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in the fray; and finally the Arab allies of the
Persians were induced to leave the field when the
battle had begun, and drag the rest of the army
into rout. The battle of Dhu Kar, so called from
the spring near which it was fought, exposed the
Sawad or fertile land watered by the Euphrates to
the incursions of the Bakr Ibn Wa'il and other Arab
raiders : but it also shook the belief in the power of

The Birthplace of the Hero 35

Persia, which had long been an article of faith in

In Golan, in Palaestina Secunda, reigned the
Ghassanidae of the house of Jafnah, whose rule at
one time embraced the land of Hermon to the Gulf
of Akabah ; and who indeed were responsible for
all nomads "permanently or temporarily settled in
Palaestina II., Arabia, Phoenicia ad Libanum, prob-
ably also Palaestina III., and perhaps even in the
provinces of N. Syria." * About 583 the dynasty
had for a time been suspended, owing to disputes
with the Byzantine suzerains, who, however, appear
to have restored it again, till it was overthrown in
613 or 614 by the Persian invaders, after which it is
uncertain whether it was restored.

In other Southand North Arabian states the religion
of the world-power had penetrated, and certain tribes
were wholly or partly Christian. f But it was seed
sown on stony ground, whose product had no power
of resistance when the heat came : it perished with-
out leaving a trace, when Islam appeared. A strange
fact : these Christian Arabs had bishops and priests
and churches, and even heresies of their own; yet
we cannot to this day make out from our authorities
whether the Christian Scriptures were ever rendered
into the vernacular of those converts, or whether only
the priests had religious books, and these in a
larguage which they must go abroad to learn. The

* Ndldeke, Die G has s anise hen FUrsten aus dent Hause Gafna's,
Berlin. 1887, from whom the statements in the paragraph are taken.

f There were churches in the Farsan islands, Sprenger, Alte Geog-
raphic Arabiens, 254.

36 Mohammed

last is most likely to have been the case, and to have
been one of the causes of the unresisting collapse
of Arabian Christianity. Even before Mohammed's
time it had given way in South Arabia to Judaism,
some Sabaean king having been won over by the
Jews of Yathrib, and for once men of the Jewish
persuasion had possessed the courage to fight and
even to die. A conquering state, governed by the
law of Moses! That Jewish state was indeed of
short duration. Like other religious communities
which preach toleration when oppressed, they became
persecutors when they had acquired sovereignty:
and for once * an inquisition arose in which Jews
piled fagots and lit fires, and Christians were burned.
Those pyres gleam out as a ray of light in the dark-
ness of Arabian history before Islam : the Syriac
letter in which the story of the Najran martyrs is
told is like a fragment of a pre-Islamic Chronicle.f
The persecution was an act of folly, no less than of
cruelty ; the Jews had indeed much to avenge, but to
remain unavenged had been safer. The news spread
that the Church was in danger: from Christian
Abyssinia a force was sent to aid the persecuted fol-
lowers of the Gospel : defeated by some accident the
Jewish king died a hero's death. But the Abys-
sinians had not conquered for the Najranites, but
for themselves. Kings of their own were set up in
South Arabia, who oppressed the Arabs, and set

*A. D. 523. Fell'va. Z. D. M. 6\, xxxv., 74. Noldeke, Sasani-
den, 186, n.

f Mordtmann, Z. D. M. G. xxxv., 700, regards it as spurious:
Noldeke and the majority as genuine.



From Ruppell, Reise in Abessinien % t. viii., pi. vi.; vol. ii., pp. 344 and 429.

The Birthplace of the Hero 37

themselves to spread Christianity with the sword.
The year in which the Prophet was ordinarily sup-
posed to have been born,* long known as the year
the Elephant, the South Arabian ruler, provoked in-
deed by insults offered to his own sanctuary, is said
to. have sent an army to destroy the sanctuary at
Meccah ; but the legend says he failed, some disaster
attacking his force similar to that which befell Sen-
nacherib of old : for occasionally the gods defend
their temples. After his return to San 'a, still the
capital of Yemen, Arab discontent found a leader
in Saif, son of Dhu Yazan ; who importuned the
Persian court till at last help was given against the
Abyssinian usurpers ; whom he drove out, substitut-
ing vassalage to Persia for the other. The films of
Judaism and Christianity torn off the face of South
Arabia, paganism it seems was restored : not indeed at
Najran, where Christianity remained, as in an island ;
but the rulers were pagans, and in league with the
worst enemy of the Cross. Meanwhile the matters
about which the sects were at variance were evoking
interest in minds that had been alien from them.

The introduction of both the Christian and Jewish
religions was attended at times perhaps with
spread of certain virtues. Fidelity was regarded
the result of both Judaism and Christianity : the
King of Hirah was supposed to have turned Christ-
ian because of a brilliant specimen of fidelity shown
to him by a member of the Christian tribe of Tay.f

* Noldeke* Sasaniden, 205, gives reasons for placing the expedition
«Luch earlier.

\Jahiz, Mahasin, 75.

p- I

of \


Jewish \
ith the 1
.rded as I

38 Mohammed

In the main the effects on the life and character of
the people were vanishingly small. A member of
this tribe, 'Adi, son of Hatim, was taunted by
Mohammed with appropriating a fourth of the spoil
contrary to the principles of his religion and in
accordance with the practices of paganism. Ali
declared that the Christianity of the Taghlibites was
confined to the drinking of wine * The King of
Hirah, though a Christian, had more than one
wifef; as also had the Ghassanide Al-Mundhir.J A
long story is told of the Christian Haudhah, son of
'Ali, a member of the tribe Hanifah. He undertook
to escort the Persian King's caravan safely to the
Persian frontier: but it was attacked and raided by
the Banu Sa'd. Haudhah redeemed the prisoners
out of his own purse, naturally with a view to a
reward from the Persian King, who richly fulfilled
his hopes. At the Persian King's request he pre-
sently decoyed the Banu Sa'd, under pretext of
selling them corn in a year of famine, into a building,
where they were killed one by one as they entered.
We are not surprised to find him regarding con-
version to Islam as merely a matter for bargaining.
We should require thus to know more of the
inner life of these Christianised tribes before we
could be certain whether their conversion did much
else than take away the restraints which pagan
superstitions had placed upon them. Thus it ap-
pears that, whereas pagan Arabia respected the

*Fell % p. 49-
\Noldeke y Sas., 329.
%Id. t Gkass. % 29, n. I.

The Birthplace of the Hero 39

four sacred months, it was unsafe during those
months to traverse the land of the Christian tribes
without safe conduct.* A Tai'ite Christian, who at
baptism had received the well-known name of Ser-
gius, and was converted to Islam in Mohammed's
lifetime, explained to his new friends some re-
markable expedients which he had invented for
camel raiding: he used to store water in ostrich
eggs and bury the latter at points in the desert
known only to himself; hence he could drive the
camels to regions whither no one cared to follow
him. f His whole tribe were regarded as expert
thieves. % Of one of these Christians § we possess a
considerable volume of poems : they were composed
certainly in the days of the second Islamic dynasty,
but the spirit they breathe is that of the Arabs
before Islam. The poet taunts his enemies with
preferring goods and chattels to vengeance ; with
accepting blood-money where men of honour would
have been satisfied only with blood. If he ever
heard of a future life, it affected his calculations no
more than the thought of the Elysian Fields affected
Horace ; when once the earth should close over him,
no more pleasure, he was convinced, was to be had.
He had a keen idea of the glories of his tribe: which
consist of old victories, in which they had slain, if not
thousands and ten thousands, yet respectable num-
bers of the foe. His Muse is readily roused by the
thought of wine, the quality of which he thoroughly

*Cf. Muslim, ii., 254.

\ Ishak, 985.

\ Tirmidhi, 481 (ii., 158.)


4<d Mohammed

understood. It has even been conjectured that the
fragments of pre-Islamic poetry which have been pre-
served emanated to a great extent from professing
Christians, and these are as a rule characterised by
the Pagan spirit. Traces of the higher morality
which we are accustomed to associate with Christian-
ity are not easily found in this literature.

The life then of these Christianised Arabs seems in
many respects to have resembled that of their pagan
brethren. With some of the old vices they retained
the old virtues, among which personal prowess was
chief; but a certain class of the population kept out of
the righting and lived in quiet — the monks and nuns.
These probably did not abound in Arabia — for the
love of and pride in offspring which is so character-
istic of that country would have a tendency to render
monastic institutions unpopular, even before they
were branded by Mohammed as a wicked innova-
tion : but there were monks and nuns, * and proba-
bly the introduction of this form of life was the
most important alteration produced by the conver-
sion of the Arab tribes to Christianity. It would
seem likely that the application of the modern
Arabic alphabet to the Arabic language originated
with these men f : and that the diffusion of that
alphabet over the Arabian peninsula was due to
their intercommunication. As some of these per-
sons assuredly spent their ample leisure in some
form of study, the notion that the true religion was,
a learned religion spread about.

*Cf. Goldziher, Z. D. M. G., xlvi., 44.

f Rothstein, Lakhmiden, 27, places it with the Christians of Hirah.

The Birthplace of the Hero 4 1

The earlier portions of the Koran give evidence of
the extreme respect with which " Knowledge of the
Book " was regarded by the Arab who was without
it. The very vagueness of the notion contributed to
the wonder which it inspired. The Jews and Christ-
ians were literate, and pagans illiterate.* Early in
his career Mohammed assumed that the evidence of
one of the people of the Book could settle any his-
torical question beyond the possibility of contradic-
tion. Of the veracity of the Book he, at no time,
held any doubt whatever. Novelists sometimes de-
pict the awe which book-learning evokes in those who
are absolutely without it ; and this, which for a time
was Mohammed's attitude, was, if not normal, at any
rate common among the pagans of Arabia who had
come into contact with Jews and Christians.

Some of the Meccans even before Mohammed had,
it is generally supposed, the curiosity to pry into this
awful mystery of the Book.f Interest therein may have
been aroused by the Abyssinian captives or deserters
left behind after the unsuccessful invasion in the
year of the Elephant %\ perhaps they account for the
presence at Meccah of some Abyssinians who became
prominent at the commencement of Islam. We hear
besides of certain Ghassanide Christians who were
settled at Meccah under the protection of the Banu
Zuhrah,§ the Prophet's uncles on the mother's side.

* Ali, not over accurate in his statements, declared that when Mo-
hammed rose, not an Arab could read a book. — Nahj al-balaghah,

f For a list see Sir C. Lyall, J. R. A. S., 1903.

\ Azraki, 97.

§ Ibid., 466/



42 Mohammed

Further, the wine-taverns led to a circulation of
Christian and Jewish ideas among heathen topers.*
One of the Meccan inquirers, Warakah, son of Nau-
fal, cousin of Khadijah, is likely to have had much to
do with the beginnings of Islam. He is credited with
having translated a Gospel, or part of one, into
Arabic ; it was probably the Gospel of the Nativity,
and was afterwards useful to the Prophet. The
legend credits Kais, son of Nushbah, of the tribe Sul-
aym, which dwelt near Meccah, with some Book-
knowledge ; he is thought to have put questions
thence to Mohammed — out of books unknown to us
— which the latter answered correctly. f Whether the
study of the Book was regarded by the Meccans as
equivalent to the adoption of the Christian religion
we know not ; but most likely it was. The days are
not so far off when Europeans took an analogous
view, and any acquaintance with heretical books was
thought to imply free-thinking. Moslem tradition
records very little about these " precursors " of Mo-
hammed, as they are called, which can be trusted.
Most of them lived at a time when not to be against
Mohammed was to be with him.

Even outside this small circle (supposing it to be
historical) the influence of Judaism and perhaps
Christianity had spread. The assertion that the
Ka'bah contained a picture of the Madonna may of
course be rejected as an error; but old names for
Friday and Sunday:): must have been derived from

* Rothstein, Lakhmiden, 26.

f Isabah, iii., 522.

\ See Fischer in Z. D. M. (?.,!., 224.

The Birthplace of the Hero 43

Jews or Christians, and there is reason for supposing
that some ceremonies belonging to these sects were
imitated at Meccah. Since in pagan Rome it was
not unfashionable to respect the Jewish holy days,
it is not surprising that at Meccah enlightenment
should have taken the form of aping the ways of the
enlightened communities. Some of the Meccans are
credited with having practised a form of flagellation
" after the fashion of Christian priests " ; baring
themselves they twisted their garments into scourges
and lashed each other.* Abstention from wine — as
a form of religious asceticism — is said to have been
practised by several of the pagan Kuraish. Christian
preachers were occasionally heard at the national
fairs, and a proverb appears to perpetuate the name
of one who, on such occasions, exhibited a previously
unattainable degree of eloquence. Kuss, whose name
appears to be a mispronunciation of the Syrian
Kasha, " priest," said to be Bishop of Najran, de-
livered such an address at the market of 'Ukaz in the
hearing of the Prophet f ; and the address, as the
Arabs preserve it, bears a marked likeness to early
passages of the Koran, and may have contributed
something to that book.J It is not suggested by
our authorities that the persons who either adopted
Christianity or showed inclination towards it suffered
much inconvenience at Meccah. Even therefore if

* Musnad, iv., 191.

f Bayan, i., 119.

$A long story is told about Kuss in Baihaki, Mahasin, 351-5,
where Kuss figures as a fortune-teller ; it is probably pure invention.
Further myths about him in Al-Dhakha'ir, 254.

44 Mohammed

the Abyssinian invasion caused some recrudescence
of paganism at the beginning of Mohammed's life,
the effect of it had disappeared by the time he was
a young man.

Speculation is perhaps fruitless when directed to
the probable course of history under circumstances
differing from those that actually occurred. Had
Meccah continued to increase in wealth and power
under her sagacious leaders, it is not probable that
her people would have remained satisfied with a re-
ligious system that was thought barbarous in the
countries whence she would have been compelled to
obtain science and learning. Yet the fact that the
old religion was the source of her material prosperity
would have rendered the substitution for it of either
Christianity or Judaism impracticable. The ideal
Jsolution of the problem was clearly that discovered
in time by Mohammed, of superseding both the
enlightened religions ; retaining the old source of
wealth, but in a system which, so far from being
backward, was in advance of the cult of the Roman
Empire. So tortuous, however, was the process by
which this solution was discovered and enforced that
the symmetry of the edifice was lost — as perhaps
ordinarily occurs when a stone rejected by the builder
becomes the headstone of the corner.



MOHAMMED was the child of Meccan parents
whose names are given as Abdallah (Servant
of Allah) and Aminah (The Safe or Secure).
The latter belonged to the Banu Zuhrah, the former
was the son of Abd al-Muttalib, of the clan named
Banu Hashim. It is certain that the future Pro-
phet's father died before his son was born ; it is said,
when visiting Yathrib, afterwards better known as
Medinah. Nor did his mother long survive him,
and her grave was by some* said to be at Abwa, a
place midway between the two cities, where, some
fifty years after, her bones lay in some danger of
being exhumed. Their son inherited from them a
strong constitution capable of enduring fatigue, pri-
vation, and excess. On the other hand the notion
current among Christian- writers f that he was sub-
ject to epilepsy finds curious confirmation in the
notices recorded of his experiences during the pro-
cess of revelation — the importance of which is not

*A%raki, 481. Perhaps an etymological myth, the word seeming to
mean " two parents."

\N6ldeke, Gesch. d. Korans, 18.


46 Mohammed

lessened by the probability that the symptoms were
often artificially reproduced. That process was at-
tended by a fit of unconsciousness ; accompanied (or
preceded) at times by the sound of bells in the ears *
or the belief that some one was present f ; by a sense
of fright, such as to make the patient burst out into
perspiration % ; by the turning of the head to one
side § ; by foaming at the mouth || ; by the reddening
or whitening of the face ; by a sense of headache.^"
Still we read of only two cases in his later life in
which the fits were not subject to his own control,
once when he fainted at the intense excitement of
the battle of Badr, and once when he had himself
bled after fasting.** And some of the signs of severe
epilepsy — biting of the tongue, dropping what is in
the hand,ff and gradual degeneration of the brain
power — were wanting.

He was received into his father's family, mnd is
said to have spent the first eight years of his life in
the charge of Abd al-Muttalib. The condition of a
fatherless lad was not altogether desirable ; and late
in life Mohammed was taunted by his uncle Hamzah
(when drunk) with being one of his father's slaves.^

* Gowers, Epilepsy, p. 70.
\Ibid. y 69.
\IHd. f 80.

§ Tabari, Comm., xxviii., 4. According to Gowers, to the side
on which the convulsion is more severe.
I Gowers, 169.
^Alif-Bd, ii., 29.
** Musnad, i M 148.
ff Gowers, 130.
\X Bokhari (A'.), ii., 276.

Early Life of Mohammed 47

Mohammed being a posthumous child, little in
the way of romance gathered about his father ; with
his grandfather on the other hand the fancy of
pious Moslems was industrious. Perhaps one or
two actual facts can be made out about him. It
seems clear that Mohammed came of a humble
family ; this crops up in many places. The Ku-
raish in the Koran wonder why a Prophet should be
sent them who was not of noble birth. When their
Prophet became all-powerful, they compared him to
a palm springing out of a dung-hill.* On the day
of his triumphal entry into Meccah he told the peo-
ple that an end had now come to the pagan aris-
tocracy by blood. f He himself rejected the title,
" Master and son of our master," offered him by
some devotee.^ On the ground of these anecdotes
we reject as fabulous all those in which Abd al-
Muttalib figures as a leading man at Meccah. §

In the treasury of Ma'mun, whose reign began in
812 A.D., a document was preserved in which a
Himyarite of San'a acknowledged to owing Abd al-
Muttalib one thousand silver dirhems of the standard
of Hudaydeh; ''witness thereunto, Allah and the
two angels " ; the writing was Abd al-Muttalib's,
and like a woman's hand.|| "The two angels"
stand, we suppose, for "the two 'Uzzas," 1. e., the
goddesses Al-Lat and Al-'Uzza, whose names may

* Musnad, iv., 166.
\Ishak, 821.
\ Musnad, iii., 241.
§Cf. Noldeke, Sas. y 291.
I Fihrist, p. 5.

48 Mohammed

have figured in the original document.* The docu-
ment may have been spurious ; yet it is difficult to
see why a forgery should have taken this form.
If it was genuine, we should infer that Abd al-Mut-
talib was possessed of some capital, and occasionally
lent it out ; with which the anecdote that makes his
son Abbas lend money to the people of Ta'if
agrees. In order to harmonise the fact of his
wealth with the fact of his being in a humble station
we have to suppose that the profession in which
his money was made was not an honourable one.
Now a tradition which cannot easily be set aside f
gives him the functions of providing the pilgrims
with water and also with food. The water of the
well Zemzem (which a later legend made him dig)
being brackish, he used to render it potable by mix-
ing it with camel's milk, honey, or raisins — the last
procured from Ta'if, where his son Abbas afterwards
possessed a vineyard.:): That he put himself to this
trouble and expense without remuneration is not
credible ; hence it would seem that the offices of
"waterer and entertainer" which later writers re-
present as posts of honour at Meccah resolve them-
selves into a trade, and one that was not honour-
able ; since the Prophet afterwards forbade the sale
of water, and lavish hospitality is characteristic of
the Arab noble. The other profession (of money-
lender) was also of little esteem in the eyes of the

* Cf. W. R. Smith, Kinship and Marriage, 60.
f Thus Wakidi (IV.) makes Hamzah refer to it on the battle-field
of Uhud.
%Azraki, 70.

2 •$

Ul £>

N 9

2 ft

N *i


w 6

Early Life of Mohammed 49

Arabs, and many a poet boasts of his skill in elud-
ing the creditors' claims. * The name Abd al-
Muttalib, " slave of al-Muttalib," of which a fanciful
explanation is given by our historians, is probably
to be interpreted as meaning that its owner was at
one time actually a slave, though afterwards manu-
mitted and enrolled in the Hashim clan.f

The names of his ten sons and six daughters are
probably historical, and indeed four of the former and
two of the latter play parts of importance in the se-
quel. All ten sons, it is said, were of massive build
and dark colour. \ From the names of some of them
we learn that Abd al-Muttalib was piously disposed
towards the deities Allah, Manat, and Al-'Uzza. 'Ab-
bas appears to have inherited the money-lending and
watering businesses, and to have succeeded well in
them. He also imported spices from Yemen which
he sold at the time of the feast. § Abu Talib dealt
in cloth and perfume, || and succeeded less well. An-
other son, Hamzah, made his living by hunting. A
fourth, Zubair, was engaged in the carrying trade,
and this perhaps furnished the remainder with the
means of livelihood. Abdallah, the Prophet's father,
is supposed to have died while absent from Meccah
on a business journey.

* Noldeke, Beitr&ge zur Kenntniss der Poesie der alten Araber,


\ Baihaki, Ma/iasin t 393, makes him originate the custom of
dyeing the hair black.

X Jahiz, Opuscula, 75, 5.

§ Tabari, 1162, 13.

| Jahiz, Mahasin, 165.

50 Mohammed

The name Mohammed (of which Ahmad and
Mahmud were varieties) * was given the future
Prophet ; it was apparently not uncommon, and
belonged to a distant connexion. \ At a later time,
when Mohammed's enemies wished to insult him,
they called him the son of Abu Kabshah. Great
uncertainty prevails as to the identity of this per-
son ; some holding that he was an ancestor of the
Prophet % or ancient Kurashite, § who had en-
deavoured to change the national religion, substi-
tuting the worship of Sirius for that of stones ;
whence Mohammed, when he began his religious
innovations, was regarded as his moral descendant.
A fragment of interesting history may be imbedded
in this tale. Mohammed, it is said, occasionally
spoke of his foster-father, and many assumed that
Abu Kabshah was the man. With this statement
there is connected a legend that Mohammed was
nursed by some woman other than his mother : and
this woman's husband would, according to Arabian
ideas, bear a relation to Mohammed not much infe-

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