J. W. H. (James William Hampson) Stobart.

Islam & its founder online

. (page 3 of 18)
Online LibraryJ. W. H. (James William Hampson) StobartIslam & its founder → online text (page 3 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


some of my offspring to settle in an unfruitful valley, near thy
holy house, O Lord, that they be constant at prayer" (Sura
xiv. 40).



ISLAM AND ITS FOUNDER. 35

ancient site. ' To assist in this work, the angel
Gabriel brought them one of the stones of Paradise
— the celebrated Black Stone — which rose and fell as
the divinely-aided masons progressed with the work.
This " Heavenly Stone" was, on completion of the
Avork, inserted in an outer corner of the wall of the
Kaaba, and after varying fortunes is still devoutly
kissed or touched on each of the seven circuits round
the Temple. At first it was bright and translucent,
but its present colour is supposed to reflect, but too
truly, the salutations of sinful mortals."

Grown to man's estate, Ishmael takes first an
Amalekite wife, but on her repudiation for a supposed
insult to his father, and the expulsion of her tribe by
an invading or migratory race from Yemen, he is
united in marriage to a daughter of Modadh, the
Jorhamite, chief of the strangers who occupy the
country. Of this alliance twelve princes ^ are the
issue, whose descendants and the tribes deriving their
origin from them, are known by the name of
" Mostaraba," i.e. naturalized or instititious Arabs, as

' " Call to mind when we gave the site of the house of the
Kaaba for an abode unto Abraham, saying, Do not associate
anything with me . . . and proclaim unto the people a solemn
pilgrimage." — Koran, sura xxii. 27, 28.

* Black Stone at Mecca. This famous stone, which is a frag-
ment of volcanic basalt, sprinkled with coloured crystals, is
semicircular, and measures about six inches in height and eight
inches in breadth. It is placed in the wall of the Kaaba, at the
east outer corner, and about four feet from the ground. It has
a border of silver round it. Its colour is reddish- black, and its
surface is undulating and polished. Cf. Muir, ii. 35, and au-
thorities quoted by Burckhardt, pp. 137, 138; Burton, vol. iii.
160-162, and 210 ; W. Irving, 16, 17.

^ Genesis xvii. 20.



36 ISLAM AND ITS FOUNDER.

distinguished from the progeny of Kahtan, the same
"with Joktan, the son of Eber, whom they name
Al-Arab-al-Araba, genuine or pure Arabs." ^ Ishmael
and the daughter of Modadh, the Jorhamite chief,
are the reputed ancestors of Mahomet, the prophet of
Mecca. "The ready pen of the traditionists has
filled up the space of twenty-five centuries, between
Ishmael and Mahomet, with a list of progenitors
derived from Jewish sources ; yet Mahomet himself
never traced his pedigree higher than Adnan, and
declared that all who went further back were guilt}'
of fabrication and falsehood" (Muir, i. cxciii.).

Adnan was the father of Maadd, whose name was
associated with the Maaddite tribes, the ancestors
of the Coreish, who were in their different families
descended from him. The year 130 B.C. is given as
the date of Adnan's birth and from him, in the eighth
generation, was descended Nadhr, born A.D. 134,
the grandfather of Fehr Coreish, who was born
A.D. 200.

Up to this time, under nine generations of kings
of their race, the Jorhamites had enjoyed the supre-
macy in the Hejaz, and had usurped the privileges
of the Kaaba, which, according to the language
of the Moslems, belonged of right to the lineal
descendants of Ishmael ; when an immigrant tribe —
the Azdites — from Yemen appeared, and, notwith-
standing the opposition of the ruling race, were able
successfully to establish themselves in Batn-Marr, a
valley near Mecca. They did not, however, long
remain there, but departed towards Syria, and left
' Sale, P. D.. p. 8.



ISLAM AND ITS FOUNDER. 37

behind them a " remnant" — the Beni Khozaa,
who settled in Mecca. These, with the Coreish,
slaughtered or expelled from the country the Jor-
hamite families and their last king, Modadh. A
struggle now commenced between the rival Maaddite
houses for the administration of the Kaaba, and the
supremacy at Mecca, but these were wrested from them
by their former allies, the Beni Khozaa, and retained by
them for upwards of two centuries ; till after a variety
of romantic adventures Cussai, the sixth in lineal
descent from Fehr Coreish, after spending his youth
in the highlands of Syria, returned to Mecca, married
Hobba, the daughter of Holeil — the Khozaaite king
— and was permitted to assume the immediate
management of the Kaaba.

On the death of Holeil, Cussai set about, with the
support of the other Coreish families, to assert and
defend the right of his family to the guardianship ot
the Kaaba and the government of Mecca. Together
with the guardianship of the temple, he possessed
himself of the chief religious dignities connected with
the sacerdotal office. From the Beni Safa he ob-
tained the "Ijaza," or the right of dismissing the
assembled Arab tribes from Mina after the ceremonies
of the Greater Pilgrimage ; and, after much carnage,
wrested from the Beni Khozaa the supremacy over the
Hejaz. This took place about 440 A.D. Cussai
gathered together, and settled at Mecca many scat-
tered families of the Coreish, enlarged the town, built
near the Kaaba the " Council House," where political
questions were discussed and social ceremonies solem-
nized, and whence the yearly caravans set forth ; and



38 ISLAM AND ITS FOUNDER.

finally succeeded in establishing himself Sheikh of
Mecca and Governor of the country. ^

The dignities of which he possessed himself
were five in number, — viz. (i) "The Hijaba,"
which gave him the keys and the control of the
Kaaba; (2) "The Sicaya " and the " Rifada," or
the prerogatives of providing drink and food for
the pilgrims; (3) "The Kiyada," the command of
the troops in war ; (4) " The Liwa," the right of
affixing the banner to the staff and presenting it
to the standard-bearer; (5) "The Dar-ul-Nadwa,"
the presidency of the Hall of Council. The
religious observances customary at the time of
Cussai were those prevailing when Mahomet arose,
and, the idols excepted, are there practised, with
slight modifications, to this day. " The centre ot
veneration was the Kaaba, to visit which, to kiss the
Black stone, and to make the seven circuits, was at
all times regarded as a holy privilege " (Muir,
i. ccv.).

Next was the Lesser Pilgrimage (Hajj al Asghar),
which, in addition to the above, included the
rite of running quickly to and fro seven times
between the hills of Safa and Manva close to

• Prideaux, " Life of Mahomet," p. 2, gives a different version
of the method in which Cussai gained his position : — "Cosa
was very famous among the Koreeshites for gaining to his family
the keeping of the keys of the Caaba." " The government of
Mecca and the presidency of the Caaba having fallen into the
hands of Abu Gabshan, a weak and silly man, Cosa circum-
vented him while in a drunken humour, and bought of him the
keys of the Temple, and with them, the presidency of it, for a
bottle of wine."



ISLAM AND ITS FOUNDER. 39

the Kaaba.i This ceremony had especial merit
in the holy month Rajab. Lastly, the Greater
Pilgrimage (Hajj al Akbar) involving all the above
and the additional rite of pilgrimage to Arafat —
an eminence of granite rocks, ten or twelve miles
east of Mecca. This can be performed only in
the holy month " Dzul Hijja." On the 8th the
pilgrims start from Mecca, spend the 9th at Arafat,
and on the same evening hurry back to a spot
called Mosdalifa. Two or three succeeding days are
spent at Mina, and the pilgrimage is concluded with
the sacrifice of a victim. -

The country round Mecca to a distance of several
miles was called sacred (Haram), and during four
months of the year, by general consent, wars and
hostilities were laid aside, so that the pilgrims could
travel unmolested from distant parts, and, assuming
the sacred garb (Ihram), perform the accustomed
rites in peace and security.

It will be gathered from the above how strangely
the idolatrous practices at the Kaaba were mixed up
with the biblical story of Abraham, Hagar, and Ish-
mael, to whom the traditions current among the
Arabs long before the era of Mahomet attributed the
first founding of the temple and its rites. Doubtless
this legend maybe dismissed into the realms of fancy,

' This act was supposed to be in memoiy of the distiessed
mother Ilagar, anxiously running in search of watei for her
son before the waters of Zem Zcm were mii-aculously brought to
hght in answer to her cry.

^ Muir, I. ccvi. Fide LUe of Burckhardt, "Chambers's Mis-
cellany," vol. X. No. 4, where an interesting account of the cere-
monies of the yearly pilgrimage is given. — Burton, M. and M.,
vol. iii.



40 ISLAM AND ITS FOUNDER.

as devoid of consistency ; but the question arises how
the worship at Mecca came to be what it was at the
time of Mahomet's birth. The worship was made up
of t^vo totally different elements; viz. pure idolatry
and, in addition, rites and observances which, by
tradition, were associated with the story of living
characters of the Old Testament, and the reality of
that association riveted and certified by the names of
spots in the neighbourhood which could be seen and
visited, and which were intimately connected with the
ceremonies which were performed.

The following is probably the way in which the
above came about. It may be assumed that the purely
idolatrous practices, the reverence for the well Zem
Zem and the Black stone and the circuits of the
Kaaba, &c. were of indigenous growth, or were im-
ported by the tribes and peoples of Yemen who settled
at Mecca. This place owed its importance as a large
commercial centre to its position on the western
caravan route, midway between Yemen and Petra,
and to its plentiful supply of water.^ Here, it is
pointed out, a change of carriage eventually took
place, the merchandise for the north and south
dividing at this point, and occasioning thus a per
manent intercourse between it and Syria, Egypt, and
the ports of South Arabia. It is easy to imagine
that merchants of various nationalities, and from dis-
tant parts, would from time to time visit the great
entrepot at Mecca, and that the Bedouin? of Central

' The well Zem Zem is about seven feet eight inches in dia-
meter and fifty-six feet deep to the surface of the water. The
water is said to be very abundant and wholesome, though its
taste is brackish.



ISLAM AND ITS FOUNDER. ' 41

Arabia, attracted to the spot, would give to the shrine,
its well, and its worship, a kind of national or metro-
politan character ; and that the superstitious reverence
for the place prevalent throughout the peninsula would
continue long after its commercial pre-eminence had,
with the failure of the caravan trade, ceased. The
traditional belief in the Abrahamic origin of the
Kaaba which is asserted in the Koran (sura ii. ii8,
et seq.) is probably to be accounted for by the early
and extensive commingling of the Abrahamic stocks
with the other Semitic tribes chiefly settled in Yemen.
Branches of the descendants of Ishmael settled, as has
been shown, about and to the north of Mecca; and
these, with the Nabatheans, a great commercial nation
who had been attracted by its good business position,
brought with them to their new settlement the Abra-
hamic legends, which the Jews who traded there, and
who were settled in considerable force in the country,
tended to revive and perpetuate. Thus in time the
Abrahamic story and the Jewish legends were grafted
on to the indigenous idol-worship and became incor-
porated with it. Hence it was that the well Zem Zem
became the scene of Hagar's relief ; hence the sacrifice
in the valley of Mina to typify the vicarious sacrifice
offered by Abraham in place of his son Ishmael;
hence Abraham and Ishmael were made the founders
of their temple, which, under the sanction of the name
of the Father of the Faithful and the Friend of God,
was, in the belief of the followers of Islam, to be esta-
blished as a house of prayer for all nations.^

Cussai having thus concentrated in his own

' The above account of the origin of the worship of the Kaaba
and its ceremonies is adopted from Sir W. Muir, i. cap. iii. sec. iv.



42 ISLAM AND ITS FOUNDER.

person the chief temporal and spiritual dignities at
Mecca, died, leaving three sons, viz. Abd-al-Dar,
Abd-Menaf, and Abd-al-Ozza.i To his eldest son
he left all the offices which he held ; but Abd-al-
Dar, less energetic than Abd-Menaf, allowed the
latter to usurp the real management of public affairs.
On the death of Abd-al-Dar, his rights passed to his
sons and grandsons ; but the latter were too young
to sustain successfully their legal prerogatives against
their more powerful rivals, Al-Muttalib, Hashim, Abd-
Shams, and Naufal, the sons of Abd-Menaf. Two
hostile factions thus arose in Mecca, and bloodshed
was avoided only by a compromise, which, securing
the other offices to the elder branch of the family,
gave the privilege of providing food and water to
Hashim, and the leadership in war to his younger
brother, Abd-Shams.

The noble and generous character of Hashim
and his riches prompted and enabled him munifi-
cently to perform the duties of the sacred offices he
had thus obtained. Reservoirs of water were by his
care provided for the pilgrims, and food liberally sup-
plied them. He is said to have fed the people of
Mecca during a famine. Commercial treaties were
concluded by him or his brothers with the neigh-
bouring powers — with the Roman emperor, the ruler
of Abyssinia, the king of Persia, and the princes of
Himyar, in Yemen. By Salm, a widow of Medina,
of the tribe of Khazraj, he had a soil born in his old
age (A.D. 497), who was soon after left an orphan

' His two sons, Menaf and Ozza, were called after his gods.
From the latter was descended Khadija, daughter of Khuvveilid,
and wife of Mahomet.



ISLAM AND ITS FOUNDER. 43

by the death of his father at Gaza. The dignified
offices which he held were bequeathed to his elder
brother, Al Muttalib, who, with loyal affection, suc-
ceeded before his death, notwithstanding the efforts
and opposition of the rival race of Abd Shams, in
reinstating the orphan boy in his paternal estate,
which had been appropriated by his uncle Naufal ;
and under the name of Abd-al-Muttalib, the son of
Hashim became the head of the Coreish in Mecca.

Succeeding thus to the dignified office of providing
food and drink to the pilgrims, Abd-al-Muttalib had to
contend against the continual rivalry and opposition
of the richer, and probably more powerful, family of
Omeya, the son of Abd Shams, who, as we have seen,
held the important office of the Leadership in war.
But his fortunate rediscovery of the ancient well
Zem Zem, which for some centuries had been lost
or choked up, in restoring to Mecca its abundant
supply of water, strengthened his influence, which
was further increased by the possession of a large and
powerful family of ten sons and six daughters, so that
he continued to his death the virtual chief of Mecca.

Of his sons, the most important in the subsequent
history of their race were Al-Harith, his first-born,
Al-Zobier, Abu-Talib, Abu-Lahab, and the youngest,
Abdallah, who was born in the year A.D. 545.^ It was
during his tenure of ofiice as chief of the Kaaba (A.D.
570) that Abraha, the viceroy of Yemen, sought, in
the interest of the Christian temple at Sana, to de-

' At a later period two other sons were born to him, viz.,
Abbas and Hamza, both of whom play a conspicuous part in the
subsequent history of the estabhshment of Islam. Ilamza was
in all probability bom about the same time as Mahomet.



44 ISLAM AND ITS FOUNDER.

stroy its formidable rival at Mecca. The failure of
this expedition, and the dignified conduct of Abd-al-
Muttalib, contributed much to the confirmation of his
power.

But a few months before the invasion of Abraha,
"the year of the Elephant" (A.D. 570), Abd-al-Mut-
talib had betrothed his son Abdallah to a maiden of
the house of Coreish, Amina, the daughter of Wahb,
the son of Abd-Menaf, the son of Zohra, a brother of
that famous Cussai who, more than a hundred years
before, had consolidated the fortunes of their house.
Abdallah was the best-beloved son of his father, a child
of benediction, who being once in fulfilment of a vow
devoted to death, like his storied ancestor Ishmael, on
the heights of Arafat, had, at the eleventh hour, been
saved from the sacrificial fire and given again to life.
For Abd-al-Muttalib had promised, if the Almighty
would give him ten sons, that one of them should be
devoted ; and it was only after the divining arrows^
had ten times been cast that the slaughter of one
hundred camels before the idol god was permitted to
redeem the victim and absolve the parent from liis
rash vow. 2

' Conf. Koran, sura v. 45 and Sale's P, D., sec. v.

' Thus Mahometans report their prophet to have said that he
was the S07i of two sacrifices, meaning (i) his father Abdallah,
and (2) as being descended from Ishmael, which son, and not
Isaac, they believe Abraham to have offered. — Conf. Sale's
Koran, cap. xxxvii. p. 369 ; Muir, i. cap. 4.



CHAPTER HI.

BIRTH OF MAHOMET, AND LIFE TO HIS FORTIETH
YEAR. — [a.D. 570-610.]

Brief was the wedded life of Abdallah and Amina.
Shortly after the marriage her husband set out with the
yearly caravan for Gaza, in South Syria, leaving preg-
nant the young wife who was destined to see him no
more. It was their first and last parting, for on the
return journey Abdallah sickened, and being left with
his grand maternal relatives at Medina, died and
was buried there. For the support of his widow he
left behind him no richer legacy than four camels,
a flock of goats, and a slave girl named Baraka.
Wonderful stories are told of the marvels which
accompanied the gestation and birth of his infant
child. The very powers of the air were shaken to
herald his advent. All oracles were dumb, the sacred
fire of Zoroaster, guarded for centuries by the Magi,
was extinguished before the greater light which had
dawned. The evil spirits which dwell in malignant
stars were abashed, and fled shrieking, and Eblis
himself was hurled into the depths of the sea ! Many
legendary tales, which resemble those told of our
Blessed Saviour in the apocryphal Gospels, are related
about, and associated with, the infant son of Amina,



46 ISLAM AND ITS FOUNDER.

whose birth, with the nearest approach to accuracy,
is fixed for the autumn of the year A.D. 570.'

Under the rocks of the Abu-Cobeis, which rise
eastward of Mecca over the narrow valley, stood
the house of Amina, the birthplace of her only son.
At the time of the infant's birth, the aged Abd-al-
Muttalib was worshipping in the Kaaba ; and, taking
the child to the sacred shrine, like Simeon of old, he
lifted him up in his arms, and blessed God and gave
thanks, saying, that he was to be called "Mohammad,"
a name in not unfamiliar use before and at the time. ^
But Amina had not long the comfort of her son's
presence. It was then customary for the infants of
her house to be nurtured among the outlying Bedouin
tribes. Moreover, grief is said to have dried up the
fountain of her breast, and she was thus, for a
double reason, constrained to part with her son, who,
amidst the valleys and hills which range southward of
Tayif, with his nurse Halima, breathed the pure air
of the desert. Here, too, he learned the purer speech
of Arabia among the Beni-Saad, to which tribe his
foster-mother belonged, and for which he afterwards
entertained the greatest affection and gratitude.

Strange stories, as usual, are made to surround
the infant child in his mountain home. The house
of Halima is blessed for his sake ; her flocks and
herds are, beyond hope, prolific amid the green pas-
tures where they lie down, and where the still waters
never fail. The child, too, grows and increases in
favour with all ; and, more than this, the heavenly

• Conf. W. Irving, pp. 12, 13 ; Muir, ii. p. 12.

* Muir, ii. p. 16, and note.



ISLAM AND ITS FOUNDER. 47

messengers are sent, and, at God's command, wring
from his heart the single black drop of original sin,
and, so purified and gifted with the prophetic light,
he is thus early selected by the Almighty to be the
future channel to inan of the last and best revelation
of His will. 1

At the end of two years the infant was weaned and
sent to visit his mother, but the latter, whilst charmed
at his healthy looks, and dreading the unwhole-
some air of Mecca, sent him back to his mountain
home with his nurse, who had so faithfully watched
over him. When approaching his fifth year, he
appears to have become subject to certain epileptic
fits, which alarmed his foster-parents, as such attacks
were attributed to the influence of evil spirits, and
made them resolve to rid themselves of their charge.
So he was again taken to his mother, and the reason
of the visit explained to her ; and though persuaded
to continue their guardianship for some time longer,
they finally restored him to Amina when he had
reached his fifth year.

' It would be manifestly unfair to make Mahomet or his doc-
trine answerable for all the miraculous incidents which have
clustered round nearly every event of his life. To the Koran
alone can we look for the only correct exposition of his views.
Some of the stories which occur in the events of his life are so
beautiful, that it is certainly a matter of regret to Ije obliged to
pronounce them devoid of historical value. The passage (sura
xciv. i), " Have we not opened thy breast and eased thee of thy
burden ? " is thought by some to allude to the above story ; but it
is more probable that the text itself gave rise to the subsequently-
framed interpretation. Conf. Koran (sura xlvii. 21), where Ma-
homet is directed to ask pardon for Iiis sins, thus acknowledging
himself to be a sinner. ( Vide Sale's note ad loc. )
E



4S ISLAM AND ITS FOUNDER.

In his sixth year (A.D. 575) he paid a visit to
Yathrib, better known by its later name of Medina.
There he saw the tomb of his father, and found
youthful relatives of a companionable age. At Abwa,
a spot halfway from Medina to his native place, he
had the misfortune to lose his sole remaining parent.
Though the sorrows and griefs of childhood are
happily brief and evanescent, time appears never to
have obliterated the memory of his mother, nor the
feeling of desolation which her loss occasioned him.
Years subsequently, after his prophetic mission had
been preached and accepted, he visited her tomb,
and there lifted up his voice and wept, and especially
did he mourn that the Almighty would not permit him
to pray for the parent he so tenderly loved, inas-
much as she had died in unbelief, and ignorant of that
saving faith which her son was sent to proclaim.

The faithful slave Baraka escorted him back to
Mecca, and there, in the house of his grandfather,
the little orphan found for two years a happy home ;
and when Abd-al-Muttalib died (A.D. 578) he con-
signed to his son Abu-Talib the charge of the boy.
In the family of his uncle he was treated as a son,
and faithfully, as we shall see, did the generous Abu-
Talib, in adversity, and through evil and good
report, fulfil the sacred trust imposed upon him.

Living thus in the house of his grandfather and
uncle from his sixth year, the youthful mind of
Mahomet cannot but have imbibed lasting and im-
portant impressions, from the domestic and social
circumstances by which, at his susceptible age, he
was surrounded. Abd-al-Muttalib was the Chief of



ISLAM AND ITS FOUNDER, 49

Mecca, and fulfilled, as his father had before him,
the most important of the sacerdotal offices con-
nected with the national worship. To him for food
and help resorted the devout pilgrim from his distant
home, and in his hands was the custody of the sacred
well Zem Zem. We read, too, that with the other
chiefs of his family in Mecca he was wont daily to
spend some time beneath the sh idow of the Kaaba,
and that the youthful Mahomet was there his constant
companion. The grave and dignified manners and
words of the old patriarch, daily association with the
ceremonies of the holy house, the superstitious awe
which surrounded the place, the prostrations, the
prayers, and the pious offerings of the faithful, his
own near relationship to the priestly families, the
order and decorum of the house of his guardians,
where the sacred rites were rigidly observed, all these
together doubtless strongly and lastingly influenced
him, and gave that tendency to his thoughts which
manifested itself in the prophetic character he after-


1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryJ. W. H. (James William Hampson) StobartIslam & its founder → online text (page 3 of 18)