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Chapter L: Description Of Arabia And Its Inhabitants.—Part IV.
The communication of ideas requires a similitude of thought and language: the discourse of a philosopher would vibrate without effect on the ear of a peasant; yet how minute is the distance of their understandings, if it be compared with the contact of an infinite and a finite mind, with the word of God expressed by the tongue or the pen of a mortal! The inspiration of the Hebrew prophets, of the apostles and evangelists of Christ, might not be incompatible with the exercise of their reason and memory; and the diversity of their genius is strongly marked in the style and composition of the books of the Old and New Testament. But Mahomet was content with a character, more humble, yet more sublime, of a simple editor; the substance of the Koran,61836183 For the Koran, see D'Herbelot, p. 85-88. Maracci, tom. i. in Vit. Mohammed. p. 32-45. Sale, Preliminary Discourse, p. 58-70. according to himself or his disciples, is uncreated and eternal; subsisting in the essence of the Deity, and inscribed with a pen of light on the table of his everlasting decrees. A paper copy, in a volume of silk and gems, was brought down to the lowest heaven by the angel Gabriel, who, under the Jewish economy, had indeed been despatched on the most important errands; and this trusty messenger successively revealed the chapters and verses to the Arabian prophet. Instead of a perpetual and perfect measure of the divine will, the fragments of the Koran were produced at the discretion of Mahomet; each revelation is suited to the emergencies of his policy or passion; and all contradiction is removed by the saving maxim, that any text of Scripture is abrogated or modified by any subsequent passage. The word of God, and of the apostle, was diligently recorded by his disciples on palm-leaves and the shoulder-bones of mutton; and the pages, without order or connection, were cast into a domestic chest, in the custody of one of his wives. Two years after the death of Mahomet, the sacred volume was collected and published by his friend and successor Abubeker: the work was revised by the caliph Othman, in the thirtieth year of the Hegira; and the various editions of the Koran assert the same miraculous privilege of a uniform and incorruptible text. In the spirit of enthusiasm or vanity, the prophet rests the truth of his mission on the merit of his book; audaciously challenges both men and angels to imitate the beauties of a single page; and presumes to assert that God alone could dictate this incomparable performance.61846184 Koran, c. 17, v. 89. In Sale, p. 235, 236. In Maracci, p. 410. * Note: Compare Von Hammer Geschichte der Assassinen p. 11.-M. This argument is most powerfully addressed to a devout Arabian, whose mind is attuned to faith and rapture; whose ear is delighted by the music of sounds; and whose ignorance is incapable of comparing the productions of human genius. 61856185 Yet a sect of Arabians was persuaded, that it might be equalled or surpassed by a human pen, (Pocock, Specimen, p. 221, &c.;) and Maracci (the polemic is too hard for the translator) derides the rhyming affectation of the most applauded passage, (tom. i. part ii. p. 69-75.) The harmony and copiousness of style will not reach, in a version, the European infidel: he will peruse with impatience the endless incoherent rhapsody of fable, and precept, and declamation, which seldom excites a sentiment or an idea, which sometimes crawls in the dust, and is sometimes lost in the clouds. The divine attributes exalt the fancy of the Arabian missionary; but his loftiest strains must yield to the sublime simplicity of the book of Job, composed in a remote age, in the same country, and in the same language.61866186 Colloquia (whether real or fabulous) in media Arabia atque ab Arabibus habita, (Lowth, de Poesi Hebraeorum. Praelect. xxxii. xxxiii. xxxiv, with his German editor, Michaelis, Epimetron iv.) Yet Michaelis (p. 671-673) has detected many Egyptian images, the elephantiasis, papyrus, Nile, crocodile, &c. The language is ambiguously styled Arabico-Hebraea. The resemblance of the sister dialects was much more visible in their childhood, than in their mature age, (Michaelis, p. 682. Schultens, in Praefat. Job.) * Note: The age of the book of Job is still and probably will still be disputed. Rosenmuller thus states his own opinion: "Certe serioribus reipublicae temporibus assignandum esse librum, suadere videtur ad Chaldaismum vergens sermo." Yet the observations of Kosegarten, which Rosenmuller has given in a note, and common reason, suggest that this Chaldaism may be the native form of a much earlier dialect; or the Chaldaic may have adopted the poetical archaisms of a dialect, differing from, but not less ancient than, the Hebrew. See Rosenmuller, Proleg. on Job, p. 41. The poetry appears to me to belong to a much earlier period.—M. If the composition of the Koran exceed the faculties of a man to what superior intelligence should we ascribe the Iliad of Homer, or the Philippics of Demosthenes? In all religions, the life of the founder supplies the silence of his written revelation: the sayings of Mahomet were so many lessons of truth; his actions so many examples of virtue; and the public and private memorials were preserved by his wives and companions. At the end of two hundred years, the Sonna, or oral law, was fixed and consecrated by the labors of Al Bochari, who discriminated seven thousand two hundred and seventy-five genuine traditions, from a mass of three hundred thousand reports, of a more doubtful or spurious character. Each day the pious author prayed in the temple of Mecca, and performed his ablutions with the water of Zemzem: the pages were successively deposited on the pulpit and the sepulchre of the apostle; and the work has been approved by the four orthodox sects of the Sonnites.61876187 Ali Bochari died A. H. 224. See D'Herbelot, p. 208, 416, 827. Gagnier, Not. ad Abulfed. c. 19, p. 33.
The mission of the ancient prophets, of Moses and of Jesus had been confirmed by many splendid prodigies; and Mahomet was repeatedly urged, by the inhabitants of Mecca and Medina, to produce a similar evidence of his divine legation; to call down from heaven the angel or the volume of his revelation, to create a garden in the desert, or to kindle a conflagration in the unbelieving city. As often as he is pressed by the demands of the Koreish, he involves himself in the obscure boast of vision and prophecy, appeals to the internal proofs of his doctrine, and shields himself behind the providence of God, who refuses those signs and wonders that would depreciate the merit of faith, and aggravate the guilt of infidelity But the modest or angry tone of his apologies betrays his weakness and vexation; and these passages of scandal established, beyond suspicion, the integrity of the Koran.61886188 See, more remarkably, Koran, c. 2, 6, 12, 13, 17. Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, p. 18, 19) has confounded the impostor. Maracci, with a more learned apparatus, has shown that the passages which deny his miracles are clear and positive, (Alcoran, tom. i. part ii. p. 7-12,) and those which seem to assert them are ambiguous and insufficient, (p. 12-22.) The votaries of Mahomet are more assured than himself of his miraculous gifts; and their confidence and credulity increase as they are farther removed from the time and place of his spiritual exploits. They believe or affirm that trees went forth to meet him; that he was saluted by stones; that water gushed from his fingers; that he fed the hungry, cured the sick, and raised the dead; that a beam groaned to him; that a camel complained to him; that a shoulder of mutton informed him of its being poisoned; and that both animate and inanimate nature were equally subject to the apostle of God.61896189 See the Specimen Hist. Arabum, the text of Abulpharagius, p. 17, the notes of Pocock, p. 187-190. D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 76, 77. Voyages de Chardin, tom. iv. p. 200-203. Maracci (Alcoran, tom. i. p. 22-64) has most laboriously collected and confuted the miracles and prophecies of Mahomet, which, according to some writers, amount to three thousand. His dream of a nocturnal journey is seriously described as a real and corporeal transaction. A mysterious animal, the Borak, conveyed him from the temple of Mecca to that of Jerusalem: with his companion Gabriel he successively ascended the seven heavens, and received and repaid the salutations of the patriarchs, the prophets, and the angels, in their respective mansions. Beyond the seventh heaven, Mahomet alone was permitted to proceed; he passed the veil of unity, approached within two bow-shots of the throne, and felt a cold that pierced him to the heart, when his shoulder was touched by the hand of God. After this familiar, though important conversation, he again descended to Jerusalem, remounted the Borak, returned to Mecca, and performed in the tenth part of a night the journey of many thousand years.61906190 The nocturnal journey is circumstantially related by Abulfeda (in Vit. Mohammed, c. 19, p. 33,) who wishes to think it a vision; by Prideaux, (p. 31-40,) who aggravates the absurdities; and by Gagnier (tom. i. p. 252-343,) who declares, from the zealous Al Jannabi, that to deny this journey, is to disbelieve the Koran. Yet the Koran without naming either heaven, or Jerusalem, or Mecca, has only dropped a mysterious hint: Laus illi qui transtulit servum suum ab oratorio Haram ad oratorium remotissimum, (Koran, c. 17, v. 1; in Maracci, tom. ii. p. 407; for Sale's version is more licentious.) A slender basis for the aerial structure of tradition. According to another legend, the apostle confounded in a national assembly the malicious challenge of the Koreish. His resistless word split asunder the orb of the moon: the obedient planet stooped from her station in the sky, accomplished the seven revolutions round the Caaba, saluted Mahomet in the Arabian tongue, and, suddenly contracting her dimensions, entered at the collar, and issued forth through the sleeve, of his shirt.61916191 In the prophetic style, which uses the present or past for the future, Mahomet had said, Appropinquavit hora, et scissa est luna, (Koran, c. 54, v. 1; in Maracci, tom. ii. p. 688.) This figure of rhetoric has been converted into a fact, which is said to be attested by the most respectable eye-witnesses, (Maracci, tom. ii. p. 690.) The festival is still celebrated by the Persians, (Chardin, tom. iv. p. 201;) and the legend is tediously spun out by Gagnier, (Vie de Mahomet, tom. i. p. 183-234,) on the faith, as it should seem, of the credulous Al Jannabi. Yet a Mahometan doctor has arraigned the credit of the principal witness, (apud Pocock, Specimen, p. 187;) the best interpreters are content with the simple sense of the Koran. (Al Beidawi, apud Hottinger, Hist. Orient. l. ii. p. 302;) and the silence of Abulfeda is worthy of a prince and a philosopher. * Note: Compare Hamaker Notes to Inc. Auct. Lib. de Exped. Memphides, p. 62—M. The vulgar are amused with these marvellous tales; but the gravest of the Mussulman doctors imitate the modesty of their master, and indulge a latitude of faith or interpretation.61926192 Abulpharagius, in Specimen Hist. Arab. p. 17; and his scepticism is justified in the notes of Pocock, p. 190-194, from the purest authorities. They might speciously allege, that in preaching the religion it was needless to violate the harmony of nature; that a creed unclouded with mystery may be excused from miracles; and that the sword of Mahomet was not less potent than the rod of Moses.
The polytheist is oppressed and distracted by the variety of superstition: a thousand rites of Egyptian origin were interwoven with the essence of the Mosaic law; and the spirit of the gospel had evaporated in the pageantry of the church. The prophet of Mecca was tempted by prejudice, or policy, or patriotism, to sanctify the rites of the Arabians, and the custom of visiting the holy stone of the Caaba. But the precepts of Mahomet himself inculcates a more simple and rational piety: prayer, fasting, and alms, are the religious duties of a Mussulman; and he is encouraged to hope, that prayer will carry him half way to God, fasting will bring him to the door of his palace, and alms will gain him admittance.61936193 The most authentic account of these precepts, pilgrimage, prayer, fasting, alms, and ablutions, is extracted from the Persian and Arabian theologians by Maracci, (Prodrom. part iv. p. 9-24,) Reland, (in his excellent treatise de Religione Mohammedica, Utrecht, 1717, p. 67-123,) and Chardin, (Voyages in Perse, tom. iv. p. 47-195.) Marace is a partial accuser; but the jeweller, Chardin, had the eyes of a philosopher; and Reland, a judicious student, had travelled over the East in his closet at Utrecht. The xivth letter of Tournefort (Voyage du Levont, tom. ii. p. 325-360, in octavo) describes what he had seen of the religion of the Turks. I. According to the tradition of the nocturnal journey, the apostle, in his personal conference with the Deity, was commanded to impose on his disciples the daily obligation of fifty prayers. By the advice of Moses, he applied for an alleviation of this intolerable burden; the number was gradually reduced to five; without any dispensation of business or pleasure, or time or place: the devotion of the faithful is repeated at daybreak, at noon, in the afternoon, in the evening, and at the first watch of the night; and in the present decay of religious fervor, our travellers are edified by the profound humility and attention of the Turks and Persians. Cleanliness is the key of prayer: the frequent lustration of the hands, the face, and the body, which was practised of old by the Arabs, is solemnly enjoined by the Koran; and a permission is formally granted to supply with sand the scarcity of water. The words and attitudes of supplication, as it is performed either sitting, or standing, or prostrate on the ground, are prescribed by custom or authority; but the prayer is poured forth in short and fervent ejaculations; the measure of zeal is not exhausted by a tedious liturgy; and each Mussulman for his own person is invested with the character of a priest. Among the theists, who reject the use of images, it has been found necessary to restrain the wanderings of the fancy, by directing the eye and the thought towards a kebla, or visible point of the horizon. The prophet was at first inclined to gratify the Jews by the choice of Jerusalem; but he soon returned to a more natural partiality; and five times every day the eyes of the nations at Astracan, at Fez, at Delhi, are devoutly turned to the holy temple of Mecca. Yet every spot for the service of God is equally pure: the Mahometans indifferently pray in their chamber or in the street. As a distinction from the Jews and Christians, the Friday in each week is set apart for the useful institution of public worship: the people is assembled in the mosch; and the imam, some respectable elder, ascends the pulpit, to begin the prayer and pronounce the sermon. But the Mahometan religion is destitute of priesthood or sacrifice; and the independent spirit of fanaticism looks down with contempt on the ministers and the slaves of superstition.61946194 Such is Mahometanism beyond the precincts of the Holy City. But Mahomet retained, and the Koran sanctions, (Sale's Koran, c. 5, in inlt. c. 22, vol. ii. p. 171, 172,) the sacrifice of sheep and camels (probably according to the old Arabian rites) at Mecca; and the pilgrims complete their ceremonial with sacrifices, sometimes as numerous and costly as those of King Solomon. Compare note, vol. iv. c. xxiii. p. 96, and Forster's Mahometanism Unveiled, vol. i. p. 420. This author quotes the questionable authority of Benjamin of Tudela, for the sacrifice of a camel by the caliph at Bosra; but sacrifice undoubtedly forms no part of the ordinary Mahometan ritual; nor will the sanctity of the caliph, as the earthly representative of the prophet, bear any close analogy to the priesthood of the Mosaic or Gentila religions.—M.
II. The voluntary61956195 Mahomet (Sale's Koran, c. 9, p. 153) reproaches the Christians with taking their priests and monks for their lords, besides God. Yet Maracci (Prodromus, part iii. p. 69, 70) excuses the worship, especially of the pope, and quotes, from the Koran itself, the case of Eblis, or Satan, who was cast from heaven for refusing to adore Adam. penance of the ascetics, the torment and glory of their lives, was odious to a prophet who censured in his companions a rash vow of abstaining from flesh, and women, and sleep; and firmly declared, that he would suffer no monks in his religion.61966196 Koran, c. 5, p. 94, and Sale's note, which refers to the authority of Jallaloddin and Al Beidawi. D'Herbelot declares, that Mahomet condemned la vie religieuse; and that the first swarms of fakirs, dervises, &c., did not appear till after the year 300 of the Hegira, (Bibliot. Orient. p. 292, 718.) Yet he instituted, in each year, a fast of thirty days; and strenuously recommended the observance as a discipline which purifies the soul and subdues the body, as a salutary exercise of obedience to the will of God and his apostle. During the month of Ramadan, from the rising to the setting of the sun, the Mussulman abstains from eating, and drinking, and women, and baths, and perfumes; from all nourishment that can restore his strength, from all pleasure that can gratify his senses. In the revolution of the lunar year, the Ramadan coincides, by turns, with the winter cold and the summer heat; and the patient martyr, without assuaging his thirst with a drop of water, must expect the close of a tedious and sultry day. The interdiction of wine, peculiar to some orders of priests or hermits, is converted by Mahomet alone into a positive and general law;61976197 See the double prohibition, (Koran, c. 2, p. 25, c. 5, p. 94;) the one in the style of a legislator, the other in that of a fanatic. The public and private motives of Mahomet are investigated by Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, p. 62-64) and Sale, (Preliminary Discourse, p. 124.) and a considerable portion of the globe has abjured, at his command, the use of that salutary, though dangerous, liquor. These painful restraints are, doubtless, infringed by the libertine, and eluded by the hypocrite; but the legislator, by whom they are enacted, cannot surely be accused of alluring his proselytes by the indulgence of their sensual appetites. III. The charity of the Mahometans descends to the animal creation; and the Koran repeatedly inculcates, not as a merit, but as a strict and indispensable duty, the relief of the indigent and unfortunate. Mahomet, perhaps, is the only lawgiver who has defined the precise measure of charity: the standard may vary with the degree and nature of property, as it consists either in money, in corn or cattle, in fruits or merchandise; but the Mussulman does not accomplish the law, unless he bestows a tenth of his revenue; and if his conscience accuses him of fraud or extortion, the tenth, under the idea of restitution, is enlarged to a fifth.61986198 The jealousy of Maracci (Prodromus, part iv. p. 33) prompts him to enumerate the more liberal alms of the Catholics of Rome. Fifteen great hospitals are open to many thousand patients and pilgrims; fifteen hundred maidens are annually portioned; fifty-six charity schools are founded for both sexes; one hundred and twenty confraternities relieve the wants of their brethren, &c. The benevolence of London is still more extensive; but I am afraid that much more is to be ascribed to the humanity, than to the religion, of the people. Benevolence is the foundation of justice, since we are forbid to injure those whom we are bound to assist. A prophet may reveal the secrets of heaven and of futurity; but in his moral precepts he can only repeat the lessons of our own hearts.
The two articles of belief, and the four practical duties, of Islam, are guarded by rewards and punishments; and the faith of the Mussulman is devoutly fixed on the event of the judgment and the last day. The prophet has not presumed to determine the moment of that awful catastrophe, though he darkly announces the signs, both in heaven and earth, which will precede the universal dissolution, when life shall be destroyed, and the order of creation shall be confounded in the primitive chaos. At the blast of the trumpet, new worlds will start into being: angels, genii, and men will arise from the dead, and the human soul will again be united to the body. The doctrine of the resurrection was first entertained by the Egyptians;61996199 See Herodotus (l. ii. c. 123) and our learned countryman Sir John Marsham, (Canon. Chronicus, p. 46.) The same writer (p. 254-274) is an elaborate sketch of the infernal regions, as they were painted by the fancy of the Egyptians and Greeks, of the poets and philosophers of antiquity. and their mummies were embalmed, their pyramids were constructed, to preserve the ancient mansion of the soul, during a period of three thousand years. But the attempt is partial and unavailing; and it is with a more philosophic spirit that Mahomet relies on the omnipotence of the Creator, whose word can reanimate the breathless clay, and collect the innumerable atoms, that no longer retain their form or substance.62006200 The Koran (c. 2, p. 259, &c.; of Sale, p. 32; of Maracci, p. 97) relates an ingenious miracle, which satisfied the curiosity, and confirmed the faith, of Abraham. The intermediate state of the soul it is hard to decide; and those who most firmly believe her immaterial nature, are at a loss to understand how she can think or act without the agency of the organs of sense.
The reunion of the soul and body will be followed by the final judgment of mankind; and in his copy of the Magian picture, the prophet has too faithfully represented the forms of proceeding, and even the slow and successive operations, of an earthly tribunal. By his intolerant adversaries he is upbraided for extending, even to themselves, the hope of salvation, for asserting the blackest heresy, that every man who believes in God, and accomplishes good works, may expect in the last day a favorable sentence. Such rational indifference is ill adapted to the character of a fanatic; nor is it probable that a messenger from heaven should depreciate the value and necessity of his own revelation. In the idiom of the Koran,62016201 The candid Reland has demonstrated, that Mahomet damns all unbelievers, (de Religion. Moham. p. 128-142;) that devils will not be finally saved, (p. 196-199;) that paradise will not solely consist of corporeal delights, (p. 199-205;) and that women's souls are immortal. (p. 205-209.) the belief of God is inseparable from that of Mahomet: the good works are those which he has enjoined, and the two qualifications imply the profession of Islam, to which all nations and all sects are equally invited.
Their spiritual blindness, though excused by ignorance and crowned with virtue, will be scourged with everlasting torments; and the tears which Mahomet shed over the tomb of his mother for whom he was forbidden to pray, display a striking contrast of humanity and enthusiasm.62026202 A Beidawi, apud Sale. Koran, c. 9, p. 164. The refusal to pray for an unbelieving kindred is justified, according to Mahomet, by the duty of a prophet, and the example of Abraham, who reprobated his own father as an enemy of God. Yet Abraham (he adds, c. 9, v. 116. Maracci, tom. ii. p. 317) fuit sane pius, mitis. The doom of the infidels is common: the measure of their guilt and punishment is determined by the degree of evidence which they have rejected, by the magnitude of the errors which they have entertained: the eternal mansions of the Christians, the Jews, the Sabians, the Magians, and idolaters, are sunk below each other in the abyss; and the lowest hell is reserved for the faithless hypocrites who have assumed the mask of religion. After the greater part of mankind has been condemned for their opinions, the true believers only will be judged by their actions. The good and evil of each Mussulman will be accurately weighed in a real or allegorical balance; and a singular mode of compensation will be allowed for the payment of injuries: the aggressor will refund an equivalent of his own good actions, for the benefit of the person whom he has wronged; and if he should be destitute of any moral property, the weight of his sins will be loaded with an adequate share of the demerits of the sufferer. According as the shares of guilt or virtue shall preponderate, the sentence will be pronounced, and all, without distinction, will pass over the sharp and perilous bridge of the abyss; but the innocent, treading in the footsteps of Mahomet, will gloriously enter the gates of paradise, while the guilty will fall into the first and mildest of the seven hells. The term of expiation will vary from nine hundred to seven thousand years; but the prophet has judiciously promised, that all his disciples, whatever may be their sins, shall be saved, by their own faith and his intercession from eternal damnation. It is not surprising that superstition should act most powerfully on the fears of her votaries, since the human fancy can paint with more energy the misery than the bliss of a future life. With the two simple elements of darkness and fire, we create a sensation of pain, which may be aggravated to an infinite degree by the idea of endless duration. But the same idea operates with an opposite effect on the continuity of pleasure; and too much of our present enjoyments is obtained from the relief, or the comparison, of evil. It is natural enough that an Arabian prophet should dwell with rapture on the groves, the fountains, and the rivers of paradise; but instead of inspiring the blessed inhabitants with a liberal taste for harmony and science, conversation and friendship, he idly celebrates the pearls and diamonds, the robes of silk, palaces of marble, dishes of gold, rich wines, artificial dainties, numerous attendants, and the whole train of sensual and costly luxury, which becomes insipid to the owner, even in the short period of this mortal life. Seventy-two Houris, or black-eyed girls, of resplendent beauty, blooming youth, virgin purity, and exquisite sensibility, will be created for the use of the meanest believer; a moment of pleasure will be prolonged to a thousand years; and his faculties will be increased a hundred fold, to render him worthy of his felicity. Notwithstanding a vulgar prejudice, the gates of heaven will be open to both sexes; but Mahomet has not specified the male companions of the female elect, lest he should either alarm the jealousy of their former husbands, or disturb their felicity, by the suspicion of an everlasting marriage. This image of a carnal paradise has provoked the indignation, perhaps the envy, of the monks: they declaim against the impure religion of Mahomet; and his modest apologists are driven to the poor excuse of figures and allegories. But the sounder and more consistent party adhere without shame, to the literal interpretation of the Koran: useless would be the resurrection of the body, unless it were restored to the possession and exercise of its worthiest faculties; and the union of sensual and intellectual enjoyment is requisite to complete the happiness of the double animal, the perfect man. Yet the joys of the Mahometan paradise will not be confined to the indulgence of luxury and appetite; and the prophet has expressly declared that all meaner happiness will be forgotten and despised by the saints and martyrs, who shall be admitted to the beatitude of the divine vision.62036203 For the day of judgment, hell, paradise, &c., consult the Koran, (c. 2, v. 25, c. 56, 78, &c.;) with Maracci's virulent, but learned, refutation, (in his notes, and in the Prodromus, part iv. p. 78, 120, 122, &c.;) D'Herbelot, (Bibliotheque Orientale, p. 368, 375;) Reland, (p. 47-61;) and Sale, (p. 76-103.) The original ideas of the Magi are darkly and doubtfully explored by their apologist, Dr. Hyde, (Hist. Religionis Persarum, c. 33, p. 402-412, Oxon. 1760.) In the article of Mahomet, Bayle has shown how indifferently wit and philosophy supply the absence of genuine information.
The first and most arduous conquests of Mahomet62046204 Before I enter on the history of the prophet, it is incumbent on me to produce my evidence. The Latin, French, and English versions of the Koran are preceded by historical discourses, and the three translators, Maracci, (tom. i. p. 10-32,) Savary, (tom. i. p. 1-248,) and Sale, (Preliminary Discourse, p. 33-56,) had accurately studied the language and character of their author. Two professed Lives of Mahomet have been composed by Dr. Prideaux (Life of Mahomet, seventh edition, London, 1718, in octavo) and the count de Boulainvilliers, (Vie de Mahomed, Londres, 1730, in octavo: ) but the adverse wish of finding an impostor or a hero, has too often corrupted the learning of the doctor and the ingenuity of the count. The article in D'Herbelot (Bibliot. Orient. p. 598-603) is chiefly drawn from Novairi and Mirkond; but the best and most authentic of our guides is M. Gagnier, a Frenchman by birth, and professor at Oxford of the Oriental tongues. In two elaborate works, (Ismael Abulfeda de Vita et Rebus gestis Mohammedis, &c. Latine vertit, Praefatione et Notis illustravit Johannes Gagnier, Oxon. 1723, in folio. La Vie de Mahomet traduite et compilee de l'Alcoran, des Traditions Authentiques de la Sonna et des meilleurs Auteurs Arabes; Amsterdam, 1748, 3 vols. in 12mo.,) he has interpreted, illustrated, and supplied the Arabic text of Abulfeda and Al Jannabi; the first, an enlightened prince who reigned at Hamah, in Syria, A.D. 1310-1332, (see Gagnier Praefat. ad Abulfed.;) the second, a credulous doctor, who visited Mecca A.D. 1556. (D'Herbelot, p. 397. Gagnier, tom. iii. p. 209, 210.) These are my general vouchers, and the inquisitive reader may follow the order of time, and the division of chapters. Yet I must observe that both Abulfeda and Al Jannabi are modern historians, and that they cannot appeal to any writers of the first century of the Hegira. * Note: A new Life, by Dr. Weil, (Stuttgart. 1843,) has added some few traditions unknown in Europe. Of Dr. Weil's Arabic scholarship, which professes to correct many errors in Gagnier, in Maracci, and in M. von Hammer, I am no judge. But it is remarkable that he does not seem acquainted with the passage of Tabari, translated by Colonel Vans Kennedy, in the Bombay Transactions, (vol. iii.,) the earliest and most important addition made to the traditionary Life of Mahomet. I am inclined to think Colonel Vans Kennedy's appreciation of the prophet's character, which may be overlooked in a criticism on Voltaire's Mahomet, the most just which I have ever read. The work of Dr. Weil appears to me most valuable in its dissection and chronological view of the Koran.—M. 1845 were those of his wife, his servant, his pupil, and his friend;62056205 After the Greeks, Prideaux (p. 8) discloses the secret doubts of the wife of Mahomet. As if he had been a privy counsellor of the prophet, Boulainvilliers (p. 272, &c.) unfolds the sublime and patriotic views of Cadijah and the first disciples. since he presented himself as a prophet to those who were most conversant with his infirmities as a man. Yet Cadijah believed the words, and cherished the glory, of her husband; the obsequious and affectionate Zeid was tempted by the prospect of freedom; the illustrious Ali, the son of Abu Taleb, embraced the sentiments of his cousin with the spirit of a youthful hero; and the wealth, the moderation, the veracity of Abubeker confirmed the religion of the prophet whom he was destined to succeed. By his persuasion, ten of the most respectable citizens of Mecca were introduced to the private lessons of Islam; they yielded to the voice of reason and enthusiasm; they repeated the fundamental creed, "There is but one God, and Mahomet is the apostle of God;" and their faith, even in this life, was rewarded with riches and honors, with the command of armies and the government of kingdoms. Three years were silently employed in the conversion of fourteen proselytes, the first-fruits of his mission; but in the fourth year he assumed the prophetic office, and resolving to impart to his family the light of divine truth, he prepared a banquet, a lamb, as it is said, and a bowl of milk, for the entertainment of forty guests of the race of Hashem. "Friends and kinsmen," said Mahomet to the assembly, "I offer you, and I alone can offer, the most precious of gifts, the treasures of this world and of the world to come. God has commanded me to call you to his service. Who among you will support my burden? Who among you will be my companion and my vizier?"62066206 Vezirus, portitor, bajulus, onus ferens; and this plebeian name was transferred by an apt metaphor to the pillars of the state, (Gagnier, Not. ad Abulfed. p. 19.) I endeavor to preserve the Arabian idiom, as far as I can feel it myself in a Latin or French translation. No answer was returned, till the silence of astonishment, and doubt, and contempt, was at length broken by the impatient courage of Ali, a youth in the fourteenth year of his age. "O prophet, I am the man: whosoever rises against thee, I will dash out his teeth, tear out his eyes, break his legs, rip up his belly. O prophet, I will be thy vizier over them." Mahomet accepted his offer with transport, and Abu Taled was ironically exhorted to respect the superior dignity of his son. In a more serious tone, the father of Ali advised his nephew to relinquish his impracticable design.
"Spare your remonstrances," replied the intrepid fanatic to his uncle and benefactor; "if they should place the sun on my right hand, and the moon on my left, they should not divert me from my course." He persevered ten years in the exercise of his mission; and the religion which has overspread the East and the West advanced with a slow and painful progress within the walls of Mecca. Yet Mahomet enjoyed the satisfaction of beholding the increase of his infant congregation of Unitarians, who revered him as a prophet, and to whom he seasonably dispensed the spiritual nourishment of the Koran. The number of proselytes may be esteemed by the absence of eighty-three men and eighteen women, who retired to Aethiopia in the seventh year of his mission; and his party was fortified by the timely conversion of his uncle Hamza, and of the fierce and inflexible Omar, who signalized in the cause of Islam the same zeal, which he had exerted for its destruction. Nor was the charity of Mahomet confined to the tribe of Koreish, or the precincts of Mecca: on solemn festivals, in the days of pilgrimage, he frequented the Caaba, accosted the strangers of every tribe, and urged, both in private converse and public discourse, the belief and worship of a sole Deity. Conscious of his reason and of his weakness, he asserted the liberty of conscience, and disclaimed the use of religious violence:62076207 The passages of the Koran in behalf of toleration are strong and numerous: c. 2, v. 257, c. 16, 129, c. 17, 54, c. 45, 15, c. 50, 39, c. 88, 21, &c., with the notes of Maracci and Sale. This character alone may generally decide the doubts of the learned, whether a chapter was revealed at Mecca or Medina. but he called the Arabs to repentance, and conjured them to remember the ancient idolaters of Ad and Thamud, whom the divine justice had swept away from the face of the earth.62086208 See the Koran, (passim, and especially c. 7, p. 123, 124, &c.,) and the tradition of the Arabs, (Pocock, Specimen, p. 35-37.) The caverns of the tribe of Thamud, fit for men of the ordinary stature, were shown in the midway between Medina and Damascus. (Abulfed Arabiae Descript. p. 43, 44,) and may be probably ascribed to the Throglodytes of the primitive world, (Michaelis, ad Lowth de Poesi Hebraeor. p. 131-134. Recherches sur les Egyptiens, tom. ii. p. 48, &c.)
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