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368 Mohammed

That official's messengers went first to Ta'if, whence
the inhabitants, overjoyed at the thought that Mo-
hammed had incurred the displeasure of the Great
King, sent them on to Medinah. There the Prophet
received them not without reluctance, owing to their
having after their national style shaved their beards
and let their moustaches grow*; whereas his own
practice was the converse. While they were parley-
ing with the Prophet the news reached them of their
master's death ; and they had to wait for further or-
ders. These were that they should leave the Prophet
unmolested.

The environment of this story is even more
mysterious than that of the other : in each form
of it the Prophet announces the death of the Persian
King at the time when it actually took place, and
thereby makes the emissaries hesitate to arrest him
till they had verified his statement : so poor was the
discipline maintained among the Persian King's re-
tainers. Now, that Mohammed had many secret
agencies for obtaining intelligence speedily cannot
be doubted : but that the messengers would have
refrained from doing their duty in consequence of
such an assertion we do not believe. If, however,
the date of the Persian King's death be correct, the
story will hang together best if we suppose that amid
the confusion arising from the assassination of the
King, this seemingly unimportant matter was over-
looked. The message was either never delivered, or
never answered.



* Ibn Arabi, Musamarat, ii., 73. According to him the families of
the messengers were extant in Yemen in his time (7th century a.h.)



Steps towards the Taking of Meccah 369

Another letter was to the " Mukaukis " of Egypt,
or to the governor of Alexandria, wrongly identified
by the Arab chroniclers with Cyrus, viceroy and
archbishop at the time of the Arab invasion, called
by the Copts Pkauchios.* What is certain is that
the letter, to whomsoever addressed, had a favour-
able reception : for the Mukaukis sent handsome
presents when he received it, with Jabr, son of Ab-
dallah \ — a horse, a mule, an ass, and a present that
went near perpetuating the Prophet's dynasty : for
the concubine Mary, a Copt, sent by this governor,
erelong brought forth a son of whom Mohammed
claimed to be the father, his fatherhood being attested
by the infant's features — though the rival wife, the
childless Ayeshah, would not see the resemblance.
This governor could not from Mohammed's letter
only have divined so well its author's tastes : a
couple of concubines would have been a suitable
present for Achilles, but how came the Alexandrian
to know that they were equally suitable to the
founder of a new religion? He must have learned
of this from the messenger — Hatib, son of Balta'ah,
whose description of the massacres of Israelites may
have secured this man's partial acceptance of Mo-
hammed's claim. Of his conversation with the
Mukaukis a specimen is preserved. \ " If Moham-
med is a Prophet," he asked, " why did he not curse
the people of Meccah when they drove him out ?" —
a proceeding for which authority could be found in



* See Butler, Arab Conquest of Egypt ', Appendix C.

f Isabah, i., 480.

% Usd al-ghabah, i., 362, etc.



3 JO Mohammed

both Testaments. Hatib was equal to the occasion :
" If Jesus be a Prophet," he replied, " why did not
he curse the people who wanted to crucify him ? "

Other messengers went to the heads of small states
in Arabia, to whom the claim to hegemony on the
part of one of their number perhaps came as less of a
surprise ; for the history of Arabia apparently had
been one of ups and downs : when a competent
ruler had shown himself in a province he aspired
to the homage of the others. These princes seem
to have temporised, waiting to see whether the new
power would crush the resistance of its neighbours,
or itself succumb. It is not claimed that the effect
on these persons was as remarkable as that which
had been produced on the three Christian poten-
tates : and perhaps the series of battles which bards
had celebrated in copious verse had by this time
brought them news of Mohammed and his claims.
And since the Meccan party were as boastful as
those of Medinah, they would have learned that if
one day had been for him, another had been against
him. With the southern Arabians also Mohammed's
massacres of Jews may have rendered him popular :
since the recollection of the Israelitish hegemony was
not sweet. Haudhah, the Christian ruler of the Banu
Hanifah in Yemamah, must have sent a courteous
reply : since at the Khaibar campaign Mohammed's
beast was held by a Nubian slave whom that mon-
arch had sent him as a present.* Presently Haud-
hah offered to accept Islam on condition of being



* Jsabah, iii., 588.



Steps towards the Taking of Mecca h 371

appointed the Prophet's successor ; a condition which
was, of course, declined.*

As the end of the year 7 approached the time
came for the execution of the Prophet's project of a
pilgrimage, leave for which had been extorted from
the Meccans the year before. The Prophet's cause
had materially advanced since his visit to Hudaibiyah.
and he had all the interest of a royal personage at-
taching to him. He had, moreover, taken into his
harem the daughter of his resolute opponent Abu
Sufyan : for at his request Umm Habibah, widow of
one of his followers, had been sent to him by the
Abyssinian King, with a handsome dowry provided
by the monarch himself. Meccah, according to the
terms agreed on the previous year, was to be va-
cated by the Kuraish for three days, during which
Mohammed might have the Ka'bah to himself: af-
ter that he was to quit. Probably neither party was
sure of the good faith of the other : Mohammed
brought with him two hundred horsemen, in case of
emergencies : and so little were the Kuraish disposed
to prolong the visit of their guest, that they refused
him permission to give at Meccah the entertainment
which should have followed one of his numerous
weddings, which he prepared to solemnise in his
native town.

An accurate record is preserved of the Prophet's
road and of the direction from which he approached
Meccah. His escort of two hundred riders was left
behind at Yajuj, an elevation whence the images at
this time surrounding the Ka'bah could be seen.

* Khafaji, Comm. on Durrah s 46.



372 Mohammed

The procession of sixty camels for sacrifice, followed
by the twelve hundred Moslems, proceeded from
Kada past the graveyard on the road to Abtah and
Mina.* Lest the Meccans should think the Mos-
lems still worn and jaded, as they had seemed at
Badr, they were ordered to do part of their proces-
sion racing, and this custom remained till after times.
They had requested a meal of camel's flesh to make
their countenances cheerful ; but the Prophet, re-
garding this as too costly, had given them a feast of
dates instead, f

This pilgrimage,^: then, like the last, was to impress
the Meccans with a show of power and wealth, and
doubtless materially assisted the capture of Meccah,
which was now within easy distance. Much vexa-
tion must have been occasioned to the steady,
though not always judicious, opponents of Moham-
med, like Abu Sufyan, by the Ciceros of the time —
the faint-hearted partisans, whose fears regularly for-
boded ill to their own cause, and who now could point
to the fulfilment of their forebodings. If there were
any there who had urged vigorous measures the day
they let Mohammed escape from their daggers, any
who had advised that the victory of Uhud be not
left unfinished, and whose calculations had not been
put out by the stratagem of the Ditch — such persons
could look back with justifiable pride on valuable
counsel given and neglected.

In the marriage with Maimunah, a beautiful widow

* Diyarbekri, i. , 690.

f Musnad, i., 221, 306.

X Dhu'l-Ka'dah, a.h. 7, identified with March, A.D. 629.




O 00

? 1



Steps towards the Taking of Meccah 373

whom the Prophet now added to his harem, his
uncle Abbas is said to have acted as the bride's
guardian. The marriage took place at Sarif, some
eight miles from Meccah, and the question whether
the Prophet was in a sacred or profane condition at
the time interests Moslems, though it has no interest
for us, who know the elasticity of the prophetic con-
science. Owing to the fact that the empire founded
by Mohammed had fallen to the descendants of
Abbas at the time whence our chief documents
emanate, determined attempts were made at repre-
senting him on all occasions as Mohammed's close
ally. The lady herself is supposed to be referred to in
the Koran as a believing woman who offers herself to
the Prophet. According to some she was the last wife.
Mohammed's fame began to attract to Medinah
the bards who went from court to court to sell their
compliments. The poet of Yemamah, A'sha, of
Kais, who enjoyed an exaggerated reputation, be-
thought him of earning something in this way, and
there attached to his verses a superstition similar to
that which in old times belonged to the words of
Balaam : those whom he praised became great, those
whom he ridiculed sank low. On the way to Medi-
nah he came to Meccah, probably not knowing the
relation between the two cities, and he showed his
verses to Abu Sufyan. The latter offered him a
hundred camels if he would go far away and watch
the turn of events before he published his praise of
Mohammed. The poet was sufficient of a business
man to close with this offer, but one of his newly
acquired camels killed him.



374 Mohammed

The spectacle of the pilgrimage produced one im-
portant convert, Khalid, son of Al-Walid, presently-
destined to earn the name of the Sword of Allah.
He and the other great Moslem general, 'Amr, son
of Al-'Asi, were converted about this time, and are
even said to have met each other on their way to
Medinah. Khalid had gone away from Meccah in
order not to have the humiliation of seeing the Mos-
lems enter it ; and a letter from his brother, Al-
Walid, who had been converted shortly after Badr,
written at the Prophet's instance, was decisive in
causing him to join the conquering side.* The
conversion of 'Amr is sometimes assigned to that
Abyssinian potentate at whose palace his was a not
unfamiliar figure. Thither, according to his own
account, f he had retreated after the affair of the
Ditch, thinking that Mohammed's success in his war
with the Kuraish was now assured, and that the
court of his Abyssinian friend would be a safe har-
bour for him, whence, even if Mohammed failed, he
could easily return to Meccah. It is worth noticing
that his return from Abyssinia must have followed
on that of the Moslem exiles. The defection of
these two deprived Meccah of the only strategic
skill which it possessed, and it is an unsolved puzzle
why that skill, which proved so valuable to Moham-
med and his followers, had been useless to the
Meccans. From the paralysis which held the Mec-
cans in their undertakings these men of war were
not free till they had put themselves under the reso-



* Isabah, iii., 1318.
\ Musnady iv., 199.



Steps towards the Taking of Meccah 375

lute and resourceful founder of Islam ; under him
they were to win no fruitless victories as before.
Khalid, the greater captain of the two, proved him-
self under the Caliphs better able to command than
to obey; unwilling to be bound by rules, or to be
checked in his movements by the central authority.
But he fell behind none in blind reverence for Mo-
hammed, who had occasion to rebuke him for ex-
cesses as well as to praise him for saving many a
day ; a word from the Prophet could cool this hero
in his most savage moods,* and he wore some of the
Prophet's hair as an amulet in his soldier's cap. f
'Amr counted as one of the Arab diplomats, on
whose sagacity reliance could be placed, though
under the Meccan regime it does not appear to have
been successful. These persons' conversion is rightly
regarded by SprengerJ as an acknowledgment on
the part of far-seeing men that the progress of Islam
could no longer be resisted ; they were not so much
betraying their fellow-citizens as setting them an ex-
ample, which indeed the faint-heartedness of Meccan
policy rendered easy of imitation. The great acces-
sion of wealth and strength which the last years had
brought the Prophet made his countrymen anxious
to obtain some of the glory which he was reflecting
on all connected with him. Abu Sufyan § had hard
work to persuade many of his countrymen to ad-
here to the religion of their fathers. Hakim, son of



* Musnad, iv., 89.
f Well ham en, Reste, 166.
JCf. Wakidi(W.\ 304.
§ Jauzi, Adhkiya, 95.



376



Mohammed



Hizam, Khadijah's nephew, went to the expense
and trouble of buying a robe that was said to have
belonged to the hero Dhu Yazan, for fifty dinars, and
bringing it to Medinah* as a present to his distin-
guished relative, who, however, refused to take a
present from an unbeliever. Our wonder is not that
Mohammed so easily took Meccah the next year,
but that he had then to conciliate so many of his
old opponents with bribes.

* Musnad, iii., 403.




CHAPTER XI

THE TAKING OF MECCAH

THIS year (8) was marked by the first collision be-
tween the forces of Islam and of Byzantium.
It does not appear to have been deliberately
planned by the Prophet, but was rather the result of
his ignorance of Byzantine politics, and of the gen-
eral want of communication between one part of the
Byzantine Empire and another. Among the letters
sent out by Mohammed at the time when he felt it
his duty to summon all mankind to follow his doc-
trine, was one addressed to the governor of Bostra
and conveyed by Al-Harith, son of 'Umair.* The
messenger had been attacked and slain by the Ghas-
sanide Shurahbil, son of 'Amr, also said to be an
official in Caesar's pay ; and, as has been seen, Mo-
hammed never allowed such an outrage to remain
unavenged. He immediately f collected a force
which was to go and avenge the murder, but we can
scarcely believe that he was aware that an attack
on Shurahbil meant an attack on the great Roman



* Wakidi ( w.\ 309.

f Jumada I, a.d. 8 ; identified with September, A.H. 629.

377



3 J 8 Mohammed

Empire. He would not have sent a force of three
thousand to cope with the unlimited armies of the
great Emperor : nor could he be expected to know
that persons with such truly Arabic names as the
Ghassanides were politically Roman rather than
Arabs. He regarded this as one of the many raids
on Arabic tribes which kept his treasury full, and sent
a force strong indeed for him, but wholly unequal to
that which the Byzantine Empire could bring against
him. The horses are described by the poet Abdal-
lah, son of Rawahah, as brought from Aja and Far'
— mountains in the Shamr country. Zaid, son of
Harithah, a not unsuccessful leader of raids, was
chosen to command, and told to conclude treaties, if
necessary, in his own name, instead of the Prophet's,
so as to make them easier to break.* Among the rank
and file was Khalid, son of Al-Walid, fighting now
for the first time under his new allegiance. A few
orders were given for the succession to the command
in case of disaster : but of a hierarchy of officers the
Mohammedan warfare at present knew nothing;
indeed such a system would probably have seemed
to violate the equality of all Moslems.

The authorities have not taken the trouble to
chronicle the route taken by Zaid on this the most
distant of the Moslem raids. Probably they followed
the road which Sfr now the pilgrim route from Da-
mascus to Meccah, and which was the old caravan
route. Their first destination was Mu'an or Ma'an,
on the verge of the desert : it is a point at which the
road to Meccah converges with another from Akabah.

* Wakidi ( W.\ 309.



The Taking of Meccah 379

It was at this time an important fortress, with an
Arab governor, subject to the Byzantines. There
they heard that the Greeks were in great force at
Maab (near the Dead Sea) with the fighting men of
numerous Arab tribes: Heraclius himself, having
recently recovered Palestine from the Persians, was
said to be among them : but we need not repeat the
fabulous numbers which the Moslems assign to the
Byzantine army in order to excuse the sequel. A
council of war was held, some suggesting that in-
formation should be sent to the Prophet, who
clearly had nothing so serious in view : but Abdal-
lah, son of Rawahah, a poet and enthusiast, who
had been the first to advance and the last to retreat
from every other fight, pointed out the inconsistency
of losing a chance of martyrdom, which the Moslem
should welcome even more than victory. After two
days' deliberation they advanced. The spot at
which they came in sight of the enemy was a plain
called Masharif, not, it would seem, identified in
modern times, but connected by the Arabs with
Bostra, or Bosra, which has repeatedly been visited,
in the region known as the Hauran. At the sight of
the Byzantine force the Moslem army fell back on a
village called Mutah, which has given its name to the
campaign. There battle was given. Some of the
Moslem leaders descended from their horses and
deliberately lamed the beasts in order that they
might not be tempted to flee.

Of the order of events in the battle we learn very
little. Three standard-bearers (Zaid, Ja'far, the
Prophet's cousin, and Abdallah, son of Rawahah)



380 Mohammed

being killed in succession, some difficulty was found
in getting any one to take this dangerous charge :
and, to judge by what happened at Uhud, it would
appear that the Moslems were on the verge of a
rout. Khalid, whose ability at Uhud had been dis-
played when his party had begun to fly, was again
ready for the emergency : he stepped into the posi-
tion of leader, at the instance, it is said, of Khalid,
son of Arkam. By means not recorded, he suc-
ceeded in rallying the broken forces of the Moslems,
and getting them safely away from the field. Even
so, the Moslem losses were doubtless considerable ;
but on these their historians are unwilling to dwell.
Probably the work of the victorious army was chiefly
done by the tribes Lakhm, Judham, Kain, Bahra,
and Bali, who spoke the same language and used
the same weapons as their Moslem antagonists.

In Mohammedan history Ja'far, son of Abu Talib,
is as much the hero of Mutah as is Hamzah the hero
of Uhud. Ja'far had only returned from Abyssinia
in the preceding year, so that his enjoyment of his
cousin's regal position was of short duration. The
general, Zaid, son of Harithah, had been connected
with one of the worst scandals of the Prophet's
domestic life, whence his not returning was perhaps
not without its consolation. Abdallah, son of Raw-
ahah, who is made responsible for the forward march
from Ma'an, is represented as having shown some
tendency to flinch : probably cooler men had more
real nerve. He was one of Mohammed's court
poets, but his satire fell flat on the Kuraish, because
he taunted them with that unbelief of which they



The Taking of Meccah 381

boasted.* High honours in Paradise were awarded
to all by the grateful Prophet: but for Ja'far he
found wings, to carry him to God's throne. With
tears in his eyes he harangued the Moslems, narrat-
ing the order of the deaths, and saying he could not
wish them back.f The survivors of this disastrous
fight were greeted by the Moslems as deserters, and
some were even afraid to appear in public for some
time: such Spartans had the people of Medinah
become in their eight years of warfare. The Prophet,
whose mind was always clearest in times of stress, by
no means echoed this taunt: if the numbers of the
enemy had been one tenth of the figures given by
the historians, no single Moslem should have escaped.
To have come in collision with the great world-
power and not have been exterminated, if not a
victory, was very near one. Moreover, the Arab
tribes who were now serving under Byzantine com-
manders were to the Mohammedans as wheat ready
for the harvest.

It was the Prophet's custom, as we have often
seen, to redeem a disaster as quickly as possible by
some striking success. So long as there were Jews
left, he was always sure of an easy victory; they
were by this time exhausted ; but Meccah remained,
and his experiences of the last years showed him that
it was ripe to fall. All then that was required was a
decent pretext for attacking it, and this was provided
by the treaty which he made with the Meccans at
the time of his abortive pilgrimage.

* Aghani, xv., 29.
f Musnad y iii., 118.



382 Mohammed

We have repeatedly seen that blood once shed
was never forgotten, unless there were formal atone-
ments. Of the clause in the treaty of Hudaibiyah
which permitted different tribes to enter the rival
confederacies of Meccah and Medinah advantage
had been taken by the Khuza'ah, who entered that
of Medinah, and the Banu Bakr, a section of the
Kinanah, who entered that of Meccah. Between
these two tribes there was a blood-feud, dating from
the time before the commencement of Islam; it had
begun, as so often had been the case at Medinah, by
the murder of a foreign trader, whom the Banu Bakr
had undertaken to protect. A member of the Khu-
za'ah had been murdered in return, and in return for
this three noble Bakrites had been murdered at
Arafat. At the time of Badr, it will be remembered,
an attack on Meccah by the Kinanah was feared, but
did not take place: and for reasons not known to
us, during the years in which the Meccan caravans
were raided by Mohammed the feud seems to have
slumbered. But the cessation of the danger from
Medinah gave the Kuraish courage to assist their al-
lies, the Kinanah, and in a nightly raid they killed
one of the Khuza'ah within the sanctuary. The rela-
tions between the two confederacies were severed by
this bloodshed ; and a gap had been made through
which the Prophet could enter. Indeed, so obvious
was the occasion for the intervention of Mohammed
that a variety of busybodies among the Khuza'ah
hastened to be the first to solicit the Prophet's aid.
The historians record the names of 'Amr, son of
Salim, and Budail, son of Warka, in this contest.



The Taking of Meccah 383

The former is supposed to have presented himself
in the Mosque at Medinah, and recited some flaming
verses. The Prophet pointed to a cloud in the di-
rection of Meccah, and declared that it contained
help for the oppressed Khuza'ah. The other man
had probably been in the Prophet's confidence long
before. His family long preserved a letter from the
Prophet, in which he is invited to come to Medinah,
or to "migrate" without leaving his country: it
would seem, by abstaining from communication with
the people of Meccah, except at times of pilgrimage,
lesser or greater. The letter ran as follows *:

" In the name of Allah, the merciful, the clement.
From Mohammed, the Apostle of God, unto Budail, son
of VVarka, and the chieftains of the Banu 'Amr. I praise
unto you Allah, than whom there is no other God. To
proceed: I have not vexed your heart, nor set a burden
on your back ( ?). Ye are the most precious of the peo-
ple of Tihamah in my eyes, and the nearest akin unto
me, with those among you that do well. Now I have
taken for him of you that shall migrate the like of what
I have taken for myself: even if he migrate in his own
land, not dwelling in Meccah save for the lesser or
greater pilgrimage. And I have laid no burden upon
you in that I have made peace, and ye need not fear nor
be alarmed by me."

This curious letter bears the marks of genuineness,
and contains phrases on which some comment would
be desired. As Wellhausen explains it, it refers to the
time after the Hudaibiyah treaty, when Mohammed,
having less need of the services of the Khuza'ah,

* Text in Isabah, s. v. Budail ; a translation in Wakidi ( W.), 306.



384 Mohammed

might seem to think less of them. The man to
whom it was written now seized the opportunity for
a visit to Medinah, in order to give the Prophet the
good news that the time to invade Meccah had
come. Little credibility attaches to the legend that
the Prophet, distrusting Budail, sent spies to Meccah
to find out the truth or to demand the extradition
of the actual criminals before resolving on an ad-
vance to that city.

Neither party is likely to have deceived itself as to
the issue of such an invasion. The biographers make
Abu Sufyan himself head a deputation to Medinah
with the view of securing the renewal of the terms



Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthMohammed and the rise of Islam → online text (page 25 of 32)