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princes according to their nations" (Gen. xvii. 18-
20, and XXV. 12-18).

In the book of Genesis the names of Ishmael's
SODS are given, and the bounds of their habitation ;
for we are told that he lived " in the wilderness of
Paran," and that they dwelt " from Havilah unto
Shur, that is before Egypt" (Gen. xxv. 18). Aban-
doned and almost repudiated by his father, and
coming as a stranger with his mother to these regions,
it can easily be imagined that to Hagar alone would
reference be made concerning the ancestral stock,
and this is abundantly found to be the case.

Constant reference is made in Holy Scripture
to the Hagarites and the Hagarenes, and they are
represented a", inhabiting those very parts of northern
Arabia, towards which Hagar was sent. Thus, in
Psalm Ixxxiii. we read of " the tabernacles of Edom
3nd the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagarenes," na-
tions dwelling in close proximity, in the lands spread-
ing southwards from the Holy Land towards the Red
Sea. In the days of Saul (B.C. 1095-1055), the sons
of Reuben, a pastoral tribe whose settlements lay to


the south-east of the Dead Sea, " made war with the
Hagarites, and dwelt in their tents throughout all the
east land of Gilead " (i Chron. v. lo); and again in
the days of Jeroboam (B.C. 975-954), the tribes which
dwelt beyond Jordan " made war with the Hagarites,
with Jetur, and Nephish, and Nodab," where we again
have mention of the maternal name (Hagar) in con-
junction with those of the youngest sons of Ishmael
(1 Chron. v. 18, 19, and Gen. xxv. 15).

The synonymous use of the terms " Midianites "
and " Ishmaelites " serves to fix the situation of the
country inhabited by the latter (Gen. xxxvii. 28) ;
and St. Paul, in speaking of the old and new cove-
nants, expressly states that Mount Sinai, " which gen-
dereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is
Mount Sinai in Arabia" (Gal. iv. 24, 25).

In the books of the Old Testament frequent
mention is made of Nebajoth (or Nebaioth) and
Kedar, the eldest, two sons of Ishmael. Thus Isaiah
(Ix. 6, 7), in speaking of the glories of the Redeemer's
reign, says " that they from Sheba shall bring gold

and incense all the flocks of Kedar

and the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee,"
a declaration coupling these two names together, and
pointing to their pastoral occupation ; whilst the
Psalmist's allusion to the " tents of Kedar " (Ps. cxx.
5, 7) intimates clearly the nomadic mode of life which
they led.

The " wilderness of Paran " is recovered, on the
authority of Ptolemy, in " Pharan Oppidum " and
' Pharan Promontorium," which latter terminates the
Peninsula of Sinai ; and in the "PharanitK," described


by him as extending northward from the head of the
Gulf of Akaba to the desert of Tyh. The whole pro-
vince of Bahrein, which once bore the Cushite name
of Havilah, is now known among the Arab tribes in-
habiting it chiefly and properly by the Ishmaelite name
of Hagar. The latter name occurs in Yemen, showing
probably that offshoots of the race migrated thither.
Josephus (who flourished in the first century after
Christ) affirms the existence of twelve Arab nations
sprung from the sons of Ishmael ; and St. Jerome also
says " that Kedar is a country of the Saracens, who
in Scripture are called Ishmaelites." ^

The descendants of the eldest son of Ishmael
are to be identified with the " Nabatheans " of the
classical writers, described as the most illustrious king-
dom and people of Arabia. They are the Beni Nabat
of the Mahometan writers. Petra^ was the capital
of their kingdom, which from it took the name of
" Arabia Petraea," and was comprised within the limits
of the ancient Edom. The strength of the sons of

Forster, i. p. 200. Niebuhr, iii. 293.
' Pliny says of Petra that "the Nabatsei inhabit a city called
Petra, in a hollow somewhat less than two miles in circumfe-
rence, surrounded by inaccessible mountains .... distant from
the town of Gaza on the coast 600 miles." Strabo writes that
it is fortified with a barrier of rocks, has excellent springs of
water, and that outside the city the country is a desert. To
Burckhardt belongs the honour of being the first to penetrate to
this long-lost city. Dressed as an Arab Sheikh, he passed the
mountains of Edom, and on the 22nd August, 181 2, entered
Petra by the wonderful gorge of Sik. He describes the town as
surrounded with vineyards and fruit-trees, the grapes being espe-
cially fine ("Alps of Arabia," pp. 201-204).


Nebajoth was well illustrated, and perhaps explaioed
by that of their capital, which, situated in the midst of
deserts, and, itself a natural fortress, became the high
road of the commerce between Yemen and Syria, the
Persian Gulf, and the ports and marts of Egypt.

Three centuries before the Christian era, we
hear of them baffling the attacks of the Macedonian
monarchs of Babylon behind the rocky ramparts of
Petra. Their kingdom extended from Egypt to Pales-
tine, and down the shores of the Red Sea. In the
reign of Augustus we have seen that their king Obodas
assisted ^lius Gallus in his unsuccessful expedition
against Yemen. At the beginning of the Christian
era they gradually became dependent on Rome, and
their kingdom was annexed (A.D. 105) by the em-
peror Trajan.

The Old Testament evidences for the existence
of Kedar, as a powerful people of Arabia, are full and
explicit ;i and on a reference to these it will be found
that their details are compatible with the settlements
of Kedar being in the Hejaz, near or between Mecca
and Medina ; and it is on this very ground that Pliny
places a people of similar name, identical with the
Kedarys, or Beni Kedar.

The tradition of the Arabs themselves represents
Kedar to have settled in the Hejaz, and from this
patriarch the family of the Coreish, the guardians of
the Kaaba, always boasted their descent.^ Though

• Isaiah xxi. 11, 17; xlii. 10-12; Ix. 7; Jer. ii. 10, II.

^ Vide Forster, i. p. 251, on this point. Muir (Life ot
Mahomet, i. p. ccix.) gives a quotation from M. C. de Percival
(vol. i. p. 183) :- "The Arabs of the Hejaz and Najd have al-


traces of the remaining sons of Ishmael are to be
found, it may generally be said "that they either
mingled with the other tribes, or, penetrating the
peninsula (south), have escaped observation." ^

In addition to the immigrants whom we have now
considered, and who, as a "mingled people" (Jer.
XXV. 24), formed the permanent inhabitants of Arabia,
there were in later times large colonies and tribes of
Jews scattered throughout the peninsula. They are
found holding lands and castles, and occupying im-
portant positions in the country, especially about Me-
dina, in which and in its vicinity numerous powerful
tribes of them were settled. Kheibar was one of their
strongholds. In the eighth year of the Hejira the
Jews of this place were attacked by Mahomet, their
lands and fortresses fell into his hands, and their chief,
Kinana, tortured to death. Many of their numbers
perished, and those who remained were exterminated
in the caliphate of Omar. Two of Mahomet's wives
were of this religion, Safia, ^\^dow of the murdered
Kinana, and Rihana.

A force of 500 Jews formed part of the con-
tingent supplied by the Nabathean king to ./Elius
Gallus in his expedition. One of the kings of the
Himyarite dynasty in Yemen, named Dzu-Nowas (A.D.
490 to 525), having on a visit to Medina (Yathrib),

ways (?) regarded Ishmael as their ancestor. This conviction —
the source of their respect for the memory of Abraham — is too
general, too deep not to repose on a real foundation. In fine,
Mahomet, who gloried in his Ishmaelitish origin, was never
contradicted on that point by his enemies the Jews. "
' Muir, I, cxii


of which half the population were Jews, embraced
their creed, invaded Najran, for the purpose of extir-
pating the Christian faith, which had made very con-
siderable progress in that province. His cruelties,
especially in having thrown the Christian martyrs into
a trench filled with burning materials, are alluded to
in the Koran (sura Ixxxv. 4 et seq.). The number of
victims are stated at no less than 20,000 (Muir, i.
clxii.). This persecution of the Christians of Yemen
moved to vengeance the Prince of Abyssinia, who was
of the Nestorian sect. An army was sent over the
narrow gulf, and the expedition (A.D. 525) ended in
the death of Dzu-Nowas, and the subjection of Ye-
men, which became a dependency of the Abyssinian

Aryat and Abraha were the successive vice-
roys. Vigorous missionary efforts were made to
Christianize the country. A magnificent cathedral
was built at Sana, and it was hoped that the Arab
tribes would be diverted from Mecca to the new
shrine. These hopes were frustrated, and in revenge
for his disappointment, and for certain indignities
which had been practised in the cathedral itself,
Abraha set out to destroy the Kaaba. The expedi-
tion (A.D. 570) failed, and its leader perished. The
event, which took place in the year of Mahomet's
birth, is recorded in the Koran, sura cv., entitled
" The Elephant."

The destruction of Jerusalem by Titus (A.D.
70) probably scattered many Christians throughout
Arabia, in nearly all quarters of which they would be
likely to meet with sympathizers with their own faith.


The Christian religion had gradually and partially
penetrated into Arabia, and gained scattered converts,
though it never succeeded in taking a permanent hold
there, or in superseding the existing idolatry. The
opposition which it would meet \vith from the Jews
must not be forgotten • and we must also remember
how antagonistic the general habits of the Arab race
would be to the spread of the gospel. " The haughty
temper and revengeful code of the Arab tribes, and
their licentious practices, were all alike hostile to the
humble and forgiving precepts of Christian morality."^
Still, Christianity was not unrepresented in the
peninsula. In the fourth century Petra was the resi-
dence of a Metropolitan, whose diocese embraced
the ancient Idumaea and Nabathea ; and several
Christian bishoprics were established in Arabia sub-
ject to him. Abd-Kelal (A.D. 275), Himyarite king
of Yemen, was a Christian. He is said to have been
converted by a Christian stranger, who, in conse-
quence of the king's defection, was murdered. This
is the first intimation of Christianity in Yemen. ^
During the reign of Marthad (A.D. 330), son of
Abd-Kelal, the emperor Constantius sent a Chris-
tian embassy to the court of the Himyarite monarch,
who is called " Prince of the Sabseans and Homer-
ites," and certain privileges were gained from the
tolerant king for the professors of the Christian faith
visiting or residing in Yemen. Three churches were
built at Izafar the royal residence, at Aden, and on the
Persian gulf. No important event followed this em-

Muir, I. ccxxxvi. ''lb. I. clx.


bassy, but the knowledge is gained thereby that the
inhabitants of Yemen at the time were partly Jewish
and partly Pagan. The latter practised circumcision,
and sacrificed to the sun and moon, and to other
divinities. 1

The cruelties of Dzu-Nowas, a subsequent king
of Yemen, to the Christians have been spoken
of above. Christian anchorites, dwelling in their
solitary cells in Arabia Petrsea, must have aided in
spreading a knowledge of their belief. It reached
the kingdom of Hira, a town near Kufa, on the
Euphrates, and the seat of an important Arab dy-
nasty ; and, under Nonian(3i9 — 418 A.D.), spread in
his dominions ; and there is good reason for believing
that he himself had embraced the same faith. In
the reign of Mundzir III. of Hira (513 — 562 A.D.)
a Christian embassy of two bishops, sent by the
Patriarch of Antioch, failed to gain over the king to
their tenets, though he granted toleration to its fol-
lowers throughout his territories. Noman V., of
Hira, the last of the Lakhmite dynasty (A.D. 583 —
605), was a Christian. Many of the Arab tribes were
Christians, and it was generally adopted in Najran
about the close of the fourth century. ^

The princes of Axum, in Abyssinia, a powerful
and extensive state, were Christians of the Nestorian
sect. The persecutions practised in turn by differing
Christian sects contributed to scatter believers through-
out the East, and drove numbers into Arabia.
" Christianity was there known, living examples of it

' Muir, I. clx. Gibbon, "Decline and Fall,'' cap. xx.
^ Muir, I. ccxxix.


were to be found amongst the native tribes ; the New
Testament was respected, if not reverenced, as a book
that claimed to be divine, and some of its facts and
doctrines were admitted without dispute." ^ Yet its
progress was disabled and impeded by the differences
of contending schisms, which had substituted "the
puerilities of a debasing superstition for the pure and
expansive faith of the early ages."^ To this subject
we shall hereafter return, when we come to consider
the nature of the influence exercised by Jewish and
Christian doctrine, practices, and innovations on the
religion established by Mahomet. Enough has at
present been said regarding the existence of the two
religions in the Arabian peninsula. Such, then, is a
general sketch of the elements which went to make
up the great Arab race.

' Muir, I. cxxix. * lb. i. ccxxvi.


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We have the assurance that Noah was " a perfect
man, and walked with God" (Gen. vii. 9), and as
a " preacher of righteousness " (2 Peter ii. 5), having
with his sons been witness of the Flood, handed down
to his posterity the worship of the True God. This
knowledge could not have been lost when the de-
scendants of Shem wandered forth to subdue the
fertile lands of the* South, nor at the time when the
Abrahamic stocks entered Arabia, for Noah was con-
temporary with the " Father of the Faithful," and
Shem lived beyond the time when Ishmael and
Keturah, with their sons, had left their original

Yet we find that idolatry before this had crept
in, and that Terah, the father of Abraham, had ob-
scured the worship of *' the Lord God of Shem," and
"served other gods" (Joshua xxiv. 2); Laban (B.C.
1739) ^^^ images; and Amaziah (B.C. 820), after
the slaughter of the Edomites, brought away " the
gods of the children of Seir" (2 Chron. xxv. 14).

But idolatry, — that yearning of the heart for a


visible object of devotion, something that the eye can
see and the hands handle, the worship of the creature
more than the Creator, — the idolatry which sprang
up among the kindred nation of Israel was from
time to time checked by the divine interference
peculiar to the theocracy under which the chosen
people lived. 1

Without these restraints, no wonder the less
favoured descendants of Shem in Arabia rapidly
degenerated into gross and universal idolatry. There
is reason for believing that the worship of the heavenly
bodies was the oldest form of their spiritual deca-
dence ; and it is natural perhaps to expect that,
living in such a country, their idolatry would take
that form. Leading a nomad life, their existence
was emphatically one spent in the open air ; by day
amidst their flocks, and herds, and encampments,
and by night habitually sleeping beneath their rainless
heavens. Amid the silence of night, with the busy
scenes of day over, and no change visible but that
of the constellations rising and setting, or fading with
the dawn, the Chaldean shepherd or the Arab chief, in
the absence of a diviner revelation, came to consider
that human events were influenced by these heavenly

Seeing the changes brought about by the seasons,
and observing the influence of the sun and moon
on the earth ; noticing, too, that the products of

' Confer 2 Kings xxiii. 5-1 1, where we have recorded that
Josiah (B.C. 641— 610) put down "them that burnt incense to
— the sun and to the moon and to the planets and all the host
of heaven." Confer Joshua xxiv. 14, 15; Acts vii. 42, 43.


their fields and vineyards and the periodic rains
corresponded with the heliacal rising of certain con-
stellations, they naturally supposed that these pheno-
mena had influence ^ over the destiny of individuals
and nations. Thus astrology, or the art of divining
by the position of the stars, became one of the oldest
superstitions of the human race.

The early religion of the Arabs, then, was a
kind of Sabeanism, and "chiefly consisted in wor-
shipping the fixed stars and planets and the angels
and their images, which they honoured as inferior
deities, and whose intercession they begged as their
mediators with God." - This worship of the heavenly
bodies is alluded to in the book of Job (xxxviii. 31 —
33), and the names of certain constellations which
were adored are given. Sacrifices to the sun, &c.,
we learn, took place in Yemen even as late as the
fourth century. Herodotus (iii. 8) writes of the
Arabs that " they acknowledge no other gods but
Bacchus and Urania . . . they call Bacchus Orotal,
and Urania Alilat." ^ He also states that in giving
pledges the hands of the contracting persons were
cut, and while invoking their deities the blood was
smeared on seven stones placed between them.
The invocation of Urania, identical, doubtless, with

' The tendency to worship the host of heaven is anticipated
in Scripture. Confer Dcut. iv. 19, and xvii. 3 ; 2 Kings xvii.
16, and xxi. 3 ; Jerem. xviii. 13.

' Sale, P. D., p. 15.

* The people of Tayif, near Mecca, had an idol of their own^
called Lat, which they honoured as the Meccans did that at the
Kaaba. They were jealous of the superior fame of the Meccan


the Meccan idol Allat and the mystic number seven,
connects their worship with that of the seven heavenly
bodies, having real or apparent motion, known to
them. The seven circuits of the devout pilgrim
round the chief shrine, the Kaaba, are thought to
be emblematical of the revolutions of the heavenly

The worship of rude unshapen stones may have
arisen from the practice of carrying away to distant
parts stones from the sacred inclosure at Mecca, and
of paying to them the ceremonial observances usual
at the Kaaba. It is easy to understand how in time
the original motive would be forgotten, and the idols
remain to increase and perpetuate idolatr}^ Five
gods of the antediluvian world are mentioned in the
Koran (sura Ixxi. 22, 23), and these having been
recovered after the Deluge (?) were worshipped by
certain tribes under various forms. Each tribe had
its special divinity, and each family its idol penates,
which were saluted on leaving and returning home.
The worship of the sun at Saba is mentioned by Ma-
homet (Koran, xxvii. 24) : " Of angels or intelligences
which they worshipped the Koran makes mention of
three only, Allat, Alozza, and Manah, who are called
the daughters of God." ^

The heavenly bodies especially worshipped were
Canopus (Sohail), Sirius (Alshira),^ Aldebaran iu
Taurus, with the planets Mercury (Otarod), Venus
(Al Zohirah), Jupiter (Al Moshtari) ; and Sale states
that the temple at Mecca was said to have been

' Sale, p. D., p. 17 ; Koran, sura liii. 19, 20.
' Koran, sura liii. 50.


consecrated to Saturn (Zohal). About the Kaaba
was the famous idol Hobal, the tutelary deity of
Mecca, supposed to have the power of granting rain,
surrounded by 360 others of smaller size, represent-
ing the saints and divinities, which could be invoked
on each day of the year.^ Of the form of the adora-
tion paid to these idols little is known, but by analogy
it may be assumed that the occasions of their pil-
grimage would be connected with their domestic or
family history, and chiefly the absorbing desire for
offspring. There is a record of an embassy sent to the
Kaaba to implore for rain in a time of drought.^
Solemn engagements were ratified before the cele-
brated " Black Stone." ^

Though there are authentic accounts of idolatrous
shrines and places of pilgrimage in Yemen, and
as far as Hira, yet the most famous throughout the
entire peninsula was the Kaaba. Arab tradition has
surrounded this shrine with a cloud of legendary story,
and attributed its first building to Adam and Eve,
who after their expulsion from Paradise and de\ious

' D'Herbelot, voc. Hobal.

^ Kasimirski, "Le Koran," p. 350. Lokman.

^ Muir, ii. 49. "It is the characteristic of the Oriental,
and especially of the Semitic mind, to see in every event, even
the most trivial, a direct supernatural interference, vrrought by
the innumerable unseen ministers, both good and evil, of the
Divine will. The definite form in which the belief clothed
itself was, by the admission of the Jews themselves, derived
from Babylon. Even the most ordinary forces of nature and
passions of the mind were by them regarded as angels. The
Jews would have interpreted quite literally the verse Ps. civ. 4."
(Farrar, "Life of Christ," ii. p. 465, Excursus vii.)
D 2


wanderings, met at length in penitence and forgive-
ness near Mecca, and were allowed to build a temple
in imitation of that in which they had offered their
pure worship in the garden of Eden ! ^ Destroyed
by the Flood, an angel revealed its site to the forlorn
Hagar and Ishmael perishing with thirst in the
desert, and there, to their needs bubbled forth the
waters of the well Zem Zem> The fountain attracts
a neighbouring tribe of Amalekites, who build near
its waters the town of Mecca, and with them the
youthful Ishmael and his mother find protection and

Here Ishmael was visited by his father Abra-
ham, who, in obedience to Divine command, is
about to offer him up on a neighbouring hill, but
some vicarious sacrifice is accepted, and they set
about the work of rebuilding the Kaaba on its

' On their expulsion from Paradise, so the story goes, Adam
fell in Serendib, or Ceylon, where the footprint on the top of
Adam's Peak (attributed by his priests to Buddha) was, say the
Mahometans, made by our first parent. Eve fell in Arabia,
near Jiddah, and after two hundred years' separation they were
permitted to come together on Mount Arafat, near Mecca, where
they lived many years. The tomb of Eve is shown near Jiddah,
outside the walls. It is sixty cubits long and twelve wide, for
Adam and Eve in stature equalled the tallest palm-tree ! Adam's
place of interment is variously stated to be near Mecca and in
Ceylon. Cf D'Herbelot, art. "Adam"; Koran, sura ii. 34,

35 ; Sale's note ad Ice.

^ The Mahometans say that " Zem Zem and Siloah are the
two fountains of Paradise " (Farrar, " Life of Christ," ii. p. 81).

^ The settlement of Ilagar and Ishmael at Mecca is alluded
to in the Koran, thus : " O Lord, I [Abraham] have caused

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