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champions, feel no shame in acknowledging them-
selves incompetent to deal with angels. Whether
Mohammed, who resorted so readily to the aid of the
assassin's dagger, believed in these supernatural allies
we know not. Of the Arabs who were disinterested
spectators, some were sufficiently thrilled by the Pro-
phet's success to join him unsolicited. Such an ac-
cession was Abbas, son of Mirdas, son of the poetess
Al-Khansa, and of great renown in the tribe Sulaim,
which extended over a large portion of the Hijaz.
This man, according to one account, was, after the
retirement of the Kuraish, led by a series of portents

* Wakidi ( W.), 224.

The Destruction of the Jews 337

to burn the family idol and visit Mohammed in
Medinah; he at first incurred the reproaches of his
tribe, but presently succeeded in converting them ;
and at the battle of Hunain, after the taking of
Meccah, a troop of a thousand men led by Abbas's
father-in-law, Dahhak, succeeded in regaining the



FREED from the controversy with the Jews and
the fear of invasion from his older enemies,
the Prophet could now turn to schemes of
vengeance and conquest. Vengeance was necessary
for the treacherous murder of Khubaib and his follow-
ers by the Banu Lihyan — an act precisely analogous
to the assassinations authorised by the Prophet ; but
whereas the Jews were incapable of retaliation, the
Prophet was not. His strategy was similar to that
which has proved successful in many campaigns:
since the Lihyan dwelt to the south of Medinah the
Prophet's expedition commenced by a march north-
ward, on the Damascus road. At a point called al-
Batra he turned to the left, and came gradually back
to the Meccan highroad, whence he made a dash on
the dwellings of the Lihyan, in a valley called Ghuran,
going westward from one of the Harrahs to the sea.
But the Lihyan had received timely warning of his
approach and betaken themselves to inaccessible
heights ; and there would be nothing in their dwell-
ings worth plundering. The property of tribes in
this condition consists entirely in live-stock, which


Steps towards the Taking of Meccah 339

they take with them when either war or stress of
weather compels them to leave their houses. They
possess no furniture that cannot easily be loaded on 1
their persons or on their mounts. The expedition,
was therefore a failure.

Still they were near Meccah and the Prophet
thought a demonstration of force in the neighbour-
hood of that city might enhance his prestige. He
accordingly advanced with two hundred followers
sufficiently near Meccah for the fame of his expedi-
tion to reach the ears of the Kuraish.

The whole of the sixth year was occupied with
expeditions in which sometimes Mohammed himself,
but more often Abu Ubaidah, Ali, and Zaid took
the command. They were ordinarily though not
invariably successful ; and the restless energy of the
Prophet spread the fame of Islam over a constantly
widening area, and won for it the respect which
success inspires.

The campaign against the Banu Mustalik in the
same year (6)* was remarkable for two events. This
tribe, a branch of the Khuza'ah, led by Al-Harith,
son of Abu Dirar, appears to have meditated a raid
onMedinah. Mohammed, by the aid of a spy, learned
of their movements and attacked them by Muraisi', a
spring near th^Boast between Medinah and Kudaid,
" capturing two thousand camels, five thousand
sheep, and two hundred women " f ; among the last
Barrah, a daughter of the chieftain, whom the

* Ishak says Sha'ban, a.h. 6, identified with Dec. 627-Jan. 628.
Wakidi puts it a year earlier.
f Wakidi (W.), 178.

340 Mohammed

Prophet made his wife, in order to consummate
his victory. The division of the booty — or some
other incident — nearly led to a battle between
the Helpers and Refugees, and the party of
Abdallah Ibn Ubayy showed some signs of re-
crudescing. It is asserted that on this occasion the
dangerous words, " if we return to Medinah, the
stronger of us shall turn out the weaker," were used.
The old story of the dog which, when pampered,
bites, seems to have naturally suggested itself to
Abdallah as an illustration of the conduct of the
Refugees towards the Helpers. Omar would on
this occasion have settled the difficulty of Abdallah
Ibn Ubayy with his sword, but the Prophet would
not give permission, and broke up his camp in the
midday heat, in order that the soldiers in their
fatigue might forget this unpleasantness.* Presently
Mohammed received a request from the son of the
Arch-hypocrite to be allowed to kill his father, should
the act be necessary. Omar was forced to agree
that the Prophet's method was superior to his, and,
though the crime of parricide was not permitted,
Abdallah's son is said to have treated his father with
a dose of water in which the Prophet had washed, in
the hope that it might soften his heart.f

A yet more serious event whichfl^rked the raid
on the Banu Mustalik was the disgrace of Ayeshah.
The last time we met her she was torn from her play-
things to marry the Prophet, for whom she had
shown a childish and natural aversion ; having now
reached her fifteenth year, she had learned to ap-

* Wakidi(W.), 182.

f Tab. % Cornm., xxviii., 69.



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Steps towards the Taking of Meccah 341

predate the advantages of the post of royal favour-
ite, and had developed a haughty ill-nature which
had made her many enemies. The Prophet, who
found it difficult to keep the peace in his harem, had
adopted the plan of letting them draw lots for the
honour of accompanying him on his expeditions, and
to Ayeshah the lot had fallen on this occasion. She
had stopped behind (she said) when the army was
starting homeward to pick up a necklace, which she
had dropped in the sand, had been found by a youth
named Safwan, son of Al-Mu'attal, who had also
loitered, and by him been escorted to the camp.
Why evil should have been thought of what seems
to us a perfectly natural occurrence we know not, but
we must remember that the Moslem mind had by
this time been somewhat tainted by licentiousness,
whence any meeting between persons of different
sex gave rise to sinister rumours. The supposed de-
linquency of Ayeshah was greedily seized by a
variety of persons ; some were scandal-mongers, like
the cowardly poet Hassan Ibn Thabit, who had
probably suffered from Ayeshah's tongue ; whereas
others were moved by interest in Ayeshah's rivals in
the harem, or wished to use the matter as political
capital for the purpose of occasioning the Prophet
trouble, and in this context the notorious Abdallah
Ibn Ubayy is mentioned. For indeed they argued
that by punishing Ayeshah he would necessarily
offend his most faithful ally, her father, whereas
by condoning her offence he would make himself
contemptible, and give the poets employed by
his enemies a handle. To hush up the matter was

342 Mohammed

impossible, and the violent discussions which it pro-
duced threatened to lead to civil war. Meanwhile
the Prophet had treated Ayeshah with marked dis-
favour, and permitted her to return to her parents
— possibly for good. This last (divorce) was the
course recommended by Ali, who also endeavoured
to get some witness against her. Those, however,
were not wise who matched themselves in intrigue,
either against Mohammed or against Ayeshah. The
latter, being openly questioned by the Prophet in her
parents' presence, indignantly refused to answer ; she
would follow the example of Joseph's father (she con-
fessed that she had forgotten Jacob's name), who
under trying circumstances, took refuge in " becom-
ing patience." Happily for her the Prophet was no
Othello, but a man whose judgment was not often
put out of balance. Even if he believed Ayeshah
guilty, it was not desirable to acknowledge such sus-
picion, since discredit falling on Abu Bakr would
affect his own cause, even if that faithful ally were
not alienated. He had recourse to a revelation, cov-
ered himself up, and presently exhibited himself in
a violent state of perspiration. While this opera-
tion lasted the audience were probably in a fever of
anxiety as to the result. Some there doubtless re-
membered how when a case of adultery among the
Jews had been referred to him, he had deliberately
rejected the more merciful alternative, and con-
demned the parties to be stoned ; and even in the
case of the wife of one of his followers he is said to
have adhered to the rule.* Would this horrible fate

£okhari(C), ii., 69.

Steps towards the Taking of Meccah 343

really befall the blooming girl who claimed the pre-
miership in the harem, the pert minx, as others called
her, who made so many victims of her laziness and
her caprices, who even made the Prophet feel that
he was her father's debtor ? And had Islam extin-
guished the natural instincts sufficiently to allow her
father to remain at the Prophet's right hand, should
such a disaster happen ? It was a very dark cloud,
but the Prophet's revelation caused it to clear away
— to break on the heads of the persons who had had
the hardihood to meddle in the Prophet's domestic
affairs. God Almighty declared Ayeshah innocent,
and protested against the conduct of those who had
entertained the suspicion for a moment. The queenly
Ayeshah told her husband that she thanked God,
but owed him no thanks.* Violent personal chas-
tisement was admistered to the gossips, including,
according to one account, the court-poet, Hassan,
son of Thabit; according to another,-)* he was wounded
by the co-respondent Safwan, son of Mu'attal ; the
evidence of adultery to be demanded in future was
of such a sort as was practically impossible to pro-
cure. The Prophet's privacy was in future to be
undisturbed by gossiping tongues. Ayeshah's tem-
porary depression was amply expiated by the honour
and glory of a communication from Almighty God
of which the direct intention was to clear her char-
acter. And Ali, doughty warrior as he was, had won
for himself in this girl an enemy whose vengeance

* Musnad, vi., 30.
f Wakidi(W.\ 189.

344 Mohammed

followed him relentlessly for thirty- five years.* In
order to disseminate no ill-feeling among his follow-
ers the Prophet presently compensated Hassan for
his wound or his beating by a present of an estate
and a concubine.

The fact that Medinah was not safe from internal
foes suggested to the Prophet to take some steps in
the direction of regaining Meccah. In the month
before the pilgrimage month (March, 628) he de-
termined to make an attempt to keep the festival
and announced that God had promised him in a
dream that he should enter the sacred Mosque. f
According to custom it should have been quite safe
for Mohammed like any other Arab or foreigner to
make the pilgrimage during the sacred month, but
having violated the sacred month himself before the
battle of Badr, he had forfeited the right which
every one else enjoyed. It is stated that he issued a
proclamation to the Arab tribes round Medinah,
inviting them to accompany him on this sacred ex-
pedition : hoping thereby to impress them with the
fact that he was bent on maintaining the national
religion. This appeal met with a cold response ; but
of his followers in Medinah seven hundred or four-
teen hundred were ready to go with him, and they
started accordingly, taking a number of camels for
sacrifice. These beasts were decorated for the pur-
pose at Dhu'l-Hulaifah, said to be six miles from

*Abu Bakr one day was shocked at hearing Ayeshah addressing
her illustrious husband in a loud and shrewish voice ; she was taunt-
ing him with preferring Ali to her father. Musnad, iv., 275.

j- Surah xlviii., 17.

Steps towards the Taking of Mecca h 345

Medinah ; he then sent one of his Khuza'ite spies
to find out what the Meccans were doing; the spy
rejoined him at the pond of Ashtat near ' Usfan,
with news that the Meccans had assembled a great
force, had posted a series of scouts between the
Sarawi and Baldah, had encamped in force at the
latter place, and sent Khalid with two hundred horse-
men to Kura' al-'Amim.* On hearing of the Meccan
preparation he whined his regrets that the Meccans
did not leave him to be dealt with by the Arabs, in
which case they might either be rid of him without
trouble to themselves, or, without loss, join him if
he proved successful. The possibility however oc-
curred to him of taking Meccah by surprise, if he
approached it by a circuitous route, known to few,
through the pass of Dhat al-Hanzal, which with some
difficulty his guides managed to find ; thence they
emerged at Hudaibiyah,some eight miles from Mec-
cah, to find that the Meccan force, having obtained
knowledge of his plans, was prepared to meet him.
The reason however which he afterwards alleged for
declining to proceed against Meccah was either fear
for the fate of the Moslems who were living (in re-
tirement) in that city, or that his camel had been
divinely stopped on the road by the same power
that had restrained the Ethiopian's elephant.

If however the idea of storming Meccah had to be
given up, the pretence of the pilgrimage still re-
mained ; and also he was not unwilling to impress
the Meccans with a sense of his might, wealth, and
the reverence and awe which he inspired. It is not

* Wakidi ( W.\ 244.

346 Mohammed

probable that any actual engagements took place
between the believing and unbelieving parties, but
the Kuraish sent repeatedly to know what Mo-
hammed wanted, and expressed themselves deter-
mined not to let him inside their city whether he
came as a friend or as an enemy : while the assurances
brought them of the Prophet's pacific intentions
were received with extreme scepticism by Budail, son
of Warka, the Khuza'ite, and 'Urwah, son of Mas'ud,
the Thakafite (both of them figures who will meet
us in the sequel).

Finally the Meccans sent the leader of their allies,
Hulais, son of 'Alkamah, whom Mohammed knew to
be subject to religious scruples. He took care that
this man should see the sacrificial camels and the
uncombed pilgrims; affected by the sight, Hulais
urged the Meccans to compromise with their unwel-
come visitors.*

Presently it was determined to send a representa-
tive to Meccah, but the consciousness that most of the
Moslems were stained with Meccan blood rendered
the heroes of Islam unwilling to risk their lives on
such an errand ; even Omar, ordinarily so ready with
his sword, hung back. At last the Prophet's son-in-
law, Othman, son of 'Affan, who had preferred nurs-
ing his wife to fighting at Badr, was sent as a grata
persona : he stayed away some three days, taking
the opportunity to visit those Moslem families that
remained at Meccah ; and on a rumour that he had
been killed, a solemn league and covenant was made
by the Prophet's followers, in which they shook the

* Wakidi(W.), 252; Musnad, iv., 323.

Steps towards the Taking of Meccah 347

Prophet's hand under a tree, vowing not to turn
their backs should they have to fight.* Ma'kil, son
of Yasar, held a branch over the Prophet's head.
The rumour turned out to be false. Othman had
succeeded in persuading his former townsmen that
the Prophet really meant no harm, and that there
was now an opportunity for the communities to
make a treaty for some years, since both had suf-
fered so much from this continued warfare. Proba-
bly the Meccans were all the more ready to listen,
because some of their weak-minded allies felt shocked
at worshippers being debarred from doing honour
to God's holy house, and threatened to rebel if the
Kuraish persisted in their impiety. They sent, as
plenipotentiary to Mohammed, Suhail, son of 'Amr,
a man of fame as an orator, who had been captured
at Badr and ransomed. He appears to have regarded
as so much " bluff " the display with which Moham-
med had endeavoured to impress his enemies, and
obtained terms from the Prophet which made the
Moslems blush — indeed would have made Omar
turn renegade, could he have found a following.f
The Prophet was not allowed to call himself God's
messenger in the document which they drew up, and
Allah was not suffered to be identified with the
Prophet's Rahman. There was to be peace between
the Kuraish and the Moslems for ten years, and
tribes who chose to enter the confederation of either
the Prophet or the Kuraish were to be free to do so.J

*Musnad, v., 25 ; cf. iii., 292.
f Wakidi{W.) t 255.
\Ishak, 803.

348 Mohammed

Runaways from Meccah to Medinah were to be re-
claimed, but renegades who escaped to Meccah were
not to be delivered up. The Mohammedan force was
to return to Medinah, but in the following year an un-
armed party of Moslems was to be suffered to perform
the pilgrimage, for which purpose Meccah was to be
evacuated for three days. And to show that Mo-
hammed meant to be loyal to this treaty, no attempt
was made to rescue Suhail's son, who, having turned
Moslem, was in chains at Meccah. On the night
which followed the signing of the treaty, hostilities
nearly broke out, owing to the reported murder by
the Meccans of a Moslem named Zanim or Ibn
Zanim, but the Prophet succeeded in allaying the
disturbances. * The Moslems, however, were sulkily
silent when told by him to shave their heads and
offer their sacrifices. At last (by the advice of his
wife Umm Salamah) he performed the operations
himself, and his followers did the same.f

The motives which guided the Prophet through-
out this scene (which is described with unusual viv-
idness by the biographers) can be divined. He
certainly submitted to humiliation, since though his
followers slaughtered their camels, and shaved their
heads, they could only by straining words be said to
have entered the sacred precinct safely. Moreover,
the terms on which the right to pilgrimage had been
conceded by the Kuraish involved one condition
which favoured them above the Moslems — the clause
about the extradition of deserters, but then Moham-

* Musnad, iv. , 49.
\Ibid. % iv., 325.

Steps towards the Taking of Meccah 349

med thought any who abandoned him were as well
away. * Medinah, he remarked in reference to a
Bedouin who, after experiencing the fever, wished to
be relieved of his oath of allegiance, was like a fur-
nace which discharges the dross, while it brings out
the purity of the gold, f He also was aware that
treaties are of little avail when they can be safely
broken by either party, and at no time was stingy of
verbal concessions. If Omar had fallen away, as he
threatened to do several times during those scenes,
the Prophet could have endured the loss. But the
Prophet knew both Omar and his other followers too
well to fear such a catastrophe ; and he had in his
hand the card of Khaibar.

The chapter of the Koran which the tradition con-
nects with this episode adopts a triumphant tone
which the circumstances would not appear to justify.
It is, however, addressed to the Arabs who refused
to follow the expedition, whom it charges with ex-
pecting that the Prophet would never return. It
asserts that the Moslems gained a victory over the
Kuraish in the Vale of Meccah, and that further
bloodshed was then prevented by divine interposi-
tion. This statement must have been intended for
"those who were left behind." They are, however,
promised the chance of a call to arms against a
mighty power, and threatened with " terrible punish-
ment " if they refuse to obey it. Apparently, then,
the tribes to whom he refers had been experiencing
the same change in their circumstances as had fallen

* MusnaJ, iii., 268.
\Ibid., iii., 365.

350 Mohammed

to the lot of the people of Medinah.' Originally en-
tangled in a defensive alliance, they were compelled
by force of events to offer themselves for foreign

The clause in the treaty whereby proselyte Ku-
rashites were to be returned to Meccah without cor-
responding extradition, was shortly found to be as
unworkable as the Prophet had probably foreseen
when he accepted it. The pomp and parade of the
expedition to Hudaibiyah had been effective; still
more the magnificence of the offerings to the House
of God. When the new religion led to increasing
reverence for the Meccan sanctuary, the question of
the dogma interested few. The Kuraish were grow-
ing proud of their kinsman, and beginning to pay
him in his own country the honour which was lav-
ished on him elsewhere. When this son of Meccah
was treated by strangers with adoration such as no
earthly monarch enjoyed, were they wise in continu-
ing to repudiate this honourable connexion ? 'Ut-
bah, son of Usaid, escaped from Meccah to Medinah
and was claimed back by the Meccans, who sent two
men to fetch him. Mohammed was true to his
word and let them take the proselyte back; but the
example of 'Amr, son of Umayyah, was not lost on
the neophyte ; under the pretence of examining the
sword of one of his guards, he got hold of the weapon
and proceeded to attack his captor, upon which the
captor and assistant fled. Returning to Medinah,
he received from the Prophet a hint that if he could
raise a gang of proselytes the treaty with Meccah
might be broken ; and this enterprising Moslem

Steps towards the Taking of Mecca k 351

found little difficulty in raising one, which for a time
waylaid and robbed the Meccan caravans. At last,
in despair, the Meccans implored the Prophet to
break the treaty and give these zealots a refuge in

A certain number of Meccan ladies were, as might
be expected, moved by the fame which the Prophet
had now acquired, to desire to join him in his
place of refuge, sometimes, perhaps, in a fit of
vexation after a conjugal dispute,* and for these a
simple arrangement was made. To a woman the
wedding-gift, a substitute for the older purchase-
money, constituted the most important part of her
identity. If, therefore, the women remained, but
the wedding-gifts which had been brought them by
their unbelieving husbands were returned, no sub-
stantial injustice had been committed. These wel-
come visitors easily found new ties at Medinah,
though some sort of examination \ had to be under-
gone by them, to test the genuineness of their faith;
perhaps to see that they were not decoys, whose
flight was with the purpose of turning True Believers
away from their faith. At a later time, when the
Prophet's weakness was generally known, fair women
either presented themselves or were sent to him
from various parts of Arabia, or the husbands of fair
and fruitful women offered to hand them over to
the Prophet % ; and indeed at Medinah, whenever a
woman became a widow, her relations would not

* Tabari, Comm., xxviii., 42.

\ Sura A lx., 10.

X So 'Uyainah, son of Hisn. Isabah, iii., 108.

352 Mohammed

find her a husband before asking whether the Prophet
wanted her.* An anecdote in which the Prophet
rejects a girl on the ground that " she never cried
nor complained " \ shows the sort of qualifications
which he required in a wife.

One other recruit who came to Meccah at this
time, and at first occupied a humble place among
the homeless in the Mosque of Medinah, was de-
stined to occupy a remarkable position in the evolu-
tion of Islam. This was Abu Hurairah, a man
about whose origin and original name there were
many various opinions — amounting in number to
from thirty to forty. When the Prophet was no
more, and his sayings became precious, Abu Hu-
rairah won himself fame and importance by being
ready with an inexhaustible stock of them. His
place in Islam might be compared with that which
(according to some theories) the author of the Fourth
Gospel occupies in the evolution of Christianity.
Wherever a saying ascribed to Mohammed is mysti-
cal or sublime, wherever it is worthy of a mediaeval
saint or ascetic, Abu Hurairah is most likely to be
the authority for it. His wonderful acquaintance
with what the Prophet had said excited some scep-
ticism about its genuineness even in his own time:
but he could account for his knowledge partly by a
miracle wrought by the Prophet, and partly by the
assertion that when the Helpers were occupied with
their palms, and the Refugees with their retail
trade4 he made it his business to hear and recollect

* Alusnad, iv., 422.
f Ibid., iii., 155.
\ Muslim, ii., 261.

Steps towards the Taking of Meccah 353

what the Prophet said. The transformation of
Mohammed in men's minds from the character of
statesman and warrior to that of saint and philan-

Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthMohammed and the rise of Islam → online text (page 23 of 32)