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which the Meccans found so beneficial to their com-
merce: the men, women, and children whose inter-
cession with the Prophet he besought, all refused it ;
so mighty a matter of state could be settled by the
chief alone: the Prophet himself received his dis-
tinguished suppliant with sardonic smiles. It was
true that the Kurashites who had fought with the
Khuza'ah had been disguised and unauthorised:
but of their complicity there was apparently no
question. The Prophet was not the man to throw
away such a card, now it had come into his pos-
session at a time when it was welcome. Abu Suf-
yan returned to Meccah with the knowledge that
his long rivalry with Mohammed was nearing its

Then came the expedition to Meccah, which
started on the 10th of Ramadan,* and for which no
fewer than 10,000 troops had mustered : it was the

* Identified with Jan. i, a.d. 630.

The Taking of Mecca h 385

Prophet's wish to conceal his purpose from the Mec-
cans, and indeed he was near Meccah before he made
it clear whether the Kuraish or the Hawazin were
his object, and indeed whether he meant war at all.*
The Meccans, however, fostered no delusions on
the subject, and each step from Medinah made the
Kurashite resistance melt faster away. Early in the
journey Mohammed was joined by his uncle Abbas,
whom Mohammedan authorities suppose to have for
years been a secret aider and abettor of the Prophet :
we know not whether this was so, or whether when
the Caliphate came into Abbaside hands, the founder
of the line had to be whitewashed. Nearing Meccah,
at Marr Zahran they fell in with a scouting party, con-
taining Abu Sufyan himself, Khadijah's nephew,
and Budail, of whom we have just heard. Abu Suf-
yan was told by Abbas that it was not too late for
him to save his head by a profession of faith in the
mission of the man whom it had been the object of
his life to prove an impostor: and that such an
example might save many lives, seeing that Meccah
must in any case fall. To this humiliation Abu Suf-
yan not without reluctance resigned himself: ob-
taining thereby not only his own safety, but the
right to offer the same to all Meccans who took
refuge in his house, who locked their own doors, or
who went into the Meccan sanctuary. He had to
listen to some hard words from the women folk when
he got back to Meccah with his coat (metaphorically)
turned inside out. They would have preferred one
who, if he could not live for a cause, would dare to

*Wakidi, 329.

386 Mohammed

die for it. Still he had brought back good terms,
and the Meccans gladly availed themselves thereof.

The course adopted by Abu Sufyan was similar
to that adopted by wise and patriotic leaders when
the alternatives of submission and annihilation have
been before them. That his poor generalship was
to blame for the state to which Meccah was now
reduced must be conceded ; but having at the last
realised how affairs lay, he acted with prudence in
saving life and property to the utmost of his power.
He acknowledged that his gods had been defeated
by Mohammed's God, and therefore that he owed the
former no further allegiance.

Not quite all the Meccans were of the same mind
as their chief. Some few knew that they had
offended Mohammed too much to be forgiven —
such were persons who had once believed in him,
but afterwards abandoned him. A few others had
personal wrongs which still cried for vengeance.
They included Safwan, son of Umayyah, by whose
counsel the battle of Uhud had not been followed
up ; Suhail, son of 'Amr, who had arranged the com-
pact of Hudaibiyah ; Tkrimah, son of Abu Jahl, who
since his father's death had been a prominent op-
ponent of Islam. They had some arms and am-
munition, and formed a troop which stationed itself
at Khandamah, a mountain which is close to Abu
Kubais* — according to Burckhardt the culminating
point of the Meccan mountains. Since Mohammed
was bent on entering Meccah fiom the top (*. e. f from
the north-east), his force would necessarily be men-

* Azraki % 155.

The Taking of Mecca k 387

aced by a body of men who occupied this position.
There was a skirmish between them and the cavalry
commanded by Khalid, with slight losses on both
sides; and then the heroes abandoned their posi-
tion and fled. Meccah was now the Prophet's. The
idols which so many years before had roused the
Prophet's scorn, and to which he owed his banish-
ment, could now be utterly abolished. The pictures
(probably rude artistic efforts) within the Ka'bah
were effaced by Omar with a cloth * wetted in Zem-
zem water : whom or what they represented we
know only on Mohammed's authority, which we are
not inclined to trust ; a curious tradition says that
Mohammed put his hands over a picture of the
Madonna and so saved it from destruction, f The
images which surrounded the Ka'bah, and were fixed
to their supports with lead, were overthrown and
removed. The call to prayer resounded from the
top of the Ka'bah, chanted by Bilal the Abyssinian
slave — not without evoking expressions of horror and
disgust from some who were not yet accustomed to
the new regime. \ Yet the sanctity of the Ka'bah
was to suffer no diminution by the religious innova-
tions: whatever treasure its store contained — said
to be seventy thousand ounces of gold ! — the Prophet
refused to touch § : a new mythology was substituted
for the old : but the ceremonies, more important to
the majority, were to remain. All Meccah was now

* Musnad, iii., 396.

\ Azraki, in.

\ Id., 192, quotes what they said.

%/did., 172.

388 Mohammed

to be an inviolable sanctuary : no blood was to be
shed within its precincts, of which the landmarks,
partly effaced, were now (with the angels' help) re-
newed.* If the Prophet had himself shed some, the
privilege of God's favourites was not to be claimed
by those of lower rank. Like Motley's cardinal
preaching religious toleration, Mohammed took the
earliest opportunity of impressing on his townsmen
the abhorrence with which bloodshed should be re-
garded. And indeed though at the first he had drawn
up a short proscription list, for one reason or another
he reduced it to the modest number of two. Therein
we can see not only an example of the Prophet's
clemency, but also evidence of the excessive gratifi-
cation which the taking of Meccah caused him. All
old injuries were forgotten on that day of final
triumph. The Refugees were not even allowed to
reclaim their houses which had been seized or sold
by the Meccans : they had to be satisfied with the
promise of houses in Paradise instead f — Moham-
med setting the example with Khadijah's former
dwelling. Even the keys of the Ka'bah were not taken
away from their hereditary holders, but returned to
them, though the meritorious Ali put in a claim.

The taking of Meccah was the outcome of the
series of events which began on the day when Mo-
hammed was allowed to become the master of a
community that lay between the Kuraish and their
markets. An interest similar to that which attends
the efforts of a tight-rope walker attaches to his

* Azraki, 360.

f Chronicles 0/ Meccah, iv., 67.

The Taking of Mecca h 389

career in the meanwhile. Destruction menaces him
on all sides : but he surmounts the dangers, because
he has a will, and his enemies have none. The his-
torians tell us little of the internal history of Meccah
during the past eight years, whence the gradual shift-
ing of opinion in Mohammed's favour can only be
guessed, and knowledge of the details fails us. We
are justified in supposing that much was effected
by Mohammed's campaign against the Byzantines,
which, though not for the moment successful, made
him the champion of a national idea, which the Arabs
till then had scarcely been able to realise: even
the enterprise of Saif, son of Dhu Yazan, had been
only to substitute Persian for Abyssinian sovereignty.
With this attitude agreed his ordinary tenderness for
the lives of Arabs, when he massacred Jews without
mercy. Moreover, experience seems to show that
a man who can for a number of years force attention
to be concentrated on himself acquires popularity
even among his enemies.

Levies (if that be the right term) were held for the
admission of the new converts — first for men and
then for women ; the latter not being permitted to
shake the Prophet's hand.* A reasonable time was
indeed granted for studying the evidences of the new
religion in the case of those who were not prepared
to accede to it at once : but of his resolve ultimately
to tolerate no other the Prophet made no secret. The
appearance of the neophytes at these levies revealed
many traits of character: poets who had employed
their facility of versification in lampooning the

* Tabari, Comm. % xxviii., 49.

390 Mohammed

Prophet now showed that it could be turned to his
glorification ; adulation and sycophancy were rife.
On the other hand, among the women who had to
swear allegiance some even at the risk of offending the
conqueror could not restrain a sarcasm at the char-
acter of the code for which they had been compelled
to suffer and to do so much. "All this I have kept
from my youth up " was the comment of Hind, Abu
Sufyan's wife, in response to some of the regulations :
to the command "not to slay your children " she re-
plied that the women at Meccah had reared their
children to be slain by Mohammed's partisans at Badr.
Still, when she returned from the lev£e, she took an
axe and hewed her domestic idol into bits, taunting
it with having deceived her all that time.* And
similar iconoclasm now became rampant at Meccah.

The Prophet's stay at Meccah did not exceed a
fortnight, as he was anxious to assure his friends of
Medinah that he had no intention of leaving them
for his former home: of which indeed there was
some danger, since he did not conceal his opinion
that Meccah was the best spot on earth and the
dearest of all places to God. f

The day after his entry into Meccah, and procla-
mation of the sacrosanct area, one of his followers,
a Khuza'ite, had exercised the blood-right by assas-
sinating in Meccah a Hudhalite who had murdered
one of his tribe ; Mohammed repeated his oration,
and paid blood-money for the victim:): to the, as yet,

*Azraki % 78.

f Musnad, iv., 305.

%Azraki y 353.

The Taking of Mecca h 391

unconverted Hudhalites : he was only deterred from
handing the assassin over to their vengeance by the
doctrine that a Moslem must not be killed for an
Unbeliever. Missionaries — which name occurs for
the first time in Islam in this context — were sent to
the neighbouring tribes, summoning them to put
away their idols and submit to the new religion.
Khalid, son of Al-Walid, being sent on a mission of
this sort to the Jadhimah, took the opportunity of
avenging an old wrong — the murder of his uncle
which had happened years before: he attacked the
tribe at Ghumaisa and dealt considerable slaughter.
The Prophet, who now regarded all Arabs as his
natural subjects, readily paid blood-money for all
the slain, and gave the tribe a bonus as well. It was
not his custom, however, to find fault with his
subordinates for excessive zeal, and Khalid was
employed to destroy other idols and sacred houses
in the neighbourhood. The priests appear to have
left the idols to see after their own defence — on
Jerubbaal's principle, and with the like result. The
House of Allah was therefore relieved of some rather
dangerous rivals: for, as has already been seen, we
have little or no reason for supposing that the House
at Meccah stood alone as a centre of pilgrimage. The
theory was now started that the House at Meccah
was the first ever built : an assertion which gave
rise to much speculation, and thence to many myths.
Of it (the Ka'bah) these other houses would be bad
imitations, not deserving to be maintained as Houses
of Allah, for whose worship they had not been in-
tended. How, we are inclined to wonder, would

392 Mo ha rnmed

Mohammed have treated " the furthest Mosque," the
Temple wall at Jerusalem, had he lived to conquer
that sacred city ? He would have learned (what he
perhaps did not know) that the Temple no longer
existed : and since he forbade pilgrimage to Jerusa-
lem, he would probably have secured in some way
that special sanctity should no more attach to Zion.
The political value of centralised worship was not
learned by him from the example of the Jewish
kings; but he was alive to it none the less. Not with-
out deliberation did he decide what ritual he should
retain, till he finally drew up a scheme whereby a
number of rites belonging originally to different
sanctuaries were grouped into a lengthy perform-
ance : the inequalities which in the older system had
distinguished different clans were all abolished ; all
Moslems being equal. Into those ceremonies there
was little difficulty in working the Abraham myth
in place of the tales which former cicerones had told.
If stones were in one place thrown to keep down
the body of some fallen enemy, or to secure that
certain land should not be appropriated for a year,*
it could now be said that they were thrown at
Satan. Was not Satan called " the stoned " in the
Koran ?

One serious alteration was presently to follow
when the Prophet conceived the unhappy idea of
altering the Calendar without knowledge of the
elements of astronomy or even of the purpose of
the year. Previously, by unscientific intercala-

* Chauvin. Le Jet des Pierres au Pttirinage de la Mecque,
Anvers, 1902.

The Taking of Meccah 393

tion, the months had been made to correspond
roughly to the seasons : Mohammed, by making it
twelve lunar months, destroyed all relation between
them. Of any accommodation of the pilgrimage
months to the needs of commerce there could no
longer be any question. Mohammed had not in-
tended this result, of whose certainty he was ignor-
ant : but it came, and the markets of the " Days of
Ignorance" quickly fell into oblivion. The com-
merce of Meccah was ruined, but the city was the
gainer — at first by a fair share in the plunder of the
world, presently by a concourse of visitors unprece-
dented in number at the sacred seasons : a stream at
rare times diverted by sedition and fanaticism, in-
creasing in peaceful times since Meccah was taken,
until now, when railroad and steamer help to swell
it. If Mohammed took anything from Meccah, he
gave it more.

Of cities that existed in the seventh century of our
era probably few have carried on an existence so
continuous, ruffled only by superficial troubles. Its
population, after it had been made the great sanctu-
ary of the world, quickly forgot politics and com-
merce : they turned into show-managers, the keepers
of an exhibition which it was the duty of all the
world to visit. To the faithful whose lives had been
spent in dreams of Meccah before the chance of pil-
grimage arrived, the heavenly city became clothed
with a fantastic glamour, and was with difficulty dis-
sociated from that Paradise for which a visit to it
was the preparation and of which it was the symbol.
11 Blessed be they that dwell in Thy House, they

394 Mohammed

shall be always praising Thee." It does not appear
that the population of Meccah spend all their time
in this edifying manner: but they have the great
advantage of knowing that their business will come
to them without their having to go to seek it.

By giving the empire of Islam a religious capital,
at no time utilised as a political capital, the founder
got for it a mainstay which has secured the continu-
ity of the system amid the most violent convulsions.
A political capital once sacked is often abandoned
by the victorious dynasty for another : and various
commercial and military considerations render the
substitution of one for another desirable or even
imperative. Hence the political centre of Islam was
shifted as the dynasties succeeded each other, and
was at each time where the most powerful Moham-
medan sovereign chose to hold his court. But with
each of these sovereigns Meccah was equally hon-
oured : each took pride in conferring lavish gifts on
the city of God : each regarded its protection and
adornment as duties specially incumbent upon him.
Identified thus with Islam as a religion, the city
which had offered the most stubborn resistance to its
rise speedily became its most fanatical adherent.
Elsewhere in Islamic countries one who is not a
Moslem may live and even thrive. At Meccah
he must conceal his unbelief, being sure, if detected,
of death.

The capture of Meccah was followed almost im-
mediately by a dangerous struggle with a host of
nomad Arabs, led by some of those pagan heroes
with whom the old poetry and the works of the

* *r»:


The Taking of Meccah 395

archaeologists are constantly occupied, but who have
not hitherto figured much in the life of the Prophet,
which had been mainly spent in debate with the
civilised Jews or the partly civilised denizens of the
towns. The growth and consolidation of the Mos-
lem state had thoroughly alarmed these Bedouins,
to whom the liberty of the desert was dear: and the
expedition against Meccah, of which the purpose
was at the first concealed, was thought to be directed
against them. But even when it was known that it
had been aimed at Meccah, and had terminated
successfully, the leaders of the assembled forces de-
termined to make a stand for the liberty of Arabia.

The tribes who had assembled bore the names
Hawazin and Thakif; their pastures were in the
neighbourhood of Meccah. Like many races in a
primitive condition they made one man chief when
they went to war : and their head at this time was
Malik, son of 'Auf, of the clan Nasr, a branch of
the Hawazin. But they also took with them to the
battle-field on a litter the aged hero of a hundred
fights, Duraid, son of Simmah, of the clan Jusham.*
He was brought to the battle somewhat as the bones
of dead heroes were sometimes taken to it — owing
to a belief in what the Maoris would call his 7nana,
and the Arabs his nakibah, a combination of fortune,
skill, and efficiency, which would make his presence
desirable in any enterprise. Not a few anecdotes
are told of the life of this hero, who, like many of

♦Jusham is called hy Al~Ak)ital{Kamil, ii., 60) the worst of the
tribes ; like Katas, neither black nor red. A war between Thakif and
Nasr is mentioned, Bayan y i., 55.

396 Mohammed

his clan, had some reputation as a poet, and espe-
cially as an encomiast * of fortitude, though we can-
not say whether any of the verses attributed to him
are genuine. His prime was spent in the usual pur-
suit of camel-stealing — where possible, from hostile
tribes, when otherwise, from friendly clans. Reprisals
led to bloodshed : all Duraid's brothers died in camel-
raids : for each it was Duraid's duty to demand many
lives in return, as well as to record their praises in
verse. His exploits as a lover were naturally no less
considerable than his achievements as a warrior : in
both fields he met with occasional rebuffs, but more
often with success. At one time he escaped from
slaughter by feigning to be dead — a ruse practised
also by the American Indians. The camel-stealer's
wealth endures not : if secured, it is speedily lavished
on wives new and old, and clansmen and guests:
" Rascaldom " of this sort, too, " has no strong box."
Old age finds him poor, unfit for war or love : but
not yet stripped of his mana, and perhaps anx-
ious to die in a battle-field : ready even to give his
bungling slaughterer some useful hints of the way
in which he should proceed. This sort of man has
an instinctive horror of order and discipline and or-
ganisation. Where blood may not be shed freely,
he cannot find his true level.

The coalition of Hawazin and Thakif took up a
station in a wadi called Autas, not many miles, it
would seem, from Meccah, though the place seems
not to have been visited in recent times. It would
appear to be somewhat to the south-east of Meccah,

* Goldziher, M.S., i., 252.

The Taking of Meccah 397

close by a place called Dhu'l-Majaz or "the Pass,"
one of the market-places of old times. Thither
came the tribes, accompanied (in true savage style)
by their wives and children, and their flocks and
herds, a proceeding said to be disapproved by the
aged Duraid, but probably sanctioned by constant
usage : we have seen that at Uhud the women
played a not unimportant part. He also is said to
have advised retreat, partly owing to the absence of
some of the best of the Hawazin tribes: but, seeing
that every day added to Mohammed's power, the
leader was right in resolving to try his fortune at
once. Men were placed under cover on both sides
of the valley of Hunain, whither the Moslems were
descending; the number of Mohammed's* forces
is given as 12,000 — the 10,000 with which he had
invaded Meccah, reinforced by 2000 of the new
converts or allies. The united forces of Hawazin
and Thakif are put at 4100. Probably the latter
estimate is an exceedingly rough one. But the
Moslem chroniclers deserve credit for making their
own force on this occasion greatly superior to its
antagonist. At early morning f the Moslem forces
entered the valley of Hunain, and were speedily at-
tacked on all sides by the enemy, who had been
ordered to break their scabbards when the engage-
ment commenced, as a sign that they were to be
whole-hearted in their enterprise. The plan of

* For this campaign Mohammed borrowed 30,000 or 60,000 dir-
hems from Abdallah Ibn Abi Rabi'ah, which were honestly repaid.
— Musnad, iv., 36.

f Shawwal, a.h. 8 ; identified with Jan.-Feb., a.d. 630.

398 Mohammed

Malik, son of 'Auf, was, for the moment, completely
successful. The Moslems turned and fled in head-
long confusion : not, according to some, without
the set purpose of some of the new converts, who
thought the occasion a good one for dealing the con-
queror a blow. Indeed, one of these unwilling fol-
lowers is even said to have nerved himself to attack
the Prophet, only to find his nerve fail him. One
Moslem woman, who had armed herself with a scim-
itar to be used in emergencies, afterwards advised
that these traitors should be killed.* Some of the
fugitives are said f to have carried the tidings to
Meccah, where they were received with acclamation.
One of the Meccans declared (somewhat premature-
ly) that that day had seen the last of the witchcraft.
The Moslems had been discomfited by a shower
of arrows, with which the Hawazin were skilled
marksmen. The Prophet was clad in such complete
armour that he had no occasion to fear this weapon :
but besides, as at Uhud, he exhibited presence of
mind, and consciousness of the fact that a defeat in
the neighbourhood of Meccah, so long obstinate and
so recently overcome, was a disaster of very differ-
ent magnitude from one near his devoted Medinah.
If the biographers can be believed, he stood still,
surrounded by a few of the innermost circle, while
the others were flying past : and he utilised the sten-
torian lungs of his uncle Abbas to remind the fugi-
tives of their oaths, their duty, and their glorious
victories. The heroes of Badr gathered round the

* Musnad, iii., 286.
\ Halabi, 157.

The Taking of Mecca h 399

Prophet, and stemmed the rout. Men who found
their mounts uncontrollable descended from them
and put on the armour of infantry. Ali aimed a
blow at the camel on which one of the Hawazin
leaders was riding, and with the aid of a man from
Medinah dispatched the rider. What happened
then is not known exactly : it appears however that
the Hawazin general had not the ability to make use
of his initial advantage, and that the fierce resistance
of a company of a hundred men who gathered round
the Prophet was sufficient to turn the tide. The
gigantic Abu Talhah is said to have alone killed
twenty men.* The poet of the Banu Sulaim how-
ever claimed that the merit of the victory lay with
his own tribe, led by Dahhak, regarded as the equal
in prowess of a hundred men : " when the Prophet
cried to the Banu Sulaim, ' rise up,' they rose : else
had the enemy swept away the Believers, and seized
their possessions." And indeed it appears that the
chief achievements in the slaughter of the foe be-
longed to the Banu Sulaim, who pursued the enemy
as far as " Buss and Aural," places in the Jushamite
territory. Of the Thakafites the clan called Banu
Malik fought like heroes, and lost seventy men :
others fled and saved their skins — including a leader

Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthMohammed and the rise of Islam → online text (page 26 of 32)