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offence with which the Moslem rules had little con-
cern ; it being the business of Islam to attain to a
degree of strength which would render retaliation
on the part of the outsiders impossible.

Hence it may be said that the invention of an
Islamic brotherhood secured a certain degree of
peace among the Arab tribes. On the sanctity of
that brotherhood the Prophet never ceased to in-
sist, whether in his revelations, or in his ordinary
sermons.* Divine punishment was threatened for
any act whereby one Moslem injured another.f

* Musnad, iv. , 66.
\Ibid., 229.

The Last Year 447

Like members of the same body, when one felt pain
all others must necessarily share it.* With the
same idea he recommended fathers to divide their
estates equally among their sons, and give no
preference to one.f Raiding (such as is now carried
on in Arabia, as the journal of the murdered Huber
attests) was forbidden ; a man who asked whether
he might go raiding with his tribe was told that
the pride of Ignorance was over.£ For a time, at
any rate, the tribe showed a tendency to sink to
the level of those provincial and municipal divisions
which, though useful for the purpose of organisa-
tion, arouse no sentiments comparable in force
with those of nationality and religion. That society
is an institution for securing life and property was
naturally a notion which neither Mohammed nor his
followers ever harboured ; but the abolition of the
tribal unity certainly rendered better government
possible, since an offender could no longer count on
being backed by his natural allies. Moreover, that
without justice the state could not exist was not
unknown to Mohammed ; and he therefore made it
characteristic of the Moslems that they should
prescribe right and forbid wrong.

The notion that a profound difference existed be-
tween intentional and unintentional manslaughter
appears to have made little way before Islam, ob-
vious though it would seem to be.

Although in cases of the latter sort the Prophet

* Musnad, iv., 268.

+ Ibid.

\ Isabah, ii., 6.

448 Mohammed

ruled that the slayer be handed over to the avenger
of the slain, he informed the latter that he would
incur Hell-Fire if he exacted the penalty.* But for
other offences it was the merit of Islam that it pro-
vided both a system by which they could be checked,
and also a code by which they could be judged.

Ever since the taking of Meccah the Prophet had
worked as hard as the most industrious of sovereigns,
organising expeditions, giving audiences, despatch-
ing ambassadors, dictating letters ; besides hearing
plaints, administering justice, and interpreting the
law. He worked continuously, allowing himself no
day of rest.f Always ready to hear and take advice,
whatever the subject, he kept all the reins in his
own hand ; and till his death managed both the ex-
ternal and internal affairs of the vast and ever-grow-
ing community which he had founded, and of which
he was both the spiritual and the temporal head.
In later times a whole hierarchy of deputies was
established for the purpose of discharging those
duties ; and in the Prophet's time, though no definite
officer as yet existed, the duties attaching to such
had to be performed. " Kais, son of Sa'd, son of
'Ubadah," says a trustworthy authority, " was to the
Prophet what a chief of the guard is to a Caliph."
As political secretary, Abdallah, son of Abu'l-Arkam,
served after the taking of Meccah ; though converted
so late, this man enjoyed the Prophet's complete
confidence, and was even allowed to answer foreign
correspondence without showing his replies to his

* Isabah, i., 1000.

f Musnad, vi., 55(Ayeshah).

The Last Year 449

master. For the no less important business of tak-
ing down "revelations," Zaid, son of Thabit, acted
as secretary; on him afterwards fell the duty of
publishing the Koran. When these persons were
not at hand, other educated Moslems took their

His last years were brightened for a time by the
birth of a son to his Coptic concubine Mary whom
he acknowledged as his own, and whom he called
after the mythical founder of his religion, Ibrahim.
This concubine having been the object of the
extreme envy of his many childless wives, the
auspicious event occasioned them the most painful
heartburnings ; which indeed were speedily allayed
by the death of the child (who lived only eleven
months) — it is unknown whether any of them as-
sisted nature. The survival of this child would have
enormously complicated the beginnings of the
Islamic realm, since its stability was certainly due to
the fact that the Prophet's immediate successors
were the most earnest believers and the most com-
petent rulers in the community, and the men who
had the firmest grasp of the principles by which
the Prophet had won his successes.

Besides this event of passing importance the
Prophet's matrimonial affairs went on as they had
done since the battle of Badr had first given him
the means of establishing a princely harem. His
taste being generally known, and doubtless the sub-
ject of much concealed amusement, tribes that were
anxious to gain his favour presented him with the

* Isabah.


450 Mohammed

fairest of their women, some of whom indeed took
the initiative themselves ; though one or two cases
are recorded in which the Prophet's suit was re-
jected.* The history of these persons is given at
length in one of the biographies, but there is little
in it that repays excerpting. The residence of some
of them in the Prophet's harem was short, owing to
unsuitability of temper ; in one or more cases the
newcomers were taught by the jealous wives of the
Prophet formularies which, uttered by them in ignor-
ance of the meaning, made the Prophet discharge
them on the spot. One was discharged for declar-
ing on the death of the infant Ibrahim that had his
father been a prophet, he would not have died — a
remarkable exercise of the " reasoning power." f Of
the whole number of inmates Ayeshah alone by force
of character and keenness of wit won for herself a
place in the political and religious history of Islam.
By the Prophet's death she had scarcely reached
womanhood according to European ideas. But from
the time of her emergence from childhood till her
death at the age of sixty-six, she exhibited a degree
of ability and unscrupulousness which should earn
her a place beside the Agrippinas and Elizabeths of
history. Fatimah and Zainab, the heroine of the
Zaid scandal, in vain endeavoured to obtain from the
Prophet some reduction of her privileges in favour
of the rest of the harem ; Fatimah was told that she
should love the beloved of her father, and Zainab,
after an encounter with the shrewish favourite,

* Ibn Duraid, 176. The lady became leprous in consequence.
\Al-Kanz al-Madfun^ 5.

The Last Year 45 1

retired hopelessly vanquished.* Just as when a
child she had, by manifesting abhorrence of the
Prophet, riveted his fancy on her, so to the end she
possessed the art of making herself valued. When
her husband displeased her, she refused him the
title Prophet of Allah ; and regularly submitted his
revelations to a searching criticism which would have
cost an ordinary Moslem his head.

A more healthy and respectable form of domestic
felicity was provided by the Prophet's grandchild-
ren, the family of AH and Fatimah. Like Jacob
of old Mohammed thought of his grandsons Hasan
and Husain as his own sons, and many stories
exist to illustrate the Prophet's affection for them.
Al- Hasan was said to resemble his grandfather in
face more closely than any member of the family ;
when the former prostrated himself in prayer, his
grandchild would mount upon his back ; or when
the Prophet was standing Al- Hasan would plant his
feet upon his grandfather's and climb on to his
breast.f At times the Prophet would appear in
public with one of the grandsons on each shoulder;
and legend, unaided by art, made the holy family
consist of Mohammed, Fatimah, and the two boys ;
in time, when a figure corresponding to the Christian
Virgin was required, Fatimah could take the place.
The relations between her and her husband do not
seem to have been of the most peaceful description,
and indeed Ali wished to espouse in addition Abu
J aril's daughter, much to Fatimah's indignation J; but

* Muslim i ii., 245.

\ Cf. Musnad, iv., 172. % Muslim* ii., 348.



these disputes did not often embitter Mohammed's
relations with either, though his wives were naturally
jealous of her influence and of her offspring. Born
at a time when fortune had declared herself in Mo-
hammed's favour, these pampered princes received a
training which would have fitted them to mount a
secure throne, but by no means prepared them for
the role of an Augustus or Third Napoleon. The
sons of the bravest of champions, the grandsons of
the astutest of statesmen, the one proved himself a
coward, and the other an incompetent leader ; and
they transmitted to their descendants their ill-for-
tune, but none of the gifts which adorned the
founders of their line. The Prophet's affection and
his blessings were of no efficacy in their case.

Besides these lineal descendants there were many
nephews, grand-nephews, and cousins often seen
about the Prophet's house ; and pleasing stories
were told of the games which the Prophet played
with them.* But even with his grown-up followers
Mohammed appears at times to have thrown aside
the gravity which belonged to his office. A story
which appears to be authentic is told of his throwing
his'arms suddenly from behind round the head of a
dwarfish convert named Zahir, who was selling goods
in the market, and offering him for sale.f One of
his followers declared that the Prophet was almost
always smiling.:): The nephews and cousins who
had arrived at manhood were naturally anxious to

* Musnad y i., 216.
f Ibn Duraid, 168.
%Musnad, iv., 191.

The Last Year 453

profit by their relationship to the great man, and ap-
plied for posts in the new administration ; collector-
ship of the Alms was the easiest of their offices, and
the one that offered the best opportunities for pecula-
tion. The Prophet, while acknowledging the claims
of his kin to support, did not readily grant such
requests,* and appears in no case to have injured his
administration by nepotism ; nor did he allow his
relatives to interfere with the course of justice.f

The deputations form a more important chapter
in the Prophet's biography, and though fact and
fiction are greatly mixed in the accounts of them
which have reached us, there is no question of their
historical character. The defeat of the Hawazin
had decided the fate of Arabia. After that event
unimportant raids were not indeed unfrequent ; but
the greater number of the Arabian dynasties or com-
munities, in all parts of the peninsula, from Yemen
to Bahrain, from Hadramaut to Yemamah, hastened
to throw themselves into the arms of the new power.
It would seem that the boastful chieftains had deeply
ingrained in them the notion that they must be
under some one's suzerainty ; for centuries their
suzerains had been Byzantines or Persians; by a
change of yoke something was probably to be gained,
and perhaps the waking consciousness of nationality
made them incline to a suzerain whose language was
Arabic. Moreover the achievements of Mohammed,
and the exaggerated reports of his miraculous powers,
probably determined many to seek his favour at the
earliest opportunity.

* Musnad, iv., 166. \Ibid., iii., 395.

454 Mohammed

Throughout the correspondence, of which frag-
ments are preserved, the Prophet claims the right to
dispose of the whole of Arabia, of Syria,* and even
of Egypt. The man whose example Mohammed is
thought to have followed when he first began to
prophesy, the forgotten Maslamah of Yemamah,
hoped that his disciple would be satisfied with half
the world, and asked, perhaps on the ground of his
seniority, for the right to dispose of the other half ;
but in vain. Two prophets cannot exist in the
world at once. " The earth is the Lord's and He
bestows it on whom He will." Squatting in his poor
apartment, with a veil over his face and a palm-
branch in his hand, the outcast of Meccah gave and
took away crowns, granted amnesties, and guaranteed
rights, bestowed mines,f forced enemies to remain
at peace, or compelled sluggards to go to war. Each
day's couriers would seem to have brought messages
from places whose names till then no one at Medi-
nah had heard. What surprises us as much as any-
thing is that the same language, and indeed the same
script (with the slightest of provincial variations),
would appear to have been current over the whole
peninsula. We nowhere hear of interpreters being
required for either the messengers or messages from
the distant communities who were now brought into
touch with the Sanctuaries.

Many of the visitors' names which were redolent
of paganism, or were otherwise displeasing to the
Prophet's delicate ear, were altered by him to some-

* Isabah, iv., 401 ; Ibn Duraid, 226.
f Musnad, i., 306.

The Last Year 455

thing better. So " Zaid of the Stud," whose fate
has been described already, found himself renamed
14 Zaid of the Good " ; " the Wolf, son of the Cub "
(Dhuaib Ibn Kulaib) was turned into " Allah's Serv-
ant " ; an "Oppressor" (Zalim) was altered into a
"Well-doer" (Rashid) ; and many a servant of an
idol was compelled to call himself servant of Allah
or of the Rahman. At times this delicacy extended
itself to the names of places: "Wanderer" from
"Straying " was altered into " Directed " from " Direc-
tion " (Rashdan) and the place retained its new name
unto all time. Sometimes these alterations were
not to the taste of their objects: a clan named
"Sons of Bastardy" whom he wished to rename
"Sons of Chastity" preferred the title by which
their fathers had been known. Ordinarily the
visitors were too anxious to secure some im-
mediate benefit from their visit to be particular
about such points. Men who had been partners in
estates hurried to Medinah to embrace Islam, in
order to obtain sole possession.f Recognising that
the Prophet's assignation had become the only title
to property, men hastened to get him to assign them
wells.J Some, distrusting the honesty of the col-
lectors of Alms, got letters from the Prophet, secur-
ing them against injustice. §

The Prophet's letters were now known to be
documents of terrible seriousness. If any disrespect

* Isabak,'\., 701.

\Ibid., i.,994.

% Ibid., i., 1054 ; Ibn Duraid, 1 13.

§ Musnad, i., 164.

456 Mohammed

were shown them, it was speedily avenged. To
Ru'ayyah, of Suhaim, the Prophet wrote a letter,
with which Ru'ayyah patched his water-skin. The
Prophet sent a force which captured his children and
all his possessions. He came to Medinah, accepted
Islam, and begged that his children and his
goods might be restored. The latter had al-
ready been divided, but he was allowed to rescue
the former. Whether this particular story be true
or not, it is a type of many actual events. From
the time when the Prophet first governed a state, he
never let an insult remain unavenged.

The last of the deputations was that of the Banu
Nakha', received in the first month of the eleventh
year, and said to consist of two hundred men : their
home was in Yemen.

If the Prophet's extraordinary success had cast
something like a spell over the whole of Arabia, and
subdued the pride of champions who had never re-
cognised authority before, we may be sure that to
the persons in his immediate neighbourhood, who
had been able to watch his progress, the supersti-
tious reverence which attached to his person knew
no bounds. The occasions, therefore, on which he
had to punish any one who had adopted Islam
were exceedingly rare: and except in the case of
Moslems who had avenged on other Moslems in-
juries which dated from the Days of Ignorance his
punishments were extraordinarily mild. Recognition
of his prophetic claim was to the end a sort of
incense whose perfume never staled. In one case,
that of Al-Hakam, the ancestor of the future dynasty

The Last Year 457

of Marwan, he punished an offence with banishment
to the charming city of Ta'if ; the nature of the
offence is not certainly known ; but if it really con-
sisted, as is asserted, in intrusion on the privacy of
the Prophet, the penalty was not severe. When a
man was caught in open treachery, holding private
communication with the Prophet's enemies, the lat-
ter refused to do any serious mischief to one who
had shared the perils and the glories of Badr. On
the other hand, his ruling in the case of the Jews
that adultery must be punished by stoning led him
to cause this barbarous penalty to be inflicted on
occasions when he would probably have desired to
be less severe, and even suggested to the culprit to
perjure himself.* He is said to have crucified one
offender, f it is uncertain for what. The penalty of
death was also exacted by him in the case of a man
who, after pagan usage, married his father's widow. £
In two cases of theft on the part of Moslems he
carried out the horrible penalty of hand-cutting,§
which his code retained probably rather than intro-
duced,] and which was clearly not to his liking T ;
and one of the heroes of Badr ** even was repeatedly
beaten for drunkenness, against the wishes of Omar,
who would have exacted a severer penalty. A man
found drunk ff on the day of Hunain was by the

* ' Uyun al-akkbar, 95.

f Ibid., 94.

\ Musnad, iv., 292.

%Isabah, iii., 792 ; Musnad, iii., 395.

|| Baihaki, Mahasin, 395.

Tf Musnad, iv., 181.

** Isabah, ii., S23. \\ Musnad, iv., 88.

458 Moha?nmed

Prophet's orders beaten with all available instru-
ments, while the Prophet himself pelted the offender
with clods. In dealing with enemies he often showed
what may be called a good heart: violent orders
given in the heat of passion were retracted after a
little reflection ; the tradition records how he ordered
some enemies if caught to be burned, but remem-
bered in time that it was the privilege of God to
punish with fire. The Christian Arabic kings had
been less scrupulous,* and the nineteenth century
had begun before all Christian nations had attained
to this degree of humanity. The one case on re-
cord in which Mohammed exercised ingenious
cruelty was where a tribe had sent for missionaries,
on the pretence that they were adopting Islam, and
had murdered these missionaries on their arrival.
The culprits, when caught, were indeed barbarously
tortured. It cannot be denied that there had been
provocation. His principle was however averse to
such practices ; and many a horror was afterwards
prevented by the knowledge that mutilation and
torture were forbidden by the Prophet.f

His humanity even extended itself to the lower cre-
ation. He forbade the employment of living birds
as targets for marksmen \ ; and remonstrated with
those who ill-treated their camels. When some of
his followers had set fire to an anthill he compelled
them to extinguish it. § Foolish acts of cruelty

* Ibn Duraid y 230.
\ Musnad, iv. , 292.
% Ibid., i., 273.
§ Ibid., 396.

The Last Year 459

which were connected with old superstitions were
swept away by him with other institutions of
paganism. No more was a dead man's camel to be
tied to his tomb to perish of thirst and hunger. *
No more was the evil eye to be propitiated by the
blinding of a certain proportion of the herd. No
more was the rain to be conjured by tying burning
torches to the tails of oxen and letting them loose
among the cattle, f Horses were not to be hit on
the cheek %; and their manes and tails were not to
be cut, the former being meant by nature for their
warmth, and the latter as a protection against flies. §
Asses were not to be branded or hit on the face. |
Even the cursing of cocks T an d camels ** was dis-
couraged. When a woman vowed to sacrifice her
camel if it brought her safely to her destination,
the Prophet ridiculed this mode of rewarding the
beast's services, and released her from her vow. ft

To the same genuine humanity we may ascribe
the one innovation of Islam which ordinarily re-
ceives praise even from its enemies: the abolition
of the practice of burying girls alive. The tradition
records the thrill of horror with which the Prophet
heard the recital of a man who had covered with
earth a girl whom her mother, owing to the father's

* Hariri, Mak., xxxiii.

f Baihaki, Mahas., 441.

% Musnad, iv., 1 31.

§ Ibid., 183.

I Alusnad, iii., 323.

1 Ibid., 115.

** Ibid., 420.

f f Is/iak, 722. Preserved Smith adds some more examples.

460 Mohammed

absence, had ventured to save and bring up. Our
sources do not tell us within what limits this prac-
tice prevailed : some of the archaeologists confined
it to particular tribes, whereas from the Koran we
should imagine that the fate of each daughter born
hung in the balance. On the other hand one of the
women who adopted Islam at the taking of Meccah
indignantly repudiated the charge of infanticide.
Though modern political philosophy would view the
practice with less severity than Mohammed, regard-
ing it as not the most cruel solution of an apparently
hopeless problem, recognition is due to the human-
ity which prompted the prohibition, both in raising
the estimation of the weaker sex, and in hedging
human life round with additional sanctity.

For the latter Mohammed's system otherwise ac-
complished little : but for the female sex it certainly
achieved much, and there too it is best to hush
the voice of sentiment and treat his rules and in-
novations as an attempt to grapple with a hopeless
problem : hopeless in the sense that no community
of any magnitude has ever found a blanket (to
use Isaiah's image) that will cover the whole frame.
The seclusion and veiling of women were, as Muir
has well observed, a direct consequence of poly-
gamy and facility of divorce. Polygamy is itself
an attempt at solving a problem which Indo-Ger-
manic nations solve by harbouring prostitution.
In the latter system a portion of the female popula-
tion is wholly degraded, in the former the whole
female population is partially degraded. If by
the introduction of the veil Mohammed curtailed

The Last Year 461

women's liberty, he undoubtedly secured for them
by laws the rights of inheriting and holding prop-
erty, which under the older system were precarious.
And though wife-beating is recommended in the
Koran, the Prophet himself quite certainly never
practised it * ; and is said to have forbidden their
being beaten on the face, or reproached except in-
doors, f On the other hand he deprived them of
the power to repudiate their partners at pleasure
(by altering the direction of the tent), while retain-
ing this right for the men. \ The abolition of slav-
ery was not a notion that ever entered the Prophet's
mind, and we are too near the date of its abolition
in Christian countries to be able to make this a
reproach. Some of his regulations in the matter
were humane : the parting of a captive mother
from her child was forbidden, and threatened with
an appropriate punishment in the next world :
those who committed the crime would there be
parted from their friends. § The parting of broth-
ers when sold was similarly forbidden. | On the
other hand the parting of husband and wife was
permitted : captivity ipso facto dissolved marriage;
and the captive wife might at once become the concu-
bine of the conqueror. On the whole however the
Prophet did something to alleviate the existence of
captives. At the Farewell Pilgrimage he is said to

* Musnad, vi., 32.

f Ibid., iv., 447.

X Perron, Femmes Arabes, 127.

§ Isabah, ii., 252.

I Musnad, i., 98. *

462 Mohammed

have ordered his followers to feed and clothe their
slaves as they fed and clothed themselves, and if the
slaves offended, to sell them ratherthan punish them.*
The scourging of slaves was made by him character-
istic of the worst of men f; manumission was also
declared by him to be an act of piety, and many an
offence might be expiated by the setting free of a
neck. A Himyari chief is said to have freed four
thousand slaves at the Prophet's request. % A sys-
tem was further encouraged by which slaves might
contract for their own manumission, and assistance
of such persons with presents was regarded by the
code with favour. When a man died without heirs,
but leaving a slave, the slave was manumitted by
the Prophet, § and received the inheritance. His

Online LibraryD. S. (David Samuel) MargoliouthMohammed and the rise of Islam → online text (page 30 of 32)