Copyright
D. S. (David Samuel) Margoliouth.

Mohammed and the rise of Islam online

. (page 29 of 32)
Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthMohammed and the rise of Islam → online text (page 29 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


happy notion of the Prophet with regard to the

* In Musnad, i., 3, Abu Bakr is said to have been recalled in or-
der that one of the Prophet's house might deliver it : but this looks
like a Shi'ite invention.

\ Wellhausen, Sturz, 14, accepts the ordinary date for this docu-
ment ; Grimme would place it after the taking of Meccah.



The Settlement of Arabia 43 1

Calendar was enforced, thereby causing the ruin of
Meccan commerce, so far as it depended on the Pil-
grimage and the sacred months : but for the loss
they were to be indemnified by the plunder of Jews
and Christians, whose place as a tributary caste had
now been definitely settled. The Prophet was not
unaware of the character of these expedients : he
defended them by a series of charges levelled at the
persons whom he was now bent on oppressing or
exterminating. The effects of the recent discontent
at Medinah are not unapparent.

The delivery of the manifesto at Meccah now led
to a series of embassies to the Prophet, on the part
of persons anxious to make friends with the new
ruler of Arabia, or to learn about his system. Petty
princes and governors of tribes or provinces were
eager to obtain confirmation of their rights, and se-
cure possession of the domain * which they had
appropriated, or possession of domain which had be-
longed to some god : and since war had been pro-
claimed against all who did not accept the new
system, men were left no choice but either to come
into it, or prepare to fight against it. The icono-
clasm which had raged in Medinah at the time of
the Prophet's arrival spread far and wide, now it
had been clearly proved that the old gods were in-
capable of defending themselves or even of tak-
ing vengeance on those who broke them. Facts
which had remained unheeded for generations sud-
denly began to suggest important inferences: one
man observed that his god suffered himself to be

*Wellhausen t Reste, 107.



432 Moham?ned

desecrated by beasts, and declined henceforward to
worship a deity on whom the foxes staled.* The
persons who hurry to place their incense on the
altar of success are familiar figures in all ages : and
many a comedy was enacted at those visits. Some
of the visitors f professed to examine the prophetic
claims of Mohammed with the utmost care : they
had made out a whole series of questions which the
Prophet must answer satisfactorily or else they
would have none of him : they required the most
positive assurances on one subject and another, that
the needs of tender consciences and sceptical in-
tellects might be satisfied. The Prophet succeeded
in satisfying even these stern examiners, who were
then confirmed in their privileges, or accorded fresh
ones ; some trying to rob their neighbours by
trading on the Prophet's ignorance of local condi-
tions. % Doughty warriors, who had won fame in
many a fight, came to express their conviction in
the truth of Islam : a poor part for them to play
perhaps, which they endeavoured to lay aside so
soon as the Prophet was gone ; but their prowess
and command of the camel served them in this sort
of scramble as it had served them in the field. A
couple of chieftains bethought them of visiting the
Prophet, and had arranged that while one occupied
the Prophet with his questions the other should
plunge his dagger into God's messenger. Easier



* Isabah, i., 1012.
\ Musnad, i., 264.

\Ikd Farid, i., 104. Not all the envoys were converted — Ibn
Duraid, 236, mentions Wazar Ibn Jabir in this context.



The Settlement of Arabia 433

said than done ! 'Amir Ibn Tufail talked glibly
enough with the Prophet and arrested his attention :
but his colleague, Abrad, considered the fate which
Mohammed's murderer would undergo at Medinah,
and the native hue of resolution was sicklied o'er
with a pale cast of thought. Abrad accounted for
his cowardice by a miracle : during the interview the
Prophet had become invisible, so that Abrad knew
not where to strike. To us Charlotte Corday's con-
duct seems the more miraculous of the two.

Unlike most of the embassies was that from the
Christian state of Najran : the one community of
Arabian Christians of whom traces are left in the
martyrology, and whose sufferings under the temp-
orary rule of Jews suggested one of the earliest in-
spirations of the Koran. A great deputation of those
persons came to Medinah : they expected, it would
appear, that the Prophet would welcome them as
co-religionists, and indeed declared that they were
"Moslems": a pretension which Mohammed re-
fused to recognise on the ground of certain doc-
trines and practices of which he disapproved. It is
stated that their spokesman was anxious to argue
with him about the nature of Christ : supposing
doubtless that, since Mohammed accepted the doc-
trine of the Virgin Birth, his view of this difficult
subject would not differ very seriously from theirs ;
or, if it differed, he might be open to argument.
Mohammed knew enough about Christianity to be
aware that much blood had been shed on this con-
troversy : but instead of arguing, which would have
exposed him to very serious disadvantage, he had

38



434 Mohammed

recourse to revelation. Some years before, when
endeavouring to obtain a refuge for his followers in
Abyssinia, he had composed a Gospel : with success,
if viewed from the result. All he had now to do was
to reproduce this Gospel, insisting on the points
which he was aware that the Christians of Najran
would resent. Finally, if this direct communication
from God was not found convincing, he was com-
missioned to offer what seemed reasonable terms.
Each party was to invoke God's curse on himself
and all his nearest and dearest if his account of the
matter was not correct. After the receipt of this
message the delegates desired a little time for con-
sideration. They resolved that the risk of invoking
the curse was too great, and that it was best to sub-
mit to the tribute. They undertook to supply each
year thirty cuirasses and two thousand of the gar-
ments which were manufactured in their country : an
undertaking which would have been made with grim
satisfaction had they known that within two years
some of their garments would constitute the Pro-
phet's winding sheet.* Omar desired to be sent to
administrate, but the Prophet preferred the less
fanatical Abu Ubaidah.

This is the story told to illustrate the passage
in Surah iii. in which the Christians are invited to
this simple ordeal. Of its truth we cannot be quite
sure : but some features in the accounts seem vera-
cious. If the Christian leaders refused to settle the
matter by the process recommended from Heaven,
it was probably because they regarded it as a trap :

* Musnad, i., 222.



The Settlement of A rabia 43 5

the Prophet would merely have to send some legions
to Najran, with orders to destroy the persons on
whom destruction had been invoked, and the truth
of his doctrine would be demonstrated. There were
persons at Medinah ready to tell them some of
the disasters that had befallen the Jews, who had
presumed to maintain for their religion a position of
independence, and assure them that their submis-
sion was necessary, if physical resistance were im-
possible. The Prophet was secure of a triumph
whether they accepted the challenge or refused it :
by refusing it they were spared some bloody scenes.
Yet the refusal of the Christians to acknowledge
him left in his mind no less bitterness against them
than he had harboured against the Jews. He de-
clared the Najranites and the Christian Taghlibites to
be the two worst tribes in Arabia.* He forbade fast-
ing on Friday, f doubtless with the view of avoiding
Christian practice. Ali declared that the Prophet
had left him private instructions to turn the Christ-
ians out of Najran. % Christians and Jews were, the
Prophet declared, to serve as substitutes for Mos-
lems in Hell-Fire. § Isolated converts from Christ-
ianity to Islam, such as Tamim al-Dari, who came
to Medinah about this time, received a warm wel-
come, and their confirmation of the Prophet's state-
ments was loudly advertised. [



* Afusnad, iv. , 387.
\Ibid. y iii., 296.
%Ibid % i., 87
§ Muslim , ii., 329.
I Ibid, ii., 380.




Mohammed



Of other visitors there are stories that are in-
teresting, and even touching. Tufail, son of 'Amr,
who had offered the Prophet a refuge in his
castle, came to Medinah bringing with him a friend,
who caught the Medinah fever, and in his pain cut
off his ringers till he bled to death.* Zaid of the
Horses, a chevalier known all over Arabia, came
with a number of the Tay'ites, heard the Prophet
preach, and declared himself a believer. Others of
whose fame Mohammed had heard disappointed
him when he saw them : Zaid, whose feet touched
the ground when he rode his horse, came up to his
reputation. Wonderful tales are told of this hero,
called Zaid of the Horses because he possessed many,
whose names he immortalised in verse. He played
in earnest a part like that which Beckwourth played
for sport : always ready for a fight, helping now
one tribe, now another ; for the pleasure of war
rushing to the rescue of the vanquished ; enriching
the poor with spoil when they begged of him.
Like Odysseus he could send arrows from his bow
through the loops of a strap as unfailingly as if he
had inserted them with his fingers. When venge-
ance for blood was his quest, he knew no mercy.
At times he took feigned names, but Zaid of the
Horses could not be disguised. His life was the
aimless career of a Knight-errant, interesting as a
romance, useless and dangerous to any state that
hoped for quiet development. Mohammed wel-
comed the famous warrior, gave him of the gold
which Ali had sent from Yemen, to the envy of



* Musnad y iii., 370.




A BEDOUIN ON A CAMEL.



The Settlement of Arabia 437

both Refugees and Helpers,* assigned him lands
and honours, and hoped to direct in serious warfare
his wasted energies: but saw in him ere he left
Medinah the taint of fever, contracted by a short
stay in its pestilential air : whence he died before
he reached his home. And his wife, unconverted,
burned the rescript of the Prophet who, claiming to
be sent from Heaven, was less resourceful against
sickness than the humbler medicine man. And
other deputations of persons, who had intended to
embrace Islam, were frightened off by the death
of some of their numbers.^

The son of another of the Arabic Knights, 'Adi
Ibn Hatim, also of the tribe of Tay, was brought
into the fold. His father had been a famous hero,
and so great was the reflected glory that once
when taken prisoner by a raiding tribe he had been
released without ransom.:): As the Moslems were
gradually forcing Islam on the whole of Arabia,
this man, who was professedly a Christian, fled
towards Syria, having prepared for the contingency,
but waited till the last moment to carry out his
project. A sister of his was taken captive, brought
to Medinah and released by Mohammed, to be sent
as a decoy to her brother, who, not to be outdone
in generosity, could do no less than come to Me-
dinah with an open mind about Mohammed's pro-
phetic mission, of which a very little experience
was sufficient to convince him. And indeed the

* Musnad, iii., 68.
f Isabah, i., 655.
% Ibn Duraid % 224.



438 Mohammed

reasoning of the Prophet seems to have been power-
ful enough. He pointed out (in some form or
other) his intention of spreading a pax Islamica
over Arabia : a bond of religion uniting the whole,
firmer even than "had been the bond of blood
uniting the clans : and what then would become of
the trade of such men as 'Adi and Hatim his father,
who had lived and thrived by raiding? The advan-
tage that the Christians had enjoyed, by being free
from the institution of the sacred months, had now
become common to the greater part of Arabia : if
therefore marauding was to be done at all, it could
be best practised by joining the new power to prey
upon the Christians. The son of Hatim may have
seen the force of this argument, perhaps faintly,
yet effectively : for when, after Mohammed's death,
the Arabs rose, hoping to shake off the yoke, he
remained steadfast, and sent the Alms. Exile and
helplessness had taught him his lesson. For the rest
this Christian's converse with Mohammed seems to
have been less on points of doctrine than on sub-
jects connected with the chase.* With his name
the tradition connects the curious rule that dogs
employed in coursing must have the name of God
pronounced over them ; game killed by an uncon-
secrated dog is unfit for food.

And so one by one the Arabs who had been nom-
inally Christians became nominally or actually Mos-
lems. The change in most cases brought no
sacrifice: the Byzantine power was not ordinarily
in a position to persecute. The governor of Ma'an

* Muslim, ii., 107, io8 f



The Settlement of Arabia 439

whom they imprisoned first and then crucified was
a solitary example.

On the return from Tabuk the Prophet was met by
messengers from the historic state of Himyar, bring-
ing a letter in the names of Al-Harith, son of Abd
Kulal (in a poet's opinion the second best man in
the world*), and his brothers Nu'aim and Nu'man,
KailyOr chieftains, of Dhu Ru'ain, Ma'afir, and Ham-
dan. These persons had been invited to the faith two
years before : the wary chieftains waited for fortune
to declare herself more decidedly ; and when they
were satisfied about it, they made haste to show
their earnestness by killing and plundering. Their
letter was conveyed by a man of the clan Ruha,
of the Yemenite tribe Madhhij, who appears to
have been noted for his beauty. Besides the letter
he conveyed some private intelligence, which Mo-
hammed thanked him for concealing with diligence.
The reply was on parchment, and was entrusted to
the messenger with four of the Prophet's followers.
It is said to have run as follows :

" From Mohammed, God's messenger, the Prophet, to
Al-Harith, son of Abd Kulal, and Nu'aim, son of Abd
Kulal, and Al-Nu'man, chieftains of Dhu Ru'ain, Ma'afir,
and Hamdan : for the rest I praise unto you God than
whom there is no other God : next, we were met by your
messengers on our return from the land of Rum, who
met us at Medinah, and conveyed to us your message,
and instructed us concerning your state, and showed
us how you had become Moslems and had slain the

* Jbn Duraid y 308.



440 Mohammed

Idolators. And know that God has led you aright
if ye shall do well, and obey God and His apostle,
and be steadfast in prayer, and give Alms, and bestow
out of your booty God's fifth, and the Apostle's share
and perquisite. And the Alms or land produce which
is enjoined on the Believers is a tenth of what is
watered by springs or by rain, and half a tenth of
what is watered by irrigation, and of camels one female
two years old out of forty, and one male two years
old out of thirty, and one ewe for five camels, or two
ewes for ten. And for every forty head of oxen one
cow, and for thirty a calf of one year, a she-calf or he-
calf, and for every forty sheep a ewe that can feed by
itself: for this is the prescribed alms which God pre-
scribed for the Believers: but whoso adds thereunto it
is well for him. And whoso pays it, and testifies that
he is a Moslem, and helps the Believers against the
Idolators, he is one of the Believers, having the same
rights and the same duties as they, and enjoys the pro-
tection of God and of His Apostle. And if any Jew or
Christian become a Moslem, he is one of the Believers,
with the same rights and duties as they. But if a man
persist in his Judaism or Christianity, he shall not be
made to leave it, but shall pay the Tribute, a dinar of
full weight for every male or female of mature age,
free or slave, out of the price of the garments which they
weave, or the equivalent thereof in garments. And
whoso pays this unto the Apostle of God, he shall enjoy
the protection of God and His Apostle. But he that
withholds it shall be an enemy to God and His Apostle.
And know that God's Apostle Mohammed the Prophet
has sent to Zur'ah Dhu Yazan saying: When my messen-
gers come unto you, I commend them unto you, Mu'adh,
son of Jabal, Abdallah, son of Zaid, Malik, son of 'Uba-



o


»


CO


A


z


■SI




'u


z


n


5


u

4


CO


"


<

CO


=



The Settlement of Arabia 441

dah, 'Ukbah, son of Namir, Malik, son of Murrah, and
their fellows. Collect ye the Alms and the Tribute from
your districts and bring it to my messengers, so that
their chief Mu'adh, son of Jabal, shall not return dis-
contented. And next, Mohammed testifies that there
is no God save Allah, and that he is His servant and
Apostle. And know that Malik, son of Murrah, of Edessa
has shown me how thou didst become a Moslem among
the first of Himyar, and didst slay the Idolators. and
know that it is well unto thee, and I bid thee do good
unto Himyar: deceive not neither betray each other: for
God's Apostle is the patron of rich and poor among you.
And know that the Alms is not lawful for Mohammed
nor his family: it is a charity to be bestowed on the poor
of the Moslems and on the beggar. And know that
Malik has delivered his message, and kept his secret,
and I bid you to treat him well. And know that I have
sent unto you of the best of my company and of the pious
and learned amongst them, and I bid you treat them
well, for our eyes are turned unto them. And upon you
be peace and God's mercy and His blessings."

The genuineness of this letter is probably beyond
suspicion, and it shows that the Prophet and his
new subjects understood each other very well. The
guidance of God, Paradise, and all other religious
topics are now relegated to a very modest place :
the main thing is the payment of taxes by Believers
and the tolerated sects. Of the pious and learned
official who is sent the main business is tax-collect-
ing. Other business between the princes and the
Prophet was of too private a nature to be committed
to parchment : the messenger had his instructions,



442 Mohammed

but the allusion made to the matter is faint. The
Prophet carefully clears himself of the charge of
having a personal interest in the collection of taxes :
but yet also provides against his privy purse being
quite neglected.

The public declaration of war delivered by Ali at
the Pilgrimage of the year 9 was thus having its
effect. It might, had there been any man of con-
summate ability in Arabia, have led to a union of
forces in defence of religious liberty : for what hap-
pened at the Prophet's death showed how much the
Arabs appreciated the Prayers and Alms. If how-
ever any persons cared to fight, it was not for liberty,
but for their gods ; and Mohammed had certainly
exposed the Arabian deities effectively : their houses
and images had been destroyed, scarcely any of them
having made even a display of resistance.

In general it was Mohammed's policy not to dis-
turb the existing order of affairs. The chieftains
and princes who gave in their submission to Islam
were confirmed in their rights, and even retained
their old titles: the Prophet merely sent back with
them an official whose business was to collect the
Alms, and tribute where there were any Jews or
Christians, and another who was to instruct the new
converts in the principles of Islam, and especially to
conduct the religious services, and recite the Koran.
These two officials formed the prototypes of the
governors still sent out from Islamic capitals to the
provinces. Neither of them at first was meant to
reside permanently in the new province. The for-
mer paid annual visits, returning to headquarters



The Settlement of Arabia 443

when he had goods or money for the capital. Thither
the tribute certainly went, and also the fifth of the
spoil which Mohammed claimed for himself. The
conditions made by the Prophet rather imply that
the Alms were retained in the province to be distri-
buted there among the poorer Believers. We have
however no authentic record of the mode in which
the distribution was organised.

Some deaths marked this year: that of the
Prophet's daughter, Umm Kulthum, who had after
her sister's death been married to Othman ; and
Abdallah, son of Ubayy, who is said to have
sickened and died shortly after the retreat from
Tabuk. He had however long been harmless, and
his death now made little difference. A scene
which romancers have tried to reproduce is Abdal-
lah sending for the Prophet on his death-bed, and
even then maintaining a sort of proud independence
in the presence of the man who had so often out-
witted and humilated him. At the request of his
son,* the Prophet performed his obsequies, not with-
out expostulation from Omar. Another death which
could not fail to move the Prophet was that of his
Abyssinian friend at Axum, the Negus who had
nursed Islam when it was likely to have been
extinguished.

* Musnad, iii., 371.




CHAPTER XIII

THE LAST YEAR

AS the tenth year came to a close the Prophet
determined to lead the Pilgrimage in solemn
state, and on this occasion was accompanied
by his numerous harem. " People flocked to Me-
dinah, anxious to imitate the Prophet and do as he
did: he started on the 20th of Dhu'l-Ka'dah [Feb.
17, 632], and we went with him,— and I looked and
as far as my eye could reach there were crowds
of riders and pedestrians in front of the Prophet
and behind him, and on his right and on his left." *
He took this opportunity of fixing for ever the cere-
monies which, together, bear that name : rites con-
nected with different places, and commemorating
very different events, were all grouped together,
and transferred from whatever may have been
their original purpose to the cult of Abraham and
Ishmael. Mohammed took care that the neighbour-
ing sanctuaries should as far as possible lose their
independent local significance, be brought into close
and necessary connection with the Ka'bah, and be-

* Jabir, son of Abdallah, in Musnad, iii., 320. Others date the
expedition some days later.




>: 2



The Last Year 445

come, so to speak, dependencies thereof ; he suc-
ceeded so well that there is no longer a feast of
Arafat, but only of Meccah .* A solemn address
was delivered by him to the assembly, all of them
Moslems, who were gathered to worship and to be
exhorted. The reproduction of it which his tal-
ented biographer offers can scarcely be regarded
as authentic f ; yet the Prophet's sermon may have
dealt with the same subjects. These are (among
others) the doctrine of brotherhood of Islam : that
there was an end to the pride in ancestry which
marked the Days of Ignorance, all Arabs who
adopted Islam being equal, or only differentiated
by their piety, and that a wholly new epoch was
started by its introduction. The planets had, he
declared, come back to the places in which they
were situated when the world began : the world
was to begin afresh, and no pre-Islamic feud was
to be permitted to survive. On the other hand he
had no intention of founding a communistic state,
and urged that property should be respected no
less than life. Something was said of the rights
of women, and, on the whole, humane treatment
of them was prescribed. That day % God had com-
pleted their religion ; and it must be admitted that
for a great length of time the Mohammedans had no
need of legislators, but only of commentators on the
law which their founder had given them. Those who
wrote the history of that day make the Prophet

* Wellhausen, Jteste, 70.

f It is discussed by Goldzifur % M, S. t i., 70-99.

\AImnad, i., 28.



446 Mohammed

prophesy that it might be his last visit to Meccah,
and it is known as the " Farewell Pilgrimage."

While the despatch delivered by Ali in the pre-
vious year represented the offensive side of Islam,
the sermon at the Farewell Pilgrimage insisted on
the aspects in which it constituted a reformation
of previous conditions. The sacrosanct area of
previous times was greatly extended, and an earnest
attempt made by the Prophet to abolish the blood-
feud. The only cases in which we find him act
with severity towards his followers is when they
carry into Islam the memory of the feuds of former
days ; and, as has been seen, the lessons of the Fijar
war never faded from his mind. But, indeed, the
cross-division occasioned by the brotherhood of
Islam left little room for the tribal feud. Murder
within the religious community became a crime
which the ruling authority was bound to punish ;
whereas outside the community it became a mild



Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthMohammed and the rise of Islam → online text (page 29 of 32)