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chief followers more and more closely to himself.

* Musnad, i., 97.
\ Alif-Bd, i., 141.
\ Musnad, vi., 210.
§ Mikhlat, 156.

History of the Meccan Period 1 7 f

This was doubtless his object in marrying the daugh-
ters of Abu Bakr and Omar ; while a political motive
of a different sort is to be found in his alliances with
the daughters of political opponents or fallen ene-
mies. Victory over an enemy would seem to have
been consummated only when the enemy's daughter
was introduced into the conqueror's harem.* The
remainder are to be explained by his extreme anx-
iety to have a son, and thereby escape a reproach
to which he was keenly sensitive. " The owner of
this castle was in great grief because he had no son ;
so he did not cease selecting bride after bride till at
last there was prospect of success." This is men-
tioned by an Arabic writer \ as a normal occurrence,
and indeed the institution of marriage is among the
Arabs based on the first two only of the reasons
given in the Anglican marriage service. % In Khadi-
jah's lifetime, as has been seen, Mohammed could
not follow the dictates of either of the motives that
have been alleged. Viewed in the light of his sub-
sequent conduct, his behaviour prior to her death
illustrates in a striking way his extraordinary self-
control and determination to wait for the favourable
moment before putting any plan into execution.
Women in the East, especially Meccan women, are
more attached to their native homes than men, § and
Khadijah's death probably rendered the Flight prac-
ticable. The death of Abu Talib rendered it a natural

* Wellhausen, Ehe, 435, n. 5. He gives a reason for this.

f Hariri, 430.

X Ibid., 329.

§ Wellhausen, Ehe, 470.

1 78 Mohammed

solution of the Prophet's difficulties, and one which
the legend made Abu Talib himself suggest to his
nephew on his deathbed.* For to no other of his
relations was he bound by ties similar to those which
attached him to the uncle whose protection he had
enjoyed so long, nor was there any of the uncon-
verted left who was likely to interfere so actively in
his behalf. The tradition would fain give Abbas a
similar part ; but there is grave reason to suspect
that he first got it when his descendants had climbed
Mohammed's throne.

After Abu Talib's death the Prophet is said to
have suffered severe persecution, dust being thrown
on his head.f He therefore left Meccah, with the
view of obtaining a footing elsewhere ; his first visit
was to Ta'if, the city that was connected with Meccah
by so many ties. He could not apparently have
made a worse choice ; the people of Ta'if were no less
devoted to their goddesses than the Ephesians to
Artemis ; years after they made a tougher fight for
their religion than any other Arab town. In the
fact that he went no farther than Ta'if we have evi-
dence of the caution and timidity which character-
ised his movements: one of the ruling family at Ta'if
had a Kurashite wife ; hence as a Kurashite Moham-
med could claim the protection of the ruling family,
which they appear to have granted till he began to
explain his views, which were received by the sheikhs
with contempt and withering rebuffs. Abashed by
their tone — this story is too characteristic to be

* Ibn Sa'd II., ii., 91.
\ Tabari, i., 1196.

History of the Meccan Period i 79

omitted — the Prophet begged them not to mention
what his views were, so determined was he to keep
out of danger's way. His request was not granted,
and he was mobbed by the fanatical populace, his
sufferings being witnessed by some of his Kurashite
opponents, who, however, as usual, treated him with
generosity. Long after a late convert remembered see-
ing him on a high place at Ta'if, leaning like a Kahin *
on a staff or bow, and reciting a Surah (lxxxvi.)
in which he argues the resurrection of the body from
the nature of its origin, and assures the hearers with
strange oaths that he is serious. The role of the
Prophet assuredly resembled that of a madman ; but
the convert professed to have committed the text to
memory at the time, though it was not till long
after that he acknowledged it to be the Word of
God. f At the time he accepted the opinion of
some Kurashites who told him that they knew the
Prophet well, and would have followed him had he
been genuine. % One woman (Rakikah) is said to
have given the Prophet water, and indeed to have
been converted ; and since open conversion would
have meant death to her, she was permitted to adopt
a compromise similar to that of Naaman the Syrian ;
she was to assert that her God was the Thakafite
idol, but she was to turn her back to it when she
prayed. §

To Meccah he durst not return without a promise

* Isabah, iii., 1127.
\Ibid., i., 826.
\ Musnad, iv., 335.
§ Isabah, ii., 212.

1 80 Mohammed

of protection, for whoever succeeded Abu Talib as
chief of the Hashimites was not disposed to grant
it ; it was at last with difficulty procured from
Mut'im, son of 'Adi, whose name has occurred be-
fore. Nothing further of importance occurred dur-
ing this trip save an interview with a Christian slave
whom he moved to rapturous admiration by knowing
that Nineveh was the home of Jonah.

Truly the inhabitants of one town care little for
the concerns of another. Ta'if is not two days'
journey from Meccah, and, as appears from this
story and other evidence, many Meccans had prop-
erty there. Yet clearly Mohammed's prophetic mis-
sion, which had now continued for ten years, had not
reached the ears of the people of Ta'if. We, know-
ing nothing of Meccah, save what Mohammed's bio-
graphers record, suppose the Meccans to have been
exclusively occupied with him and his mission. But
it is evident that they must have had other and
more important concerns, else the neighbouring and
sister city must have known something about their

The Prophet then had at the first attempt less
honour in another country than even in his own ;
but the first failure never made any difference when
he had once conceived a plan. Since, however, mis-
sionary journeys were not free from danger, he re-
solved to take advantage of the immunity which the
time of the festival provided. On those occasions
the neighbouring tribes came en masse to the neigh-
bourhood of Meccah, and set up their tents in groups,
as indeed is probably done still. For twenty days

History of the Meccan Period 1 8 1

from the commencement of Dhu'l-Ka'dah they had
their fair at Ukaz, for ten at Majannah, and for eight
at Dhu'l-Majaz. Nothing could be easier than to go
the round of these encampments, as doubtless many
a pedlar did, and recite passages of the Koran ; offer-
ing Paradise to any tribe that was prepared to re-
ceive him.* And years after the Mission had become
a success old men remembered seeing the Prophet
at the fair of Dhu'l-Majaz delivering his message;
he was clad in red, and at that time had a white
complexion and copious black hair. Abu Jahl was
near, throwing clods at the preacher and warning
those present not to abandon their gods.f When
the feast itself came near, and the two sects of the
Arabs separated, Mohammed used to surprise the
youthful Meccans by standing with the sect which
was not his own.J One tribe, indeed, the Banu 'Amr
Ibn Sa'sa'ah, appear to have thought his proposi-
tion worth considering, though the conditions which
they demanded were not accepted. To the rest the
Prophet seemed either a blasphemer or a buffoon ;
and Abu Lahab is said to have followed him closely,
to warn the Arabs to attach no importance to his
proposals. On the other hand Abu Bakr is repre-
sented as utilising his genealogical knowledge to win
the Prophet credit.

Since favours are usually granted with conditions
attached to them, we are entitled to infer from the
Prophet's conduct after the death of Abu Talib that

* Musnad, iii., 339.
f Ibid., iv., 63.
%Azraki, 130.

1 8 2 Mohammed

he was only permitted to enjoy the protection of a
Meccan family on condition that he confined his
proselytising endeavours to strangers. Such condi-
tions are not uncommonly imposed on Christian
missionaries who work in Moslem countries, where
they are permitted to convert Jews and Christians
at their pleasure, provided they leave privileged
citizens alone. Those who stipulated this probably
had ceased to regard Mohammed as a source of
danger, and felt confident that his preaching would
have no other effect than that of making him
ridiculous. Hence he was permitted to try what he
could do with the visitors whom the feast attracted
in numbers, and also with such casual guests as a
variety of causes might bring to Meccah. Thus it
came about that one Tufail, son of 'Amr, of the
tribe Daus, came to Meccah and believed ; his tribe
had produced, if not a prophet, yet a man who had
inferred the existence of a Creator, not knowing
who He was ; his disciple came to Meccah prepared
to learn. He offered Mohammed a sure refuge in
his fortress, but Mohammed was not satisfied with
the proposal.* Thus, too, a man of the tribe Ham-
dan offered Mohammed refuge, but as he bethought
him of getting the consent of his tribe and returning
the next year to fetch the Prophet, he was too late.f
Thus, too, it came about that Mohammed was on the
lookout when envoys from Yathrib arrived, and an-
other cause had meanwhile been conspiring to make
the people of Yathrib ready to receive Mohammed.

* Muslim, i., 44 ; Isabah, ii., 578 ; Musnad, Hi., 370.
f Mush ad, Hi., 390.

History of the Meccan Period 1 83

This would appear to have been the course of
events during the Meccan period, of which precise
dates were rarely remembered, while the falsifica-
tion of parts of it was naturally attempted.

Throughout, the conduct of the Meccan leaders
seems to have been that of respectable and good-
natured men. They were not hard on Mohammed's
eccentricity, supported as it was by Khadijah's wealth
and social position, but naturally they were merciless
to the humble individuals, who, having neither wealth
nor station, or only a little of either, chose to think
for themselves.

When Mohammed's successful diplomacy threat-
ened to wreck the independence of their city, they
adopted forcible measures, but even then were ready
to make an honourable compromise. When this failed,
and a succession of misfortunes reduced Mohammed
to impotence, they took no advantage of his weak-
ness, but suffered him to hold his own opinions, so
long as he gave the citizens no further trouble. If,
says an Arabic proverb, the end of a course were as
clear as the beginning, no one would ever be found
regretting. Neither they nor any one else could
then foresee the possibilities of Islam.

In Mohammed's conduct we may see the influ-
ence of what Carlyle calls a fixed idea — determina-
tion to be recognised as the Prophet of Allah. A
legend makes the Kurashite chiefs offer him anything
he chooses, wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, sov-
ereignty, or anything else, if he will only resign his
claims to be a Prophet, but he refuses. To this le-
gend we naturally attach no credence, but even in



the case of the fixed ideas which Carlyle has ren-
dered immortal — Boehmer's determination to sell his
necklace, Rohan's determination to be reconciled to
the Queen — their abandonment would have been
attended with much personal inconvenience, and
going back was little less awkward than going for-
ward. After the part of divine ambassador had been
acted for ten years with very considerable success it
could not well be given up.



UNLIKE Meccah, Yathrib lies in a fruitful
plain. " Walled habitations, green fields,
running water, every blessing the Eastern
mind can desire, are there." f And indeed the rich-
ness of the soil finds expression in the name Taibah,
" the pleasing," which its Arab colonists were at one
time inclined to substitute for the Egyptian Ath-
ribis, Atrepe, " Residence of Triphis." The name
whereby it is now known, " the City," is an ab-
breviation for " the City of the Prophet." The
Egyptian settlement was apparently not quite iden-
tical with the present site, but somewhat to the
north, at the confluence of the streams which unite
at Zaghabah to work their way to the sea.

The Arab chronicles take us back but a little way
in elucidating the circumstances which led to the re-
ception of Mohammed. That so favoured a region
would be early colonised is certain, and indeed in
pre-Christian days Yathrib figures as a prosperous

* In Arabic, hijrah, often wrongly written Hegira.
\Keane % p. 219.

1 86 Mohammed

commercial city*; but the native tradition knows
little of earlier inhabitants than Jews.

Some of these professed to have settled there in
the time of Moses ; others to have joined their
brethren after the taking of Jerusalem by the Ro-
mans, f Jewish settlers were certainly to be found
in most of the oases that lie between Syria and
Yemen. A considerable number of Jewish tribes
at Yathrib (some twenty) are enumerated by the
Arabs, though only three figure much in the life of
Mohammed. The names of none of these tribes
are Hebrew ; most of them are Arabic, and similar
to the names of Arab tribes ; one or two being de-
rived from totems, while one or two are Aramaic.
Hence it is improbable that the blood of these Jews
was mainly Jewish. Their goods were protected by
seventy forts. %

The Arabic history accounts for the facts that the
Jews in Mohammed's time formed a minority of the
people of Yathrib. and that many of them were
clients of the~?^rabs instead of being supreme, by
certain hypotheses. At the dispersion caused by
the breaking of the dam at Marib, § the Aus and
Khazraj had wandered towards the Yathrib oasis, and
had indeed been allowed land, but had no capital.
As the Arabs increased, they incurred the envy and
suspicion of the wealthy Jewish residents, who, im-
itating the treatment of their ancestors by Pharaoh,

* Winckler, Altorientalische Forschungen, ii., 339.

f Aghani, xix., 94.

\ Sam Audi, 80.

§ This event is still regarded by some as not wholly mythical.

The Migration 187

proceeded to oppress the settlers : one Jewish chief-
tain (with the curious name Bedchamber)* even
exacting the jus prima noctis. By an expedient
which rarely failed in anecdotes of this style, the
brother of one of the brides, disguised in bridal
attire, assassinated the tyrant ; and presently f by
two acts of gross perfidy the supremacy had been
won for the incomers. A Ghassanide king, at the
instance of a Khazrajite, Malik, son of 'Ajlan, had
invited the chiefs of the Jews to a banquet and be-
headed them, leaving Malik to achieve the work of
subduing the Jews. Malik accomplishes this by a
second banquet, which the remaining chiefs were
credulous and infatuated enough to attend. After
this double massacre the Jews were no longer able
to make head against the newcomers, but sank into
a condition of vassalage. When a Jew was attacked,
instead of calling his brethren to help him, he be-
sought the aid of an Arab patron. And, indeed,
that the Banu Kainuka, who owned the market of
Yathrib, were dependents of the Khazraj, appears
from a tale which shall presently be told.

It cannot now be discovered whether the above
story contains any germ of truth, or whether it is
wholly the product of the fancy. It is certainly
true that to many of the Yathrib tribes Jews were
attached : but the victims of the treachery cannot
well have been the tribes Nadir and Kuraizah, who
play a part in the scenes to which we are coming ;

Samhudi (Kaitun): but probably Fatyun {Ibn Duraid, 259)
is better.
f Samhudi, 81.

1 88 Mohammed

for at the commencement of Islam, these were not
in a condition of vassalage. It rather appears as if
these tribes had kept aloof from the affairs of their
pagan neighbours till shortly after the commence-
ment of Islam. Yet the fact of these tribes having
names with specifically Arabic consonants requires
some explanation. Israelites in most countries take
names by which they are assimilated to their neigh-
bours; but the fact of their doing so implies that
they feel themselves to be aliens, and would, at least
to a certain extent, conceal this circumstance. Had
these Israelites, coming from their home in Canaan,
colonised a new country, they would surely have re-
tained both their language and their national names.
Now, it seems clear that these Jews of Medinah
were no more retentive of the former than of the
latter. They spoke Arabic — an idiom of their own,
it would appear, but not more different from the
language of their neighbours than is Yiddish from

Hence we cannot credit the Arabic tale, and yet
the obvious hypothesis that these tribes were not of
Jewish origin, but Judaised Arabs,* can only be
accepted to a moderate extent. \ The character-
istics which they are found displaying are too na-
tional for us to suppose they had imbibed their
Judaism from strangers. Perhaps, then, these tribes
had migrated to Yathrib after the break-up of the
Jewish state in South Arabia. Of the superiority

* Ibn Duraid, p. 259, seems to be in favour of this view. Ya'kubi
asserts it positively.

The Migration 189

of their culture to that of the Arabs there was no
question. They were better equipped with instru-
ments for agriculture, and understood many indus-
tries to which the Arabs were strangers. They were
also adepts in magic and preferred the weapons of
the black art to those of open warfare. At the
time when this history opens they had some renown
as warriors. Mohammed, a good judge of men,
rated it, as we shall see, quite correctly.

There is no doubt that the Jewish communities
had, by aid of their peaceful industry, acquired con-
siderable wealth, and a poet of early Islam couples
the palaces of the Banu Nadir with those of the
Persian and Byzantine monarchs; deterioration of
the race had, he thinks, led to the fall of all alike.
They had certain public funds, with a treasurer to
manage them. We hear incidentally of valuable
plate possessed by members of the tribe. Some of
their wealth was doubtless acquired by money-lend-
ing ; on several occasions in the subsequent history
Jews figure largely as money-lenders,* and when the
Prophet died his cuirass was held by a Jew in pawn.
This fact makes their abandonment to destruction
by the people of Yathrib easier to understand.

The reputation for learning which, as we have
seen, they enjoyed at Meccah, seems to have been
deserved. They had one or more schools in which
the Torah was taught: and it seems likely that
members of their community were at the first em-
ployed by Mohammed as scribes, or at any rate as
accountants ; for few of the pagans at Yathrib could

•E.g., Wakidi{W.) % 174.

1 90 Mohammed

as yet write Arabic. * They would seem to have
written Arabic in their familiar Hebrew character,
and among the fragments of antiquity which may
some day be unearthed are letters or contracts in
this language. Their command of the " clear
Arabic tongue " was in some cases sufficient to
enable their poets to compete on equal terms with
those of the pagan Arab tribes, and more than one
of their number counts among the classics of the
Days of Ignorance. In their compositions they ar-
rogate to themselves the virtues and the distinc-
tions of the pagan chieftains or knights errant : and
from a scene to which allusion shall presently be
made we should gather that they seriously believed
themselves to possess these qualities.

The tribes called Aus and Khazraj formed, how-
ever, the bulk of the population of Yathrib. From
the tribe to the family there were (as elsewhere) a
series of groups of smaller or greater numbers, which,
however, did not admit of precise limitations.
Separate groups dwelt in separate quarters sur-
rounded by their own palm plantations. These
quarters were groups of mud huts ; some of the
groups had meeting houses, but we do not hear of
sanctuaries, f Some had towers or fortresses where
at times of danger they could secure their families
and property. In an ancient description of such a

* Ibn Sa'd mentions as writers Abu 'Abs Ibn Jabr, Ma'n Ibn 'Adi,
Ubayy Ibn Ka'b, Sa'd Ibn Al-Rabi', Abdallah Ibn Rawahah, Bashir
Ibn Sa'd, Abdallah Ibn Zaid, Aus Ibn Khawali, Al-Mundhir Ibn
'Amr, Usaid Ibn Al-Hudair, Sa'd Ibn 'Ubadah, Rafi' Ibn Malik.

\ The breadth of one quarter is given as thirty cubits. Ibn Sa'd^
II. , ii., 10.

The Migration 191

tower it is said to have been built of black stone
"with an eminence of white, with another on that
which would be seen from a distance." They
appear ordinarily to have been square in shape.
They were required only in emergencies, since the
rules of war forbade the conqueror to enter the
quarters of the vanquished.

The pagan Yathribites seem to have lagged behind
the Meccans in civilisation : a " perfect man " was
in their nomenclature one who could write Arabic,
swim, and shoot * ; and few of them possessed all
these accomplishments. Their occupation in time
of peace lay mainly in the cultivation of the palm.
Many of the necessaries of life were imported by
Nabataeans, who had a market called after them in
Yathrib ; payment was probably in dates, which
were as much the measure of value at Yathrib as
was the camel at Meccah. Though we hear the
names of one or two wealthy Yathribites, the bulk of
them appear to have been poor. " In Yathrib in
the Prophet's time there was only one wedding
garment ; ornaments had to be borrowed from the
Jews." f This poverty was probably aggravated by
the Jewish money-lending.

There appears to have been as at Meccah no re-
cognised government at Yathrib, no regular mode of
administering justice. A tribal group was, however,
responsible for the actions of its members. Blood-
shed was common, as the result of petty brawls, and
caprices or conflicting interests often led on these

* Jbn Sa'd II., ii.,91.
f Wellhausen, Ehe, 443.

192 Mohammed

occasions to cross-grouping: clans for various rea-
sons taking the part of more remote relations against
their nearer kin. Yet the petty wars seem to have
been fought with strict observation of the rules
of the game. Routed in the field the enemy was
not pursued into his habitation. After many battles
the affair was patched up by the payment of blood-
money : the number of the slain was counted, and
the family that had lost most men received com-
pensation from the victor. Frequently doubtless
disputes were settled without bloodshed by the ap-
pointment of arbitrators, * who however constantly
found it difficult to get their dooms recognised
by the party against whom they gave sentence.

Of the origin of the dissensions at Yathrib which
led to the summoning of Mohammed a complicated
account is given. It would appear that dispute was
frequently caused by a chieftain according his pro-
tection to some stranger, whom a native wantonly
would injure or kill. The patron's honour was in-
jured by such an act, and his demand for vengeance
would lead to an affray of serious dimensions. Yet
the consequences of such acts were so well known
that we fancy those who committed them had ordi-
narily some ulterior object — the acquisition of land or
spoil, if they thought the patron whom they had in-
jured would succumb in combat. A member of the
Aus, Hatib, of the clan Mu'awiyah, had accorded
his protection to a stranger, of the tribe Tha'labah
of Dhubyan : while in the Jewish market-place, a

* Ibn Duraid, 266, mentions Al-Mundhir Ibn Haram as arbitrator
between the Aus and Khazraj.

The Migration 193

Khazrajite (Yazid, son of al-Harith) offered a Jew his
robe if he would box the stranger's ears. The Jew
accepted the offer, and gave the man a blow which
rang throughout the market-place — for which assault
he paid with his life, when Hatib, incensed at the
treatment of his client, arrived on the scene. * The
Khazrajite who had instigated the outrage rushed
after Hatib, but failing to catch him, slew in his
stead a member of his clan. Each of the tribes
gladly rushed to arms, and there followed a series
of encounters, in which the Aus met with serious
reverses, and one of their clans, called Nabit,
were expelled from their lands, and forced to leave

In the final explosion, known as the battle of
Bu'ath, dated six years before the Flight, f the Jew-
ish tribes Kuraizah and Nadir were involved. Till
this time it would appear that they had been cultivat-
ing their lands in peace: and even if the story told

Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthMohammed and the rise of Islam → online text (page 13 of 32)