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people of Mecca." ^

Happily the time has come when the use of
bitter epithets, and the sweeping condemnation of
those who agree not with us, are no longer demanded
in religious controversies. Critics of the present age
are men of greater enlightenment, of truer education,
and of a charity that weighs in a juster balance the
motive and deeds of those mighty men who for
good or for evil have graven their names on the
page of history. A recent writer ^ rejoices that
justice can now be dealt to Mahomet without fear
of misconception or misrepresentation. '' It is no
longer thought," he says, " any part of the duty of a
Christian writer to see nothing but wickedness and
imposture in the author of the great antagonistic

His domestic conduct was that of a faithful and
affectionate husband, whilst his reserved, medita-
tive, and sober manners in public secured him the
love and praise of his fellow-townsmen. It is im-
possible to suppose, if his conduct and character

^ Muir, ii. 14.

* Freeman, "History of the Saracens," p. 38.


had been licentious and hypocritical, that the repu-
tation which he established and maintained would
have been as high and faultless as it was. Judging
his motives by his acts, and by those parts of the
Koran which he first promulgated, our view of Ma-
homet will at once differ from those who admit his
loftiest claims, and from those who denounce him as
the worst and most successful impostor the world has
seen. We shall see in him the picture of a soul at
first honestly searching for the light amid ecstatic
visions of heaven and hell, under conviction of the
unity of God, and of His beneficent kindness, and
persuaded that the raging fire and the pit were for
those whose balances were not heavy with good
deeds ; ^ of one believing in the future judgment of
the righteous God ; ^ and in the fate of those nations,
the children of Ad and the Thamudites, who multi-
plied corruptions on the earth, and were swept away
for their rejection of the Lord and His apostles.^
Amid such visions and fancies, groping his way to a
purer faith, he at length came to believe that the
trances and mental paroxysms, which drove him to
meditate suicide,* were the true working of the same
God who in ages past had inspired other messengers,
and now had selected him for the same high ofiice.

' Koran, sura ci. 1-8.

* Sura xcv.

^ Sura Ixxxiv. 1-8. Muir thinks that at this period his specu-
lations unburdened themselves in wild and impassioned verses,
and that these were afterwards embodied and preseiTcd in the

* He was about to throw himself from Mount Thubcir, but
was arrested by a voice from heaven (Muir, ii. 84).

F 2


Such a thought once harboured in his soul, the
idea of a " Divine commission " would soon be
fully formed, grow strong, and be identified with his
desire to give to his native land a purer faith ; and
then, almost unconsciously, the demon of spiritual
pride and ambition would begin its subtle work, and
thus "at this crisis the fate of Mahomet and of
Islam trembled in the balance. It was his hour of
trial, and he fell " (Muir, ii. 93).

Assuming that his early longings after a more
spiritual faith, and his searchings after God were ear-
nest and real, the Christian scholar who contemplates
him at this, the turning point of his career, will view
with regret the melancholy result of his aspirations.
For it is hard to believe that the Spirit of Truth
leaves in darkness and error the honest heart which
looks to Him for light. If Mahomet's sole purpose
had been the search after truth, if his eye had been
single, the still small voice would have doubtless sug-
gested the way; some Philip, in his desert Gaza,
would have pointed him to the true Light ; the teach-
ing, which the great Apostle of the Gentiles found in
that land of Arabia, would have been his also, and
Mahomet might have become a bright herald of the
cross to its idolatrous tribes. But the stealthy advances
of a worldly ambition blinded his mental vision, blunted
his dependence on a higher Power, and by the sug-
gestions of the Evil One took captive his soul, and
chained it in that delusive, yet strong and unwaver-
ing belief, which swayed his future career, and
retained a paramount influence over him to the hour
of his death, — that he was the ordained of Heaven, the


messenger of God. " Thus was Mahomet, by what-
ever deceptive process led to the high blasphemy of
forging the name of God, a crime repeatedly stigma-
tized in the Goran itself as the greatest that man-
kind can commit" (Muir, ii. 75).

That his own belief in his Divine mission was a
real, and apparently (however much he was deceived)
an honest one, and yet that spiritual pride and ambi-
tion was the rock upon which he split, will abundantly
appear from a careful consideration of those motives
which usually influence men in the prosecution of
any great object in life. Riches he sought not, for
his marriage had placed him on a level with the
wealthy chiefs of Mecca, and gave him more than
sufficient to supply his moderate wants. We shall
find afterwards, when riches untold might have been
his, that he maintained the same simplicity of man-
ners which had ever distinguished him. Regal state
he coveted not ; for when his name was exalted above
the name of all creatures, borne on the prayers of the
faithful, and made second only to Allah himself, he
still occupied the same humble house, at times per-
formed even the menial duties of his household, still
exercised himself in acts of humility, and still expressed
himself as much as ever in need of the mercy of the
All -Compassionate for his entrance into Paradise.^
And, finally, ambition could hardly have been
altogether his prevailing motive, for he made no
provision to perpetuate in his own family the tem-
poral power which was his. At the first promulga-
tion of his mission, the believers were a little

' Sura xlvii. 21.


knot of devoted friends, without power, but whose
ardent faith and attachment were all in all to him,
and provided him a more than sufficient recom-
pense for the scorn and obloquy which he had to
endure. Thus for many years he persevered, preaching
and believing in the truth of his mission, never
wavering in his faith, never doubtful of the reality of
that revelation which called down upon him ridicule
a.nd persecution, which compelled some of his nearest
relatives and followers to take refuge beyond the sea,
which placed his life in danger, broke up his home,
and, as a hunted fugitive drove him at last to take
refuge in exile and in flight. Thus, then, in the
absence of any more adequate reason, we are led to
consider that a substantial belief in the reality of a
divine commission to preach, and to re-establish in
the world what he considered the original simple
faith, sustained and impelled him forward, excited
the enthusiasm of his adherents, and was the secret
motive which called into being those spiritual claims
of which the results have been so memorable.

And, as time goes on, we shall also find how
these impulses, which at first may have aimed at the
light, become more and more tinged with the things
of earth and the things of sense ; how, by degrees,
the forbearance of his early years is abandoned, and
is succeeded by acts of vindictive revenge, by rapine
and lust ; and how still he makes bold in believing
these revelations which, under the name of the
Almighty, are invoked to justify his deeds ; and thus,
by the very deceitfulness of his heart, he comes to
consider his wild and sinful impulse as the will of
Heaven, and as indubitable inspiration from on high.


Mahomet's legation and the first establishment

OF ISLAM. — [a.D, 610-617.]

With such religious speculations possessing his
mind, he approached his fortieth year,^ and was
spending the month of Ramadhan in the cave of
Hira. It was the night of Al Kadr, " which is better
than a thousand months : therein do the angels de-
scend, and the spirit of Gabriel also, by the permis-
sion of the Lord, with the decrees concerning every
matter, and it is peace until the rising of the morn "
(Koran, sura xcvii.), — when there appeared to him
" one mighty in power, endued with understand-
ing; .... he appeared in the highest part of
the horizon. After^vards, he approached the pro-
phet, and drew near unto him, until he was at the
distance of two bows' length from him, or yet nearer ;
and he revealed unto his servant that which he
revealed" (Koran, sura liii.). It was the angel Ga-
briel, who held in his hand a silken cloth covered
with writing, and bid Mahomet read ; but he replied,

' Conf. Koran, sura x. 17 : — "I have already dwelt among
you [the men of Mecca] to the age of forty years. "


that he could not. Then the angel, repeating part of
the ninety-sixth sura, spoke as follows : — " Read in
the name of the Lord, who hath created all things.
Read, by the most beneficent Lord, who taught the use
of the pen ; who teacheth man that which he knoweth
not" (Koran, sura xcvi. 1-5). And then the angel
left him, and the words were as though they were en-
graved on his heart. ^ Such was the first appearance
to him of the heavenly messenger, and the first inti-
mation of the Divine will.

And then we are told that there was an interval
of doubt and despondency in his mind ; he was per-
plexed, and dreaded lest these beginnings of his in-
spiration might in reality be promptings of evil spirits
and genii ; and, driven to desperation, he contem-
plated suicide, but was held back by invisible hands.
After a sufiicient " intermission," the voice returned,
and the angel, from a throne between heaven and
earth, thus addressed him : — " Oh, Mohammed ! thou
art the apostle of God, and I am Gabriel." This in-
timation strengthened his heart, allayed his fears, and
at length, persuaded of his divine appointment, he
went to announce the glad tidings to Khadija.

Overjoyed at the news, she now understands
the meaning of the strange visitations which had
fallen on her husband, at once accepts the truth of
his divine mission, and her faith, we learn, comforted
and reassured him. Waraca, too, confirms the agi-
tated mind of the prophet, and tells him that the

' Koran, sura ii. 91 : "For he hath caused the Koran to
descend on thy heart by the permission of God ... a direction
and good tidings to the faithful. "


angel who had appeared to him was the same as an-
nounced to Moses his mission. Zeid, his adopted
son, embraces the faith, and to these were added the
names of two others, his adopted son AH, and Abu
Bekr, both afterwards caHphs, and both reckoned
amongst the earHest beUevers. AH was the son of
Abu TaHb, and cousin of the prophet, but nearly thirty
years his junior. Abu TaHb, however, had fallen on
evil days, and when the burden of a numerous family
pressed too heavily upon him, his former kindness to
Mahomet was gratefully remembered, who, being
then in affluent circumstances, took upon himself the
charge of Ah, adopted him in place of his own lost
Casim, and they afterwards felt towards each other
the mutual attachment of parent and child. At the
time when Mahomet assumed the prophetic charac-
ter, Ali was about fourteen years of age, but with the
permission of Abu Talib grew up in the faith of his
adopted father.

Abu Bekr belonged to a collateral branch of the
house of Coreish, being descended from Taym, the
son of Morrah, the grandfather of the celebrated
Cussai. He was about the same age, and the bosom
friend of Mahomet ; his charity was unbounded, his
character gentle and unimpulsive, his passions always
under the control of reason, and his firm and un-
wavering mind manifested no hesitation at the pro-
phet's call to accept Islam. His proper name was
Abdallah, and his firm attachment to Mahomet gained
him the name of " Al-Sadiq," or " The True." In
history he is celebrated under the name of Abu Bekr,
or "the Father of the Virgin," a surname gained from


the fact that Ayesha, his daughter, was the only virgin
bride of the prophet.

By the influence of Abu Bekr five new con-
verts were added to Islam : Saad, a nephew of
Amina ; Zobier, a nephew of Khadija ; Talha, after-
wards a valiant warrior of the faith ; Othman-ibn-
Affan,^ subsequently caliph ; and Abd-al-Rahman,
the son of Awf, whose four companions, on their first
visit to the prophet, embraced the new doctrines.
Others were gradually added to the little band of the
faithful. Of these may be mentioned Said-ibn-Zeid,
then a boy, and his wife Fatima, sister of Zeid-
ibn-Khattab, and of the famous Omar, afterwards
caliph. In all, it may be assumed that in the first
three or four years a small group of thirty or forty
converts were the fruits of the secret preaching and
private solicitation of the prophet. ^

It was towards the end of this period that the
prophet received, as he supposed, the divine com-
mand to preach openly the doctrines he had hitherto
secretly promulgated. It was either on Mount Hira,
or when, after being " reviled by certain of the Co-
reish, he was sitting pensive and wrapped in his
mantle," ^ that the same angelic messenger came, and
thus addressed him : — " O thou covered, arise and
preach, and magnify the Lord, and clean thy gar-
ments, and fly every abomination ; and be not liberal
in hopes to receive more in. return, and patiently wait

' Othman was descended from Omeya, a son of Abd-Shams,
and by his mother was a grandson of Abd-al-Muttalib.
^ Muir, " Life of Mahomet," ii. in, 112.
' Sale's " Koran," p. 471, note.


for thy Lord. . . . Let me alone with him ^ whom I
have created, on whom I have bestowed abundant
riches, ... he is an adversary to our signs ; I will
afflict him with grievous calamities. May he be
cursed ; . . . and again may he be cursed 3 ... he
was elated with pride ; and he said this is no other
than a piece of magic, ... I will cast him to be
bound in hell " (Koran, sura Ixxiv.).

Such then was the commission to preach openly,
and as such it affords a view of the opposition which
he had already met with, and of the form of that
opposition. They taunted him with being a magician.
We may also notice how, in his bitter and vindictive
feelings, the authority of Heaven is sought to curse
those who " frowned on him and put on an austere
countenance, and turned their backs." ^ For, though

' The person alluded to is supposed to be Walid-ibn-al-
Magheira, a chief man among the Coreish — the same who had
begun the restoration of the Kaaba. Mahomet treats his uncle
Abu-Lahab with similar curses for the bitter hostility with which
he sought to oppose the establishment of the new religion.
Thus, " Let the hands of Abu-Lahab perish (or let him be
damned), and he shall perish. His riches shall not profit him
... he shall go down to be burned into flaming fire ; and his
wife also bearing wood, having on her neck a cord of twisted
fibres of a palm-tree" (Koran, sura cxi.). Abu-Lahab's wife,
Om-Jemil, a sister of Abu-Sofian, had offended Mahomet by
strewing thorns in his path, and thus comes in for her reward.
Conf. Sale's "Koran," sura cxi. notes ad loc. ; Muir, ii. 80;
Kasimirski, p. 538, note; D'Herbelot, art. " Abou-Lahab,"
who relates the traditional realization of Mahomet's curse.

* As a further specimen of this, the following may be men-
tioned. It is a quotation from the Koran, and is supposed to
be levelled against Walid-ibn-al-Magheira : " Obey not any
who is a common swearer, a despicable fellow, a defamer,


hitherto Mahomet had contented himself with making
known his doctrines privately among his relatives and
friends, and those whom their conversion allured to
the new faith, the progress of his work had been suffi-
cient to excite the hatred and alarm of the Coreish
—the priestly caste — from whose ranks converts had
been made, and to arouse the opposition of all those
who directly or indirectly were interested in the
conservation of the rites of the Kaaba, and the
continuance of Mecca as a place of pilgrimage for
the whole of Arabia.

We may be well assured that the chiefs of the
Coreish were deeply interested in the retention of that
idolatry which made Mecca at once a centre of reli-
gious resort and a flourishing and important com-
mercial emporium. To attack its idols was to
attack Mecca ; for any diminution of the supersti-
tious veneration in which it was held, would be fol-
lowed by a loss of those pecuniary advantages which
they derived from their sacerdotal functions, or their
trade ; and so it is found that while calling upon him
for some heaven-sent proofs of the truth of the claims he

going about to slander . . . cruel . . . and besides this, of spu-
rious birth . . . we will stigmatize him on the nose" (Sura
Ixviii. 11-16). Tradition says that the prophetical menace was
made good at the battle of Bedr, where Walid had his nose
sli*: ! To reprove " common swearing," and condemn "slander "
and " cruelty," is legitimate enough ; but to reproach any man
with his " spurious birth " betrays a degree of personal rancour
altogether unworthy of the prophetic character to which he pre-
tended. Yet the above are words put into the mouth of the
Almighty !

' They demanded some miracle, such as turning the little hill
Safa into gold, &c. ; but he refused, declared his inability, and


made, the partisans of the old faith subjected both Ma-
homet and his followers to scorn and ridicule, to insult
and persecution. For, in order to accomplish their ends
and arouse opposition, it was necessary only to raise
the cry of impiety and disbelief in the national idols.
In the earlier part of his career, the outrages of the
excited populace were not confined to menaces alone,
and on a certain occasion one of the assailants was
wounded by Saad, who thus had the honour of shed-
ding the first blood in the cause of Islam.

At the termination of the fifth year of his mis-
sion, Mahomet took up his abode in " the House
of Arcam," which lay facing the Kaaba to the east ;
and there he received those who resorted to him for
instruction in the principles of his belief, and for read-
ing those portions of the Koran then revealed. From
the important conversions there made it was after-
wards styled " the House of Islam." Among the
disciples here gained was a Christian slave named
Jabr, from whom his enemies said he gained in-
formation regarding the Scriptures ; and Suheib, a
native of Mosul, in Mesopotamia, who had been made
a captive, and sold a slave to Constantinople, and
there educated and brought up. He came next to
Mecca, where he gained his freedom and embraced
Islam. He is supposed, on fair grounds, to be the
person accused by his enemies as having furnished
Mahomet with his Scriptural knowledge, and as
thus alluded to : " Say, the holy spirit hath brought
the Koran down from the Lord with truth, that

said that the power of working miracles belonged to God alone.
Conf. sura vi. 109-111.


he may confirm those who beUeve. We, also, know
that they say, Verily a certain man teacheth him
to compose the Koran ; the tongue of the person
unto whom they incline is a foreign tongue," &c. '
This person was deeply attached to Mahomet and
his doctrine, and on his " flight," abandoning all his
wealth, followed him to Medina,

And so believers were added till they reached
about fifty ; among whom are numbered many who
were in menial or servile positions at Mecca. The
incarcerations and tortures, chiefly by thirst in the burn-
ing rays of the sun, to which these humble converts were
subjected, to induce their recantation and adoration of
the national idols, touched the heart of Mahomet, and
by divine authority he permitted them, under certain
circumstances, to deny their faith, so long as their
hearts were steadfast in it. Thus : " Whoever denieth
God, after he hath believed, except him who shall
be compelled against his will, whose heart con-
tinueth steadfast in the faith, shall be chastised"
(Koran, sura xvi. loS).^ It should be related that
the history of Islam can afford examples of those who
have refused to avail themselves of the permission
here given, a permission which must be confessed to
be subversive of all morality.^

Among the chief opponents of Mahomet and
his doctrines were, as mentioned above, Walid and
Abu Lahab, his uncle; to these may be added Abu

' Koran, sura xvi. 104, 105.
* Conf. Sale, chap. xvi. p. 224.

^ Conf. also 2 Kings v. 18, where the heathen Na^man asks
forgiveness for "bowing in the house of Rimmon."


Sofian, the son of Harb, the grandson of Omeya, and
great-grandson of Abd Shams. He was a man of
great wealth, and one of the most influential men in
Mecca. Abu Jahl,^ a Coreishite, descended from
Yokdha, uncle of Cussai was also a bitter and abu-
sive opponent of the new doctrines. One day, having
covered Mahomet, whom he met on the hill of Safa,
with a shower of opprobrious epithets, and perhaps
even blows — all which were patiently borne — the
matter was reported to Hamza, Mahomet's uncle, a
mighty hunter, who, with his bow and arrows, was
just returning from the chase. Indignant, he pur-
sued Abu Jahl, found him sitting in the Kaaba, in-
flicted immediate chastisement, and at once adopting

' Abu Jahl. The real name of this man, an implacable ad-
versary of Mahomet, was Amm ibn Hestam, but was subse-
quently surnamed Abu Jahl, or the "Father of Folly." In the
Koran he is thought to be alluded to thus : — "There is a man
who disputeth concerning God, without either knowledge or a
direction — proudly turning his side — on the resurrection we will
make him taste the torment of burning " (Koran, sura xxii. 8,
9). His injustice to an orphan is also supposed to be alluded
to in Sura cvii. 2, though the passage is also applied to Abu
Sofian and to Walid ibn al Magheira. He advised the Meccans
to put Mahomet to death. Thus : " Call to mind how the un-
believers plotted against thee, to put thee to death or expel thee
the city, but God laid a plot against them ; and God is the best
layer of plots " (Koran, sura viii. 2,0 ei set/.). He was a boastful,
debauched man, and perished at the battle of Bedr. It is re-
lated of him that, being a near neighbour of Mahomet, he used
to fling unclean and offensive things at the prophet and upon
the hearth as he cooked his food. His example, it is added,
was followed by some of the neighbours ; but beyond such
treatment and invective, Mahomet had to suffer hardly any injury
of a personal nature.


the doctrines and faith of his nephew, was his faithful
and vigorous supporter till his death at the battle of

Up to the fifth year of his ministry (A.D. 615)
Mahomet was probably free from the apprehension of
personal danger, and in this he fared better than
those converts of servile position, who were, as we
have seen, exposed to chains and imprisonment, and
whose scars and wounds showed the sufferings they
had been called on to endure. His steady and
constant protector was the amiable and venerable
Abu Talib, who, though poor, yet, as the head ot the
house of Hashim, had both the power and inclination
to shield from his hostile kinsmen the nephew who
had been intrusted to his care, and yet whose faith he
had not adopted.

It will perhaps be well at this stage to glance
at the internal relations of Mahomet's family. As
above related, his son Casim died at the age of two
years. His eldest daughter, Zeinab, had been given
in marriage to a Coreishite of the house of Abd-
Shams, Abul-Aas by name, who was also a nephew, by
his mother, of Khadija. On Mahomet's flight to
Medina, she remained behind at INIecca with her
husband, to whom she was much attached. The
latter resisted the solicitations of his relatives to re-
pudiate his wife. At the battle of Bedr, in which he
fought against Mahomet, for he was not then a be-
liever, he was taken prisoner and liberated on condi-
tion of sending Zeinab to her father. She died in
the ninth year of the Hejira of the injuries she had
received at the hands of the Coreish on her escape


from Mecca ; but before her death her husband had
become a convert, and Hved for a short time in hap-

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