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SOME ACCOUNT OF MAHOMET.
stupendous events connected with them. Arising amidst a rude and ignorant people, at a time when Antichrist had become settled upon his throne, he claimed the character of an apostle of God ; declared himself to be divinely inspired, and expressly sent amongst mankind to overturn the idolatrous worship of his countrymen, and establish in its place a new and more pure religion, dictated, as he said, by the Almighty himself, and destined eventually to be the faith of all the nations of the earth. The history of this extraordinary man, with some account of his institutions, I shall now proceed to lay before you.
He was born in the year 571 or 2, at the city of Mecca, in Arabia. Of his infancy, childhood, and youth, little of what is recorded by Arabian writers can be depended on. His father died while he was an infant, and, at the early age of six, he lost his mother also. The helpless orphan was then committed to the care of an uncle, who treated him with kindness and gave him a scanty education. At thirteen years of age he accompanied his uncle's caraýan to Syria; and a few years afterwards he performed the same journey in the capacity of factor to a rich widow, whose name was Cadijah, into whose service he had entered, and whose goods he conveyed to the fairs of Bozra and Damascus. So well did he acquit himself, in the discharge of the duties of this station, that at the age of twenty-five he exchanged the humble condition of servant for that of master: for he became the husband of Cadijah. She was fifteen years older than Mahomet, he being then forty ; but it is said they lived happily together during a period of twenty-four years, when Cadijah died, at the age of sixty-four.
This advantageous marriage raised Mahomet to an equality with the first citizens of Mecca; it also gave an importance to his opinions, and contributed to draw attention to his new religion when he began to propagate it. There was nothing particularly remarkable in his life until he attained the age of forty ; but, ha.. ving then acquired a competency by his mercantile pursuits, he seems to have suddenly imbibed a fondness for religious meditation. It became his constant practice to retire to a cave in Mount Hara, near Mecca, where he declared that he received the visits of the angel Gabriel. The following is the substance of the informa
tion. It af Mecca, whhe following
tion which Mahomet affirmed that he had derived from this celestial visitant.
On the night of the twenty-third of the month Ramadan, the Koran (a book which contains the institutes of his religion) first descended from the seventh to the lowest heaven; and, at a distance from the pious Mahomet, appeared the brilliant form of the messenger of God, the angel Gabriel, who came to communicate the happy tidings. The light issuing from his body was too bright for the mortal eyes of the prophet-he fainted, and, not till the angel had assumed a human form, could he venture to approach or look on him. The angel then cried aloud, “O Mahomet ! thou art the apostle of God, and I am the angel Gabriel.-Read,” continued the angel. The illiterate prophet declared that he could not read. “ Read," the angel again exclaimed—“Read, in the name of the Lord, who hath created all things--who hath created man out of congealed blood ; who hath taught the use of the pen ; who teacheth man that which he knoweth not.” Mahomet now read the joyful and mysterious tidings respecting his own ministry on earth ;. when the angel, having accomplished his mission, slowly and majestically ascending into heaven, gradually disappeared from his wondering gaze. · Sach is the marvellous account that Mahomet himself gave of his commission to propagate a new religion in the world. The communication was first made to his wife, who believed, or affected to believe, the sacred fable. The next on the list of true believers was Zeid, the prophet's servant, and Ali, the son of his uncle Abu Taleb. After these followed a most important convert, whose name was Abubekir, a wealthy citizen of Mecca, by whose influence a number of persons possessing great authority were induced, in process of time, to range themselves under the prophet's standard, and to profess the new religion.
Mahomet's pretended commission remained a secret intrusted only to his own family, during a period of three years, in which time he had made only six converts; but the season at length arrived, when, as he said, the Lord had commanded him to make it known. He accordingly assembled at a feast a number - of his own kindred, forty of whom were convened around his hospitable board. When the proper moment arrived, Mahomet
MAHOMET OPENS HIS PRETENDED COMMISSION, 525
arose, and thus addressed his wondering kinsmen :-" I know no man in the whole peninsula of the Arabs, who can propose to his relations any thing more excellent than what I now do to you. Almighty God hath commanded me to call you unto himself: who, therefore, among you will be my Vizir, and become my brother, and viceregent ?” Astonishment seized the company, and a universal silence prevailed. No one offered to accept the important station, till the impetuous Ali, his own nephew, burst forth, and declared that he would be the brother and assistant of the prophet:-“,” said he, “O prophet of God, will be thy vizir; I myself will beat out the teeth, pull out the eyes, rip open the bellies, and cut off the legs of all those that shall dare to oppose thee.” Mahomet caught the new disciple in his arms, exclaiming, “ this is my brother, my deputy, my successor! show yourselves obedient unto him.” At this apparently extravagant command, the assembly broke up in confusion, testifying their mirth and astonishment in bursts of laughter.
From this time Mahomet began to propagate the dogmas of his new religion. He explained to his countrymen that he was commissioned of heaven to be the prophet of God upon earth--to assert the unity of the Divine Being-to denounce the worship of images-to recall the people to the only true religion -to announce the tidings of paradise to the believing—and to threaten the deaf and unbelieving with the terrible vengeance of the Lord. At first the pretensions of the prophet were very coldly received: the extravagance and absurdity of the fable were too glaring to be acquiesced in. It was not until Abubeker had taken a decided part, and declared his implicit reliance on the truth of the Koran, and the divine mission of the prophet, that the imposture began to succeed. The people, however, came first to distrust their own understandings, and then to credit the astounding assertions of the new apostle of God! Their credulity was quickened by the tremendous vengeance which he denounced against the unbelieving, proclaimed as his threatenings were with vehemence and unblushing effrontery; and belief followed in the train of terror; and thus the extravagant lie, which at first threatened the new religion with early destruction, served by a fortuitous concurrence of circumstances to contribute materially to its success. The apostle who was at first derided, came at length to be feared. The people flocked to hear his doctrines, which were mingled with denunciations well adapted to work on the imagination of an ignorant people. “ Because he is an adversary to our signs,” said the author of the new religion, “ I will afflict him with grievous calamities; for he hath devised contumelious expressions to ridicule the Koran-may he be cursed. How maliciously hath he prepared the same !-may he be cursed. I will cast him to be burned in hell. And what shall make thee understand what hell is? It leaveth not any thing unconsumed : neither doth it suffer any thing to escape; it scorcheth men's flesh: over the same are nineteen angels appointed. We have appointed none but angels to preside over hell fire.”—“Verily, we have prepared for the unbelievers chains, and collars, and burning fire.”
"Verily, those who disbelieve our signs we will surely cast out to be broiled in hell fire; and, when their skins shall be well burned, we will give them other skins in exchange, that they may taste the sharper torments.”* These horrible sufferings were to be the lot of the wicked ; that is, of the unbelievers, such as denied the efficacy of the Koran, and disputed on the truth and reasonableness of his mission; for, these, in Mahomet’s creed, were transgressions of the deepest dye!
The growing influence of Mahometanism at length giving some alarm to the magistrates of the city of Mecca, they unwisely endeavoured to check the evil by punishing the offender, who found an asylum under the roof of his rich uncle Abu Taleb, and the alarm and hostility of his adversaries only served to increase the fame and importance of the prophet. While the uncle lived, the nephew found a defender against the machinations of his enemies; but, at the end of the seventh year of his mission, death deprived him both of his protector and his wife Cadijah. .
Mahomet was, from this time, exposed to the attacks of his enemies, and found his safety only in flight. Quitting Mecca, his native place, he proceeded to Medina, where his prophetical fame had already extended and secured him the most auspicious reception. Here he found himself at the head of an
* Sale's Koran, ch.78. :?
MAHOMET'S INSTRUCTIONS TO HIS FOLLOWERS,
army devoted to his person, obsequious to his will, and implicit believers in his apostolic mission. His first act at Medina was to erect a temple in which he might celebrate the offices of religion; and he now, in his own person, combined both the temporal and spiritual power ; he was general of his army, judge of his people, and the religious pastor of his flock; and so intense was the devotion of his followers, that the deputy of the city of Mecca beheld with astonishment the blind and devoted veneration which was paid him.
We now contemplate this extraordinary man as the martial apostle, propagating his religion by means of the sword. · Addressing his followers, he says :-“O true believers, take your necessary precautions against your enemies, and either go forth to war in separate parties, or go forth all together in a body. Let them, therefore, fight for the religion of God, who part with the present life in exchange for that which is to come ; for whosoever fighteth for the religion of God, whether he be slain or victorious, we will surely give him great reward.”—“ And, when the month wherein ye are not allowed to attack the unbelievers shall be passed, kill the idolatrous wheresoever ye shall find them, and take them prisoners, and besiege them, and lay wait for them in every convenient place."*
Such were the commands of the Arabian prophet, and they were obeyed to the very letter. “The people of Arabia,” says an elegant historian of our day, “ a race of strong passions and of sanguinary temper, inured to habits of pillage and murder, found in the law of their native prophet, not merely a license, but a command to desolate the world, and the promise of all their glowing imaginations could anticipate of paradise, annexed to all in which they most delighted on earth.”+ The words of Ali, one of Mahomet's earliest disciples, as formerly quoted, are a text on which the commentary expands into the whole Saracenic history—they comprise the vital essence of his religion ; viz. implicit faith and ferocious energy; death, slavery, tribute, to unbelievers, were the glad tidings of the Arabian prophet. To the idolaters, indeed, or those who acknowledged no special revelation, one alternative only was proposed-conversion or the sword.
* Koran, ch. iv. p. 108-9; ch. ix. 238.