The Qur'ân, part I (Sacred Books of the East volume 6), Palmer edition ; at sacred-texts.com
BEFORE entering upon an intelligent study of the Qur’ân it is necessary to make oneself acquainted with the circumstances of the people in whose midst it was revealed, with the political and religious aspects of the period, and with the personal history of the prophet himself.
Arabia or Gazîrat el ‘Arab, 'the Arabian Peninsula,' as it is called by native writers, is bounded on the west by the Red Sea; on the east by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman; on the south by the Indian Ocean; and on the north it extends to the confines of Babylonia and Syria.
The Arabs were divided into those of the desert and those of the towns.
The first were settled in the sterile country of the Higâz, and the no less barren highlands of Negd.
The principalities bordering on Syria and Persia were vassals of the Roman and Persian empires; the kingdom of Himyar in Yemen, to the south of the Peninsula, was in free communication with the rest of the world; but the Higâz, 'the barrier,' had effectually resisted alike the curiosity and the attacks of the nations who fought around it for the empire of the world. Persia, Egypt, Rome, Byzantium had each unsuccessfully essayed to penetrate the country and conquer its hardy inhabitants.
The Higâz consists of the barren ranges of hills which lead up from the lowlands on the Eastern coast of the Red Sea to the highlands of Negd. In its valleys lie the holy cities of Mecca and Medînah, and here was the birthplace of el Islâm.
The Arabs of the desert preserved almost intact the manners, customs, and primeval simplicity of the early patriarchs.
They lived in tents made of hair or woollen cloth, and
their principal wealth consisted in their camels, horses, and male and female slaves.
They were a nomad race, changing their residence to the various places within their own territory, which afforded the best pasturage as the seasons came round.
Brave and chivalrous, the Arab was always ready to defend the stranger who claimed his protection, while he would stand by a member of his own clan and defend him with his life, whether he were right or wrong. This devotion to the tribe was one of the strongest characteristics of the Arabs, and must be borne in mind if we would understand aright the early history of Islam.
They were generous and hospitable to a fault, and many a tale is told of a chief who gave away his last camel, or slew his favourite horse to feed a guest, while he and his family were well-nigh left to starve.
Pride of birth was their passion, and poetry their greatest delight; their bards recited the noble pedigrees and doughty deeds of their tribes,--as their own proverb has it, 'the registers of the Arabs are the verses of their bards,'--and in the numerous ancient poems still extant we have invaluable materials for the history of the race.
But their vices were as conspicuous as their virtues, and drunkenness, gambling, and the grossest immorality were very prevalent amongst them. Robbery and murder were their ordinary occupations, for an Arab looked on work or agriculture as beneath his dignity, and thought that he had a prescriptive right to the property of those who condescended to such mean offices. The death of an Arab, however, was revenged with such rigour and vindictiveness by the fierce laws of the blood feud, that a certain check was placed upon their bloodthirsty propensities even in their wars; and these were still further tempered by the institution of certain sacred months, during which it was unlawful to fight or pillage. Cruel, and superstitious too, they were, and amongst the inhuman customs which Mohammed swept away, none is more revolting than that, commonly practised by them, of burying their female children alive.
The position of women amongst them was not an elevated one, and although there are instances on record of heroines and poetesses who exalted or celebrated the honour of their clan, they were for the most part looked on with contempt. The marriage knot was tied in the simplest fashion and untied as easily, divorce depending only on the option, and caprice of the husband.
As for government they had, virtually, none; the best born and bravest man was recognised as head of the tribe, and led them to battle; but he had no personal authority over them, and no superiority but that of the admiration which his bravery and generosity gained for him.
The religion of the Arabs was Sabæanism, or the worship of the hosts of heaven, Seth and Enoch being considered as the prophets of the faith.
This cult no doubt came from Chaldea, and the belief in the existence of angels, which they also professed, is trace-able to the same source. Their practice of making the circuit of the holy shrines, still continued as part of the ‘Hagg ceremonies, probably also arose from this planetary worship.
The comparatively simple star-worship of the Sabæans was, however, greatly corrupted; and a number of fresh deities, superstitious practices, and meaningless rites had been introduced.
The strange sounds that often break the terrible stillness of the desert; the sudden storms of sand or rain that in a moment cover the surface of a plain, or change a dry valley into a roaring torrent; these and a thousand other such causes naturally produce a strong effect upon an imagination quickened by the keen air and the freedom of the desert.
The Arab, therefore, peopled the vast solitudes amidst which he dwelt with supernatural beings, and fancied that every rock, and tree, and cavern had its ginn or presiding genius. These beings were conceived to be both beneficent and malevolent, and were worshipped to propitiate their help or avert their harm. From the worship of these personifications
of the powers of nature to that of the presiding genius of a tribe or of a place, is an easy transition, and we accordingly find that each tribe had its patron deity with the cult of which their interests were intimately bound up. The chief god of this vague national cult was Allâh, and most tribes set up a shrine for him as well as for their own particular deity. The offerings dedicated to the former were set apart for the advantage of the poor and of strangers, while those brought to the local idol were reserved for the use of the priests. If Allâh had by any chance anything better than the inferior deity, or a portion of his offerings fell into the lot of the local idol, the priests at once appropriated it; this practice is reprehended by Mohammed in the Qur’ân (VI, ver. 137).
The principal deities of the Arab pantheon were--Allâh ta‘âlah, the God most high.
Hubal, the chief of the minor deities; this was in the form of a man. It was brought from Syria, and was supposed to procure rain.
Wadd, said to have represented the heaven, and to have been worshipped under the form of a man.
Suwâ’h, an idol in the form of a woman, and believed to be a relic of antediluvian times.
YaghûTH, an idol in the shape of a lion.
Ya’ûq, worshipped under the figure of a horse.
Nasr, which was, as the name implies, worshipped under the semblance of an eagle.
El ’Huzzâ, identified with Venus, but it appears to have been worshipped under the form of an acacia tree, cf. note 2, p. 132.
Allât; the chief idol of the tribe of THaqîf at Tâ’if, who endeavoured to make it a condition of surrender to Mohammed that he should not destroy it for three years, and that their territory should be considered sacred like that of Mecca, a condition which the prophet peremptorily refused. The name appears to be the feminine of Allâh.
Manât, worshipped in the form of a large sacrificial stone by several tribes, including that of HuDHeil.
Duwâr, a favourite idol with the young women, who used to go in procession round it, whence its name.
Isâf, an idol that stood on Mount Zafâ.
Naïla, an image on Mount Marwâ.
The last two were such favourite objects of worship that, although Mohammed ordered them to be destroyed, he was not able entirely to divert the popular regard from them, and the visitation of Zafâ and Marwâ are still an important part of the ‘Hagg rites.
’Hab’hab was a large stone upon which camels were slaughtered.
El ’Huzzâ, Allât, and Manât are mentioned by name in the Qur’ân, see Chapter LIII, vers. 19-20.
The Kaabah, or chief shrine of the faith, contained, besides these, images representing Abraham and Ishmael, each with divining arrows in his hand, and a statue or picture representing the virgin and child.
There were altogether 365 idols there in Mohammed's time.
Another object of worship then, and of the greatest veneration now, is the celebrated black stone which is inserted in the wall of the Kaabah, and is supposed to have been one of the stones of Paradise, originally white, though since blackened by the kisses of sinful but believing lips.
The worship of stones is a very old form of Semitic cult, and it is curious to note that Jacob 'took the stone that he had put for his pillow, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil on the top of it; and he called the name of the place Bethel 1:' and that at Mecca the principal object of sacred interest is a stone, and that the Kaabah has been known, from time immemorial, as Bâit allâh, the house of God.'
The ginn, like the angels, were held by the ancient Arabs to be the daughters of Allâh; they were supposed to be created out of fire instead of clay, but in all other respects to resemble mankind, and to be subject to the same laws of procreation and decease.
Mohammed believed that he was sent as an apostle to both men and ginns, and Sarah LXXII contains an allusion to a vision in which he beheld a multitude of the ginns bowing in adoration and listening to the message which man had disdainfully refused.
Witches and wizards were also believed to exist, that is, persons who had contrived to subject one or more of these supernatural powers by spells, of which the holy name was the most powerful.
Two fallen angels, Hârût and Mârût, confined in a pit at Babylon, where they are hung by their heels in chains until the judgment day, are always ready to instruct men in the magical art.
The belief in Allah himself was little more than a reminiscence, and as he had no priesthood, and was not the patron of any particular tribe, his supremacy was merely nominal.
The belief in a future life had not as yet taken a definite hold on the people, and the few who, following the old savage plan, buried a camel with its master or tied it up to die of hunger at his grave, so that he might not be obliged, to enter the next world on foot, probably did it rather from custom than from a belief in its real significance.
In short, the Arab of Mohammed's time was what the Bedawi of to-day is, indifferent to religion itself, but using a few phrases and practising, in a merely perfunctory manner, a few observances which his forefathers had handed down to him.
Christianity had already established itself in Arabia. In Yemen, the city of Nagrân had become the seat of a Christian bishopric, and some of the more important tribes, like Kindeh and Ghassân, had embraced Christianity, which was also the religion of most of the Arabs of Syria.
But it had not penetrated deeply into their hearts, and its miracles, its doctrine of the Trinity, and the subtle disputes of monophysites and monothelites were absolutely incomprehensible to them.
Judaism was more in accordance with their habits and traditions: a number of Jews had found their way into the
country after the repression of the revolt against the emperor Adrian, and had made numerous converts. Their creed, however, being based on the idea that they alone are the chosen people, was too exclusive for the majority of the Arabs, while the numerous and vexatious restrictions of its ritual and regulations for every-day life were but ill suited to the free and restless spirit of the soils of the desert.
At the time of Mohammed's appearance the national religion of the Arabs, had so far degenerated as to have scarcely any believers. The primeval Sabæanism was all but lost, and even the worship of the powers of nature had become little more than a gross fetishism; as one of Mohammed's contemporaries said, when they found a fine stone they adored it, or, failing that, milked a camel over a heap of sand and worshipped that.
But by far the greater number had ceased to believe in anything at all; the pilgrimages, sacrifices, and worship of the tribal idols were still kept up, but rather for political and commercial reasons than as a matter of faith or conviction. Some, indeed, did consult the oracles, or vow an offering to their god in case of some desired event coming to pass; but, if their hopes were disappointed, the deity was assailed with childish abuse, while, if they succeeded, the vow was evaded by some less expensive sacrifice.
Yet the mere existence amongst them of Christians and of Jews caused the monotheistic idea to attract the attention of some of the more earnest and enquiring minds.
Amongst those who had endeavoured to search for the truth among the mass of conflicting dogmas and superstitions of the religions that surrounded them were Waraqah, the prophet's cousin, and Zeid ibn ‘Amr, surnamed 'the Enquirer.'
These enquirers were known as ‘Hanîfs, a word which originally meant 'inclining one's steps towards anything,' and therefore signified either convert or pervert.
They did not constitute a united party, but each for himself investigated the truth. There was, however, another
sect who professed to have found the truth, and who preached the faith of their father Abraham, nothing more nor less, in fact, than the doctrine of the unity of God. These also called themselves ‘Hanîfs, and Mohammed himself at first adopted the title as expressing the faith of Abraham 1, but subsequently changed it to Muslim.
The chief seat of the cult of the deities of Arabia was Mecca, also called Bekka, both names signifying a place of concourse; another name of the city is Umm el Qurâ, 'the mother of cities,' or metropolis. It was built about the middle of the fifth century of our era by the Qurâis on their obtaining possession of the Kaabah, the most ancient shrine in the country. It is situated in a narrow sandy valley shut in by bare mountains. The soil around the city is stony and unproductive, and the inhabitants are obliged to import their own provisions. To furnish this supply with more regularity Hâshim, Mohammed's grandfather, appointed two caravans, one in winter and the other in summer, to set out yearly; they are mentioned in the Qur’ân, Chapter CVI.
The territory of Mecca was held sacred; it was a sanctuary for man and beast, since it was unlawful to take any life there save those of the animals brought thither for sacrifice, at the time of the great gatherings of pilgrims who flocked yearly to the shrine.
The Kaabah is mentioned by Diodorus as a famous temple whose sanctity was even then revered by all the Arabians; its origin must therefore be ascribed to a very remote period.
The name, which simply means 'a cube,' was given it on account of its shape, it being built square of unhewn stones. It was supposed to have been built by Adam from a model brought from heaven, and to have been subsequently restored by Seth, and later on by Abraham and Ishmael.
The stone on which Abraham stood when rebuilding the
[paragraph continues] Kaabah is still shown there; it is called the maqâm Ibrahîm or Abraham's station, and is mentioned several times in the Qur’ân.
The well Zemzem, amongst the most venerated objects in the sacred precincts of Mecca, is believed to be the spring which Hagar discovered when she fled out into the wilderness with her son Ishmael. It was a small stream flowing from one of the surrounding hills, and this having in course of time dried up, Abd al Muttalib, Mohammed's grandfather, caused the well to be dug on the spot whence the spring originally issued.
The Kaabah, so far as the dim legends of antiquity throw any light on the subject, remained for a long period in the hands of the descendants of Ishmael, and on their migrating to other parts of the peninsula its guardianship became vested in their kinsmen, the Jorhamites. These were driven out by the Amalekites, who were in turn defeated by the combined forces of the Ishmaelites and Jorhamites, the latter of whom again became masters of the temple. The Jorhamites were defeated and deposed by a coalition of the Benu Bakr and Benu ‘Huzâ’hah, and the charge of the Kaabah remained with the last-mentioned tribe.
‘Amr ibn La‘hy, a chief of the Benu ‘Huzâ’hah, now assumed the political and religious chieftainship of Mecca, and it was in his reign that the idols were placed in the Kaabah. The result of this was vastly to increase the importance of the city and its temple, as the various objects to which individual tribes paid worship were then all concentrated within its precincts.
Quzâi, an ancestor of the prophet, making common cause with the Benu Kenânah, defeated the Benu Bakr and Benu ‘Huzâ’hah and restored the custody of the Kaabah to his own tribe, the Qurâis.
From Quzâi it descended to his eldest son ‘Abd ed Dar, from whom the principal offices were however transferred to his brother ‘Abd Menâf. These were the privilege of supplying the pilgrims with water and food at the time of the ‘Hagg; the command of the army and civic headship
of the town; and the custody of the Kaabah before alluded to.
‘Abd Menâf left four sons, ‘Abd Shems, Hâshim, al Muttalib, and Nâufel. To Hâshim was entrusted the guardianship of the Kaabah and the right of supplying food to the pilgrims, together with the princedom of Mecca, while to the descendants of ‘Abd ed Dar was left only the office of supplying them with water.
Hâshim and his son ‘Abd al Muttalib filled the office with so much liberality that the wealth of the family, though considerable, was nearly all dissipated, and the rival family of Ommaiyeh, son of ‘Abd Shems, took over the more expensive offices with the prestige which they naturally carried. It was during the reign of ‘Abd al Muttalib that the invasion of Mecca by the Abyssinian army under Ashram the Abraha took place; they were however repulsed with great loss. This year was afterwards known as the 'Year of the Elephant,' from the fact of these animals having been employed against the holy city. ‘Abd al Muttalib's youngest son, Abd allah, married a kinswoman settled at YaTHrib (Medînah), by whom he had one posthumous child Mohammed, the future prophet.
The exact date generally given of Mohammed's birth is April 20, 571 A.D., but all that is absolutely certain is that he was born in the Year of the Elephant. All that the child inherited from his father was five camels and a slave girl.
According to the fashion of the country he was provided with a Bedawi wet nurse, one ‘Halîmah, who took him with her to the tents of her people and reared him amidst the invigorating surroundings of desert life.
At the age of six Mohammed lost his mother, Amînah.
The orphan was taken care of by his grandfather ‘Abd al Muttalib, who showed for him very great affection, and at his death, which happened two years later, left him to the guardianship of his son Abu Tâlib, afterwards one of the most prominent persons in Muslim history.
To support himself the young Mohammed was obliged
to tend the sheep and goats of the Meccans, an occupation which, even at the present day, is considered by the Bedawîn as derogatory to the position of a male. Of this part of his life we know but little, for although Muslim historians relate innumerable legends about him, they are for the most part obviously false, and quite unimportant to the real understanding of his life and character.
At the age of twenty-four he was employed by a rich widow, named ‘Hadîgah, to drive the caravans of camels with which she carried on an extensive trade.
So well did Mohammed ingratiate himself with his employer, who was also his kinswoman, that she offered him her hand, and although she was forty years of age and he barely twenty-five, their union was eminently a happy one.
Long after her death his love for ‘Hadîgah remained fresh in Mohammed's heart; he would never lose an opportunity of extolling her virtues, and would often kill a sheep and distribute its flesh to the poor in honour of her memory.
‘Âyeshah, daughter of Abu Bekr, whom he married three years after ‘Hadîgah's decease, was in the habit of saying that she was never jealous of any of his wives except the toothless old woman.'
Six children were the issue of this marriage, four girls and two boys; both of the latter died at an early age.
But of this portion of his career, too, we have no authentic information; all that is certain is that he was an honest, upright man, irreproachable in his domestic relations and universally esteemed by his fellow-citizens, who bestowed upon him the sobriquet of El Amîn, 'the trusty.'
Mohammed was a man of middle height, but of commanding presence; rather thin, but with broad shoulders and a wide chest; a massive head, a frank oval face with a clear complexion, restless black eyes, long heavy eyelashes, a prominent aquiline nose, white teeth, and a full thick beard are the principal features of the verbal portraits historians have drawn of him.
He was a man of highly nervous organization, thoughtful,
restless, inclined to melancholy, and possessing an extreme sensibility, being unable to endure the slightest unpleasant odour or the least physical pain.
Simple in his habits, kind and courteous in his demeanour, and agreeable in conversation, he gained many over to his side, as much by the charm of his manners as by the doctrine which he preached.
Mohammed had already reached his fortieth year when the first revelations came to him. They were the almost natural outcome of his mode of life and habit of thought, and especially of his physical constitution. From youth upwards he had suffered from a nervous disorder which tradition calls epilepsy, but the symptoms of which more closely resemble certain hysterical phenomena well known and diagnosed in the present time, and which are almost always accompanied with hallucinations, abnormal exercise of the mental functions, and not unfrequently with a certain amount of deception, both voluntary and otherwise.
He was also in the habit of passing long periods in solitude and deep thought; and he was profoundly impressed with the falsehood and immorality of the religion of his compatriots and with horror at their vicious and inhuman practices, and had for his best friends men, such as his cousin Waraqah and Zâid ibn Amr, who had, professedly, been long seeking after the truth and who had publicly renounced the popular religion.
At length, during one of his solitary sojournings on Mount Hirâ, a wild and lonely mountain near Mecca, an angel appeared to him and bade him 'READ 1!' 'I am no reader!' Mohammed replied in great trepidation, whereon the angel shook him violently and again bade him read.
[paragraph continues] This was repeated three times, when the angel uttered the five verses which commence the 96th chapter:
[paragraph continues] Terribly frightened, he hastened home to his faithful wife ‘Hadîgah, who comforted him. The vision of the angel was not repeated, but his hallucinations and mental excitement continued to such an extent that a new fear took hold of him, and he began to wonder whether he were not, after all, possessed by a ginn, one of those dread supernatural beings of which I have before spoken.
Persons afflicted with epileptic or hysterical symptoms were supposed by the Arabs, as by so many other nations, to be possessed, and we find the constant complaint in the Qur’ân that he was regarded as such by his fellow-citizens. Poetic frenzy was evidently recognised by them as nearly akin to demoniacal possession, and of this charge, too, the prophet frequently endeavours to clear himself. His habit of fasting and watching throughout the night would and no doubt did increase his tendency to mental excitement and visionary hallucinations.
The celebrated 'night journey' or 'ascent into heaven,' which many of the Muslims allow to have been merely a dream, was doubtless the result of one of these fits of mental exaltation. It must be remembered, however, that to an Eastern mind the reducing it to a dream by no means detracts either from its reality or its authority, dreams being supposed to be direct revelations from God; see the Story of Joseph, Chapter XII, and the same as recorded in the Old Testament.
That he himself thoroughly believed in the reality of his revelations there can be no doubt, especially during the early part of his prophetic career. The chapters which belong to this period bound in passages which were
evidently uttered in a state of complete ecstasy; but the later portions of the Qur’ân, in which more consecutive stories are told, and in which ordinances are propounded for the general guidance of the believers, or for individual cases, are of course couched in more sober language, and show traces of being composed in a calmer frame of mind.
The thought that he might be, after all, mad or possessed (magnûn) was terrible to Mohammed.
He struggled for a long time against the idea, and endeavoured to support himself by belief in the reality of the divine mission which he had received upon Mount ‘Hirâ; but no more revelations came, nothing occurred to give him further confidence and hope, and Mohammed began to feel that such a life could be endured no longer. The Fatrah or 'intermission,' as this period without revelation was called, lasted for two and a half or three years.
Dark thoughts of suicide presented themselves to his mind, and on more than one occasion he climbed the steep sides of Mount ‘Hirâ, or Mount Thabîr, with the desperate intention of putting an end to his unquiet life by hurling himself from one of the precipitous cliffs. But a mysterious power appeared to hold him back, and at length the long looked-for vision came, which was to confirm him in his prophetic mission.
At last the angel again appeared in all his glory, and Mohammed in terror ran to his wife ‘Hadîgah and cried daTHTHirûnî, 'wrap me up!' and lay down entirely enwrapped in his cloak as was his custom when attacked by the hysterical fits (which were always accompanied, as we learn from the traditions, with violent hectic fever), partly for medical reasons and partly to screen himself from the gaze of evil spirits.
As he lay there the angel again spake to him: 'O thou covered! Rise up and warn! and thy Lord magnify! and thy garments purify; and abomination shun! and grant not favours to gain increase; and for thy Lord await 1!'
And now the revelations came in rapid succession. He no longer doubted the reality of the inspiration, and his conviction of the unity of God and of his divine commission to preach it were indelibly impressed upon his mind.
His only convert was at first his faithful wife ‘Hadîgah; she was always at his side to comfort him when others mocked at him, to cheer him when dispirited, and to encourage him when he wavered.
Well, indeed, did she deserve the title by which after-ages knew her of Umm el Mû’minîn, 'the mother of the believers.'
His daughters next believed; his cousin Ali, Abu Tâlib's youngest son, whom Mohammed had adopted to relieve his uncle of some portion of his family cares, soon followed; then came Zâid, his freedman, favourite companion and fellow-seeker after truth; and ere long the little band of believers was joined by Abu Bekr, a rich merchant, and man of the most upright character, who had also been his confidant during that period of doubt and mental strife. Mohammed was wont to say that, 'all the world had hesitated more or less to recognized him as the Apostle of God, except Abu Bekr alone.' Abu Bekr enjoyed immense influence with his fellow-citizens, and had by his probity earned the appellation of el Ziddîq, 'the true.'
The next converts to the new faith were two young men, Zobeir and Sa‘ad ibn Waqqâz, both relations of the prophet. Abd er Rahman ibn Auf and Tal’hah, men of mark and military prowess, then joined the Muslim ranks. Othmân ibn Affân, afterwards the third Caliph, a young Arab beau, also embraced Islam for the sake of obtaining the hand of Mohammed's daughter, Rukaiyah. The accession of these personages opened the eyes of the Qurâis to the importance of the movement, but the number of the faithful was still but small.
His other converts were only women and slaves, the former being won over by the influence of ‘Hadîgah. Amongst the latter was an Abyssinian slave named Bilal, who subsequently underwent cruel persecutions for the
faith, and on the establishment of the religion became the first mu’ezzin or 'crier,' who called to prayer in Islâm.
In the fifth year of his ministry Mohammed made another important convert, Omar ibn el ‘Hattâb, a fierce soldier, who had been one of the bitterest opponents of the new religion, but who afterwards proved its chief support.
His conversion carried with it so great weight that the Mohammedan traditions relate it with miraculous attendant details. Omar and Abu Bekr supplied, the one by his vigour and promptitude in action, and the other by his persuasive eloquence and address, the want of the practical element in Mohammed's character. So thoroughly did he rely upon them and seek support from their companionship, that it was always his custom to say, 'I and Abu Bekr and Omar have been to such and such a place, or have done such and such a thing.'
To the great mass of the citizens of Mecca, the new doctrine was simply the ‘Hanîfism to which they had become accustomed, and they did not at first trouble themselves at all about the matter. Mohammed's claim, however, to be the Apostle of God called forth more opposition, causing some to hate him for his presumption and others to ridicule him for his pretensions; some, as we have seen above, regarded him in the light of one possessed, while another class looked upon him as a mere vulgar soothsayer.
But in preaching the unity of Allâh, Mohammed was attacking the very existence of the idols, in the guardianship of which consisted not only the supremacy of Mecca, but the welfare and importance of the state. The chiefs of the Qurâis therefore began to look with no favourable eye upon the prophet, whom they regarded as a dangerous political innovator.
But Mohammed himself came of the most noble family in Mecca, and could not be attacked or suppressed without calling down upon the aggressors the certain vengeance of his protector Abu Tâlib and his clan. A deputation of the chiefs therefore waited upon Abu Tâlib and begged him to enforce silence upon his nephew, or to withdraw his
protection, which latter alternative was equivalent to handing him over to the summary vengeance of his foes. This Abu Tâlib firmly but politely refused to do, and it was not until they added threats to their entreaties that he consented even to remonstrate with his nephew.
Mohammed, though deeply grieved at losing, as he feared, his uncle's protection and goodwill, exclaimed in reply, 'By Allâh! if they placed the sun on my right hand and the moon on my left, to persuade me, yet while God bids me, I will not renounce my purpose!' and bursting into tears turned to leave the place. But the kind old Abu Tâlib, moved at his nephew's tears, recalled him and assured him of his continued protection.
From his fellow-citizens Mohammed met with nothing but raillery, insults, and actual injuries, when he ventured to announce his mission in public.
In return he could only threaten them with punishment in this world and the next, setting before them the fate of those who had rejected the prophets of old, of the people of Noah and Lot, of the destruction of Pharaoh and other contumacious folk; and painting in vivid colours the dreadful torments of the future life. But the one threat seemed little likely to be realised, and in an existence after death they had no belief. So the prophet's warnings went for naught, and he himself was forced to bear with patience the contumely heaped upon him and the still deeper pain of disappointment and the sense of failure.
In proportion as the new faith incurred the open hostility of the Meccans, the position of its converts became more embarrassing. Those who had powerful protectors could still weather the storm, but the weaker ones, especially the slaves and women, had to endure the severest persecutions, and in some cases suffered martyrdom for their belief.
Some of the slaves were bought off by Abu Bekr, Mohammed's own financial position not allowing him to do this himself; others having no resource apostatized to save their lives.
Under these circumstances the prophet advised his little
band of followers to seek safety in flight, and a few of the most helpless of them accordingly emigrated to the Christian country of Abyssinia. The next year others joined them, until the little colony of Muslim emigrants numbered a hundred souls.
The Qurâis were much annoyed at the escape of the Muslims, as they had hoped and determined to suppress the movement completely: they therefore sent a deputation to the Naggâsî or king of Abyssinia, demanding the surrender of the fugitives. The Naggâsî called his bishops around him, and summoning the refugees to the conference bade them answer for themselves. They told him how they had been plunged in idolatry and crime, and how their prophet had called them to belief in God and to the practice of a better life; then they quoted the words of the Qur’ân concerning Jesus, and finally begged the monarch not to give them up to these men, who would not only persecute them, but force them back into unbelief and sin. The Naggâsî granted their request and sent the messengers back. The failure of this attempt increased the hostility of the Qurâis towards the small remnant of the Muslims who were left in Mecca.
Almost alone, exposed to hourly danger and annoyance, it is not to be wondered at that Mohammed should for a moment have conceived the idea of a compromise.
The chiefs of Mecca cared little for their own idols, but they cared greatly for their traffic and their prestige. If the gods in the Kaabah were false and their service vain and wicked, who would visit the holy shrine? and where would then be the commercial advantages that flowed into Mecca from the pilgrims who crowded yearly to the town? Again, if they allowed the favourite deities of the neighbouring powerful tribes to be insulted or destroyed, how could they expect that these latter would accord safe conduct to their caravans or even allow them to pass through the territories unmolested?
Al ’Huzzâ, Allât, and Manât were the idols of the most important of these neighbouring tribes, and the Qurâis proposed
to Mohammed that he should recognise the divinity of these three deities, and promised in their turn that they would then acknowledge him to be the Apostle of Allâh.
One day, therefore, he recited before an assembly of the Qurâis the words of the Qur’ân, Chapter LIII, vers. 19, 20, and when he came to the words, 'Have ye considered Allât and Al ’Huzzâ and Manât the other third?' he added, 'They are the two high-soaring cranes, and, verily, their intercession may be hoped for!' When he came to the last words of the chapter, 'Adore God then and worship!' the Meccans prostrated themselves to the ground and worshipped as they were bidden.
A great political triumph was achieved, the proud and mocking Meccans had acknowledged the truth of the revelations, the city was converted, Mohammed's dream was realised, and he was himself the recognised Apostle of God!
But at what a sacrifice! politically he had gained the position at which he aimed, but it was at the expense of his honesty and his conviction; he had belied and stultified the very doctrine for which he and his had suffered so much. The delusion did not last long; and on the morrow he hastened to recant in the most uncompromising manner, and declared, no doubt with the fullest belief in the truth of what he was saying, that Satan had put the blasphemous words in his mouth. The passage was recited afresh, and this time it read: 'Have ye considered Allât and Al ’Huzzâ and Manât the other third? Shall there be male offspring for Him and female for you? That, then, were an unfair division! They are but names which ye have named, ye and your fathers! God has sent down no authority for them! Ye do but follow suspicion and what your souls lust after! And yet there has come to them guidance from their Lord!'
This incident is denied by many of the Muslim writers, but not only are the most trustworthy histories very explicit on the subject, but it is proved by the collateral evidence that some of the exiles returned from Abyssinia
on the strength of the report that a reconciliation had been effected with the Qurâis.
His recantation brought upon Mohammed redoubled hate and opposition, but his family still stood firmly by him, and his life was therefore safe, for it was no light thing to incur the dread responsibility of the blood feud.
The Qurâis revenged themselves by placing the family under a ban, engaging themselves in writing to contract no marriage or commercial relations with any of them, to accord them no protection, and, in short, to hold no communication whatever with them. This document was solemnly suspended in the Kaabah itself.
The result of this was more than mere social disqualification, for as they could not join the Meccan caravans, and were not rich or powerful enough to equip one of their own, they lost their very means of livelihood, and were reduced to the greatest penury and distress.
Unable to contend openly with so many and such powerful foes, the whole of the Hâsimî family, pagan as well as Muslim, took refuge in the si‘b or 'ravine' of Abu Tâlib, a long and narrow defile in the mountains to the east of Mecca. One man only kept aloof, and that was Abu Laheb, the uncle of the prophet, the bitterest enemy of El Islâm.
For two years the Hâsimîs lay under the ban, shut up in their ravine and only able to sally forth when the ‘Hagg pilgrimage came round and the sacred months made their persons and their property for the time inviolable.
At length the Qurâis began themselves to tire of the restriction which they had imposed upon the Hâsimî clan, and were glad of an excuse for removing it. It was found that the deed on which it had been engrossed had become worm-eaten and illegible, and this being taken as an evidence of the divine disapproval of its contents, they listened to the appeal of the venerable Abu Tâlib and allowed the prisoners to come forth and mix once more freely with the rest of the world. The permission came none too soon, for their stores were gone and they were on the
brink of actual starvation. During the two weary years of suffering and distress Mohammed had of course made no converts amongst the people of Mecca, and few, if any, members of his own clan had joined him during their seclusion, so that his prospects were gloomier than ever.
To add to his troubles, he lost his faithful wife ‘Hadîgah not long after this. Shortly afterwards he married a widow named Sâudâ; and later on he was betrothed to ‘Âyeshah, daughter of Abu Bekr, then a mere child, but whom he married in three years time. This woman gained a wonderful ascendancy over the prophet, and exercised considerable influence on Islâm, both during and after his lifetime. On one occasion, when the party were on the move, ‘Âyeshah was left behind with a young Arab under circumstances which gave rise to some very unpleasant rumours affecting her, and a special revelation was necessary to clear her character 1. Two other women were presently added to his harîm, ‘Hafza, daughter of ‘Omar, and Zâinab, widow of a Muslim who had been slain at Bedr.
Another marriage that he contracted gave great scandal to the faithful, namely, that with the wife, also called Zâinab, of his adopted son Zâid, whom her husband divorced and offered to surrender to Mohammed on finding that the latter admired her. This also required a revelation to sanction it 2.
His uncle and protector Abu Tâlib died not long after ‘Hadîgah.
This last loss left him without a protector, and his life would certainly have been in imminent danger had it not been that his uncle Abu Laheb, although one of the most determined opponents of the new religion, accorded him his formal protection for the sake of the family honour. This, however, was shortly afterwards withdrawn, and Mohammed was left more alone and more exposed to danger than ever.
In the desperate hope of finding help elsewhere he set
out for Tâ’if, accompanied by his freedman and adopted son Zâid.
From Tâ’if he was driven forth by the populace, who stoned him as he fled away. Wounded and exhausted, he lay down to rest in an orchard, the proprietor of which refreshed him with some grapes, and as he retraced his steps to Mecca he had a vision by the way. It appeared to him that the hosts of the ginn crowded round him, adoring God, and eager to learn from him the truths of Islâm. Ten years had rolled by and the number of the believers was still very few and the prospects of Islâm darker than they were at first, when the prophet found an unexpected sup-port in the two tribes of El ’Aus and El ‘Hazrag, who had towards the end of the fifth century wrested the city of YaTHrib from the Jewish tribes who held it.
Some of these Arabs had embraced the Jewish religion, and many of the former masters of the city still dwelt there in the position of clients of one or other of the conquering tribes, so that it contained in Mohammed's time a considerable Jewish population.
Between the inhabitants of YaTHrib and those of Mecca there existed a strong feeling of animosity; but Mohammed, though sharing the prejudices of his compatriots, was not in a position to refuse help from whatever quarter it presented itself.
The Arab inhabitants of YaTHrib had on their part a good reason for looking with a more favourable eye upon the new prophet.
Imbued with the superstition of the Jews amongst whom they lived, they looked for the coming of a Messiah with no small apprehension of his restoring the Jewish supremacy and of their own consequent downfall.
Mohammed, after all, might be the expected Messiah; he was of their own race and it was at any rate prudent to treat with him before he should cast in his lot, as he possibly might, with their disaffected Jewish subjects.
Lastly, YaTHrib was a prey to incessant agitations and internal discords, and anything that was likely to bind the
conflicting parties together by a tie of common interest could not but prove a boon to the city.
The inhabitants of YaTHrib then were, for many reasons, inclined to acknowledge the mission of Mohammed; and after sundry negotiations between the prophet and the chiefs of the city, he agreed to meet them at a part of the road between Mecca and YaTHrib, where the valley suddenly makes an abrupt descent, from which the spot was known as Akabeh.
A deputation, consisting of twelve men of the Aus and ‘Hazrag tribes, accordingly met him at the appointed spot and pledged him their word to obey his teaching.
The twelve men returned to their native city and preached the doctrine of Islâm, which was eagerly accepted by the majority of the pagan inhabitants. The Jews of YaTHrib, struck by this sudden renunciation of idolatry by their fellow-citizens, sent to beg Mohammed to send them a teacher who should instruct them in the new creed that had worked so wonderful a change.
At Mecca things were stationary, and Mohammed could do little more than wait until the time for pilgrimage should again come round and he should get fresh news from YaTHrib.
It was during this year of waiting that the celebrated night journey occurred, which has been the occasion of so much dispute to Mohammedan theologians, and has afforded such a handle to the hostile criticism of European historians. It was, as Mohammed himself persistently asserted, a vision in which he saw himself transported to heaven and brought face to face with, that God who had always filled his thoughts. The story is so overlaid with spurious traditional details as to have lost, to a great extent, its real significance. It is referred to obscurely in the Qur’ân in the following passages:
'Celebrated be the praises of Him who took His servant a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Remote Mosque, the precinct of which we have blessed, to show him of our signs!' (XVII, ver. 1.)
'And we made the vision which we showed thee only a cause of sedition unto men.' (XVII, ver. 62.)
'By the star when it falls, your comrade errs, not, nor is he deluded! nor speaks he out of lust! It is but an inspiration inspired! One mighty in power taught him, endowed with sound understanding, and appeared, he being in the loftiest tract.
'Then drew he near and hovered o’er! until he was two bows' length off or nigher still! Then he inspired his servant what he inspired him; the heart belies not what it saw! What, will ye dispute with him on what he saw?
'And he saw him another time, by the lote tree none may pass; near which is the garden of the Abode! When there covered the lote tree what did cover it! The sight swerved not nor wandered. He saw then the greatest of the signs of his Lord.' (LIII, vers. 1-18.)
At length the wished-for time arrived, and Mohammed, who had been told by his envoy Muz’hab of the success of his mission, repaired once more to the Akabeh. Here he was met at night by seventy men from YaTHrib, who had come to the rendezvous clandestinely by twos and threes, so as not to attract attention and incur the hostility of the Qurâis.
His uncle ‘Abbâs, though an unbeliever accompanied him, explained to them his nephew's position, and asked them seriously to consider the proposition which it was understood they were about to make. They declared that they were quite earnest in their desire to have Mohammed amongst them, and swore that they would defend him and his cause with their very lives. Mohammed then addressed them, recited to them some portions of the Qur’ân in which the most essential points of his doctrine were set forth, and asked them for a pledge of their good faith. This they gave in simple Bedawi fashion, one after another placing his palm in that of the prophet and taking the oath of fealty. So enthusiastic were their protestations that ‘Abbâs himself was obliged to bid them be silent and urge upon them the danger and imprudence of their noisy demonstration.
[paragraph continues] The treaty being thus ratified, Mohammed chose twelve naqîbs or leaders, after the number of the disciples of Jesus, and the voice of some stranger being heard close by the assembly hastily but quietly dispersed.
The Meccans, who had got a hint of the affair, taxed the YaTHrib pilgrims with having conspired with Mohammed against them, but being unable to prove the accusation, the new band of Muslims was enabled to return home in safety.
So hostile was now the attitude of the Qurâis that the believers of Mecca prepared for flight, and at last there were only left in Mecca three members of the community, Mohammed himself, Abu Bekr, and Ali.
The Qurâis now held a solemn council of war, at which, on the suggestion of Abu Gahl, it was determined that eleven men, each a prominent member of one of the noble families of the town, should simultaneously attack and murder Mohammed, and by thus dividing the responsibility should avoid the consequences of the blood feud; for, as they rightly judged, the Hâsimîs, not being sufficiently powerful to take the blood revenge on so many families, would be obliged to accept the blood money instead.
Mohammed had timely warning of this design, and giving Ali his mantle bade him pretend to sleep on the couch usually occupied by himself, and so divert the attention of the would-be murderers who were watching around his house. In the meantime Mohammed and Abu Bekr escaped by a back window in the house of the latter, and the two hid themselves in a cavern on Mount THaur, an hour and a half distant from Mecca, before the Qurâis had discovered the ruse and heard of their flight. A hot pursuit was immediately organized.
For three days they lay concealed, their enemies once coming so near that Abu Bekr, trembling, said, 'We are but two.' 'Nay,' said Mohammed, 'we are three; for God is with us.' The legend tells us that a spider had woven its web across the mouth of the cave, so that the Qurâis, thinking that no one had entered in, passed it over in their search.
At length they ventured once more to set out, and, mounted on fleet camels, reached YaTHrib in safety. Three days after they were joined by Ali, who had been allowed to leave after a few hours' imprisonment.
This was the celebrated Higrah or 'flight,' from which the Mohammedan era dates. It took place on June 16, in the yeas of our Lord 622. The city of YaTHrib was henceforth known as Madînat en Nebî, 'the city of the prophet,' or simply El Medînah.
Once established at El Medînah, Mohammed proceeded to regulate the rites and ceremonies of his religion, built a mosque to serve as a place of prayer and hall of general assembly, and appointed Bilâl, the Abyssinian slave who had been so faithful throughout the former persecutions, as crier to call the believers to the five daily prayers.
His next care was to reconcile, as far as possible, the various opposing parties of the city, and this was by no means an easy task. The two tribes of El ’Aus and El ‘Hazrag could not be made entirely to lay aside their ancient rivalry, but they united so far as to make his their common cause. For this they were honoured with the title of Ansâr or 'helpers of the prophet.' The refugees from Mecca were called Muhâgerûn, and to prevent any ill feeling rising up between these two classes, each of the Meccan immigrants was made to take to himself one of the Medînah Muslims, to whom he bound himself by an oath of brotherhood. This institution was, however, abolished a year and a half later, after the battle of Bedr. Of the inhabitants of Medînah, who had not joined in the invitation to Mohammed to sojourn amongst them, some left the town and went over to the Meccans; others remained behind, and though they yielded to the tide of popular opinion, and gave in their formal allegiance to the prophet, they were not completely won over to Islâm, but waited to see how matters would go, ready, as they did on several critical occasions, to desert him should his fortune show signs of a reverse. This disaffected class is spoken of in the Qur’ân by the name of Munâfiqûn or 'hypocrites,'
the chief man among them being one Abdallah ibn Ubai. Although perfectly aware of their designs, Mohammed treated them with singular courtesy and forbearance, and spared no pains to win them over to his side; even when his rule was firmly established, and they were completely in his power, he made no difference in dealing with them until in the course of time they became absorbed into the general band of the faithful.
The Jews of Medînah were much harder to deal with, and although Mohammed, by adapting his religion as far as possible to their own, by appealing to their own scriptures and religious books, by according them perfect freedom of worship and political equality, endeavoured in every way to conciliate them, they treated his advances with scorn and derision. When it became obvious that Islâmism and Judaism could not amalgamate, and that the Jews would never accept him for their prophet, Mohammed withdrew his concessions one by one, changed the qiblah or point to which he turned in prayer from Jerusalem which he had at first adopted to the Kaabah at Mecca, substituted the fast of Rama.dhân for the Jewish fasts which he had prescribed, and, in short, regarded them as the irreconcilable enemies of his creed.
Soon afterwards he turned his attention to his native city, which had rejected him and driven him out; and feeling himself now sufficiently strong to take the offensive, he began to preach the Holy War. After some petty raids upon the enemies' caravans an event happened which brought the Muslim and the infidel armies for the first time into open collision. In January, 624 A.D., a large caravan from Mecca, which had in the autumn of the previous year escaped an attack by the Muslims, was returning from Syria laden with valuable merchandise, and Mohammed determined to capture it. His intention, however, reached the ears of Abu Sufiyân, who sent a messenger to Mecca to ask for troops for his protection, while he himself followed a different route along the coast of the Red Sea. Mohammed, without waiting for the return of his spies, marched out in the
hopes of surprising Abu Sufiyân at Bedr, where the caravan usually halted, but the Meccan had been too much upon his guard, pressed on with all possible haste, and was soon out of danger. The caravan comprised most of the chief men of Mecca, besides its rich freight. Abu Sufiyân's message, therefore, asking for succour, caused a complete panic in the city. An army of nearly 7,000 men was immediately equipped and marched forth to the rescue, but on the way met a second messenger from Abu Sufiyân with the news that all danger was passed. On this 300 of them returned to Mecca, whilst others hurried to join the caravan. Mohammed was still advancing, in hopes of surprising the caravan, when he was informed of the approach of the Meccan army. After a council of war it was decided to advance and meet the enemy first, as, in the event of victory, they could afterwards pursue the caravan. Arrived at Bedr, the Muslims took up such a position that their foes could not approach the wells, and during the night the rain fell with such violence that the Meccans could scarcely march upon the sodden soil. In the morning these latter were at a great disadvantage, wearied by the state of the ground, and harassed by the blinding sun which shone straight in their faces; but Mohammed, whose numbers were far inferior, awaited the issue of the combat with no little anxiety. During the first part of the engagement the Muslims, by Mohammed's order, stood firm to their posts, whilst he encouraged them by promising the immediate reward of Paradise to those who should fall martyrs in the cause: whilst a fierce winter storm of wind which was blowing at the time, and which added to the discomfort and embarrassment of the enemy, he called the work of Gabriel with a thousand angels fighting for the faith. At length Mohammed gave the expected signal; taking up a handful he threw it towards the Meccans, and exclaimed, 'May their faces be covered with shame! Muslims to the attack!' The condition of the ground so hampered the movements of the Meccans that they were soon completely routed. Several
of Mohammed's bitterest enemies were slain, and a number of prisoners and much booty taken. Of the captives, six were executed by the prophet's order, some embraced Islâm, and others were ransomed by their compatriots. This victory was so important for the cause that Mohammed himself regarded it as brought about by a special miracle, and as such it is spoken of in the Qur’ân, Chap. III ver. 20.
Mohammed's military as well as religious supremacy was now assured in Medînah, and he lost no time in making his enemies there feel his power. The Jews first experienced the full weight of his wrath; a woman of that persuasion, who had incited her fellow-townsmen against him before the battle of Bedr, was put to death, and not long after the Benu Qâinuqâh, a Jewish tribe, who had risen against his authority, dwelling in a suburb of Medînah, were attacked, their property confiscated, and themselves sent into exile.
The war between Mecca and Medînah in the meantime continued.
Abu Sufiyân invaded the territory of Medînah, and the Muslims, on the other hand, captured a caravan belonging to the Qurâis.
The Meccans, determined to revenge the defeat of Bedr, had devoted the profits of the caravan that had been the cause of the conflict to the equipment of a large army, and in January, 625 A. D., three thousand men marched on to Medînah with Abu Sufiyân at their head. The latter was accompanied by his wife Hind, who had lost her father, brother, and uncle at the battle, and longed for vengeance. They established their camp near Mount Ohod, on the road between the two cities. The Muslims were divided in opinion, whether to await the invaders in the city, or to make a sortie and attack them where they were; and at length, in spite of Mohammed's advice to the contrary, the latter plan was decided on.
They marched forth to the number of a thousand, and of these three hundred belonged to the Hypocrites, or
disaffected party who deserted before the battle commenced.
Mohammed had disposed his forces so that his best trained archers covered the only vulnerable part of his army, the left flank, and these he bade keep to their posts, no matter what happened. The battle commenced with a few single combats and slight skirmishes, in which the Muslims had the advantage, and a few of the latter having reached and pillaged the enemies' camp, the archers, thinking the day already won, forgot their orders and joined in the loot. ‘Hâlid, who commanded the Meccan cavalry, seized the opportunity thus afforded, and took the Muslims on the flank and completely routed them. Mohammed himself was wounded in the mouth and narrowly escaped with his life, and ‘Hamzah, his uncle, surnamed the Lion of God, was slain.
The Meccans did not pursue their victory, but believing Mohammed, whom they had seen fall, to be dead, returned to their own city.
The defeat placed Mohammed in a very critical position, and he had great difficulty in restoring confidence to his followers 1.
About the beginning of the year 627 A.D. the Muslims were in great jeopardy. 4,000 Meccans and 1,000 men, gathered from the neighbouring tribes, marched upon Medînah, being instigated thereto by the Jews who had been expelled from that city.
Mohammed was only apprised of the movement at the last moment, but he at once took measures for the defence. On the advice of Salmân, a Persian captive, he caused a deep trench to be dug round the city, and earthworks to be raised in those parts where it was undefended, and behind the trench he posted his army, numbering 3,000 men.
The invading Meccans were completely checked by this mode of defence, and although the Beni Qurâidhah, a Jewish tribe, deserted to them from Mohammed's side and
rendered them every assistance, their attacks were unsuccessful. At length one cold winter's night a violent storm of wind and rain arose, and a complete panic took place in the camp of the Meccans, who broke up and precipitately retired to their homes. This was the siege of the Confederates alluded to in the Qur’ân 1.
The enemy having disappeared, Mohammed at once marched against the traitorous tribe of Qurâidhah, and besieged them in their fortress, about six miles south-west of Medînah. Being quite unprepared, these were obliged to surrender after fourteen days, which they did on condition that the Benu Aus, their allies in Medînah, should decide their fate. Mohammed chose for arbitrator one of the chiefs of the Aus tribe, named Saad ibn Moâ.dh, a fierce soldier, who was at the time dying of the wounds which he had received in the attack upon the fortress. He ordained that the men should be beheaded one and all, the women and children sold as slaves, and the property divided amongst the soldiers. This terrible sentence was promptly executed, and the men, to the number of 800, were beheaded, and the women and children bartered to the Bedawîn in exchange for arms and horses.
Mohammed's power and influence was now extending every day.
For six years neither he nor his followers had visited the Kaabah, or performed the sacred rites of the pilgrimage, and in the year 628 A. D. he resolved to attempt it. The time chosen was in the sacred month of DHu’l Qa’hdah, when the Lesser Pilgrimage was wont to be performed, rather than DHu’l ‘Higgeh, that of the Greater Pilgrimage, as less likely to lead to a collision with the other tribes. Fifteen hundred men only accompanied Mohammed, bearing no other arms than those usually allowed to pilgrims, a sheathed sword for each.
The Meccans contemplated Mohammed's advance with no small apprehension, and not believing in his pacific
intentions, resolved to bar his progress. Mohammed, thus checked, turned aside towards ‘Hudâibîyeh, on the frontier of the sacred territory.
Here, after some negotiations, a treaty was concluded in which a truce of ten years was agreed upon; any of the Meccans who pleased should be at liberty to join Mohammed, and vice versâ, any of the Muslims who chose might enter the Meccan ranks; only those who were clients of powerful chiefs were not to be allowed to become Muslims without the consent of their patrons. Mohammed and his followers were not to enter Mecca that year, but the next year they were to be permitted to do so and to remain for three days.
This was, in reality, a great triumph for Mohammed, as it recognised his position as an independent prince, while the ten years' truce not only enabled him without hindrance to propagate his doctrines at Mecca, but, by removing the constant danger in which he stood from that city, gave him the opportunity of turning his attention elsewhere.
He now not only endeavoured to reduce the Bedawîn tribes to submission, but wrote letters to the great kings and emperors of the world, to the Persian Khosrou, to the Byzantine Emperor, and to the Abyssinian Naggâsî, peremptorily bidding them embrace the faith and submit to his rule. The replies that he received were not flattering to his pride, but he or his immediate successors were, ere long, to repeat the summons in a form that admitted neither of denial nor of delay.
One potentate only. the governor of Egypt, Maqauqas, returned a favourable answer, and he sent amongst other presents two slave girls, one of whom, a Coptic girl named Mary, Mohammed took to himself, and by so doing estranged his numerous wives, and was only reconciled by a revelation 1.
In 629 A.D., in the month of DHu’l Qa’hdah (February),
the long-expected pilgrimage took place. With two thousand followers the prophet entered the Holy City, and the Meccans having retired to the neighbouring hills, all passed off quietly.
In the course of the short three days' sojourn in Mecca the Muslim ranks were strengthened by the accession of two influential personages, ‘Hâlid, who had conquered them at Ohod, and ‘Amr, the future conqueror of Egypt.
In this year the Muslim army experienced a terrible defeat at Mûta on the Syrian frontier, in which the prophet's friend Zâid was slain. His prestige, however, was soon re-established by fresh successors and the accession of numerous border tribes.
Two years after the truce of ‘Hudâibîyeh, a tribe who were under the protection of Mohammed, were attacked unawares by another tribe in alliance with the Meccans, and some Meccans in disguise were recognised amongst the assailants. This was a violation of the treaty, and Mohammed, on being appealed to by the sufferers, was nothing loth to take advantage of the opportunity afforded him for recommencing hostilities. The Meccans sent Abu Sufiyân to Medînah to offer explanations and procure a renewal of the truce, but without success. Mohammed began to make preparations for an expedition against Mecca, but concealed his plans even from his immediate followers; his Bedawîn allies were ordered either to join him at Medînah, or to meet him at certain appointed places on the route, but it was not until the last moment that his troops knew that their destination was the Holy City. While they were encamped in the immediate neighbourhood, and before the Meccans had any certain knowledge of their approach, the camp was visited at night by Abu Sufiyân, who was introduced to Mohammed by his uncle ‘Abbâs. the latter having become converted to Islâm now that he saw that its cause must certainly triumph. Mohammed promised Abu Sufiyân that all those inhabitants of Mecca who should take refuge in his house or in the Kaabah or even in private houses provided the doors were closed, should be
unmolested, and dismissed him to carry this news to his fellow-citizens, not however before he and ‘Abbas had persuaded the Meccan chief to become a Muslim, which he somewhat unwillingly consented to do. There is good reason to suppose that the whole affair was arranged between Mohammed, ‘Abbas, and Abu Sufiyân, and that the meeting by night at the camp with the somewhat theatrical details with which the historians relate it, and the sudden conversion of the two hitherto irreconcilable chiefs, were part of a plan designed to save Mecca from unnecessary bloodshed now that Mohammed's increased power and the overwhelming numbers he brought with him made a capture of the city inevitable. At any rate it had this effect, the Muslim army entered Mecca almost without resistance, only a few Bedawîn under the command of ‘Hâlid being assailed with arrows by some of Mohammed's bitterest opponents, whom he quickly dispersed. Mohammed, seeing him in pursuit of his assailants, was excessively angry until it was explained to him that ‘Hâlid's action was unavoidable and only in self-defence.
Mohammed was at length master of the capital of Arabia; his first act was to repair to the Kaabah and after making the circuit seven times and respectfully saluting the black stone with his staff, he entered the building and caused the idols to be destroyed. Actuated both by sound policy and by the strong feeling of attachment to his own tribe, which is inherent in every Arab's breast, he proclaimed a general amnesty, and the Meccans readily embraced Islâm and marched under its banner, hoping for the reward of Paradise, and sure of rich booty here on earth. The Bedawîn tribes in the neighbourhood gave him more trouble, but these too were brought into at least nominal subjection; the tribe of the THaqîf at Tâ’if still held out, and Mohammed attacked them in the valley of ‘Honein, where they were surprised by the enemy in a narrow defile, and were in imminent danger of a defeat, had not Mohammed rallied them by appealing to them as 'Ye men of the "Sûrah of the Heifer!" Ye men of the "Tree of Fealty!"'
reminding them of the first portion of the Qur’ân revealed at Medînah, and of the oath of fealty which they had sworn as he sat beneath a tree at ‘Hudâibîyeh. On this occasion he took a rich booty, and in order to conciliate the Meccan chiefs he gave them more than their fair share at the division of the spoils. This was particularly displeasing to his Medînah followers, who were only appeased by his declaring his regard for them, and promising never to desert their city or again take up his residence at Mecca. These events are alluded to in the Qur’ân, Chap. IX. After the battle of ‘Honein, Mohammed laid siege to Tâ’if, and though he was unable to reduce the place, he so devastated the country around that ambassadors were sent to propose terms of capitulation; they offered to embrace Islâm, provided that their territory should be considered sacred, that they should be excused the more onerous duties of the creed, and should be allowed to retain their favourite idol Allât for at least a year. To these conditions Mohammed was at first inclined to accede, but after a night's reflection, and indignant remonstrance addressed by the fiery Omar to the THaqîfite messengers, they were definitely refused, and the tribe surrendered unconditionally.
The ninth year after the flight is known as the 'Year of Deputations,' the Bedawîn tribes one after another sending in their adhesion to his cause and acknowledging his spiritual and temporal supremacy.
In the same year Mohammed conducted the expedition against Tabûk, which was undertaken with a view to reduce the Syrian tribes to submission, they having been induced by Byzantine influence to rise in insurrection upon the frontier. Sûrah IX contains a violent denunciation of those who on various false pretences held back on the occasion. This was the last military enterprise conducted by Mohammed in person.
The Arabs, with their well-known fickleness, did not continue for long in their allegiance to Islâm and its prophet even in Mohammed's lifetime tribe after tribe raised the
standard of revolt, and the repression of these insurrections occupied much of his time and attention during the last years of his life. With true political sagacity he saw that the only way to prevent the newly established kingdom from becoming hopelessly disintegrated was to give its members some common interest and ambition. For this reason he never relinquished his designs upon Syria, where the turbulent tribes might find scope for their warlike propensities, and where a rich booty might be gained. It was to this common bond of unity, the desire for plunder and the love of making border raids, as much as to the religious idea, that the triumph of El Islâm was due.
In March, 632 A.D., he made his last pilgrimage to Mecca, the 'Farewell Pilgrimage,' as Muslims call it, and standing upon Mount Arafât he addressed the assembled multitude,--more than forty thousand of pilgrims,--bade them stand firm by the faith that he had taught them, and called God to witness that he had delivered his message and fulfilled his mission.
In June he fell sick, and himself perceived that his end was drawing nigh.
On Monday, June 8, feeling better, he went to the Mosque of Medînah, where Abu Bekr was conducting the prayers before a crowded congregation who had flocked there to hear news of the prophet. Mohammed's entry was quite unexpected, but in spite of the weakness evident from his faltering gait, his countenance was bright, and his voice as clear and commanding as ever. Mounting the lower steps of the pulpit he said a few last words to the people, and having given some parting injunctions to Osâma, whom he had entrusted with the command of an army to Syria, Mohammed returned to his house and lay down to rest in ‘Ayesha's chamber. Here, resting his head upon her bosom, the prophet of Arabia fell asleep.
The question naturally arises, how could a comparatively obscure citizen of a small Arabian town bring about results of such magnitude as Mohammed undoubtedly did?
The secret of his success was, primarily, enthusiasm combined
with patriotism. Whether he believed to the full in his divine mission and revelations or not, matters but little; but it is certain that he did believe in himself as working for the good of his fellow-countrymen. He took the political and religious institutions of his country as he found them, and he strove to eradicate what was bad and to develop what was good. He knew that so long as the various tribes wasted their strength in internecine war there was no hope of their ever becoming a power; but he knew their character and temperament well enough to perceive that any scheme for bringing about national unity must fail if it involved the necessity of their submitting to any master whatever. He therefore sought to bind them together by what we may call their common religious feeling, but which really meant, as it too often does, common interests, common customs, and common superstitions. At Mecca all was ready to his hand: the Kaabah contained all the gods of the different tribes; the annual fairs and eisteddfodau (to borrow a Welsh name that exactly expresses the character of these gatherings) were held in the territory, and it was here that the historical and religious traditions of the race were circulated and kept alive. All the elements of centralisation were there, and it only wanted such a master-spirit as Mohammed's to turn their thoughts towards the common idea which should induce them to unite.
A prophet who starts in his career with no better stock-in-trade than visionary enthusiasm or deliberate imposture has but a poor chance. Musâilimah, Mohammed's rival, has left nothing behind him but his sobriquet of El KeDHDHâb, 'the liar,' and a few bitterly satirical parodies on some verses of the Qur’ân, which are still occasionally quoted by the less reverential of Muslims. El Mukanna‘, the 'veiled prophet of Khorassan,' earned no more immortality than an occasional mention in Persian poetry, and the honour of being the hero of an English popular poem. Mutanebbî, 'the would-be prophet,' as his name signifies, who flourished in the tenth century of our era, was an Arab of the Arabs,
and one of the greatest poets of his age. He, too, set up as a prophet, but with so little success that he had to retire from the business at an early period of his career. It was probably his wonderful facility in language that induced him to imitate Mohammed's example, and rely upon the 'miraculous' eloquence of his language in support of his pretensions to inspiration. He, however, missed the opportunities which Mohammed had; he was no great reformer himself, and there was no urgent need of a reform at the time. Moreover, he was entirely destitute of religious feeling, and, even in his earliest poems, so blasphemes and sneers at holy names that his most devoted commentators are frequently at a loss to find excuses for him.
In forming our estimate of Mohammed's character, therefore, and of the religion which we are accustomed to call by his name, we must put aside the theories of imposture and enthusiasm, as well as that of divine inspiration. Even the theory of his being a great political reformer does not contain the whole truth; and although it is certain that his personal character exercised a most important influence on his doctrine, yet it is not by any means evident that it even moulded it into its present shape.
The enthusiasm which he himself inspired, and the readiness with which such men as Abu Bekr and Omar, Arabs of the noblest birth, ranged themselves amongst his followers, who consisted for the most part of men of the lowest rank, slaves, freedmen, and the like, prove that he could have been no mere impostor.
The early portions of the Qur’ân are the genuine rhapsodies of an enthusiast who believed himself inspired, and Mohammed himself points to them in the later Sûrahs as irrefragable proofs of the divine origin of his mission. In his later history, however, there are evidences of that tendency to pious fraud which the profession of a prophet necessarily involves. Although commenced in perfect good faith, such a profession must place the enthusiast at last in an embarrassing position, and the very desire to prove the truth of what he himself believes may reduce him to
the alternative of resorting to a pious fraud or of relinquishing all the results which he has previously attained.
At the outset of his career he turned to the Jews, imagining that, as he claimed to restore the original religion of Abraham, and appealed to the Jewish scriptures for confirmation of his teaching, they would support him. Disappointed in this quarter, he treated them with more bitter hostility than any other of his opponents.
In the latter part of his career he took but little notice either of the Jews or Christians, and when he does mention the latter it is without any of the conciliatory spirit which he at first displayed to them,--and they are not only sharply reproved for their errors, but are included in the general mass of infidels against whom the true believers are to fight.
Mohammed styles himself in the Qur’ân En Nebîy el’ ummîy (Chap. VII, vers. 156 and 158), which may be interpreted either 'the illiterate prophet' or 'the prophet of the Gentiles,' as the word ’Ummîyûn in Chap. II, ver. 73 means rather 'those who have no scriptures.'
Mohammedans themselves differ very much as to whether the prophet could read or write, the Sunnis denying it and the Shî‘ahs declaring that he was able to do both. The evidence of the fact, though, is very untrustworthy, and in the traditional accounts of the occasions on which he is said to have written, the words may mean nothing more than that he dictated the documents in question. In the Qur’ân, XXIX, 47, it is merely said that he never 'recited a book before this,' and the passages in Chap. XCVI, vers. 1-6, which begin 'Read,' and in which the angel Gabriel is supposed to exhibit the Umm al Kitâb (see p. 2, note 2), and to command him to read it, the act implied may be nothing more than an intuitive perception of the contents of the book thus mysteriously shown to him.
It is probable that he could neither read nor write, and it is almost certain that he could not have done so sufficiently to have made use of any of the Jewish or Christian scriptures. The oral Jewish and Christian traditions incorporated in the Qur’ân were, no doubt, current among the Jewish and
[paragraph continues] Christian tribes; there is not the least evidence in support of the accusation made against Mohammed by Christian writers, that the greater part of his revelations were due to the suggestions of a Christian monk. The person referred to in the Qur’ân, Chapter XVI, ver. 105, is probably Salmân the Persian; the Persian legends being in the Arab mind the very archetype of those 'old folks' tales' to which his revelations were so often compared by his contemporaries.
Other stories, such as those of ‘Âd and Thamûd; the legends of their great forefather Abraham; of the Seil al ‘Arim, or the bursting of the dyke at Marab, were all commonplaces of the folk lore of the country.
He, however, told them over again with the additional particulars which he had derived from Jewish and Christian sources, and appealed to this additional information in proof of the divine origin of his version.
The city of YaTHrib, better known afterwards as El Medînah, 'the city,' contained many Jewish inhabitants, and Mecca itself was no doubt also frequented by Jewish Arabs, and the influence of their beliefs and superstitions is apparent throughout the Qur’ân.
Christianity too, as we have seen, contributed consider-ably to the new religion, though not to so great an extent as Judaism.
It is clear, however, that Mohammed was not acquainted with the originals themselves, either of the Jewish or Christian scriptures. The only passage of the Old Testament quoted in the Qur’ân is in Chapter XXI, vers. 104, 105, 'And already have we written in the Psalms after the reminder that "the earth my righteous servants shall inherit,"' which is an Arabic paraphrase of Psalm xxxvii, ver. 29, 'The righteous shall inherit the land.' The well-known exclusiveness of the Jews and their unwillingness that any Gentile hand should touch their holy Book, renders it extremely improbable that even this sentence was borrowed direct from the scriptures themselves, even if Mohammed could have understood the language in which they are written.
The Qur’ân appeals several times to the prophecies concerning Mohammed which are alleged to exist in the New and Old Testaments: thus in Chap. II, 141, 'Those to whom we have given the Book know him as they know their own sons, although a sect of them do surely hide the truth, the while they know;' and again,' VI, 20, 'Those to whom we have brought the Book know him as they know their sons,--those who lose their souls do not believe.'
The allusion is said to be to the promise of the Paraclete in John xvi. 7, the suggestion being that the word παράκλητος in the Greek has been substituted for περικλυτός, which would be exactly translated by the name A‘hmed, or Mohammed. Mohammed, however, certainly had not access to the Greek Testament, and it is doubtful whether an Arabic version even existed at the time, Syriac only being the ecclesiastical language of the Christians of the day: it is more probable that Mohammed may have received the suggestion from some of his Christian friends.
The monotheistic idea, which is the key-word to El Islâm, was not new to the Arabs, but it was distasteful, and particularly so to the Qurâis, whose supremacy over the other tribes, and whose worldly prosperity arose from the fact that they were the hereditary guardians of the national collection of idols kept in the sanctuary at Mecca. Mohammed's message, therefore, sounded like a revolutionary watchword, a radical party-cry, which the conservative Meccans could not afford to despise, and which they combated very energetically. The prophet, therefore, in the first place, met with but little success. ‘Hadîgah accepted her husband's mission without hesitation, so did her cousin Waraqah; and Zâid, 'the enquirer,' a man who had spent his life in seeking for the truth, and in fighting against this same idolatry that was so repugnant to Mohammed's ideas, at once gave in his adherence to the new doctrine. For three years, however, only fourteen converts were added to the Muslim church.
The mission of Mohammed, then, appealed forcibly to the Arabs on many grounds. Compared with the prevalent
idolatry of the time, the idea as presented was so grand, so simple, and so true, that reason could scarcely hesitate between the two systems, unless, as in the case of the Qurâis, self-interest were thrown into the scale. Side by side with the religion of the Jews and Christians, as practised in Arabia at least, it appeared more spiritual and more divine, and presented the truths of both religions without the blemishes. It harmonized with the traditional Semitic belief, Arab as well as Jewish, of the coming of a Messiah, or at least of a prophet, who should reveal the truth at last, and set right the order of things which had spiritually and temporally gone so wrong. And lastly, it made no call on their credulity it only asked them to believe what they might well accept as self-evident, and it only laid claim to one miracle, that of the marvellous eloquence of its delivery, and this neither friends nor foes could deny. It must not be forgotten that this claim of the Qur’ân to miraculous eloquence, however absurd it may sound to Western ears, was and is to the Arab incontrovertible.
In order to understand the immense influence which the Qur’ân has always exercised upon the Arab mind, it is necessary to remember that it consists not merely of the enthusiastic utterances of an individual, but of the popular sayings, choice pieces of eloquence, and favourite legends current among the desert tribes for ages before his time. Arabic authors speak frequently of the celebrity attained by the ancient Arabic orators, such as Shâibân Wâil, but unfortunately no specimen of their works have come down to us. The Qur’ân, however, enables us to judge of the nature of the speeches which took so strong a hold upon their countrymen.
The essence of Mohammedanism is its assertion of the unity of God, as opposed to polytheism and even to trinitarianism. And this central truth was, we repeat, nothing new; it was, as Mohammed said of it, the ancient faith of Abraham, and it was upon that faith that the greatness of the Jewish nation was founded; nay, it was the truth which Christ himself made more fully known and understood.
One great difference between Judaism and Islâm is that the former is not a proselytising religion, while the latter emphatically is so. All the laws and ordinances of the Pentateuch, all the revelations of the Old Testament, are for the Jew alone, and the Gentile was excluded with jealous care from the enjoyment of any of the divine privileges until Christianity proclaimed that revelation was for the world at large. The Arab, on the contrary, was enjoined to propagate his religion. 'There is no god but God,' and man must be 'resigned to His will,' and if he will not, he must be made to; this is what Islâm or 'resignation' really means.
But, it may be asked, why, if Mohammed preached nothing more than the central truth of Judaism and Christianity, did he not rather accept one or other of these creeds, than found a new one? To answer this question, we must regard Judaism and Christianity not as they are understood now, but as they existed in Arabia in Mohammed's time. Judaism was effete, Christianity corrupt. The Hebrew nation had fallen, and Magian superstitions and Rabbinic inventions had obscured the primeval simplicity of the Hebrew faith and marred the grandeur of its law. The Christians were forgetful alike of the old revelation and of the new, and neglecting the teachings of their Master, were split up into numerous sects--'Homoousians and Homoiousians, Monothelites and Monophysites, Jacobites and Eutychians,' and the like--who had little in common but the name of Christians, and the cordial hatred with which they regarded each other.
Mohammed certainly wished his religion to be looked upon as a further fulfilment of Christianity, just as Christianity is the fulfilment of Judaism. He regards our Lord with particular veneration, and even goes so far as to call Him the 'Spirit' and 'Word' of God; the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, is but the apostle of God and His Word, which He cast into Mary and a spirit from Him' (Sûrah IV, 169). The reservation, 'is but the apostle,' &c., is directed against the misconception of the Christian doctrine which
was then prevalent in Arabia, and which was the only one with which Mohammed was acquainted. With the Arab Christian, the Trinity meant nothing more nor less than tritheism, and these three the Father, Virgin-Mother, and Son.
The doctrine of the unity of God, as preached by Mohammed, was a protest against the dualism of Persia as well as the degenerate Christianity of the time and the polytheism of the Arabs who were his contemporaries. Thus the Chapter of Cattle (VI) commences with the words, 'Praise belongs to God who created the heavens and the earth, and brought into being the darkness and the light,' which negatives the Manichæan theory that the two principles of light and darkness were uncreate and eternal, and by their admixture or antagonism gave birth to the material universe.
As for the angelism and demonology of the Qur’ân, they are a mixture of local superstitions, Persian and Jewish tradition. The system was certainly not due to Mohammed's invention, but was evolved out of what he had heard from Jewish, Christian, and other sources, and regarded as revelation, and coloured by his individual local beliefs.
It is a curious thing that the rite of circumcision is not mentioned in the Qur’ân; but there is no doubt that Mohammed insisted upon it as a compromise for more cruel and dangerous practices 1.
The Qur’ân itself is not a formal and consistent code either of morals, laws, or ceremonies.
Revealed 'piecemeal,' particular passages being often promulgated to decide particular cases, it cannot fail to contain many things that are at variance with, or flatly contradict others.
It has, however, a certain unity notwithstanding; for Mohammed had his doctrine of the unity of God, according to the ‘Hanîfite conception, always before his mind: he had the immemorial customs of his country and their tribal
usages to guide him in his decisions, only instead of being bound by these usages he was able, by virtue of his office of prophet, to alter or abrogate such as appeared to him not to conduce to the welfare of society. The religious observances and ceremonies he retained were also to a great extent forced upon him; the injunctions to prayer and fasting were necessary to keep alive the religious fervour of the converts, and, indeed, to give the character of a religion to the movement and distinguish it from a mere political reform. The ceremonies of the pilgrimage could not be entirely done away with. The universal reverence of the Arab for the Kaabah was too favourable and obvious a means for uniting all the tribes into one confederation with one common purpose in view. The traditions of Abraham, the father of their race and the founder of Mohammed's own religion, as he always declared him to be, no doubt gave the ancient temple a peculiar sanctity in the prophet's eyes, and although he had at first settled upon Jerusalem as his Qiblah, he afterwards reverted to the Kaabah itself. Here, then, Mohammed found a shrine to which, as well as at which, devotion had been paid from time immemorial: it was the one thing which the scattered Arabian nation had in common--the one thing which gave them even the shadow of a national feeling; and to have dreamed of abolishing it, or even of diminishing the honours paid to it, would have been madness and ruin to his enterprise. He therefore did the next best thing, he cleared it of idols and dedicated it to the service of God. Again, the ‘Hagg was the occasion on which the tribes assembled at Mecca and, therefore, not only the cause of trading and mutual profit amongst themselves, but upon it depended entirely the commercial prosperity of the Qurâis.
It has been objected to Islâm that neither its doctrines nor its rites are original. No religion, certainly no sacred books of a religion, ever possessed entire originality. The great principles of morality, and the noble thoughts which are common to humanity, must find their way into the Scriptures, if these are to have any hold upon men; and
it would, indeed, be strange if the writers, however inspired; left no trace in their writings of what they had seen, heard, or read. The New Testament, it is well known, contains much that is not original. Many of the parables &c., as a late eminent Orientalist once pointed out, are to be found in the Talmud. We know that St. Paul drew upon classic Greek sources for many of his most striking utterances, not even disdaining to quote the worldly wisdom of the comedian Menander; and there is at least a curious coincidence between the words used in describing the blindness that fell on the apostle just before his conversion, and its subsequent cure, with the description given by Stesichorus in his 'Palinodia' of a similar incident connected with his own conversion to the worship of the Dioscuri. Even the most divine sentiment in the Lord's Prayer, 'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,' is expressed almost in so many words in the advice given by Nestor to the angered Achilles in the first book of Homer s Iliad.
Judged then by the standard which we apply to other creeds, Mohammed's religion stands forth as something strikingly new and original, since it sets before his countrymen, for the first time, the grand conception of one God, which was, as he asserted, the faith of their father Abraham, but which their fetishism had so long obscured.
The Arabs made use of a rhymed and rhythmical prose, the origin of which it is not difficult to imagine. The Arabic language consists for the most part of triliteral roots, i.e. the single words expressing individual ideas consist generally of three consonants each, and the derivative forms expressing modifications of the original idea are not made by affixes and terminations alone, but also by the insertion of letters in the root. Thus ẓaraba means 'he struck,' and qatala, 'he killed,' while maẓrûb and maqtûl signify 'one struck' and 'one killed.' A sentence, therefore, consists of a series of words which would each require to be expressed in clauses of several words in other languages, and it is easy to see
how a next following sentence, explanatory of or completing the first, would be much more clear and forcible if it consisted of words of a similar shape and implying similar modifications of other ideas. It follows then that the two sentences would be necessarily symmetrical, and the presence of rhythm would not only please the ear but contribute, to the better understanding of the sense, while the rhyme would mark the pause in the sense and emphasize the proposition.
The Qur’ân is written in this rhetorical style, in which the clauses are rhythmical though not symmetrically so, and for the most part end in the same rhyme throughout the chapter.
The Arabic language lends itself very readily to this species of composition, and the Arabs of the desert in the present day employ it to a great extent in their more formal orations, while the literary men of the towns adopt it as the recognised correct style, deliberately imitating the Qur’ân.
That the best of Arab writers has never succeeded in producing anything equal in merit to the Qur’ân itself is not surprising. In the first place, they have agreed before-hand that it is unapproachable, and they have adopted its style as the perfect standard; any deviation from it therefore must of necessity be a defect. Again, with them this style is not spontaneous as with Mohammed and his contemporaries, but is as artificial as though Englishmen should still continue to follow Chaucer as their model, in spite of the changes which their language has undergone. With the prophet the style was natural, and the words were those used in every-day ordinary life, while with the later Arabic authors the style is imitative arid the ancient words are introduced as a literary embellishment. The natural consequence is that their attempts look laboured and unreal by the side of his impromptu and forcible eloquence.
That Mohammed, though, should have been able to challenge even his contemporaries to produce anything like the Qur’ân, 'And if ye are in doubt of what we have revealed
unto our servant, then bring a chapter like it . . . But if ye do it not, and ye surely shall do it not, &c.,' is at first sight surprising, but, as Nöldeke 1 has pointed out, this challenge really refers much more to the subject than to the mere style,--to the originality of the conception of the unity of God and of a revelation supposed to be couched in God's own words. Any attempt at such a work must of necessity have had all the weakness and want of prestige which attaches to an imitation. This idea is by no means foreign to the genius of the old Arabs; thus the learned grammarian and rhetorician ‘Harîrî excuses himself in the preface to his celebrated 'Assemblies' for any shortcomings, which might possibly be detected in a composition professedly modelled on that of another, by quoting an ancient poem:
Amongst a people who believed firmly in witchcraft and soothsaying and who though passionately fond of poetry, believed that every poet had his familiar spirit who inspired his utterances, it was no wonder that the prophet should be taken for 'a soothsayer,' for 'one possessed with an evil spirit,' or for 'an infatuated poet 2.'
Each chapter of the Qur’ân is called in Arabic a sûrah, a word which signifies a course of bricks in a wall, and is generally used in the body of the work for any connected or continuous portion complete in itself.
The word Qur’ân, 'a reading,' comes from the verb qara’a, 'to read,' though some lexicographers derive it from qarana, 'to join,' and interpret it as meaning the 'collected whole.'
It is also called El Forqân, 'the discrimination,' a word borrowed from the Hebrew and also applied in the Qur’ân to divine inspiration generally.
The individual portions of the Qur’ân were not always written down immediately after their revelation, as we find that Mohammed often repeated them several times until he had learnt them by heart, and the book itself shows that he occasionally forgot them and even altered and supplemented them: 'Whatever verse we may annul or cause thee to forget, we will bring a better one than it, or one like it' (Chapter II, ver. 100). On other occasions he employed an amanuensis, as, for instance, Abdallah ibn Sa’hd ibn Abî Sar‘h (see Part I, p. 126, note 2) and Zâid ibn THâbit; and tradition relates that he would frequently direct in which Sûrah the passage dictated was to be placed. That the Qur’ân was, or that even the individual. Sûrahs were, however, arranged in the present order by the prophet himself is impossible, both from internal evidence and that of tradition.
At the prophet's death no collected edition of the Qur’ân existed. Scattered fragments were in the possession of certain of his followers, written down at different times and on the most heterogeneous materials, but by far the greater portion was preserved only in the memories of men whom death might at any moment carry off. The death of many Muslim warriors at the battle of Yemâmah opened the eyes of the early Caliphs to the danger that the 'Book of God' might be, ere long, irrevocably lost: they accordingly provided, to the best of their power, against such a contingency. Abu Bekr,--or rather Omar, during his reign,--was the first to take the matter .in hand, and employed Zâid ibn THâbit the Ansârî, a native of Medînah, who had acted as amanuensis to Mohammed, to collect and arrange the text. This he did from 'palm-leaves, skins, blade-bones, and the hearts of men,' and presented to the Caliph a copy
of the Qur’ân, which did not probably differ greatly from that which we now possess. As we have already seen, the whole was strung together without any reference to the chronological order, and with very little regard to the logical connection of various passages. The longer Sûrahs were placed at the beginning and the short ones at the end, although the order of their revelation was for the most part just the reverse. And, lastly, many odd verses appear to have been inserted into various Sûrahs for no other reason than that they suit the rhyme.
The text was so far fixed by Zâid, but not the reading of it. In the first place, the vowel points, which make often a very great difference in the meaning of a word, were probably hardly ever, if at all, used; again, many persons were still alive who themselves remembered portions of the Qur’ân by heart, but who did not agree as to individual words, or who remembering the sense only substituted some of the locutions of their own tribe for the actual words of Mohammed.
These tribal dialects often differed diametrically in the use of particular words; thus i‘hfa’un means 'to conceal' in the dialect of one tribe and 'to display' in that of another; when such words occurred, as they often do, in the Qur’ân, they could not fail to give rise to disputes as to their interpretation.
In the present recension of the Qur’ân there are comparatively few various readings recognised, but it is clear that great variations existed from the very first. On more than one occasion Mohammed himself dictated the same passage to different persons with different readings; and the 'traditional saying' ascribed to him, that 'the Our An was revealed according to seven modes of reading,' shows what latitude he himself allowed. The other interpretation of this tradition, namely, that 'the Qur’ân may be read according to the seven Arabic dialects,' was obviously invented to check the tendency to perversion of the text according to individual fancy, and is plainly refuted by the fact that the persons to whom the saying was uttered,
and who had appealed to the prophet to decide upon the reading of a certain text, were both of the tribe of Qurâis.
At length, some twenty years afterwards, the Caliph Othmân, alarmed at the bitter feelings and open quarrels which these differences of reading and interpretation had already engendered, determined to prevent the Muslims from differing amongst themselves in their way of reading the word of God as the Jews and Christians did. He accordingly appointed a commission, consisting of Zâid, the original editor, with three men of the Qurâis (Mohammed's own tribe), to decide, once for all. upon the text and to fix the reading definitely according to the pure Qurâis idiom.
When this edition was completed. Othmân sent copies to all the principal cities in the empire, and caused all the previous copies to be burned. These copies were perhaps not themselves free from small discrepances; the few slight various readings which have, as I have shown, crept in, are most of them mere matters of orthography, and the rest are unimportant to the general sense. The last named will be found mentioned in the notes to the passages in which they occur in the course of the following translation.
Othmân's recension has remained the authorised text, and has been adopted by all schools of Mohammedan theologians from the time it was made (A.D. 660) until the present day.
In this no further attempt was made at chronological arrangement than in the preceding one. The individual Sûrahs have prefixed to them the name of the place, Mecca or Medînah, at which they were revealed but this indication, though derived from authentic tradition, is not a sufficient guide, since in many places verses have been inserted in a Meccan Sûrah which were evidently revealed at Medînah, and vice versa. To clear away this difficulty, and to propose an intelligible chronological arrangement of the Sûrahs, has been the aim of scholars, both Arabic and European; but no one has treated the subject in so
critical or masterly a manner as Nöldeke, and his arrangement may be taken as the best which Arabic tradition, combined with European criticism, can furnish.
To arrive at a decision on this point we must consider first the historical event, if any, to which each text refers; next, the style generally; and lastly, the individual expressions used. Thus, in addressing the Meccans the words yâ aiyuha ’nnâs, 'O ye folk!' occur, while the expression yâ aiyuha ’llaDHîn âmanû is used in speaking to the people of Medînah, though sometimes the former phrase occurs in a verse of a Medînah Sûrah.
The Sûrahs resolve themselves into two great classes, those revealed at Mecca and those revealed at Medînah after the flight; and these are easily distinguished both by their style and subject-matter. The earlier ones especially are grander in style, and testify in every verse to the mental exaltation of the prophet and the earnest belief which he certainly had at this time in the reality and truth of his divine mission.
The Qur’ân falls naturally into these two classes, which represent, in fact, the first development of Mohammed's prophetic office at Mecca. and the later career as a leader and lawgiver after the flight at Medînah.
Sûrahs belonging to the first period of his career are therefore ascribed to Mecca, and those of the latter period to Medînah, although the actual place at which they were delivered may be in certain cases doubtful.
One of the next earliest Sûrahs is that entitled Abu Laheb. Mohammed had at length called together his clansmen, the Banû Hâshim, and bade them accept the new doctrine of Allah's unity. Hereupon ‘Abd el ’Huzzah, surnamed Abu Laheb, 'he of the flame,' indignantly exclaimed, 'Perdition to you! is that what thou hast called us for?' Mohammed then proclaimed the Sûrah bearing Abu Laheb's name, in which he enunciates a terrible curse against him and his wife Umm Gemîl, and made of him an irreconcilable foe.
The CVIth Sûrah also belongs undoubtedly to an early
period. In it Mohammed bids the Qurâis 'serve the Lord of this House,' for the two trading caravans they yearly sent out in winter and summer respectively.
In the Meccan Sûrahs Mohammed's one and steady purpose is to bring his hearers to a belief in the one only God; this he does by powerful rhetorical displays rather than logical arguments, by appealing to their feelings rather than their reason; by setting forth the manifestations of God in his works; by calling nature to witness to His presence; and by proclaiming His vengeance against those who associate other gods with Him, or attribute offspring to Him. The appeal was strengthened by glowing pictures of the happiness in store for those who should believe, and by frightful descriptions of the everlasting torments prepared for the unbelievers.
The short Sûrah entitled 'Unity' is said. on the traditional authority of Mohammed himself, to be equivalent in value to two-thirds of the Qur’ân.
'Say, "He is God, one God the eternal. He begets not, and is not begotten; nor is there like unto Him, one."'
This protest is not aimed at the Christian doctrines alone, for the Arab, as we have seen, asserted that their angels and deities were daughters of Allâh, the supreme God.
In the earlier chapters, too, the prophetic inspiration, the earnest conviction of the truth of his mission, and the violent emotion which his sense of responsibility caused him are plainly shown.
The style is curt, grand, and often almost sublime; the expressions are full of poetical feeling, and the thoughts are earnest and passionate, though sometimes dim and confused, indicating the mental excitement and doubt through which they struggled to light.
In the second period of the Meccan Sûrahs, Mohammed appears to have conceived the idea of still further severing himself from the idolatry of his compatriots, and of giving to the supreme deity Allâh another title, Ar-Ra‘hmân, 'the merciful one.'
The Meccans, however, seem to have taken these for
the names of separate deities 1, and the name is abandoned in the later chapters.
In the Sûrahs of the second Meccan period we first find the long stories of the prophets of olden time, especial stress being laid upon the punishment which fell upon their contemporaries for disbelief; the moral is always the same, namely, that Mohammed came under precisely similar circumstances, and that a denial of the truth of his mission would bring on his fellow-citizens the self-same retribution.
They also show the transition stage between the intense and poetical enthusiasm of the early Meccan chapters and the calm teaching of the later Medînah ones. This change is gradual, and even in the later and most prosaic we find occasionally passages in which the old prophetic fire flashes out once more.
The three periods again are marked by the oaths which occur throughout the Qur’ân. In the first period they are very frequent and often long, the whole powers of nature being invoked to bear witness to the unity of God and the mission of His Apostle; in the second period they are shorter and of rarer occurrence; in the last period they are absent altogether.
To understand the Medînah Sûrahs we must bear in mind Mohammed's position with respect to the various parties in that city.
In Mecca he had been a prophet with little honour in his own country, looked on by some as a madman, and by others as an impostor, both equally grievous to him, while his following consisted only of the poorest and meanest of his fellow-townsmen.
His own clansmen, for the reason that they were his clans-men and for no other, resented the affronts against him.
In Medînah he appears as a military leader and a prince, though as yet possessing far from absolute authority. Around him in the city were, first, the true believers who had fled with him. El Muhâgerîn; next, the inhabitants
of YaTHrib, who had joined him and who were called El Ansâr, 'the helpers;' and lastly, a large class who are spoken of by the uncomplimentary name of Munâfiqûn or 'hypocrites,' consisting of those who went over to his side from fear or compulsion, and lastly those in whose heart is sickness,' who, though believing on him, were prevented by tribal or family ties from going over to him openly.
Abdallâh ibn Ubai was a chief whose influence operated strongly against Mohammed, and the latter was obliged to treat him for a long time almost as an equal, even after he had lost his political power.
The other party at Medînah was composed of the Jewish tribes settled in and around the city of YaTHrib. The Jews were at first looked to as the most natural and likely supporters of the new religion, which was to confirm their own.
These various parties together with the pagan Arabs of Mecca and the Christians are the persons with whom the Medînah Sûrahs chiefly deal.
The style of the Medînah Sûrahs resembles that of the-third period of the Meccan revelations, the more matter-of-fact nature of the incidents related or the precepts given accounting in a great measure for the more prosaic language in which they are expressed.
As in the Meccan Sûrahs it is possible to arrive at a tolerably accurate notion of their chronological order by noting the events to which they refer, and comparing them with the history itself; although the doubtful authority of many of the traditions and the frequent vagueness of the allusions in the Qur’ân itself leave much uncertain.
In the Medînah Sûrahs the prophet is no longer merely trying to convert his hearers by examples, promises, and warnings; he addresses them as their prince and general. praising or blaming them for their conduct, and giving them laws and precepts as occasion required.
Nöldeke has given a masterly analysis of the various historical and other allusions, and has reduced as far as
possible the heterogeneous mass of materials to such order that we may accept his arrangement as at least the most accurate hitherto proposed.
Since, however, many passages are no doubt misplaced and inserted in Sûrahs to which they did not originally belong, nothing but a comprehensive view of the contents of the whole Qur’ân, studied side by side with the history of Mohammed and his contemporaries, will enable us to arrive at an actual decision on the exact chronological sequence of the revelation.
To assist in the investigation of this most important subject I have subjoined a précis of the contents of each chapter.
The following is Nöldeke's chronological order of the Sûrahs:
First Period (from the first to the fifth year of Mohammed's mission): XCVI, LXXIV, CXI, CVI, CVIII, CIV, CVII, CII, CV, XCII, XC, XCIV, XCIII, XCVII, LXXXVI, XCI, LXXX, LXVIII, LXXXVII, XCV, CIII, LXXXV, LXXIII, CI, XCIX, LXXXII, LXXXI, LIII, LXXXIV, C, LXXIX, LXXVII, LXXVIII, LXXXVIII, LXXXIX, LXXV, LXXXIII, LXIX, LI, LII, LVI, LXX, LV, CXII, CIX, CXIII, CXIV, I.
Second Period (the fifth and sixth year of his mission): LIV, XXXVII, LXXI, LXXVI, XLIV, L, XX, XXVI, XV, XIX, XXXVIII, XXXVI, XLIII, LXXII, LXVII, XXIII, XXI, XXV, XVII, XXVII, XVIII.
Third Period (from the seventh year to the flight): XXXII, XLI, XLV, XVI, XXX, XI, XIV, XII, XL, XXVIII, XXXIX, XXIX, XXXI, XLII, X, XXXIV, XXXV, VII, XLVI, VI, XIII.
II, XCVIII, LXIV, LXII, VIII, XLVII, III, LXI, LVII, IV, LXV, LIX, XXXIII, LXIII, XXIV, LVIII, XXII, XLVIII, LXVI, LX, CX, XLIX, IX, V.
The mysterious letters which are placed at the beginning of certain chapters of the Qur’ân are explained in
various ways by the Muslim commentators. Some suppose them to be part of the revelation itself, and to conceal sublime and inscrutable mysteries; others think that they stand for the names of Allâh, Gabriel, Mohammed, and so on.
Nöldeke has the ingenious theory that they were monograms of the names of the persons from whom Zâid and his companions obtained the portions to which they are prefixed; thus, A L R would stand for Ez-zubâir, A L M R for Al-Mughâirah, T H for Tal‘Hah, and so on. A comparison of the Arabic letters themselves with the names suggested makes the hypothesis a very probable one. They may have been mere numerical or alphabetical labels for the boxes of scraps on which the original was written; the authors of the Commentary known as El Jelâlâin, however, give the prevailing opinion amongst Muslim scholars when they say, 'God alone knows what He means by these letters.'
The Sûrahs are subdivided into ’âyât, 'verses' (literally 'signs'), which, although they for the most part mark a distinct pause either in the rhyme or sense, are sometimes mere arbitrary divisions irrespective of either.
Besides these, the Qur’ân is divided into sixty equal portions, called a‘hzâb (sing. ‘hizb), each, subdivided into four equal parts; another division is that into thirty 'agzâ' (sing. guz') or 'sections,' so that the whole may be read through during the month of Rama.dhân: these are again subdivided into rukû’h (sing. rak’hah), 'acts of bowing.' By these, rather than by chapter and verse (Sûrah and ’Âyah), the Muslims themselves quote the Book.
Besides the name Qur’ân it is known as El Furqân, 'the Discrimination,' El Mus‘haf, 'the Volume,' El Kitâb, 'the Book,' and EDH-DHikr, 'the Reminder.' The title attached to each Sûrah is taken from some striking word which occurs in it.
The creed of Mohammed and the Qur’ân is termed Islâm 'Resignation,' scil. to the will of God. The religion, as understood and practised, is based upon four rules or fundamental principles:
1. The Qur’ân itself.
2. ‘HadîTH (pl. ’a‘hâdîTH), the 'traditional' sayings of the prophet which supplement the Qur’ân, and provide for cases of law or ceremonial observance on which it is silent. They also deal with the life of Mohammed and the circumstances attending the revelations, and are therefore of great use in the exegesis of the Book itself. Although the Muslim authorities have been very strict in the canons laid down for the reception or rejection of these traditions, tracing them from hand to hand up to their original sources, a great deal of uncertainty exists as to the authenticity of many of them. The laws embodied in the traditions are called the Sunnah.
3. Igmâ’h or the 'consensus' of opinion of the highest authorities in the Muslim church upon points concerning which neither the Qur’ân nor the ‘HadîTH are explicit.
4. Qiyâs or 'Analogy,' that is, the reasoning of the theological authorities by analogy from the Qur’ân, ‘HadîTH, and Igmâ’h, where anything in any one or more is still left undecided.
The first principle of the Muslim faith is a belief in Allâh, who, as we have seen, was known to the Arabs before Mohammed's time, and under the title Allâh ta’hâlâ, 'Allâh the most high,' was regarded as the chief god of their pantheon: The epithet ta’hâlâ is, properly speaking, a verb meaning 'be He exalted,' but is used, as verbs sometimes are in Arabic 1, as an epithet. The name Allâh, 'God,' is Composed of the article al, 'the,' and ilâh, 'a god,' and is a very old Semitic word, being connected with the el and elohîm of the Hebrew, and entering into the composition of a large proportion of proper names in Hebrew, Nabathean, and Arabic.
According to Muslim theology, Allâh is eternal and everlasting, one and indivisible, not endued with form, nor circumscribed by limit or measure; comprehending all things, but comprehended of nothing.
His attributes are expressed by ninety-nine epithets used in the Qur’ân, which in the Arabic are single words, generally participial forms, but in the translation are some-times rendered by verbs, as, 'He hears' for 'He is the hearer.'
These attributes constitute the Asmâ’ el ‘Husnâ, 'the good names 1,' under which God is invoked by the Muslims; they are ninety-nine in number, and are as follows:
1. ar-Ra‘hmân, the Merciful.
2. ar-Ra‘hîm, the Compassion ate.
3. al-Mâlik, the Ruler.
4. al-Qaddûs, the Holy.
5. as-Salâm, Peace.
6. al-Mû’min, the Faithful.
7. al-Muhâimun, the Protector.
8. al-’Hazîz, the Mighty.
9. al-Gabbâr, the Repairer.
10. al-Mutakabbir, the Great.
11. al-Khâliq, the Creator.
12. al-Bâri’, the Creator.
13. al-Muzawwir, the Fashioner.
14. al-Ghaffâr, the Forgiver.
15. al-Qahhâr, the Dominant.
16. al-Wahhâb, the Bestower.
17. ar-Razzâq, the Provider.
18. al-Fattâ‘h, the Opener.
19. al-‘Âlim, the Knowing.
20. al-Qâbiz, the Restrainer.
21. al-Bâsit, the Spreader.
22. al ‘Hâfiz, the Guardian.
23. ar-Râfi‘, the Exalter.
24. al-Mu’hizz, the Honourer.
25. al-Muzîl, the Destroyer.
26. as-Samî’h, the Hearer.
27. al-Bazîr, the Seer.
28. al-‘Hâkim, the Judge.
29. al-’Hadl, Justice.
30. al-Latîf, the Subtle.
31. al-‘Habîr, the Aware.
32. al-‘Halîm, the Clement.
33. al-’Hathîm, the Grand.
34. al-Ghafûr, the Forgiving.
35. as-Sakûr, the Grateful.
36. al-‘Halî, the Exalted.
37. al-Kabîr, the Great.
38. al-‘Hafiz, the Guardian.
39. al-Muqît, the Strengthener.
40. al-Hasîb, the Reckoner.
41. al-Galîl, the Majestic.
42. al-Karîm, the Generous.
43. ar-Raqîb, the Watcher.
44. al-Mugîb, the Answerer of Prayer.
45. al-Wasî’h, the Comprehensive.
46. al-‘Hakîm, the Wise.
47. al-Wadûd, the Loving.
48. al-Magîd, the Glorious.
49. al-Bâ’hiTH, the Raiser.
50. as-Sahîd, the Witness.
51. al-Haqq, Truth.
52. al-Wakîl, the Guardian.
53. al-Qawwî, the Strong.
54. al-Matîn, the Firm.
55. al-Walî, the Patron.
56. al-Hamîd, the Laudable.
57. al-Mu‘hsî, the Counter.
58. al-Mubdî, the Beginner.
59. al-Mu’hîd, the Restorer.
60. al-Mo‘hyî, the Quickener.
61. al-Mumît, the Killer.
62. al-‘Hâiy, the Living.
63. al-Qâiyûm, the Subsisting
64. al-Wâgid, the Existing.
65. al-Magîd, the Glorious.
66. al-Wâhid, the One.
67. az-Zamad, the Eternal.
68. al-Qâdir, the Powerful.
69. al-Muqtadir, the Prevailing
70. al-Muwa‘h‘hir, the Deferrer
71. al-Muqaddim, the Bringer forward.
72. al-Awwal, the First.
73. al-Â‘hir, the Last.
74. ath-Thâhir, the Apparent.
75. al-Bâtin, the Innermost.
76. al-Wâlî, the Governor.
77. al-Muta’hâl, the Exalted.
78. al-Barr, Righteousness.
79. at-Tawwâb the Relenting.
80. al-Muntaqim, the Avenger.
81. al-’Hafû, the Pardoner.
82. ar-Ra’ûf, the Kind.
83. Mâlik al Mulk, the Ruler of the Kingdom.
84. DHu’lgalâl wa’l ikrâm, Lord of Majesty and Liberality
85. al-Muqsit, the Equitable.
86. al-Gâmi’h, the Collector.
87. al-Ghanî, the Independent.
88. al-Mughnî, the Enricher.
89. al-Mu’hti, the Giver.
90. al-Mâni’h, the Withholder.
91. az-Zârr, the Distresser.
92. an-Nâfi’h, the Profiter.
93. an-Nûr, Light.
94. al-Hâdî, the Guide.
95. al-Badî’h, the Incomparable
96. al-Bâqî, the Enduring.
97. al-WâriTH, the Inheritor.
98. ar-Rasîd, the Rightly-directing.
99. az-Zabûr, the Patient.
These names are used by Muslims in their devotions, the rosary (masba‘hah) being employed to check their repetition. Such an exercise is called a DHikr or 'remembrance,' a word that is also applied to a recitation of the whole or portions of the Qur’ân and to the devotional exercises of the dervishes.
The formula 'In the name of the merciful and compassionate God,' with which every chapter but one of the Qur’ân begins, appears to have been adopted from the Persian Zoroastrian phrase, Benâm i Yezdân i ba‘hsâyisgar dâdâr, 'In the name of God the merciful, the just;' the later Parsee form Benâm i ‘hudawandi ba‘hsâyenda ba‘hsâyisgar is the exact equivalent of the Mohammedan phrase.
Besides a belief in God, the Qur’ân requires belief in the existence of angels; they are pure, without distinction of sex, created of fire, and neither eat nor drink nor propagate their species.
The archangels are, Gibra’îl, 'Gabriel' (also called er Rû‘h el Amîn, 'the faithful spirit,' or er Rû‘h el Qudus, 'the holy spirit'), God's messenger by whom the Qur’ân was revealed to Mohammed; Mikâ’îl, the guardian angel of the Jews 1; Isrâfîl, the archangel who will sound the last trumpet at the resurrection; Azrâ’îl, the angel of death.
Two angels are appointed to each human being, who stand one on his right and one on his left hand, to record his every action.
One angel, called Razwân, 'goodwill,' presides over heaven; and one, named Mâlik, 'the ruler,' over hell 2.
Munkir and Nakîr are the two angels who preside at 'the examination of the tomb.' They visit a man in his grave directly after he has been buried, and examine him concerning his faith. If he acknowledge that there is but one God and that Mohammed is his prophet, they suffer him to rest in peace, otherwise they beat him with iron maces till he roars so loud that he is heard by all from east to west except by men and ginns. They then press the earth down on the corpse, and leave it to be torn by dragons and serpents till the day of resurrection.
The angelology of Islam is apparently traceable to Jewish sources, though the ancient Arab cult had no doubt borrowed some portion of it from the Persians, whence too it was introduced into Judaism.
The notions of the bridge over hell, Es Sirât, and of the partition wall, El Aarâf, between paradise and hell 3, are also common to the Jewish and Magian traditions.
Iblîs or Saitân, 'the devil' or 'Satan,' was originally an angel who fell from paradise on account of his proudly refusing to adore Adam 4.
Besides the angels there are the ginn (collectively gânn), of whom I have before spoken. They are created out of
fire and are both good and evil, the latter being generally called 'Ifrît.' Their abode is Mount Qâf, the mountain chain which encircles the world. These are the creatures over whom Solomon held control, and a tribe of whom were converted to Islâm by Mohammed's preaching on his return from Tâ’if 1.
The two classes of beings, human and superhuman, by which the world is inhabited are called ETH-THagalân, 'the two weighty matters,' or el ’Hâlamûn, 'the worlds,' as in the expression in the Opening Chapter, 'Lord of the worlds.'
Heaven, according to the Qur’ân and the traditions, consists of seven divisions:
Of the presumed sensual character of the Muslim paradise much has been written. It appears, however, from the Qur’ân, to be little more than an intense realisation of all that a dweller in a hot, parched, and barren land could desire, namely, shade, water, fruit, rest, and pleasant companionship and service.
Hell contains also seven divisions 2:
As to the condition of the soul between death and the resurrection, Islâm has no authoritative teaching; the general opinion is that there is a limbo somewhere or other in which the spirits of the good repose, while those of the wicked are imprisoned elsewhere in a foul dungeon to await their doom.
A great many wonderful signs are to precede the judgment day, of which we need only notice the coming of Mehdi or 'guide,' who shall have the same name as Mohammed himself, and whose father's name shall be the same as his father's name, and who shall govern the Arabians, and fill the earth with righteousness; the appearance of Ed-daggâl, 'the antichrist;' the release of Gog and Magog 1; and the convulsions in heaven and earth described in" the Qur’ân itself.
The chief prophets recognised by the Qur’ân are the following: each of whom is said to have had a special revelation, and to possess an appropriate title:
Mohammed is also called 'the seal of the prophets,' and the saying traditionally attributed to him, 'There is no prophet after me,' makes it unlawful to expect the advent of another.
Besides these, there are the minor apostles sent to particular tribes, the stories of some of whom are related in the Qur’ân.
The practical duties of Islâm are, 1. The profession of faith in the unity of God, and the mission of Mohammed. 2. Prayer. 3. Fasting. 4. Almsgiving. 5. Pilgrimage.
The first consists in the repetition of the Kelimah or creed, 'There is no god but God, and Mohammed is the Apostle of God.'
Prayer consists of the recital of a certain prescribed and invariable formula at five stated times of the day, namely: 1. Between dawn and sunrise. 2. After the sun has begun to decline. 3. Midway between this. 4. Which is said shortly after sunset. 5. At nightfall. These are farẓ or 'incumbent;' all others are nafl, 'supererogatory,' or sunnah, 'in accordance with the practices of the prophet.' The prayers are preceded by wuẓû’h, 'ablution;' they are commenced in a standing position, qiyâm, the hands being so held that the thumbs touch the lobes of the ears, and the face being turned towards the qiblah, that is, in the direction of Mecca. During the prayers inclinations of the body, rukû’h 1, are made, of which a certain number only are incumbent.
The time for prayer is called from the minarets of the mosques by Mu’eDHDHins or 'criers,' in the following words:
'God is great!' (four times). 'I bear witness that there is no god but God' (twice). 'I bear witness that Mohammed is the Apostle of God' (twice). 'Come hither to prayers!' (twice). 'Come hither to salvation!' (twice). 'God is great! There is no other god but God!' and in the early morning the crier adds, 'Prayer is better than sleep!'
This formula appears to have been used by Bilâl, Mohammed's own crier, on the establishment of the first mosque in Medînah. It is called the aDHân or 'call.'
The word 'mosque' is a corruption of masgid, 'a place of adoration' (sigdah), and is applied to the whole precincts of a Muslim place of worship. Another name is gâmi’h, 'the assembling,' especially applied to a cathedral mosque.
The mosques are always open for public prayers, but on Fridays a special service is held, followed by a 'Hutbah or 'homily.'
Another of the duties incumbent on every believer
is that of fasting between dawn and sunset throughout Rama.dhân, the ninth month of the Muslim year. The fast is a most rigorous one, not even a drop of water being allowed to pass the lips even when Rama.dhân occurs in the hot season. Only the sick and infirm are allowed exemption.
One night between the twenty-first and twenty-ninth of Rama.dhân, the exact date being uncertain, is called the Lailat el Qadr or 'night of power;' in it the Qur’ân was said to have been revealed 1.
Zakât, 'almsgiving 2' or 'poor rate,' must be given either in money, stock, or goods, and consists of the bestowal in charity of about one-fortieth of all such property as shall have been a year in the owner's possession. In Mohammed's time the zakât was a contribution by his followers to the expenses of the war against the infidels.
Sadaqah is the name applied to any charitable gifts beyond that prescribed by law, especially to the offerings on the ’hîd al fitr, or 'feast of breaking fast,' at the expiration of Rama.dhân.
Waqf is a religious bequest or endowment.
The ‘Hagg or 'pilgrimage,' the last of the five incumbent practices of the religion, is a very ancient institution, and one which, as we have seen, Mohammed could not, if he would, have abolished.
The ceremonies observed during the season of the pilgrimage are as follows:
Arrived at the last of the mîqât, or six stages in the immediate vicinity of Mecca, the pilgrim divests himself of his ordinary clothes and assumes the i‘hrâm or 'garb of sanctity.' This consists of two wrappers without seams, one of which is bound round the waist, and the other thrown loosely over the shoulders, the head being left uncovered. After putting on this it is unlawful to anoint the head, shave this or any other part of the body, pare the nails, or wear any other garment than the i'hrâm.
On reaching Mecca he performs the legal ablutions, proceeds to the Sacred Mosque, and having saluted the 'black stone,' makes the tawâf or circuit of the Kaabah seven times, three times quickly and four times at a slow walk.
He then visits the Maqâm Ibrâhîm or Abraham's station, and afterwards returns and kisses the black stone.
Passing through the gate of the haram leading to Mount Zafâ, he runs seven times between the summit of that hill and that of Merwah 1.
On the eighth day, called tarwî‘h, the pilgrims assemble in the valley of Minâ, where they pass the night.
As soon as morning prayers are over they 'rush tumultuously' to Mount Arafât, stay there until sunset, and then proceed to a place called Muzdalifeh, where they again pass the night.
The next day is the ’Hîd al Az‘hâ, when the pilgrims again repair to the valley of Minâ, and go through the ceremony of throwing stones at three pillars, called Gamrah. This is in commemoration of Abraham, or, as some say, of Adam, who, meeting the devil at the same spot, drove him away with stones.
The next ceremony is the sacrifice of some animal, a camel, sheep, or goat, in Minâ; after which they divest themselves of the pilgrim garb and get themselves shaved, their nails pared, &c.
The pilgrim should then rest at Mecca for the three following days, the âiyâm et tasrîq or 'days of drying up,' scil. the blood of the sacrifices.
The sacrifice is said to have been instituted in commemoration of Abraham's proposed sacrifice of his son Ishmael (not Isaac as in the Bible) in accordance with the divine command.
The pilgrimage must be performed from the seventh to the tenth of the month DHu’l ‘Higgeh. A visit at any other time of the year is termed ’Homrah, 'visitation,' and though meritorious, has not the same weight as the ‘Hagg itself.
The Kaabah is revisited before the pilgrim leaves Mecca, and the ceremony of the Tawâf again performed. From Mecca the pilgrim proceeds to Medînah to visit the tomb of the prophet. He is then entitled to assume the title of El ‘Hâgg (in Persian and Hindustânî corrupted into ‘Hâgî.).
It is worth remarking that the word ‘Hagg is identical with the Hebrew word used in Exodus x. 9, where the reason assigned for the departure of the Israelites is that they may 'hold a feast (‘hagg) unto the Lord' in the wilderness.
Islâm inculcates the doctrine of predestination every act of every living being having been written down from all eternity in the Lau’h el Ma’hfûth, 'the preserved tablet.' This predestination is called taqdîr, 'meting out,' or qismeh, 'apportioning.' The reconciliation of such a doctrine with the exercise of free-will, and the difficulty, if it be accepted, of avoiding the ascription of evil as well as good to God. have furnished materials for never-ending disputes amongst Muslim theologians, and have given rise to innumerable heresies. As the present introduction is only intended to furnish the reader with the necessary information to enable him to understand the Qur’ân and its system, I will not dwell upon these and kindred matters which belong to the later history of the creed.
One of the greatest blots on El Islâm is that it keeps the women in a state of degradation, and therefore effectually prevents the progress of any race professing the religion. For this Mohammed is only so far responsible that he accepted without question the prevalent opinion of his time. which was not in favour of allowing too great freedom to women, so that when he had ameliorated their condition by modifying the unjust laws of divorce, by enjoining kindness and equity upon his followers in the treatment of their wives, and by sternly repressing the barbarous custom of female infanticide, he thought, no doubt, that he had done enough for them. Similarly he provided for the better and kinder treatment of slaves, but it' could never enter his mind that slavery was in itself a wrong or impolitic institution.
[paragraph continues] The real fault lies in the unelastic nature of the religion: in his desire to shield it from change and to prevent his followers from 'dividing into sects,' the founder has made it impossible for Islâm to throw off certain customs and restrictions which, however convenient and even necessary to the Arabs at the time, became grievous and unsuitable for other nations at distant periods and in distant lands. The institution of the ‘Hagg pilgrimage, for example, was an admirable one for consolidating the Arab tribes, but it is burdensome and useless to the Muslim communities now that they extend over nearly half the civilized world.
That Mohammed had a due respect for the female sex, as far as was consistent with the prevailing state of education and opinion, is evident both from his own faithful affection to his first wife ‘Hadîgah, and from the fact that 'believing women' are expressly included in the promises of a reward in the future life which the Qur’ân makes to all who acknowledge one God and do good works.
The language of the Qur’ân is universally acknowledged to be the most perfect form of Arab speech. The Qurâis, as the guardians of the national temple and the owners of the territory in which the great fairs and literary festivals of all Arabia were held, would naturally absorb into their own dialect many of the words and locutions of other tribes, and we should consequently expect their language to be more copious and elegant than that of their neighbours. At the same time we must not forget that the acknowledged claims of the Qur’ân to be the direct utterance of the divinity have made it impossible for any Muslim to criticise the work, and it became, on the contrary, the standard by which other literary compositions had to be judged. Grammarians, lexicographers, and rhetoricians started with the presumption that the Qur’ân could not be wrong, and other works therefore only approached excellence in proportion as they, more or less, successfully imitated its style. Regarding it, however, from a perfectly impartial and unbiassed standpoint, we find that it
expresses the thoughts and ideas of a Bedawî Arab in Bedawî language and metaphor. The language is noble and forcible, but it is not elegant in the sense of literary refinement. To Mohammed's hearers it must have been startling, from the manner in which it brought great truths home to them in the language of their every-day life.
There was nothing antiquated in the style or the words, no tricks of speech, pretty conceits, or mere poetical embellishments; the prophet spoke with rude, fierce eloquence in ordinary language. The only rhetorical ornament he allowed himself was that of making his periods more or less rhythmical, and most of his clauses rhyme,--a thing that was and still is natural to an Arab orator, and the necessary outcome of the structure of the Arabic tongue 1.
It is often difficult to enter thoroughly into the spirit of the old Arab poets, Mohammed's contemporaries or immediate predecessors, because we cannot completely realise the feelings that actuated them or identify ourselves with the society in which they moved. For this reason they have always something remote and obsolete about them, however clear their language and meaning may be. With the Qur’ân it is not so. Mohammed speaks with a living voice, his vivid word-painting brings at once before the mind the scene he describes or conjures up, we can picture his very attitude when, having finished some marvellously told story of the days of yore, uttered some awful denunciation, or given some glorious promise, he pauses suddenly and says, with bitter disappointment, 'These are the true stories, and there is no god but God and yet ye turn aside!'
To translate this worthily is a most difficult task. To imitate the rhyme and rhythm would be to give the English an artificial ring from which the Arabic is quite free; and the same objection lies against using the phraseology of our authorised version of the Bible: to render it by fine or stilted language would be quite as foreign to the spirit of
the original: while to make it too rude or familiar would be to err equally on the other side. I have, therefore, endeavoured to take a middle course; I have translated each sentence as literally as the difference in structure between the two languages would allow, and when possible I have rendered it word for word. Where a rugged or commonplace expression occurs in the Arabic I have not hesitated to render it by a similar English one, even where a literal rendering may perhaps shock the reader.
To preserve this closeness of rendering, I have had in several instances to make use of English constructions which, if not incorrect from a strictly grammatical point of view, are, I am aware, often inelegant. Thus a peculiarity of the Arabic is to use the same preposition with a passive verb as the active and transitive verb required; for instance, ghaẓaba ’halâihi, 'he was angered against him,' in the passive, ghuẓiba ’halâihi, 'he was angered-against,' and the preservation of this construction is often absolutely necessary to retain the force of the original.
An instance of this occurs in the Opening Chapter, where the words ellaDHîna an’hamta ’halâihim, ghâiral maghẓûbi ’halâihim are rendered, 'of those thou art gracious to, not of those thou art wroth with;' in Sale's translation, 'of those to whom thou hast been gracious, not of those against whom thou art incensed;' the placing the preposition before the verb gives a completely different ring to the English to that of the Arabic, to say nothing of the absence of that colloquial freedom which distinguishes the original.
I have, as far as possible, rendered an Arabic word by the same English word wherever it occurs; in some cases, however, where the Arabic word has more than one signification, or where it would distort the sense to retain the same expression, I have not scrupled to alter it.
Some of the Arabic words that occur in the Qur’ân are ambiguous, and have given rise to numerous differences of opinion among commentators. Thus the word istawâ is applied to God, and is interpreted in some passages to
mean 'he directed himself by his will to the heaven' (Lane), and in others to mean 'he stood straight or erect' (Lane). The expression occurs often in the Qur’ân as descriptive of God's taking up a certain position with regard to the throne or highest heaven, and Muslim theologians have never ceased to debate concerning the exact nature of this position. El Ghazzâli says that He 'istawâ' upon the throne in the manner he has himself described, and in the sense He himself means, but not by actual contact or local situation, while the throne itself is sustained by Him. To render it then by 'sitting' or 'ascending' would be to adopt a particular view of a very debatable question, and to give to the Arabic word a precision of meaning which it does not possess. The root of the word contains the notions of 'equality of surface' or 'uniformity,' of 'making' or 'fashioning,' and of 'being or going straight.' I have, therefore, adopted a rendering which has a similar confusion of significations, and translated it 'made for,' as in Chapter II, ver. 27, 'He made for the heavens.' Where no question can arise concerning its interpretation, as, for instance, when it is used of a rider balancing himself on the back of his camel, I have rendered it simply 'settled 1.'
The notes that I have appended are only such as are absolutely necessary for understanding the text; for a full account of all the historical allusions, Arabic, Jewish, and Magian legends, with which the native commentators illustrate the Qur’ân, the reader is referred to the notes in Sale's translation. The version of that eminent scholar fully deserves the consideration it has so long enjoyed, but from the large amount of exegetical matter which he has incorporated in his text, and from the style of language employed, which differs widely from the nervous energy and rugged simplicity of the original, his work can scarcely be regarded as a fair representation of the Qur’ân.
Rodwell's version approaches nearer to the Arabic, but even in that there is too much assumption of the literary
style. The arrangement of the Sûrahs in chronological order, too, though a help to the student, destroys the miscellaneous character of the book, as used by the Muslims, and as Mohammed's successors left it.
In my rendering I have, for the most part, kept to the interpretation of the Arabic commentator Bâi.dhâvî, and have only followed my own opinion in certain cases where a word or expression, quite familiar to me from my experience of every-day desert life, appeared to be somewhat strained by these learned schoolmen. Chapter XXII, ver. 64, is an instance in which a more simple rendering would be preferable, though I have only ventured to suggest it in a note 1.
I am fully sensible of the shortcomings of my own version, but if I have succeeded in my endeavour to set before the reader plainly what the Qur’ân is, and what it contains, my aim will have been accomplished.
E. H. PALMER.
ST. JOHN'S COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE,
xiii:1 Genesis xxviii. 13-19.
xvi:1 See Qur’ân II, 129.
xx:1 In Arabic iqra’; a great difference of opinion exists even among Mohammedans about the exact meaning of this word. I have followed the most generally accepted tradition that it has its ordinary signification of 'reading,' and this is supported by the reference immediately afterwards to writing; others take it to mean 'recite!' Sprenger imagines it to mean 'read the Jewish and Christian scriptures,' which, however ingenious, is, as an Arab would say, bârid, singularly frigid and foreign to the spirit of the language.
xxii:1 Sûrah LXXIV, 1-7.
xxix:1 See Part I, p. 74, note 2.
xxix:2 See Chapter XXXIII, ver. 36, note.
xxxviii:1 See Chapter III, vers. 115-168.
xxxix:1 Chapter XXXIII.
xl:1 See Chapter LXVI.
lii:1 See note to vol. ii, p. 110, of Burton's 'Pilgrimage to El Medina and Mecca.
lvi:1 Geschichte des Qorâns, p. 43.
lvi:2 Mohammed may well have repudiated the charge of being a poet, for he is only credited with one verse, and that an involuntary one:
I am the prophet who lies not;
I am the son of Abd el Muttalib.'
lxii:1 See Part II, p. 13, note 1.
lxvi:1 See my Arabic Grammar, p. 256.
lxvii:1 See Chapter VII, ver. 179.
lxix:1 See Part I, p. 13, note 2.
lxix:2 Mâlik is evidently identical with Moloch, as Gehennum, hell, is the same as the Gehenna of the Bible.
lxix:3 See Part I, p. 138, note 1.
lxix:4 See Chapter II, ver. 32.
lxx:1 See above, p. xxx.
lxx:2 Cf. Chapter XV, ver. 44.
lxxi:1 See Part II, p. 25.
lxxii:1 'The lowering of the head, by a person praying [or in prayer], after the act of standing, in which the recitation [of portions of the Ḳur-án] is performed, so that the palms of the hand reach the knees, or so that the back becomes depressed,' Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon.
lxxiii:1 Cf. Chapter XCVII, ver. 1.
lxxiii:2 The word originally meant 'purity.'
lxxiv:1 See p. xiii and Chapter II, ver. 153.
lxxvii:1 How natural this was to an Arab may be inferred from the anecdote related in Part I, note 2, p. 126; see also p. lv.
lxxix:1 See Chapter XLIII, ver. 12.
lxxx:1 See Part II, p. 63, note.