D. S. (David Samuel) Margoliouth.

Mohammed and the rise of Islam online

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said to have summoned the Prophet with a certain
amount of brusqueness to a boasting-match. The
Apostle of God naturally declined to enter the lists
himself : if nothing else had prevented him, his remin-
iscences of similar matches at Meccah were not alto-
gether encouraging : but he had his champions ready :
the poet Hassan, son of Thabit, whom Mohammed
had taken pains to conciliate after he had been justly
punished, and the orator Thabit, son of Kais. With
these allies he had no hesitation in letting the old-
fashioned debate commence. The rival poets and
orators boasted of the achievements of their respect-
ive tribes in fluent phrase and rolling verse. The
conclusion however was a foregone one : the Tamim
would not have resorted to a verbal contest had they
had any intention of fighting ; nor would the Prophet
have permitted it, except as an act of courtesy.
When the prize compositions had been delivered,
the Tamim delegates naturally declared themselves
satisfied with the superiority of the poetry and rhet-
oric which had been enlisted on the side of Islam.
The prisoners were restored to the Tamimites and
their delegates given the douceur ordinarily granted

4 1 6 Mohammed

to ambassadors ; but they were doubtless also given
to understand that the tribute must be paid. For
Hassan Ibn Thabit, owing to his successful defence
of the Prophet, a pulpit was erected in the Mosque.*

Another incident also illustrated the unwilling-
ness with which the Alms were contributed. To
the Banu Mustalik, whose name has already met
us, a tax-gatherer was sent who was involved in a
blood-feud with this tribe dating from the time before
Islam. The mode in which the tribe came to meet
him suggested to him that they meant mischief:
and he accordingly hurried back to Medinah. The
Mustalik, now that their prize had escaped them,
were unwilling to bring on themselves a raid from
Medinah, and sent the most solemn assurances that
their intentions had been most honourable. The
Prophet sent Khalid with a force to find out : and, if
there were any signs of falling away from Islam, to
raid them. Finding the tribes were punctiliously
performing their devotions, he was compelled to
bring home a favourable report, and there was no
further difficulty about the Alms.

Some part of this year (9) was also taken up with
domestic troubles, of which a variety of accounts
are given, but none quite edifying : nor would allu-
sion to them have been desirable had not a place in the
Koran been assigned to them. Hafsah, the daughter
of Omar, who, after the death of her husband at
Badr, had some difficulty in getting another, and
was taken by the Prophet for political reasons, was
a woman of violent temper : and, finding her rights

* Musnad, vi., 72.

The Settlement of Arabia 4 1 7

infringed in favour of the concubine Mariah, made
a disturbance in which the other members of the
now numerous harem took her part. The Prophet
would appear to have given his word to Hafsah that
he would for the future avoid the society of Mariah :
and having given it, obtained divine permission not
to keep it; his breach of faith with Hafsah being
excused by her having revealed a secret which she
had promised to keep. Owing to the violent re-
proaches bestowed on him by the members of the
harem, he resolved to quit their society for a whole
month, and even threatened to divorce the whole
set. The harem probably knew him too well to
fear this threat: and the month had not expired
before he made his peace with them ; to account for
which he produced a half-serious, half-comic revela-
tion,* in which they are assured that the Prophet
would have no difficulty in getting another set of
wives, their equal in every respect, should extreme
measures be necessary. Some of the biographers
reproduce for our benefit the curious scene — the
Prophet lying in an upper chamber, accessible by
a ladder: nothing but a reed mat separates him
from the floor. Close on a month of domestic
broils has rendered the Prophet haggard and woe-
begone in the extreme. Omar mounts the ladder
in extreme distress of mind and asks the Prophet
whether it is true that he has divorced his wives.
The Prophet, who has now made up his mind,
replies in the negative, at which Omar shouts
" Hurrah ! " (" God is mighty ") in a voice that can be

* Surah lxvi.

4i 8 Mohammed

heard over a large part of Medinah. The painful
incident is at an end. Another of those domestic
scenes is somewhat different in character. Abu
Bakr and Omar knock at the Prophet's door and
at first cannot obtain admission. When they are
admitted they find the Prophet seated gloomily
silent with his wives around him. They have been
asking for household supplies which the Prophet
cannot provide. Omar, hoping to cheer the Prophet,
narrates how his wife had been demanding money,
and he had replied by a sound blow on her neck.
The Prophet, exploding with laughter, explains that
his wives were equally importunate. The two friends
wish to try Omar's expedient with their respective
daughters. This the Prophet does not permit : but
he gives his wives the choice of quitting him if they
prefer the present world. Ayeshah declines the
offer, and the others follow suit.*

After the conclusion of this trial of forces, in
Rejeb of the year 9, f the Prophet summoned
his followers to arms to attack the Byzantines at
Tabuk. Tabuk is a station on the Pilgrim road,
visited in recent times by Doughty and Huber: it is
half-way between Damascus and Medinah. In-
formation had been brought the Prophet by some
Nabataean merchants that a great Byzantine force
was assembled there, with Arabian allies of the
tribes Lakhm, Judham, Ghassan, and 'Amilah. The
report was probably a false one % and indeed ac-

* Musnad, iii. , 328.

f Identified with Oct.-Nov., a.d. 630.

\Diyarbekri t ii., 136.

The Settlement of Arabia 419

cording to one account the Christian Arabs had
prematurely announced to Heraclius the Prophet's
death ; whence there would have been no occasion
for such a levy. Nevertheless the Prophet believed
it, and was probably anxious by a brilliant victory to
bring into oblivion a variety of troubles that had
accumulated : the defeat of Mutah, the domestic
disputes, and the unfair division of the booty of

The effects of this last scandal now began to ap-
pear. The people of Medinah showed themselves
unready to join in an expedition of which the profits
would probably fall to others. Complaints were
made of the season of the year, of distress, and sick-
ness: the party of the " Hypocrites," began to
raise its head, and even a Jew named Suwailim
had the folly to allow his house to be made a ren-
dezvous of malcontents : with the very natural and
indeed inevitable result that the Prophet sent an
emissary to burn the Jew's house over his head ;
the malcontents escaped from the flames not with-
out personal injury. We are asked to believe that
Abdallah Ibn Ubayy got a fresh opportunity of
acting as he had acted at Uhud before : he is said
to have equipped a force, no smaller than Moham-
med's, to have encamped outside Medinah when the
Prophet encamped, then to have refused to come
farther, on the ground that the Moslem force was
quite unequal to a contest with the Byzantines.
Unless the discontent at Medinah went far beyond
all that has been recorded or even hinted at, we
cannot well believe that the arch- Hypocrite can after

420 Mohammed

all that had passed have been still in a position to
adopt his old tactics.

Whether Abdallah, son of Ubayy, came to the
front again or not, it is stated that the Prophet used
his utmost efforts to collect a force sufficient for any-
emergency, to which end he demanded help from
all the new accessories to Islam : and in equipping
the force (said to have reached 30,000) he exhausted
the money at his own and his friends' disposal. He
resolved to lead the army himself, and some criti-
cism was occasioned by his sending Ali home to take
care of the royal household.

The expedition was of interest to the Prophet as
leading them past those ruined cities of whose
history the Koran was so full ; the rock-dwellings,
as he supposed them to be, of the Thamud, who,
having refused to hear the voice of their prophet,
had been destroyed, their rock-mansions remaining
as a monument and a warning. Recent explorers
have proved that what the Prophet supposed to be
mansions were tombs: but Mohammed, passing by
this notorious country, could not fail to take some
notice of the fact that they were in presence of the
great theatre of the divine vengeance. The Mos-
lems were to pass by those deserted habitations
with veiled faces, spurring their steeds : they were
to eat and drink nothing that was to be found there,
and after nightfall when they encamped they were
to keep together. Fables were afterwards invented
showing the need for these orders by the fate that
befell those who violated them. Many years had
elapsed since Mohammed had first heard the thrill-

The Settlement of Arabia 421

ing story of the fate of the Thamud from some story-
tellers attached to a caravan : and truly the seed had
been sown on wondrous soil.

The record of the expedition to Tabuk is charac-
terised by a number of narratives illustrating " Hypo-
crisy," faint-heartedness, and even desertion on
the part of the troops. Of the expressions of dis-
belief to which some were hardy enough to give
vent the Prophet soon heard, whether miraculously,
or in virtue of the system of espionage which had
worked so well at Medinah : and according to the
biographers these were in no case punished, but con-
futed by a series of exhibitions of prophetic power.

It is further interesting to notice that the Moslems
were deeply impressed with a sense of the greatness
of the Byzantine power, and the idea that to fight
them would be wholly different from fighting the

Any fears which they might have entertained
were not realised. The rumour which had caused
the Prophet to start on his expedition was a false
one: there was no Byzantine army to be met. The
Prophet, however, was determined that his march
should not be fruitless, and the plan of imposing
tribute on Christians as well as Jews was now
matured in his mind. The governor of Ailah, at the
head of the Gulf of Akabah, whose name, Johanna,
son of Rubah, shows him to have been a Christian,
was induced to undertake to pay a tribute to the Mos-
lem leader : good authorities tell us * that the amount
came to three hundred dinars — being one dinar or ten

* Baladhuri, 59.

422 Mohammed

francs per head. The way was thereby prepared for
the invasion of Egypt. A couple of Syrian communi-
ties, those of Jarba and Adhruh, also sent in their
allegiance and undertook to pay at the same rate:
the money was to be paid every Rejeb. From the
people of Makna, being Jews, harder terms were de-
manded : they were to pay one quarter of their pro-
duce. A document was in the hands of the Jews of
this place, ensuring their full protection on condition
of their paying this proportion of the product of
their palms, their fisheries, and their looms, and ad-
mitting the right of the Prophet to their slaves,
horses and mules, and arms. It further informs us
that the inhabitants were called Banu Habibah.
Twenty-five per cent, of the produce meant ten times
the amount imposed on the Moslems as alms. These
terms are so hard that the document might be
thought to be genuine : yet the signature shows it to
be spurious — unless, indeed, the agreement was not
made on this occasion.

To a Christian prince, Ukaydir of Dumat al-Jan-
dal, the biblical Duma, a force was sent under Kha-
lid, who is said to have met the King out hunting,
and taken him captive, having killed his brother.
The prince appears to have readily accepted Islam,
but the terms made with him and his people were
somewhat harsh, as they appear in a document the
genuineness of which is attested by its archaic lan-
guage.* All their arms and horses were to be put
in the possession of the Prophet, who also claimed
their fortresses and their unoccupied or uncultivated

* Baladhuri, 6x.

The Settlement of A rabia 423

lands. The rest of their property was left them,
but they were to adhere to the ordinances of Islam,
which are here specified as Prayer and Alms; for
the collection of the latter certain regulations were
made, securing that it should not be unnecessarily
onerous. Probably the distance of this community
from Medinah rendered it impossible for the Pro-
phet to impose on its members the necessity of
military service, and the overpopulated condition
of Medinah rendered it undesirable to encourage
further emigration thither. His policy with this
outlying acquisition was tentative, and not imitated
by the Caliphs.

The time spent over these negotiations is variously
given at a fortnight or two months. At their con-
clusion he started homeward, with only a moderate
amount of gain : the coat, embroidered with gold,
of the brother of the prince of Duma, whom Kha-
lid had slain, was the most important trophy that
he took home. Omar is made responsible by some
authorities for the retreat. The Byzantines, he sup-
posed, had heard Of the Prophet's expedition and
would be prepared for it.

The homeward journey showed that the Prophet,
like other founders of tyrannies, was becoming un-
popular. A fresh attempt at assassinating him is
supposed to have been made on the way : frustrated,
as others had been, by want of determination on
the part of the conspirators, and by the Prophet's
constant vigilance. More serious still was the fact
that Islam had begun to develop dissent : a mosque,
he was told, had been built near Kuba, " with the

424 Mohammed

view of spreading dissent among the Moslems, and
helping the Prophet's enemy " : and this enemy is
further defined as "Abu 'Amir the Monk," the citizen
of Medinah who had embraced monotheism before
the Prophet's arrival, who had been frightened
away by the Prophet's religion, who had vainly en-
deavored to cause desertion on the part of the
Helpers at Uhud, and who after Hunain had fled
to the Byzantine monarch to obtain help against
the successful founder of Islam. The new mosque
had not been founded with any secrecy and the
Prophet had been requested to inaugurate it. The
leader of prayer there was one Mujammi', who had
won fame (and perhaps his name) from his zeal in
collecting the Koran. But the secret which eked
out, or the account which the Prophet saw grounds
for accepting, was that this mosque was meant to
serve as a centre for the followers of Abu 'Amir,
when he should arrive with his Byzantine allies :
and meanwhile be the headquarters of a secret
society whose purpose was to oust the Prophet.
Mohammed's method with such designs was short
and effective. Invited for the second time to in-
augurate the mosque, he sent a party of men to
burn it to the ground, and turn it into a dunghill
for the future.

Of the rights and wrongs of this affair nothing
decided will ever be known : the revelation in which
it is mentioned, and which contains a variety of
oracles delivered in connection with the expedition
to Tabuk, is in a tone of bitterness and vexation
such as disappointment and opposition are likely to

The Settlement of Arabia 425

engender in a man of the Prophet's temperament.
The people of Medinah and their new Bedouin allies
are charged with harbouring Hypocrites : and it also
appears that the Koran was beginning to give rise to
criticisms of the sort from which the Prophet had
suffered at Meccah. When a new revelation comes
down, the people at Medinah ask each other sar-
castically whether their faith had been increased.
Knots of people are found talking and laughing:
and in spite of the most earnest denials, the Pro-
phet is of opinion that the Koran has provided the
materials for their amusement. This recrudescence
of unbelief was probably due to the Prophet's policy
of M reconciling hearts," *. <?., persuading men by
bribes to become Moslems. Persons converted in
this style are likely to have retained some of their
choice sarcasms to communicate when occasion re-
quired. There is also one verse in the tirade sug-
gesting that some of the malcontents disliked the
plan of living on plunder which was now character-
istic of Islam, and wished a more honest system to
be inaugurated. Of the builders of the Mosque of
Dissent not sufficient is known to enable us to es-
timate their purpose correctly. If it was rightly in-
terpreted by Mohammed, it would follow that his
example had already deeply impressed the Arabs
with the notion that a political movement must be
preceded by a religious movement : that the pre-
liminary operation necessary for one who would
start a revolution is to build a church. The pro-
gramme of these unsuccessful conspirators is likely
to have been a form of Abrahamism — such as Abu

4.26 Mohammed

'Amir is said to have practised : which he charged
Mohammed with having corrupted. Mohammed
retorted that the mosque built for him was on a
quicksand, ready to collapse into Hell-Fire.

Both at the time when the expedition to Tabuk
started and during the course of it there had been
many desertions. The return of the Prophet filled
the guilty with alarm, and we learn from the Koran
that the Prophet reserved some of the cases for very
special deliberation. One of these persons has left
us an account of his sufferings, illustrative of the
Prophet's ways.* Ka'b, son of Malik, was a Khaz-
rajite who had received eleven wounds at Uhud, and
who had earned an estate at Khaibar. He was
besides a poet whose muse served the Prophet, and
is even said to have intimidated the tribe Daus into
adopting Islam. But he was comfortable at Medi-
nah during the hot weather, and through indolence
failed to be ready in time for the expedition, and
also to join it afterwards. He made a clean breast
to the Prophet, who reserved his case with that of
two others for future revelation : meanwhile neither
the Prophet nor any Moslem would speak to him.
During the time of his excommunication a message
(he stated) came to him from the Ghassanide prince
in Syria, offering him patronage and protection, if he
chose to leave Medinah : but this temptation of the
Devil he rejected. Presently a message came from
the Prophet enjoining on the three delinquents a
penance which the Prophet undoubtedly regarded
as a severe one : for a time they were to be parted

* Muslim, ii., 330.

The Settlement of A rabia 427

from their wives. Meanwhile all three continued
practising their devotions with punctilious regular-
ity in the hope that the Prophet's wrath might pass
over. And after fifty days it did pass over. A re-
velation came assuring them of forgiveness. Warm
congratulations poured in from all sides. In the
enthusiasm of the blessed moment Ka'b was ready
to give away everything he possessed, as a thank-
offering for his readmission to the society of the
faithful. When the people of Medinah were child-
ren of this type, what wonder that a grown man
could mould them to his will ! Similarly we read
of others who were kept faithful in moments of ex-
treme temptation by the fear of being made the
subject of a text in the Koran.

Fortune was too true a friend to the Prophet to
permit of his success suffering more than a temp-
orary eclipse. Shortly after his return envoys came
from Ta'if, announcing the submission of tl>e brave
and stubborn Thakif. The last that has been heard
of the Thakif was that they had killed their chief-
tain 'Urwah, son of Mas'ud, for embracing Islam,
and that Malik, son of 'Auf, their former ally, was
proving his sincerity as a Moslem by making it un-
safe for them to go outside Ta'if. Their submis-
sion was hastened on by the belief that Mohammed
was irresistible ; that protracted resistance would
only ensure their suffering loss, and would in the
end be ineffectual. There would also appear to
have been a want of any cause for which many of
them consciously cared, and for which they were
prepared to suffer or die. Their procedure appears

428 Mohammed

to have been rather more methodical and dignified
than that of their predecessors in submission. A
party of six persons were sent as a deputation to
Medinah, drawn from different strata of the popu-
lation : a smaller number might, they feared, on
their return fall victims to another wave of popular
feeling. These envoys also when they reached
Medinah acted with caution, and endeavoured to
make terms with the Prophet : they would fain
have retained the right to worship their idols for a
period of time, and been excused the five daily
prayers, which many of the converts found exceed-
ingly irksome ; and the washings, which were dis-
agreeable in their cold country*; and have been
permitted to take interest, drink wine, and commit
certain sexual irregularities, f Abu Bakr and Omar
took care that the Prophet did not concede too
much : experience had shown them that Moham-
med, when the main concern had been settled, was
over-facile about details. Instructions however were
given to Othman, son of Abu 'l-'Asi, a young man
who was appointed governor as a reward for the de-
sire which he evinced to master the Koran, not to be
too exigent in the matter of the ceremonies of Islam.
The terms granted to Ta' if were far less onerous than
those to which the people of Allah had had to sub-
mit. The old sanctuary of the goddess Al-Lat was
to be respected under its new owner.:): The idah (an
herb on which camels browse) and the game of Bajj

* Musnad, iii., 347.
t Wakidi {W.\ 384.
\ Wellhausen, Reste, 30.

The Settlement of A rabia 429

(the old name for Ta' if) were to be left alone under
severe penalties. However the Thakafites were to
be relieved of the Alms and the obligation to fight :
Mohammed observing that when once they had ac-
cepted Islam they would wish both to pay Alms and
to take part in the sacred war. *

The Thakafites had further stipulated that they
should not be compelled to break their own idols.
So many Moslems were willing to undertake this
pious task that the stipulation might have seemed
unnecessary : the two who were finally entrusted
with it were a former priest of the goddess,f Mughi-
rah, son of Shu'bah, a Thakafite who had come to
Medinah as a convert some years before, and Abu
Sufyan, in whose ability and loyalty Mohammed
was now placing extreme confidence. The goddess
of the place — a white stone — was possessed of some
wealth, as might be expected from the prosperous
condition of Ta'if: it was lodged in a hole half
a fathom deep, under the stone. % Precautions were
taken to prevent the destroyers from becoming the
victims of popular fury, but they turned out to
be unnecessary. The women indeed bared them-
selves and wept, and even taunted the men with the
betrayal of their goddess : but the Arabs had a doc-
trine that a god should be able to defend himself,
and they did not interfere with the execution of
the Prophet's orders. The money and jewels of
the goddess were taken by Abu Sufyan, who, we

* Musnad, iii., 341.

f Wellkausen, Reste % 31.

X IM* 31.

430 Mohammed

suppose, was accountable for them to the Prophet.
We are not told in these cases what became of the
idolatrous priests who hoped against hope that their
gods would show some signs of resentment : how-
ever new converts could easily be put in the way of
acquiring plunder, whence we suppose that they
earned their living as most of the Moslems at this
time earned theirs.

This year was marked by an important event in
the history of Islam : the first Pilgrimage over which
a Moslem official presided. Abu Bakr was sent to
perform this honourable task : shortly after he had
started the Prophet remembered that further in-
structions were desirable. A revelation was there-
fore produced, being indeed a manifesto to the
Arabs who might gather for the Pilgrimage : and
Ali was sent post haste to communicate it to Abu
Bakr while there was still time. * This sanguinary
document f showed that affairs had now advanced
very far : the Arabs were given four months' grace,
after which the Prophet would raid them if they did
not accept Islam : and it was announced that after
this year no unbelievers might take part in the Pil-
grimage. The crime of keeping people from God's
house, which had been so serious when the Kuraish
were guilty of it, assumed a different aspect when
the Apostle had the power to perform it. The un-

Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthMohammed and the rise of Islam → online text (page 28 of 32)