Christians were the people 
of the hook; the Bible was already 
translated into the Arabic language, 
und the volume of the Old Testament 
was accepted by the concord of these 
implacable enemies. In the story of 

58 Life of Mahomet, 

the Hebrew patriarchs, the Arabs were 
pleased to discover the fathers of their 
nation. They applauded the birth and 
promises of Ismael ; revered the faith 
and virtue of Abraham ; traced his 
pedigree and their own to the creation 
of the first man, and imbibed with equal 
credulity the prodigies of the holy text, 
and the dreams and traditions of the 
Jewish rabbis. 

The base and plebeian origin of Ma- 
homet is an unskilful calumny of the 
Christians, 1 who exalted instead of de- 
grading the merit of their adversary. 
His descent from Ismael was a national 
privilege or fable ; but if the first steps 
of the pedigree are dark and doubtful, 
he could produce many generations of 
pure and genuine nobility : he sprung 
from the tribe of Koreish 2 and the 

1 The most orthodox Mahometans only reckon back the 
ancestry of the prophet, for twenty generations, to Adnan. 
'Weil, Mohammed der Prophet, p. 1).— M. 1845. 

2 According tc the usually received tradition, Koreish 

Life of Mahomet. 59 

family of Hashem, the most illustrious 
of the Arabs, the princes of Mecca, and 
the hereditary guardians of the Caaba. 1 
The grandfather of Mahomet was Abdol 
Motalleb, the son of Hashem, a wealthy 
and generous citizen, who relieved the 
distress of famine with the supplies of 
commerce. Mecca, which had been 

was originally an epithet conferred upon Fihr (born about 
A. D. 200), who was the ancestor, at the distance of eight 
generations, of the famous Kussai mentioned in the next 
note. Sprenger, however, maintains that the tribe of Koreish 
was first formed by Kussai, and that the members of the 
new tribe called themselves the children of Fihr as a symbol 
of unity. He regards Fihr as a mythical personage. (See 
Caussin de Perceval, vol. i. p. 42 ; Calcutta Review, No. xli. 
p. 42; Sprenger, Life of Mohammed, p. 42). — S. 

1 Kussai, (born about A. D. 400), great-grandfather of 
Abdol Motalleb, and consequently fifth in the ascending line 
from Mahomet, obtained supreme power at Mecca. His 
office and privileges were — to supply the numerous pilgrims 
with food and fresh water, the latter a rare article at Mecca; 
to conduct the business of the temple; and to preside in the 
senate or council. His revenues were a tenth of all mer- 
chandise brought to Mecca. After the death of Kussai these 
offices became divided among his descendants ; and, though 
the branch from which Mahomet sprang belonged to tho 
reigning line, yet his family, especially after the death of his 
grandfather, had but little to do with the actual government 
sf Mecca. ("Weil, Mohammed, pp. 4 and 12).— S. 

60 Life of Mahomet. 

fed by the liberality of the father, was 
saved by the courage of the son. The 
kingdom of Yemen was subject to the 
Christian princes of Abyssinia : their 
vassal Abrahah was provoked by an in- 
sult to avenge the honor of the cross ; 
and the holy city was invested by a 
train of elephants, and an army of 
Africans. A treaty was proposed ; and, 
in the first audience, the grandfather 
of Mahomet demanded the restitution 
of his cattle. " And why," said Abra- 
hah, " do you not rather implore my 
clemency in favor of your temple, which 
I have threatened to destroy ? " " Be- 
cause," replied the intrepid chief, " the 
cattle are my own ; the Caaba belongs to 
the gods, and they will defend their 
house from injury and sacrilege." The 
want of provisions, or the valor of the 
Koreish, compelled the Abyssinians to 
a disgraceful retreat : their discomfiture 
has been adorned with a miraculous 

Life of Mahomet. 61 

flight of birds, who showered down 
stones on the heads of the infidels ; and 
the deliverance was long commemo- 
rated by the era of the elephant. 1 The 
glory of Abdol Motalleb was crowned 
with domestic happiness ; his life was 
prolonged to the age of one hundred and 
ten years, 3 and he became the father of 
six daughters and thirteen sons. His 
best beloved Abdallah was the most 
beautiful and modest of the Arabian 
youth; and in the first night, when he con- 
summated his marriage with Amina,' 
of the noble race of the Zah rites, two 
hundred virgins are said to have ex- 

1 The apparent miracle was nothing else but the small- 
pox, which broke out in the army of Abrahah. (Sprenger, 
Life of Mohammed, p. 35, who quotes Wakidi ; Weil, Mo- 
hammed, p. 10.) This seems to have been the first appear- 
ance of the small-pox in Arabia. (Iieiske, Opuscula Medica 
ex monumentis Arabum, Halae, 1776, p. 8). — S. 

2 Weil sets him down at about eighty-two at his death. 
(Mohammed, p. 28). — S. 

3 Amina was of Jewish birth. (Von Hammer, Geschichte 
aer Assass., p. 10). — M. 

Von Hammer gives no authority for this important fact. 

32 Life of Mahomet, 

pired of jealousy and despair. Ma- 
homet, or more properly Mohammed,' 
the only son of Abdallah and Amina, 
was born 2 at Mecca, four } r ears after the 
death of Justinian, and two months 
after the defeat of the Abyssinians, 
whose victory would have introduced 

which seems hardly to agree with Sprenger's account that 
she was a Koreishite, and the daughter of Wahb, an elder 
of the Zohrah family. — S. 

1 Mohammed means "praised," the name given to him 
by his grandfather on account of the favorable omen attend- 
ing his birth. When Amina had given birth to the prophet, 
she sent for his grandfather, and related to him that she had 
seen in a dream a light proceeding from her body, which 
illuminated the palaces of Bostra. (Sprenger, p. 76.) We 
learn from Burckhardt that among the Arabs a name is 
given to the infant immediately on its birth. The name is 
derived from some trifling accident, or from some object 
which had struck the fancy of the mother or any of tho 
women present at the child's birth. (Notes on the Bedouins, 
vol. i. p. 97).— S. 

2 All authorities agree that Mohammed was born on a 
Monday, in the first half of Baby' I. ; but they differ on the 
year and on the date of the month. Most traditions say that 
he died at an age of sixty-three years. If this is correct, he 
t^as born in 571.* There are, however, good traditions in 
Bokhari, Moslim, and Tirmidzy, according to which he 
attained an age of sixty -five yeara, which would place hia 

* This is the year which Weil decides upon. 

Life of Mahomet, 63 

Into the Caaba the religion of the 
Christians. In his early infancy, 1 he 

birth in 569. "With reference to the date, his birth flay ia 
celebrated on the 12th of Eaby' I. by the Musalrnans, and for 
this day are almost all traditions. This was a Thursday in 
571, and a Tuesday in 569 ; and, supposing the new moon of 
KabyT. was seen one day sooner than expected, it was a 
Monday in 569. A tradition of Aba Ma'shar is for the 2d of 
Eaby' I., which was a Monday in 571 ; but Abu Ma'shar was 
a mathematician, and his account may possibly be a calcula- 
tion, and not a tradition. There are also traditions for the 
first Monday, and for the 10th day of the month." (Sprenger 
p. 75.) 

In reference, however, to this subject, it is important to 
observe that Caussin de Perceval has brought forward rea 
sons for believing that the Meccan year was originally a 
lunar one, and continued so till the beginning of the fifth 
century, when, in imitation of the Jews, it was turned by 
the intercalation of a month at the close of every third year, 
into a luni-solar period. (C. de Perceval, Essai, &c, vol. i. p. 
49 ; Journal Asiatique, April, 1843, p. 342.) Hence it follows 
that all calculations up to the end of Mahomet's life must be 
made in luni-solar years, and not in lunar years, involving 
a yearly difference of ten days. Hence also we can explain 
certain discrepancies in Mahomet's life, some historians cal- 
culating by the luni-solar year in force in the period under 
narration, others adjusting such periods by the applicatiou 
of the lunar year subsequently adopted. Thus some mak« 
their prophet to have lived sixty-three or sixty-three and a 
half years, others sixty-five — the one possibly being luni- 
solar, the other lunar years. (See Calcutta Eeview, No. xli. 
n. 49).— S. 

1 The father of Mahomet died two months before his 

Life of Mahomet. 

was deprived of his father, his mother, 
aud his grandfather ; his uncles were 
strong and numerous ; and in the 
division of the inheritance, the orphan's 
share was reduced to five camels and 
an ^Ethiopian maid-servant. 1 At home 
and abroad, in peace and war, Abu 
Taleb, the most respectable of his 
uncles, was the guide and guardian of 
his youth ; in his twenty-fifth year, he 
entered into the service of Cadijah, a 
rich and noble widow of Mecca, who 

birth ; and to the ill state of health which the shock of this 
premature bereavement entailed on his widow, Sprcnger 
attributes the sickly and nervous temperament of Mahomet. 
His mother died in his seventh year (p. T9) ; his grandfather 
two years later. — S. 

1 Sprenger, however, (p. 81), ascribes his poverty not to 
the injustice of his uncles, who, on the contrary, were anx- 
ious to bring him forwards, but to his own inactivity and 
unfitness for the ordinary duties of life. He had the same 
patrimony with which his father began life, viz., a house, five 
camels, a flock of sheep, and a female slave ; yet he was re- 
duced to the necessity of pasturing sheep, an occupation 
considered hj the Arabs as peculiarly humiliating. (Com- 
pare Weil, p. 33.) The latter author adds that Mahomet 
afterwards entered into the linen trade, in partnership with 
a man named Saib.— S. 

Life of Mahomet. 65 

soon rewarded big fidelity with the gift 
of her hand and fortune. The marriage 
contract, in the simple style of antiquity, 
recites the mutual love of Mahomet and 
Cadijah ; describes him as the most ac- 
complished of the tribe of Koreish ; and 
stipulates a dowry of twelve ounces of 
gold and twenty camels, which was 
supplied by the liberality of his uncle. 
By this alliance, the son of Abdallah 
was restored to the station of his an- 
cestors ; and the judicious matron was 
content with his domestic virtues, till, 
in the fortieth year of mis age, he as- 
sumed the title of a prophet, and pro- 
claimed the religion of the Koran. 

According to the tradition of his com- 
panions, Mahomet was distinguished 
by the beauty of his person, an out- 
ward gift which is seldom despised, 
except by those to whom 't has been 
refused. Before he spoke, the orator 
engaged on his side the affections of a 


Life, of Mahomet. 

public or private audience. They ap- 
plauded his commanding presence, his 
majestic aspect, his piercing eye, his 
gracious smile, his flowing beard, his 
countenance that painted every sensa- 
tion of the soul, and his gestures that 
enforced each expression of the tongue. 1 

1 To the general characteristics of Mahomet's person here 
recorded by Gibbon, it may not be uninteresting to add the 
more particular traits derived from the researches of modern 
orientalists. " Mohammed," says Dr. Sprenger, " was of 
middling size, had broad shoulders, a wide chest, and large 
bones, and he was fleshy but not stout. The immoderate 
size of his head was partly disguised by the long locks of hair, 
which in slight curls came nearly down to the lobes of his 
ears. His oval face, though tawny, was rather fair for an 
Arab, but neither pale.nor high colored. The forehead was 
broad, and his fine and long, but narrow, eyebrows were 
separated by a vein, which you could see throbbing if he 
was angry. Under long eyelashes sparkled bloodshot black 
eyes through wide-slit eyelids. His nose was large, promi- 
nent, and slightly hooked, and the tip of it seemed to be 
turned up, but was not so in reality. The mouth was wide, 
and he had a good set of teeth, and the fore-teeth were 
asunder. His beard rose from the cheek-bones and came 
down to the collar bone ; he clipped his mustachios, but did 
not shave them. He stooped, and was slightly humpbacked. 
His gait was careless, and he walked fast but heavily, as if 
he were ascending a hill ; * and if he looked back, he turned 

* Weil's description, which agrees in other particulars, 
differs in this : " His hands aud feet," says that writer, 
* were very large, yet his step was so light that his foot left 
no mark behind in the sand." — p. 341. 

Life °f Mahomet. 67 

In the familiar offices of life he scru- 
pulously adhered to the grave and cere- 
monious politeness of his country : his 
respectful attention to the rich and 
powerful was dignified by his conde- 
scension and affability to the poorest 
citizens of Mecca : the frankness of his 
manner concealed the artifice of his 
views; and the habits of courtesy were 
imputed to personal friendship, or uni- 
versal benevolence. His memory was 
capacious and retentive, his wit easy 
and social, his imagination sublime, his 
judgment clear, rapid, and decisive. 
He possessed the courage both of 

his whole body. The mildness of his countenance gained 
him the confidence of every one; but he could not look 
straight into a man's face ; he turned his eyes usually out- 
wards. On his back he had a round, fleshy tumor of the 
6ize of a pigeon's egg ; its farrowed surface was covered 
with hair, and its base was surrounded by black moles. 
This was considered as the seal of his prophetic mission, at 
least during the latter part of his career, by his followers, 
V~a.o were so devout that they found a cure for their ailings 
in drinking the water in which he had bathed ; and it must 
have been very refreshing, for he perspired profusely, and 
Ms skin exhaled a strong smell." (Life of Mohammed, p. 84) 

58 Life of Mahomet. 

thought and action ; and, although his 
designs might gradually expand with 
his success, the first idea which he en- 
tertained of his divine mission bears 
the stamp of an original and superior 
genius. The son of Abdallah was 
educated in the bosom of the noblest 
race, in the use of the purest dialect of 
Arabia ;* and the fluency of his speech 
was corrected and enhanced by the 
practice of discreet and seasonable 
silence. "With these powers of elo- 
quence, Mahomet was an illiterate bar- 
barian : his youth had never been in- 
structed in the arts of reading and 
writing; 2 the common ignorance ex- 

1 Namely, both as being a Koreishite, and as having been 
suckled five years in the desert by his foster-mother Haly- 
mah, of the tribe of Banu Sad, which spoke the purest dia 
lect. (Sprenger, p. 77). — S. 

2 Modern orientalists are inclined to answer the question 
whether Mahomet could read and write in the affirmative. 
The point hinges upon the critical interpretation of certain 
passages of the Koran, and upon the authority of traditions. 
The 96th Sura, adduced by Gibbon in suppor* of his view 

Life of Mahomet. 69 

empted him from shame or reproach t 
but he was reduced to a narrow circle 
of existence, and deprived of those 
faithful mirrors, which reflect to our 
mind the minds of sages and heroes. 
Yet the book of nature and of man was 
open to his view ; and some fancy has 

is interpreted by Silvestre de Sacy as an argument on the 
opposite side, (Mem. de l'Acad. des Inscr. L., p. 95), and his 
opinion is supported by Weil (p. 46, note 50). Moslem au- 
thors are at variance on the subject. Almost all the modern 
writers, and many of the old, deny the ability of their pro- 
phet to read and write ; but good authors, especially of the 
Shiite sect, admit that he could read, though they describe 
him as an unskilful penman. The former class of writers 
support their opinion by perverting the texts of the Koran 
which bear upon the subject. " Several instances, 1 ' says 
Dr. Sprenger, "in which Mohammed did read and write, are 
recorded by Bokhari, Nasay, and others. It is, however, 
certain that he wished to appear ignorant, in order to raise 
the elegance of the composition of the Koran into a mira- 
cle ,1 (p. 102). The same wish would doubtless influence 
the views of the more orthodox Musulman commentators. 
It may be further remarked, that reading and writing were 
far from being so rare among the citizens of Mecca in the 
time of Mahomet as Gibbon represents (Sprenger, p. 37). 
t?or, on a general view, does it appear probable that a work 
like the Koran, containing frequent references to the Scrip- 
tures and other books, should have been composed by " an 
Uliterate barbarian.''— & 

70 -^.A °f Mahomet. 

been indulged in the political and 
philosophical observations which are 
ascribed to the Arabian traveller. He 
compares the nations and the religions 
of the earth ; discovers the weakness 
of the Persian and Roman monarchies ; 
beholds, with pity and indignation, the 
degeneracy of the times ; and resolves to 
unite, under one God and one king, the 
invincible spirit and primitive virtues of 
the Arabs. Our more accurate inquiry 
will suggest, that instead of visiting the 
courts, the camps, the temples of the 
east, the two journeys of Mahomet into 
Syria were confined to the fairs of Bostra 
and Damascus ; that he was only thir- 
teen years of age when he accompanied 
the caravan of his uncle ; and that his 
duty compelled him to return as soon 
as he had disposed of the merchandise 
of Cadijah. In these hasty and super- 
ficial excursions, the eye of genius might 
discern some objects invisible to his 

Life, of Mahomet. 71 

grosser companions ; some seeds of 
knowledge might be cast upon a fruit- 
ful soil ; but his ignorance of the Syriac 
language must have checked his curi- 
osity ; and I cannot perceive, in the 
life or writings of Mahomet, that his 
prospect was far extended beyond the 
limits of the Arabian world. From 
every region of that solitary world, the 
pilgrims of Mecca were annually assem- 
bled, by the calls of devotion and com- 
merce : in the free concourse of multi- 
tudes, a simple citizen, in his native 
tongue, might study the political state 
and character of the tribes, the theory 
and practice of the Jews and Christians. 
Some useful strangers might be tempted, 
or forced, to implore the rites of hos- 
pitality ; and the enemies of Mahomet 
nave named the Jew, the Persian, and 
the Syrian monk, whom they accuse of 
lending their secret aid to the compo- 
sition of the Koran. Conversation en- 

72 Life of Mahomet. 

riches the understanding, but solitude is 
the school of genius ; and the uniformity 
of a work denotes the hand of a single 
artist. From his earliest youth Ma- 
homet was addicted to religious con- 
templation ; each year, during the 
month of Ramadan, he withdrew from 
the world, and from the arms of Cadi- 
jah : in the cave of Hera, three miles 
from Mecca, he consulted the spirit of 
fraud or enthusiasm, whose abode is 
not in the heavens, but in the mind of 
the prophet. The faith which, under 
the name of Islam, 1 he preached to his 
family and nation, is compounded of an 

1 Islam is the verbal noun, or infinitive, and Moslim, 
which has been corrupted into Jfusalmaii or Muxnlman, is 
the participle of the causative form of salm, which means 
immunity, peace. The signification of Islam is therefore to 
make peace, or to obtain immunity, either by compact, or 
by doing homage to the stronger, acknowledging his supe- 
riority, and surrendering to him the object of the dispute. It 
also means simply to surrender. In the Koran it signifies 
in most instances to do homage to God, to acknowledge him 
as our absolute Lord, to the exclusion of idols. Sometimes, 
oowever, it occurs in that book in its technical meaning, as 
the. name of a religion. (Sprenger, p. 168). — S. 

Eife of Mahomet. 13 

eternal truth, and a necessary fiction, 
That there is only one God, and that 
Mahomet is the apostle of God. 

It is the boast of the Jewish apolo- 
gists, that while the learned nations of 
antiquity were deluded by the fables 
of polytheism, their simple ancestors of 
Palestine preserved the knowledge and 
worship of the true God. The moral 
attributes of Jehovah may not easily be 
reconciled with the standard of human 
virtue : his metaphysical qualities are 
darkly expressed ; but each page of the 
Pentateuch and the Prophets is an evi- 
dence of his power : the unity of his 
name is inscribed on the first table of 
the law ; and his sanctuary was never 
defiled by any visible image of the 
invisible essence. After the ruin of 
the temple, the faith of the Hebrew 
exiles was purified, fixed, and enlight- 
ened, by the spiritual devotion of the 
synagogue ; and the authority of Ma- 

74 Life of Mahomet* 

hornet will not justify his perpetual 
reproach, that the Jews of Mecca or 
Medina adored Ezra as the son of God. 
But the children of Israel had ceased to 
be a people ; and the religions of the 
world were guilty, at least in the eyes 
of the prophet, of giving sons, or daugh- 
ters, or companions, to the supreme 
God. In the rude idolatry of the Arabs, 
the crime is manifest and audacious : 
the Sabians are poorly excused by the 
pre-eminence of the first planet, or in- 
telligence, in their celestial hierarchy ; 
and in the Magian system the conflict 
of the two principles betrays the im- 
perfection of the conqueror. The 
Christians of the seventh century had 
insensibly relapsed into a semblance of 
paganism ; their public and private 
vows were addressed to the relics and 
images that disgraced the temples of 
the east : the throne of the Almighty 
was darkened by a cloud of martyrs, 

^^f e of Mahomet. 

and saints, and angels, the objects of 
popular veneration ; and the Collyri- 
dian heretics, who flourished in the 
fruitful soil of Arabia, invested the 
Virgin Mary with the name and 
honors of a goddess. The mysteries 
of the Trinity and Incarnation appear 
to contradict the principle of the divine 
Unity. In their obvious sense, they in- 
troduce three equal deities, and trans- 
form the man Jesus into the substance 
of the Son of God : an orthodox com- 
mentary will satisfy only a believing 
mind : intemperate curiosity and zeal 
had torn the veil of the sanctuary : 
and each of the Oriental sects was eager 
to confess that all, except themselves, 
deserved the reproach of idolatry and 
polytheism. The creed of Mahomet is 
free from suspicion or ambiguity ; and 
the Koran is a glorious testimony to the 
unity of God. The prophet of Mecca 
rejected the worship of idols and men, 

76 Life of Mahomet, 

of stars and planets, on the rational 
principle that whatever rises must set, 
that whatever is born must die, that 
whatever is corruptible must decay and 
perish. In the Author of the universe, 
his rational enthusiasm confessed and 
adored an infinite and eternal being, 
without form or place, without issue or 
similitude, present to our most secret 
thoughts, existing by the necessity of 
his own nature, and deriving from him- 
self all moral and intellectual perfection. 
These sublime truths, thus announced 
in the language of the prophet, are 
firmly held by his disciples, and defined 
with metaphysical precision by the 
interpreters of the Koran. A philo- 
sophic theist might subscribe the popu- 
lar creed of the Mahometans : a creed 
too sublime perhaps for our present 
faculties. What object remains for the 
fancy, or even the understanding, when 
we have abstracted from the unknown 

Life of Mahomet. 77 

substance all ideas of time and space, 
of motion and matter, of sensation and 
reflection ? The first principle of reason 
and revelation was confirmed by the 
voice of Mahomet : his proselytes from 
India to Morocco, are distinguished by 
the name of Unitarians / and the 
danger of idolatry has been prevented 
by the interdiction of images. The 
doctrine of eternal decrees and absolute 
predestination is strictly embraced by 
the Mahometans ; and they struggle 
with the common difficulties, how to 
reconcile the prescience of God with 
the freedom and responsibility of man ; 
how to explain the permission of evil 
under the reign of infinite power and 
infinite goodness. 1 

1 This sketch of the Arabian prophet and his doctrines is 
drawn with too much partiality, and requires to be modified 
by the researches and opinions of later inquirers. Gibbon 
was probably led by his notion that Mahomet was a " philo- 
sophic theist," to regard him with such evident favor. 
Nothing, however, can be more at variance with the pro- 
ohet's enthusiastic temperament than such a character. Hia 

78 Life of Ifahomet. 

The God of nature lias written his 
existence on all his works, and his law 
in the heart of man. To restore the 
knowledge of the one, and the practice 
of the other, has heen the real or pre- 

apparently deistieal opinions arose merely from his belief in 
the Mosaic revelation, and his rejection of that of Christ. 
He was thus a deist in the sense that any Jew may be called 
a deist. On this point Sprenger well remarks, " He never 
could reconcile his notions of God with the doctrine of the 
Trinity and with the divinity of Christ ; and he was dis- 
gusted with the monkish institutions and sectarian disputes 
of the Christians. His creed was: 'He is God alone, the 
eternal God ; he has not begotten, and is not begotten ; and 
none is his equal. 1 Nothing, however, can be more errone- 
ous than to suppose that Mohammed was, at any period of 
his early career, a deist. Faith, when once extinct, cannot 
be revived ; and it was his enthusiastic faith in inspiration 
that made him a prophet. 11 (p. 104). And that Mahomet's 
ideas of God were far from being of that abstract nature 
which might suit a "philosophic theist," is evident from his 
ascribing to the Omnipotent ninety-nine attributes, thus 
regarding him as a being of the most concrete kind, 
(lb. p. 90). 

With regard, again, to the originality of Mahomet's doc- 
trines, there is reason to think that it was not so complete 
as Gibbon would lead us to believe by characterizing the 
Koran as the work " of a single artist, 11 and by representing 
Mahomet as cut off from all subsidiary sources in conse- 
quence of his inability to read. The latter point has been 
already examined ; and it now remains to show that Ma- 
homet was not without predecessors, who had not only held 

Life of Mahomet. 79 

tended aim of the prophets of every 
age : the liberality of Mahomet allowed 
to his predecessors the same credit 
which he claimed for himself; and the 
chain of inspiration was prolonged from 

the same tenets, but even openly preached them. Gibbon 
admits, indeed, that before Mahomet's time " the most 
rational of the Arabs acknowledged God's power, though 
they neglected his worship;" and that it was habit rather 
than conviction that still attached them to the relics of 
idolatry, (supra, p. 57). But the new creed had made still 
more active advances. The Koreishites charged Mahomet 
with taking his whole doctrine from a book called the 
"Asatyr of the Ancients," which is several times quoted in 
the Koran, and appears to have contained the doctrine of 
the resurrection. (Sprenger, p. 100.) At the fair of Okatz, 
Qoss had preached the unity of God before Mahomet as- 
sumed the prophetic office ; and contemporary with him 
was Omayah of Tayef, to whose teaching Mahomet allowed 
that his own bore a great similarity. (lb. pp. 5, 38, 39.) Zayd 
the sceptic was another forerunner of Mahomet, and his 
followers were among the prophet's first converts, (p. 167) 
Sprenger concludes his account of the Praj-Mahometans — oi 
Reformers before the Reformation— as follows : " From the 
preceding account of early converts, and it embraces nearly 
all those who joined Mohammed during the first six years, 
it appears that the leading men among them held the tenet? 
which form the basis of the religion of the Arabic prophet 
long before he preached them. They were not his tools, but 
his constituents. He clothed the sentiments which he had 
in common with them in poetical language ; and his malady 
gave divine sanction to his oracles. Even when he was ac 

80 Life of 3f a hornet. 

the fall of Adam to the promulgation 
of the Koran. During that period, some 
rajs of prophetic light had been im- 
parted to one hundred and twenty-four 
thousand of the elect, discriminated by 
their respective measure of virtue and 
grace ; three hundred and thirteen 
apostles were sent with a special com- 
mission to recall their country from 
idolatry and vice ; one hundred and 
four volumes have been dictated by 

knowledged as the messenger of God, Omar had as much or 
more influence on the development of the Islam as Moham- 
med himself. He sometimes attempted to overrule tho 
convictions of these men, hut he succeeded in very few in- 
stances. The Islam is not the work of Mohammed ; it is 
not the doctrine of the impostor ; it embodies the faith and 
sentiments of men who for their talents and virtues must 
be considered as the most distinguished of their nation, and 
who acted under all circumstances so faithful to the spirit 
of the Arabs, that they must be regarded as their represen- 
tatives. The Islam is, therefore, the offspring of the spirit 
of the time, and the voice of the Arabic nation. And it is 
this which made it victorious, particularly among nations 
whose habits resemble those of the Arabs, like the Berbers 
and Tatars. There is, however, no doubt that the impos- 
tor has defiled it by his immorality and perverseness of 
mind, and that most of the objectionable doctrines are his." 
tp. 174).— S. 

Life of Mahomet. 81 

the Holy Spirit ; and six legislators 
of transcendent brightness have an- 
nounced to mankind the six successive 
revelations of various rites, but of one 
immutable religion. The authority and 
station of Adam, Noah, Abraham, 
Moses, Christ, and Mahomet, rise in 
just gradation above each other; but 
whosoever hates or rejects any one of 
the prophets is numbered with the infi- 
dels. The writings of the patriarchs 
were extant only in the apocryphal 
copies of the Greeks and Syrians: the 
conduct of Adam had not entitled him 
to the gratitude or respect of his chil- 
dren ; the seven precepts of ISToah were 
observed by an inferior and imperfect 
class of the proselytes of the synagogue ; 
and the memory of Abraham was ob- 
scurely revered by the Sabians in his 
native land of Chaldsea : of the myriads 
of prophets, Moses and Christ alone 
lived and reigned ; and the remnant of 

82 Life of Mahomet, 

the inspired writings was comprised in 
the books of the Old and New Tes- 
tament. The miraculous story of Moses 
is consecrated and embellished in' the 
Koran ; and the captive Jews enjoy 
the secret revenge of imposing their 
own belief on the nations whose recent 
creeds they deride. For the author of 
Christianity, the Mahometans are taught 
by the prophet to entertain a high and 
mysterious reverence. " Verily, Christ 
Jesus, the son of Mary, is the apostle 
of God, and his word, which he convey- 
ed unto Mary, and a Spirit proceeding 
from him : honorable in this world, 
and in the world to come ; and one ot 
those who approach near to the presence 
of God." The wonders of the genuine 
and apocryphal gospels are profusely 
heaped on his head ; and the Latin 
Church has not disdained to borrow 
from the Koran the immaculate concep- 
tion of his virgin mother. Yet Jesus 

Life of Mahomet. 83 

was a mere mortal ; and, at the day of 
judgment, his testimony will serve to 
condemn both the Jews, who reject him 
as a prophet, and the Christians, who 
adore him as the Son of God. The 
malice of his enemies aspersed his 
reputation, and conspired against his 
life ; but their intention only was guilty, 
a phantom or a criminal was substitut- 
ed on the cross, and the innocent saint 
was translated to the seventh heaven. 
During six hundred years the gospel 
was the way of truth and salvation ; but 
the Christians insensibly forgot both 
the laws and the example of their 
founder ; and Mahomet was instructed 
by the Gnostics to accuse the church, 
as well as the synagogue, of corrupting 
the integrity of the sacred text. The 
piety of Moses and of Christ rejoiced in 
the assurance of a future prophet, more 
illustrious than themselves : the evan- 
gelic promise of the Paraclete, or Holy 

64 Life of 31 a hornet. 

Ghost, was prefigured in the name, and 
accomplished in the person, of Mahomet, 
the greatest and last of the apostles of 

The communication of ideas requires 
a similitude of thought and language 
the discourse of a philosopher would 
vibrate without effect on the ear of a 
peasant ; yet how minute is the distance 
of their understandings, if it be com- 
pared with the contact of an infinite and 
finite mind, with the word of God ex- 
pressed by the tongue or the pen of a 
mortal ! The inspiration of the Hebrew 
prophets, of the apostles and evangelists 
of Christ, might not be incompatible 
with the exercise of their reason and 
memory ; and the diversity of their 
genius is strongly marked in the style 
and composition of the books of the Old 
and !N"ew Testament. But Mahomet 
was cortevt with a character more 
UumtJe v yet more sublime, of a simple 

Life of Mahomet. 85 

editor : the substance of ' the Koran,' 
according to himself or his disciples, is 
uncreated and eternal ; subsisting in 
the essence of the Deity, and inscribed 
with a pen of light on the table of his 
everlasting decrees. A paper copy, in 
a volume of silk and gems, was brought 
down to the lowest heaven by the angel 
Gabriel, who, under the Jewish econo- 
my, had indeed been despatched on the 
most important errands ; and this trusty 
messenger successively revealed the 
chapters and verses to the Arabian 
prophet. Instead of a perpetual and 
perfect measure of the divine will, the 
fragments of the Koran were produced 
at the discretion of Mahomet ; each 
revelation is suited to the emergencies 
of his policy or passion ; and all con- 
tradiction is removed by the saving 
maxim, that any text of scripture is 
abrogated or modified by any subsequent 
passage. The word of God, and of the 

86 Life of Mahomet. 

apostle, was diligently recorded by 
his disciples on palm-leaves, and the 
shoulder-bones of mutton ; and the 
pages, without order and connection, 
were cast into a domestic chest in 
the custody of one of his wives. Two 
years after the death of Mahomet, the 
sacred volume was collected and pub- 
lished by his friend and successor 
Abubeker : ' the work was revised by 
the caliph Othman, in the thirtieth 
year of the Hegira ; 2 and the various 

1 Abubeker, at the suggestion of Omar, gave orders for 
its collection and publication ; but the editorial labor was 
actually performed by Zeid Ibn Thubit, who had been one 
■)f Mahomet's secretaries. He is related to have gathered 
the text— "from date-leaves, and tablets of white stone, and 
from the breasts of men." (Weil, p. 348 ; Calcutta Keview, 
No. xxxvii. p. 9). — S. 

2 The recension of Othman has been handed down to us 
unaltered. So carefully, indeed, has it been preserved, that 
there are no variations of importance — we might almost say 
no variations at all — amongst the innumerable copies of the 
Koran scattered throughout the vast bounds of the empire 
of Islam. Contending and embittered factions, originating 
in the murder of Othman himself, within a quarter of a cen- 
tury from the death of Mahomet, have ever since rent the 
Mahometan world. Yet but one Koran has always been 

Life of Mahomet. 87 

editions of the Koran assert the same 
miraculous privilege of a uniform and 
incorruptible text. In the spirit of 
enthusiasm or vanity, the prophet rests 
the truth of his mission on the merit of 
his book, audaciously challenges both 
men and angels to imitate the beauties 
of a single page, and presumes to assert 
that God alone could dictate this in- 
comparable performance. This argu- 
ment is most powerfully addressed to a 
devout Arabian, whose mind is attuned 
to faith and rapture, whose ear is de- 
lighted by the music of sounds, and 
whose ignorance is incapable of corn- 
current amongst them ; and the consentaneous use of it by 
all, up to the present day, is an irrefragable proof that wo 
have now before us the self-same text prepared by the com- 
mands of that unfortunate caliph. There is probably no 
other work which has remained twelve centuries with so 
pure a text. The various readings are wonderfully few in 
number, and are chiefly confined to differences in the vowel 
points and diacritical signs ; but as these marks were in- 
vented at a later date, and did not exist at all in the early 
copies, they can hardly be said to affect the text of Othman. 
(Calcutta Keview, No. xxxvii. p. 11). — S. 

88 Life of Mahomet. 

paring the productions of human ge- 
nius. The harmony and copiousness 
of style will not reach, in a version, the 
European infidel : he will peruse with 
impatience the endless incoherent 
rhapsody of fable, and precept, and 
declamation, which seldom excites a 
sentiment or an idea, which sometimes 
crawls in the dust, and is sometimes 
lost in the clouds. The divine attributes 
exalt the fancy of the Arabian mission- 
ary ; but his loftiest strains must yield 
to the sublime simplicity of the book 
of Job, composed in a remote age, in 
the same country, and in the same 
language. 1 If the composition of the 
Koran exceed the faculties of a man, to 
what superior intelligence should we 
ascribe the Iliad of Homer, or the 

1 The age of the book of Job is still, and probably will 
still be disputed. Eosenmuller thus states his own opinion: 
i Certe serioribus republicae temporibus assignandum esse, 
librum, suadere videtur ad Chaldaismum vergens sermo.' 1 
Yet the observations of Kosegarten, which Eosenrn idler has 

Life of Mahomet. 89 

Philippics of Demosthenes? In all re- 
ligions the life of the founder supplies 
the silence of his written revelation : 
the sayings of Mahomet were so many 
lessons of truth ; his actions so many 
examples of virtue ; and the public 
and private memorials were preserved 
by his wives and companions. At the 
end of two hundred years, the Sonna, 
or oral law, was iixed and consecrated 
by the labors of Al Bochari, who dis- 
criminated seven thousand two hundred 
and seventy -five genuine traditions, 
from a mass of three hundred thousand 
reports, of a more doubtful or spurious 
character. 1 Each day the pious author 
prayed in the temple of Mecca, and per- 

given in a note, and common reason, suggest that this Chal- 
daism may be the native fo r m of a much earlier dialect; or 
the Chaldaic may have adopted the poetical archaisms of a 
dialect differing from, but not less ancient than the Hebrew. 
(See Kosenm idler, Proleg. on Job, p. 41.) The poetry appears 
to me to belong to a much earlier period. — M. 

1 The numbers were much more disproportionate than 
these. Out of 600,000 traditions, Bokhari found only 4000 
A) be genuine. (Weil, Gesch. der Chalifen, vol. i. p. 291).— 3. 

90 Life of Mahomet. 

formed his ablutions with the water of 
Zemzem : the pages were successively 
deposited on the pulpit, and the sep- 
ulchre of the apostle ; and the work 
has been approved by the four orthodox 
sects of the Sonnites. 

The mission of the ancient prophets, 
of Moses and of Jesus, had been con- 
firmed by many splendid prodigies ; 
and Mahomet was repeatedly urged, 
by the inhabitants of Mecca and Medina, 
to produce a similar evidence of his 
divine legation ; to call down from 
heaven the angel or the volume of his 
revelation, to create a garden in the 
desert, or to kindle a conflagration in 
the unbelieving city. As often as he is 
pressed by the demands of the Ivoreish, 
he involves himself in the obscure boast 
of vision and prophecy, appeals to the 
internal proofs of his doctrine, and 
ghields himself behind the providence 
of God, who refuses those signs and 

Life of Mahomet. 91 

wonders that would depreciate the merit 
of faith, and aggravate the guilt of infi- 
delity. But the modest or angry tone 
of his apologies betrays his weakness 
and vexation ; and these passages of 
scandal establish, beyond suspicion, the 
integrity of the Koran. The votaries 
of Mahomet are more assured than him- 
self of his miraculous gifts, and their 
confidence and credulity increase as 
they are further removed from the time 
and place of his spiritual exploits. They 
believe or affirm that trees went forth 
to meet him ; that he was saluted by 
stones ; that water gushed from his 
fingers ; that he fed the hungry, cured 
the sick, and raised the dead ; that a 
beam groaned to him ; that a camel 
complained to him ; that a shoulder of 
mutton informed him of its being poi- 
soned ; and that both animate and in- 
animate nature were equally subject to 
the apostle of God. His dream of a 

92 Life of Mahomet, 

nocturnal journey is seriously described 
as a real and corporeal transaction. A 
mysterious animal, the Borak, conveyed 
him from the temple of Mecca to that 
of Jerusalem : with his companion 
Gabriel, he successively ascended the 
seven heavens, and received and re- 
paid the salutations of the patriarchs, 
the prophets, and the angels, in their 
respective mansions. Beyond the 
seventh heaven, Mahomet alone was 
permitted to proceed ; he passed the 
veil of unity, approached within two 
bow-shots of the throne, and felt a cold 
that pierced him to the heart, when his 
shoulder was touched by the hand of 
God. After this familiar though im- 
portant conversation, he again descend- 
ed to Jerusalem, remounted the Borak, 
returned to Mecca, and performed in 
the tenth part of a night the journey of 
many thousand years. According to 
another legend, the apostle confounded 

Life °f Mahomet. 93 

in a national assembly the malicious 
challenge of the Koreish. His resistless 
word sj>lit asunder the orb of the moon : 
the obedient planet stooped from her 
station in the sky, accomplished the 
seven revolutions round the Caaba, sa- 
luted Mahomet in the Arabian tongue, 
and suddenly contracting her dimen- 
sions, entered at the collar, and is- 
sued forth through the sleeve, of his 
shirt. The vulgar are amused with the 
marvellous tales ; but the gravest of 
the Musulman doctors imitate the 
modesty of their master, and indulge a 
latitude of faith or interpretation. They 
might speciously allege, that in preach- 
ing the religion, it was needless to vio- 
late the harmony of nature ; that a 
creed unclouded with mystery may be 
excused from miracles ; and that the 
sword of Mahomet was not less potent 
than the rod of Moses. 

The poly the ist is oppressed and dis- 

94 Life of Mahomet. 

tracted by the variety of superstition : 
a thousand rites of Egj^ptian origin 
were interwoven with the essence of 
the Mosaic law ; and the spirit of the 
gospel had evaporated in the pageantry 
of the church. (The prophet of Mecca 
was tempted by prejudice, or policy, or 
patriotism, to sanctify the rites of the 
Arabians, and the custom of visiting 
the holy stone of the Caaba. But the 
precepts of Mahomet himself inculcate 
a more simple and rational piety : 
prayer, fasting, and alms, are the re- 
ligious duties of a Musulman ; and he 
is encouraged to hope that prayer will 
carry him half way to God, fasting will 
bring him to the door of his palace, and 
alms will gain him admittance, I. Ac- 
cording to the tradition of the noctur- 
nal journey, the apostle, in his personal 
conference with the Deity, was com- 
manded to impose on his disciples the 
daily obligation of fifty prayers. By 

Life of Mahomet. 95 

the advice of Moses, lie applied for an 
alleviation of this intolerable burthen ; 
the number was gradually reduced to 
five ; without any dispensation of busi- 
ness or pleasure, or time or place : the 
devotion of the faithful is repeated at 
daybreak, at noon, in the afternoon, in 
the evening, and at the first watch of 
the night ; and in the present decay of 
religious fervor, our travellers are edi- 
fied by the profound humility and at- 
tention of the Turks and Persians. 
Cleanliness is the key of prayer : the 
frequent lustration of the hands, the 
face, and the body, which was practised 
of old by the Arabs, is solemnly en- 
joined by the Koran : and a permission 
is formally granted to supply with sand 
the scarcity of water. The words and 
attitudes of supplication, as it is per- 
formed either sitting, or standing, or 
prostrate on the ground, are prescribed 
by custom or authority, but the prayer 

96 Life of Mahomet, 

is poured forth in short and fervent 
ejaculations; the measure of zeal is not 
exhausted by a tedious liturgy ; and 
each mussulman, for his own person 
is invested with the character of ? 
priest. Among the theists, who reject 
the use of images, it has been found 
necessary to restrain the wanderings of 
the fancy, by directing the eye and the 
thought towards a kehla, or visible point 
of the horizon. The prophet was at 
first inclined to gratify the Jews by 
the choice of Jerusalem ; but he soon 
returned to a more natural partiality ; 
and five times every day the eyes of 
the nations at Astracan, at Fez, at .Delhi, 
are devoutly turned to the holy temple 
of Mecca. 1 Yet every spot for the 

1 Mahomet at first granted the Jews many privileges in 
observing their ancient customs, and especially their Sab- 
bath ; and he himself kept the fast of ten days with which 
the Jewish year begins. But, when he found himself de- 
ceived in his expectations of converting them, these privi- 
eges were withdrawn. Mecca was substituted for Jerusalem 
as the kebla, or quarter to which the face is directed during 

Life of Mahomet. 97 

service of God is equally pure : the 
Mahometans indifferently pray in their 
chamber or in the street. As a dis- 
tinction from the Jews and Christians 
the Friday in each week is set apart 
for the useful institution of public wor- 
ship : the people are assembled in the 
mosch : and the imam, some respect- 
able elder, ascends the pulpit, to begin 
the prayer and pronounce the sermon. 
But the Mahometan religion is destitute 
of priesthood or sacrifice ; ] and the in- 

prayer; and, in place of the Jewish fast, that of Ramadhan 
was instituted. (Weil, Mohammed, p. 90). — S. 

1 Mr. Forster (Mahometanism Unveiled, vol. i. p. 416) 
has severely rebuked Gibbon for his inaccuracy in saying 
that "the Mahometan religion is destitute of priesthood or 
sacrifice; " but this expression must be understood of the 
general practice of the Mahometans. The occasion of the 
pilgrimage to Mecca formed an exception ; and Gibbon has 
himself observed {supra, p. 48) that "the pilgrimage was 
achieved, as at the present hour, by a sacrifice of sheep and 
camels." The Koran sanctions sacrifice on th occasion; 
and Mahomet himself, in his last pilgrimage to Mecca, set 
the example, by offering up with his own hand the sixty- 
three camels which he had brought with him from Medina, 
ordering Ali to do the like with the thirty-seven which he 
*ad brought from Yemen. (Weil, Mohammed, pp. 294, 317.) 


98 Life of Mahomet. 

dependent spirit of fanaticism looks 
down with contempt on the ministers 
and slaves of superstition. II. The 
voluntary penance of the ascetics, the 
torment and glory of their lives, was 
odious to a prophet who censured in his 
companions a rash vow of abstaining 
from flesh, and women, and sleep ; and 
firmly declared, that he would suffer no 
monks in his religion. Yet he insti- 
tuted, in each year, a fast of thirty days ; 
and strenuously recommended the ob- 
servance, as a discipline which purifies 
the soul and subdues the body, as a 
salutary exercise of obedience to the 
will of God and his apostle. During 
the month of Ramadan, from the rising 

This ordinance was probably a sort of political compromise 
with the ancient idolatrous rites of Mecca. It may be fur- 
ther remarked, that there were two kinds of pilgrimage, 
riz., Hadj and Uinra. The rites accompanying them, how- 
ever, were exactly similar — the only distinction being that 
the former took place only on the appointed festivals, whilst 
the latter might be performed all the year round. (lb. p. 
<490).— S. 

£if e of Mahomet. 99 

to the setting of the sun, the Musul- 
man abstains from eating, and drinking, 
and women, and baths, and perfumes ; 
from all nourishment that can restore 
his strength, from all pleasure that can 
gratify his senses. In the revolution 
of the lunar year, the Ramadan coin- 
cides, by turns, with the winter cold 
and the summer heat ; and the patient 
martyr, without assuaging his thirst 
with a drop of water, must expect the 
close of a tedious and sultry day. The 
interdiction of wine, peculiar to some 
orders of priests or hermits, is con- 
verted by Mahomet alone into a posi- 
tive and general law ; and a considera- 
ble portion of the globe has abjured, 
at his command, the use of that salu- 
tary, though dangerous, liquor. These 
painful restraints are, doubtless, in- 
fringed by the libertine, and eluded by 
the hypocrite ; but the legislator, by 
whom they are enacted, cannot surely 

100 Life of Mahomet . 

be accused of alluring his proselytes by 
the indulgence of their sensual appe- 
tities. 1 III. The charity of the Ma- 
hometans descends to the animal crea- 
tion ; and the Koran repeatedly incul- 
cates, not as a merit, but as a strict 
and indispensable duty, the relief of 
the indigent and unfortunate. Ma- 
homet, perhaps, is the only law-giver 
who has defined the precise measure of 
charity : the standard may vary with 
the degree and nature of property, as 
it consists either in money, in corn or 
cattle, in fruits or merchandise ; but 
the Musulman does not accomplish the 
law, unless he bestows a tenth of his 
revenue ; and if his conscience accuses 
him of fraud or extortion, the tenth, 
under the idea of restitution, is enlarged 

1 Forster points out the inconsistency of this passage 
with the one on page 230 : " 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." (Ma* 
bometanism Unveiled, vol. ii. p. 493.)— S. 

Life of Mahomet. 101 

to a fifth. Benevolence is the founda- 
tion of justice, since we are forbid to 
injure those whom we are bound to as- 
sist. A prophet may reveal the secrets 
of heaven and of futurity ; but in his 
moral precepts he can only repeat the 
lessons of our own hearts. 

The two articles of belief, and the 
four practical duties of Islam 1 are guard- 
ed by rewards and punishments ; and 
the faith of the Musulman is devoutly 
fixed on the event of the judgment and 
the last day. The prophet has not pre- 
sumed to determine the moment of that 
awful catastrophe, though he darkly 
announces the signs, both in heaven and 
earth, which will precede the universal 
dissolution, when life shall be destroyed, 
and the order of creation shall be con- 

1 The four practical duties are prayer, fasting, alms, and 
pilgrimage. (Weil, Mohammed, p. 288, note.) It is here ob- 
vious that Gibbon had not overlooked the last, though he 
has omitted it in the preceding enumeration of the ordi 
tary and constant duties of a Musulman.— S. 

102 Life of Mahomet. 

founded in the primitive chaos. At 
the blast of the trumpet, new worlds 
will start into being ; angels, genii, and 
men, will arise from the dead, and the 
human soul will again be united to the 
body. The doctrine of the resurrection 
was first entertained by the Egyptians ; 
and their mummies were embalmed, 
their pyramids were constructed, to pre- 
serve the ancient mansion of the soul, 
during a period of three thousand years. 
But the attempt is partial and una- 
vailing; and it is with a more philo- 
sophic spirit that Mahomet relies on 
the omnipotence of the Creator, whose 
word can reanimate the breathless 
clay, and collect the innumerable atoms, 
that no longer retain their form or 
substance. The intermediate state of 
ihe soul it is hard to decide ; and those 
who most firmly believe her immaterial 
nature, are at a loss to understand how 

Life of Mahomet. 103 

she can think or act without the agency 
of the organs of sense. 

The reunion of the soul and body will 
be followed by the final judgment of 
mankind ; and, in his copy of the 
Magian picture, the prophet has too 
faithfully represented the forms of pro- 
ceeding, and even the slow and suc- 
cessive operations, of an earthly tri- 
bunal. By his intolerant adversaries 
he is upbraided for extending, even to 
themselves, the hope of salvation, for 
asserting the blackest heresy, that every 
man who believes in God, and accom- 
plishes good works, may expect in the 
last day a favorable sentence. Such 
rational indifference is ill adapted to 
the character of a fanatic ; nor is it 
probable that a messenger from heaven 
should depreciate the value and neces- 
sity of his own revelation. In the idiom 
of the Koran, the belief of God is in- 
separable from that of Mahomet : the 

104 Zife of Mahomet. 

good works are those which he had en 
joined ; and the two qualifications im 
ply the profession of Islam, to which 
all nations and all sects are equally in- 
vited. Their spiritual "blindness, though 
excused by ignorance, and crowned 
with virtue, will be scourged with ever- 
lasting torments ; and the tears which 
Mahomet shed over the tomb of his 
mother, for whom he was forbidden to 
pray, display a striking contrast of hu- 
manity and enthusiasm. The doom of 
the infidels is common : the measure 
of their guilt and punishment is de- 
termined by the degree of evidence 
which they have rejected, by the mag- 
nitude of the errors which they have 
entertained : the eternal mansions of 
the Christians, the Jews, the Sabians, 
the Magians, and the idolaters, are sunk 
below each other in the abyss ; and the 
lowest hell is reserved for the faithless 
hypocrites who have assumed the mask 

Life of Mahomet. 105 

of religion. After the greater part of 
mankind has been condemned for their 
opinions, the true believers only will 
be judged by their actions. The good 
and evil of each Musulman will be ac- 
curately weighed in a real or allegori- 
cal balance, and a singular mode of 
compensation will be allowed for the 
payment of injuries : the aggressor will 
refund an equivalent of his own good 
actions, for the benefit of the person 
whom he has wronged ; and if he should 
be destitute of any moral property, the 
weight of his sins will be loaded with 
an adequate share of the demerits of 
the sufferer. According as the shares 
of guilt or virtue shall preponderate, 
the sentence will be pronounced, and 
all, without distinction, will pass over 
the sharp and perilous bridge of the 
abyss ; but the innocent, treading in 
the footsteps of Mahomet, will gloriously 
enter the gates of paradise, while the 

106 Life of Mahomet. 

guilty will fall into the first and mildest 
of the seven hells. The term of expia- 
tion will vary from nine hundred to 
seven thousand years ; but the prophet 
has judiciously promised, that all his 
disciples, whatever may be their sins, 
shall be saved, by their own faith, and 
his intercession,from eternal damnation. 
It is not surprising that superstition 
should act most powerfully on the fears 
of her votaries, since the human fancy 
can paint with more energy the misery 
than the bliss of a future life. With 
the two simple elements of darkness 
and fire, we create a sensation of pain, 
which may be aggravated to an infinite 
degree by the idea of endless duration. 
But the same idea operates with an 
opposite effect on the continuity of 
pleasure ; and too much of our present 
enjoyments is obtained from the relief, 
or the comparison, of evil. It is natural 
enough that an Arabian prophet should 

Life of Mahomet. 107 

dwell with rapture on the groves, the 
fountains, and the rivers, of paradise ; 
but instead of inspiring the blessed in- 
habitants with a liberal taste for har- 
mony and science, conversation and 
friendship, he idly celebrates the pearls 
and diamonds, the robes of silk, palaces 
of marble, dishes of gold, rich wines, 
artificial dainties, numerous attendants, 
and the whole train of sensual and costly 
luxury, which becomes insipid to the 
owner, even in the short period of this 
mortal life. Seventy-two houris, or 
black-eyed girls, of resplendent beauty, 
blooming youth, virgin purity, and ex- 
quisite sensibility, will be created for 
the use of the meanest believer ; a mo- 
ment of pleasure will be prolonged to 
a thousand vears, and his faculties will 
be increased a hundred-fold, to render 
him worthy of his felicity. Notwith- 
standing a vulgar prejudice, the gates 
of heaven will be open to both sexes ; 

108 Life of Mahomet. 

but Mahomet has not specified the 
male companions of the female elect, 
lest he should either alarm the jealousy 
of their former husbands, or disturb 
their felicity, by the suspicion of an 
everlasting marriage. This image of a 
carnal paradise has provoked the indig- 
nation, perhaps the envy, of the monks ; 
they declaim against the impure re- 
ligion of Mahomet ; and his modest 
apologists are driven to the poor excuse 
of figures and allegories. But the 
sounder and more consistent party ad- 
here, without shame, to the literal in- 
terpretation of the Koran : useless would 
be the resurrection of the body, unless 
it were restored to the possession and 
exercise of its worthiest faculties ; and 
the union of sensual and intellectual 
enjoyment is requisite to complete the 
happiness of the double animal, the 
perfect man. Yet the joys of the Ma- 
hometan paradise will not be confined 

Life of Mahomet. 109 

to the indulgence of luxury and appe- 
tite ; and the prophet has expressly de- 
clared, that all meaner happiness will 
be forgotten and despised by the saints 
and martyrs, who shall be admitted to 
the beatitude of the divine vision. 

The first and most arduous conquests 
of Mahomet 1 were those of his wife, 

1 The original materials for a Life of Mahomet are— I. 
The Koran. —II. The traditions of Mahomet's followers. — 
III. Some poetical works. — IV. The earliest Arabian biog- 
raphies of the prophet. 

I. The Koran, respecting the general integrity and au- 
thenticity of which Oriental scholars are agreed, is the great 
storehouse for the opinions and character of Mahomet ; but 
the events of his outward life, and their connection, are de- 
rived almost entirely from tradition. 

II. After Mahomet's death, such of his followers as had 
been much about his person (Ashdb, "companions"), were 
surrounded by pupils who had not seen and conversed with 
him, but who were desirous of acquiring information from 
those who had enjoyed that advantage. This second gen- 
eration, who were called Tabiys (Tabiun, "successors''), 
transmitted in turn to others the information thus acquired. 
Great care was employed in comparing and sifting these 
traditions, which were derived from various and often dis- 
tant sources; and, as a guarantee of authenticity, the name 
of the person on whose authority they rested was transmit- 
ted along with them. It is possible that some of them may 
*ave been committed to writing in Mahomet's lifetime; but 

110 Life of 3fahomet. 

his servant, his pupil, and his friend ; 
since he presented himself as a prophet 
to those who were most conversant with 

the first formal collection of them was made about a century 
after his death, by command of the Caliph Omar II. They 
multiplied rapidly ; and it is said that the books of the his- 
torian Bokhari — who died only about two centuries after 
Mahomet — which consisted chiefly of these traditions, filled 
six hundred boxes, each a load for two men. The most im 
portant among these collections are the six canonical ones 
of the Sunnies and four of the Shiahs. The former were 
compiled under the influence of the Abasside caliphs, and 
were begun in the reign of Al Mamun. The Shiahs were 
somewhat later, and are far less trustworthy than the Sun- 
nies, being composed with the party view of supporting the 
claims of Ali and his descendants to supreme power. 

III. Some extant Arabic poems were probably composed 
by Mahomet's contemporaries. They are of much value, as 
adding confirmation to the corresponding traditions ; bul 
there are no facts in the prophet's life the proof of which 
depends upon these historical remains. Although, there 
fore, they are valuable because confirmatory of tradition 
their practical bearing upon the biographical elements of thi 
prophet's life is not of so much interest as might have bee? 
expected. They deserve, indeed, deep attention, as th<7 
earliest literary remains of a period which contained the 
germ of such mighty events, but they give us little new 
insight into the history or character of Mahomet. (Calcutta 
Review, No. xxxvii. p. 66.) 

IY. It seems that regular biographies of Mahomet began 
to be composed towards the end of the first, or early in the 
second century of the Hegira ; but the earliest biographical 
writers, whose works are extant more or less in their origi 

Life of Mahomet . Ill 

his infirmities as a man. Yet Cadijah 
believed the words, and cherished the 
glory, of her husband ; the obsequious 

nal state, are— 1. Ibn Ishac; 2. Ibn HisMm; 3. Wackidi 
and his secretary ; 4. Tabari. — 1. Ibn Ishac, a Tabiy, died 
A. II. 151 (A. D. T68). His work, which was composed for 
the caliph Al Mansur, enjoys a high reputation among the 
Moslems; and its statements have been incorporated into 
most of the subsequent biographies of the prophet. Dr. 
Sprenger, however, (p. 69,) though hardly, perhaps, on suffi. 
cient grounds, regards him as little trustworthy, and doubts 
whether his book has come down to us in its original form. 
— 2. Ibn Ishac was succeeded by Ibn Hisham (died A. H. 213. 
A. D. 828), whose work, still extant, is founded on that of 
his predecessor, but bears the reputation of being still less 
trustworthy. — 3. "Wackidi, born at Medina about A. H. 129, 
compiled several books relating to Mahomet, but no work 
of his has come down to us in its original form. The fruits 
of his researches were, however, collected into fifteen large 
quarto volumes by his secretary, Mohammed Ibn Saad. 
The first of these, containing the Sirat or biography of Ma- 
homet, including accounts of his companions, has been pre- 
served in its genuine form, and is one of the best sources of 
information respecting the prophet. This valuable work 
was discovered by Dr. Sprenger at Cawnpore. Dr. Sprenge? 
observes that " this is by far the best biography of tht 
Arabic prophet, but, being rare, it has never been used by 
an European scholar. The veracity and knowledge of thft 
author have never been impugned by his contemporaries 
nor by good early writers." It is generally quoted undei 
the name of " Wackidi," probably for the sake of brevity. 
The carefully collected traditions of Wackidi must not b 
eonfounded with the romances of the eighth century which 

112 Life of Mahomet. 

and affectionate Zeid was tempted by 
the prospect of freedom ; the illus- 
trious Ali, the son of Abu Taleb, em- 
bear the same name, and which form the basis of Ockley's 
work. — 4. Tabari, the most celebrated of all the Arabic his 
torians, died A. H. 310 (A. D. 929). A short account of this 
writer is given by Gibbon himself (ch. li. note 11). Tabari 
wrote an account both of Mahomet's life and of the progress 
of Islam. The latter has long been known ; and a portion 
cf it, in the original Arabic, was published, with a Latin 
translation, by Kosegarten in 1831. But the earlier part, re- 
lating to Mahomet, could be read only in an untrustworthy 
Persian translation even so late as 1851, when Dr. Sprenger 
published his Life of Mahomet. It has, however, been sub 
sequently discovered in the original language by that gentle- 
man, during his mission by the Indian Government to search 
the native libraries of Lucknow. To Dr. Sprenger, therefore, 
belongs the honor of having discovered two of the most 
valuable works respecting the history of Mahomet. 

But even the most authentic traditions respecting Ma- 
homet have been corrupted by superstition, faction, and 
other causes ; and it is hardly necessary to say that a Euro- 
pean writer must exercise the most careful and discrimi- 
nating criticism in the use of them. Inattention to this 
point is the defect of Gagnier's otherwise excellent work. 

The later Arabic biographers of Mahomet are entitled to 
no credit as independent authorities. They could add no 
true information, but they often add many spurious tradi- 
tions and fabricated stories of later days. Hence such a 
writer as Abulfeda, whom Gibbon frequently quotes, is of 
no value as an autho>'it)j. 

The best recent biographies of Mahomet by Europeans 
\re Dr. Sprenger's Life of Mohammed from original sources, 

Life of Mahomet. 113 

braced the sentiments of his cousin with 
the spirit of a youthful hero ; and the 
wealth, the moderation, the veracity of 
Abubeker, 1 confirmed the religion of 
the prophet whom he was destined to 
succeed. By his persuasion, ten of the 
most respectable citizens of Mecca 
were introduced to the private lessons 
of Islam ; they yielded to the voice of 

Allahabad, 1851, and Dr. Weil's Mohammed der Prophet^ 
Stuttgart, 1843. Dr. Sprenger's Life (part i.) only goes down 
to the flight from Mecca, but it is a very valuable contribu- 
tion to Oriental literature, and has been of great service to 
the editor of this work. — S. 

1 Abubeker, or, more properly, Abu Bakr, literally, "the 
father of the virgin " — so called because his daughter Ayesha 
was the only maiden whom Mahomet married — was a 
wealthy merchant of the Taym family, much respected for 
his benevolence and straightforward dealing. He was one 
of the first to accept the mission of the prophet, and is said 
to have believed in the unit}' of God before that event. 
"The faith of Abu Bakr," says Dr. Sprenger, "is in my 
opinion the greatest guarantee of the sincerity of Mohammed 
at the beginning of his career; and he did more for the suc- 
cess of Islam than the prophet himself. His having joined 
Mohammed lent respectability to his cause ; he spv it seven- 
eighths of his property, which amounted to 40,000 dirhams, 
or a thousand pounds, when he embraced the new faith, 
towards its promotion at Mecca, and he continued the same 
eourse of liberality at Medina.'* (p. 171.)— S. 

114 Life of Mahomet. 

reason and enthusiasm ; they repeated 
the fundamental creed, " there is but 
one God, and Mahomet is the apostle 
of God ;" and their faith, even in this 
life, was rewarded with riches and 
honors, with the command of armies 
and the government of kingdoms. 
Three years were silently employed in 
the conversion of fourteen proselytes, 
the first-fruits of his mission ; but in 
the fourth year he assumed the pro- 
phetic office, and resolving to impart 
to his family the light of divine truth, 
he prepared a banquet, a lamb, as it is 
said, and a bowl of milk, for the enter- 
tainment of forty guests of the race of 
Hashem. " Friends and kinsmen," 
said Mahomet to the assembly, " I 
offer you, and I alone can offer, the 
most precious of gifts, the treasures of 
this world and of the world to come. 
God has commanded me to call you to 
his service. Who among you will sup- 

Life of Mahomet. 115 

port my burthen ? Who among you will 
be my companion and my vizir? " No 
answer was returned, till the silence 
of astonishment, and doubt, and con- 
tempt, was at length broken by the 
impatient courage of Ali, a youth in 
the fourteenth year of his age. " O 
prophet, I am the man : whosoever 
rises against thee, I will dash out his 
teeth, tear out his eyes, break his legs, 
rip up his belly. O prophet, I will 
be thy vizir over them." Mahomet 
accepted his offer with transport, and 
Abu Taleb was ironically exhorted to 
respect the superior dignity of his son. 
In a more serious tone, the father of Ali 
advised his nephew to relinquish his 
impracticable design. " Spare your 
remonstrances," replied the intrepid 
fanatic to his uncle and benefactor ; " \i 
they should place the sun on my right- 
hand, and the moon on my left, they 
should not divert me from my course." 

116 Life of Mahomet. 

He persevered ten years in the exercise 
of his mission ; and the religion which 
has overspread the East and West, ad 
vanced with a slow and painful prog- 
ress within the walls of Mecca. Yet 
Mahomet enjoyed the satisfaction of 
beholding the increase of his infant 
congregation of Unitarians, who re 
vered him as a prophet, and to 
whom he seasonably dispensed the 
spiritual nourishment of the Koran. 
The number of proselytes may be esti- 
mated by the absence of eighty-three 
men and eighteen women, who retired 
to ^Ethiopia in the seventh year of his 
mission, ] and his party was fortified 

1 There were two emigrations to Abyssinia. The first 
was in the fifth year of the prophet's mission, when twelve 
men and four women emigrated. They returned to Mecca 
in the course of the same year, upon hearing that a recon- 
ciliation had taken place between the prophet and his ene- 
mies. The second emigration was in the seventh year of 
the mission, and is the one mentioned in the text. Omar 
had been converted in the preceding year, the sixth of the 
mission; and after his conversion the number of the faithful 
was almost immediately doubled. (Sprenger, p. 1S2-189).— S. 

Life of Mahomet. 117 

by the timely conversion of his uncle 
Hamza, and of the iierce and inflexible 
Omar, who signalized in the cause of 
Islam the same zeal which he had ex- 
erted for its destruction. Nor was the 
charity of Mahomet confined to the 
tribe of Koreish, or the precincts of 
Mecca : on solemn festivals, in the 
days of pilgrimage, he frequented the 
Caaba, accosted the strangers of every 
tribe, and urged, both in private con- 
verse and public discourse, the belief 
and worship of a sole Deity. Conscious 
of his reason and of his weakness, he 
asserted the liberty of conscience, and 
disclaimed the use of religious violence ; 
but he called the Arabs to repentance, 
and conjured them to remember the 
ancient idolaters of Ad and Thamud, 
whom the divine justice had swept away 
from the face of the earth. 

The people of Mecca were hardened 
m their unbelief by superstition and 

118 Life of Mahomet. 

envy. The elders of the city, the un- 
cles of the prophet, affected to despise 
the presumption of an orphan, the re- 
former of his country : the pious ora- 
tions of Mahomet in the Caaba were 
answered by the clamors of Abu Taleb. 
" Citizens and pilgrims, listen not to 
the tempter, hearken not to his im- 
pious novelties. Stand fast in the wor- 
ship of Al Lata and Al Uzzah." Yet 
the son of Abdallah was ever dear to 
the aged chief; and he protected the 
fame and person of his nephew against 
the assaults of the Koreishites, who had 
long been jealous of the pre-eminence 
of the family of Hashem. 1 Their malice 
w r as colored with the pretence of reli- 
gion : in the age of Job, the crime of 
impiety was punished by the Arabian 
magistrate; and Mahomet was guilty 

1 On one occasion Mahomet narrowly escaped being 
Btrangled in the Caaba; and Abu Bekr, who came to his 
aid, was beaten with sandals till his nose was flattened. 
(Weil, p. 56.)— S. 

Life of Mahomet. 119 

of deserting and denying the national 
deities. But. so loose was the policy of 
Mecca, that the leaders of the Koreish, 
instead of accusing a criminal, were 
compelled to employ the measures of 
persuasion or violence. They repeatedly 
addressed Abu Taleb in the style of re- 
proach and menace. " Thy nephew 
reviles our religion ; he accuses our 
wise forefathers of ignorance and folly ; 
silence him quickly, lest he kindle 
tumult and discord in the city. If he 
persevere, we shall draw our swords 
against him and his adherents, and thou 
wilt be responsible for the blood of thy 
fellow-citizens." The weight and mod- 
eration of Abu Taleb eluded the vio- 
lence of religious faction ; the most 
helpless or timid of the disciples retired 
to ^Ethiopia, and the prophet withdrew 
himself to various places of strength in 
town and country. 1 As he was still 

1 Especially to a fortress or castle in a defile near Mecca, 

120 Life of Mahomet. 

supported by his family, the rest of the 
tribe of Koreish en^a^ed themselves to 
renounce all intercourse with the chil- 
dren of Hashem, neither to buy nor 
sell, neither to marry nor to give in mar- 
riage, but to pursue them with impla 
cable enmity ,till they should deliver the 
person of Mahomet to the justice of the 
gods. The decree was suspended in 
the Caaba before the eyes of the nation ; 
the messengers of the Koreish pursued 
the Musulman exiles in the heart of 
Africa : they besieged the prophet and 
his most faithful followers, intercepted 
their water, and inflamed their mutual 
animosity by the retaliation of injuries 
and insults. A doubtful truce restored 
the appearances of concord, till the 
death of Abu Taleb abandoned Ma- 
homet to the power of his enemies, a* 

in which he seems to have spent nearly three years, often 
in want of the necessaries of life, and ohliged to change his 
bed every night for fear of being surprised by assassin* 
VWeil, p. 63.)-S. 

£if e °f Mahomet. 121 

the moment when he was deprived of 
his domestic comforts by the loss of his 
faithful and generous Cadijah. Abu 
Sophian, the chief of the branch of 
Ommiyah, succeeded to the principality 
of the republic of Mecca. A zealous 
votary of the idols, a mortal foe of the 
line of Hashem, he convened an as- 
sembly of the Koreishites and their 
allies, to decide the fate of the apostle. 
His imprisonment might provoke the 
despair of his enthusiasm ; and the exile 
of an eloquent and popular fanatic 
would diffuse the mischief through the 
provinces of Arabia. His death was 
resolved ; and they agreed that a sword 
from each tribe should be buried in his 
heart, to divide the guilt of his blood, 
and baffle the vengeance of the Ha- 
shemites. An angel or a spy reveal- 
ed their conspiracy, and flight was the 
only resource of Mahomet. At the 
aead of night, accompanied by his 

122 Life of Mahomet. 

friend Abubeker, he silently escaped 
from his house : the assassins watched 
at the door ; but they were deceived 
by the figure of Ali, who reposed on 
the bed, and was covered with the 
green vestment of the apostle. The Ko- 
reish respected the piety of the heroic 
youth ; but some verses of Ali, which 
are still extant, exhibit an interesting 
picture of his anxiety, his tenderness, 
and his religious confidence. Three 
days Mahomet and his companion were 
concealed in the cave of Thor, at the 
distance of a league from Mecca ; and 
in the close of each evening, they re- 
ceived, from the son and daughter of 
Abubeker, a secret supply of intelli- 
gence and food. The diligence of the 
Koreish explored every haunt in the 
neighborhood of the city : they arrived 
at the entrance of the cavern ; but the 
providential deceit of a spider's web 
and a pigeon's nest, is supposed to con- 

Life of Mahomet. 123 

vince them that the place was solitary 
and inviolate. 1 " We are only two," 
said the trembling Abubeker. " There 
is a third," replied the prophet ; " it is 
God himself." No sooner was the pur- 
suit abated, than the two fugitives is- 
sued from the rock, and mounted their 
camels : on the road to Medina, they 
were overtaken by the emissaries of the 
Koreish ; they redeemed themselves 
with prayers and promises from their 
hands. In this eventful moment, the 
lance of an Arab might have changed 
the history of the world. The flight of 
the prophet from Mecca to Medina has 
fixed the memorable era of the Hcgiraf 
which, at the end of twelve centuries, 

1 According to another legend, which is less known, a 
tree grew up before the entrance of the cavern, at the com- 
viand of the prophet. (Weil, p. 79, note 9(3.)— S. 

a The Ilegira was instituted by Omar, the second caliph, 
in imitation of the era of the martyrs of the Christians 
(D'llerbelot, p. 444) ; and properly commenced sixty-eight 
days before the flight of Mahomet, with the first of Moh-xr- 
ren, or first day of that Arabian year, which coincides 
with Friday, July 16th, A . D. 622. (Abulfeda, Vit. MoLam, 

124 Life of Mahomet. 

still discriminates the lunar years of the 
Mahometan nations. 

The religion of the Koran might have 
perisliecl in its cradle, had not Medina 
embraced with faith and reverence the 
holy outcasts of Mecca. Medina, or 
the cityS known under the name of 
Yathreb, before it was sanctified by the 
throne of the prophet, was divided be 
tween the tribes of the Charegites 2 and 
the Awsites, whose hereditary feud was 
rekindled by the slightest provocations : 
two colonies of Jews, who boasted a 
sacerdotal race, were their humble 
allies, and without converting the 
Arabs, they introduced the taste of 
science and religion, which distinguish- 
ed Medina as the city of the Book. 

c. 22, 23, p. 45-50 ; and Greaves's edition of Ullug Beg's 
Epochse Arabum, &c. c. 1, p. 8, 10, &c.) 

1 It was at first called Medinatalnabi, " the city of the 
prophet;" and afterwards simply "the city." (Conde, Hist, 
de la Domination des Arabes, i. 44. note.) — S. 

3 More properly Chazrajites, of the tribe Chazraj. (Spren 
ger, p. 203, Weil, p. 71.)— S. 

Life of Mahomet. 125 

Some of her noblest citizens, in a pil- 
grimage to the Caaba, were converted 
by the preaching of Mahomet : on then 
return they diffused the belief of God 
and his prophet, and the new alliance 
was ratified by their deputies in two 
secret and nocturnal interviews on a 
hill in the suburbs of Mecca. In the 
first, ten Charegites and two Awsites 
united in faith and love, protested in 
the name of their wives, their children, 
and their absent brethren, that they 
would for ever profess the creed, and 
observe the precepts, of the Koran. 1 
The second was a political association, 
the first vital spark of the empire of the 
Saracens. Seventy-three men and two 
women of Medina held a solemn con- 
ference with Mahomet, his kinsmen, and 
his disciples; and pledged themselves 
to each other by a mutual oath of fidel- 

1 This first alliance was called " the agreement of wo- 
men," because it did not contain the duty of fighting for the 
Islam. (Sprenger, p. 203.)— S. 

126 L ife of Ma hornet. 

ity. They promised in the name of the 
city, that if he should be banished, they 
would receive him as a confederate, 
obey him as a leader, and defend him 
to the last extremity, like their wives 
and children. " But if you are recalled 
by your country," they asked with a 
flattering anxiety, " will you not aban- 
don your new allies ? " " All things," 
replied Mahomet with a smile, " are 
now common between us ; your blood 
is as my blood, your ruin as my ruin. 
We are bound to each other by the ties 
of honor and interest. I am your 
friend, and the enem} 7 of your foes." 
" But if we are killed in your service, 
what," exclaimed the deputies of Me- 
dina, " will be our reward ? " " Para- 
dise," replied the prophet. "Stretch 
forth thy hand." He stretched it forth, 
and they reiterated the oath of alle- 
giance and fidelity. Their treaty wa9 
ratified by the people, who unanimous- 

Life of Mahomet. 127 

ij embraced the profession of Islam ; 
they rejoiced in the exile of the apostle, 
but they trembled for his safety, and 
impatiently expected his arrival. After 
a perilous and rapid journey along the 
sea-coast he halted at Koba, two miles 
from the city, and made his public entry 
into Medina, sixteen days after his flight 
from Mecca. Five hundred of the citi- 
zens advanced to meet him ; he was 
hailed with acclamations of loyalty and 
devotion ; Mahomet was mounted on a 
she-camel, an umbrella shaded his head, 
and a turban was unfurled before him 
to supply the deficiency of a standard. 
His bravest disciples, who had been 
scattered by the storm, assembled round 
his person ; and the equal though vari- 
ous merit of the Moslems was dis- 
tinguished by the names of Mohageri- 
ans and Ansars, the fugitives of Mecca, 
and the auxiliaries of Medina. To 
eradicate the seeds of jealousy, Ma- 

128 Eif e of Mahomet. 

hornet judiciously coupled his principal 
followers with the rights arid obligations 
of brethren, and when Ali found him- 
self without a peer, the prophet tender- 
ly declared, that he would be the com- 
panion and brother of the noble youth. 
The expedient was crowned with suc- 
cess ; 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 expul- 
sion was heard with abhorrence, and his 
own son most eagerly offered to lay at 
the apostle's feet the head of his 

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 

Life of Mahomet. 129 

decrees were inspired by the divine wis- 
dom. A small portion of ground, the pa- 
trimony of two orphans, was acquired by 
gift or purchase ; 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. 
After a reign of six years, fifteen hun- 
dred Moslems, in arms and in the 
field, renewed their oath of allegi- 
ance ; v and their chief repeated the as- 
surance of protection till the death 
of the last member, or the final disso- 
'ution of the party. It was in the same 
camp that the deputy of Mecca was 
astonished by the attention of the faith- 

130 Life of Mahomet. 

ful to the words and looks of the 
prophet, by the eagerness with which 
they collected his spittle, a hair that 
dropt 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 com- 
panions." The devout fervor of enthu- 
siasm acts with more energy and truth 
than the 'cold and formal servility of 

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 Ma- 

Life of Mahomet. 131 

hornet, in the exercise of a peaceful and 
benevolent mission, had been despoiled 
and banished by the injustice of his 
countrymen. The choice of an inde- 
pendent people had exalted the fugitive 
of Mecca to the rank of a sovereign t 
and he was invested with the just pre 
rogative 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 Me- 
dina assumed, in his new revelations, 
a fiercer and more sanguinary tone, 
which proves that his former modera- 
tion was the effect of weakness : the 
means of persuasion had been tried, 
the season of forbearance was elapsed, 
and he was now commanded to propa- 
gate his religion by the sword, to destroy 
the monuments of idolatry, and, with- 
out regarding the sanctity of days or 
months, to pursue the unbelieving 

132 Life of Mahomet. 

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 confound- 
ed with the intolerant zeal of princes 
and bishops, who have disgraced the 
name of his disciples. Tn the prosecu- 
tion of religious war, Mahomet might 
appeal with more propriety to the ex- 
ample of Moses, of the judges and the 
kings of Israel. The military laws of 
the Hebrews are still more rigid than 
those of the Arabiau legislator. The 
Lord of hosts marched in person before 
the Jews : if a city resisted their sum- 
mons, the males, without distinction, 
were put to the sword : the seven 
nations of Caanan were devoted to 

Life of Mahomet. 133 

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 pro- 
fessed the creed of Islam, they were ad- 
mitted to all the temporal and spiritual 
benefits of his primitive disciples, and 
marched under the same banner to ex- 
tend the religion which they had em- 
braced. The clemency of the prophet 
was decided by his interest, yet he sel- 
dom 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 in- 
dulged 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 
bis white banner before the gates of 

134 Life of Mahomet, 

Medina : the martial apostle fought in 
person at nine battles or sieges ; and 
fifty enterprises of war were achieved 
in ten years by himself or his lieutenants. 
The Arab continued to unite the pro- 
fessions 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 ; 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 

1 Before the time of Mahomet it was customary for the 
head of the tribe, or general, to retain one-fourth of the 
pooty; so that this new regulation must have been regarded 
with favor by the army. (Weil, p. 111.) — S. 

Life of Mahomet. 135 

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 licence of embrac- 
ing 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, u 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 odor- 
iferous as musk ; and the loss of his 
limbs shall be supplied by the wings of 
angels and cherubim." The intrepid 

136 Life of Mahomet, 

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 incul 
cates, in the most absolute sense, the 
tenets of fate and predestination, which 
would extinguish both industry and 
virtue, if the actions of man were gov- 
erned by his speculative belief. Yet 
their influence in every age has exalted 
the courage of the Saracens and Turks. 
The first companions of Mahomet ad 
vanced to battle with a fearless confi- 
dence : 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. 

Perhaps the Koreish would have 
been content with the flight of Mahomet, 
had they not been provoked and alarm- 

Life of Mahomet. 137 

ed by the vengeance of an enemy, who 
could intercept their Syrian trade as it 
passed and repassed through the terri- 
tory of Medina. Abu Sophian himself, 
with only thirty or forty followers, con- 
ducted a wealthy caravan of a thousand 
camels ; the fortune or dexterity of his 
march escaped the vigilance of Ma- 
homet ; but the chief of the Koreish 
was informed that the holy robbers 
were placed in ambush to await his re- 
turn. He despatched a messenger to 
his brethren of Mecca, and they were 
roused, by the fear of losing their mer- 
chandise 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 
vest auxiliaries : they mounted by turns 
a train of seventy camels (the camels 
of Yathreb were formidable in war) ; 

138 Life of Mahomet. 

but such was the poverty of his first disci- 
ples that only two could appear on horse- 
back in the field. In the fertile and 
famous vale of Beder, three stations 
from Medina, he was informed by his 
scouts of the caravan that approached 
on one side ; of the Koreish, one hun 
dred horse, eight hundred and fifty 
foot, 1 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 in- 
trenchment 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 ; 

1 Of these, however, 300 of the tribe of Zohra returned 
to Mecca before the engagement, and were joined by many 
others. The battle began with a fight, like that of th e Hora- 
tii and Cnriatii, of three on each side. (Weil, p. 105-111.)— S. 

Life of Mahomet. 13k 

discharge your arrows, and the day is 
your own." At these words he placed 
himself, with Abubeker, on a throne or 
pulpit, 1 and instantly demanded the 
succor of Gabriel and three thousand 
angels. His eyes were fixed on the 
field of battle : the Musulmans fainted 
and were pressed : in that decisive mo- 
ment the prophet started from his 

1 Weil (p. 103) calls it a hut (Hiitte), which his followers 
had erected for him on a gentle eminence near the field of 
battle. Gibbon is solicitous for the reputation of Mahomet, 
whom he has before characterized {supra, p. 67,) as pos- 
eessing "the courage both of thought and action." Weil, 
however, draws a very different portrait of him (p. 3-44.) 
"According to his Musulman biographers, whom Euro- 
peans have followed without further inquiry, his physical 
strength was accompanied with the greatest valor ; yet not 
only is this assertion destitute of all proof, but his behavior 
in his different campaigns, as well as in the first years of his 
appearance as a prophet, and also towards the close of Ida 
life, when he was become very powerful, compel us, despite 
his endurance and perseverance, to characterize him a.s very 
timorous. It was not till after the conversion of Omar and 
Hamza that he ventured openly to appear in the mosque 
along with the professors of his faith, as a Moslem, lie not 
only took no part in the fight in the battle of Bedr, but 
kept at some distance from the field, and had some drome- 
daries ready before his tent, in order to fly in case of a re- 
verse."— S. 

140 Life of Mahomet. 

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 : the Koreish trembled and 
fled : seventy of the bravest were slain ; 
and seventy captives adorned the first 
victory of the faithful. 1 The dead 
bodies of the Koreish were despoiled 
and insulted : two of the most obnox- 
ious prisoners were punished with death; 
and the ransom of the others, four 
thousand drachms of silver, compensa- 
ted 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 

1 According to others, 44. (Weil, p. 109.) Among the 
captives was Abbas, the rich uncle of Mahomet, who was 
obliged to pay ransom, although he alleged that inwardly 
he was a believer, and had been forced to take part in the 
expedition. He returned to Mecca, where, it is said, he 
served Mahomet as a spy. (lb. p. 109-114.)— S. 

Life of Mahomet. 141 

diligence of the Musulmans ; and 
wealthy must have been the prize, if 
twenty thousand drachms 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 mount- 
ed on horseback ; three thousand camels 
attended his march ; and his wife 
Hen da, 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 dis- 
proportion of numbers was not more 
alarming than in the field of Beder; 
and their presumption of victory pre- 
vailed against the divine and human 
6ense of the apostle. 1 The second bat- 

8 But on this occasion Abd Allah, with 200 men aban- 

142 Life of Mahomet . 

tie was fought on Mount Ohud, six 
miles to the north of Medina : 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 a 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 
Musulmans were tempted by the 
spoil, disobeyed their general, and dis- 
ordered 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 

doned Mahomet, so hat the disproportion of forces was 
vastly greater than at Bedr. See note 1 supra, page 139 
(Weil, p. 124.)— S. 

Life of Mahomet. 143 

javelin: two of his teeth were shatter- 
ed with a stone ; l 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. 2 Seventy martyrs 
died for the sins of the people : they 
fell, said the apostle, in pairs, each 
brother embracing his lifeless compan- 
ion ; their bodies were mangled by the 
inhuman females of Mecca ; and the 

1 Two of Mahomet's teeth are (or were) preserved at 
Constantinople ; but as, according to the best authorities, he 
only lost one on this occasion, one-half at least of these rel- 
ics must be regarded with the same suspicion that attaches 
to most other articles of the same description. (See Weil, 
p. 127.)— S. 

2 The person of the prophet was protected by a helmet 
and double coat of mail. He was recognized among the 
"vounded by Caab, the son of Malek ; by whom, Abu Bakr T 
Omar, and ten or twelve others, he was carried to a cave 
upon an eminence. Here he was pursued by Ubejj Ibn 
Challaf, who had long been keeping a horse in extraordinary 
condition for the purpose of surprising and killing Ma- 
homet ; but the latter dealt him a blow of which he died. 
This was the only time that Mahomet took any personal 
share in an action. (Weil, p. 128.) — S. 

144 Life of 3fahomet. 

wife of Abu Sopliian tasted the entrails 
of Hamza,, the uncle of Mahomet. They 
might applaud their superstition, and 
satiate their fury ; hut the Musulmans 
soon rallied in the field, and the Koreish 
waited strength or courage to under- 
take the siege of Medina. It was at- 
tacked 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 Musulmans. 
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 
he final separation of the confederates. 
A. tempest of wind, rain, and hail, over- 
turned their tents ; their private quar- 
rels were fomented by an insidious 
adversary : and the Koreish, deserted 

L ife of Mahomet. 145 

oy their allies, no longer hoped to sub- 
vert the throne, or to check the con- 
quests, of their invincible exile. 

The choice of Jerusalem for the first 
kebla of prayer discovers the early pro- 
pensity 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 Mes- 
siah. 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. 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 re- 
ligion, or contend with him in battle. 
u Alas," replied the trembling Jews, 

146 Life of Mahomet. 

" we are ignorant of the use of arms, 
but we persevere in the faith and wor- 
ship of our fathers ; why wilt thou re- 
duce us to the necessity of a just de- 
fence ? " The unequal conflict was ter- 
minated 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 con- 
fiscated, their arms became more effec- 
tual in the hands of the Musulmans ; 
and a wretched colony of seven hun- 
dred 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 res- 
olute defence obtained an honorable 
capitulation ; and the garrison, sounding 
their trumpets and beating their drums, 

£if e of Mahomet. 147 

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 t]).e hostile race of the 
children of Koraidha. After a resist- 
ance of twenty-five days, they sur- 
rendered 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, pro- 
nounced 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 en- 
emies. Their sheep and camels were 

148 Life of Mahomet, 

inherited by the Musulmans : three 
hundred cuirasses, five hundred pikes, 
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 Chai- 
bar, was the seat of the Jewish power 
in Arabia : the territory, a fertile spot 
in the desert, was covered with planta- 
tions 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 

Life of Mahomet. 149 

gigantic stature was cloven to the 
chest by his irresistible scymitar ; but 
we cannot praise the modesty of ro- 
mance, which represents him as tearing 
from its hinges the gate of a fortress, 
and wielding the ponderous buckler in 
his left hand. After the reduction of 
the castles, the town of Chaibar sub- 
mitted 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 re- 
warded with a precarious toleration : 
they were permitted, so long as it 
should please the conqueror, to im« 
prove their patrimony, in equal shares, 
for his emolument and their own. Un- 
der the reign of Omar, the Jews of 
Chaibar were transplanted to Syria ; 
and the caliph alleged the injunction 
of his dying master, that one and the 

160 Life of Jfahomet. 

true religion should be professed in his 
native laud of Arabia. 

Five times each day the eyes of 
Mahomet were turned towards Mecca, 
and he was urged by the most sacred 
and powerful motives to revisit, as a 
conqueror, the city and 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 pilgri- 
mage : seventy camels chosen and be- 
decked for sacrifice, preceded the van ; 
the sacred territory was respected ; 
and the captives were dismissed with- 
out ransom to proclaim his clemency 
and devotion. But no sooner did Ma- 
homet descend into the plain, within a 

Life of Mahomet. 151 

day's journey of the city, than he ex- 
claimed, "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 aud cautious politi- 
cian : he waved in the treaty his title 
of apostle of God, 1 concluded with the 
Koreish and their allies a truce of ten 
years, engaged to restore the fugitives 
of Mecca who should embrace his re- 
ligion, and stipulated only, for the en- 
suing 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 Musulmans, and their disap- 

1 He struck out the title with his own hand, as Ali had 
•tfused to do it. (Weil, p. 178.)— S. 

152 Life of Mahomet. 

pointment might justly accuse the fail- 
ure 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 Mec- 
ca : their swords were sheathed : seven 
times in the footsteps of the apostle 
they encompassed the Caaba : the Ko- 
reish had retired to the hills, and Ma- 
homet, after the customary sacrifice, 
evacuated the city on the fourth day. 
The people was edified by his devotion ; 
the hostile chiefs were awed, or divid- 
ed, or seduced ; and both Caled and 
Amrou, the future conquerors of Syria 
and Egypt, most seaonably 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 

1 The expedition of Mahomet against Mecca took place 
In the 10th Ramadhan of the 8th Hegira (1 Jan. 6S0). (Weil, 
p. 212.)— S. 

Life of Mahomet. 153 

idolaters, the weaker party, were easily 
convicted of violating the truce. En- 
thusiasm 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 So- 
phian presented the keys of the city ; 
admired the variety of arms and en- 
signs that passed before him in review ; 
observed that the son of Abdallah had 
acquired a mighty kingdom ; and con- 
fessed, under the scymitar of Omar, that 
he was the apostle of the true God. 
The return of Marias and Sylla was 
stained with the blood of the Romans : 
the revenge of Mahomet was stimulated 
by religious zeal, and his injured follow- 
ers were eager to execute or to prevent 
the order of a massacre. Instead of 
indulging their passions and his own, 
the victorious exile forgave the guilt, 

154 Life of Mahomet. 

and united the factions of Mecca. His 
troops, in three divisions, marched into 
the city : eight and twenty of the in- 
habitants were slain by the sword of 
Caled ; x eleven men and six women 
were proscribed by the sentence of i 
Mahomet ; 2 but he blamed the cruelty 

1 These men — their numbers are variously given at less 
and more — were slain on the hill called Chandama, before 
the entrance of Chaled into the city, which they had op- 
posed. It was on a different occasion that Chaled incurred 
the censure of Mahomet. The prophet had sent him on an 
expedition to the province of Tehama, and, on passing 
through the territory of the Beni Djasima, Chaled caused a 
considerable number of them to be put to death, although 
they were already Musulmans. Unfortunately, when re- 
quired to confess their faith, they had, from ancient cus- 
tom, used the word Saba' na, (converts or renegades,) in- 
stead of the usual Moslem expression, Aslamna. On hear- 
ing of the act, Mahomet raised his hands to heaven, and ex- 
claimed, " God, I am pure before thee, and have taken 
no part in Chaled's deed.'' Mahomet compensated the Beni 
Djasima for the plaughter of their kinsmen ; but the ser- 
vices of Chaled obliged him to overlook his offence. (Weil, 
p. 230.)— S. 

2 Eleven men and four women ; but the sentence was 
executed only on three of the former and one of the latter. 
(Weil, p. 220.) Mahomet remained two or three weeks in 
Mecca, during which he sent his captains to destroy the 
idols in the surrounding country, and to summon the Ara- 
bians ti> submission and belief. (Weil, p. 228.— S.) 

JJif e of Mahomet, 155 

of his lieutenant; and several of the 
most obnoxious victims were indebted 
for their lives to his clemency or con- 
tempt. The chiefs of the Koreish 
were prostrate at his feet. " What 
mercy can yon expect from the man 
whom you have wronged ? " " We con- 
fide in the generosity of our kinsman." 
" And you shall not confide in vain : 
begone ! your 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 fugi- 
tive missionary was enthroned as the 
prince and prophet of his native conn- 
try. 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 du- 
ties of a pilgrim ; and a perpetual law 
was enacted that no unbeliever should 

156 Life of Mahomet, 

dare to set his foot on the territory of 
the holy city. 

The conquest of Mecca determined 
the faith and obedience of the Arabian 
tribes ; who, according to the vicissi- 
tudes of fortune, had obeyed, or disre- 
garded, the eloquence or the arms of 
the pi;opliet. 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 Ho- 
nain derived a proper appellation from 
the idols, whom Mahomet had vowed to 
destroy, and whom the confederates of 
Tayef had sworn to defend. Four thou- 
sand pagans advanced with secrecy and 
speed to surprise the conqueror : they 
pitied and despised the supine negli- 
gence of the Koreish, but they depended 
on the wishes, and perhaps the aid, of 

Life of Mahomet. 15*7 

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 in- 
creased the strength or numbers of the 
army, and twelve thousand Musul- 
mans entertained a rash and sinful pre- 
sumption of their invincible strength. 
They descended without precaution into 
the valley of Honain : the heights had 
been occupied by the archers and sling- 
ers of the confederates ; their numbers 
were oppressed, their discipline was 
confounded, their courage was appalled, 
and the Koreish smiled at their im- 
pending destruction. The prophet on 
his white mule, was encompassed by the 
enemies : he attemped 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 

158 Life of Mahomet. 

feet : " O my brethren," he repeatedly 
cried with sorrow and indignation, "1 
am the son of Abdallah, I am the apos- 
tle of truth ! O man, stand fast in the 
faith ! O God, send down thy suc- 
cor!" 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 re- 
kindled : his conduct and example re- 
stored 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 Mecea, a for- 
tress of strength, whose fertile lands 
produce the fruits of Syria in the 
midst of the Arabian desert. A friend- 

Life of Mahomet. 15G 

]y 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 law T s 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 tri- 
umph, and affected to pray for the re- 
pentance and safety of the unbelieving 
city. The spoil of this fortunate expe- 
dition amounted to six thousand cap- 
tives, twenty-four thousand camels, 
forty thousand sheep, and four thousand 
ounces of silver : a tribe who had fought 
at Honain redeemed their prisoners by 
the sacrifice of their idols : but Mahomet 
compensated the loss, by resigning to 

160 Life of Mahomet. 

the soldiers his iiftli of the plunder, 
and wished, for their sake, that he pos- 
sessed 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 So- 
phian alone was presented with three 
hundred camels and twenty ounces of 
silver ; and Mecca was sincerely con- 
verted to the profitable religion of the 

The fugitives and auxiliaries com- 
plained, that they who had borne the 
burthen were neglected in the season 
of victory. " Alas," replied their art- 
ful leader, " suffer me to conciliate these 
recent enemies, these doubtful prose- 
lytes, by the gift of some perishable 
goods. To your guard I intrust my 
life and fortunes. You are the com- 

Life of Mahomet. 161 

panions of ray exile, of my kingdom, 
of my paradise." 1 He was followed by 
the deputies of Tayef, who dreaded the 
repetition of a siege. 2 u Grant us, O 

1 Weil gives this address of Mahomet's differently (from 
the Insan Al Ujtm, and Sirat Arrasul), observing that it has 
not before been presented to the European reader. His ver- 
sion is as follows : — ' : Were ye not wandering in the paths 
of error when I came unto you, and was it not through me 
»that you obtained the guidance of God ? Were ye not poor, 

and are ye not now rich ? Were ye not at variance, and are 
ye not now united ? " They answered, " Surely, O Prophet 
of God, thou hast overloaded us with benefits." Mahomet 
proceeded : — " Lo ! ye auxiliaries, if ye would, ye might 
with all truth object to me. Thou earnest to us branded for 
a liar, yet we believed in thee ; as a persecutor, and wo pro- 
tected thee ; as a fugitive, and we harbored thee ; as one in 
need of assistance, and we supported thee. Yet such are 
not your thoughts; how, then, can ye find fault with me be- 
cause I have given a few worldly toys to some persons in 
order to win their hearts? Are ye not content, ye auxilia- 
ries, if these people return home with sheep and camels, 
whilst ye return with the prophet of God in the midst of 
you ? By him in whose hand is Mohammed's soul, were it 
not the reward of the fugitives, I should wish to belong to 
you ; and, when all the world went one way and you 
another, I would choose yours. God be merciful unto you, 
and to your children, and your children's children ! " At 
lhese words the auxiliaries sobbed aloud, and exclaimed, 
44 We are content with our lot." (Weil, p. 241.)— S. 

2 The deputation from Taif, as well as from innumerable 
other tribes, for the most part to tender their submission, 


162 -Life of Mahomet. 

apostle of God ! a truce of three years, 
with the toleration of our ancient wor- 
ship." "Not a month, not an hour.' 5 
" Excuse ns at least from the obliga- 
tion of prayer." " Without prayer re- 
ligion is of no avail." They submitted 
in silence : their temples were demol- 
ished, and the same sentence of destruc- 
tion was executed on all the idols of 
Arabia. His lieutenants, on the shores 
of the Red Sea, the ocean, and the gull 
of Persia, were saluted by the acclama- 
tions of a faithful people ; and the am- 
bassadors 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 

took place in the following year, which, on this account, has 
been called "the year of deputations." (See Weil, p. 243, 

Life of Mahomet. 163 

alms and tithes were applied to the ser- 
vice of religion ; and one hundred and 
fourteen thousand Moslems accompa- 
nied the last pilgrimage of the apostle.' 
When Heraclius returned in tri- 
umph from the Persian war, he enter 
tained, at Emesa, one of the ambassa- 
dors of Mahomet, who invited the 
princes and nations of the earth to the 
profession of Islam. On this founda- 
tion the zeal of the Arabians has sup- 
posed the secret conversion of the Chris- 
tian emperor ; the vanity of the Greeks 
has feigned a personal visit to the prince 
of Medina, who accepted from the royal 
bounty a rich domain, and a secure 
retreat in the province of Syria. But 
the friends) lip of Heraclius and Ma- 
homet was of short continuance : the 
new religion had inflamed rather than 

1 The more probable traditions mention 40,000. This, 
the last pilgrimage of Mahomet, took place in the tenth year 
tf the Uegira. (Weil, ch. 8.)— S. 

164 Life of Mahomet. 

assuaged the rapacious spirit of the 
Saracens ; and the murder of an envoy 
afforded a decent pretence for invad- 
ing, 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 
w r as the discipline or enthusiasm of the 
rising sect, that the noblest chiefs serv- 
ed without reluctance under the slave 
of the prophet. On the <e vent of his de- 
cease, Jaafar and Abdallah were suc- 
cessively 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, the first mil- 
itary action which tried the valor of 
the Moslems against a foreign enemy. 
Zeid fell, like a soldier, in the fore- 
most ranks : the death of Jaafar was 
heroic and memorable : he lost his 
nght-hand : he shifted .the standard to 

Life of Mahomet. J 65 

his left : the left was severed from his 
body : he embraced the standard with 
his bleeding stumps, till he was trans- 
fixed to the ground with fifty honor- 
able wounds. " Advance," cried Ab- 
dallah, who stepped into the vacant 
place, "advance with confidence : either 
victory or paradise is our own." The 
lance of a Roman decided the alterna- 
tive; but the falling standard was res- 
cued 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 
vf God. In the pulpit, Mahomet de- 
scribed, with prophetic rapture, the 

166 Life of Mahomet. 

crowns of the blessed martyrs ; but in 
private he betrayed the feelings of hu- 
man 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, 1 the sovereign of Arabia affected 
to prevent the hostile preparations of 
Heraclius ; and solemnly proclaimed 
war against the Romans, without at- 
tempting to disguise the hardships and 
dangers of the enterprise. The Mos- 
lems were discouraged : they alleged 
the want of money, or horses, or provis- 
ions ; the season of harvest, and the in- 
tolerable heat of the summer : " Hell 

1 The battle of Muta took place before the conquest of 
Mecca, as Gibbon here rightly assumes, though Von Ham- 
mer places it after that event. (Weil, p. 206, note 318.) 
Weil supposes that the defeat of the Musulmans on that 
occasion encouraged the Meccans to violate the truce. (lb.. 
V. SQL)— S. 

Life of Mahomet. 167 

is much hotter," said the indignant 
prophet. He disdained to compel their 
service : but on his return he admon- 
ished the most guilty, by an excommu- 
nication of fifty days. Their desertion 
enhanced the merit of Abubeker, th- 
in an, 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 the same 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 
ihat place Mahomet declined the pros- 
ecution of the war : he declared himself 

168 Life of Mahomet. 

satisfied with the peaceful intentions, 
he was more probably daunted by the 
martial array, of the emperor of the 
East. 1 But the active and intrepid Ca- 
led spread around the terror of his 
name ; and the prophet received the 
submission of the tribes and cities, 

1 The expedition of Tabuc was undertaken in the month 
of Radjab of the ninth year of the Hegira (A. D. 631). Ma- 
homet's more devoted friends gave a great part of their sub- 
stance towards defraying its expenses. Abu Bekr gave 
the whole of his property, consisting of 4,000 drachms; 
and when Mahomet inquired, " What then hast thou left 
for thy family '? " he answered, " God and his prophet. 1 ' 
The traditions vary exceedingly respecting the number of 
the army assembled on this occasion. Thirty thousand ia 
the lowest number assigned ; but even this is probably ex- 
aggerated, and a large part deserted at the commencement 
of the march. (Weil, Mahorn , p. 260.) When Mahomet, at 
Tabuc, consulted his companions as to the further prosecu- 
tion of the enterprise, Omar said, " If you ar'j commanded 
by God to go farther, do it." Mahomet answered, " If I had 
the command of God, I should not ask your advice. 1 ' Omar 
replied, "O prophet of God! the Gieeks are a numerous 
people, and there is not a single Musulman among them. 
Moreover we have already nearly approached them, and 
your neighborhood has struck them with terror. This year, 
therefore, let us return, till you find it convenient to under- 
take another 'ampaign against them, or till God offers some 
opportunity." (Weil, note 405.) — S. 

Life of Mahomet. 169 

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 wor 
ship. The weakness of their Arabian 
brethren had restrained them from op- 
posing 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 

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; 1 

1 The opinioD, however, of modern Oriental scholars 
sends the other way. Dr. Sprenger (p. 77) shows, on the 
authority of Ibn Ishac, that Mahomet, whilst still an infant 
«nder the care of his footer mother, had an attack which at 

170 Life of Mahomet. 

but lie seriously believed that he was 
poisoned at Chaibar by the revenge of 
a Jewish female. 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 con 
scious of his clanger, he edified his breth- 
ren by the humility of his virtue or peni- 
tence. " If there be any man," said the 
apostle from the pulpit, u whom I have 
unjustly scourged, I submit my own 
back to the lash of retaliation. Have I 
aspersed the reputation of a Musulman ? 
let him proclaim my faults in the face 
of the congregation. Has any one been 

all events very much resembled epilepsy. Three other fits 
are recorded (lb. p. 78, note 4). Dr. Weil (Mohammed, p. 
26, note 11) remarks that the word Ussiba, which Abulfeda 
uses with regard to Mahomet, is particularly used of epilep- 
tic attacks. The same author has collected several instances 
of these fits, (lb. p. 42, note 48, and in the Journal Asiat- 
Ique, Juillet, 1842,) and is of opinion that his visions were, 
l)T the nost part, connected with them. — S. 

Life of Mahomet. 171 

despoiled of his goods ? the little that I 
possess shall compensate the principal 
and the interest of the debt." w Yes," 
replied a voice from the crowd, "I am 
entitled to three drachms 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 be 
.held with temperate firmness the ap- 
proach 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 func- 
tion 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 


172 Life of Mahomet. 

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, 1 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 al- 
lowed 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 lastmo- 

1 The tradition seems to be doubtful ; but, if true, it 
proves, as Dr. Weil remarks, Mahomet's ability to write. 
There is no authority for Gibbon's addition, " or, more 
properly, to dictate," which seems to be a salvo for his own 
theory. According to one version he said, "Bring me 
parchment, or a table, I will write something for Abu Bekr, 
jn order that nobody may oppose him." (Weil, p. 330 and 
note 526.) 

Gagnier, whom Gibbon follows, has erroneously trans- 
lated "book." It was only a short paper that Mahomet 
wished to write, probably to name his successor. (lb. note 

Life of Mahomet. 173 

ments of his life, the dignity of an apos- 
tle, and the faith of an enthusiast ; de- 
scribed 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 dis- 
course 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 : 
u O God ! . . pardon my sins . . Yes, . . 
[ come, . . . among my fellow-citizens 

174 Life of Mahomet, 

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 espe- 
cially the house of the prophet, was a 
scene of clamorous sorrow or silent 
despair : fanaticism alone could suggest 
a ray of hope and consolation. "How 
can he be dead, our witness, our inter- 
cessor, our mediator with God ? By God 
he is not dead : like Moses and Jesus 
he is wrapt in a holy trance, and speed- 
ily will he return to his faithful people." 
The evidence of sense was disregarded ; 
and Omar, unsheathing his scymitar, 
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 mod- 
eration of Abubeker. " Is it Mahom- 

Life of Mahomet. 175 

et, " said lie to Omar and the multitude, 
" or the God of Mahomet, whom you 
worship ? The God of Mahomet liveth 
for ever ; but the apostle was a mortal 
like ourselves, and according to his own 
prediction, he lias experienced the com- 
mon fate of mortality." 1 He was pious- 
ly interred by the hands of his nearest 
kinsman, on the same spot on which he 
expired. 2 a Medina has been sanctified 

1 After this address Abu Bekr read the following Terse 
from the Koran: — "Mohammed is only a prophet; many 
prophets have departed before him ; will ye then, when he 
has been slain, or died a natural death, turn upon your heels 
(i. e. forsake his creed)? He who does this cannot harm 
God, but God rewards those who are thankful.'' 1 (Sura iii. 
v. 144.) The people seemed never to have heard of this 
verse, yet they accepted it from Abu Bekr, and it ran from 
mouth to mouth. Omar himself was so struck when he 
heard it that he fell to the ground, and perceived that Ma- 
homet was dead. Weil (p. 333) observes that this anecdote, 
wl.ich is important to a critical view of the Koran, is en- 
tirely new to Europeans. — S. 

2 That is, in the house of his wife Ayesha; but after the 
enlargement of the mosque by the chalif Walid, his grave 
was comprehended within its walls. (Weil, p. 339.)— S. 

* The Greeks and Latins have in rented and propagated 
the vulgar and ridiculous story that Mahomet's iron tomb 
is suspended in the air at Mecca (o^/na jueTewpt (ofievop. 

176 Life of Mahomet. 

by the death and burial of Mahomet ; 
and the innumerable pilgrims of Mecca 
often turn aside from the way, to bow, 
in voluntary devotion, before the simple 
tomb of the prophet. 

At the conclusion of the life of Ma- 
homet, it may perhaps be expected, 
that I should balance his faults and vir- 
tues, that I should decide whether the 
title of enthusiast or impostor more 
properly belongs to that extraordinary 
man. Had I been intimately conver- 
sant with the son of Abdallah, the task 
would still be difficult, and the success 

Laonicns Chalcocondyles de Rebus Turcicis, 1. iii. p. 66.) by 
the action of equal and potent loadstones, (Dictionnaire de 
Bayle, Mahomet, Rem. EE. FF.) Without any philosophi- 
cal 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. (Re- 
laud, de Relisc Moham. 1. ii. c 19. p. 209-211.) Gagnier. 
(Vie de Mahomet, torn. iii. p. 263-268.) 1 

1 Most of the biographers of Mahomet state that he died 
on Monday the 12th Rabia-1-Awwl, in the year 11 of the 
negira, which answers to the 7th of June, A. D. 632. This, 
however, fell on a Sunday, but, as a contemporary poem 
menliuns Monday as the day of his death, it is probable that 
a mistake has been made in the day of the month, and that 
ae died on the 8th of June, (Weil, p. 331.)— S. 

Life of Mahomet. 177 

uncertain : at the distance of twelve 
centuries, I darkly contemplate his 
shade through a cloud of religious in- 
cense ; and could I truly delineate the 
portrait of an hour, the fleeting resem- 
blance 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 revo* 
lution appears to have been endowed 
with a pious and contemplative dispo- 
sition : 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 na- 
ture and reason ; and a slight conver- 
sation 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 

178 Life of Mahomet. 

doctrine of salvation, to rescue his 
country from the dominion of sin and 
error. The energy of a mind inces- 
santly bent on the same object, would 
convert a general obligation into a par- 
ticular 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 sen- 
sation, the invisible monitor, would be 
described with tbe form and attributes 
of an angel of God. From enthusiasm 
to imposture, the step is perilous and 
slippery ; the daemon of Socrates af- 
fords 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 benevo- 

Life of Mahomet. 1*79 

lence ; but a human missionary is in- 
capable of cherishing the obstinate un- 
believers who reject his claims, despise 
his arguments, and persecute his life ; 
he might forgive his personal adver- 
saries, he might lawfully hate the ene- 
mies of G-od ; the stern passions of pride 
and revenge were kindled in the bosom 
of Mahomet, and he sighed, like the 
prophet of Nineveh, for the destruc- 
tion of the rebels whom he had con- 
demned. 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 ex- 
ample of the saints ; and the same God 
who afflicts a sinful world with pesti- 
lence and earthquakes, might inspire 
for their conversion or chastisement 
the valor of his servants. In the ex- 
ercise of political government, he was 
compelled to abate of the stern rigor 

180 Eife of Mahomet, 

of fanaticism, to comply in some meas- 
ure 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 vir- 
tues which are necessarv 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 secret- 
ly smiled (the victorious impostor!) at 
the enthusiasm of his youth, and the 

Life of Mahomet. 181 

credulity of his proselytes. A philos- 
opher will observe, that their credu- 
lity 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 sooth- 
ed by the persuasion, that he alone was 
absolved by the Deity from the obliga- 
tion of positive and moral laws. If he 
retained any vestige of his native inno- 
cence, the sins of Mahomet may be al- 
lowed 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 foul- 
ness 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 de- 
cree of Mahomet, that, in the sale of 
captives, the mothers should never be 

182 Life of Mahomet. 

separated from their children, may sus- 
pend, or moderate, the censure of the 
historian. 1 

The good sense of Mahomet despised 
the pomp of royalty ; the apostle of 
God submitted to the menial offices of 
the family ; he kindled the lire, swept 
the floor, milked the ewes, and mended 

1 It may be remarked that, in estimating Mahomefa 
character, Gibbon entirely leaves out of sight his physical 
temperament. Thus he indignantly rejects the accounts of 
his epileptic seizures, and everywhere directs his attention 
to the moral qualities of the prophet, either as a philosophi- 
cal and contemplative enthusiast, or, as he seems to con- 
sider him in the latter part of his career, as a political im- 
postor. Yet the physical constitution of Mahomet was of 
bo peculiar a kind, that it can hardly be passed over in a 
complete and accurate sketch of his character, upon which 
it must have undoubtedly exercised a wonderful influence ; 
and we have, therefore, inserted the following interesting 
details from the pages of Dr. Sprenger : — 

" The temperament of Mohammed was melancholic and 
In the highest degree nervous. He was generally low-spir- 
ited, thinking, and restless ; and he spoke little, and never 
without necessity. His eyes were mostly cast on the ground, 
\nd he seldom raised them towards heaven. The excite- 
ment under which he composed the more poetical Suras of 
the Koran was so great, that he said that they had caused 
him grey hair; his lips were quivering and his hands shak- 
ing whilst he received the inspirations. An offensive smell 
made him so uncomfortable, that he forbad persons who had 

Life of Mahomet. 183 

with his own hands his shoes and his 
woollen garments. Disdaining the 
penance and merit of a hermit, he ob- 
served, without effort or vanity, the 
abstemious diet of an Arab and a sol- 
eaten garlic or onions to come into his place of worship. In 
a man of semi-barbarous habits this is remarkable. He had 
a woollen garment, and was obliged to throw it away when 
it began to smell of perspiration, on account of his delicate 
constitution. When he was taken ill, he sobbed like a wo- 
man in hysterics — or, as Ayesha says, he roared like a cam- 
el ; and his friends reproached him for his unmanly bearing. 
During the battle of Bedr, his nervous excitement seems to 
have bordered on frenzy. The faculties of his mind were 
very unequally developed ; he was unfit for the common 
duties of life, and, even after his mission, he was led in all 
practical questions by his friends. But he had a vivid im- 
agination, the greatest elevation of mind, refined senti- 
ments, and a taste for the sublime. Much as he disliked the 
name, he was a poet; and a harmonious language and sub- 
lime lyric constitute the principal merits of the Koran. His 
mind dwelt constantly on the contemplation of God ; he 
gaw his finger in the rising sun, in the falling rain, in the 
growing crop; he heard his voice in the thunder, in tho 
murmuring of the waters, and in the hymns which tho 
birds sing to his praise ; and in the lonely deserts and ruins 
of ancient cities he saw the traces of his anger." (Life of 
Mohammed, p. 89.) " The mental excitement of the prophet 
was much increased during the fatrah (intermission of reve- 
lations); and, like the ardent scholar in one of Schiller's 
joems, who dared to lift the veil of truth, he was nearly an- 
nihilated by the light which broke in upon him. He usu» 


184 Life of Mahomet. 

dier. On solemn occasions he feasted 
his companions with rustic and hospi- 
table plenty ; but in his domestic life, 
many weeks would elapse without a 
fire being kindled on the hearth of the 

ally wandered about in the hills near Mecca, and was so ab- 
sent, that on one occasion his wife, being afraid that he was 
lost, sent men in search of him. He suffered from halluci- 
nations of his senses ; and, to finish his sufferings, he several 
times contemplated suicide, by throwing himself down from 
a precipice. His friends were alarmed at his state of mind. 
Some considered it as the eccentricities of a poetical genius; 
others thought that he was a kahin, or soothsayer; but the 
majority took a less charitable view, and declared that ho 
was insane; and as madness and melancholy are ascribed to 
supernatural influence in the East, they said that he was in 
the power of Satan and his agents the jinn. 11 (lb. p. 105.) 
" One day, whilst he was wandering about in the hills near 
Mecca, with the intention of destroying himself, he heard a 
voice, and on raising his head he beheld Gabriel between 
heaven and earth ; and the angel assured him that he was 
the prophet of God. Frightened by this apparition, he re- 
turned home, and, feeling unwell, he called for covering. He 
had a fit, and they poured cold water upon him, and when 
he was recovering from it he received the revelation: — 'O 
thou covered, arise aud preach, and magnify thy Lord, and 
cleanse thy garment, and fly every abomination ; 1 and 
henceforth, we are told, he received revelations without in- 
termission, that is to say, the fatrah was at an end, and he 
assumed his office.'" (p. 109.) " Some authors consider the 
fits of the prophet as the principal evidence of his mission, 
and it is, therefore, necessary to say a few words on them, 

Life of Mahomet, 185 

prophet. The interdiction of wine was 
confirmed bj his example ; his hunger 
was appeased with a sparing allowance 
of barely-bread : he delighted in the taste 
of milk and honey ; but his ordinary 
food consisted of dates and water. Per- 
fumes and women were the two sensual 
enjoyments which his nature required, 
and his religion did not forbid ; and 
Mahomet affirmed, that the fervor of 

They were preceded by great depression of spirits, and hia 
face was clouded ; and they were ushered in by coldness of 
the extremities and shivering. He shook as if he were suf- 
fering from ague, and called out for covering. His mind 
was in a most painfully excited state. He heard a tinkling 
in his ears as if bells were ringing, or a humming as if bees 
were swarming round his head, and his lips quivered, but 
this motion was under the control of volition. If the at- 
tack proceedod beyond this stance, his eyes became fixed and 
staring, and the motions of his head convulsive and auto- 
matic. At length perspiration broke out, which covered his 
face in large drops ; and with this ended the attack. Some- 
times, however, if he had a violent fit. he fell comatose to 
the ground, like a person who is intoxicated; and (at least at 
a later period of his life) his face was flushed, and his res- 
piration stertorous, and he remained in that state for some 
time. The bystanders .sprinkled water in his face: but he 
himself fancied that he would derive a great benefit from 
i>cing cupped on the head." (lb. p. 111.) — S. 

186 Life of Mahomet. 

his devotion was increased by these in- 
nocent pleasures. The heat of the cli- 
mate inflames the blood of the Arabs, 
and their libidinous complexion has been 
noticed bj the writers of antiquity. 
Their incontinence was regulated by 
the civil and religious laws of the 
Koran; their incestuous alliances were 
blamed ; the boundless licence of po- 
lygamy was reduced to four legitimate 
wives or concubines ; their rights both 
of bed and dowry were equitably de- 
termined ; the freedom of divorce was 
discouraged ; adultery was condemned 
as a capital offence ; and fornication, in 
either sex, was punished with a hun- 
dred stripes. Such were the calm and 
rational precepts of the legislator; but 
in his private conduct, Mahomet, in- 
dulged 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 

Life of Mahomet, 187 

nation ; the female sex, without re- 
serve, 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 Musulmans. If we remember 
the seven hundred wives and three 
hundred concubines of the wise Solo- 
mon, we shall applaud the modesty of 
the Arabian, who espoused no more 
than seventeen or fifteen wives ; eleven 
are enumerated who occupied at Me- 
dina their separate apartments round 
the house of the apostle, and enjoyed 
in their turns the favor of his conju- 
gal society. What is singular enough, 
they were all widows, excepting only 
Ayesha, the daughter of Abubeker. 
She was doubtless a virgin, since Ma- 
homet 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 

138 Life of Mahomet. 

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 in- 
discreet : in a nocturnal march she 
was accidentally left behind ; and in 
the morning Ayesha returned to the 
camp with a man. The temrjer of Ma- 
homet 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. 1 In his adven- 
tures with Zeineb, the wife of Zeid, and 

1 This law, however, related only to accusations by 
strangers. By a subsequent law (Sura 24, v. 6-10) a hus- 
band who suspected his wife might procure a divorce by 
taking four oaths to the truth of his charge, and a fifth in- 
voking God's curse upon himself if he had sworn falsely. 
The woman escaped punishment if she took an oath of the 
same description. (Weil, p. 273.) — S. 

Life of 31 'a hornet. 189 

with Mary, an Egyptian captive, the 
amorous prophet forgot the interest of 
his reputation. At the house of Zeid, 
his freed man and adopted son, he be- 
held, in a loose undress, the beauty of 
Zeinib, and burst forth into an ejacula- 
tion of devotion and desire. The ser- 
vile, or grateful, freed man 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 prophet for distrusting 
the indulgence of his God. One of his 
wives, Hatha, 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 pos- 
session of Mary. Both parties forgot 
their engagements ; and Gabriel again 

190 I*if& of Mahomet, 

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 di- 
vorce, 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 in- 
continence of Mahomet may be palli- 
ated by the tradition of his natural or 
preternatural gift ; he united the manly 
virtue of thirty of the children of Adam ; 
and the apostle might rival the thir- 
teenth labor of the Grecian Hercules. 

Life of Mahomet. 191 

» ■ 

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 ab- 
stained 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 per- 
fect 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 inso- 
lence 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 re- 
lieved my wants, when I was poor and 
persecuted by the world." 

In the largest indulgence of polygamy, 
the founder of a religion and empire 

192 Life of Mahomet. 

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 b} r 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, be- 
came the wife of her cousin Ali, and 

Life of Mahomet. 193 

the mother of an illustrious progeny. 
The merit and misfortunes of AM and 
his descendants will lead me to antici- 
pate, 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 

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 Ara- 
bia. 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 bless- 

1 The most valuable work since Gibbon's time upon the 
history of the Caliphs is Weil's " Geschichte der Chalifen, 11 
(Mannheim, 3 vols. 8vo. 1S46, seq.,) founded upon original 
sources. This work is referred to in subsequent notes under 
*he name of Weil.— S. 


194 Life of llahomet. 

ing of her father : the Arabs had some- 
times 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 para- 
dise. The first of the true believers 
might aspire to march before them in 
(his 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 pro- 
selyte. He united the qualifications 
of a poet, a soldier, and a saint : his 
wisdom still breathes in a collection of 
moral and religions sayings ; 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 for- 
saken by a generous friend, whom he 
delighted to name his brother, his vice- 

Life of Mahomet. 195 

gerent, and the faithful Aaron of a 
second Moses. The son of Abu Taleb 
was afterwards reproached for neglect- 
ing to secure his interest by a solemn 
declaration of his right, which would 
have silenced all competition, and seal- 
ed his succession by the decrees of 
Heaven. But the unsuspecting hero 
confided in himself: the jealousy of 
empire, and perhaps the fear of opposi- 
tion, 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. 1 

1 Gibbon wrote chiefly from the Arabic or Sunnite ac- 
count of these transactions, the only sources accessible at 
the time when he composed his history. Major Price, writ- 
ing 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 ac- 
counts, designated, for the caliphate by the prophet ; but 
while the others were fiercely pushing their own interests, 
A.H was watching the remains of Mahomet with pious fidel- 
ty. His disinterested magnanimity, on each separate occa- 
ion, declined the sceptre, and gave the noble example of 

196 Life of Mahomet. 

The silence and death of the prophet 
restored the liberty of the people ; and 
his companions covened an assembly 
to deliberate on the choice of his succes- 
sor. The hereditary claim and lofty 
spirit of Ali, were offensive to an 
aristocracy of elders, desirous of be- 
stowing and resuming the sceptre by a 
free and frequent election : the Koreish 
could never be reconciled to the proud 
pre-eminence of the line of Hashem : 
the ancient discord of the tribes was re- 
kindled : the fugitives of Mecca and the 
auxiliaries of Medina asserted their re- 
spective merits ; and the rash proposal 

obedience to the appointed Caliph. He is described in re- 
tirement, on the throne, and in the field of battle, as trans- 
cendency 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 sub- 
mission to the decrees of fate. 

Compare the curious account of this apathy in Price, 
chap. 2. It is to be regretted, I must add, that Major Price 
has contented himself with quoting the names of the Per- 
jian works which he follows, without any account of their 
eharacter, age, and authority. — M. 

Life of Mahomet. 197 

of choosing two independent caliphs, 
would have crushed in their infancy the 
religion and empire of the Saracens. 
The tumult was appeased by the dis- 
interested resolution of Omar, who, 
suddenly renouncing his own preten- 
sions, stretched forth his hand, and de- 
clared himself the first subject of the 
mild and venerable Abubeker. The 
urgency of the moment, and the ac- 
quiescence of the people, might excuse 
this illegal and precipitate measure; 
but Omar himself confessed from the 
pulpit, that if any Musulman should 
hereafter presume to anticipate the suf- 
frage of his brethren, both the elector 
and the elected would be worthy of 
death.* After the simple inauguration 

ft Ockley (Hist, of the Saracens, vol. i. p. 5, 6,) from an 
Arabian MS. represents Ayesba as adverse to the substitu- 
tion of her father iu the place of the apostle. 1 

1 The anecdote here mentioned seems to bo an allusion 
eo the following scene, which took place before the death of 
Mahomet. Finding that he had not strength to offer up the 
%vening prayer, the prophet ordered that Abu Bekr should 

198 Life of Mahomet. 

of Abubeker, lie 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, with- 
out listening to the threats of Omar, 
who attempted to consume with lire 
the habitation of the daughter of the 
apostle. The death of Fatima, and the 
decline of his party, subdued the indig- 
nant spirit of Ali : he condescended to 
salute the commander of the faithful, 
accepted his excuse of the necessity of 
subjugating their common enemies, and 
wisely rejected his courteous offer of 
abdicating the government: of the Ara- 

pray in his place; Ayesha, however, several times requested 
that Omar should perform the service, since her father was 
bo touched that he could not pray aloud. But Mahomet 
answered, "Thou art a second Potiphar's wife" — that is, as 
great a hypocrite as she ; since he well knew that she must 
wish her father, and nobody else, by offering up the prayers, 
to appear in a certain degree as his representative. (Weil, 
Mohammed, p. 327.) — 8. 

Life of Mahomet. 199 

bians. After a reign of two years, the 
aged caliphVas 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 ; 2 
who expired with a fervent prayer, that 
the God of Mahomet would ratify his 
choice, and direct the Musulmansinthe 
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 es- 
teem. In the twelfth 3 year of his reign, 

1 Caliph in Arabic means "successor." — S. 

9 Abu Bekr died on the 22d August, 634, after a reign of 
*wo years, three months and a few days. (Weil, vol. i. p. 
16 and 53.)— S. 

8 M&oenth. Gibbon's computation is wrong on his ow n 

200 Life of Mahomet, 

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 succes- 
sor, 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 for sub- 
mitting 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. 1 

showing. Omar's reign lasted ten lunar years, six months, 
and four days. He died on the 3d November, 644. (Weil, 
Vol. i. p. 130, sq.)— S. 

1 This conjecture of Gibbon's is confirmed by Dr. Weil's 
narrative of the election from Arabian authorities (vol. i. p. 
153). The nomination was finally intrusted to Abd Errah- 
man, who had been appointed one of the six electors, but 

Life of Mahomet. 201 

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 in- 
vested, by the popular choice, with the 
regal and sacerdotal office. The man- 
ners 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, cloth- 
ed 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. 

The mischiefs that flow from the con- 

who declined for himself till pretensions to the caliphate. 
He did not, however, discharge his office without first coil' 
Xilting the people. (lb. p. 130, 131, and 150-155.)— S. 

202 Life of Mahomet. 

tests 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 Ilegira, and is still maintained in 
the immortal hatred of the Persians and 
Turks. The former, who are branded 
with the appellation of Shiites or sec- 
taries, have enriched the Mahometan 
creed with a new article of faith ; and 
if Mahomet be the apostle, his com- 
panion Ali is the vicar, of God. In 
their private converse, in their public 
worship, they bitterly execrate the three 
usurpers who intercepted his indefeasi- 
ble right to the dignity of Imam and 
Caliph ; and the name of Omar express- 
es in their tongue the perfect accom- 
plishment of wickedness and impiety. 1 

1 The first sect that arose among the Moslems was a po- 
fitical one, and had for its object the dethronement of Oth- 
man. It was founded in Egypt by Abdallah Ibn Saba, a na- 
tive of Yemen, and of Jewish descent, whom Othman had 

Life of Mahomet. 203 

The Sonnites, who are supported by the 
general consent and orthodox traditions 
of the Musulmans, 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 degrees of sanctity. 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 sin- 
cere ; and that, in the midst of riches 

banished from Medina for finding fault with his govern- 
ment. Abdallah maintained that Ali had been Mahomet's 
assistant, or vizier, and as such was entitled to the caliphate, 
out of which he had been cheated by Abd Errahman. The 
chief article of his speculative belief was that Mahomet 
would return to life, whence his sect was named that oi 
the return." (Weil, vol. i. p. 173, sq.)— 8. 

204 Life of Mahomet. 

and power, their lives were devoted to 
the practice of moral and religious 
duties. But the public virtues of Abu- 
beker and Omar, the prudence of the 
first, the severity of the second, main- 
tained the peace and prosperity of their 
reigns. The feeble temper and declin- 
ing age of Othman were incapable of 
sustaining the weight of conquest and 
empire. He chose, and he was de- 
ceived ; he trusted, and he was betray- 
ed : the most deserving of the faithful 
became useless or hostile to his govern- 
ment, and his lavish bounty was pro- 
ductive only of ingratitude and dis- 
content. The spirit of discord went 
forth in the provinces ; their deputies 
assembled at Medina ; and the Chare- 
gites, the desperate fanatics who dis- 
claimed the yoke of subordination 
and reason, were confounded among 
the free-born Arabs, who demanded 
the redress of their wrongs and 

Life of Mahomet. 205 

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. 1 His 
repentance began to disarm and dis- 
perse the insurgents ; but their fury 
was rekindled by the arts of his ene- 
mies ; and the forgery of a perfidious 
secretary was contrived to blast-' his 
reputation and precipitate his fall. The 

1 The principal complaints of the rebels were that Oth- 
man, on the occasion of his new edition of the Koran— 
which probably contained some alterations — had caused all 
the previous copies to be burned ; that he had enclosed and 
appropriated the best pasturages; that he had recalled Ha- 
kam, who had been banished by Mahomet; that he had ill- 
treated some of the companions of the prophet ; and that he 
had named several young persons as governors merely be- 
cause they were his relations. He was likewise acensed of 
neglecting to tread in the footsteps of his predecessors, as 
he had promised to do at his election ; and on this point 
Abd Errahman himself, who had nominated him, was hi* 
accuser. (Weil, vol. i. p. 178.) — S. 

206 Life of Mahomet. 

caliph had lost the only guard of his 
predecessors, the esteem and confi- 
dence 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 helpless and 
venerable caliph expected the approach 
of death ; the brother of Ayesha 
marched at the head of the assassins ; 
and Othman, 1 with the Koran in his 
lap, was pierced with a multitude of 
wounds. A tumultuous anarchy of 
five days was appeased by tlie inaugu- 
ration 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 

1 Died June 17, 656 Othman was upwards of eighty 
years of age at the time of his death. (Weil, vol. i. p. 185.) 

Life of Mahomet. 207 

rather serve than reign ; rebuked the 
presumption of the strangers, and re 
quired 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 be- 
tween 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 doubt- 
ful 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 magni- 
tude as might stagger and corrupt the 
most obdurate virtue. The ambitious 
candidate no longer aspired to the bar- 
ren sceptre of Arabia ; the Saracens 
had been victorious in the East and 

208 -Eife of Mahomet. 

West ; and the wealthy kingdoms of 
Persia, Syria, and Egypt, were the 
patrimony of the commander of the 

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 be- 
trayed 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 Zo- 
beir, two of the most powerful of the 
Arabian chiefs. They escaped from 
Medina to Mecca, and from thence to 
Bassora ; erected the standard of re- 
volt ; 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 in- 
consistencies ; and the enemies, per 

Life of Mahomet. 209 

haps 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. 1 
The most reasonable Moslems were 
scandalized, that the mother of the 
faithful should expose in a camp her 
person and character ; but the super- 
stitious 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 encoun- 
tered and defeated the superior num- 
bers of the rebels under the walls of 

1 AH is said to have incurred 1 er hatred hy remarking to 

Mahomet, at the time when he was dejected hy his suspi- 

tions of her unfaithfulness — " Why do you take it so much 

to heart? There are plenty more women in the world." 

Weil, vol. i. p. 196.)— S. 


210 Life of Mahomet, 

JBassora. 1 Their leaders, Telha and 
Zobeir, 2 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, Ay- 
esha 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 ; 8 and the cage, or 
litter, in which she sat, was struck with 
javelins and darts like the quills of a 
porcupine. The venerable captive sus- 
tained with firmness the reproaches of 
the conqueror, and was speedily dis- 

1 The reluctance of AH to shed the blood of true believ- 
ers is strikingly described by Major Price's Persian histo- 
rians. (Price, p. 222.) -M. 

2 See (in Price) tbe singular adventures of Zobeir. He 
was murdered after having abandoned the army of the in- 
surgents. 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. 

8 According to Price, two hundred and eighty of the 
.Senni Beianziat alone lost a right hand in this service, p 
i25.— M. 

-£*/£ of Mahomet. 211 

missed to her proper station, at the 
tomb of Mahomet, with the respect 
and tenderness that was still due to the 
widow of the apostle. 1 After this vie* 
tory, which was styled the Day of the 
Camel, 2 Ali marched against a more 
formidable adversary ; against Moawi- 
yah, 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 Thap- 
sacus, the plain of Siffin 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, 

1 She was escorted by a guard of females disguised as 
boldiers. When she discoverd this, Ayesha was as much 
gratified by the delicacy of the arrangement as she had 
^een offended by the familiar approach of so many men. 
(Price, p. 229.)— M. 

1 From the camel which Ayesha rode. (Weil, vol. i. p, 

212 -£«y* e °f Mahomet. 

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 fi ve-and-twenty veterans who had 
fought at Beder, under the standard of 
Mahomet. In this sanguinary contest, 
the lawful 1 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 

1 Weil remarks that it must not be forgotten that the 
history of the first caliphs was collected or forged under the 
reign of the Abassides, with whom it was a life and death 
point to depress Moawiyah and the Ommijahds, and to elevate 
Ali. If all is true that is related in Alfs praise, it is incom- 
prehensible how he should have been set aside by Abu Bekr, 
OrrJii, and Othman, and should not even have been able to 
maintain his ground when named caliph. (Vol. i. p. 254, sq.) 

Life of Mahomet. 213 

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 tu- 
mult 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 waa 
compelled to yield to a disgraceful 
truce and an insidious compromise. He 
retreated with sorrow and indignation 
to Cufa ; his party was discouraged ; 

214 Life of Mahomet. 

the distant provinces of Persia. 1 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 Ma- 
homet. In the temple of Mecca, 
three Charegites, 2 or enthusiasts, dis- 
coursed 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, de- 

1 According to Weil, Ali retained Persia. (Vol. i. p. 247.) 
— S. 

2 Chawarij, or Charijites (deserters, rebels), was the name 
given to all those who revolted from the lawful Imam. 
Gibbon seems here to confound them with the Chazrajites, 
one of the two tribes of Medina. (See above, p. 125.) They 
were divided into six principal sects ; but they all agreed in 
rejecting the authority both of Othman and Ali, and the 
damnation of those caliphs formed their chief tenet. (Weil, 
vol. i. p. 231.) They were very numerous, and had risen 
in open rebellion against Ali, who was obliged to resort to 
force to reduce them to obedience. (lb. p. 237.) — S. 

Life of Mahomet. 215 

voted 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, 1 and mercifully 
recommended to his children, that they 
would despatch the murderer by a 
single stroke. The sepulchre of Ali 
was concealed from the tyrants of the 
house of Ommiyah : but in the fourth 
age of the Hegira, a tomb, a temple, a 
city, arose near the ruins of Cufa. 
Many thousands of the Shiites repose 
in holy ground at the feet of the vicar 
of God ; and the desert is vivified by 

> On the 21st of January, 661, two days after the mortal 
Mow. (Weil, vol. i. p. 250.)— S. 

216 Life of Mahomet. 

the numerous and annual visits of the 
Persians, who esteem their devotion 
not less meritorious than the pilgrim- 
age of Mecca. 

The persecutors of Mahomet usurped 
the inheritance of his children ; and the 
champions of idolatry hecame the su- 
preme heads of his religion and empire. 
The opposition of Abu Sophian had 
been fierce and obstinate ; his conver- 
sion was tardy and reluctant; his new 
faith was fortified by necessity and in- 
terest ; he served, he fought, perhaps 
he believed; and the sins of the time 
of ignorance were expiated by the re- 
cent merits of the family of Ommiyah. 
Moawiyah, the son of Abu Sophian, 
and of the cruel Ilenda, was dignified 
in Ins 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 ad- 
ministered that important province 

-£*A of Mahomet. 217 

above forty years, either in a subordi- 
nate or supreme rank. Without re- 
nouncing the fame of valor and liber- 
ality, he affected the reputation of hu- 
manity and moderation : a grateful peo- 
ple were attached to their benefactor; 
and the victorious Moslems were en- 
riched 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 kins- 
man ; and sixty thousand Syrians were 
engaged in his service by an oath of 
fidelity and revenge. Amrou, the con- 
queror 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. The policy of Moawiyah 

218 Life of Mahomet. 

eluded the valor of his rival ; and, after 
the death of AIL he negotiated the ab- 
dication of his son Hassan, whose mind 
was either above or below the govern- 
ment of the world, and who retired 
without a sigh from the palace of Cnfa 
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 citi- 
zens of Medina refused the oath of 
fidelity ; a but the designs of Moawiyah 

1 These were, Hosein, All's son ; Abd Allah, the son of 
Zubeir; Abd Errahman, son of Abu Bekr; and Abd Allah, 
son of Omar. Moawiyah, having failed in his attempts to 
gain them over, caused them to be seized and led into the 
raosch, each accompanied by two soldiers with drawn 
swords, who were ordered to stab them if they attempted 
to speak. Moawiyah then mounted the pulpit, and, ad- 
dressing the assembly, said that he had seen the necessity of 
having his son's title recognized before his death, but that 
he had not taken this step without consulting the four prin- 
cipal men in Mecca, who were then present, and who had 

Life of Mahomet. 219 

were conducted with vigor and ad- 
dress ; and his son Yezid, a feeble 
and dissolute youth, was proclaimed as 
the commander of the faithful and the 
successor of the apostle of God. 

A familiar story is related of the 
benevolence of one of the sons of Ali. 
In serving at table, a slave had inad- 
vertently dropt a dish of scalding broth 
on his master : the heedless wretch 
fell prostrate, to deprecate his punish- 
ment, and repeated a verse of the 
Koran : " Paradise is for those who 
command their anger : " — u I am not 
angry : " — " and for those who pardon 
offences : " — " I pardon your offence : " 
— u and for those who return good for 
evil : " — " I give you your liberty, and 
four hundred pieces of silver." With 

entirely agreed with his views. He then called upon the 
assembly to do homage to his son; and as the four prisoners 
did not venture to contradict his assertion, Yezid was ac- 
knowledged by those present as Moawiyah's successor. 
<Weil, vol. i. p. 280, sq.)— S. 

220 Life of Mahomet. 

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 primo- 
geniture of the line of Hashem, and the 
holy character of grandson of the apos- 
tle, 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 acknowl- 
edge. A list was secretly transmitted 
from Cufa to Medina, of one hundred 
and forty thousand Moslems, who pro- 
fessed 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 re- 
solved to trust his person and family in 
the hands of a perfidious people. He tra- 
versed the desert of Arabia with a timo 

Life of Mahomet. 221 

rous 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 suspect- 
ed either the defection or ruin of his 
party. His fears were just : Obeidol- 
lah, the governor of Cufa, had extin- 
guished the first sparks of an insurrec- 
tion ; and Hosein, in the plain of Ker- 
bela, 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 thou- 
sand warriors in his defence. In a con- 
ference 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 


222 Life of Mahomet, 

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 resigna- 
tion 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 re- 
turn to their Creator. My brother, my 
father, my mother, were better than 
me, and every Musulman has an ex- 
ample in the prophet." He pressed his 
friends to consult their safety by a 
timely flight : they unanimously refused 

Life of Mahomet. 223 

to desert or survive their beloved mas- 
ter ; 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 faggots, according to 
the practice of the Arabs. The enemy 
advanced with reluctance, and one of 
their chiefs deserted, with thirty fol- 
lowers, to claim the partnership of in- 
evitable death. In every close onset, 
or single combat, the despair of the 
Fati mites was invincible ; but the sur- 
rounding 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 

224 Life of Mahomet. 

sides for the hour of prayer; and the 
battle at length expired by the death 
of the last of the champions 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 
lie uttered a funeral prayer for the liv- 
ing 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 trick- 
led 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, re- 
proached their cowardice ; and the 
grandson of Mahomet was slain with 

L ife of Mahomet. 2 C A 

three and thirty strokes of lances an*] 
swords. After they had trampled on 
his body, they carried his head to the 
castle of Cufa, and the inhuman Obei- 
dollah struck him on the mouth with 
a cane : " Alas ! " exclaimed an aged 
Musulman, "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. On 
th.e annual festival of his martyrdom, 
in the devout pilgrimage to his sepul- 
chre, his Persian votaries abandon 
their souls to the religious frenzy of 
sorrow and indignation. 

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 be- 
yond the hope of reconciliation. But 
Yezid preferred the counsels of mercy ; 

226 Life of Mahomet. 

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, 
or pontiffs, of the Persian creed, are 
Ali, Hassan, Hosein, and the lineal de- 
scendants of Hosein to the ninth gene- 
ration. 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 pro- 
vince 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 de- 
spised the pomp of the world, submit- 
ted 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, 

Life of Mahomet. 227 

conspicuous by the title of Mahadi, 
or the Guide, surpassed the solitude and 
sanctity of his predecessors. He con- 
cealed himself in a cavern near Bagdad : 
the time and place of his death are un- 
known ; and his votaries pretend that 
he still lives, and will appear before the 
day of judgment to overthrow the tyr- 
anny of Dejal, or the Antichrist. In 
the lapse of two or three centuries the 
posterity of Abbas, the uncle of Ma- 
homet, had multiplied to the number of 
thirty-three thousand ; the race of Ali 
might be equally prolific ; the meanest 
individual was above the first and 
greatest of princes ; and the most emi- 
nent were supposed to excel the perfec- 
tion of angels. But their adverse for- 
tune, and the wide extent of the Musul- 
man empire, allowed an ample scope 
for every bold and artful impostor, who 
claimed affinity with the holy seed ; the 
sceptre of the Almohades in Spain and 

228 Life of Mahomet, 

Africa, of the Fatiraites in Egypt and 
Syria, of the sultans of Yemen, and of 
the sophis of Persia, lias been conse- 
crated 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 scymitar : " 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 mer- 
chants, 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, how- 
ever debased by fortune or character, 

Life of Mahomet. 229 

still assert the proud pre-eminence of 
their birth. A family of three hundred 
persons, the pure and orthodox branch 
of the caliph Hassan, is preserved with- 
out taint or suspicion in the holy cities 
of Mecca and Medina, and still retains, 
after the revolutions of twelve centu- 
ries, the custody of the temple and the 
sovereignty of their native land. The 
fame and merrit of Mahomet would en- 
noble the plebeian race, and the ancient 
blood of the Koreish transcends the 
recent majesty of the kings of the 

The talents of Mahomet entitle him 
to our applause, but his success ha9 
perhaps too strongly attracted our ad- 
miration. Are we surprised that a mul- 
titude 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 apostlea 

230 Life of Mahomet. 

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 mon- 
archy 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 op- 
posite 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 vic- 
tory, to arms and rapine, to the indul- 
gence of their darling passions in this 
world and the other : the restraints 
which he imposed were requisite to es- 

Life of Mahomet. 231 

tablish 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 prop- 
agation, but the permanency of his re- 
ligion 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 Ko- 
ran. 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 

232 Life of Mahomet. 

St. Sophia, with an increase of splendor 
and size, represents the humble taberna- 
cle erected at Medina by the hands of 
Mahomet. The Mahometans have uni- 
formly withstood the temptation of redu- 
cing the objects of their faith and devo- 
tion to a level with the sense and imagina- . 
tion of man. " I believe in one God, and 
Mahomet the apostle of God," is the sim- 
ple 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 hu- 
man virtue ; and his living precepts have 
restrained the gratitude of his disciples 
within the bounds of reason and relig- 
ion. 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 di- 
vine essence was incarnate in the person 
of the Imams ; but their superstition is 
universally condemned by the Sonnites; 

Life of Mahomet. 233 

and their impiety Las afforded a seasona- 
ble warning against the worship of saints 
and martyrs. The metaphysical ques- 
tions 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 enraged 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 in- 
terest 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 
Qanges the Koran is acknowledged as 

the fundamental code, not only of the- 

234 Life of Mahomet. 

ology but of civil and criminal jurispru- 
dence ; and the laws which regulate the 
actions and the property of mankind, 
are guarded by the infallible and im- 
mutable sanction of the will of God. 
This religious servitude is attended with 
some practical disadvantage ; the illiter- 
ate legislator had been often misled by 
his own prejudices and those of his coun- 
try ; and the institutions of the Arabian 
desert may be ill adapted to the wealth 
and numbers of Ispahan and Constan- 
tinople. On these occasions, the Cadhi 
respectfully places on his head the holy 
volume, and substitutes a dexterous in- 
terpretation more apposite to the prin- 
ciples of equity, and the manners and 
policy of the times. 

His beneficial or pernicious influence 
on the public happiness is the last con- 
sideration in the character of Mahomet. 
The most bitter or most bigoted of his 
Christian or Jewish foes, will surely al- 
low that he assumed a false commission 

Life of Mahomet. 235 

to inculcate a salutary doctrine, less per- 
fect only than their own. He piously 
supposed, as the basis of his religion, 
the truth and sanctity of their prior rev- 
elations, 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 car- 
nal generation. Mahomet was perhaps 
incapable of dictating a moral and po- 
litical system for the use of his coun- 
trymen : but he breathed among the 
faithful a spirit of charity and friend- 
ship, 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 

236 Life of Mahomet. 

been idly spent in domestic quarrels 
was vigorously directed against a for- 
eign enemy. Had the impulse been less 
powerful, Arabia, free at home, and 
formidable abroad, might have flourish- 
ed under a succession of her native mon- 
archs. 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 
were violated by impious war ; Arabia 
was ruled by the rod of a subject, per- 
haps of a stranger ; and the Bedoweens 
of the desert, awakening from their 
dream of dominion, resumed their old 
and solitary independence. 


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2/93 30918-63 


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