Syed Ameer Ali.

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only succumbed under the evil influences which surrounded
them, but had even surpassed those whom they at first despised
in the practice of nameless abominations. Mohammed felt
that any compromise with heathenism would nullify all his
work. He accordingly adopted means seemingly harsh, but
yet benignant in their ultimate tendency. The vast concourse
who had listened to Ali returned to their homes, and before the
following year was over the majority of them were Moslems.

1 Alluding to a disgraceful custom of the idolatrous Arabs.

2 Ibn-Hisham, pp. 921, 922 ; Ibn ul-Athir, vol. ii. p. 222 ; Abulfeda, p. 87.



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DURING this year, 1 as in the preceding, numerous
embassies poured into Medina from every part of
Arabia to testify to the adhesion of their chiefs and
their tribes. To the teachers, whom Mohammed sent into
the different provinces, he invariably gave
the following injunctions : " Deal gently with A *° A "' 9 5

_ , , , , , , April 631 to 29th

the people, and be not harsh ; cheer them, March 632 a. c.
and contemn them not. And ye will meet
with many people of the books 2 who will question thee,
what is the key to heaven ? Reply to them (the key to
heaven is) to testify to the truth of God, and to do good
work." 3

The mission of Mohammed was now achieved. In the midst
of a nation steeped in barbarism a Prophet had arisen " to
rehearse unto them the signs of God to sanctify them, to teach
them the scriptures and knowledge, — them who before had
been in utter darkness." 4 He found them sunk in a degrading
and sanguinary superstition ; he inspired them with the belief
in one sole God of truth and love. He saw them disunited,

1 In the tenth year of the Hegira took place the conversions of the remain-
ing tribes of Yemen and of Hijaz. Then followed the conversions of the tribes
of Hazramut and Kinda

2 Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians. 3 Ibn-Hisham, p. 907.
4 Koran, sura lxii. vers. 2-5.


and engaged in perpetual war with each other ; he united them
by the ties of brotherhood and charity. From time immemorial
the Peninsula had been wrapped in absolute moral darkness.
Spiritual life was utterly unknown. Neither Judaism nor
Christianity had made any lasting impression on the Arab
mind. The people were sunk in superstition, cruelty, and
vice. Incest and the diabolical custom of female infanticide
were common. The eldest son inherited his father's widows,
as property, with the rest of the estate. The worse than
inhuman fathers buried alive their infant daughters ; and this
crime, which was most rife among the tribes of Koreish and
Kinda, was regarded, as among the Hindu Rajpoots, a mark
of pride. The idea of a future existence, and of retribution of
good and evil, were, as motives of human action, practically
unknown. Only a few years before, such was the condition
of Arabia. What a change had these few years witnessed !
The angel of heaven had veritably passed over the land, and
breathed harmony and love into the hearts of those who had
hitherto been engrossed in the most revolting practices of semi-
barbarism. What had once been a moral desert, where all
laws, human and divine, were contemned and infringed with-
out remorse, was now transformed into a garden. Idolatry,
with its nameless abominations, was utterly destroyed. Islam
furnishes the only solitary example of a great religion which
though preached among a nation and reigning for the most part
among a people not yet emerged from the dawn of an early
civilisation, had succeeded in effectually restraining its votaries
from idolatry. This phenomenon has been justly acknow-
ledged as the pre-eminent glory of Islam, and the most remark-
able evidence of the genius of its Founder. Long had
Christianity and Judaism tried to wean the Arab tribes from
their gross superstition, their inhuman practices, and their
licentious immorality. But it was not till they heard " the
spirit-stirring strains " of the " Appointed of God " that they
became conscious of the God of Truth, overshadowing the
universe with His power and love. Henceforth their aims are
not of this earth alone ; there is something beyond the grave —
higher, purer, and diviner — calling them to the practice of
charity, goodness, justice, and universal love. God is not


merely the God of to-day or of to-morrow, carved out of wood
or stone, but the mighty, loving, merciful Creator of the world.
Mohammed was the source, under Providence, of this new
awakening, — the bright fountain from which flowed the stream
of their hopes of eternity ; and to him they paid a fitting
obedience and reverence. They were all animated with one
desire, namely, to serve God in truth and purity ; to obey His
laws reverently in all the affairs of life. The truths and
maxims, the precepts which, from time to time during the past
twenty years, Mohammed had delivered to his followers, were
embalmed in their hearts, and had become the ruling principles
of every action. Law and morality were united. " Never,
since the days when primitive Christianity startled the world
from its sleep, and waged a mortal conflict with heathenism,
had men seen the like arousing of spiritual life, — the like faith
that suffered sacrifices, and took joyfully the spoiling of goods
for conscience' sake." 1

The Mission of Mohammed was now accomplished. And in
this fact — the fact of the whole work being achieved in his
lifetime — lies his distinctive superiority over the prophets,
sages, and philosophers of other times and other countries.
Jesus, Moses, Zoroaster, Sakya-Muni, Plato, all had their
notions of realms of God, their republics, their ideas, through
which degraded humanity was to be elevated into a new moral
life ; all had departed from this world with their aspirations
unfulfilled, their bright visions unrealised ; or had bequeathed
the task of elevating their fellow-men to sanguinary disciples
or monarch pupils. 2 It was reserved for Mohammed to fulfil
his mission, and that of his predecessors. It was reserved for
him alone to see accomplished the work of amelioration— no
royal disciple came to his assistance with edicts to enforce the
new teachings. May not the Moslems justly say, the entire
work was the work of God ?

The humble preacher, who had only the other day been
hunted out of the city of his birth, and been stoned out of the

1 Muir, vol. ii. p. 269. Coming from an avowed enemy of Islam, this
observation is of the utmost value.

2 A Joshua among the Israelites ; an Asoka among the Buddhists ; a
Darius among the Zoroastrians ; a Constantine among the Christians.


place where he had betaken himself to preach God's words,
had, within the short space of nine years, lifted up his people
from the abysmal depths of moral and spiritual degradation to
a conception of purity and justice.

His life is the noblest record of a work nobly and faithfully
performed. He infused vitality into a dormant people ; he
consolidated a congeries of warring tribes into a nation inspired
into action with the hope of everlasting life ; he concentrated
into a focus all the fragmentary and broken lights which had
ever fallen on the heart of man. Such was his work, and he
performed it with an enthusiasm and fervour which admitted
no compromise, conceived no halting ; with indomitable
courage which brooked no resistance, and allowed no fear of
consequences ; with a singleness of purpose which thought of
no self. The religion of divine unity preached on the shores
of Galilee had given place to the worship of an incarnate God ;
the old worship of a female deity had revived among those who
professed the creed of the Master of Nazareth. The Recluse
of Hira, the unlettered philosopher — born among a nation of
unyielding idolaters — impressed ineffaceably the unity of God
and the equality of men upon the minds of the nations who
once heard his voice. His " democratic thunder " was the
signal for the uprise of the human intellect against the tyranny
of priests and rulers. In " that world of wrangling creeds and
oppressive institutions," when the human soul was crushed
under the weight of unintelligible dogmas, and the human body
trampled under the tyranny of vested interests, he broke down
the barriers of caste and exclusive privileges. He swept away
with his breath the cobwebs which self-interest had woven in
the path of man to God. He abolished all exclusiveness in
man's relations to his Creator. This unlettered Prophet, whose
message was for the masses, proclaimed the value of knowledge
and learning. By the Pen, man's works are recorded. By
the Pen, man is to be judged. The Pen is the ultimate arbiter
of human actions in the sight of the Lord. His persistent and
unvarying appeal to reason and to the ethical faculty of man-
kind, his rejection of miracles, " his thoroughly democratic
conception of divine government, the universality of his
religious ideal, his simple humanity," — all serve to differentiate


him from his predecessors, " all affiliate him," says the author
of Oriental Religions, " with the modern world." His life and
work are not wrapt in mystery. No fairy tale has been woven
round his personality.

When the hosts of Arabia came flocking to join his faith,
the Prophet felt that his work was accomplished, 1 and under
the impression of his approaching end, he determined to make
a farewell pilgrimage to Mecca. On the 25th of Zu'1-Ka'da
(23rd February 632) , the Prophet left Medina with an immense
concourse of Moslems. 3 On his arrival at Mecca, and before
completing all the rites of the pilgrimage, he addressed the
assembled multitude from the top of the Jdbal ul-' Arafat (8th
Zu'1-Hijja, 7th March), in words which should ever live in the
hearts of all Moslems.

" Ye people ! listen to my words, for I know not whether
another year will be vouchsafed to me after this year to find
myself amongst you at this place."

" Your lives and property are sacred and inviolable amongst
one another until ye appear before the Lord, as this day and
this month is sacred for all ; and (remember) ye shall have to
appear before your Lord, who shall demand from you an
account of all your actions. ... Ye people, ye have rights over
your wives, and your wives have rights over you. . . . Treat
your wives with kindness and love. Verily ye have taken
them on the security of God, and have made their persons
lawful unto you by the words of God." " Keep always faithful
to the trust reposed in you, and avoid sins." " Usury is for-
bidden. 3 The debtor shall return only the principal ; and the
beginning will be made with (the loans of) my uncle Abbas,

1 Koran, sura ex.

2, p. 966 ; Ibn ul-Athir, vol. ii. p. 230. It is said that from
90,000 to 140,000 people accompanied the Prophet. This pilgrimage is called
the Hajjat-al-Balagh, the Great Hajj, or Hajjat-ul-Islam, the Hajj of Islam,
and sometimes Hajjat-ul-Wadd'a, Pilgrimage of Farewell.

3 Ribd or interest in kind was prohibited but not legitimate profit on
advances or loans for purposes of business or trade. No one who realises the
economic condition of Arabia can fail to appreciate the wisdom of this rule.
In fact the same reasons which impelled the great Prophet to forbid usury in
his country, induced the Christian divines, up to nearly the end of the seven-
teenth century of the Christian era, to anathematise against usury. The
elder Disraeli's chapter on this subject in his Curiosities of Literature is most

S.I. H


son of Abd ul-Muttalib. 1 . . . Henceforth the vengeance of
blood practised in the days of paganism (Jdhilyat) is prohibited ;
and all blood-feud abolished, commencing with the murder of
Ibn Rabi'a 2 son of Harith son of Abd ul-Muttalib . . .

" And your slaves-! See that ye feed them with such food
as ye eat yourselves, and clothe them with the stuff ye wear ;
and if they commit a fault which ye are not inclined to forgive,
then part from them, for they are the servants of the Lord, and
are not to be harshly treated."

" Ye people ! listen to my words and understand the same.
Know that all Moslems are brothers unto one another. Ye are
one brotherhood. Nothing which belongs to another is lawful
unto his brother, unless freely given out of good-will. Guard
yourselves from committing injustice."

" Let him that is present tell it unto him that is absent.
Haply he that shall be told may remember better than he who
hath heard it." 3

This Sermon on the Mount, less poetically beautiful, certainly
less mystical, than the other, appeals by its practicality and
strong common-sense to higher minds, and is also adapted to
the capacity and demands of inferior natures which require
positive and comprehensible directions for moral guidance.

Towards the conclusion of the sermon, the Prophet, over-
come by the sight of the intense enthusiasm of the people
as they drank in his words, exclaimed, " O Lord ! I have
delivered my message and accomplished my work." The
assembled host below with one voice cried, " Yea, verily
thou hast." "O Lord, I beseech Thee, bear Thou witness
unto it."

With these words the Prophet finished his address, which,
according to the traditions, was remarkable for its length, its
eloquence, and enthusiasm. Soon after, the necessary rites of

1 This shows that Abbas must have been a rich man. In the application
of the rule against Ribd and blood-feud, the Prophet set to his fiery people the
example of self-denial in his own family.

2 Ibn Rabi'a, a cousin of the Prophet. He was confided, in his infancy, to
the care of a family of the Bani Laith. This child was cruelly murdered by
members of the tribe of Huzail, but the murder was not yet avenged.

3 After each sentence the Prophet stopped and his words were repeated in
a stentorian voice by Rabi'a, the son of Ommeyya, son of Khalaf, who stood
below, so that whatever was said was heard by the entire assembled host.


the pilgrimage being finished, the Prophet returned with his
followers to Medina. 1

The last year of Mohammed's life was spent in that city. He
settled the organisation of the provinces and
tribal communities which had adopted Islam , ", A - H - 2 9 th

-,-, ,1 , e 7i tit 1 March 6 ^2 to 1 8th

and become the component parts of the Moslem March 633 a.c.
federation. In fact, though the Faith had not
penetrated among the Arab races settled in Syria and Meso-
potamia, most of whom were Christians, the whole of Arabia
now followed the Islamic Faith. Officers were sent to the
provinces and to the various tribes for the purpose of teaching
the people the duties of Islam, administering justice, and collect-
ing the tithes or zakdt. Mu'az ibn-Jabal was sent to Yemen,
and Mohammed's parting injunction to him was to rely on his
own judgment in the administration of affairs in the event of
not finding any authority in the Koran. To Ali, whom he
deputed to Yemama, he said, " When two parties come before
you for justice, do not decide before hearing both."

Preparations were also commenced for sending an expedition
under Osama, the son of Zaid, who was killed at Muta, against
the Byzantines to exact the long-delayed reparation for the
murder of the envoy in Syria. In fact, the troops were already
encamped outside the city ready for the start. But the poison
which had been given to the Prophet by the Jewess at Khaibar,
and which had slowly penetrated into his system, began now to
show its effects, and it became evident that he had not long to
live. The news of his approaching end led to the stoppage of
the expedition under Osama. It had also the effect of pro-
ducing disorder in some of the outlying provinces. Three
pretenders started up claiming divine commission for their
reign of licentiousness and plunder. They gave themselves
out as prophets, and tried by all kinds of imposture to win over
their tribes. One of these, the most dangerous of all, was
Ayhala ibn-Ka'b, better known as al-Aswad (the black). He

1 Abdullah the son of Ubayy, the head of the MunafiUn, died in the month
of Zu'l Ka'da (February, 631 a.c). In his last moments he solicited the
Prophet to say the funeral prayers over him. Mohammed, who never rejected
the wishes of a dying man, against the remonstrances of Omar, who reminded
him of the persistent opposition and calumny of Abdullah, offered the prayers
and with his own hands lowered the body into the grave.


was a chief of Yemen, a man of great wealth and equal sagacity,
and a clever conjuror. Among his simple tribesmen, the
conjuring tricks he performed invested him with a divine
character. He soon succeeded in gaining them over, and, with
their help, reduced to subjection many of the neighbouring
towns. He killed Shahr, who had been appointed by Moham-
med to the governorship of Sana' in the place of Bazan, his
father, who had just died. Bazan had been the viceroy of
Yemen under the Chosroes of Persia, and after his adoption
of Islam was continued in his viceroyalty by the Prophet. He
had during his lifetime exercised great influence, not only over
his Persian compatriots settled in Yemen, who were called by
the name of Abnd, but also over the Arabs of the province.
His example had led to the conversion of all the Persian settlers
of Yemen. Al-Aswad, the impostor, had massacred Shahr,
and forcibly married his wife Marzbana. He was killed by the
A bnd, assisted by Marzbana, when he was lying drunk, after one
of his orgies. The other two pretenders, Tulaiha, son of Khu-
wailid, and Abu Thumama Haran, son of Habib, commonly
called Mosailima, were not suppressed until the accession of
Abu Bakr to the Caliphate. Mosailima had the audacity to
address the Prophet in the following terms : " From Mosailima,
prophet of God, to Mohammed, prophet of God, salutations !
I am your partner : the power must be divided between us :
half the earth for me, the other half for your Koreishites. But
the Koreishites are a grasping people, not given to justice."
Mohammed's reply reveals his sterling nature. " In the name
of God the merciful and compassionate, from Mohammed, the
Prophet of God, to Mosailima the Liar. 1 Peace is on those
who follow the right path. The earth belongs to God ; He
bestows it on such of His servants as He pleaseth. The future
is to the pious [i.e. only those prosper who fear the Lord] ! "

The last days of the Prophet were remarkable for the calm-
ness and serenity of his mind, which enabled him, though weak
and feeble, to preside at the public prayers until within three
days of his death. One night, at midnight, he went to the
place where his old companions were lying in the slumber of
death, and prayed and wept by their tombs, invoking God's

1 Kazzab, superlative of Kdzib.


blessings for his " companions resting in peace." He chose
'Ayesha's house, close to the mosque, for his stay during his
illness, and, as long as his strength lasted, took part in the
public prayers. The last time he appeared in the mosque he
was supported by his two cousins, Ali and Fazl, the son of
Abbas. A smile of inexpressible sweetness played over his
countenance, and was remarked by all who surrounded him.
After the usual praises and hymns to God, he addressed the
multitude thus : " Moslems, if I have wronged any one of you,
here I am to answer for it ; if I owe aught to any one, all I may
happen to possess belongs to you." Upon hearing this, a man
in the crowd rose and claimed three dirhems which he had
given to a poor man at the Prophet's request. They were
immediately paid back, with the words, " Better to blush in
this world than in the next." The Prophet then prayed and
implored heaven's mercy for those present, and for those who
had fallen in the persecutions of their enemies ; and recom-
mended to all his people the observance of religious duties
and the practice of a life of peace and good-will, and concluded
with the following words of the Koran : " The dwelling of the
other life we will give unto them who do not seek to exalt
themselves on earth or to do wrong ; for the happy issue shall
attend the pious." 1

After this, Mohammed never again appeared at public
prayers. His strength rapidly failed. At noon on Monday
(12th of Rabi I., n a.h. — 8th June 632 a.c), whilst praying
earnestly in whisper, the spirit of the great Prophet took flight
to the " blessed companionship on high." 2

So ended a life consecrated, from first to last, to the service
of God and humanity. Is there another to be compared to
his, with all its trials and temptations ? Is there another which
has stood the fire of the world, and come out so unscathed ?
The humble preacher had risen to be the ruler of Arabia, the
equal of Chosroes and of Caesar, the arbiter of the destinies of
a nation. But the same humility of spirit, the same nobility

1 Koran, sura xxviii. ver. 83 ; Ibn ul-Athir, vol. ii. p. 241 ; Tabari, vol. iii.
p. 207 et seq.

2 Ibn-Hisham, p. 1009 ; Ibn ul-Athir, vol. ii. pp. 244, 245 ; Abulfeda, p. 91.
Comp. Caussin de Perceval, vol. iii. p. 322 and note ; al-Halabi , in loco.


of soul and purity of heart, austerity of conduct, refinement
and delicacy of feeling, and stern devotion to duty which had
won him the title of al-Amin, combined with a severe sense of
self-examination, are ever the distinguishing traits of his
character. Once in his life, whilst engaged in a religious con-
versation with an influential citizen of Mecca, he had turned
away from a humble blind seeker of the truth. He is always
recurring to this incident with remorse, and proclaiming God's
disapprobation. 1 A nature so pure, so tender, and yet so
heroic, inspires not only reverence, but love. And naturally
the Arabian writers dwell with the proudest satisfaction on the
graces and intellectual gifts of the son of Abdullah. His
courteousness to the great, his affability to the humble, and
his dignified bearing to the presumptuous, procured him
universal respect and admiration. His countenance reflected
the benevolence of his heart. Profoundly read in the volume
of nature, though ignorant of letters, with an expansive mind,
elevated by deep communion with the Soul of the Universe, he
was gifted with the power of influencing equally the learned
and the unlearned. Withal, there was a majesty in his face,
an air of genius, which inspired all who came in contact with
him with a feeling of veneration and love. 2

His singular elevation of mind, his extreme delicacy and
refinement of feeling, his purity and truth, form the constant
theme of the traditions. He was most indulgent to his inferiors,

1 The Sura in connection with this incident is known by the title of "He
frowned," and runs thus : — -

"The Prophet frowned, and turned aside,

Because the blind man came to him.

And how knowest thou whether he might not have been cleansed from
his sins.

Or whether he might have been admonished, and profited thereby ?

As for the man that is rich,

Him thou receivest graciously ;

And thou carest not that he is not cleansed.

But as for him that cometh unto thee earnestly seeking his salvation,

And trembling anxiously, him dost thou neglect.

By no means shouldst thou act thus."
After this, whenever the Prophet saw the poor blind man, he used to go
out of his way to do him honour, saying, " The man is thrice welcome on
whose account my Lord hath reprimanded me " ; and he made him twice
governor of Medina. See the remark of Bosworth Smith on Muir about this

2 Mishkat, Bk. xxiv. chap. 3, pt. 2.


and would never allow his awkward little page to be scolded
whatever he did. " Ten years," said Anas, his servant, " was
I about the Prophet, and he never said so much as ' Uff ' to
me." x He was very affectionate towards his family. One of
his boys died on his breast in the smoky house of the nurse, a
blacksmith's wife. He was very fond of children. He would
stop them in the streets, and pat their little cheeks. He never
struck any one in his life. The worst expression he ever made
use of in conversation was, " What has come to him ? May
his forehead be darkened with mud ! " 2 When asked to curse
some one, he replied, " I have not been sent to curse, but to

Online LibrarySyed Ameer AliThe spirit of Islâm : a history of the evolution and ideals of Islâm → online text (page 17 of 55)