History Related to the Rise Islam and and the Koran
Of the Arabs before Mohammed; or, as they express it, in the Time of Ignorance; their History, Religion, Learning, and Customs
II. Of the State of Christianity, particularly of the Eastern Churches, and of Judaism, at time of Mohammed's appearance; and of the methods taken by him for the establishing his Religion, and the circumstances which concurred thereto
III. Of the Koran itself, the Peculiarities of that Book; the manner of its being written and published, and the General Design of it
IV. Of the Doctrines and positive Precepts of the Koran which relate to Faith and Religious Duties
V. Of certain Negative Precepts in the Koran
VI. Of the Institutions of the Koran in Civil Affairs
VII. Of the Months commanded by the Koran to be kept Sacred; and of the setting apart of Friday for the especial service of God
VIII. Of the principal Sects among the Mohammedans; and of those who have pretended to Prophecy among the Arabs, in or since the time of Mohammed
THE PRELIMINARY DISCOURSE
OF THE ARABS BEFORE MOHAMMED; OR, AS THEY EXPRESS IT, IN THE TIME OF IGNORANCE; THEIR HISTORY, RELIGION, LEARNING, AND CUSTOMS
THE Arabs, and the country they inhabit, which themselves call Jezirat al Arab, or the Peninsula of the Arabians, but we Arabia, were so named from Araba, a small territory in the province of Tehâma; to which Yarab the son of Kahtân, the father of the ancient Arabs, gave his name, and where, some ages after, dwelt Ismael the son of Abraham by Hagar. The Christian writers for several centuries speak of them under the appellation of Saracens; the most certain derivation of which word is from shark, the east, where the descendants of Joctan, the Kahtân of the Arabs, are placed by Moses, and in which quarter they dwelt in respect to the Jews.
The name of Arabia (used in a more extensive sense) sometimes comprehends all that large tract of land bounded by the river Euphrates, the Persian Gulf, the Sindian, Indian, and Red Seas, and part of the Mediterranean: above two- thirds of which country, that is, Arabia properly so called, the Arabs have possessed almost from the Flood; and have made themselves masters of the rest, either by settlements or continual incursions; for which reason the Turks and Persians at this day call the whole Arabistân, or the country of the Arabs.
But the limits of Arabia, in its more usual and proper sense, are much narrower, as reaching no farther northward than the Isthmus, which runs from Aila to the head of the Persian Gulf, and the borders of the territory of Cufa; which tract of land the Greeks nearly comprehended under the name of Arabia the Happy. The eastern geographers make Arabia Petraea to belong partly to Egypt, and partly to Shâm or Syria, and the desert Arabia they call the deserts of Syria.
Proper Arabia is by the oriental writers generally divided into five provinces, viz., Yaman, Hejâz, Tehâma, Najd, and Yamâma; to whichsome add Bahrein, as a sixth, but this province the more exact make part of Irak; others reduce them all to two, Yaman and Hejâz, the last including the three other provinces of Tehâma, Najd, and Yamâma.
The province of Yaman, so called either from its situation to the right hand, or south of the temple of Mecca, or else from the happiness and verdure of its soil, extends itself along the Indian Ocean from Aden to Cape Rasalgat; part of the Red Sea bounds it on the west and south sides, and the province of Hejâz on the north. It is subdivided into several lesser provinces, as Hadramaut, Shihr, Omân, Najrân, &c., of which Shihr alone produces the frankincense. The metropolis of Yaman is Sanaa, a very ancient city, in former times called Ozal, and much celebrated for its delightful situation; but the prince at present resides about five leagues northward from thence, at a place no less pleasant, called Hisn almawâheb, or the Castle of delights.
This country has been famous from all antiquity for the happiness of its climate, its fertility and riches, which induced Alexander the Great, after his return from his Indian expedition, to form a design of conquering it, and fixing there his royal seat; but his death, which happened soon after, prevented the execution of this project. Yet, in reality, great part of the riches which the ancients imagined were the produce of Arabia, came really from the Indies and the coasts of Africa; for the Egyptians, who had engrossed that trade, which was then carried on by way of the Red Sea, to themselves, industriously concealed the truth of the matter, and kept their ports shut to prevent foreigners penetrating into those countries, or receiving any information thence; and this precaution of theirs on the one side, and the deserts, unpassable to strangers, on the other, were the reason why Arabia was so little known to the Greeks and Romans. The delightfulness and plenty of Yaman are owing to its mountains; for all that part which lies along the Red Sea is a dry, barren desert, in some places ten or twelve leagues over, but in return bounded by those mountains, which being well watered, enjoy an almost continual spring, and, besides coffee, the peculiar produce of this country, yield great plenty and variety of fruits, and in particular excellent corn, grapes, and spices. There are no rivers of note in this country, for the streams which at certain times of the year descend from the mountains, seldom reach the sea, being for the most part drunk up and lost in the burning sands of that coast.
The soil of the other provinces is much more barren than that of Yaman; the greater part of their territories being covered with dry sands, or rising into rocks, interspersed here and there with some fruitful spots, which receive their greatest advantages from their water and palm trees. The province of Hejâz, so named because it divides Najd from Tehâma, is bounded on the south by Yaman and Tehâma, on the west by the Red Sea, on the north by the deserts of Syria, and on the east by the province of Najd. This province is famous for its two chief cities, Mecca and Medina, one of which is celebrated for its temple, and having given birth to Mohammed; and the other for being the place of his residence for the last ten years of his life, and of his interment.
Mecca, sometimes also called Becca, which words are synonymous, and signify a place of great concourse, is certainly one of the most ancient cities of the world: it is by some thought to be the Mesa of the scripture, a name not unknown to the Arabians, and supposed to be taken form one of Ismael's sons. It is seated in a stony and barren valley, surrounded on all sides with mountains. The length of Mecca from south to north is about two miles, and its breadth from the foot of the mountain Ajyad, to the top of another called Koaikaân, about a mile. In the midst of this space stands the city, built of stone cut from the neighbouring mountains. There being no springs at Mecca, at least none but what are bitter and unfit to drink, except only the well Zemzem, the water of which, though far the best, yet cannot be drank of any continuance, being brackish, and causing eruptions in those who drink plentifully of it, the inhabitants are obliged to use rain-water which they catch in cisterns. But this not being sufficient, several attempts were made to bring water thither from other places by aqueducts; and particularly about Mohammed's time, Zobair, one of the principal men of the tribe of Koreish, endeavoured at a great expense to supply the city with water from Mount Arafat, but without success; yet this was effected not many years ago, being begun at the charge of a wife of Solimân the Turkish emperor. But long before this, another aqueduct had been made from a spring at a considerable distance, which was, after several years' labour, finished by the Khalif al Moktader.
The soil about Mecca is so very barren as to produce no fruits but what are common in the deserts, though the prince or Sharif has a garden well planted at his castle of Marbaa, about three miles westward from the city, where he usually resides. Having therefore no corn or grain of their own growth, they are obliged to fetch it from other places; and Hashem, Mohammed's great- grandfather, then prince of his tribe, the more effectually to supply them with provisions, appointed two caravans to set out yearly for that purpose, the one in summer, and the other in winter: these caravans of purveyors are mentioned in the Koran. The provisions brought by them were distributed also twice a year, viz., in the month of Rajeb, and at the arrival of the pilgrims. They are supplied with dates in great plenty from the adjacent country, and with grapes from Tayef, about sixty miles distant, very few growing at Mecca. The inhabitants of this city are generally very rich, being considerable gainers by the prodigious concourse of people of almost all nations at the yearly pilgrimage, at which time there is a great fair or mart for all kinds of merchandise. They have also great numbers of cattle, and particularly of camels: however, the poorer sort cannot but live very indifferently in a place where almost every necessary of life must be purchased with money. Notwithstanding this great sterility near Mecca, yet you are no sooner out of its territory than you meet on all sides with plenty of good springs and streams of running water, with a great many gardens and cultivated lands.
The temple of Mecca, and the reputed holiness of this territory, will be treated of in a more proper place.
Medina, which till Mohammed's retreat thither was called Yathreb, is a walled city about half as big as Mecca, built in a plain, salt in many places, yet tolerably fruitful, particularly in dates, but more especially near the mountains, two of which, Ohod on the north, and Air on the south, are about two leagues distant. Here lies Mohammed interred in a magnificent building, covered with a cupola, and adjoining to the east side of the great temple, which is built in the midst of the city.
The province of Tehâma was so named from the vehement heat of its sandy soil, and is also called Gaur from its low situation; it is bounded on the west by the Red Sea, and on the other sides by Hejâz and Yaman, extending almost from Mecca to Aden.
The province of Najd, which word signifies a rising country, lies between those of Yamâma, Yaman, and Hejâz, and is bounded on the east by Irak.
The province of Yamâma, also called Arud from its oblique situation, in respect of Yaman, is surrounded by the provinces of Najd, Tehâma, Bahrein, Omân, Shihr, Hadramaut, and Saba. The chief city is Yamâma, which gives name to the province: it was anciently called Jaw, and is particularly famous for being the residence of Mohammed's competitor, the false prophet Moseilama.
The Arabians, the inhabitants of this spacious country, which they have possessed from the most remote antiquity, are distinguished by their own writers into two classes, viz., the old lost Arabians, and the present.
The former were very numerous, and divided into several tribes, which are now all destroyed, or else lost and swallowed up among the other tribes, nor are any certain memoirs or records extant concerning them; though the memory of some very remarkable events and the catastrophe of some tribes have been preserved by tradition, and since confirmed by the authority of the Koran. The most famous tribes amongst these ancient Arabians were Ad, Thamud, Tasm, Jadis, the former Jorham, and Amalek. The tribe of Ad were descended from Ad, the son of Aws, the son of Aram, the son of Sem, the son of Noah, who, after the confusion of tongues, settled in al Ahkâf, or the winding sands in the province of Hadramaut, where his posterity greatly multiplied. Their first king was Shedâd the son of Ad, of whom the eastern writers deliver many fabulous things, particularly that he finished the magnificent city his father had begun, wherein he built a fine palace, adorned with delicious gardens, to embellish which he spared neither cost nor labour, proposing thereby to create in his subjects a superstitious veneration of himself as a god. This garden or paradise was called the garden of Irem, and is mentioned in the Koran, and often alluded to by the oriental writers. The city, they tell us, is still standing in the deserts of Aden, being preserved by providence as a monument of divine justice, though it be invisible, unless very rarely, when GOD permits it to be seen, a favour one Colabah pretended to have received in the reign of the Khalif Moâwiyah, who sending for him to know the truth of the matter, Colabah related his whole adventure; that as he was seeking a camel he had lost, he found himself on a sudden at the gates of this city, and entering it saw not one inhabitant, at which, being terrified, he stayed no longer than to take with him some fine stones which he showed the Khalif.
The descendants of Ad in process of time falling from the worship of the true God into idolatry, GOD sent the prophet Hud (who is generally agreed to be Heber) to preach to and reclaim them. But they refusing to acknowledge his mission, or to obey him, GOD sent a hot and suffocating wind, which blew seven nights and eight days together, and entering at their nostrils passed through their bodies. and destroyed them all, a very few only excepted, who had believed in Hud and retired with him to another place. That prophet afterwards returned into Hadramaut, and was buried near Hasec, where there is a small town now standing called Kabr Hud, or the sepulchre of Hud. Before the Adites were thus severely punished, GOD, to humble them, and incline them to hearken to the preaching of his prophet, afflicted them with a drought for four years, so that all their cattle perished, and themselves were very near it; upon which they sent Lokmân (different from one of the same name who lived in David's time) with sixty others to Mecca to beg rain, which they not obtaining, Lokmân with some of his company stayed at Mecca, and thereby escaped destruction, giving rise to a tribe called the latter Ad, who were afterward changed into monkeys.
Some commentators on the Koran tell us these old Adites were of prodigious stature, the largest being 100 cubits high, and the least 60; which extraordinary size they pretend to prove by the testimony of the Koran. The tribe of Thamud were the posterity of Thamud the son of Gather the son of Aram, who falling into idolatry, the prophet Sâleh was sent to bring them back to the worship of the true GOD. This prophet lived between the time of Hud and of Abraham, and therefore cannot be the same with the patriarch Sâleh, as Mr. d'Herbelot imagines. The learned Bochart with more probability takes him to be Phaleg. A small number of the people of Thamud hearkened to the remonstrances of Sâleh, but the rest requiring, as a proof of his mission, that he should cause a she-camel big with young to come out of a rock in their presence, he accordingly obtained it of GOD, and the camel was immediately delivered of a young one ready weaned; but they, instead of believing, cut the hamstrings of the camel and killed her; at which act of impiety GOD, being highly displeased, three days after struck them dead in their houses by an earthquake and a terrible noise from heaven, which, some say, was the voice of Gabriel the archangel crying aloud, "Die, all of you." Sâleh, with those who were reformed by him, were saved from this destruction; the prophet going into Palestine, and from thence to Mecca, where he ended his days.
This tribe first dwelt in Yaman, but being expelled thence by Hamyar the son of Sâba, they settled in the territory of Hejr in the province of Hejâz, where their habitations cut out of the rocks, mentioned in the Koran, are still to be seen, and also the crack of the rock whence the camel issued, which, as an eyewitness hath declared, is 60 cubits wide. These houses of the Thamudites being of the ordinary proportion, are used as an argument to convince those of a mistake who who this people to have been of a gigantic stature.
The tragical destructions of these two potent tribes are often insisted on in the Koran, as instances of GOD'S judgment on obstinate unbelievers.
The tribe of Tasm were the posterity of Lud the son of Sem, and Jadis of the descendants of Jether. These two tribes dwelt promiscuously together under the government of Tasm, till a certain tyrant made a law that no maid of the tribe of Jadis should marry unless first defloured by him; which the Jadisians not enduring, formed a conspiracy, and inviting the king and chiefs of Tasm to an entertainment, privately hid their swords in the sand, and in the midst of their mirth fell on them and slew them all, and extirpated the greatest part of that tribe; however, the few who escaped obtaining aid of the king of Yaman, then (as is said) Dhu Habshân Ebn Akrân, assaulted the Jadis and utterly destroyed them, there being scarce any mention made from that time of either of these tribes.
The former tribe of Jorham (whose ancestor some pretend was one of the eighty persons saved in the ark of Noah, according to a Mohammedan tradition) was contemporary with Ad, and utterly perished. The tribe of Amalek were descended from Amalek the son of Eliphaz the son of Esau, though some of the oriental authors say Amalek was the son of Ham the son of Noah, and others the son of Azd the son of Sem. The posterity of this person rendered themselves very powerful, and before the time of Joseph conquered the lower Egypt under their king Walid, the first who took the name of Pharaoh, as the eastern writers tell us; seeming by these Amalekites to mean the same people which the Egyptian histories call Phoenician shepherds. But after they had possessed the throne of Egypt for some descents, they were expelled by the natives, and at length totally destroyed by the Israelites.
The present Arabians, according to their own historians, are sprung from two stocks, Kahtân, the same with Joctan the son of Eber, and Adnân descended in a direct line from Ismael the son of Abraham and Hagar; the posterity of the former they call al Arab al Ariba, i.e., the genuine or pure Arabs, and those of the latter al Arab al mostareba, i.e., naturalized or institious Arabs, though some reckon the ancient lost tribes to have been the only pure Arabians, and therefore call the posterity of Kahtân also Mutareba, which word likewise signifies insititious Arabs, though in a nearer degree than Mostareba; the descendants of Ismael being the more distant graff.
The posterity of Ismael have no claim to be admitted as pure Arabs, their ancestor being by origin and language an Hebrew; but having made an alliance with the Jorhamites, by marrying a daughter of Modad, and accustomed himself to their manner of living and language, his descendants became blended with them into one nation. The uncertainty of the descents between Ismael and Adnân is the reason why they seldom trace their genealogies higher than the latter, whom they acknowledge as father of their tribes, the descents from him downwards being pretty certain and uncontroverted.
The genealogy of these tribes being of great use to illustrate the Arabian history, I have taken the pains to form a genealogical table from their most approved authors, to which I refer the curious.
Besides these tribes of Arabs mentioned by their own authors, who were all descended from the race of Sem, others of them were the posterity of Ham by his son Cush, which name is in scripture constantly given to the Arabs and their country, though our version renders it Ethiopia; but strictly speaking, the Cushites did not inhabit Arabia properly so called, but the banks of the Euphrates and the Persian Gulf, whither they came form Chuzestân or Susiana, the original settlement of their father. They might probably mix themselves in process of time with the Arabs of the other race, but the eastern writers take little or no notice of them.
The Arabians were for some centuries under the government of the descendants of Kâhtan; Yarab, one of his sons, founding the kingdom of Yaman, and Jorham, another of them, that of Hejâz.
The province of Yaman, or the better part of it, particularly the provinces of Saba and Hadramaut, was governed by princes of the tribe of Hamyar, though at length the kingdom was translated to the descendants of Cahlân, his brother, who yet retained the title of king of Hamyar, and had all of them the general title of Tobba, which signifies successor, and was affected to this race of princes, as that of Caesar was to the Roman emperors, and Khalif to the successors of Mohammed. There were several lesser princes who reigned in other parts of Yaman, and were mostly, if not altogether, subject to the king of Hamyar, whom they called the great king, but of these history has recorded nothing remarkable or that may be depended upon.
The first great calamity that befell the tribes settled in Yaman was the inundation of Aram, which happened soon after the time of Alexander the Great, and is famous in the Arabian history. No less than eight tribes were forced to abandon their dwellings upon this occasion, some of which gave rise to the two kingdoms of Ghassân and Hira. And this was probably the time of the migration of those tribes or colonies which were led into Mesopotamia by three chiefs, Becr, Modar, and Rabia, from whom the three provinces of that country are still named Diyar Becr, Diyar Modar, and Diyar Rabia. Abdshems, surnamed Saba, having built the city from him called Saba, and afterwards Mareb, made a vast mound, or dam, to serve as a basin or reservoir to receive the water which came down from the mountains, not only for the use of the inhabitants, and watering their lands, but also to keep the country they had subjected in greater awe by being masters of the water. This building stood like a mountain above their city, and was by them esteemed so strong that they were in no apprehension of its ever failing. The water rose to the height of almost twenty fathoms, and was kept in on every side by a work so solid, that many of the inhabitants had their houses built upon it. Every family had a certain portion of this water, distributed by aqueducts. But at length, GOD, being highly displeased at their great pride and insolence, and resolving to humble and disperse them, sent a mighty flood, which broke down the mound by night while the inhabitants were asleep, and carried away the whole city, with the neighbouring towns and people.
The tribes which remained in Yaman after this terrible devastation still continued under the obedience of the former princes, till about seventy years before Mohammed, when the king of Ethiopia sent over forces to assist the Christians of Yaman against the cruel persecution of their king, Dhu Nowâs, a bigoted Jew, whom they drove to that extremity that he forced his horse into the sea, and so lost his life and crown, after which the country was governed by four Ethiopian princes successively, till Selif, the son of Dhu Yazan, of the tribe of Hamyar, obtaining succours from Khosru Anushirwân, king of Persia, which had been denied him by the emperor Heraclius, recovered the throne and drove out the Ethiopians, but was himself slain by some of them who were left behind. The Persians appointed the succeeding princes till Yaman fell into the hands of Mohammed, to whom Bazan, or rather Badhân, the last of them, submitted, and embraced this new religion.
This kingdom of the Hammyarites is said to have lasted 2,020 years, or as others say above 3,000; the length of the reign of each prince being very uncertain.
It has been already observed that two kingdoms were founded by those who left their country on occasion of the inundation of Aram: they were both out of the proper limits of Arabia. One of them was the kingdom of Ghassân. The founders of this kingdom were of the tribe of Azd, who, settling in Syria Damascena near a water called Ghassân, thence took their name, and drove out (the Dajaamian Arabs of the tribe of Salih, who before possessed the country; where they maintained their kingdom 400 years, as others say 600, or as Abulfeda more exactly computes, 616. Five of these princes were named Hâreth, which the Greeks write Aretas: and one of them it was whose governor ordered the gates of Damascus to be watched to take St. Paul. This tribe were Christians, their last king being Jabalah the son of al Ayham, who on the Arabs' successes in Syria professed Mohammedism under the Khalif Omar; but receiving a disgust from him, returned to his former faith, and retired to Constantinople.
The other kingdom was that of Hira, which was founded by Malec, of the descendants of Cahlân in Chaldea or Irâk; but after three descents the throne came by marriage to the Lakhmians, called also the Mondars (the general name of those princes), who preserved their dominion, notwithstanding some small interruption by the Persians, till the Khalifat of Abubecr, when al Mondar al Maghrur, the last of them, lost his life and crown by the arms of Khaled Ebn al Walid. This kingdom lasted 622 years eight months. Its princes were under the protection of the kings of Persia, whose lieutenants they were over the Arabs of Irâk, as the kings of Ghassân were for the Roman emperors over those of Syria.
Jorham the son of Kahtân reigned in Hejâz, where his posterity kept the throne till the time of Ismael; but on his marrying the daughter of Modad, by whom he had twelve sons, Kidar, one of them, had the crown resigned to him by his uncles the Jorhamites, though others say the descendants of Ismael expelled that tribe, who retiring to Johainah, were, after various fortune, at last all destroyed by an inundation.
Of the kings of Hamyar, Hira, Ghassân, and Jorham, Dr. Pocock has given us catalogues tolerably exact, to which I refer the curious.
After the expulsion of the Jorhamites, the government of Hejâz seems not to have continued for many centuries in the hands of one prince, but to have been divided among the heads of tribes, almost in the same manner as the Arabs of the desert are governed at this day. At Mecca an aristocracy prevailed, where the chief management of affairs till the time of Mohammed was in the tribe of Koreish, especially after they had gotten the custody of the Caaba from the tribe of Khozâah.
Besides the kingdoms which have been taken notice of, there were some other tribes which in latter times had princes of their own, and formed states of lesser note, particularly the tribe of Kenda: but as I am not writing a just history of the Arabs, and an account of them would be of no great use ot my present purpose, I shall waive any further mention of them.
After the time of Mohammed, Arabia was for about three centuries under the Khalifs his successors. But in the year 325 of the Hejra, great part of that country was in the hands of the Karmatians, a new sect who had committed great outrages and disorders even in Mecca, and to whom the Khalifs were obliged to pay tribute, that the pilgrimage thither might be performed: of this sect I may have occasion to speak in another place. Afterwards Yaman was governed by the house of Thabateba, descended from Ali the son-in-law of Mohammed, whose sovereignty in Arabia some place so high as the time of Charlemagne. However, it was the posterity of Ali, or pretenders to be such, who reigned in Yaman and Egypt so early as the tenth century. The present reigning family in Yaman is probably that of Ayub, a branch of which reigned there in the thirteenth century, and took the title of Khalif and Imâm, which they still retain. They are not possessed of the whole province of Yaman, there being several other independent kingdoms there, particularly that of Fartach. The crown of Yaman descends not regularly from father to son, but the prince of the blood royal who is most in favour with the great ones, or has the strongest interest, generally succeeds.
The governors of Mecca and Medina, who have always been of the race of Mohammed, also threw off their subjection to the Khalifs, since which time four principal families, all descended from Hassan the son of Ali, have reigned there under the title of Sharif, which signifies noble, as they reckon themselves to be on account of their descent. These are Banu Kâder, Banu Musa Thani, Banu Hashem, and Banu Kitâda; which last family now is, or lately was, in the throne of Mecca, where they have reigned above 500 years. The reigning family at Medina are the Banu Hashem, who also reigned at Mecca before those of Kitâda.
The kings of Yaman, as well as the princes of Mecca and Medina, are alsolutely independent and not at all subject to the Turk, as some late authors have imagined. These princes often making cruel wars among themselves, gave an opportunity to Selim I. and his son Solimân, to make themselves masters of the coasts of Arabia on the Red Sea, and of part of Yaman, by means of a fleet built at Sues: but their successors have not been able to maintain their conquests; for, except the port of Jodda, where they have a Basha whose authority is very small, they possess nothing considerable in Arabia.
Thus have the Arabs preserved their liberty, of which few nations can produce so ancient monuments, with very little interruption, from the very Deluge; for though very great armies have been sent against them, all attempts to subdue them were unsuccessful. The Assyrian or Median empires never got footing among them. The Persian monarchs, though they were their friends, and so far respected by them as to have an annual present of frankincense, yet could never make them tributary; and were so far from being their masters, that Cambyses, on his expedition against Egypt, was obliged to ask their leave to pass through their territories; and when Alexander had subdued that mighty empire, yet the Arabians had so little apprehension of him, that they alone, of all the neighbouring nations, sent no ambassadors to him, either first or last; which, with a desire of possessing so rich a country, made him form a design against it, and had he not died before he could put it in execution, this people might possibly have convinced him that he was not invincible: and I do not find that any of his successors, either in Asia or Egypt, ever made any attempt against them.
The Romans never conquered any part of Arabia properly so called; the most they did was to make some tribes in Syria tributary to them, as Pompey did one commanded by Sampsiceramus or Shams'alkerâm, who reigned at Hems or Emesa; but none of the Romans, or any other nations that we know of, ever penetrated so far into Arabia as Alius Gallus under Augustus Caesar; yet he was so far from subduing it, as some authors pretend, that he was soon obliged to return without effecting anything considerable, having lost the best part of his army by sickness and other accidents. This ill success probably discouraged the Romans from attacking them any more; for Trajan, notwithstanding the flatteries of the historians and orators of his time, and the medals struck by him, did not subdue the Arabs; the province of Arabia, which it is said he added to the Roman empire, scarce reaching farther than Arabia Petraea, or the very skirts of the country. And we are told by one author, that this prince, marching against the Agarens who had revolted, met with such a reception that he was obliged to return without doing anything.
The religion of the Arabs before Mohammed, which they call the state of ignorance, in opposition to the knowledge of GOD'S true worship revealed to them by their prophet, was chiefly gross idolatry; the Sabian religion having almost overrun the whole nation, though there were also great numbers of Christians, Jews, and Magians among them.
I shall not here transcribe what Dr. Prideaux has written of the original of the Sabian religion; but instead thereof insert a brief account of the tenets and worship of that sect. They do not only believe one GOD, but produce many strong arguments for His unity, though they also pay an adoration to the stars, or the angels and intelligences which they suppose reside in them, and govern the world under the Supreme Deity. They endeavour to perfect themselves in the four intellectual virtues, and believe the souls of the wicked men will be punished for nine thousand ages, but will afterwards be received to mercy. They are obliged to pray three times a day; the first, half an hour or less before sunrise, ordering it so that they may, just as the sun rises, finish eight adorations, each containing three prostrations; the second prayer they end at noon, when the sun begins to decline, in saying which they perform five such adorations as the former: and in the same they do the third time, ending just as the sun sets. They fast three times a year, the first time thirty days, the next nine days, and the last seven. They offer many sacrifices, but eat no part of them, burning them all. They abstain from beans, garlic, and some other pulse and vegetables. Asto the Sabian Kebla, or part to which they turn their faces in praying, authors greatly differ; one will have it to be the north, another the south, a third Mecca, and a fourth the star to which they pay their devotions: and perhaps there may be some variety in their practice in this respect. They go on pilgrimage to a place near the city of Harran in Mesopotamia, where great numbers of them dwell, and they have also a great respect for the temple of Mecca, and the pyramids of Egypt; fancying these last to be the sepulchres of Seth, and of Enoch and Sabi his two sons, whom they look on as the first propagators of their religion; at these structures they sacrifice a cock and a black calf, and offer up incense. Besides the book of Psalms, the only true scripture they read, they have other books which they esteem equally sacred, particularly one in the Chaldee tongue which they call the book of Seth, and is full of moral discourses.
This sect say they took the name of Sabians from the above-mentioned Sabi, though it seems rather to be derived from Saba, or the host of heaven, which they worship. Travellers commonly call them Christians of St. John the Baptist, whose disciples also they pretend to be, using a kind of baptism, which is the greatest mark they bear of Christianity. This is one of the religions, the practice of which Mohammed tolerated (on paying tribute), and the professors of it are often included in that expression of the Koran, "those to whom the scriptures have been given," or literally, the people of the book.
The idolatry of the Arabs then, as Sabians, chiefly consisted in worshipping the fixed stars and planets, and the angels and their images, which they honoured as inferior deities, and whose intercession they begged, as their mediators with GOD. For the Arabs acknowledged one supreme GOD, the Creator and LORD of the universe, whom they called Allah Taâla, the most high GOD; and their other deities, who were subordinate to him, they called simply al Ilahât, i.e., the goddesses; which words the Grecians not understanding, and it being their constant custom to resolve the religion of every other nation into their own, and find out gods of their to match the others', they pretend that the Arabs worshipped only two deities, Orotalt and Alilat, as those names are corruptly written, whom they will have to be the same with Bacchus and Urania; pitching on the former as one of the greatest of their own gods, and educated in Arabia, and on the other, because of the veneration shown by the Arabs to the stars.
That they acknowledged one supreme GOD, appears, to omit other proof, from their usual form of addressing themselves to him, which was this, "I dedicate myself to thy service, O GOD! Thou hast no companion, except thy companion of whom thou art absolute master, and of whatever is his." So that they supposed the idols not to be sui juris, though they offered sacrifices and other offerings to them, as well as to GOD, who was also often put off with the least portion, as Mohammed upbraids them. Thus when they planted fruit trees, or sowed a field, they divided it by a line into two parts, setting one apartfor their idols, and the other for GOD; if any of the fruits happened to fall from the idol's part into GOD'S, they made restitution; but if from GOD'S part into the idol's, they made no restitution. So when they watered the idol's grounds, if the water broke over the channels made for that purpose, and ran on GOD'S part, they damned it up again; but if the contrary, they let it run on, saying, they wanted what was GOD'S, but he wanted nothing. In the same manner, if the offering designed for GOD happened to be better than that designed for the idol, they made an exchange, but not otherwise.
It was from this gross idolatry, or the worship of inferior deities, or companions of GOD, as the Arabs continue to call them, that Mohammed reclaimed his countrymen, establishing the sole worship of the true GOD among them; so that how much soever the Mohammedans are to blame in other points, they are far from being idolaters, as some ignorant writers have pretended.
The worship of the stars the Arabs might easily be led into, from their observing the changes of weather to happen at the rising and setting of certain of them, which after a long course of experience induced them to ascribe a divine power to those stars, and to think themselves indebted to them for their rains, a very great benefit and refreshment to their parched country: this superstition the Koran particularly takes notice of.
The ancient Arabians and Indians, between which two nations was a great conformity of religions, had seven celebrated temples, dedicated to the seven planets; one of which in particular, called Beit Ghomdân, was built in Sanaa, the metropolis of Yaman, by Dahac, to the honour of al Zoharah or the planet Venus, and was demolished by the Khalif Othman; by whose murder was fulfilled the prophetical inscription set, as is reported, over this temple, viz., "Ghomdân, he who destroyeth thee shall be slain. The temple of Mecca is also said to have been consecrated to Zohal, or Saturn.
Though these deities were generally reverenced by the whole nation, yet each tribe chose some one as the more peculiar object of their worship.
Thus as to the stars and planets, the tribe of Hamyar chiefly worshipped the sun; Misam, al Debarân, or the Bull's-eye; Lakhm and Jodâm, al Moshtari, or Jupiter; Tay, Sohail, or Canopus; Kais, Sirius, or the Dog-star; and Asad, Otâred, or Mercury. Among the worshippers of Sirius, one Abu Cabsha was very famous; some will have him to be the same with Waheb, Mohammed's grandfather by the mother, but others say he was of the tribe of Khozâah. This man used his utmost endeavours to persuade the Koreish to leave their images and worship this star; for which reason Mohammed, who endeavoured also to make them leave their images, was by them nicknamed the son of Abu Cabsha. The worship of this star is particularly hinted at in the Koran.
Of the angels or intelligences which they worshipped, the Koran, makes mention only of three, which were worshipped under female names; Allat, al Uzza, and Manah. These were by them called goddesses, and the daughters of GOD; an appellation they gave not only to the angels, but also to their images, which they either believed to be inspired with life by GOD, or else to become the tabernacles of the angels, and to be animated by them; and they gave them divine worship, because they imagined they interceded for them with GOD.
Allât was the idol of the tribe of Thakif who dwelt at Tayef, and had a temple consecrated to her in a place called Nakhlah. This idol al Mogheirah destroyed by Mohammed's order, who sent him and Abu Sofiân on that commission in the ninth year of the Hejra. The inhabitants of Tayef, especially the women, bitterly lamented the loss of this their deity, which they were so fond of, that they begged of Mohammed as a condition of peace, that it might not be destroyed for three years, and not obtaining that, asked only a month's respite; but he absolutely denied it. There are several derivations of this word which the curious may learn from Dr. Pocock: it seems most probably to be derived from the same root with Allah, to which it may be a feminine, and will then signify the goddess.
Al Uzza, as some affirm, was the idol of the tribes of Koreish and Kenânah, and part of the tribe of Salim: others tell us it was a tree called the Egyptian thorn, or acacia, worshipped by the tribe of Ghatfân, first consecrated by one Dhâlem, who built a chapel over it, called Boss, so contrived as to give a sound when any person entered. Khâled Ebn Walid being sent by Mohammed in the eighth year of the Hejra to destroy this idol, demolished the chapel, and cutting down this tree or image, burnt it: he also slew the priestess, who ran out with her hair dishevelled, and her hands on her head as a suppliant. Yet the author who relates this, in another place says, the chapel was pulled down, and Dhâlem himself killed by one Zohair, because he consecrated this chapel with design to draw the pilgrims thither from Mecca, and lessen the reputation of the Caaba. The name of this deity is derived from the root azza, and signifies the most mighty.
Manah was the object of worship of the tribes of Hodhail and Khazâah, who dwelt between Mecca and Medina, and, as some say, of the tribes of Aws, Khazraj, and Thakif also. This idol was a large stone, demolished by one Saad, in the eighth year of the Hejra, a year so fatal to the idols of Arabia. The name seems derived from mana, to flow, from the flowing of the blood of the victims sacrificed to the deity; whence the valley of Mina, near Mecca, had also its name, where the pilgrims at this day slay their sacrifices.
Before we proceed to the other idols, let us take notice of five more, which with the former three are all the Koran mentions by name, and they are Wadd, Sawâ, Yaghuth, Yauk, and Nasr. These are said to have been antediluvian idols, which Noah preached against, and were afterwards taken by the Arabs for gods, having been men of great merit and piety in their time, whose statues they reverenced at first with a civil honour only, which in process of time became heightened to a divine worship.
Wadd was supposed to be the heaven, and was worshipped under the form of a man by the tribe of Calb in Daumat al Jandal.
Sawâ was adored under the shape of a woman by the tribe of Hamadan, or, as others write, of Hodhail in Rohat. This idol lying under water for some time after the Deluge, was at length, it is said, discovered by the devil, and was worshipped by those of Hodhail, who instituted pilgrimages to it.
Yaghuth was an idol in the shape of a lion, and was the deity of the tribe of Madhaj and others who dwelt in Yaman. Its name seems to be derived from ghatha, which signifies to help.
Yauk was worshipped by the tribe of Morâd, or, according to others, by that of Hamadan, under the figure of a horse. It is said he was a man of great piety, and his death much regretted; whereupon the devil appeared to his friends in a human form, and undertaking to represent him to the life, persuaded them, by way of comfort, to place his effigies in their temples, that they might have it in view when at their devotions. This was done, and seven others of extraordinary merit had the same honours shown them, till at length their posterity made idols of them in earnest. The name Yauk probably comes from the verb âka, to prevent or avert.
Nasr was a deity adored by the tribe of Hamyar, or at Dhu'l Khalaah in their territories, under the image of an eagle, which the name signifies.
There are, or were, two statues at Bamiyân, a city of Cabul in the Indies, 50 cubits high, which some writers suppose to be the same with Yaghuth and Yauk, or else with Manah and Allât; and they also speak of a third standing near the others, but something less, in the shape of an old woman, called Nesrem or Nesr. These statues were hollow within, for the secret giving of oracles; but they seem to have been different from the Arabian idols. There was also an idol at Sumenat in the Indies, called Lât or al Lât, whose statue was 50 fathoms high, of a single stone, and placed in the midst of a temple supported by 56 pillars of massy gold: this idol Mahmud Ebn Sebecteghin, who conquered that part of India, broke to pieces with his own hands.
Besides the idols we have mentioned, the Arabs also worshipped great numbers of others, which would take up too much time to have distinct accounts given of them; and not being named in the Koran, are not so much to our present purpose: for besides that every housekeeper had his household god or gods, which he last took leave of and first saluted at his going abroad and returning home, there were no less than 360 idols, equalling in number the days of their year, in and about the Caaba of Mecca; the chief of whom was Hobal, brought from Belka in Syria into Arabia by Amru Ebn Lohai, pretending it would procure them rain when they wanted it. It was the statue of a man, made of agate, which having by some accident lost a hand, the Koreish repaired it with one of gold: he held in his hand seven arrows without heads or feathers, such as the Arabs used in divination. This idol is supposed to have been the same with the image of Abraham, found and destroyed by Mohammed in the Caaba, on his entering it, in the eighth year of the Hejra, when he took Mecca, and surrounded with a great number of angels and prophets, as inferior deities; among whom, as some say, was Ismael, with divining arrows in his hand also.
Asâf and Nayelah, the former the image of a man, the latter of a woman, were also two idols brought with Hobal from Syria, and placed the one on Mount Safâ, and the other on Mount Merwa. They tell us Asâf was the son of Amru, and Nayelah the daughter of Sahâl, both of the tribe of Jorham, who committing whoredom together in the Caaba, were by GOD converted into stone, and afterwards worshipped by the Koreish, and so much reverenced by them, that though this superstition was condemned by Mohammed, yet he was forced to allow them to visit those mountains as monuments of divine justice.
I shall mention but one idol more of this nation, and that was a lump of dough worshipped by the tribe of Hanifa, who used it with more respect than the Papists do theirs, presuming not to eat it till they were compelled to it by famine.
Several of their idols, as Manah in particular, were no more than large rude stones, the worship of which the posterity of Ismael first introduced; for as they multiplied, and the territory of Mecca grew too strait for them, great numbers were obliged to seek new abodes; and on such migrations it was usual for them to take with them some of the stones of that reputed holy land, and set them up in the places where they fixed; and these stones they at first only compassed out of devotion, as they had accustomed to do the Caaba. But this at last ended in rank idolatry, the Ismaelites forgetting the religion left them by their father so far as to pay divine worship to any fine stone they met with.
Some of the pagan Arabs believed neither a creation past, nor a resurrection to come, attributing the origin of things to nature, and their dissolution to age. Others believed both, among whom were those who, when they died, had their camel tied by their sepulchre, and so left, without meat or drink, to perish, and accompany them to the other world, lest they should be obliged, at the resurrection, to go on foot, which was reckoned very scandalous. Some believed a metem-psychosis, and that of the blood near the dead person's brain was formed a bird named Hâmah, which once in a hundred years visited the sepulchre; though others say this bird is animated by the soul of him that is unjustly slain, and continually cries, Oscuni, Oscuni, i.e., "give me to drink"-- meaning of the murderer's blood--till his death be revenged, and then it flies away. This was forbidden by the Koran to be believed.
I might here mention several superstitious rites and customs of the ancient Arabs, some of which were abolished and others retained by Mohammed; but I apprehend it will be more convenient to take notice of them, hereafter occasionally, as the negative or positive precepts of the Koran, forbidding or allowing such practices, shall be considered.
Let us now turn our view from the idolatrous Arabs, to those among them who had embraced more rational religions.
The Persians had, by their vicinity and frequent intercourse with the Arabians, introduced the Magian religion among some of their tribes, particularly that of Tamim, a long time before Mohammed, who was so far from being unacquainted with that religion, that he borrowed many of his own institutions from it, as will be observed in the progress of this work. I refer those who are desirous to have some notion of Magism, to Dr. Hyde's curious account of it, a succinct abridgment of which may be read with much pleasure in another learned performance.
The Jews, who fled in great numbers into Arabia from the fearful destruction of their country by the Romans, made proselytes of several tribes, those of Kenânah, al Hareth Ebn Caaba, and Kendah in particular, and in time became very powerful, and possessed of several towns and fortresses there. But the Jewish religion was not unknown to the Arabs, at least above a century before; Abu Carb Asad, taken notice of in the Koran, who was king of Yaman, about 700 years before Mohammed, is said to have introduced Judaism among the idolatrous Hamyarites. Some of his successors also embraced the same religion, one of whom, Yusef, surnamed Dhu Nowâs, was remarkable for his zeal and terrible persecution of all who would not turn Jews, putting them to death by various tortures, the most common of which was throwing them into a glowing pit of fire, whence he had the opprobrious appellation of the Lord of the Pit. This persecution is also mentioned in the Koran.
Christianity had likewise made a very great progress among this nation before Mohammed. Whether St. Paul preached in any part of Arabia, properly so called, is uncertain; but the persecutions and disorders which happened in the eastern church soon after the beginning of the third century, obliged great numbers of Christians to seek for shelter in that country of liberty, who, being for the most part of the Jacobite communion, that sect generally prevailed among the Arabs. The principal tribes that embraced Christianity were Hamyar, Ghassân, Rabiâ, Taghlab, Bahrâ, Tonuch, part of the tribes of Tay and Kodâa, the inhabitants of Najrân, and the Arabs of Hira. As to the two last, it may be observed that those of Najrân became Christians in the time of Dhu Nowâs, and very probably, if the story be true, were some of those who were converted on the following occasion, which happened about that time, or not long before.
The Jews of Hamyar challenged some neighbouring Christians to a public disputation, which was held sub dio for three days before the king and his nobility and all the people, the disputants being Gregentius, bishop of Tephra (which I take to be Dhafâr) for the Christians, and Herbanus for the Jews. On the third day, Herbanus, to end the dispute, demanded that Jesus of Nazareth, if he were really living and in heaven, and could hear the prayers of his worshippers, should appear from heaven in their sight, and they would then believe in him; the Jews crying out with one voice, "Show us your Christ, alas! and we will become Christians." Whereupon, after a terrible storm of thunder and lightning, Jesus Christ appeared in the air, surrounded with rays of glory, walking on a purple cloud, having a sword in his hand, and an inestimable diadem on his head, and spake these words over the heads of the assembly: "Behold I appear to you in your sight, I, who was crucified by your fathers." After which the cloud received him from their sight. The Christians cried out, "Kyrie eleeson," i.e., "Lord, have mercy upon us;" but the Jews were stricken blind, and recovered not till they were all baptized.
The Christians at Hira received a great accession by several tribes, who fled thither for refuge from the persecution of Dhu Nowâs. Al Nooman, surnamed Abu Kabus, king of Hira, who was slain a few months before Mohammed's birth, professed himself a Christian on the following occasion. This prince, in a drunken fit, ordered two of his intimate companions, who overcame with liquor had fallen asleep, to be buried alive. When he came to himself, he was extremely concerned at what he had done, and to expiate his crime, not only raised a monument to the memory of his friends, but set apart two days, one of which he called the unfortunate, and the other the fortunate day; making it a perpetual rule to himself, that whoever met him on the former day should be slain, and his blood sprinkled on the monument, but he that met him on the other day should be dismissed in safety, with magnificent gifts. On one of those unfortunate days there came before him accidentally an Arab, of the tribe of Tay, who had once entertained this king, when fatigued with hunting, and separated from his attendants. The king, who could neither discharge him, contrary to the order of the day, nor put him to death, against the laws of hospitality, which the Arabians religiously observe, proposed, as an expedient, to give the unhappy man a year's respite, and to send him home with rich gifts for the support of his family, on condition that he found a surety for his returning at the year's end to suffer death.
One of the prince's court, out of compassion, offered himself as his surety, and the Arab was discharged. When the last day of the term came, and no news of the Arab, the king, not at all displeased to save his host's life, ordered the surety to prepare himself to die. Those who were by represented to the king that the day was not yet expired, and therefore he ought to have patience till the evening: but in the middle of their discourse the Arab appeared. The king, admiring the man's generosity, in offering himself to certain death, which he might have avoided by letting his surety suffer, asked him what was his motive for his so doing? to which he answered, that he had been taught to act in that manner by the religion he professed; and al Nooman demanding what religion that was, he replied, the Christian. Whereupon the king desiring to have the doctrines of Christianity explained to him, was baptized, he and his subjects; and not only pardoned the man and his surety, but abolished his barbarous custom. This prince, however, was not the first king of Hira who embraced Christianity; al Mondar, his grandfather, having also professed the same faith, and built large churches in his capital.
Since Christianity had made so great a progress in Arabia, we may consequently suppose they had bishops in several parts, for the more orderly governing of the churches. A bishop of Dhafâr has been already named, and we are told that Najrân was also a bishop's see. The Jacobites (of which sect we have observed the Arabs generally were) had two bishops of the Arabs subject to their Mafriân, or metropolitan of the east; one was called the bishop of the Arabs absolutely, whose seat was for the most part at Akula, which some others make the same with Cufa, others a different town near Baghdâd. The other had the title of bishop of the Scenite Arabs, of the tribe of Thaalab in Hira, or Hirta, as the Syrians call it, whose seat was in that city. The Nestorians ahd but one bishop, who presided over both these dioceses of Hira and Akula, and was immediately subject to their patriarch.
These were the principal religions which obtained among the ancient Arabs; but as freedom of thought was the natural consequence of their political liberty and independence, some of them fell into other different opinions. The Koreish, in particular, were infected with Zendicism, an error supposed to have very near affinity with that of the Sadducees among the Jews, and, perhaps, not greatly different from Deism; for there were several of that tribe, even before the time of Mohammed, who worshipped one GOD, and were free from idolatry, and yet embraced none of the other religions of the country.
The Arabians before Mohammed were, as they yet are, divided into two sorts, those who dwell in cities and towns, and those who dwell in tents. The former lived by tillage, the cultivation of palm trees, breeding and feeding of cattle, and the exercise of all sorts of trades, particularly merchandising, wherein they were very eminent, even in the time of Jacob. The tribe of Koreish were much addicted to commerce, and Mohammed, in his younger years, was brought up to the same business; it being customary for the Arabians to exercise the same trade that their parents did. The Arabs who dwelt in tents, employed themselves in pasturage, and sometimes in pillaging of passengers; they lived chiefly on the milk and flesh of camels; they often changed their habitations, as the convenience of water and of pasture for their cattle invited them, staying in a place no longer than that lasted, and then removing in search of other. They generally wintered in Irâk and the confines of Syria. This way of life is what the greater part of Ismael's posterity have used, as more agreeable to the temper and way of life of their father; and is so well described by a late author, that I cannot do better than refer the reader to his account of them.
The Arabic language is undoubtedly one of the most ancient in the world, and arose soon after, if not at, the confusion of Babel. There were several dialects of it, very different from each other: the most remarkable were that spoken by the tribes of Hammyar and the other genuine Arabs, and that of the Koreish. The Hamyaritic seems to have approached nearer ot the purity of the Syriac, than the dialect of any other tribe; for the Arabs acknowledge their father Yarab to have been the first whose tongue deviated from the Syriac (which was his mother tongue, and is almost generally acknowledged by the Asiatics to be the most ancient) to the Arabic. The dialect of the Koreish is usually termed the pure Arabic, or, as the Koran, which is written in this dialect, calls it, the perspicuous and clear Arabic; perhaps, says Dr. Pocock, because Ismael, their father, brought the Arabic he had learned of the Jorhamites nearer to the original Hebrew. But the politeness and elegance of the dialect of the Koreish, is rather to be attributed to their having the custody of the Caaba, and dwelling in Mecca, the centre of Arabia, as well more remote from intercourse with foreigners, who might corrupt their language, as frequented by the Arabs from the country all around, not only on a religious account, but also for the composing of their differences, from whose discourse and verses they took whatever words or phrases they judged more pure and elegant; by which means the beauties of the whole tongue became transfused into this dialect.
The Arabians are full of the commendations of their language, and not altogether without reason; for it claims the preference of most others in many respects, as being very harmonious and expressive, and withal so copious, that they say no man without inspiration can be a perfect master of it in its utmost extent; and yet they tell us, at the same time, that the greatest part of it has been lost; which will not be thought strange, if we consider how late the art of writing was practised among them. For though it was known to Job, their countryman, and also the Hamyarites (who used a perplexed character called al Mosnad, wherein the letters were not distinctly separate, and which was neither publicly taught, nor suffered to be used without permission first obtained) many centuries before Mohammed, as appears from some ancient monuments, said to be remaining in their character; yet the other Arabs, and those of Mecca in particular, were, for many ages, perfectly ignorant of it, unless such of them as were Jews or Christians: Morâmer Ebn Morra of Anbar, a city of Irâk, who lived not many years before Mohammed, was the inventor of the Arabic character, which Bashar the Kendian is said to have learned from those of Anbar, and to have introduced at Mecca but a little while before the institution of Mohammedism.
These letters of Marâmer were different from the Hamyaritic; and though they were very rude, being either the same with, or very much like the Cufic, which character is still found in inscriptions and some ancient books, yet they were those which the Arabs used for many years, the Koran itself being at first written therein; for the beautiful character they now use was first formed from the Cufic by Ebn Moklah, Wazir (or Visir) to the Khalifs al Moktader, al Kâher, and al Râdi, who lived about three hundred years after Mohammed, and was brought to great perfection by Ali Ebn Bowâb, who flourished in the following century, and whose name is yet famous among them on that account; yet, it is said, the person who completed it, and reduced it to its present form, was Yakut al Mostasemi, secretary to al Mostasem, the last of the Khalifs of the family of Abbâs, for which reason he was surnamed al Khattât, or the Scribe.
The accomplishments the Arabs valued themselves chiefly on, were,
1. Eloquence, and a perfect skill in their own tongue;
2. Expertness in the use of arms, and horsemanship; and
3. Hospitality. The first they exercised themselves in, by composing of orations and poems.
Their orations were of two sorts, metrical, or prosaic, the one being compared to pearls strung, and the other to loose ones. They endeavoured to excel in both, and whoever was able, in an assembly, to persuade the people to a great enterprise, or dissuade them from a dangerous one, or gave them other wholesome advice, was honoured with the title of Khâteb, or orator, which is now given to the Mohammedan preachers. They pursued a method very different from that of the Greek and Roman orators; their sentences being like loose gems, without connection, so that this sort of composition struck the audience chiefly by the fulness of the periods, the elegance of the expression, and the acuteness of the proverbial sayings; and so persuaded were they of their excelling in this way, that they would not allow any nation to understand the art of speaking in public, except themselves and the Persians; which last were reckoned much inferior in that respect to the Arabians. Poetry was in so great esteem among them, that it was a great accomplishment, and a proof of ingenuous extraction, to be able to express one's self in verse with ease and elegance, on any extraordinary occurrence; and even in their common discourse they made frequent applications to celebrated passages of their famous poets.
In their poems were preserved the distinction of descents, the rights of tribes, the memory of great actions, and the propriety of their language; for which reasons an excellent poet reflected an honour on his tribe, so that as soon as any one began to be admired for his performances of this kind in a tribe, the other tribes sent publicly to congratulate them on the occasion, and themselves made entertainments, at which the women assisted, dressed in their nuptial ornaments, singing to the sound of timbrels the happiness of their tribe, who had now one to protect their honour, to preserve their genealogies and the purity of their language, and to transmit their actions to posterity; for this was all performed by their poems, to which they were solely obliged for their knowledge and instructions, moral and economical, and to which they had recourse, as to an oracle, in all doubts and differences. No wonder, then, that a public congratulation was made on this account, which honour they yet were so far from making cheap, that they never did it but on one of these three occasions, which were reckoned great points of felicity, viz., on the birth of a boy, the rise of a poet, and the fall of a foal of generous breed. To keep up an emulation among their poets, the tribes had, once a year, a general assembly at Ocadh, a place famous on this account, and where they kept a weekly mart or fair, which was held on our Sunday. This annual meeting lasted a whole month, during which time they employed themselves, not only in trading, but in repeating their poetical compositions, contending and vieing with each other for the prize; whence the place, it is said, took its name. The poems that were judged to excel, were laid up in their kings' treasuries, as were the seven celebrated poems, thence called al Moallakât, rather than from their being hung upon the Caaba, which honour they also had by public order, being written on Egyptian silk, and inn letters of gold; for which reason they had also the name of al Modhahabât, or the golden verses.
The fair and assembly at Ocadh were suppressed by Mohammed, in whose time, and for some years after, poetry seems to have been in some degree neglected by the Arabs, who were then employed in their conquests; which being completed, and themselves at peace, not only this study was revived, but almost all sorts of learning were encouraged and greatly improved by them. This interruption, however, occasioned the loss of most of their ancient pieces of poetry, which were then chiefly preserved in memory; the use of writing being rare among them, in their time of ignorance. Though the Arabs were so early acquainted with poetry, they did not at first use to write poems of a just length, but only expressed themselves in verse occasionally; nor was their prosody digested into rules, till some time after Mohammed; for this was done, as it is said, by al Khalil Ahmed al Farâhidi, who lived in the reign of the Khalif Harun al Rashid.
The exercise of arms and horsemanship they were in a manner obliged to practise and encourage, by reason of the independence of their tribes, whose frequent jarrings made wars almost continual; and they chiefly ended their disputes in field battles, it being a usual saying among them that GOD had bestowed four peculiar things on the Arabs--that their turbans should be to them instead of diadems, their tents instead of walls and houses, their swords instead of entrenchments, and their poems instead of written laws.
Hospitality was so habitual to them, and so much esteemed, that the examples of this kind among them exceed whatever can be produced from other nations. Hatem, of the tribe of Tay, and Hasn, of that of Fezârah, were particularly famous on this account; and the contrary vice was so much in contempt, that a certain poet upbraids the inhabitants of Waset, as with the greatest reproach, that none of their men ad the heart to give, nor their women to deny.
Nor were the Arabs less propense to liberality after the coming of Mohammed than their ancestors had been. I could produce many remarkable instances of this commendable quality among them, but shall content myself with the following. Three men were disputing in the court of the Caaba, which was the most liberal person among the Arabs. One gave the preference to Abdallah, the son of Jaafar, the uncle of Mohammed; another to Kais Ebn Saad Ebn Obâdah; and the third gave it to Arâbah, of the tribe of Aws. After much debate, one that was present, to end the dispute, proposed that each of them should go to his friend and ask his assistance, that they might see what every one gave, and form a judgment accordingly. This was agreed to; and Abdallah's friend, going to him, found him with his foot in the stirrup, just mounting his camel for a journey, and thus accosted him: "Son of the uncle of the apostle of GOD, I am travelling and in necessity." Upon which Abdallah alighted, and bid him take the camel with all that was upon her, but desired him not to part with a sword which happened to be fixed to the saddle, because it had belonged to Ali, the son of Abutâleb. So he took the camel, and found on her some vests of silk and 4,000 pieces of gold; but the thing of greatest value was the sword. The second went to Kais Ebn Saad, whose servant told him that his master was asleep, and desired to know his business. The friend answered that he came to ask Kais's assistance, being in want on the road. Whereupon the servant said that he had rather supply his necessity than wake his master, and gave him a purse of 7,000 pieces of gold, assuring him that it was all the money then in the house. He also directed him to go to those who had the charge of the camels, with a certain token, and take a camel and a slave, and return home with them. When Kais awoke, and his servant informed him of what he had done, he gave him his freedom, and asked him why he did not call him, "For," says he, "I would have given him more." The third man went to Arâbah, and met him coming out of his house in order to go to prayers, and leaning on two slaves, because his eyesight failed him. The friend no sooner made known his case, but Arâbah let go the slaves, and clapping his hands together, loudly lamented his misfortune in having no money, but desired him to take the two slaves, which the man refused to do, till Arâbah protested that if he would not accept of them he gave them their liberty, and leaving the slaves, groped his way along by the wall. On the return of the adventurers, judgment was unanimously, and with great justice, given by all who were present, that Arâbah was the most generous of the three.
Nor were these the only good qualities of the Arabs; they are commended by the ancients for being most exact to their words, and respectful to their kindred. And they have always been celebrated for their quickness of apprehension and penetration, and the vivacity of their wit, especially those of the desert.
As the Arabs have their excellencies, so have they, like other nations, their defects and vices. Their own writers acknowledge that they have a natural disposition to war, bloodshed, cruelty, and rapine, being so much addicted to bear malice that they scarce ever forget an old grudge; which vindictive temper some physicians say is occasioned by their frequent feeding on camel's flesh (the ordinary diet of the Arabs of the desert, who are therefore observed to be most inclined to these vices), that creature being most malicious and tenacious of anger, which account suggests a good reason for a distinction of meats.
The frequent robberies committed by these people on merchants and travellers have rendered the name of an Arab almost infamous in Europe; this they are sensible of, and endeavour to excuse themselves by alleging the hard usage of their father Ismael, who, being turned out of doors by Abraham, had the open plains and deserts given him by GOD for his patrimony, with permission to take whatever he could find there; and on this account they think they may, with a safe conscience, indemnify themselves as well as they can, not only on the posterity of Isaac, but also on everybody else, always supposing a sort of kindred between themselves and those they plunder. And in relating their adventures of this kind, they think it sufficient to change the expression, and instead of "I robbed a man of such or such a thing," to say, "I gained it." We must not, however, imagine that they are the less honest for this among themselves, or towards those whom they receive as friends; on the contrary, the strictest probity is observed in their camp, where everything is open and nothing ever known to be stolen.
The sciences the Arabians chiefly cultivated before Mohammedism, were three; that of their genealogies and history, such a knowledge of the stars as to foretell the changes of weather, and the interpretation of dreams. They used to value themselves excessively on account of the nobility of their families, and so many disputes happened on that occasion, that it is no wonder if they took great pains in settling their descents. What knowledge they had of the stars was gathered from long experience, and not from any regular study, or astronomical rules. The Arabians, as the Indians also did, chiefly applied themselves to observe the fixed stars, contrary to other nations, whose observations were almost confined to the planets, and they foretold their effects from their influences, not their nature; and hence, as has been said, arose the difference of the idolatry of the Greeks and Chaldeans, who chiefly worshipped the planets, and that of the Indians, who worshipped the fixed star. The stars or asterisms they most usually foretold the weather by, were those they called Anwâ, or the houses of the moon. These are 28 in number, and divide the zodiac into as many parts, through one of which the moon passes every night; as some of them set in the morning, others rise opposite to them, which happens every thirteenth night; and from their rising and setting, the Arabs, by long experience, observed what changes happened in the air, and at length, as has been said, came to ascribe divine power to them; saying, that their rain was from such or such a star: which expression Mohammed condemned, and absolutely forbade them to use it in the old sense; unless they meant no more by it, than that GOD had so ordered the seasons, that when the moon was in such or such a mansion or house, or at the rising or setting of such and such a star, it should rain or be windy, hot or cold.
The old Arabians therefore seem to have made no further progress in astronomy, which science they afterwards cultivated with so much success and applause, than to observe the influence of the stars on the weather, and to give them names; and this it was obvious for them to do, by reason of their pastoral way of life, lying night and day in the open plains. The names they imposed on the stars generally alluded to cattle and flocks, and they were so nice in distinguishing them, that no language has so many names of stars and asterisms as the Arabic; for though they have since borrowed the names of several constellations from the Greeks, yet the far greater part are of their own growth, and much more ancient, particularly those of the more conspicuous stars, dispersed in several constellations, and those of the lesser constellations which are contained within the greater, and were not observed or named by the Greeks.
Thus have I given the most succinct account I have been able, of the state of the ancient Arabians before Mohammed, or, to use their expression, in the time of ignorance. I shall now proceed briefly to consider the state of religion in the east, and of the two great empires which divided that part of the world between them, at the time of Mohammed's setting up for a prophet, and what were the conducive circumstances and accidents that favoured his success.
OF THE STATE OF CHRISTIANITY, PARTICULARLY OF THE EASTERN CHURCHES, AND OF JUDAISM, AT THE TIME OF MOHAMMED'S APPEARANCE; AND OF THE METHODS TAKEN BY HIM FOR THE ESTABLISHING OF HIS RELIGION, AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH CONCURRED THERETO.
IF WE look into the ecclesiastical historians even from the third century, we shall find the Christian world to have then had a very different aspect from what some authors have represented; and so far from being endued with active graces, zeal, and devotion, and established within itself with purity of doctrine, union, and firm profession of the faith, that on the contrary, what by the ambition of the clergy, and what by drawing the abstrusest niceties into controversy, and dividing and subdividing about them into endless schisms and contentions, they had so destroyed that peace, love, and charity from among them, which the Gospel was given to promote; and instead thereof continually provoked each other to that malice, rancour, and every evil work; that they had lost the whole substance of their religion, while they thus eagerly contended for their own imaginations concerning it; and in a manner quite drove Christianity out of the world by those very controversies in which they disputed with each other about it. In these dark ages it was that most of those superstitions and corruptions we now justly abhor in the church of Rome were not only broached, but established; which gave great advantages to the propagation of Mohammedism. The worship of saints and images, in particular, was then arrived at such a scandalous pitch that it even surpassed whatever is now practised among the Romanists.
After the Nicene council, the eastern church was engaged in perpetual controversies, and torn to pieces by the disputes of the Arians, Sabellians, Nestorians, and Eutychians: the heresies of the two last of which have been shown to have consisted more in the words and form of expression than in the doctrines themselves; and were rather the pretences than real motives of those frequent councils to and from which the contentious prelates were continually riding post, that they might bring everything to their own will and pleasure. And to support themselves by dependants and bribery, the clergy in any credit at court undertook the protection of some officer in the army, under the colour of which justice was publicly sold, and all corruption encouraged. In the western church Damasus and Ursicinus carried their contests at Rome for the episcopal seat so high, that they came to open violence and murder, which Viventius the governor not being able to suppress, he retired into the country, and left them to themselves, till Damasus prevailed. It is said that on this occasion, in the church of Sicininus, there were no less than 137 found killed in one day. And no wonder they were so fond of these seats, when they became by that means enriched by the presents of matrons, and went abroad in their chariots and sedans in great state, feasting sumptuously even beyond the luxury of princes, quite contrary to the way of living of the country prelates, who alone seemed to have some temperance and modesty left.
These dissensions were greatly owing to the emperors, and particularly to Constantius, who, confounding the pure and simple Christian religion with anile superstitions, and perplexing it with intricate questions, instead of reconciling different opinions, excited many disputes, which he fomented as they proceeded with infinite altercations. This grew worse in the time of Justinian, who, not to be behind the bishops to the fifth and sixth centuries in zeal, thought it no crime to condemn to death a man of a different persuasion from his own.
This corruption of doctrine and morals in the princes and clergy, was necessarily followed by a general depravity of the people; those of all conditions making it their sole business to get money by any means, and then to squander it away when they had got it in luxury and debauchery.
But, to be more particular as to the nation we are now writing of, Arabia was of old famous for heresies; which might be in some measure attributed to the liberty and independency of the tribes. Some of the Christians of that nation believed the soul died with the body, and was to be raised again with it at the last day: these Origen is said to have convinced. Among the Arabs it was that the heresies of Ebion, Beryllus, and the Nazaraens, and also that of the Collyridians, were broached, or at least propagated; the latter introduced the Virgin Mary for GOD, or worshipped her as such, offering her a sort of twisted cake called collyris, whence the sect had its name.
This notion of the divinity of the Virgin Mary was also believed by some at the council of Nice, who said there were two gods besides the Father, viz., Christ and the Virgin Mary, and were thence named Mariamites. Others imagined her to be exempt from humanity, and deified; which goes but little beyond the Popish superstition in calling her the complement of the Trinity, as if it were imperfect without her. This foolish imagination is justly condemned in the Koran as idolatrous, and gave a handle to Mohammed to attack the Trinity itself.
Other sects there were of many denominations within the borders of Arabia, which took refuge there from the proscriptions of the imperial edicts; several of whose notions Mohammed incorporated with his religion, as may be observed hereafter.
Though the Jews were an inconsiderable and despised people in other parts of the world, yet in Arabia, whither many of them fled from the destruction of Jerusalem, they grew very powerful, several tribes and princes embracing their religion; which made Mohammed at first show great regard to them, adopting many of their opinions, doctrines, and customs; thereby to draw them, if possible, into his interest. But that people, agreeably to their wonted obstinacy, were so far from being his proselytes, that they were some of the bitterest enemies he had, waging continual war with him, so that their reduction cost him infinite trouble and danger, and at last his life. This aversion of theirs created at length as great a one in him to them, so that he used them, for the latter part of his life, much worse than he did the Christians, and frequently exclaims against them in his Koran; his followers to this day observe the same difference between them and the Christians, treating the former as the most abject and contemptible people on earth.
It has been observed by a great politician, that it is impossible a person should make himself a prince and found a state without opportunities. If the distracted state of religion favoured the designs of Mohammed on that side, the weakness of the Roman and Persian monarchies might flatter him with no less hopes in any attempt on those once formidable empires, either of which, had they been in their full vigour, must have crushed Mohammedism in its birth; whereas nothing nourished it more than the success the Arabians met with in their enterprises against those powers, which success they failed not to attribute to their new religion and the divine assistance thereof.
The Roman empire declined apace after Constantine, whose successors were for the generality remarkable for their ill qualities, especially cowardice and cruelty. By Mohammed's time, the western half of the empire was overrun by the Goths; and the eastern so reduced by the Huns on the one side, and the Persians on the other, that it was not in a capacity of stemming the violence of a powerful invasion. The emperor Maurice paid tribute to the Khagân or king of the Huns; and after Phocas had murdered his master, such lamentable havoc there was among the soldiers, that when Heraclius came, not above seven years after, to muster the army, there were only two soldiers left alive, of all those who had borne arms when Phocas first usurped the empire. And though Heraclius was a prince of admirable courage and conduct, and had done what possibly could be done to restore the discipline of the army, and had had great success against the Persians, so as to drive them not only out of his own dominions, but even out of part of their own; yet still the very vitals of the empire seemed to be mortally wounded; that there could no time have happened more fatal to the empire or more favourable to the enterprises of the Arabs, who seem to have been raised up on purpose by GOD, to be a scourge to the Christian church, for not living answerably to that most holy religion which they had received.
The general luxury and degeneracy of manners into which the Grecians were sunk, also contributed not a little to the enervating their forces, which were still further drained by those two great destroyers, monachism and persecution.
The Persians had also been in a declining condition for some time before Mohammed, occasioned chiefly by their intestine broils and dissensions; great part of which arose from the devilish doctrines of Manes and Mazdak. The opinions of the former are tolerably well known: the latter lived in the reign of Khosru Kobâd, and pretended himself a prophet sent from GOD to preach a community of women and possessions, since all men were brothers and descended from the same common parents. This he imagined would put an end to all feuds and quarrels among men, which generally arose on account of one of the two. Kobâd himself embraced the opinions of this impostor, to whom he gave leave, according to his new doctrine, to lie with the queen his wife; which permission Anushirwân, his son, with much difficulty prevailed on Mazdak not to make use of. These sects had certainly been the immediate ruin of the Persian empire, had not Anushirwân, as soon as he succeeded his father, put Mazdek to death with all his followers, and the Manicheans also, restoring the ancient Magian religion.
In the reign of this prince, deservedly surnamed the Just, Mohammed was born. He was the last king of Persia who deserved the throne, which after him was almost perpetually contended for, till subverted by the Arabs. His son Hormuz lost the love of his subjects by his excessive cruelty; having had his eyes put out by his wife's brothers, he was obliged to resign the crown to his son Khosru Parviz, who at the instigation of Bahrâm Chubin had rebelled against him, and was afterwards strangled. Parviz was soon obliged to quit the throne to Bahrâm; but obtaining succours of the Greek emperor Maurice, he recovered the crown: yet towards the latter end of a long reign he grew so tyrannical and hateful to his subjects, that they held private correspondence with the Arabs; and he was at length deposed, imprisoned, and slain by his son Shiruyeh. After Parviz no less than six princes possessed the throne in less than six years. These domestic broils effectually brought ruin upon the Persians; for though they did rather by the weakness of the Greeks, than their own force, ravage Syria, and sack Jerusalem and Damascus under Khosru Parviz; and, while the Arabs were divided and independent, had some power in the province of Yaman, where they set up the four last kings before Mohammed; yet when attacked by the Greeks under Heraclius, they not only lost their new conquests, but part of their own dominions; and no sooner were the Arabs united by Mohammedism, than they beat them in every battle, and in a few years totally subdued them.
As these empires were weak and declining, so Arabia, at Mohammed's setting up, was strong and flourishing; having been peopled at the expense of the Grecian empire, whence the violent proceedings of the domineering sects forced many to seek refuge in a free country, as Arabia then was, where they who could not enjoy tranquility and their conscience at home, found a secure retreat. The Arabians were not only a populous nation, but unacquainted with the luxury and delicacies of the Greeks and Persians, and inured to hardships of all sorts; living in a most parsimonious manner, seldom eating any flesh, drinking no wine, and sitting on the ground. Their political government was also such as favoured the designs of Mohammed; for the division and independency of their tribes were so necessary to the first propagation of his religion, and the foundation of his power, that it would have been scarce possible for him to have effected either, had the Arabs been united in one society. But when they had embraced his religion, the consequent union of their tribes was no less necessary and conducive to their future conquests and grandeur.
This posture of public affairs in the eastern world, both as to its religious and political state, it is more than probably Mohammed was well acquainted with; he having had sufficient opportunities of informing himself in those particulars, in his travels as a merchant in his younger years: and though it is not to be supposed his views at first were so extensive as afterwards, when they were enlarged by his good fortune, yet he might reasonably promise himself success in his first attempts from thence. As he was a man of extraordinary parts and address, he knew how to make the best of every incident, and turn what might seem dangerous to another, to his own advantage.
Mohammed came into the world under some disadvantages, which he soon surmounted. His father Abd'allah was a younger son of Abd'almotalleb, and dying very young and in his father's lifetime, left his widow and infant son in very mean circumstances, his whole substance consisting but of five camels and one Ethiopian she-slave. Abd'almotalleb was therefore obliged to take care of his grandchild Mohammed, which he not only did during his life, but at his death enjoined his eldest son Abu Tâleb, who was brother to Abd'allah by the same mother, to provide for him for the future; which he very affectionately did, and instructed him in the business of a merchant, which he followed; and to that end he took him with him into Syria when he was but thirteen, and afterward recommended him to Khadijah, a noble and rich widow, for her factor, in whose service he behaved himself so well, that by making him her husband she soon raised him to an equality with the richest in Mecca.
After he began by this advantageous match to live at his ease, it was that he formed the scheme of establishing a new religion, or, as he expressed it, of replanting the only true and ancient one, professed by Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and all the prophets, by destroying the gross idolatry into which the generality of his countrymen had fallen, and weeding out the corruptions and superstitions which the latter Jews and Christians had, as he thought, introduced into their religion, and reducing it to its original purity, which consisted chiefly in the worship of the one only GOD.
Whether this was the effect of enthusiasm, or only a design to raise himself to the supreme government of his country, I will not pretend to determine. The latter is the general opinion of the Christian writers, who agree that ambition, and the desire of satisfying his sensuality, were the motives of his undertaking. It may be so; yet his first views, perhaps, were not so interested. His original design of bringing the pagan Arabs to the knowledge of the true GOD, was certainly noble, and highly to be commended; for I cannot possibly subscribe to the assertion of a late learned writer, that he made the nation exchange their idolatry for another religion altogether as bad. Mohammed was no doubt fully satisfied in his conscience of the truth of his grand point, the unity of GOD, which was what he chiefly attended to; all his other doctrines and institutions being rather accidental and unavoidable, than premeditated and designed.
Since then Mohammed was certainly himself persuaded of his grand article of faith, which, in his opinion, was violated by all the rest of the world; not only by the idolaters, but by the Christians, as well those who rightly worshipped Jesus as GOD, as those who superstitiously adored the Virgin Mary, saints, and images; and also by the Jews, who are accused in the Koran of taking Ezra for the son of GOD; it is easy to conceive that he might think it a meritorious work to rescue the world from such ignorance and superstition; and by degrees, with the help of a warm imagination, which an Arab seldom wants, to suppose himself destined by providence for the effecting that great reformation. And this fancy of his might take still deeper root in his mind, during the solitude he thereupon affected, usually retiring for a month in the year to a cave in Mount Hara, near Mecca. One thing which may be probably urged against the enthusiasm of this prophet of the Arabs, is the wise conduct and great prudence he all along showed in pursuing his design, which seem inconsistent with the wild notions of a hot-brained religionist. But though all enthusiasts or madmen do not behave with the same gravity and circumspection that he did, yet he will not be the first instance, by several, of a person who has been out of the way only quoad hoc, and in all other respects acted with the greatest decency and precaution.
The terrible destruction of the eastern churches, once so glorious and flourishing, by the sudden spreading of Mohammedism, and the great successes of its professors against the Christians, necessarily inspire a horror of that religion in those to whom it has been so fatal; and no wonder if they endeavour to set the character of its founder, and its doctrines, in the most infamous light. But the damage done by Mohammed to Christianity seems to have been rather owing to his ignorance than malice; for his great misfortune was, his not having a competent knowledge of the real and pure doctrines of the Christian religion, which was in his time so abominably corrupted, that it is not surprising if he went too far, and resolved to abolish what he might think incapable of reformation.
It is scarce to be doubted but that Mohammed had a violent desire of being reckoned an extraordinary person, which he could attain to by no means more effectually, than by pretending to be a messenger sent from GOD, to inform mankind of his will. This might be at first his utmost ambition; and had his fellow-citizens treated him less injuriously, and not obliged him by their persecutions to seek refuge elsewhere, and to take up arms against them in his own defence, he had perhaps continued a private person, and contented himself with the veneration and respect due to his prophetical office; but being once got at the head of a little army, and encouraged by success, it is no wonder if he raised his thoughts to attempt what had never before entered his imagination.
That Mohammed was, as the Arabs are by complexion, a great lover of women, we are assured by his own confession; and he is constantly upbraided with it by the controversial writers, who fail not to urge the number of women with whom he had to do, as a demonstrative argument of his sensuality, which they think sufficiently proves him to have been a wicked man, and consequently an impostor. But it must be considered that polygamy, though it be forbidden by the Christian religion, was in Mohammed's time frequently practised in Arabia and other parts of the east, and was not counted an immorality, nor was a man worse esteemed on that account; for which reason Mohammed permitted the plurality of wives, with certain limitations, among his own followers, who argue for the lawfulness of it from several reasons, and particularly from the examples of persons allowed on all hands to have been good men; some of whom have been honoured with the divine correspondence. The several laws relating to marriages and divorces, and the peculiar privileges granted to Mohammed in his Koran, were almost all taken by him from the Jewish decisions, as will appear hereafter; and therefore he might think those institutions the more just and reasonable, as he found them practised or approved by the professors of a religion which was confessedly of divine original.
But whatever were his motives, Mohammed had certainly the personal qualifications which were necessary to accomplish his undertaking. The Mohammedan authors are excessive in their commendations of him, and speak much of his religious and moral virtues; as his piety, veracity, justice, liberality, clemency, humility, and abstinence. His charity, in particular, they say, was so conspicuous, that he had seldom any money in his house, keeping no more for his own use than was just sufficient to maintain his family; and he frequently spared even some part of his own provisions to supply the necessities of the poor; so that before the year's end he had generally little or nothing left: "GOD," says al Bokhâri, "offered him the keys of the treasures of the earth, but he would not accept them." Though the eulogies of these writers are justly to be suspected of partiality, yet thus much, I think, may be inferred from thence, that for an Arab who had been educated in Paganism, and had but a very imperfect knowledge of his duty, he was a man of at least tolerable morals, and not such a monster of wickedness as he is usually represented. And indeed it is scarce possible to conceive, that a wretch of so profligate a character should ever have succeeded in an enterprise of this nature; a little hypocrisy and saving of appearances, at least, must have been absolutely necessary; and the sincerity of his intentions is what I pretend not to inquire into.
He had indisputably a very piercing and sagacious wit, and was thoroughly versed in all the arts of insinuation. The eastern historians describe him to have been a man of an excellent judgment, and a happy memory; and these natural parts were improved by a great experience and knowledge of men, and the observations he had made in his travels. They say he was a person of few words, of an equal cheerful temper, pleasant and familiar in conversation, of inoffensive behaviour towards his friends, and of great condescension towards his inferiors. To all which were joined a comely agreeable person, and a polite address; accomplishments of no small service in preventing those in his favour whom he attempted to persuade.
As to acquired learning, it is confessed he had none at all; having had no other education than what was customary in his tribe, who neglected, and perhaps despised, what we call literature; esteeming no language in comparison with their own, their skill in which they gained by use and not by books, and contenting themselves with improving their private experience by committing to memory such passages of their poets as they judged might be of use to them in life. This defect was so far from being prejudicial or putting a stop to his design, that he made the greatest use of it; insisting that the writings which he produced as revelations from GOD, could not possibly be a forgery of his own; because it was not conceivable that a person who could neither write nor read should be able to compose a book of such excellent doctrine, and in so elegant a style; and thereby obviating an objection that might have carried a great deal of weight. And for this reason his followers, instead of being ashamed of their master's ignorance, glory in it, as an evident proof of his divine mission, and scruple not to call him (as he is indeed called in the Koran itself) the "illiterate prophet."
The scheme of religion which Mohammed framed, and the design and artful contrivance of those written revelations (as he pretended them to be) which compose his Koran, shall be the subject of the following sections: I shall therefore in the remainder of this relate, as briefly as possible, the steps he took towards the effecting of his enterprise, and the accidents which concurred to his success therein.
Before he made any attempt abroad, he rightly judged that it was necessary for him to begin by the conversion of his own household. Having therefore retired with his family, as he had done several times before, to the above- mentioned cave in Mount Hara, he there opened the secret of his mission to his wife Khadijah; and acquainted her that the angel Gabriel had just before appeared to him, and told him that he was appointed the apostle of GOD: he also repeated to her a passage which he pretended had been revealed to him by the ministry of the angel, with those other circumstances of his first appearance, which are related by the Mohammedan writers. Khadijah received the news with great joy, swearing by him in whose hands her soul was, that she trusted he would be the prophet of his nation, and immediately communicated what she had heard to her cousin, Warakah Ebn Nawfal, who, being a Christian, could write in the Hebrew character, and was tolerably well versed in the scriptures; and he as readily came into her opinion, assuring her that the same angel who had formerly appeared unto Moses was now sent to Mohammed. This first overture the prophet made in the month of Ramadân, in the fortieth year of his age, which is therefore usually called the year of his mission.
Encouraged by so good a beginning, he resolved to proceed, and try for some time what he could do by private persuasion, not daring to hazard the whole affair by exposing it too suddenly to the public. He soon made proselytes of those under his own roof, viz., his wife Khadijah, his servant Zeid Ebn Hâretha (to whom he gave his freedom on that occasion, which afterwards became a rule to his followers), and his cousin and pupil Ali, the son of Abu Tâleb, though then very young: but this last, making no account of the other two, used to style himself the "first of believers." The next person Mohammed applied to was Abdallah Ebn Abi Kohâfa, surnamed Abu Becr, a man of great authority among the Koreish, and one whose interest he well knew would be of great service to him, as it soon appeared, for Abu Becr being gained over, prevailed also on Othmân Ebn Affân, Abd'alrahmân Ebn Awf, Saad Ebn Abi Wakkâs, al Zobeir Ebn al Awâm, and Telha Ebn Obeid'allah, all principal men in Mecca, to follow his example.
These men were the six chief companions, who, with a few more, were converted in the space of three years, at the end of which, Mohammed having, as he hoped, a sufficient interest to support him, made his mission no longer a secret, but gave out that GOD had commanded him to admonish his near relations; and in order to do it with more convenience and prospect of success, he directed Ali to prepare an entertainment, and invite the sons and descendants of Abd'almotalleb, intending then to open his mind to them; this was done, and about forty of them came; but Abu Laheb, one of his uncles, making the company break up before Mohammed had an opportunity of speaking, obliged him to give them a second invitation the next day; and when they were come, he made them the following speech: "I know no man in all Arabia who can offer his kindred a more excellent thing than I now do you. I offer you happiness, both in this life and in that which is to come. GOD Almighty hath commanded me to call you unto him; who therefore among you will be assisting to me herein, and become my brother and my vicegerent?" All of them hesitating, and declining the matter, Ali at length rose up and declared that he would be his assistant, and vehemently threatened those who should oppose him. Mohammed upon this embraced Ali with great demonstrations of affection, and desired all who were present to hearken to and obey him as his deputy, at which the company broke out into great laughter, telling Abu Tâleb that he must now pay obedience to his son.
This repulse however was so far from discouraging Mohammed, that he began to preach in public to the people, who heard him with some patience, till he came to upbraid them with the idolatry, obstinacy, and perverseness of themselves and their fathers, which so highly provoked them that they declared themselves his enemies, and would soon have procured his ruin had he not been protected by Abu Tâleb. The chief of the Koreish warmly solicited this person to desert his nephew, making frequent remonstrances against the innovations he was attempting, which proving ineffectual, they at length threatened him with an open rupture if he did not prevail on Mohammed to desist. At this, Abu Tâleb was so far moved that he earnestly dissuaded his nephew from pursuing the affair any farther, representing the great danger he and his friends must otherwise run. But Mohammed was not to be intimidated, telling his uncle plainly "that if they set the sun against him on his right hand, and the moon on his left, he would not leave his enterprise;" and Abu Tâleb, seeing him so firmly resolved to proceed, used no further arguments, but promised to stand by him against all his enemies.
The Koreish, finding they could prevail neither by fair words nor menaces, tried what they could do by force and ill-treatment, using Mohammed's followers so very injuriously that it was not safe for them to continue at Mecca any longer: whereupon Mohammed gave leave to such of them as had not friends to protect them, to seek for refuge elsewhere. And accordingly, in the fifth year of the prophet's mission, sixteen of them, four of whom were women, fled into Ethiopia; and among them Othmân Ebn Affân and his wife Rakiah, Mohammed's daughter. This was the first flight; but afterwards several others followed them, retiring one after another, to the number of eighty-three men and eighteen women, besides children. These refugees were kindly received by the Najâshi, or king of Ethiopia, who refused to deliver them up to those whom the Koreish sent to demand them, and, as the Arab writers unanimously attest, even professed the Mohammedan religion.
In the sixth year of his mission Mohammed had the pleasure of seeing his party strengthened by the conversion of his uncle Hamza, a man of great valour and merit, and of Omar Ebn al Khattâb, a person highly esteemed, and once a violent opposer of the prophet. As persecution generally advances rather than obstructs the spreading of a religion, Islamism made so great a progress among the Arab tribes, that the Koreish, to suppress it effectually, if possible, in the seventh year of Mohammed's mission, made a solemn league or covenant against the Hashemites and the family of al Motalleb, engaging themselves to contract no marriages with any of them, and to have no communication with them; and to give it the greater sanction, reduced it into writing, and laid it up in the Caaba. Upon this the tribe became divided into two factions; and the family of Hashem all repaired to Abu Tâleb, as their head; except only Abd'al Uzza, surnamed Abu Laheb, who, out of his inveterate hatred to his nephew and his doctrine, went over to the opposite party, whose chief was Abu Sofiân Ebn Harb, of the family of Ommeya.
The families continued thus at variance for three years; but in the tenth year of his mission, Mohammed told his uncle Abu Tâleb that GOD had manifestly showed his disapprobation of the league which the Koreish had made against them, by sending a worm to eat out every word of the instrument except the name of GOD. Of this accident Mohammed had probably some private notice; for Abu Tâleb went immediately to the Koreish and acquainted them with it; offering, if it proved false, to deliver his nephew up to them; but in case it were true, he insisted that they ought to lay aside their animosity, and annul the league they had made against the Hashemites. To this they acquiesced, and going to inspect the writing, to their great astonishment found it to be as Abu Tâleb had said; and the league was thereupon declared void.
In the same year Abu Tâleb died, at the age of above fourscore; and it is the general opinion that he died an infidel, though others say that when he was at the point of death he embraced Mohammedism, and produce some passages out of his poetical compositions to confirm their assertion. About a month, or as some write, three days after the death of this great benefactor and patron, Mohammed had the additional mortification to lose his wife Khadijah, who had so generously made his fortune. For which reason this year is called the year of mourning.
On the death of these two persons the Koreish began to be more troublesome than ever to their prophet, and especially some who had formerly been his intimate friends; insomuch that he found himself obliged to seek for shelter elsewhere, and first pitched upon Tâyet, about sixty miles east from Mecca, for the place of his retreat. Thither therefore he went, accompanied by his servant Zeid, and applied himself to two of the chief of the tribe of Thakif, who were the inhabitants of that place; but they received him very coldly. However, he stayed there a month; and some of the more considerate and better sort of men treated him with a little respect: but the slaves and inferior people at length rose against him, and bringing him to the wall of the city, obliged him to depart and return to Mecca, where he put himself under the protection of al Motaam Ebn Adi.
This repulse greatly discouraged his followers: however, Mohammed was not wanting to himself, but boldly continued to preach to the public assemblies at the pilgrimage, and gained several proselytes, and among them six of the inhabitants of Yathreb of the Jewish tribe of Khazraj, who on their return home failed not to speak much in commendation of their new religion, and exhorted their fellow-citizens to embrace the same.
In the twelfth year of his mission it was that Mohammed gave out that he had made his night journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and thence to heaven, so much spoken of by all that write of him. Dr. Prideaux thinks he invented it either to answer the expectations of those who demanded some miracle as a proof of his mission, or else, by pretending to have conversed with GOD, to establish the authority of whatever he should think fit to leave behind by way of oral tradition, and make his sayings to serve the same purpose as the oral law of the Jews. But I do not find that Mohammed himself ever expected so great a regard should be paid to his sayings, as his followers have since done; and seeing he all along disclaimed any power of performing miracles, it seems rather to have been a fetch of policy to raise his reputation, by pretending to have actually conversing with GOD in heaven, as Moses had heretofore done in the mount, and to have received several institutions immediately from him, whereas before he contented himself with persuading them that he had all by the ministry of Gabriel. Moseilama However, this story seemed so absurd and incredible, that several of his followers left him upon it, and it had probably ruined the whole design, had not Abu Becr vouched for his veracity, and declared that if Mohammed affirmed it to be true, he verily believed the whole. Which happy incident not only retrieved the prophet's credit, but increased it to such a degree, that he was secure of being able to make his disciples swallow whatever he pleased to impose on them for the future. And I am apt to think this fiction, notwithstanding its extravagance, was one of the most artful contrivances Mohammed ever put in practice, and what chiefly contributed to the raising of his reputation to that great height to which it afterwards arrived.
In this year, called by the Mohammedans the accepted year, twelve men of Yathreb or Medina, of whom ten were of the tribe of Khazraj, and the other two of that of Aws, came to Mecca, and took an oath of fidelity to Mohammed at al Akaba, a hill on the north of that city. This oath was called the women's oath, not that any women were present at this time, but because a man was not thereby obliged to take up arms in defence of Mohammed or his religion; it being the same oath that was afterwards exacted of the women, the form of which we have in the Koran, and is to this effect, viz.: "That they should renounce all idolatry; that they should not steal, nor commit fornication, nor kill their children (as the pagan Arabs used to do when they apprehended they should not be able to maintain them), nor forge calumnies; and that they should obey the prophet in all things that were reasonable." When they had solemnly engaged to do all this, Mohammed sent one of his disciples, named Masab Ebn Omair, home with them, to instruct them more fully in the grounds and ceremonies of his new religion.
Masab, being arrived at Medina, by the assistance of those who had been formerly converted, gained several proselytes, particularly Osaid Ebn Hodeira, a chief man of the city, and Saad Ebn Moâdh, prince of the tribe of Aws; Mohammedism spreading so fast, that there was scarce a house wherein there were not some who had embraced it.
The next year, being the thirteenth of Mohammed's mission, Masah returned to Mecca, accompanied by seventy-three men and two women of Medina, who had professed Islamism, besides some others who were as yet unbelievers. On their arrival, they immediately sent to Mohammed, and offered him their assistance, of which he was now in great need, for his adversaries were by this time grown so powerful in Mecca, that he could not stay there much longer without imminent danger. Wherefore he accepted their proposal, and met them one night, by appointment, at al Akaba above mentioned, attended by his uncle al Abbas, who, though he was not then a believer, wished his nephew well, and made a speech to those of Medina, wherein he told them, that as Mohammed was obliged to quit his native city, and seek an asylum elsewhere, and they had offered him their protection, they would do well not to deceive him; and that if they were not firmly resolved to defend and not betray him, they had better declare their minds, and let him provide for his safety in some other manner. Upon their protesting their sincerity, Mohammed swore to be faithful to them, on condition that they should protect him against all insults, as heartily as they would their own wives and families. They then asked him what recompense they were to expect if they should happen to be killed in his quarrel; he answered, Paradise. Whereupon they pledged their faith to him, and so returned home; after Mohammed had chosen twelve out of their number, who were to have the same authority among them as the twelve apostles of Christ had among his disciples.
Hitherto Mohammed had propagated his religion by fair means, so that the whole success of his enterprise, before his flight to Medina, must be attributed to persuasion only, and not to compulsion. For before this second oath of fealty or inauguration at al Akaba, he had no permission to use any force at all; and in several places of the Koran, which he pretended were revealed during his stay at Mecca, he declares his business was only to preach and admonish; that he had no authority to compel any person to embrace his religion; and that whether people believed, or not, was none of his concern, but belonged solely unto GOD. And he was so far from allowing his followers to use force, that he exhorted them to bear patiently those injuries which were offered them on account of their faith; and when persecuted himself, chose rather to quit the place of his birth and retire to Medina, than to make any resistance. But this great passiveness and moderation seems entirely owing to his want of power, and the great superiority of his opposers for the first twelve years of his mission; for no sooner was he enabled, by the assistance of those of Medina, to make head against his enemies, than he gave out, that GOD had allowed him and his followers to defend themselves against the infidels; and at length as his forces increased, he pretended to have the divine leave even to attack them, and to destroy idolatry, and set up the true faith by the sword; finding by experience that his designs would otherwise proceed very slowly, if they were not utterly overthrown, and knowing on the other hand that innovators, when they depend solely on their own strength, and can compel, seldom run any risk; from whence, the politician observes, it follows, that all the armed prophets have succeeded, and the unarmed ones have failed. Moses, Cyrus, Theseus, and Romulus would not have been able to establish the observance of their institutions for any length of time had they not been armed. The first passage of the Koran which gave Mohammed the permission of defending himself by arms, is said to have been that in the twenty-second chapter; after which a great number to the same purpose were revealed.
That Mohammed had a right to take up arms for his own defence against his unjust persecutors, may perhaps be allowed; but whether he ought afterwards to have made use of that means for the establishing of his religion is a question I will not here determine. How far the secular power may or ought to interpose in affairs of this nature, mankind are not agreed. The method of converting by the sword, gives no very favourable idea of the faith which is so propagated, and is disallowed by everybody in those of another religion, though the same persons are willing to admit of it for the advancement of their own; supposing that though a false religion ought not to be established by authority, yet a true one may; and accordingly force is almost as constantly employed in these cases by those who have the power in their hands, as it is constantly complained of by those who suffer the violence. It is certainly one of the most convincing proofs that Mohammedism was no other than human invention, that it owed its progress and establishment almost entirely to the sword; and it is one of the strongest demonstrations of the divine original of Christianity, that it prevailed against all the forces and powers of the world by the mere dint of its own truth, after having stood the assaults of all manner of persecutions, as well as other oppositions, for 300 years together and at length made the Roman emperors themselves submit thereto; after which time, indeed, this proof seems to fail, Christianity being then established and Paganism abolished by public authority, which has had great influence in the propagation of the one and destruction of the other ever since. But to return.
Mohammed having provided for the security of his companions as well as his own, by the league offensive and defensive which he had now concluded with those of Medina, directed them to repair thither, which they accordingly did; but himself with Abu Becr and Ali stayed behind, having not yet received the divine permission, as he pretended, to leave Mecca. The Koreish, fearing the consequence of this new alliance, began to think it absolutely necessary to prevent Mohammed's escape to Medina, and having held a council thereon, after several milder expedients had been rejected, they came to a resolution that he should be killed; and agreed that a man should be chosen out of every tribe for the execution of this design, and that each man should have a blow at him with his sword, that the guilt of his blood might fall equally on all the tribes, to whose united power the Hashemites were much inferior, and therefore durst not attempt to revenge their kinsman's death.
This conspiracy was scarce formed when by some means or other it came to Mohammed knowledge, and he gave out that it was revealed to him the angel Gabriel, who had now ordered him to retire to Medina. Whereupon, to amuse his enemies, he directed Ali to lie down in his place and wrap himself up in his green cloak, which he did, and Mohammed escape miraculously, as they pretend, to Abu Becr's house, unperceived by the conspirators, who had already assembled at the prophet's door. They in the meantime, looking through the crevice and seeing Ali, whom they took to be Mohammed himself, asleep, continued watching there till morning, when Ali arose, and they found themselves deceived.
From Abu Becr's house Mohammed and he went to a cave in Mount Thur, to the southeast of Mecca, accompanied only by Amer Ebn Foheirah, Abu Becr's servant, and Abd'allah Ebn Oreikat, an idolater, whom they had hired for a guide. In this cave they lay hid three days to avoid the search of their enemies, which they very narrowly escaped, and not without the assistance of more miracles than one; for some say that the Koreish were struck with blindness, so that they could not find the cave; others, that after Mohammed and his companions were got in, two pigeons laid their eggs at the entrance, and a spider covered the mouth of the cave with her web, which made them look no farther. Abu Becr, seeing the prophet in such imminent danger, became very sorrowful, whereupon Mohammed comforted him with these words, recorded in the Koran: "Be not grieved, for GOD is with us." Their enemies being retired, they left the cave and set out for Medina, by a by-road, and having fortunately, or as the Mohammedans tell us, miraculously, escaped some who were sent to pursue them, arrived safely at that city; whither Ali followed them in three days, after he had settled some affairs at Mecca.
The first thing Mohammed did after his arrival at Medina, was to build a temple for his religious worship, and a house for himself, which he did on a parcel of ground which had before served to put camels in, or as others tell us, for a burying-ground, and belonged to Sahal and Soheil the sons of Amru, who were orphans. This action Dr. Prideaux exclaims against, representing it as a flagrant instance of injustice, for that, says he, he violently dispossessed these poor orphans, the sons of an inferior artificer (whom the author he quotes calls a carpenter) of this ground, and so founded the first fabric of his worship with the like wickedness as he did his religion. But to say nothing of the improbability that Mohammed should act in so impolitic a manner at his first coming, the mohammedan writers set this affair ina quite different light; one tells us that he treated with the lads about the price of the ground, but they desired he would accept it asa present; however, as historians of good credit assure us, he actually bought it, and the money was paid by Abu Becr. Besides, had Mohammed accepted it as a present, the orphans were in circumstances sufficient to have afforded it; for they were of a very good family, of the tribe of Najjâr, one of the most illustrious among the Arabs, and not the sons of a carpenter, as Dr. Prideaux's author writes, who took the word Najjâr, which signifies a carpenter, for an appellative, whereas it is a proper name.
Mohammed being securely settled at Medina, and able not only to defend himself against the insults of his enemies, but to attack them, began to send out small parties to make reprisals on the Koreish; the first party consisting of no more than nine men, who intercepted and plundered a caravan belonging to that tribe, and in the action took two prisoners. But what established his affairs very much, and was the foundation on which he built all his succeeding greatness, was the gaining of the battle of Bedr, which was fought in the second year of the Hejra, and is so famous in the Mohammedan history. As my design is not to write the life of Mohammed, but only to describe the manner in which he carried on his enterprise, I shall not enter into any detail of his subsequent battles and expeditions, which amounted to a considerable number. Some reckon no less than twenty-seven expeditions wherein Mohammed was personally present, in nine of which he gave battle, besides several other expeditions in which he was not present: some of them, however, will be necessarily taken notice of in explaining several passages of the Koran. His forces he maintained partly by the contributions of his followers for this purpose, which he called by the name of Zacât or alms, and the paying of which he very artfully made one main article of his religion; and partly by ordering a fifth part of the plunder to be brought into the public treasury for that purpose, in which manner he likewise pretended to act by the divine direction.
In a few years by the success of his arms (notwithstanding he sometimes came off by the worst) he considerably raised his credit and power. In the sixth year of the Hejra he set out with 1,400 men to visit the temple of Mecca, not with any intent of committing hostilities, but in a peaceable manner. However, when he came to al Hodeibiya, which is situate partly within and partly without the sacred territory, the Koreish sent to let him know that they would not permit him to enter Mecca, unless he forced his way; whereupon he called his troops about him, and they all took a solemn oath of fealty or homage to him, and he resolved to attack the city; but those of Mecca sending Araw Ebn Masúd, prince of the tribe of Thakif, as their ambassador to desire peace, a truce was concluded between them for ten years, by which any person was allowed to enter into league either with Mohammed or with the Koreish as he thought fit.
It may not be improper, to show the inconceivable veneration and respect the Mohammedans by this time had for their prophet, to mention the account which the above-mentioned ambassador gave the Koreish, at his return, of their behaviour. He said he had been at the courts both of the Roman emperor and of the king of Persia, and never saw any prince so highly respected by his subjects as Mohammed was by his companions; for whenever he made the ablution, in order to say his prayers, they ran and catched the water that he had used; and whenever he spit, they immediately licked it up, and gathered up every hair that fell from him with great superstition.
In the seventh year of the Hejra, Mohammed began to think of propagating his religion beyond the bounds of Arabia, and sent messengers to the neighbouring princes with letters to invite them to Mohammedism. Nor was this project without some success. Khosru Parviz, then king of Persia, received his letter with great disdain, and tore it in a passion, sending away the messenger very abruptly; which when Mohammed heard, he said, "GOD shall tear his kingdom." And soon after a messenger came to Mohammed from Badhân, king of Yaman, who was a dependant on the Persians, to acquaint him that he had received orders to send him to Khosru. Mohammed put off his answer till the next morning, and then told the messenger it had been revealed to him that night that Khosru was slain by his son Shiruyeh; adding that he was well assured his new religion and empire should rise to as great a height as that of Khosru; and therefore bid him advise his master to embrace Mohammedism. The messenger being returned, Badhân in a few days received a letter from Shiruyeh informing him of his father's death, and ordering him to give the prophet no further disturbance. Whereupon Badhân and the Persians with him turned Mohammedans.
The emperor Heraclius, as the Arabian historians assure us, received Mohammed's letter with great respect, laying it on his pillow, and dismissed the bearer honourably. And some pretend that he would have professed this new faith, had he not been afraid of losing his crown.
Mohammed wrote to the same effect to the king of Ethiopia, though he had been converted before, according to the Arab writers; and to Mokawkas, governor of Egypt, who gave the messenger a very favourable reception, and sent several valuable presents to Mohammed, and among the rest two girls, one of which, named Mary, became a great favourite with him. He also sent letters of the like purport to several Arab princes, particularly one to al Hareth Ebn Abi Shamer, king of Ghassân, who, returning for answer that he would go to Mohammed himself, the prophet said, "May his kingdom perish;" another to Hawdha Ebn Ali, king of Yamâma, who was a Christian, and having some time before professed Islamism, had lately returned to his former faith; this prince sent back a very rough answer, upon which Mohammed cursing him, he died soon after; and a third to al Mondar Ebn Sâwa, king of Bahrein, who embraced Mohammedism, and all the Arabs of that country followed his example.
The eighth year of the Hejra was a very fortunate year to Mohammed. In the beginning of it Khâled Ebn al Walid and Amru Ebn al As, both excellent soldiers, the first of whom afterwards conquered Syria and other countries, and the latter Egypt, became proselytes of Mohammedism. And soon after the prophet sent 3,000 men against the Grecian forces, to revenge the death of one of his ambassadors, who being sent to the governor of Bosra on the same errand as those who went to the above-mentioned princes, was slain by an Arab of the tribe of Ghassân at Muta, a town in the territory of Balkâ in Syria, about three days' journey eastward from Jerusalem, near which town they encountered. The Grecians being vastly superior in number (for, including the auxiliary Arabs, they had an army of 100,000 men), the Mohammedans were repulsed in the first attack, and lost successively three of their general, viz., Zeid Ebn Hâretha, Mohammed's freedman, Jaafar, the son of Abu Tâleb, and Abdâllah Ebn Rawâha; but Khâled Ebn al Walid, succeeding to the command, overthrew the Greeks with a great slaughter, and brought away abundance of rich spoil; on occasion of which action Mohammed gave him the honourable title of Seif min soyuf Allah, One of the Swords of GOD.
In this year also Mohammed took the city of Mecca, the inhabitants whereof had broken the truce concluded on two years before. For the tribe of Becr, who were confederates of the Koreish, attacking those of Khozâah, who were allies of Mohammed, killed several of them, being supported in the action by a party of the Koreish themselves. The consequence of this violation was soon apprehended, and Abu Sofiân himself made a journey to Medina on purpose to heal the breach and renew the truce, but in vain, for Mohammed, glad of this opportunity, refused to see him; whereupon he applied to Abu Becr and Ali, but they giving him no answer, he was obliged to return to Mecca as he came.
Mohammed immediately gave orders for preparations to be made, that he might surprise the Meccans while they were unprovided to receive him; in a little time he began his march thither, and by the time he came near the city his forces were increased to 10,000 men. Those of Mecca being not in a condition to defend themselves against so formidable an army, surrendered at discretion, and Abu Sofiân saved his life by turning Mohammedan. About twenty-eight of the idolaters were killed by a party under the command of Khâled; but this happened contrary to Mohammed's orders, who, when he entered the town, pardoned all the Koreish on their submission, except only six men and four women, who were more obnoxious than ordinary (some of them having apostatized), and were solemnly proscribed by the prophet himself; but of these no more than three men and one woman were put to death, the rest obtaining pardon on their embracing Mohammedism, and one of the women making her escape.
The remainder of this year Mohammed employed in destroying the idols in and round about Mecca, sending several of his generals on expeditions for that purpose, and to invite the Arabs to Islamism: wherein it is no wonder if they now met with success.
The next year, being the ninth of the Hejra, the Mohammedans call "the year of embassies," for the Arabs had been hitherto expecting the issue of the war between Mohammed and the Koreish; but so soon as that tribe--the principal of the whole nation, and the genuine descendants of Ismael, whose prerogatives none offered to dispute--had submitted, they were satisfied that it was not in their power to oppose Mohammed, and therefore began to come in to him in great numbers, and to send embassies to make their submissions to him, both to Mecca, while he stayed there, and also to Medina, whither he returned this year. Among the rest, five kings of the tribe of Hamyar professed Mohammedism, and sent ambassadors to notify the same.
In the tenth year Ali was sent into Yaman to propagate the Mohammedan faith there, and as it is said, converted the whole tribe of Hamdân in one day. Their example was quickly followed by all the inhabitants of that province, except only those of Najrân, who, being Christians, chose rather to pay tribute.
Thus was Mohammedism established and idolatry rooted out, even in Mohammed's lifetime (for he died the next year), throughout all Arabia, except only Yamâma, where Moseilama, who set up also for a prophet as Mohammed's competitor, had a great party, and was not reduced till the Khalifat of Abu Becr. And the Arabs being then united in one faith and under one prince, found themselves in a condition of making those conquests which extended the Mohammedan faith over so great a part of the world.
OF THE KORAN ITSELF, THE PECULIARITIES OF THAT BOOK; THE MANNER OF
ITS BEING WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED, AND THE GENERAL DESIGN OF IT.
THE word Koran, derived from the verb karaa, to read, signifies properly in Arabic, "the reading," or rather, "that which ought to be read;" by which name Mohammedans denote not only the entire book or volume of the Koran, but also any particular chapter or section of it: just as the Jews call either the whole scripture or any part of it by the name of Karâh, or Mikra, words of the same origin and import; which observation seems to overthrow the opinion of some learned Arabians, who would have the Koran so named because it is a collection of the loose chapters or sheets which compose it--the verb karaa signifying also to gather or collect: and may also, by the way, serve as an answer to those who object that the Koran must be a book forged at once, and could not possibly be revealed by parcels at different times during the course of several years, as the Mohammedans affirm, because the Koran is often mentioned and called by that name in the very book itself. It may not be amiss to observe, that the syllable Al in the word Alkoran is only the Arabic article, signifying the, and therefore ought to be omitted when the English article is prefixed.
Beside this peculiar name, the Koran is also honoured with several appellations, common to other books of scripture: as, al Forkân, from the verb faraka, to divide or distinguish; not, as the Mohammedan doctor say, because those books are divided into chapters or sections, or distinguish between good and evil; but in the same notion that the Jews use the word Perek, or Pirka, from the same root, to denote a section or portion of scripture. It is also called al Moshaf, the volume, and al Kitab, the book, by way of eminence, which answers to the Biblia of the Greeks; and al Dhikr, the admonition, which name is also given to the Pentateuch and Gospel.
The Koran is divided into 114 larger portions of very unequal length, which we call chapters, but the Arabians Sowar, in the singular Sura, a word rarely used on any other occasion, and properly signifying a row, order, or regular series; as a course of bricks in building, or a rank of soldiers in an army; and is the same in use and import with the Sura, or Tora, of the Jews, who also call the fifty-three sections of the Pentateuch Sedârim, a word of the same signification.
These chapters are not in the manuscript copies distinguished by their numerical order, though for the reader's ease they are numbered in this edition, but by particular titles, which (except that of the first, which is the initial chapter, or introduction to the rest, and by the one Latin translator not numbered among the chapters) are taken sometimes from a particular matter of, or person mentioned therein; but usually from the first word of note, exactly in the same manner as the Jews have named their Sedârim: though the words from which some chapters are denominated be very far distant, towards the middle, or perhaps the end of the chapter; which seems ridiculous. But the occasion of this seems to have been, that the verse or passage wherein such word occurs, was, in point of time, revealed and committed to writing before the other verses of the same chapter which precede it in order: and the title being given to the chapter before it was completed, or the passages reduced to their present order, the verse from whence such title was taken did not always happen to begin the chapter. Some chapters have two or more titles, occasioned by the difference of the copies.
Some of the chapters having been revealed at Mecca, and others at Medina, the noting this difference makes a part of the title; but the reader will observe that several of the chapters are said to have been revealed partly at Mecca, and partly at Medina; and as to others, it is yet a dispute among the commentators to which place of the two they belong.
Every chapter is subdivided into smaller portions, of very unequal length also, which we customarily call verses; but the Arabic word is Ayât, the same with the Hebrew Ototh, and signifies signs, or wonders; such as are the secrets of GOD, his attributes, works, judgments, and ordinances, delivered in those verses; many of which have their particular titles also, imposed in the same manner as those of the chapters.
Notwithstanding this subdivision is common and well known, yet I have never yet seen any manuscript wherein the verses in each chapter is set down after the title, which we have therefore added in the table of the chapters. And the Mohammedans seem to have some scruple in making an actual distinction in their copies, because the chief disagreement between their several editions of the Koran, consists in the division and number of the verses: and for this reason I have not taken upon me to make any such division.
Having mentioned the different editions of the Koran, it may not be amiss here to acquaint the reader, that there are seven principal editions, if I may so call them, or ancient copies of that book; two of which were published and used at Medina, a third at Mecca, a fourth at Cufa, a fifth at Basra, a sixth in Syria, and a seventh called the common or vulgar edition. Of these editions, the first of Medina makes the whole number of the verses 6,000; the second and fifth, 6,214; the third, 6,219; the fourth, 6,236; the sixth, 6,226; and the last, 6,225. But they are all said to contain the same number of words, namely, 77,639; and the same number of letters, viz., 323,015: for the Mohammedans have in this also imitated the Jews, that they have superstitiously numbered the very words and letters of their law; nay, they have taken the pains to compute (how exactly I know not) the number of times each particular letter of the alphabet is contained in the Koran.
Besides these unequal divisions of chapter and verse, the Mohammedans have also divided their Koran into sixty equal portions, which they call Ahzâb, in the singular Hizb, each subdivided into four equal parts; which is also an imitation of the Jews, who have an ancient division of their Mishna into sixty portions, called Massictoth: but the Koran is more usually divided into thirty sections only, named Ajzâ, from the singular Joz, each of twice the length of the former, and in the like manner subdivided into four parts. These divisions are for the use of the readers of the Koran in the royal temples, or in the adjoining chapels where the emperors and great men are interred. There are thirty of these readers belonging to every chapel, and each reads his section every day, so that the whole Koran is read over once a day. I have seen several copies divided in this manner, and bound up in as many volumes; and have thought it proper to mark these divisions in the margin of this translation by numeral letters.
Next after the title, at the head of every chapter, except only the ninth, is prefixed the following solemn form, by the Mohammedans called the Bismillah, "In the name of the most merciful GOD;" which form they constantly place at the beginning of all their books and writings in general, as a peculiar mark or distinguishing characteristic of their religion, it being counted a sort of impiety to omit it. The Jews for the same purpose make use of the form, "In the name of the LORD," or, "In the name of the great GOD:" and the eastern Christians, that of "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." But I am apt to believe Mohammed really took this form, as he did many other things, from the Persian Magi, who used to begin their books in these words, Benâm Yezdân bakhshaishgher dâdâr; that is, "In the name of the most merciful, just GOD."
This auspicatory form, and also the titles of the chapters, are by the generality of the doctors and commentators believed to be of divine original, no less than the text itself; but the more moderate are of opinion they are only human additions, and not the very word of GOD.
There are twenty-nine chapters of the Koran, which have this peculiarity, that they begin with certain letters of the alphabet, some with a single one, others with more. These letters the Mohammedans believe to be the peculiar marks of the Koran, and to conceal several profound mysteries, the certain understanding of which, the more intelligent confess, has not been communicated to any mortal, their prophet only excepted. Notwithstanding which, some will take the liberty of guessing at their meaning by that species of Cabbala called by the jews, Notarikon, and suppose the letters to stand for as many words expressing the names and attributes of GOD, his works, ordinances, and decrees; and therefore these mysterious letters, as well as the verses themselves, seem in the Koran to be called signs. Others explain the intent of these letters from their nature or organ, or else from their value in numbers, according to another species of the Jewish Cabbala called Gematria; the uncertainty of which conjectures sufficiently appears from their disagreement. Thus, for example, five chapters, one of which is the second, begin with these letters, A.L.M., which some imagine to stand for Allah latif magid; "GOD is gracious and to be glorified;" or, Ana li minni, "to me and from me," viz., belongs all perfection, and proceeds all good; or else for Ana Allah âlam, "I am the most wise GOD," taking the first letter to mark the beginning of the first word, the second the middle of the second word, and the third the last of the third word: or for "Allah, Gabriel, Mohammed," the author, revealer, and preacher of the Koran. Others say that as the letter A belongs to the lower part of the throat, the first of the organs of speech; L to the palate, the middle organ; and M to the lips, which are the last organs; so these letters signify that GOD is the beginning, middle, and end, or ought to be praised in the beginning, middle, and end of all our words and actions: or, as the total value of those three letters in numbers is seventy-one, they signify that in the space of so many years, the religion preached in the Koran should be fully established. The conjecture of a learned Christian is, at least, as certain as any of the former, who supposes those letters were set there by the amanuensis, for Amar li Mohammed, i.e., "at the command of Mohammed," as the five letters prefixed to the nineteenth chapter seem to be there written by a Jewish scribe, for Cob yaas, i.e., "thus he commanded."
The Koran is universally allowed to be written with the utmost elegance and purity of language, in the dialect of the tribe of Koreish, the most noble and polite of all the Arabians, but with some mixture, though very rarely, or other dialects. It is confessedly the standard of the Arabic tongue, and as the more orthodox believe, and are taught by the book itself, inimitable by any human pen (though some sectaries have been of another opinion), and therefore insisted on as a permanent miracle, greater than that of raising the dead, and alone sufficient to convince the world of its divine original.
And to this miracle did Mohammed himself chiefly appeal for the confirmation of his mission, publicly challenging the most eloquent men in Arabia, which was at that time stocked with thousands whose sole study and ambition it was to excel in elegance of style and composition, to produce even a single chapter that might be compared with it. I will mention but one instance out of several, to show that this book was really admired for the beauty of its composure by those who must be allowed to have been competent judges. A poem of Labid Ebn Rabia, one of the greatest wits in Arabia in Mohammed's time, being fixed up on the gate of the temple of Mecca, an honour allowed to none but the most esteemed performances, none of the other poets durst offer anything of their own in competition with it. But the second chapter of the Koran being fixed up by it soon after, Labid himself (then an idolater) on reading the first verses only, was struck with admiration, and immediately professed the religion taught thereby, declaring that such words could proceed from an inspired person only. This Labid was afterwards of great service to Mohammed, in writing answers to the satires and invectives that were made on him and his religion by the infidels, and particularly by Amri al Kais, prince of the tribe of Asad, and author of one of those seven famous poems called al Moallakât.
The style of the Koran is generally beautiful and fluent, especially where it imitates the prophetic manner and scripture phrases. It is concise and often obscure, adorned with bold figures after the eastern taste, enlivened with florid and sententious expressions, and in many places, especially where the majesty and attributes of GOD are described, sublime and magnificent; of which the reader cannot but observe several instances, though he must not imagine the translation comes up to the original, notwithstanding my endeavours to do it justice.
Though it be written in prose, yet the sentences generally conclude in a long continued rhyme, for the sake of which the sense is often interrupted, and unnecessary repetitions too frequently made, which appear still more ridiculous in a translation, where the ornament, such as it is, for whose sake they were made, cannot be perceived. However, the Arabians are so mightily delighted with this jingling, that they employ it in their most elaborate compositions, which they also embellish with frequent passages of, and allusions to, the Koran, so that it is next to impossible to understand them without being well versed in this book.
It is probable the harmony of expression which the Arabians find in the Koran might contribute not a little to make them relish the doctrine therein taught, and give an efficacy to arguments which, had they been nakedly proposed without this rhetorical dress, might not have so easily prevailed. Very extraordinary effects are related of the power of words well chosen and artfully placed, which are no less powerful either to ravish or amaze than music itself; wherefore as much has been ascribed by the best orators to this part of rhetoric as to any other. He must have a very bad ear who is not uncommonly moved with the very cadence of a well-turned sentence; and Mohammed seems not to have been ignorant of the enthusiastic operation of rhetoric on the minds of men; for which reason he has not only employed his utmost skill in these his pretended revelations, to preserve the dignity and sublimity of style, which might seem not unworthy of the majesty of that Being, whom he gave out to be the author of them; and to imitate the prophetic manner of the Old Testament; but he has not neglected even the other arts of oratory; wherein he succeeded so well, and so strangely captivated the minds of his audience, that several of his opponents thought it the effect of witchcraft and enchantment, as he sometimes complains.
"The general design of the Koran" (to use the words of a very learned person) "seems to be this. To unite the professors of the three different religions then followed in the populous country of Arabia, who for the most part lived promiscuously, and wandered without guides, the far greater number being idolaters, and the rest Jews and Christians, mostly of erroneous and heterodox belief, in the knowledge and worship of one eternal, invisible GOD, by whose power all things were made, and those which are not, may be, the supreme Governor, Judge, and absolute Lord of the creation; established under the sanction of certain laws, and the outward signs of certain ceremonies, partly of ancient and partly of novel institution, and enforced by setting before them rewards and punishments, both temporal and eternal; and to bring them all to the obedience of Mohammed, as the prophet and ambassador of GOD, who after the repeated admonitions, promises, and threats of former ages, was at last to establish and propagate GOD'S religion on earth by force of arms, and to be acknowledged chief pontiff in spiritual matters, as well as supreme prince in temporal."
The great doctrine then of the Koran is the unity of GOD; to restore which point Mohammed pretended was the chief end of his mission; it being laid down by him as a fundamental truth, that there never was nor ever can be more than one true orthodox religion. For though the particular laws or ceremonies are only temporary, and subject to alteration according to the divine direction, yet the substance of it being eternal truth, is not liable to change, but continues immutably the same. And he taught that whenever this religion became neglected, or corrupted in essentials, GOD had the goodness to re- inform and re-admonish mankind thereof, by several prophets, of whom Moses and Jesus were the most distinguished, till the appearance of Mohammed, who is their seal, no other being to be expected after him. And the more effectually to engage people hearken to him, great part of the Koran is employed in relating examples of dreadful punishments formerly inflicted by God on those who rejected and abused his messengers; several of which stories of some circumstances of them are taken from the Old and New Testament, but many more from the apocryphal books and traditions of the Jews and Christians of those ages, set up in the Koran as truths in opposition to the scriptures, which the Jews and Christians are charged with having altered; and I am apt to believe that few or none of the relations or circumstances in the Koran were invented by Mohammed, as is generally supposed, it being easy to trace the greater part of them much higher, as the rest might be, were more of the books extant, and it was worth while to make the inquiry.
The other part of the Koran is taken up in giving necessary laws and directions, in frequent admonitions to moral and divine virtues, and above all to the worshipping and reverencing of the only true GOD, and resignation to his will; among which are many excellent things intermixed not unworthy even a Christian's perusal.
But besides these, there are a great number of passages which are occasional, and relate to particular emergencies. For whenever anything happened which perplexed and gravelled Mohammed, and which he could not otherwise get over, he had constant recourse to a new revelation, as an infallible expedient in all nice cases; and he found the success of this method answer his expectation. It was certainly an admirable and politic contrivance of his to bring down the whole Koran at once to the lowest heaven only, and not to the earth, as a bungling prophet would probably have done; for if the whole had been published at once, innumerable objections might have been made, which it would have been very hard, if not impossible, for him to solve: but as he pretended to have received it by parcels, as GOD saw proper that they should be published for the conversion and instruction of the people, he had a sure way to answer all emergencies, and to extricate himself with honour from any difficulty which might occur. If any objection be hence made to that eternity of the Koran, which the Mohammedans are taught to believe, they easily answer it by their doctrine of absolute predestination; according to which all the accidents for the sake of which these occasional passages were revealed, were predetermined by GOD from all eternity.
That Mohammed was really the author and chief contriver of the Koran is beyond dispute; though it be highly probably that he had no small assistance in his design from others, as his countrymen failed not to object to him; however, they differed so much in their conjectures as to the particular persons who gave him such assistance, that they were not able, it seems, to prove the charge; Mohammed, it is to be presumed, having taken his measures too well to be discovered. Dr. Prideaux has given the most probably account of this matter, though chiefly from Christian writers, who generally mix such ridiculous fables with what they deliver, that they deserve not much credit.
However, it be, the Mohammedans absolutely deny the Koran was composed by their prophet himself, or any other for him; it being their general and orthodox belief that it is of divine original, any, that it is eternal and uncreated, remaining, as some express it, in the very essence of GOD; that the first transcript has been from everlasting by GOD'S throne, written on a tablet of vast bigness, called the preserved table, in which are also recorded the divine decrees past and future: that a copy from this table, in one volume on paper, was by the ministry of the angel Gabriel sent down to the lowest heaven, in the month of Ramadân, on the night of power; from whence Gabriel revealed it to Mohammed by parcels, some at Mecca, and some at Medina, at different times, during the space of twenty-three years, as the exigency of affairs required; giving him, however, the consolation to show him the whole (which they tell us was bound in silk, and adorned with gold and precious stones of paradise) once a year; but in the last year of his life he had the favour to see it twice. They say that few chapters were delivered entire, the most part being revealed piecemeal, and written down form time to time by the prophet's amanuenses in such or such a part of such or such a chapter till they were completed, according to the directions of the angel. The first parcel that was revealed, is generally agreed to have ben the first five verses of the ninety-sixth chapter.
After the new revealed passages had been from the prophet's mouth taken down in writing by his scribe, they were published to his followers, several of whom took copies for their private use, but the far greater number got them by heart. The originals when returned were put promiscuously into a chest, observing no order of time, for which reason it is uncertain when many passages were revealed.
When Mohammed died, he left his revelations in the same disorder I have mentioned, and not digest into the method, such as it is, which we now find them in. This was the work of his successor, Abu Becr, who considering that a great number of passages were committed to the memory of Mohammed's followers, many of whom were slain in their wars, ordered the whole to be collected, not only from the palm-leaves and skins on which they had been written, and which were kept between two boards or covers, but also from the mouths of such as had gotten them by heart. And this transcript when completed he committed to the custody of Hafsa the daughter of Omar, one of the prophet's widows.
From this relation it is generally imagined that Abu Becr was really the compiler of the Koran; though for aught appears to the contrary, Mohammed left the chapters complete as we now have them, excepting such passages as his successor might add or correct from those who had gotten them by heart; what Abu Becr did else being perhaps no more than to range the chapters in their present order, which he seems to have done without any regard to time, having generally placed the longest first.
However, in the thirtieth year of the Hejra, Othmân being then Khalif, and observing the great disagreement in the copies of the Koran in the several provinces of the empire--those of Irak, for example, following the reading of Abu Musa al Ashari, and the Syrians that of Macdâd Ebn Aswad--he, by advice of the companions, ordered a great number of copies to be transcribed from that of Abu Becr, in Hafsa's care, under the inspection of Zeid Ebn Thabet, Abd'allah Ebn Zobair, Said Ebn al As, and Abd'alrahmân Ebn al Hâreth, the Makhzumite; whom he directed that wherever they disagreed about any word, they should write it in the dialect of the Koreish, in which it was first delivered. These copies when made were dispersed in the several provinces of the empire, and the old ones burnt and suppressed. Though many things in Hafsa's copy were corrected by the above-mentioned supervisors, yet some various readings still occur; the most material of which will be taken notice of in their proper places.
The want of vowels in the Arabic character made Mokris, or readers whose peculiar study and profession it was to read the Koran with its proper vowels, absolutely necessary. But these differing in their manner of reading, occasioned still further variations in the copies of the Koran, as they are now written with the vowels; and herein consist much the greater part of the various readings throughout the book. The readers whose authority the commentators chiefly allege, in admitting these various readings, are seven in number.
There being some passages in the Koran which are contradictory, the Mohammedan doctors obviate any objection from thence by the doctrine of abrogation; for they say, that GOD in the Koran commanded several things which were for good reasons afterwards revoked and abrogated.
Passages abrogated are distinguished into three kinds: the first where the letter and the sense are both abrogated; the second, where the letter only is abrogated, but the sense remains; and the third, where the sense is abrogated, though the letter remains.
Of the first kind were several verses, which, by the tradition of Malec Ebn Ans, were in the prophet's lifetime read in the chapter of Repentance, but are not now extant, one of which, being all he remembered of them, was the following: "If a son of Adam had two rivers of gold, he would covet yet a third; and if he had three, he would covet yet a fourth (to be added) unto them; neither shall the belly of a son of Adam be filled, but with dust. GOD will turn unto him who shall repent." Another instance of this kind we have from the tradition of Abd'allah Ebn Masud, who reported that the prophet gave him a verse to read which he wrote down; but the next morning looking in his book, he found it was vanished, and the leaf blank: this he acquainted Mohammed with, who assured him the verse was revoked the same night.
Of the second kind is a verse called the verse of stoning, which, according to the tradition of Omar, afterwards Khalif, was extant while Mohammed was living, though it be not now to be found. The words are these: "Abhor not your parents, for this would be ingratitude in you. If a man and woman of reputation commit adultery, ye shall stone them both; it is a punishment ordained by GOD; for GOD is mighty and wise."
Of the last kind are observed several verses in sixty-three different chapters, to the number of 225. Such as the precepts of turning in prayer to Jerusalem; fasting after the old custom; forbearance towards idolaters; avoiding the ignorant, and the like. The passages of this sort have been carefully collected by several writers, and are most of them remarked in their proper places.
Though it is the belief of the Sonnites or orthodox that the Koran is uncreated and eternal, subsisting in the very essence of GOD, and Mohammed himself is said to have pronounced him an infidel who asserted the contrary, yet several have been of a different opinion; particularly the sect of the Mutazalites, and the followers of Isa Ebn Sobeih Abu Musa, surnamed al Mozdâr, who struck not to accuse those who held the Koran to be uncreated of infidelity, as asserters of two eternal beings.
This point was controverted with so much heat that it occasioned many calamities under some of the Khalifs of the family of Abbâs, al Mamun making a public edict declaring the Koran to be created, which was confirmed by his successors Al Mutasem and Al Wâthek, who whipped, imprisoned, and put to death those of the contrary opinion. But at length Al Motawakkel, who succeeded Al Wâthek, put an end to these persecutions, by revoking the former edicts, releasing those that were imprisoned on that account, and leaving every man at liberty as to his belief in this point.
Al Ghazâli seems to have tolerably reconciled both opinions, saying, that the Koran is read and pronounced with the tongue, written in books, and kept in memory; and is yet eternal, subsisting in GOD'S essence, and not possible to be separated thence by any transmission into men's memories or the leaves of books; by which he seems to mean no more than that the original idea of the Koran only is really in GOD, and consequently co-essential and co-eternal with him, but that the copies are created and the work of man.
The opinion of Al Jahedh, chief of a sect bearing his name, touching the Koran, is too remarkable to be omitted: he used to say it was a body, which might sometimes be turned into a man, and sometimes into a beast; which seems to agree with the notion of those who assert the Koran to have two faces, one of a man, the other of a beast; thereby, as I conceive, intimating the double interpretation it will admit of, according to the letter or the spirit.
As some have held the Koran to be created, so there have not been wanting those who have asserted that there is nothing miraculous in that book in respect to style or composition, excepting only the prophetical relations of things past, and predictions of things to come; and that had GOD left men to their natural liberty, and not restrained them in that particular, the Arabians could have composed something not only equal, but superior to the Koran in eloquence, method, and purity of language. This was another opinion of the Mutazalites, and in particular of al Mozdâr, above mentioned, and al Nodhâm.
The Koran being the Mohammedans' rule of faith and practice, it is no wonder its expositors and commentators are so very numerous. And it may not be amiss to take notice of the rules they observe in expounding it.
One of the most learned commentators distinguishes the contents of the Koran into allegorical and literal. The former comprehends the more obscure, parabolical, and enigmatical passages, and such as are repealed or abrogated; the latter those which are plain, perspicuous, liable to no doubt, and in full force.
To explain these severally in a right manner, it is necessary from tradition and study to know the time when each passage was revealed, its circumstances, state, and history, and the reasons or particular emergencies for the sake of which it was revealed. Or, more explicitly, whether the passage was revealed at Mecca, or at Medina; whether it be abrogated, or does itself abrogate any other passage; whether it be anticipated in order of time, or postponed; whether it be distinct from the context, or depends thereon; whether it be particular or general; and, lastly, whether it be implicit by intention, or explicit in words.
By what has been said the reader may easily believe this book is in the greatest reverence and esteem among the Mohammedans. They dare not so much as touch it without being first washed or legally purified; which, lest they should do by inadvertence, they write these words on the cover or label, "Let none touch it but they who are clean." They read it with great care and respect, never holding it below their girdles. They swear by it, consult it in their weighty occasions, carry it with them to war, write sentences of it on their banners, adorn it with gold and precious stones, and knowingly suffer it not to be in the possession of any of a different persuasion.
The Mohammedans, far from thinking the Koran to be profaned by a translation, as some authors have written, have taken care to have their scriptures translated not only into the Persian tongue, but into several others, particularly the Javan and Malayan, though out of respect to the original Arabic, these versions are generally (if not always) intermediary. ______ SECTION IV. OF THE DOCTRINES AND POSITIVE PRECEPTS OF THE KORAN, WHICH
RELATE TO FAITH AND RELIGIOUS DUTIES. IT has been already observed more than once, that the fundamental position on which Mohammed erected the superstructure of his religion was, that from the beginning to the end of the world there has been, and for ever will be, but one true orthodox belief; consisting, as to matter of faith, in the acknowledging of the only true GOD, and the believing in and obeying such messengers or prophets as he should from time to time send, with proper credential, to reveal his will to mankind; and as to matter of practice, in the observance of the immutable and eternal laws of right and wrong, together with such other precepts and ceremonies as GOD should think fit to order for the time being, according to the different dispensations in different ages of the world: for these last he allowed were things indifferent in their own nature, and became obligatory by GOD'S positive precept only; and were therefore temporary, and subject to alteration according to his will and pleasure. And to this religion he gives the name of Islâm, which word signifies resignation, or submission to the service and commands of GOD; and is used as the proper name of the Mohammedan religion, which they will also have to be the same at bottom with that of all the prophets from Adam.
Under pretext that this eternal religion was in his time corrupted, and professed in its purity by no one sect of men, Mohammed pretended to be a prophet sent by GOD to reform those abuses which had crept into it, and to reduce it to its primitive simplicity; with the addition, however, of peculiar laws and ceremonies, some of which had been used in former times, and others were now first instituted. And he comprehended the whole substance of his doctrine under these two propositions, or articles of faith; viz., that there is but one GOD, and that himself was the apostle of GOD; in consequence of which latter article, all such ordinances and institutions as he thought fit to establish must be received as obligatory and of divine authority.
The Mohammedans divide their religion, which, as I just now said, they call Islâm, into two distinct parts: Imân, i.e., faith, or theory, and Din, i.e., religion, or practice; and teach that it is built on five fundamental points, one belonging to faith, and the other four to practice.
The first is that confession of faith which I have already mentioned; that "there is no god but the true GOD; and that Mohammed is his apostle." Under which they comprehend six distinct branches; viz., 1. Belief in GOD; 2. In his angels; 3. In his scriptures; 4. In his prophets; 5. In the resurrection and day of judgment; and, 6. In GOD'S absolute decree and predetermination both of good and evil.
The four points relating to practice are: 1. Prayer, under which are comprehended those washings or purifications which are necessary preparations required before prayer; 2. Alms; 3. Fasting; and, 4. The pilgrimage to Mecca. Of each of these I shall speak in their order.
That both Mohammed and those among his followers who are reckoned orthodox, had and continue to have just and true notions of GOD and his attributes (always excepting their obstinate and impious rejecting of the Trinity), appears so plain from the Koran itself and all the Mohammedan divines, that it would be loss of time to refute those who suppose the GOD of Mohammed to be different from the true GOD, and only a fictitious deity or idol of his own creation. Nor shall I enter into any of the Mohammedan controversies concerning the divine nature and attributes, because I shall have a more proper opportunity of doing it elsewhere.
The existence of angels and their purity are absolutely required to be believed in the Koran; and he is reckoned an infidel who denies there are such beings, or hates any of them, or asserts any distinction of sexes among them. They believe them to have pure and subtle bodies, created of fire; that they neither eat nor drink, nor propagate their species; that they have various forms and offices; some adoring GOD in different postures, others singing praises to him, or interceding for mankind. They hold that some of them are employed in writing down the actions of men; others in carrying the throne of GOD and other services.
The four angels whom they look on as more eminently in GOD'S favour, and often mention on account of the offices assigned them, are Gabriel, to whom they give several titles, particularly those of the holy spirit, and the angel of revelations, supposing him to be honoured by GOD with a greater confidence than any other, and to be employed in writing down the divine decrees; Michael, the friend and protector of the Jews; Azrael, the angel of death, who separates men's souls from their bodies; and Israfil, whose office it will be to sound the trumpet at the resurrection. The Mohammedans also believe that two guardian angels attend on every man, to observe and write down his actions, being changed every day, and therefore called al Moakkibât, or the angels who continually succeed one another.
This whole doctrine concerning angels Mohammed and his disciples have borrowed from the Jews, who learned the names and offices of those beings from the Persians, as themselves confess. The ancient Persians firmly believed the ministry of angels, and their superintendence over the affairs of this world (as the Magians still do), and therefore assigned them distinct charges and provinces, giving their names to their months and the days of their months. Gabriel they called Sorush and Revân bakhsh, or the giver of souls, in opposition to the contrary office of the angel of death, to whom among other names they gave that of Mordâd, or the giver of death; Michael they called Beshter, who according to them provides sustenance for mankind. The Jews teach that the angels were created of fire; that they have several offices; that they intercede for men, and attend them. The angel of death they name Duma, and say he calls dying persons by their respective names at their last hour.
The devil, whom Mohammed names Eblis from his despair, was once one of those angels who are nearest to GOD'S presence, called Azazil, and fell, according to the doctrine of the Koran, for refusing to pay homage to Adam at the command of GOD.
Besides angels and devils, the Mohammedans are taught by the Koran to believe an intermediate order of creatures, which they call Jin or Genii, created also of fire, but of a grosser fabric than angels; since they eat and drink, and propagate their species, and are subject to death. Some of these are supposed to be good, and others bad, and capable of future salvation or damnation, as men are; whence Mohammed pretended to be sent for the conversion of genii as well as men. The orientals pretend that these genii inhabited the world for many ages before Adam was created, under the government of several successive princes, who all bore the common name of Solomon; but falling at length into an almost general corruption, Eblis was sent to drive them into a remote part of the earth, there to be confined: that some of that generation still remaining, were by Tahmurath, one of the ancient kings of Persia, who waged war against them, forced to retreat into the famous mountains of Kâf. Of which successions and wars they have many fabulous and romantic stories. They also make different ranks and degrees among these beings (if they be not rather supposed to be of a different species), some being called absolutely Jin, some Peri or fairies, some Div or giants, others Tacwins or fates.
The Mohammedan notions concerning these genii agree almost exactly with what the Jews write of a sort of demons, called Shedim, whom some fancy to have been begotten by two angels named Aza and Azael, on Naamah the daughter of Lamech, before the Flood. However, the Shedim, they tell us, agree in three things with the ministering angels; for that, like them, they have wings, and fly from one end of the world to the other, and have some knowledge of futurity; and in three things they agree with men, like whom they eat and drink, are propagated, and die. They also say that some of them believe in the law of Moses, and are consequently good, and that others of them are infidels and reprobates.
As to the scriptures, the Mohammedans are taught by the Koran that GOD, in divers ages of the world, gave revelations of his will in writing to several prophets, the whole and every word of which it is absolutely necessary for a good Moslem to believe. The number of these sacred books were, according to them, 104. Of which ten were given to Adam, fifty to Seth, thirty to Edris or Enoch, ten to Abraham; and the other four, being the Pentateuch, the Psalms, the Gospel, and the Koran, were successively delivered to Moses, David, Jesus, and Mohammed; which last being the seal of the prophets, those revelations are now closed, and no more are to be expected. All these divine books, except the four last, they agree to be now entirely lost, and their contents unknown; though the Sabians have several books which they attribute to some of the antediluvian prophets. And of those four the Pentateuch, Psalms, and Gospel, they say, have undergone so many alterations and corruptions, that though there may possibly be some part of the true word of GOD therein, yet no credit is to be given to the present copies in the hands of the Jews and Christians. The Jews in particular are frequently reflected on in the Koran for falsifying and corrupting their copies of their law; and some instances of such pretended corruptions, both in that book and the two others, are produced by Mohammedan writers, wherein they merely follow their own prejudices, and the fabulous accounts of spurious legends. Whether they have any copy of the Pentateuch among them different from that of the Jews or not, I am not entirely satisfied, since a person who travelled into the east was told that they had the books of Moses, though very much corrupted; but I know nobody that has ever seen them. However, they certainly have and privately read a book which they call the Psalms of David, in Arabic and Persian, to which are added some prayers of Moses, Jonas, and others. This Mr. Reland supposes to be a translation from our copies (though no doubt falsified in more places than one); but M. D'Herbelot says it contains not the same Psalms which are in our Psalter, being no more than an extract from thence mixed with other very different pieces. The easiest way to reconcile these two learned gentlemen, is to presume that they speak of different copies. The Mohammedans have also a Gospel in Arabic, attributed to St. Barnabas, wherein the history of Jesus Christ is related in a manner very different from what we find in the true Gospels, and correspondent to those traditions which Mohammed has followed in his Koran. Of this Gospel the Moriscoes in Africa have a translation in Spanish; and there is in the library of Prince Eugene of Savoy, a manuscript of some antiquity, containing an Italian translation of the same Gospel, made, it is to be supposed, for the use of renegades. This book appears to be no original forgery of the Mohammedans, though they have no doubt interpolated and altered it since, the better to serve their purpose; and in particular, instead of the Paraclete or Comforter, they have in this apocryphal gospel inserted the word Periclyte, that is, the famous or illustrious, by which they pretend their prophet was foretold by name, that being the signification of Mohammed in Arabic: and this they say to justify that passage of the Koran, where Jesus Christ is formally asserted to have foretold his coming, under his other name of Ahmed; which is derived from the same root as Mohammed, and of the same import. From these or some other forgeries of the same stamp it is that the Mohammedans quote several passages, of which there are not the least footsteps in the New Testament. But after all we must not hence infer that the Mohammedans, much less all of them, hold these copies of theirs to be the ancient and genuine scriptures themselves. If any argue, from the corruption which they insist has happened to the Pentateuch and Gospel, that the Koran may possibly be corrupted also; they answer, that GOD has promised that he will take care of the latter, and preserve it from any addition or diminution; but that he left the two other to the care of men. However, they confess there are some various readings in the Korân, as has been observed.
Besides the books above mentioned, the Mohammedans also take notice of the writings of Daniel and several other prophets, and even make quotations thence; but these they do not believe to be divine scripture, or of any authority in matters of religion.
The number of the prophets, which have been from time to time sent by GOD into the world, amounts to no less than 224,000, according to one Mohammedan tradition, or to 124,000, according to another; among whom 313 were apostles, sent with special commissions to reclaim mankind from infidelity and superstition; and six of them brought new laws or dispensations, which successively abrogated the preceding: these were Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. All the prophets in general the Mohammedans believe to have been free from great sins and errors of consequence, and professors of one and the same religion, that is Islâm, notwithstanding the different laws and institutions which they observed. They allow of degrees among them, and hold some of them to be more excellent and honourable than others. The first place they give to the revealers and establishers of new dispensations, and the next to the apostles.
In this great number of prophets, they not only reckon divers patriarchs and persons named in scripture, but not recorded to have been prophets (wherein the Jewish and Christian writers have sometimes led the way), as Adam, Seth, Lot, Ismael, Nun, Joshua, &c., and introduce some of them under different names, as Enoch, Heber, and Jethro, who are called in the Koran, Edris, Hud, and Shoaib; but several others whose very names do not appear in scripture (though they endeavour to find some persons there to fix them on), as Saleh, Khedr, Dhu'lkefl, &c. Several of their fabulous traditions concerning these prophets we shall occasionally mention in the notes on the Koran.
As Mohammed acknowledged the divine authority of the Pentateuch, Psalms, and Gospel, he often appeals to the consonancy of the Koran with those writings, and to the prophecies which he pretended were therein concerning himself, as proofs of his mission; and he frequently charges the Jews and Christians with stifling the passages which bear witness to him. His followers also fail not to produce several texts even from our present copies of the Old and New Testament, to support their master's cause.
The next article of faith required by the Koran is the belief of a general resurrection and a future judgment. But before we consider the Mohammedan tenets in those points, it will be proper to mention what they are taught to believe concerning the intermediate state, both of the body and of the soul, after death.
When a corpse is laid in the grave, they say he is received by an angel, who gives him notice of the coming of the two examiners; who are two black livid angels, of a terrible appearance, named Monker and Nakir. These order the dead person to sit upright, and examine him concerning his faith, as to the unity of GOD, and the mission of Mohammed: if he answer rightly, they suffer the body to rest in peace, and it is refreshed by the air of paradise; but if not, they beat him on the temples with iron maces, till he roars out for anguish so loud, that he is heard by all from east to west, except men and genii. Then they press the earth on the corpse, which is gnawed and stung till the resurrection by ninety-nine dragons, with seven heads each; or as others say, their sins will become venomous beasts, the grievous ones stinging like dragons, the smaller like scorpions, and the others like serpents: circumstances which some understand in a figurative sense.
The examination of the sepulchre is not only founded on an express tradition of Mohammed, but is also plainly hinted at, though not directly taught, in the Koran, as the commentators agree. It is therefore believed by the orthodox Mohammedans in general, who take care to have their graves made hollow, that they may sit up with more ease while they are examined by the angels; but is utterly rejected by the sect of the Mutazalites, and perhaps by some others.
These notions Mohammed certainly borrowed from the Jews, among whom they were very anciently received. They say that the angel of death coming and sitting on the grave, the soul immediately enters the body and raises it on its feet; that he then examines the departed person, and strikes him with a chain half of iron and half of fire; at the first blow all his limbs are loosened, at the second his bones are scattered, which are gathered together again by the angels, and the third stroke reduces the body to dust and ashes, and it returns into the grave. This rack or torture they call Hibbut hakkeber, or the beating of the sepulchre, and pretend that all men in general must undergo it, except only those who die on the evening of the sabbath, or have dwelt in the land of Israel.
It it be objected to the Mohammedans that the cry of the persons under such examination has been never heard; or if they be asked how those can undergo it whose bodies are burnt or devoured by beasts or birds, or otherwise consumed without burial; they answer, that it is very possible notwithstanding, since men are not able to perceive what is transacted on the other side the grave; and that it is sufficient to restore to life any part of the body which is capable of understanding the questions put by the angels.
As to the soul, they hold that when it is separated from the body by the angel of death, who performs his office with ease and gentleness towards the good, and with violence towards the wicked, it enters into that state which they call Al Berzakh, or the interval between death and the resurrection. If the departed person was a believer, they say two angels meet it, who convey it to heaven, that its place there may be assigned, according to its merit and degree. For they distinguish the souls of the faithful into three classes: the first of prophets, whose souls are admitted into paradise immediately; the second of martyrs; whose spirits, according to a tradition of Mohammed, rest in the crops of green birds which eat of the fruits and drink of the rivers of paradise; and the third of other believers, concerning the state of whose souls before the resurrection there are various opinions. For, I. Some say they stay near the sepulchres, with liberty, however, of going wherever they please; which they confirm with Mohammed's manner of saluting them at their graves, and his affirming that the dead heard those salutations as well as the living, though they could not answer. Whence perhaps proceeded the custom of visiting the tombs of relations, so common among the Mohammedans. 2. Others imagine they are with Adam, in the lowest heaven; and also support their opinion by the authority of their prophet, who gave out that in his return from the upper heavens in his pretended night journey, he saw there the souls of those who were destined to paradise on the right hand of Adam, and of those who were condemned to hell on his left. 3. Others fancy the souls of believers remain in the well Zemzem, and those of infidels in a certain well in the province of Hadramaut, called Borhut; but this opinion is branded as heretical. 4. Others say they stay near the graves for seven days; but that whither they go afterwards is uncertain. 5. Others that they are all in the trumpet whose sound is to raise the dead. And, 6. Others that the souls of the good dwell in the forms of white birds, under the throne of GOD. As to the condition of the souls of the wicked, besides the opinions that have been already mentioned, the more orthodox hold that they are offered by the angels to heaven, from whence being repulsed as stinking and filthy, they are offered to the earth, and being also refused a place there, are carried down to the seventh earth, and thrown into a dungeon, which they call Sajin, under a green rock, or according to a tradition of Mohammed, under the devil's jaw, to be there tormented, till they are called up to be joined again to their bodies.
Though some among the Mohammedans have thought that the resurrection will be merely spiritual, and no more than the returning of the soul to the place whence it first came (an opinion defended by Ebn Sina, and called by some the opinion of the philosophers); and others, who allow man to consist of body only, that it will be merely corporeal; the received opinion is, that both body and soul will be raised, and their doctors argue strenuously for the possibility of the resurrection of the body, and dispute with great subtlety concerning the manner of it. But Mohammed has taken care to preserve one part of the body, whatever becomes of the rest, to serve for a basis of the future edifice, or rather a leaven for the mass which is to be joined to it. For he taught that a man's body was entirely consumed by the earth, except only the bone called al Ajb, which we name the os coccygis, or rump-bone; and that as it was the first formed in the human body, it will also remain uncorrupted till the last day, as a seed from whence the whole is to be renewed: and this he said would be effected by a forty days' rain which GOD should send, and which would cover the earth to the height of twelve cubits, and cause the bodies to sprout forth like plants. Herein also is Mohammed also beholden to the Jews, who say the same things of the bone Luz, excepting that what he attributes to a great rain, will be effected according to them by a dew, impregnating the dust of the earth.
The time of the resurrection the Mohammedans allow to be a perfect secret to all but GOD alone: the angel Gabriel himself acknowledging his ignorance on this point when Mohammed asked him about it. However, they say the approach of that day may be known from certain signs which are to precede it. These signs they distinguish into two sorts--the lesser and the greater-- which I shall briefly enumerate after Dr. Pocock.
The lesser signs are: I. They decay of faith among men. 2. The advancing of the meanest persons to eminent dignity. 3. That a maid-servant shall become the mother of her mistress (or master); by which is meant either that towards the end of the world men shall be much given to sensuality, or that the Mohammedans shall then take many captives. 4. Tumults and seditions. 5. A war with the Turks. 6. Great distress in the world, so that a man when he passes by another's grave shall say "Would to GOD I were in his place." 7. That the provinces of Irâk and Syria shall refuse to pay their tribute. And, 8. That the buildings of Medina shall reach to Ahâb, or Yahâb.
The greater signs are:
1. The sun's rising in the west: which some have imagined it originally did.
2. The appearance of the beast, which shall rise out of the earth, in the temple of Mecca, or on Mount Safâ, or in the territory of Tâyef, or some other place. This beast they say is to be sixty cubits high: though others, not satisfied with so small a size, will have her reach to the clouds and to heaven when her head only is out; and that she will appear for three days, but show only a third part of her body. They describe this monster, as to her form, to be a compound of various species, having the head of a bull, the eyes of a hog, the ears of an elephant, the horns of a stag, the neck of an ostrich, the breast of a lion, the colour of a tiger, the back of a cat, the tail of a ram, the legs of a camel, and the voice of an ass. Some say this beast is to appear three times in several places, and that she will bring with her the rod of Moses and the seal of Solomon; and being so swift that none can overtake or escape her, will with the first strike all the believers on the face and mark them with the word Mumen, i.e., believer; and with the latter will mark the unbelievers, on the face likewise, with the word Câfer, i.e., infidel, that every person may be known for what he really is. They add that the same beast is to demonstrate the vanity of all religions except Islâm, and to speak Arabic. All this stuff seems to be the result of a confused idea of the beast in the Revelations.
3. War with the Greeks, and the taking of Constantinople by 70,000 of the posterity of Isaac, who shall not win that city by force of arms, but the walls shall fall down while they cry out, "There is no god but GOD: GOD is most great!" As they are dividing the spoil, news will come to them of the appearance of the Antichrist, whereupon they shall leave all, and return back.
4. The coming of Anti-christ, whom the Mohammedans call al Masih al Dajjâl, i.e., the false or lying Christ, and simply al Dajjâl. He is to be one-eyed, and marked on the forehead with the letters C.F.R., signifying Câfer, or infidel. They say that the Jews give him the name of Messiah Ben David, and pretend he is to come in the last days and to be lord both of land and sea, and that he will restore the kingdom to them. According to the traditions of Mohammed, he is to appear first between Irâk and Syria, or according to others, in the province of Khorasân; they add that he is to ride on an ass, that he will be followed by 70,000 Jews of Ispahân, and continue on earth forty days, of which one will be equal in length to a year, another to a month, another to a week, and the rest will be common days; that he is to lay waste all places, but will not enter Mecca or Medina, which are to be guarded by angels; and that at length he will be slain by Jesus, who is to encounter him at the gate of Lud. It is said that Mohammed foretold several Anti-christs, to the number of about thirty, but one of greater note than the rest.
5. The descent of Jesus on earth. They pretend that he is to descend near the white tower to the east of Damascus, when the people are returned from the taking of Constantinople; that he is to embrace the Mohammedan religion, marry a wife, get children, kill Antichrist, and at length die after forty years', or, according to others, twenty-four years', continuance on earth. Under him they say there will be great security and plenty in the world, all hatred and malice being laid aside; when lions and camels, bears and sheep, shall live in peace, and a child shall play with serpents unhurt.
6. War with the Jews; of whom the Mohammedans are to make a religious slaughter, the very trees and stones discovering such of them as hide themselves, except only the tree called Gharkad, which is the tree of the Jews.
7. The eruption of Gog and Magog, or, as they are called in the east, Yâjuj and Mâjuj; of whom many things are related in the Koran, and the traditions of Mohammed. These barbarians, they tell us, having passed the lake of Tiberias, which the vanguard of their vast army will drink dry, will come to Jerusalem, and there greatly distress Jesus and his companions; till at his request GOD will destroy them, and fill the earth with their carcasses, which after some time GOD will send birds to carry away, at the prayers of Jesus and his followers. Their bows, arrows, and quivers the Moslems will burn for seven years together; and at last GOD will send a rain to cleanse the earth, and to make it fertile.
8. A smoke, which shall fill the whole earth.
9. An eclipse of the moon. Mohammed is reported to have said that there would be three eclipses before the last hour; one to be seen in the east, another in the west, and the third in Arabia.
10. The returning of the Arabs to the worship of Allât and al Uzza, and the rest of their ancient idols; after the decrease of every one in whose heart there was faith equal to the grain of mustard-seed, none but the very worst of men being left alive. For GOD, they say, will send a cold odoriferous wind, blowing from Syria Damascena, which shall sweep away the souls of all the faithful, and the Koran itself, so that men will remain in the grossest ignorance for a hundred years.
11. The discovery of a vast heap of gold and silver by the retreating of the Euphrates, which will be the destruction of many.
12. The demolition of the Caaba, or temple of Mecca, by the Ethiopians.
13. The speaking of beasts and inanimate things.
14. The breaking out of fire in the province of Hejâz; or, according to others, in Yaman.
15. The appearance of a man of the descendants of Kahtân, who shall drive men before him with his staff.
16. The coming of the Mohdi, or director; concerning whom Mohammed prophesied that the world should not have an end till one of his own family should govern the Arabians, whose name should be the same with his own name, and whose father's name should also be the same with his father's name; and who should fill the earth with righteousness. This person the Shiites believe to be now alive, and concealed in some secret place, till the time of his manifestation; for they suppose him to be no other than the last of the twelve Imâms, named Mohammed Abu'lkasem, as their prophet was, and the son of Hassan al Askeri, the eleventh of that succession. He was born at Sermanrai in the 255th year of the Hejra. From this tradition, it is to be presumed, an opinion pretty current among the Christians took its rise, that the Mohammedans are in expectation of their prophet's return.
17. A wind which shall sweep away the souls of all who have but a grain of faith in their hearts, as has been mentioned under the tenth sign.
These are the greater signs, which, according to their doctrine, are to precede the resurrection, but still leave the hour of it uncertain: for the immediate sign of its being come will be the first blast of the trumpet; which they believe will be sounded three times. The first they call the blast of consternation; at the hearing of which all creatures in heaven and earth shall be struck with terror, except those whom GOD shall please to exempt from it. The effects attributed to this first sound of the trumpet are very wonderful: for they say the earth will be shaken, and not only all buildings, but the very mountains levelled; that the heavens shall melt, the sun be darkened, the stars fall, on the death of the angels, who, as some imagine, hold them suspended between heaven and earth, and the sea shall be troubled and dried up, or, according ot others, turned into flames, the sun, moon, and stars being thrown into it: the Koran, to express the greatness of the terror of that day, adds that women who give suck shall abandon the care of their infants, and even the she-camels which have gone ten months with young (a most valuable part of the substance of that nation) shall be utterly neglected. A farther effect of this blast will be that concourse of beasts mentioned in the Koran, though some doubt whether it be to precede the resurrection or not. They who suppose it will precede, think that ll kinds of animals, forgetting their respective natural fierceness and timidity, will run together into one place, being terrified by the sound of the trumpet and the sudden shock of nature.
The Mohammedans believe that this first blast will be followed by a second, which they call the blast of examination, when all creatures, both in heaven and earth, shall die or be annihilated, except those which GOD shall please to exempt from the common fate; and this, they say, shall happen in the twinkling of an eye, nay, in an instant; nothing surviving except GOD alone, with paradise and hell, and the inhabitants of those two places, and throne of glory. The last who shall die will be the angel of death.
Forty years after this will be heard the blast of resurrection, when the trumpet shall be sounded the third time by Israfil, who, together with Gabriel and Michael, will be previously restored to life, and standing on the rock of the temple of Jerusalem, shall, at GOD'S command, call together all the dry and rotten bones, and other dispersed parts of the bodies, and the very hairs, to judgment. This angel having, by the divine order, set the trumpet to his mouth, and called together all the souls from all parts, will throw them into his trumpet, from whence, on his giving the last sound, at the command of GOD, they will fly forth like bees, and fill the whole space between heaven and earth, and then repair to their respective bodies, which the opening earth will suffer to arise; and the first who shall so arise, according to a tradition of Mohammed, will be himself. For this birth the earth will be prepared by the rain above mentioned, which is to fall continually for forty years, and will resemble the seed of a man, and be supplied from the water under the throne of GOD, which is called living water; by the efficacy and virtue of which the dead bodies shall spring forth from their graves, as they did in their mother's womb, or as corn sprouts forth by common rain, till they become perfect; after which breath will be breathed into them, and they will sleep in their sepulchres till they are raised to life at the last trump.
As to the length of the last day of judgment the Koran in one place tells us that it will last 1,000 years, and in another 50,000. To reconcile this apparent contradiction, the commentators use several shifts: some saying they know not what measure of time GOD intends in those passages; others, that these forms of speaking are figurative and not to be strictly taken, and were designed only to express the terribleness of that day, it being usual for the Arabs to describe what they dislike as of long continuance, and what they like, as the contrary; and others suppose them spoken only in reference to the difficulty of the business of the day, which, if GOD should commit to any of his creatures, they would not be able to go through it in so many thousand years; to omit some other opinions which we may take notice of elsewhere.
Having said so much in relation to the time of the resurrection, let us now see who are to be raised from the dead, in what manner and form they shall be raised, in what place they shall be assembled, and to what end, according to the doctrine of the Mohammedans.
That the resurrection will be general, and extend to all creatures both angels, genii, men, and animals, is the received opinion, which they support by the authority of the Koran, though that passage which is produced to prove the resurrection of brutes be otherwise interpreted by some.
The manner of their resurrection will be very different. Those who are destined to be partakers of eternal happiness will arise in honour and security; and those who are doomed to misery, in disgrace and under dismal apprehensions. As to mankind, they say that they will be raised perfect in all their parts and members, and in the same state as they came out of their mother's wombs, that is, barefooted, naked, and uncircumcised; which circumstances when Mohammed was telling his wife Ayesha, she, fearing the rules of modesty might be thereby violated, objected that it would be very indecent for men and women to look upon one another in that condition; but he answered her, that the business of the day would be too weighty and serious to allow them the making use of that liberty. Others, however, allege the authority of their prophet for a contrary opinion as to their nakedness, and pretend he asserted that the dead should arise dressed in the same clothes in which they died; unless we interpret these words, as some do, not so much of the outward dress of the body, as the inward clothing of the mind; and understand thereby that every person will rise again in the same state as to his faith or infidelity, his knowledge or ignorance, his good or bad works. Mohammed is also said to have farther taught, by another tradition, that mankind shall be assembled at the last day, distinguished into three classes. The first, of those who go on foot; the second, of those who ride; and the third, of those who creep groveling with their faces on the ground. The first class is to consist of those believers whose good works have been few; the second of those who are in greater honour with GOD, and more acceptable to him; whence Ali affirmed that the pious when they come forth from their sepulchres, shall find ready prepared for them white-winged camels, with saddles of gold; wherein are to be observed some footsteps of the doctrine of the ancient Arabians; and the third class, they say, will be composed of the infidels, whom GOD shall cause to make their appearance with their faces on the earth, blind, dumb, and deaf. But the ungodly will not be thus only distinguished; for, according to a tradition of the prophet, there will be ten sorts of wicked men on whom GOD shall on that day fix certain discretory marks. The first will appear in the form of apes; these are the professors of Zendicism: the second in that of swine; these are they who have been greedy of filthy lucre, and enriched themselves by public oppression: the third will be brought with their heads reversed and their feet distorted; these are the usurers: the fourth will wander about blind; these are unjust judges: the fifth will be deaf, dumb, and blind, understanding nothing; these are they who glory in their own works: the sixth will gnaw their tongues, which will hang down upon their breasts, corrupted blood flowing from their mouths like spittle, so that everybody shall detest them; these are the learned men and doctors, whose actions contradict their sayings: the seventh will have their hands and feet cut off; these are they who have injured their neighbours: the eighth will be fixed to the trunks of palm trees or stakes of wood; these are the false accusers and informers: the ninth will stink worse than a corrupted corpse; these are they who have indulged their passions and voluptuous appetites, but refused GOD such part of their wealth as was due to him: the tenth will be clothed with garments daubed with pitch; and these are the proud, the vainglorious, and the arrogant.
As to the place where they are to be assembled to judgment, the Koran and the traditions of Mohammed agree that it will be on the earth, but in what part of the earth it is not agreed. Some say their prophet mentioned Syria for the place; others, a white and even tract of land, without inhabitants or any signs of buildings. Al Ghazâli imagines it will be a second earth, which he supposes to be of silver; and others, an earth which has nothing in common with ours but the name; having, it is possible, heard something of the new heavens and new earth mentioned in scripture: whence the Koran has this expression, "on the day wherein the earth shall be changed into another earth."
The end of the resurrection the Mohammedans declare to be, that they who are so raised may give an account of their actions, and receive the reward thereof. And they believe that not only mankind, but the genii and irrational animals also, shall be judged on this great day; when the unarmed cattle shall take vengeance on the horned, till entire satisfaction shall be given to the injured.
As to mankind, they hold that when they are all assembled together, they will not be immediately brought to judgment, but the angels will keep them in their ranks and order while they attend for that purpose; and this attendance some say is to last forty years, others seventy, others 300, nay, some say no less than 50,000 years, each of them vouching their prophet's authority. During this space they will stand looking up to heaven, but without receiving any information or orders thence, and are to suffer grievous torments, both the just and the unjust, though with manifest difference. For the limbs of the former, particularly those parts which they used to wash in making the ceremonial ablution before prayer, shall shine gloriously, and their sufferings shall be light in comparison, and shall last no longer than the time necessary to say the appointed prayers; but the latter will have their faces obscured with blackness, and disfigured with all the marks of sorrow and deformity. What will then occasion not the least of their pain, is a wonderful and incredible sweat, which will even stop their mouths, and in which they will be immersed in various degrees according to their demerits, some to the ankles only, some to the knees, some to the middle, some so high as their mouth, and others as their ears. And this sweat, they say, will be provoked not only by that vast concourse of all sorts of creatures mutually pressing and treading on one another's feet, but by the near and unusual approach of the sun, which will be then no farther from them than the distance of a mile, or, as some translate the word, the signification of which is ambiguous, than the length of a bodkin. So that their skulls will boil like a pot, and they will be all bathed in sweat. From this inconvenience, however, the good will be protected by the shade of GOD'S throne; but the wicked will be so miserably tormented with it, and also with hunger, and thirst, and a stifling air, that they will cry out, "Lord, deliver us from this anguish, though thou send us into hell fire." What they fable of the extraordinary heat of the sun on this occasion, the Mohammedans certainly borrowed from the Jews, who say, that for the punishment of the wicked on the last day, that planet shall be drawn from its sheath, in which it is now put up, lest it should destroy all things by its excessive heat.
When those who have risen shall have waited the limited time, the Mohammedans believe GOD will at length appear to judge them; Mohammed undertaking the office of intercessor, after it shall have been declined by Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Jesus, who shall beg deliverance only for their own souls. They say that on this solemn occasion GOD will come in the clouds, surrounded by angels, and will produce the books wherein the actions of every person are recorded by their guardian angels, and will command the prophets to bear witness against those to whom they have been respectively sent. Then every one will be examined concerning all his words and actions, uttered and done by him in this life; not as if GOD needed any information in those respects, but to oblige the person to make public confession and acknowledgment of GOD'S justice. The particulars of which they shall give an account, as Mohammed himself enumerated them, are--of their time, how they spent it; of their wealth, by what means they acquired it, and how they employed it; of their bodies, wherein they exercised them; of their knowledge and learning, what use they made of them. It is said, however, that Mohammed has affirmed that no less than 70,000 of his followers should be permitted to enter paradise without any previous examination, which seems to be contradictory to what is said above. To the questions we have mentioned each person shall answer, and make his defence in the best manner he can, endeavouring to excuse himself by casting the blame of his evil deeds on others, so that a dispute shall arise even between the soul and the body, to which of them their guilt ought to be imputed, the soul saying, "O Lord, my body I received from thee; for thou createdst me without a hand to lay hold with, a foot to walk with, an eye to see with, or an understanding to apprehend with, till I came and entered into this body; therefore, punish it eternally, but deliver me." The body, on the other side, will make this apology: "O Lord, thou createdst me like a stock of wood, having neither hand that I could lay hold with, nor foot that I could walk with, till this soul, like a ray of light, entered into me, and my tongue began to speak, my eye to see, and my foot to walk; therefore, punish it eternally, but deliver me." But GOD will propound to them the following parable of the blind man and the lame man, which, as well as the preceding dispute, was borrowed by the Mohammedans from the Jews: A certain king, having a pleasant garden, in which were ripe fruits, set two persons to keep it, one of whom was blind and the other lame, the former not being able to see the fruit nor the latter to gather it; the lame man, however, seeing the fruit, persuaded the blind man to take him upon his shoulders; and by that means he easily gathered the fruit, which they divided between them. The lord of the garden, coming some time after, and inquiring after his fruit, each began to excuse himself; the blind man said he had no eyes to see with, and the lame man that he had no feet to approach the trees. But the king, ordering the lame man to be set on the blind, passed sentence on and punished them both. And in the same manner will GOD deal with the body and the soul. As these apologies will not avail on that day, so will it also be in vain for any one to deny his evil actions, since men and angels and his own members, nay, the very earth itself, will be ready to bear witness against him.
Though the Mohammedans assign so long a space for the attendance of the resuscitated before their trial, yet they tell us the trial itself will be over in much less time, and, according to an expression of Mohammed, familiar enough to the Arabs, will last no longer than while one may milk an ewe, or than the space between the two milkings of a she-camel. Some, explaining those words so frequently used in the Koran, "GOD will be swift in taking an account," say that he will judge all creatures in the space of half a day, and others that it will be done in less time than the twinkling of an eye.
At this examination they also believe that each person will have the book, wherein all the actions of his life are written, delivered to him; which books the righteous will receive in their right hand, and read with great pleasure and satisfaction; but the ungodly will be obliged to take them against their wills in their left, which will be bound behind their backs, their right hand being tied up to their necks.
To show the exact justice which will be observed on this great day of trial, the next thing they describe is the balance, wherein all things shall be weighted. They say it will be held by Gabriel, and that it is of so vast a size, that its two scales, one of which hangs over paradise, and the other over hell, are capacious enough to contain both heaven and earth. Though some are willing to understand what is said in the Koran concerning this balance, allegorically, and only as a figurative representation of GOD'S equity, yet the more ancient and orthodox opinion is that it is to be taken literally; and since words and actions, being mere accidents, are not capable of being themselves weighed, they say that the books wherein they are written will be thrown into the scales, and according as those wherein the good or the evil actions are recorded shall preponderate, sentence will be given; those whose balance laden with their good works shall be heavy, will be saved, but those whose balances are light will be condemned. Nor will any one have cause to complain that GOD suffers any good action to pass unrewarded, because the wicked for the good they do have their reward in this life, and therefore can expect no favour in the next.
The old Jewish writers make mention as well of the books to be produced at the last day, wherein men's actions are registered, as of the balance wherein they shall be weighed; and the scripture itself seems to have given the first notion of both. But what the Persian Magi believe of the balance comes nearest to the Mohammedan opinion. They hold that on the day of judgment two angels, named Mihr and Sorush, will stand on the bridge we shall describe by-and-bye, to examine every person as he passes; that the former, who represents the divine mercy, will hold a balance in his hand, to weigh the actions of men; that according to the report he shall make thereof to GOD, sentence will be pronounced, and those whose good works are found more ponderous, if they turn the scale but by the weight of a hair, will be permitted to pass forward to paradise; but those whose good works shall be found light, will be by the other angel, who represents GOD'S justice, precipitated from the bridge into hell.
This examination being passed, and every one's works weighed in a just balance, that mutual retaliation will follow, according to which every creature will take vengeance one of another, or have satisfaction made them for the injuries which they have suffered. And since there will then be no other way of returning like for like, the manner of giving this satisfaction will be by taking away a proportionable part of the good works of him who offered the injury, and adding it to those of him who suffered it. Which being done, if the angels (by whose ministry this is to be performed) say, "Lord, we have given to every one his due; and there remaineth of this person's good works so much as equalleth the weight of an ant," GOD will of his mercy cause it to be doubled unto him, that he may be admitted into paradise; but if, on the contrary, his good works be exhausted, and there remain evil works only, and there be any who have not yet received satisfaction from him, GOD will order that an equal weight of their sins be added unto his, that he may be punished for them in their stead, and he will be sent to hell laden with both. This will be the method of GOD'S dealing with mankind. As to brutes, after they shall have likewise taken vengeance of one another, as we have mentioned above, he will command them to be changed into dust; wicked men being reserved to more grievous punishment: so that they shall cry out, on hearing this sentence passed on the brutes, "Would to GOD that we were dust also." As to the genii, many Mohammedans are of opinion that such of them as are true believers will undergo the same fate as the irrational animals, and have no other reward than the favour of being converted into dust; and for this they quote the authority of their prophet. But this, however, is judged not so very reasonable, since the genii, being capable of putting themselves in the state of believers as well as men, must consequently deserve, as it seems, to be rewarded for their faith, as well as to be punished for infidelity. Wherefore some entertain a more favourable opinion, and assign the believing genii a place near the confines of paradise, where they will enjoy sufficient felicity, though they be not admitted into that delightful mansion. But the unbelieving genii, it is universally agreed, will be punished eternally, and be thrown into hell with the infidels of mortal race. It may not be improper to observe, that under the denomination of unbelieving genii, the Mohammedans comprehend also the devil and his companions.
The trials being over and the assembly dissolved, the Mohammedans hold that those who are to be admitted into paradise will take the right-hand way, and those who are destined to hell fire will take the left; but both of them must first pass the bridge, called in Arabic al Sirât, which they say is laid over the midst of hell, and described to be finer than a hair, and sharper than the edge of a sword: so that it seems very difficult to conceive how any one shall be able to stand upon it: for which reason most of the sect of the Mutazalites reject it as a fable, though the orthodox think it a sufficient proof of the truth of this article, that it was seriously affirmed by him who never asserted a falsehood, meaning their prophet; who to add to the difficulty of the passage, has likewise declared that this bridge is beset on each side with briars and hooked thorns; which will, however, be no impediment to the good, for they shall pass with wonderful ease and swiftness, like lightning or the wind, Mohammed and his Moslems leading the way; whereas the wicked, what with the slipperiness and extreme narrowness of the path, the entangling of the thorns, and the extinction of the light, which directed the former to paradise, will soon miss their footing, and fall down headlong into hell, which is gaping beneath them.
This circumstance Mohammed seems also to have borrowed from the Magians, who teach that on the last day all mankind will be obliged to pass a bridge which they call Pul Chinavad, or Chinavar, that is, the straight bridge, leading directly into the other world; on the midst of which they suppose the angels, appointed by GOD to perform that office, will stand, who will require of every one a strict account of his actions, and weigh them in the manner we have already mentioned. It is true the Jews speak likewise of the bridge of hell, which they say is no broader than a thread; but then they do not tell us that any shall be obliged to pass it, except the idolaters, who will fall thence into perdition.
As to the punishment of the wicked, the Mohammedans are taught that hell is divided into seven stories, or apartments, one below another, designed for the reception of as many distinct classes of the damned. The first which they call Jehennam, they say, will be the receptacle of those who acknowledged one GOD, that is, the wicked Mohammedans, who after having there been punished according to their demerits, will at length be released. The second, named Ladhâ, they assign to the Jews; the third, named al Hotama, to the Christians; the fourth named al Sair, to the Sabians; the fifth, named Sakar, to the Magians; the sixth, named al Jahim, to the idolaters; and the seventh, which is the lowest and worst of all, and is called al Hâwiyat, to the hypocrites, or those who outwardly professed some religion, but in their hearts were of none. Over each of these apartments they believe there will be set a guard of angels, nineteen in number; to whom the damned will confess the just judgment of GOD, and beg them to intercede with him for some alleviation of their pain, or that they may be delivered by being annihilated.
Mohammed has, in his Koran and traditions, been very exact in describing the various torments of hell, which, according to him, the wicked will suffer both from intense heat and excessive cold. We shall, however, enter into no detail of them here, but only observe that the degrees of these pains will also vary, in proportion to the crimes of the sufferer, and the apartment he is condemned to; and that he who is punished the most lightly of all will be shod with shoes of fire, the fervour of which will cause his skull to boil like a cauldron. The condition of these unhappy wretches, as the same prophet teaches, cannot be properly called either life or death; and their misery will be greatly increased by their despair of being ever delivered from that place, since, according to that frequent expression in the Koran, "they must remain therein for ever." It must be remarked, however, that the infidels alone will be liable to eternity of damnation, for the Moslems, or those who have embraced the true religion, and have been guilty of heinous sins, will be delivered thence after they shall have expiated their crimes by their sufferings. The contrary of either of these opinions is reckoned heretical; for it is the constant orthodox doctrine of the Mohammedans that no unbeliever or idolater will ever be released, nor any person who in his lifetime professed an believed the unity of GOD be condemned to eternal punishment. As to the time and manner of the deliverance of those believers whose evil actions shall outweigh their good, there is a tradition of Mohammed that they shall be released after they shall have been scorched and their skins burnt black, and shall afterwards be admitted into paradise; and when the inhabitants of that place shall, in contempt, call them infernals, GOD will, on their prayers, take from them that opprobrious appellation. Others say he taught that while they continue in hell they shall be deprived of life, or (as his words are otherwise interpreted) be cast into a most profound sleep, that they may be the less sensible of their torments; and that they shall afterwards be received into paradise, and there revive on their being washed with the water of life; though some suppose they will be restored to life before they come forth from their place of punishment, that at their bidding farewell to their pains, they may have some little taste of them. The time which these believers shall be detained there, according to a tradition handed down from their prophet, will not be less than 900 years, nor more than 7,000. And as to the manner of their delivery, they say that they shall be distinguished by the marks of prostration on those parts of their bodies with which they used to touch the ground in prayer, and over which the fire will, therefore, have no power; and that being known by this characteristic, they will be relieved by the mercy of GOD, at the intercession of Mohammed and the blessed; whereupon those who shall have been dead will be restored to life, as has been said; and those whose bodies shall have contracted any sootiness or filth from the flames and smoke of hell, will be immersed in one of the rivers of paradise, called the river of life, which will wash them whiter than pearls.
For most of these circumstances relating to hell and the state of the damned, Mohammed was likewise, in all probability, indebted to the Jews, and in part to the Magians; both of whom agree in making seven distinct apartments in hell, though they vary in other particulars. The former place an angel as a guard over each of these infernal apartments, and suppose he will intercede for the miserable wretches there imprisoned, who will openly acknowledge the justice of GOD in their condemnation. They also teach that the wicked will suffer a diversity of punishments, and that by intolerable cold as well as heat, and that their faces shall become black; and believe those of their own religion shall also be punished in hell hereafter, according to their crimes (for they hold that few or none will be found so exactly righteous as to deserve no punishment at all), but will soon be delivered thence, when they shall be sufficiently purged from their sins, by their father Abraham, or at the intercession of him or some other of the prophets. The Magians allow but one angel to preside over all the seven hells, who is named by them Vanand Yezad, and, as they teach, assigns punishments proportionate to each person's crimes, restraining also the tyranny and excessive cruelty of the devil, who would, if left to himself, torment the damned beyond their sentence. Those of this religion do also mention and describe various kinds of torments, wherewith the wicked will be punished in the next life; among which though they reckon extreme cold to be one, yet they do not admit fire, out of respect, as it seems, to that element, which they take to be the representation of the divine nature; and, therefore, they rather choose to describe the damned souls as suffering by other kinds of punishments: such as an intolerable stink, the stinging and biting of serpents and wild beasts, the cutting and tearing of the flesh by the devils, excessive hunger and thirst, and the like.
Before we proceed to a description of the Mohammedan paradise, we must not forget to say something of the wall or partition which they imagine to be between that place and hell, and seems to be copied from the great gulf of separation mentioned in scripture. They call it al Orf, and more frequently in the plural, al Arâf, a word derived from the verb arafa, which signifies to distinguish between things, or to part them; though some commentators give another reason for the imposition of this name, because, they say, those who stand on this partition will know and distinguish the blessed from the damned, by their respective marks or characteristics: and others say the word properly intends anything that is high raised or elevated, as such a wall of separation must be supposed to be. The Mohammedan writers greatly differ as to the persons who are to be found on al Arâf. Some imagine it to be a sort of limbo for the patriarchs and prophets, or for the martyrs and those who have been most eminent for sanctity, among whom, they say, there will be also angels in the form of men. Others place here such whose good and evil works are so equal that they exactly counterpoise each other, and, therefore, deserve neither reward nor punishment; and these, they say, will, on the last day, be admitted into paradise, after they shall have performed an act of adoration, which will be imputed to them as a merit, and will make the scale of their good works to overbalance. Others suppose this intermediate space will be a receptacle for those who have gone to war without their parents' leave, and therein suffered martyrdom; being excluded paradise for their disobedience, and escaping hell because they are martyrs. The breadth of this partition wall cannot be supposed to be exceeding great, since not only those who shall stand thereon will hold conference with the inhabitants both of paradise and of hell, but the blessed and the damned themselves will also be able to talk to one another.
If Mohammed did not take his notions of the partition we have been describing from scripture, he must at least have borrowed it at second-hand from the Jews, who mention a thin wall dividing paradise form hell.
The righteous, as the Mohammedans are taught to believe, having surmounted the difficulties, and passed the sharp bridge above mentioned, before they enter paradise will be refreshed by drinking at the pond of their prophet, who describes it to be an exact square, of a month's journey in compass: its water, which is supplied by two pipes from al Cawthar, one of the rivers of paradise, being whiter than milk or silver and more odoriferous than musk, with as many cups set around it as there are stars in the firmament, of which water, whoever drinks will thirst no more for ever. This is the first taste which the blessed will have of their future and now near-approaching felicity.
Though paradise be so very frequently mentioned in the Koran, yet it is a dispute among Mohammedans whether it be already created, or be to be created hereafter: the Mutazalites and some other sectaries asserting that there is not at present any such place in nature, and that the paradise which the righteous will inhabit in the next life, will be different form that form which Adam was expelled. However, the orthodox profess the contrary, maintaining that it was created even before the world, and describe it, from their prophet's traditions, in the following manner.
They say it is situate above the seven heavens (or in the seventh heaven) and next under the throne of GOD: and to express the amenity of the place, tell us that the earth of it is of the finest wheat flour, or of the purest musk, or, as others will have it, of saffron; that its stones are pearls and jacinths, the walls of its buildings enriched with gold and silver, and that the trunks of all its trees are of gold, among which the most remarkable is the tree called Tuba, or the tree of happiness. Concerning this tree they fable that it stands in the palace of Mohammed, though a breach of it will reach to the house of every true believer; that it will be laden with pomegranates, grapes, dates, and other fruits of surprising bigness, and of tastes unknown to mortals. So that if a man desire to eat of any particular kind of fruit, it will immediately be presented him, or if he choose flesh, birds ready dressed will be set before him according to his wish. They add that the boughs of this tree will spontaneously bend down to the hand of the person who would gather of its fruits, and that it will supply the blessed not only with food, but also with silken garments, and beasts to ride on ready saddled and bridled, and adorned with rich trappings, which will burst forth from its fruits; and that this tree is so large, that a person mounted on the fleetest horse would not be able to gallop from one end of its shade to the other in a hundred years.
As plenty of water is one of the greatest additions to the pleasantness of any place, the Koran often speaks of the rivers of paradise as a principal ornament thereof; some of these rivers, they say, flow with water, some with milk, some with wine, and others with honey, all taking their rise from the roof of the tree Tuba: two of which rivers, named al Cawthar and the river of life, we have already mentioned. And lest these should not be sufficient, we are told this garden is also watered by a great number of lesser springs and fountains, whose pebbles are rubies and emeralds, their earth of camphire, their beds of musk, and their sides of saffron, the most remarkable among them being Salsabil and Tasnim.
But all these glories will be eclipsed by the resplendent and ravishing girls of paradise, called, from their large black eyes, Hur al oyun, the enjoyment of whose company will be a principal felicity of the faithful. These, they say, are created not of clay, as mortal women are, but of pure musk: being, as their prophet often affirms in his Koran, free from all natural impurities, defects, and inconveniences incident to the sex, of the strictest modesty, and secluded from public view in pavilions of hollow pearls, so large, that, as some traditions have it, one of them will be no less than four parasangs (or, as others say, sixty miles) long, and as many broad.
The name which the Mohammedans usually give to this happy mansion, is al Jannat, or the garden; and sometimes they call it, with an addition, Jannat al Ferdaws, the garden of paradise, Jannet Aden, the garden of Eden (though they generally interpret the word Eden, not according to its acceptation in Hebrew, but according to its meaning in their own tongue, wherein it signifies a settled or perpetual habitation), Jannat al Mawa, the garden of abode, Jannat al Naim, the garden of pleasure, and the like; by which several appellations some understand so many different gardens, or at least places of different degrees of felicity (for they reckon no less than a hundred such in all), the very meanest whereof will afford its inhabitants so many pleasures and delights, that one would conclude they must even sink under them, had not Mohammed declared, that in order to qualify the blessed for a full enjoyment of them, GOD will give to every one the abilities of a hundred men.
We have already described Mohammed's pond, whereof the righteous are to drink before their admission into this delicious seat; besides which some authors mention two fountains, springing from under a certain tree near the gate of paradise, and say, that the blessed will also drink of one of them, to purge their bodies and carry off all excrementitious dregs, and will wash themselves in the other. When they are arrived at the gate itself, each person will there be met and saluted by the beautiful youths appointed to serve and wait upon him, one of them running before, to carry the news of his arrival to the wives destined for him; and also by two angels, bearing the presents sent him by GOD, one of whom will invest him with a garment of paradise, and the other will put a ring on each of his fingers, with inscriptions on them alluding to the happiness of his condition. By which of the eight gates (for so many they suppose paradise to have) they are respectively to enter, is not worth inquiry; but it must be observed that Mohammed has declared that no person's good works will gain him admittance, and that even himself shall be saved, not by his merits, but merely by the mercy of GOD. It is, however, the constant doctrine of the Koran, that the felicity of each person will be proportioned to this deserts, and that there will be abodes of different degrees of happiness; the most eminent degree being reserved for the prophets, the second for the doctors and teachers of GOD's worship, the next for the martyrs, and the lower for the rest of the righteous, according to their several merits. There will also some distinction be made in respect to the time of their admission; Mohammed (to whom, if you will believe him, the gates will first be opened) having affirmed, that the poor will enter paradise five hundred years before the rich: nor is this the only privilege which they will enjoy in the next life; since the same prophet has also declared, that when he took a view of paradise, he saw the majority of its inhabitants to be the poor, and when he looked down into hell, he saw the greater part of the wretches confined there to be women.
For the first entertainment of the blessed on their admission, they fable that the whole earth will then be as one loaf of bread, which GOD will reach to them with his hand, holding it like a cake; and that for meat they will have the ox Balâm, and the fish Nun, the lobs of whose livers will suffice 70,000 men, being, as some imagine to be set before the principal guests, viz., those who, to that number, will be admitted into paradise without examination; though others suppose that a definite number is here put for an indefinite, and that nothing more is meant thereby, than to express a great multitude of people.
From this feast every one will be dismissed to the mansion designed for him, where (as has been said) he will enjoy such a share of felicity as will be proportioned to his merits, but vastly exceed comprehension or expectation; since the very meanest in paradise (as he who, it is pretended, must know best, has declared) will have eighty thousand servants, seventy-two wives of the girls of paradise, besides the wives he had in this world, and a tent erected for him of pearls, jacinths, and emeralds, of a very large extent; and, according to another tradition, will be waited on by three hundred attendants while he eats, will be served in dishes of gold, whereof three hundred shall be set before him at once, containing each a different kind of food, the last morsel of which will be as grateful as the first; and will also be supplied with as many sorts of liquors in vessels of the same metal: and, to complete the entertainment, there will be no want of wine, which, though forbidden in this life, will yet be freely allowed to be drunk in the next, and without danger, since the wine of paradise will not inebriate, as that we drink here. The flavour of this wine we may conceive to be delicious without a description, since the water of Tasnim and the other fountains which will be used to dilute it, is said to be wonderfully sweet and fragrant. If any object to these pleasures, as an impudent Jew did to Mohammed, that so much eating and drinking must necessarily require proper evacuations, we answer, as the prophets did, that the inhabitants of paradise will not need to ease themselves, nor even to blow their nose, for that all superfluities will be discharged and carried off by perspiration, or a sweat as odoriferous as musk, after which their appetite shall return afresh.
The magnificence of the garments and furniture promised by the Koran to the godly in the next life, is answerable to the delicacy of their diet. For they are to be clothed in the richest of silks and brocades, chiefly of green, which will burst forth from the fruits of paradise, and will be also supplied by the leaves of the tree Tuba; they will be adorned with bracelets of gold and silver, and crowns set with pearls of incomparable lustre; and will make use of silken carpets, litters of a prodigious size, couches, pillows, and other rich furniture embroidered with gold and precious stones.
That we may the more readily believe what has been mentioned of the extraordinary abilities of the inhabitants of paradise to taste these pleasures in their height, it is said they will enjoy a perpetual youth; that in whatever age they happen to die, they will be raised in their prime and vigour, that is, of about thirty years of age, which age they will never exceed (and the same they say of the damned); and that when they enter paradise they will be of the same stature with Adam, who, as they fable, was no less than sixty cubits high. And to this age and stature their children, if they shall desire any (for otherwise their wives will not conceive), shall immediately attain; according to that saying of their prophet, "If any of the faithful in paradise be desirous of issue, it shall be conceived, born, and grown up within the space of an hour." And in the same manner, if any one shall have a fancy to employ himself in agriculture (which rustic pleasure may suit the wanton fancy of some), what he shall sow will spring up and come to maturity in a moment.
Lest any of the senses should want their proper delight, we are told the ear will there be entertained, not only with the ravishing songs of the angel Israfil, who has the most melodious voice of all GOD'S creatures, and of the daughters of paradise; but even the trees themselves will celebrate the divine praises with a harmony exceeding whatever mortals have heard; to which will be joined the sound of the bells hanging on the trees, which will be put in motion by the wind proceeding from the throne of GOD, so often as the blessed wish for music: nay, the very clashing of the golden-bodied trees, whose fruits are pearls and emeralds, will surpass human imagination; so that the pleasures of this sense will not be the least of the enjoyments of paradise.
The delights we have hitherto taken a view of, it is said, will be common to all the inhabitants of paradise, even those of the lowest order. What then, think we, must they enjoy who shall obtain a superior degree of honour and felicity? To these, they say, there are prepared, besides all this, "such things as eye hath not seen, nor hath ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive;" an expression most certainly borrowed from scripture. That we may know wherein the felicity of those who shall attain the highest degree will consist, Mohammed is reported to have said, that the meanest of the inhabitants of paradise will see his gardens, wives, servants, furniture, and other possessions take up the space of a thousand years' journey (for so far and farther will the blessed see in the next life); but that he will be in the highest honour with GOD, who shall behold his face morning and evening: and this favour al Ghazâli supposes to be that additional or superabundant recompense, promised in the Koran, which will give such exquisite delight, that in respect thereof all the other pleasures of paradise will be forgotten and lightly esteemed; and not without reason, since, as the same author says, every other enjoyment is equally tasted by the very brute beast who is turned loose into luxuriant pasture. The reader will observe, by the way, that this is a full confutation of those who pretend that the Mohammedans admit of no spiritual pleasure in the next life, but make the happiness of the blessed to consist wholly in corporeal enjoyments.
Whence Mohammed took the greatest part of his paradise it is easy to show. The Jews constantly describe the future mansion of the just as a delicious garden, and make it also reach to the seventh heaven. They also say it has three gates, or, as others will have it, two, and four rivers (which last circumstance they copied, to be sure, from those of the garden of Eden), flowing with milk, wine, balsam, and honey. Their Behemoth and Leviathan, which they pretend will be slain for the entertainment of the blessed, are so apparently the Balâm and Nun of Mohammed, that his followers themselves confess he is obliged to them for both. The Rabbins likewise mention seven different degrees of felicity, and say that the highest will be of those who perpetually contemplate the face of GOD. The Persian Magi had also an idea of the future happy estate of the good, very little different from that of Mohammed. Paradise they called Behisht, and Minu, which signifies crystal, where they believe the righteous shall enjoy all manner of delights, and particularly the company of the Hurâni behisht, or black-eyed nymphs of paradise, the care of whom, they say, committed to the angel Zamiyâd; and hence Mohammed seems to have taken the first hint of his paradisiacal ladies.
It is not improbable, however, but that he might have been obliged, in some respect, to the Christian accounts of the felicity of the good in the next life. As it is scarce possible to convey, especially to the apprehensions of the generality of mankind, an idea of spiritual pleasures without introducing sensible objects, the scriptures have been obliged to represent the celestial enjoyments by corporeal images; and to describe the mansion of the blessed as a glorious and magnificent city, built of gold and precious stones, with twelve gates; through the streets of which there runs a river of water of life, and having on either side the tree of life, which bears twelve sorts of fruits, and leaves of a healing virtue. Our Saviour likewise speaks of the future state of the blessed as of a kingdom where they shall eat and drink at his table. But then these descriptions have none of those puerile imaginations which reign throughout that of Mohammed, much less any the most distant intimation of sensual delights, which he was so fond of; on the contrary, we are expressly assured, that "in the resurrection they will neither marry nor be given in marriage, but will be as the angels of GOD in heaven." Mohammed, however, to enhance the value of paradise with his Arabians, chose rather to imitate the indecency of the Magians than the modesty of the Christians in this particular, and lest his beatified Moslems should complain that anything was wanting, bestows on them wives, as well as the other comforts of life; judging, it is to be presumed, from his own inclinations, that like Panurgus's ass, they would think all the other enjoyments not worth their acceptance if they were to be debarred from this.
Had Mohammed, after all, intimated to his followers, that what he had told them of paradise was to be taken, not literally, but in a metaphorical sense (as it is said the Magians do the description of Zoroaster's), this might, perhaps make some atonement; but the contrary is so evident from the whole tenour of the Koran, that although some Mohammedans, whose understandings are too refined to admit such gross conceptions, look on their prophet's descriptions as parabolical, and are willing to receive them in an allegorical or spiritual acceptation, yet the general and orthodox doctrine is, that the whole is to be strictly believed in the obvious and literal acceptation; to prove which I need only urge the oath they exact from Christians (who they know abhor such fancies) when they would bind them in the most strong and sacred manner; for in such a case they make them swear that if they falsify their engagement, they will affirm that there will be black-eyed girls in the next world, and corporeal pleasures.
Before we quite this subject it may not be improper to observe the falsehood of a vulgar imputation on the Mohammedans, who are by several writers reported to hold that women have no souls, or, if they have, that they will perish, like those of brute beasts, and will not be rewarded in the next life. But whatever may be the opinion of some ignorant people among them, it is certain that Mohammed had too great a respect for the fair sex to teach such a doctrine; and there are several passages in the Koran which affirm that women, in the next life, will not only be punished for their evil actions, but will also receive the rewards of their good deeds, as well as the men, and that in this case GOD will make no distinction of sexes. It is true, the general notion is, that they will not be admitted into the same abode as the men are, because their places will be supplied by the paradisiacal females (though some allow that a man will there also have the company of those who were his wives in this world, or at least such of them as he shall desire); but that good women will go into a separate place of happiness, where they will enjoy all sorts of delights; but whether one of those delights will be the enjoyment of agreeable paramours created for them, to complete the economy of the Mohammedan system, is what I have nowhere found decided. One circumstance relating to these beatified females, conformable to what he had asserted of the men, he acquainted his followers with in the answer he returned to an old woman, who, desiring him to intercede with GOD that she might be admitted into paradise, he told her that no old woman would enter that place; which setting the poor woman a-crying, he explained himself by saying that GOD would then make her young again.
The sixth great point of faith, which the Mohammedans are taught by the Koran to believe, is GOD'S absolute decree, and predestination both of good and evil. For the orthodox doctrine is, that whether it be bad, proceedeth entirely from the divine will, and is irrevocably fixed and recorded from all eternity in the preserved table; GOD having secretly predetermined not only the adverse and prosperous fortune of every person in this world, in the most minute particulars, but also his faith or infidelity, his obedience or disobedience, and consequently his everlasting happiness or misery after death; which fate or predestination it is not possible, by any foresight or wisdom, to avoid.
Of this doctrine Mohammed makes great use in his Koran for the advancement of his designs; encouraging his followers to fight without fear, and even desperately, for the propagation of their faith, by representing to them that all their caution could not avert their inevitable destiny, or prolong their lives for a moment; and deterring them from disobeying or rejecting him as an impostor, by setting before them the danger they might thereby incur of being, by the just judgment of GOD, abandoned to seduction, hardness of heart, and a reprobate mind, as a punishment for their obstinacy.
As this doctrine of absolute election and reprobation has been thought by many of the Mohammedan divines to be derogatory to the goodness and justice of GOD, and to make GOD the author of evil, several subtle distinctions have been invented, and disputes raised, to explicate or soften it; and different sects have been formed, according to their several opinions or methods of explaining this point: some of them going so far as even to hold the direct contrary position of absolute free will in man, as we shall see hereafter.
Of the four fundamental points of religious practice required by the Koran, the first is prayer, under which, as has been said, are also comprehended those legal washings or purifications which are necessary preparations thereto.
Of these purifications there are two degrees, one called Ghosl, being a total immersion or bathing of the body in water; and the other called Wodu (by the Persians, Abdest), which is the washing of their faces, hands, and feet, after a certain manner. The first is required in some extraordinary cases only, as after having lain with a woman, or been polluted by emission of seed, or by approaching a dead body; women also being obliged to it after their courses or childbirth. The latter is the ordinary ablution in common cases and before prayer, and must necessarily be used by every person before he can enter upon that duty. It is performed with certain formal ceremonies, which have been described by some writers, but are much easier apprehended by seeing them done than by the best description.
These purifications were perhaps borrowed by Mohammed of the Jews; at least they agree in a great measure with those used by that nation, who in process of time burdened the precepts of Moses in this point, with so many traditionary ceremonies, that whole books have been written about them, and who were so exact and superstitious therein, even in our Saviour's time, that they are often reproved by him for it. But as it is certain that the pagan Arabs used lustrations of this kind long before the time of Mohammed, as most nations did, and still do in the east, where the warmth of the climate requires a greater nicety and degree of cleanliness than these colder parts; perhaps Mohammed only recalled his countrymen to a more strict observance of those purifying rites, which had been probably neglected by them, or at least performed in a careless and perfunctory manner. The Mohammedans, however, will have it that they are as ancient as Abraham, who, they say, was enjoined by GOD to observe them, and was shown the manner of making the ablution by the angel Gabriel, in the form of a beautiful youth. Nay, some deduce the matter higher, and imagine that these ceremonies were taught our first parents by the angels.
That his followers might be the more punctual in this duty, Mohammed is said to have declared, that "the practice of religion is founded on cleanliness," which is the one-half of the faith, and the key of prayer, without which it will not be heard by GOD. That these expressions may be the better understood, al Ghazâli reckons four degrees of purification; of which the first is, the cleansing of the body from all pollution, filth, and excrements; the second, the cleansing of the members of the body from all wickedness and unjust actions; the third, the cleansing of the heart from all blamable inclinations and odious vices; and the fourth, the purging a man's secret thoughts from all affections which may divert their attendance on GOD: adding, that the body is but as the outward shell in respect to the heart, which is as the kernel. And for this reason he highly complains of those who are superstitiously solicitous in exterior purifications, avoiding those persons as unclean who are not so scrupulously nice as themselves, and at the same time have their minds lying waste, and overrun with pride, ignorance, and hypocrisy. Whence it plainly appears with how little foundation the Mohammedans have been charged, by some writers, with teaching or imagining that these formal washings alone cleanse them for their sins.
Lest so necessary a preparation to their devotions should be omitted, either where water cannot be had, or when it may be of prejudice to a person's health, they are allowed in such cases to make use of fine sand or dust in lieu of it; and then they perform this duty by clapping their open hands on the sand, and passing them over the parts, in the same manner as if they were dipped in water. But for this expedient Mohammed was not so much indebted to his own cunning, as to the example of the Jews, or perhaps that of the Persian Magi, almost as scrupulous as the Jews themselves in their lustrations, who both of them prescribe the same method in cases of necessity; and there is a famous instance, in ecclesiastical history, of sand being used, for the same reason, instead of water, in the administration of the Christian sacrament of baptism, many years before Mohammed's time.
Neither are the Mohammedans contented with bare washing, but think themselves obliged to several other necessary points of cleanliness, which they make also parts of this duty; such as combing the hair, cutting the beard, paring the nails, pulling out the hairs of their armpits, shaving their private parts, and circumcision; of which last I will add a word or two, lest I should not find a more proper place.
Circumcision, though it be not so much as once mentioned in the Koran, is yet held by the Mohammedans to be an ancient divine institution, confirmed by the religion of Islâm, and though not so absolutely necessary but that it may be dispensed with in some cases, yet highly proper and expedient. The Arabs used this rite for many ages before Mohammed, having probably learned it from Ismael, though not only his descendants, but the Hamyarites, and other tribes, practised the same. The Ismaelites, we are told, used to circumcise their children, not on the eighth day, as is the custom of the Jews, but when about twelve or thirteen years old, at which age their father underwent that operation: and the Mohammedans imitate them so far as not to circumcise children before they be able, at least, distinctly to pronounce that profession of their faith, "There is no GOD but GOD, Mohammed is the apostle of GOD;" but pitch on what age they please for the purpose, between six and sixteen or thereabouts. Though the Moslem doctors are generally of opinion, conformably to the scripture, that this precept was originally given to Abraham, yet some have imagined that Adam was taught it by the angel Gabriel, to satisfy an oath he had made to cut off that flesh which, after his fall, had rebelled against his spirit; whence an odd argument has been drawn for the universal obligation of circumcision. Though I cannot say the Jews led the Mohammedans the way here, yet they seem so unwilling to believe any of the principal patriarchs or prophets before Abraham were really uncircumcised, that they pretend several of them, as well as some holy men who lived after his time, were born ready circumcised, or without a foreskin, and that Adam, in particular, was so created; whence the Mohammedans affirm the same thing of their prophet.
Prayer was by Mohammed thought so necessary a duty, that he used to call it the pillar of religion and the key of paradise; and when the Thakifites, who dwelt at Tâyef, sending in the ninth year of the Hejra to make their submission to that prophet, after the keeping of their favourite idol had been denied them, begged, at least, that they might be dispensed with as to their saying of the appointed prayers, he answered, "That there could be no good in that religion wherein was no prayer."
That so important a duty, therefore, might not be neglected, Mohammed obliged his followers to pray five times every twenty-four hours, at certain state times; viz., I. In the morning, before sunrise; 2. When noon is past, and the sun begins to decline form the meridian; 3. In the afternoon, before sunset; 4. In the evening, after sunset, and before day be shut in; and 5. After the day is shut in, and before the first watch of the night. For this institution he pretended to have received the divine command from the throne of GOD himself, when he took his night journey to heaven; and the observing of the stated times of prayer is frequently insisted on in the Koran, though they be not particularly prescribed therein. Accordingly, at the aforesaid times, of which public notice is given by the Muedhdhins, or Criers, from the steeples of their mosques (for they use no bell), every conscientious Moslem prepares himself for prayer, which he performs either in the mosque or any other place, provided it be clean, after a prescribed form, and with a certain number of phrases or ejaculations (which the more scrupulous count by a string of beads) and using certain postures of worship; all which have been particularly set down and described, though with some few mistakes, by other writers, and ought not to be abridged, unless in some special cases; as on a journey, on preparing for battle, &c.
For the regular performance of the duty of prayer among the Mohammedans, besides the particulars above mentioned, it is also requisite that they turn their faces, while they pray, towards the temple of Mecca; the quarter where the same is situate being, for that reason, pointed out within their mosques by a niche, which they call al Mehrâb, and without, by the situation of the doors opening into the galleries of the steeples: there are also tables calculated for the ready finding out their Kebla, or part towards which they ought to pray, in places where they have no other direction.
But what is principally to be regarded in the discharge of this duty, say the Moslem doctors, is the inward disposition of the heart, which is the life and spirit of prayer; the most punctual observance of the external rites and ceremonies before mentioned being of little or no avail, if performed without due attention, reverence, devotion, and hope: so that we must not think the Mohammedans, or the considerate part of them at least, content themselves with the mere opu. operatum, or imagine their whole religion to be placed therein.
I had like to have omitted two things which in my mind deserve mention on this head, and may, perhaps, be better defended than our contrary practice. One is, that the Mohammedans never address themselves to GOD in sumptuous apparel, though they are obliged to be decently clothed; but lay aside their costly habits and pompous ornaments, if they wear any, when they approach the divine presence, lest they should seem proud and arrogant. The other is, that they admit not their women to pray with them in public; that sex being obliged to perform their devotions at home, or if they visit the mosques, it must be at a time when the men are not there: for the Moslems are of opinion that their presence inspires a different kind of devotion from that which is requisite in a place dedicated to the worship of GOD.
The greater part of the particulars comprised in the Mohammedan institution of prayer, their prophet seems to have copied from others, and especially the Jews; exceeding their institutions only in the number of daily prayer. The Jews are directed to pray three times a day, in the morning, in the evening, and within night; in imitation of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and the practice was as early, at least, as the time of Daniel. The several postures used by the Mohammedans in their prayers are also the same with those prescribed by the Jewish Rabbins, and particularly the most solemn act of adoration, by prostrating themselves so as to touch the ground with their forehead; notwithstanding, the latter pretend the practice of the former, in this respect, to be a relic of their ancient manner of paying their devotions to Baal-Peor. The Jews likewise constantly pray with their faces turned towards the temple of Jerusalem, which has been their Kebla from the time it was first dedicated by Solomon; for which reason Daniel, praying in Chaldea, had the windows of his chamber open towards that city: and the same was the Kebla of Mohammed and his followers for six or seven months, and till he found himself obliged to change it for the Caaba. The Jews, moreover, are obliged by the precepts of their religion to be careful that the place they pray in, and the garments they have on when they perform their duty, be clean: the men and women also among them pray apart (in which particular they were imitated by the eastern Christians); and several other conformities might be remarked between the Jewish public worship and that of the Mohammedans.
The next point of the Mohammedan religion is the giving of alms, which are of two sorts, legal and voluntary. The legal alms are of indispensable obligation, being commanded by the law, which directs and determines both the portion which is to be given, and of what things it ought to be given; but the voluntary alms are left to every one's liberty, to give more or less, as he shall see fit. The former kind of alms some think to be properly called Zacât, and the latter Sadakat; though this name be also frequently given to the legal alms. They are called Zacât, either because they increase a man's store, by drawing down a blessing thereon, and produce in his soul the virtue of liberality, or because they purify the remaining part of one's substance from pollution, and the soul from the filth of avarice; and Sadakat, because they are a proof of a man's sincerity in the worship of GOD. Some writers have called the legal alms tithes, but improperly, since in some cases they fall short, and in others exceed that proportion.
The giving of alms is frequently commanded in the Koran, and often recommended therein jointly with prayer; the former being held of great efficacy in causing the latter to be heard of GOD: for which reason the Khalif Omar Ebn Abd'alaziz used to say, "that prayer and alms carries us half-way to GOD, fasting brings us to the door of his palace, and alms procures us admission." The Mohammedans, therefore, esteem almsdeeds to be highly meritorious, and many of them have been illustrious for the exercise thereof. Hasan, the son of Ali, and grandson of Mohammed, in particular is related to have thrice in his life divided his substance equally between himself and the poor, and twice to have given away all he had: and the generality are so addicted to the doing of good, that they extend their charity even to brutes.
Alms, according to the prescriptions of the Mohammedan law, are to be given of five things--I. Of cattle, that is to say, of camels, kine, and sheep. 2. Of money. 3. Of corn. 4. Of fruits, viz., dates and raisins. And 5. Of wares sold. Of each of these a certain portion is to be given in alms, usually one part in forty, or two and a half per cent of the value. But no alms are due for them, unless they amount to a certain quantity or number; nor until a man has been in possession of them eleven months, he not being obliged to give alms thereout before the twelfth month is begun: nor are alms due for cattle employed in tilling the ground, or in carrying of burdens. In some cases a much larger portion than the before-mentioned is reckoned due for alms: thus of what is gotten out of mines, or the sea, or by any art or profession over and above what is sufficient for the reasonable support of a man's family, and especially where there is a mixture or suspicion of unjust gain, a fifth part ought to be given in alms. Moreover, at the end of the fast of Ramadân, every Moslem is obliged to give in alms for himself and for every one of his family, if he has any, a measure of wheat, barley, dates, raisins, rice, or other provisions commonly eaten.
The legal alms were at first collected by Mohammed himself, who employed them as he thought fit, in the relief of his poor relations and followers, but chiefly applied them to the maintenance of those who served in his wars, and fought, as he termed it, in the way of GOD. His successors continued to do the same, till, in the process of time, other taxes and tributes being imposed for the support of the government, they seem to have been weary of acting as almoners to their subjects, and to have left the paying them to their consciences.
In the foregoing rules concerning alms, we may observe also footsteps of what the Jews taught and practised in respect thereto. Alms, which they also call Sedaka, i.e., justice, or righteousness, are greatly recommended by their Rabbins, and preferred even to sacrifices; as a duty, the frequent exercise whereof will effectually free a man from hell fire, and merit everlasting life: wherefore, besides the corners of the field, and the gleanings of their harvest and vineyard, commanded to be left for the poor and the stranger by the law of Moses, a certain portion of their corn and fruits is directed to be set apart for their relief, which portion is called the tithes of the poor. The Jews likewise were formerly very conspicuous for their charity. Zaccheus gave the half of his goods to the poor; and we are told that some gave their whole substance: so that their doctors, at length, decreed that no man should give above a fifth part of his goods in alms. There were also persons publicly appointed in every synagogue to collect and distribute the people's contributions.
The third point of religious practice is fasting; a duty of so great moment, that Mohammed used to say it was "the gate of religion," and that "the odour of the mouth of him who fasteth is more grateful to GOD than that of musk;" and al Ghazâli reckons fasting one-fourth part of the faith. According to the Mohammedan divines, there are three degrees of fasting: I. The restraining the belly and other parts of the body from satisfying their lusts; 2. The restraining the ears, eyes, tongue, hands, feet, and other members from sin; and 3. The fasting of the heart from worldly cares, and refraining the thoughts from everything besides GOD.
The Mohammedans are obliged, by the express command of the Koran, to fast the whole month of Ramadân, from the time the new moon first appears, till the appearance of the next new moon; during which time they must abstain from eating, drinking, and women, from daybreak till night, or sunset. And this injunction they observe so strictly, that while they fast they suffer nothing to enter their mouths, or other parts of their body, esteeming the fast broken and null if they smell perfumes, take a clyster or injection, bathe, or even purposely swallow their spittle; some being so cautious that they will not open their mouths to speak, lest they should breathe the air too freely: the fast is also deemed void if a man kiss or touch a woman, or if he vomit designedly. But after sunset they are allowed to refresh themselves, and to eat and drink, and enjoy the company of their wives till daybreak; though the more rigid begin the fast again at midnight. This fast is extremely rigorous and mortifying when the month of Ramadân happens to fall in summer, for the Arabian year being lunar, each month runs through all the different seasons in the course of thirty-three years, the length and heat of the days making the observance of it much more difficult and uneasy then than
The reason given why the month of Ramadân was pitched on for this purpose is, that on the month the Koran was sent down from heaven. Some pretend that Abraham, Moses, and Jesus received their respective revelations in the same month.
From the fast of Ramadân none are excused, except only travellers and sick persons (under which last denomination the doctors comprehend all whose health would manifestly be injured by their keeping the fast; as women with child and giving suck, ancient people, and young children); but then they are obliged, as soon as the impediment is removed, to fast an equal number of other days: and the breaking the fast is ordered to be expiated by giving alms to the poor.
Mohammed seems to have followed the guidance of the Jews in his ordinances concerning fasting, no less than in the former particulars. That nation, when they fast, abstain not only from eating and drinking, but from women, and from anointing themselves, from daybreak until sunset, and the stars begin to appear; spending the night in taking what refreshments they please. And they allow women with child and giving suck, old persons, and young children to be exempted from keeping most of the public fasts.
Though my design here be briefly to treat of those points only which are of indispensable obligation on a Moslem, and expressly required by the Koran, without entering into their practice as to voluntary and supererogatory works; yet to show how closely Mohammed's institutions follow the Jewish, I shall add a word or two of the voluntary fasts of the Mohammedans. These are such as have been recommended either by the example or approbation of their prophet; and especially certain days of those months which they esteem sacred: there being a tradition that he used to say, That a fast of one day in a sacred month was better than a fast of thirty days in another month; and that the fast of one day in Ramadân was more meritorious than a fast of thirty days in a sacred month. Among the more commendable days is that of Ashura, the tenth of Moharram; which, though some writers tell us it was observed by the Arabs, and particularly the tribe of Koreish, before Mohammed's time, yet, as others assure us, that prophet borrowed both the name and the fast from the Jews; it being with them the tenth of the seventh month, or Tisri, and the great day of expiation commanded to be kept by the law of Moses. Al Kazwini relates that when Mohammed came to Medina, and found the Jews there fasted on the day of Ashura, he asked them the reason of it; and they told him it was because on that day Pharaoh and his people were drowned, Moses and those who were with him escaping: whereupon he said that he bore a nearer relation to Moses than they, and ordered his followers to fast on that day. However, it seems afterwards he was not so well pleased in having imitated the Jews herein; and therefore declared that, if he lived another year, he would alter the day, and fast on the ninth, abhorring so near an agreement with them.
The pilgrimage to Mecca is so necessary a point of practice that, according to a tradition of Mohammed, he who dies without performing it, may as well die a Jew or a Christian; and the same is expressly commanded in the Koran. Before I speak of the time and manner of performing this pilgrimage, it may be proper to give a short account of the temple of Mecca, the chief scene of the Mohammedan worship; in doing which I need be the less prolix, because that edifice has been already described by several writers, though they, following different relations, have been led into some mistakes, and agree not with one another in several particulars: nor, indeed, do the Arab authors agree in all things, one great reason whereof is their speaking of different times.
The temple of Mecca stands in the midst of the city, and is honoured with the title of Masjad al alharâm, i.e., the sacred or inviolable temple. What is principally reverenced in this place, and gives sanctity to the whole, is a square stone building, called the Caaba, as some fancy, from its height, which surpasses that of the other buildings in Mecca, but more probably from its quadrangular form, and Beit Allah, i.e., the house of GOD, being peculiarly hallowed and set apart for his worship. The length of this edifice, from north to south, is twenty-four cubits, its breadth from east to west twenty- three cubits, and its height twenty-seven cubits: the door, which is on the east side, stands about four cubits from the ground; the floor being level with the bottom of the door. In the corner next this door is the black stone, of which I shall take notice by-and-bye. On the north side of the Caaba, within a semicircular enclosure fifty cubits long, lies the white stone, said to be the sepulchre of Ismael, which receives the rain-water that falls off the Caaba by a spout, formerly of wood, but now of gold. The Caaba has a double roof, supported within by three octangular pillars of aloes wood; between which, on a bar of iron, hang some silver lamps. The outside is covered with rich black damask, adorned with an embroidered band of gold, which is changed every year, and was formerly sent by the Khalifs, afterwards by the Soltâns of Egypt, and is now provided by the Turkish emperors. At a small distance from the Caaba, on the east side, is the Station or Place of Abraham, where is another stone much respected by the Mohammedans, of which something will be said hereafter.
The Caaba, at some distance, is surrounded but not entirely, by a circular enclosure of pillars, joined towards the bottom by a low balustrade, and towards the top by bars of silver. Just without this inner enclosure, on the south, north, and west sides of the Caaba, are three buildings, which are the oratories, or places where three of the orthodox sects assemble to perform their devotions (the fourth sect, viz., that of al Shâfei, making use of the station of Abraham for that purpose), and towards the southeast stands the edifice which covers the well Zemzem, the treasury, and cupola of al Abbas.
All these buildings are enclosed, a considerable distance, by a magnificent piazza, or square colonnade, like that of the Royal Exchange in London, but much larger, covered with small domes or cupolas, from the four corners whereof rise as many minârets or steeples, with double galleries, and adorned with gilded spires and crescents, as are the cupolas which cover the piazza and the other buildings. Between the pillars of both enclosures hang a great number of lamps, which are constantly lighted at night. The first foundations of this outward enclosure were laid by Omar, the second Khalif, who built no more than a low wall to prevent the court of the Caaba, which before lay open, from being encroached on by private buildings; but the structure has been since raised, by the liberality of many succeeding princes and great men, to its present lustre.
This is properly all that is called the temple, but the whole territory of Mecca being also Harâm, or sacred, there is a third enclosure, distinguished at certain distances by small turrets, some five, some seven, and others ten miles distant from the city. Within this compass of ground it is not lawful to attack an enemy, or even to hunt or fowl, or cut a branch from a tree: which is the true reason why the pigeons at Mecca are reckoned sacred, and not that they are supposed to be of the race of that imaginary pigeon which some authors, who should have known better, would persuade us Mohammed made pass for the Holy Ghost.
The temple of Mecca was a place of worship, and in singular veneration with the Arabs from great antiquity, and many centuries before Mohammed. Though it was most probably dedicated at first to an idolatrous use, yet the Mohammedans are generally persuaded that the Caaba is almost coeval with the world: for they say that Adam, after his expulsion from paradise, begged of GOD that he might erect a building like that he had seen there, called Beit al Mamur, or the frequented house, and al Dorâh, towards which he might direct his prayers, and which he might compass, as the angels do the celestial one. Whereupon GOD let down a representation of that house in curtains of light, and set it in Mecca, perpendicularly under its original, ordering the patriarch to turn towards it when he prayed, and to compass it by way of devotion. After Adam's death, his son Seth built a house in the same form of stones and clay, which being destroyed by the Deluge, was rebuilt by Abraham and Ismael, at GOD'S command, in the place where the former had stood, and after the same model, they being directed therein by revelation.
After this edifice had undergone several reparations, it was, a few years after the birth of Mohammed, rebuilt by the Koreish on the old foundation, and afterwards repaired by Abd'allah Ebn Zobeir, the Khalif of Mecca, and at length again rebuilt by al Hejâj Ebn Yusof, in the seventy-fourth year of the Hejra, with some alterations, in the form wherein it now remains. Some years after, however, the Khalif Harun al Rashid (or, as others write, his father al Mohdi, or his grandfather al Mansur) intended again to change what had been altered by al Hejâj, and to reduce the Caaba to the old form in which it was left by Abd'allah, but was dissuaded from meddling with it, lest so holy a place should become the sport of princes, and being new modelled after every one's fancy, should lose that reverence which was justly paid it. But notwithstanding the antiquity and holiness of this building, they have a prophecy, by tradition from Mohammed, that in the last times the Ethiopians shall come and utterly demolish it, after which it will not be rebuilt again for ever.
Before we leave the temple of Mecca, two or three particulars deserve further notice. One is the celebrated black stone, which is set in silver, and fixed in the southeast corner of the Caaba, being that which looks towards Basra, about two cubits and one-third, or, which is the same thing, seven spans from the ground. This stone is exceedingly respected by the Mohammedans, and is kissed by the pilgrims with great devotion, being called by some the right hand of GOD on earth. They fable that it is one of the precious stones of paradise, and fell down to the earth with Adam, and being taken up again, or otherwise preserved at the Deluge, the angel Gabriel afterwards brought it back to Abraham when he was building the Caaba. It was at first whiter than milk, but grew black long since by the touch of a menstruous woman, or, as others tell us, by the sins of mankind, or rather by the touches and kisses of so many people, the superficies only being black, and the inside still remaining white. When the Karmatians, among other profanations by them offered to the temple of Mecca, took away this stone, they could not be prevailed on, for love or money, to restore it, though those of Mecca offered no less than five thousand pieces of gold for it. However, after they had kept it twenty-two years, seeing they could not thereby draw the pilgrims from Mecca, they sent it back of their own accord; at the same time bantering its devotees by telling them it was not the true stone: but, as it is said, it was proved to be no counterfeit by its peculiar quality of swimming on water.
Another thing observable in this temple is the stone in Abraham's place, wherein they pretend to show his footsteps, telling us he stood on it when he built the Caaba, and that it served him for a scaffold, rising and falling of itself as he had occasion, though another tradition says he stood upon it while the wife of his son Ismael, whom he paid a visit to, washed his head. It is now enclosed in an iron chest, out of which the pilgrims drink the water of Zemzem, and are ordered to pray at it by the Koran. The officers of the temple took care to hide this stone when the Karmatians took the other.
The last thing I shall take notice of in the temple is the well Zemzem, on the east side of the Caaba, and which is covered with a small building and cupola. The Mohammedans are persuaded it is the very spring which gushed out for the relief of Ismael, when Hagar his mother wandered with him in the desert; and some pretend it was so named from her calling to him, when she spied it, in the Egyptian tongue, Zem, zem, that is, "Stay, stay," though it seems rather to have had the name from the murmuring of its waters. The water of this will is reckoned holy, and is highly reverenced, being not only drunk with particular devotion by the pilgrims, but also sent in bottles, as a great rarity, to most parts of the Mohammedan dominions. Abd'allah, surnamed al Hâfedh, from his great memory, particularly as to the traditions of Mohammed, gave out that he acquired that faculty by drinking large draughts of Zemzem water, to which I really believe it as efficacious as that of Helicon to the inspiring of a poet.
To this temple every Mohammedan, who has health and means sufficient ought once, at least, in his life to go on pilgrimage; nor are women excused from the performance of this duty. The pilgrims meet at different places near Mecca, according to the different parts from whence they come, during the months of Shawâl and Dhu'lkaada, being obliged to be there by the beginning of Dhu'lhajja, which month, as its name imports, is peculiarly set apart for the celebration of this solemnity.
At the places above mentioned the pilgrims properly commence such; when the men put on the Ihrâm, or sacred habit, which consists only of two woolen wrappers, one wrapped about the middle to cover their privities, and the other thrown over their shoulders, having their heads bare, and a kind of slippers which cover neither the heel nor the instep, and so enter the sacred territory in their way to Mecca. While they have this habit on they must neither hunt nor fowl (though they are allowed to fish), which precept is so punctually observed, that they will not kill even a louse or a flea, if they find them on their bodies: there are some noxious animals, however, which they have permission to kill during the pilgrimage, as kites, ravens, scorpions, mice, and dogs given to bite. During the pilgrimage it behoves a man to have a constant guard over his words and actions, and to avoid all quarrelling or ill language, and all converse with women and obscene discourse, and to apply his whole intention to the good work he is engaged in.
The pilgrims, being arrived at Mecca, immediately visit the temple, and then enter on the performance of the prescribed ceremonies, which consist chiefly in going in procession round the Caaba, in running between the Mounts Safâ and Merwâ, in making the station on Mount Arafat, and slaying the victims, and shaving their heads in the valley of Mina. These ceremonies have been so particularly described by others, that I may be excused if I but just mention the most material circumstances thereof.
In compassing the Caaba, which they do seven times, beginning at the corner where the black stone is fixed, they use a short, quick pace the three first times they go round it, and a grave, ordinary pace, the four last; which, it is said, was ordered by Mohammed, that his followers might show themselves strong and active, to cut off the hopes of the infidels, who gave out that the immoderate heats of Medina had rendered them weak. But the aforesaid quick pace they are not obliged to use every time they perform this piece of devotion, but only at some particular times. So often as they pass by the black stone, they either kiss it, or touch it with their hand, and kiss that.
The running between Safâ and Merwâ is also performed seven times, partly with a slow pace, and partly running: for they walk gravely till they come to a place between two pillars; and there they run, and afterwards walk again; sometimes looking back, and sometimes stopping, like one who has lost something, to represent Hagar seeking water for her son:3 for the ceremony is said to be as ancient as her time.
On the ninth of Dhu'lhajja, after morning prayer, the pilgrims leave the valley of Mina, whither they come the day before, and proceed in a tumultuous and rushing manner to Mount Arafat, where they stay to perform their devotions till sunset: then they go to Mozdalifa, an oratory between Arafat and Mina, and there spend the night in prayer and reading the Koran. The next morning, by daybreak, they visit al Masher al harâm, or the sacred monument, and departing thence before sunrise, haste by Batn Mohasser to the valley of Mina, where they throw seven stones at three marks, or pillars, in imitation of Abraham, who, meeting the devil in that place, and being by him disturbed in his devotions, or tempted to disobedience, when he was going to sacrifice his son, was commanded by GOD to drive him away by throwing stones at him; though others pretend this rite to be as old as Adam, who also put the devil to flight in the same place and by the same means.
This ceremony being over, on the same day, the tenth of Dhu'lhajja, the pilgrims slay their victims in the said valley of Mina; of which they and their friends eat part, and the rest is given to the poor. These victims must be either sheep, goats, kine, or camels; males, if of either of the two former kinds, and females if of either of the latter, and of a fit age. The sacrifices being over, they shave their heads and cut their nails, burying them in the same place; after which the pilgrimage is looked on as completed: though they again visit the Caaba, to take their leave of that sacred building.
The above-mentioned ceremonies, by the confession of the Mohammedans themselves, were almost all of them observed by the pagan Arabs many ages before their prophet's appearance; and particularly the compassing of the Caaba, the running between Safâ and Merwâ, and the throwing of the stones in Mina; and were confirmed by Mohammed, with some alterations in such points as seemed most exceptionable: thus, for example, he ordered that when they compassed the Caaba they should be clothed; whereas, before his time, they performed that piece of devotion naked, throwing off their clothes as a mark that they had cast off their sins, or as signs of their disobedience towards GOD.
It is also acknowledged that the greater part of these rites are of no intrinsic worth, neither affecting the soul, nor agreeing with natural reason, but altogether arbitrary, and commanded merely to try the obedience of mankind, without any further view; and are therefore to be complied with; not that they are good in themselves, but because GOD has so appointed. Some, however, have endeavoured to find out some reason for the arbitrary injunctions of this kind; and one writer, supposing men ought to imitate the heavenly bodies, not only in their purity, but in their circular motion, seems to argue the procession round the Caaba to be therefore a rational practice. Reland has observed that the Romans had something like this in their worship, being ordered by Numa to use a circular motion in the adoration of the Gods, either to represent the orbicular motion of the world, or the perfecting the whole office of prayer to that GOD who is maker of the universe, or else in allusion to the Egyptian wheels, which were hieroglyphics of the instability of human fortune.
The pilgrimage to Mecca, and the ceremonies prescribed to those who perform it, are, perhaps, liable to greater exception than other of Mohammed's institutions; not only as silly and ridiculous in themselves, but as relics of idolatrous superstition. Yet whoever seriously considers how difficult it is to make people submit to the abolishing of ancient customs, how unreasonable soever, which they are fond of, especially where the interest of a considerable party is also concerned, and that a man may with less danger change many things than one great one, must excuse Mohammed's yielding some points of less moment, to gain the principal. The temple of Mecca was held in excessive veneration by all the Arabs in general (if we except only the tribes of Tay, and Khathaam, and some of the posterity of al Hareth Ebn Caab, who used not to go in pilgrimage thereto), and especially by those of Mecca, who had a particular interest to support that veneration; and as the most silly and insignificant things are generally the objects of the greatest superstition, Mohammed found it much easier to abolish idolatry itself, than to eradicate, the superstitious bigotry with which they were addicted to that temple, and the rites performed there; wherefore, after several fruitless trials to wean them therefrom, he thought it best to compromise the matter, and rather than to frustrate his whole design, to allow them to go on pilgrimage thither, and to direct their prayers thereto; contenting himself with transferring the devotions there paid from their idols to the true GOD, and changing such circumstances therein as he judged might give scandal. And herein he followed the example of the most famous legislators, who instituted not such laws as were absolutely the best in themselves, but the best their people were capable of receiving: and we find GOD himself had the same condescendence for the Jews, whose hardness of heart he humoured in many things, giving them therefore statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live.
_______ SECTION V.
OF CERTAIN NEGATIVE PRECEPTS IN THE KORAN.
HAVING in the preceeding section spoken of the fundamental points of the Mohammedan religion, relating both to faith and to practice, I shall in this and the two following discourses, speak in the same brief method of some other precepts and institutions of the Koran which deserve peculiar notice, and first of certain things which are thereby prohibited.
The drinking of wine, under which name all sorts of strong and inebriating liquors are comprehended, is forbidden in the Koran in more places than one. Some, indeed, have imagined that excess therein is only forbidden, and that the moderate use of wine is allowed by two passages in the same book: but the more received opinion is, that to drink any strong liquors, either in a lesser quantity, or in a greater, is absolutely unlawful; and though libertines indulge themselves in a contrary practice, yet the more conscientious are so strict, especially if they have performed the pilgrimage to Mecca, that they hold it unlawful not only to taste wine, but to press grapes for the making of it, to buy or to sell it, or even to maintain themselves with the money arising by the sale of that liquor. The Persians, however, as well as the Turks, are very fond of wine; and if one asks them how it comes to pass that they venture to drink it, when it is so directly forbidden by their religion, they answer, that it is with them as with the Christians, whose religion prohibits drunkenness and whoredom as great sins, and who glory, notwithstanding, some in debauching girls and married women, and others in drinking to excess.
It has been a question whether coffee comes not under the above-mentioned prohibition, because the fumes of it have some effect on the imagination. This drink, which was first publicly used at Aden in Arabia Felix, about the middle of the ninth century of the Hejra, and thence gradually introduced into Mecca, Medina, Egypt, Syria, and other parts of the Levant, has been the occasion of great disputes and disorders, having been sometimes publicly condemned and forbidden, and again declared lawful and allowed. At present the use of coffee is generally tolerated, if not granted, as is that of tobacco, though the more religious make a scruple of taking the latter, not only because it inebriates, but also out of respect to a traditional saying of their prophet (which, if it could be made out to be his, would prove him a prophet indeed), "That in the latter days there should be men who should bear the name of Moslems, but should not be really such; and that they should smoke a certain weed, which should be called TOBACCO." However, the eastern nations are generally so addicted to both, that they say, "A dish of coffee and a pipe of tobacco are a complete entertainment;" and the Persians have a proverb that coffee without tobacco is meat without salt.
Opium and beng (which latter is the leaves of hemp in pills or conserve) are also by the rigid Mohammedans esteemed unlawful, though not mentioned in the Koran, because they intoxicate and disturb the understanding as wine does, and in a more extraordinary manner: yet these drugs are now commonly taken in the east; but they who are addicted to them are generally looked upon as debauchees.
Several stories have been told as the occasion of Mohammed's prohibiting the drinking of wine: but the true reasons are given in the Koran, viz., because the ill qualities of that liquor surpass its good ones, the common effects thereof being quarrels and disturbances in company, and neglect, or at least indecencies, in the performance of religious duties. For these reasons it was that the priests were, by the Levitical law, forbidden to drink wine or strong drink when they entered the tabernacle, and that the Nazarites and Rechabites, and many pious persons among the Jews and primitive Christians, wholly abstained therefrom; nay, some of the latter went so far as to condemn the use of wine as sinful. But Mohammed is said to have had a nearer example than any of these, in the more devout persons of his own tribe.
Gaming is prohibited by the Koran in the same passages, and for the same reasons, as wine. The word al Meisar, which is there used, signifies a particular manner of casting lots by arrows, much practised by the pagan Arabs, and performed in the following manner. A young camel being bought and killed, and divided into ten or twenty-eight parts, the persons who cast lots for them, to the number of seven, met for that purpose; and eleven arrows were provided, without heads or feathers, seven of which were marked, the first with one notch, the second with two, and so on, and the other four had no mark at all. These arrows were put promiscuously into a bag, and then drawn by an indifferent person, who had another near him to receive them, and to see he acted fairly; those to whom the marked arrows fell won shares in proportion to their lot, and those to whom the blanks fell were entitled to no part of the camel at all, but were obliged to pay the full price of it. The winners, however, tasted not of the flesh, any more than the losers, but the whole was distributed among the poor; and this they did out of pride and ostentation, it being reckoned a shame for a man to stand out, and not venture his money on such an occasion. This custom, therefore, though it was of some use to the poor and diversion to the rich, was forbidden by Mohammed as the source of great inconveniences, by occasioning quarrels and heart-burnings, which arose from the winners insulting of those who lost.
Under the name of lots the commentators agree that all other games whatsoever, which are subject to hazard or chance, are comprehended and forbidden, as dice, cards, tables, &c. And they are reckoned so ill in themselves, that the testimony of him who plays at them, is by the more rigid judged to be of no validity in a court of justice. Chess is almost the only game which the Mohammedan doctors allow to be lawful (though it has been a doubt with some), because it depends wholly on skill and management, and not at all on chance: but then it is allowed under certain restrictions, viz., that it be no hindrance to the regular performance of their devotions, and that no money or other thing be played for or betted; which last the Turks and Sonnites religiously observe, but the Persians and Mogols do not. But what Mohammed is supposed chiefly to have dislike in the game of chess, was the carved pieces, or men, with which the pagan Arabs played, being little figures of men, elephants, horses, and dromedaries; and these are thought, by some commentators, to be truly meant by the images prohibited in one of the passages of the Koran quoted above.
That the Arabs in Mohammed's time actually used such images for chess-men appears from what is related, in the Sonna, of Ali, who passing accidentally by some who were playing at chess, asked, "What images they were which they were so intent upon?" for they were perfectly new to him, that game having been but very lately introduced into Arabia, and not long before into Persia, whither it was first brought from India in the reign of Khosru Nushirwân. Hence the Mohammedan doctors infer that the game was disapproved only for the sake of the images: wherefore the Sonnites always play with plain pieces of wood or ivory; but the Persians and Indians, who are not so scrupulous, continue to make use of the carved ones.
The Mohammedans comply with the prohibition of gaming much better than they do with that of win; for though the common people among the Turks more frequently, and the Persians more rarely, are addicted to play, yet the better sort are seldom guilty of it.
Gaming, at least to excess, has been forbidden in all well-ordered states. Gaming-houses were reckoned scandalous places among the Greeks, and a gamester is declared by Aristotle to be no better than a thief: the Roman senate made very severe laws against playing at games of hazard, except only during the Saturnalia; though the people played often at other times, notwithstanding the prohibition: the civil law forbad all pernicious games; and though the laity were, in some cases, permitted to play for money, provided they kept within reasonable bounds, yet the clergy were forbidden to play at tables (which is a game of hazard), or even to look on while others played. Accursius, indeed, is of opinion they may play at chess, notwithstanding that law, because it is a game not subject to chance, and being but newly invented in the time of Justinian, was not then known in the western parts. However, the monks for some time were not allowed even chess.
As to the Jews, Mohammed's chief guides, they also highly disapprove gaming: gamesters being severely censured in the Talmud, and their testimony declared invalid.
Another practice of the idolatrous Arabs forbidden also in one of the above-mentioned passages, was that of divining by arrows. The arrows used by them for this purpose were like those with which they cast lots, being without heads or feathers, and were kept in the temple of some idol, in whose presence they were consulted. Seven such arrows were kept at the temple of Mecca; but generally in divination they made use of three only, on one of which was written, "My LORD hath commanded me," on another, "My LORD hath forbidden me," and the third was blank. If the first was drawn, they looked on it as an approbation of the enterprise in question; if the second, they made a contrary conclusion; but if the third happened to be drawn, they mixed them and drew over again, till a decisive answer was given by one of the others. These divining arrows were generally consulted before anything of moment was undertaken; as when a man was about to marry, or about to go a journey, or the like. This superstitious practice of divining by arrows was used by the ancient Greeks, and other nations; and is particularly mentioned in scripture, where it is said, that "the king of Babylon stood at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination; he made his arrows bright" (or, according to the version of the Vulgate, which seems preferable in this place, "he mixed together, or shook the arrows"), "he consulted with images," &c.; the commentary of St. Jerome on which passage wonderfully agrees with what we are told of the aforesaid custom of the old Arabs: "He shall stand," says he, "in the highway, and consult the oracle after the manner of his nation, that he may cast arrows into a quiver, and mix them together, being written upon or marked with the names of each people, that he may see whose arrow will come forth, and which city he ought first to attack."
A distinction of meats was so generally used by the eastern nations, that it is no wonder that Mohammed made some regulations in that matter. The Koran, therefore, prohibits the eating of blood, and swine's flesh, and whatever dies of itself, or is slain in the name or in honour of any idol, or is strangled, or killed by a blow, or a fall, or by any other beast. In which particulars Mohammed seems chiefly to have imitated the Jews, by whose law, as is well known, all those things are forbidden; but he allowed some things to be eaten which Moses did not, as camels' flesh in particular. In cases of necessity, however, where a man may be in danger of starving, he is allowed by the Mohammedan law to eat any of the said prohibited kinds of food; and the Jewish doctors grant the same liberty in the same case. Though the aversion to blood and what dies of itself may seem natural, yet some of the pagan Arabs used to eat both: of their eating of the latter some instances will be given hereafter; and as to the former, it is said they used to pour blood, which they sometimes drew from a live camel, into a gut, and then broiled it in the fire, or boiled it, and ate it: this food they called Moswadd, from Aswad which signifies black; the same nearly resembling our black puddings in name as well as composition. The eating of meat offered to idols I take to be commonly practised by all idolaters, being looked on as a sort of communion in their worship, and for that reason esteemed by Christians, if not absolutely unlawful, yet as what may be the occasion of great scandal: but the Arabs were particularly superstitious in this matter, killing what they ate on stones erected on purpose around the Caaba, or near their own houses, and calling, at the same time, on the name of some idol. Swine's flesh, indeed, the old Arabs seem not to have eaten; and their prophet, in prohibiting the same, appears to have only confirmed the common aversion of the nation. Foreign writers tell us that the Arabs wholly abstained from swine's flesh, thinking it unlawful to feed thereon, and that very few, if any, of those animals are found in their country, because it produces not proper food for them; which has made one writer imagine that if a hog were carried thither, it would immediately die.
In the prohibition of usury I presume Mohammed also followed the Jews, who are strictly forbidden by their law to exercise it among one another, though they are so infamously guilty of it in their dealing with those of a different religion: but I do not find the prophet of the Arabs has made any distinction in this matter.
Several superstitious customs relating to cattle, which seem to have been peculiar to the pagan Arabs, were also abolished by Mohammed. The Koran mentions four names by them given to certain camels or sheep, which for some particular reasons were left at free liberty, and were not made use of as other cattle of the same kind. These names are Bahira, Sâiba, Wasila, and Hâmi: of each whereof in their order.
As to the first, it is said that when a she-camel, or a sheep, had borne young ten times, they used to slit her ear, and turn her loose to feed at full liberty; and when she died, her flesh was eaten by the men only, the women being forbidden to eat thereof: and such a camel or sheep, from the slitting of her ear, they called Bahira. Or the Bahira was a she-camel, which was turned loose to feed, and whose fifth young one, if it proved a male, was killed and eaten by men and women promiscuously; but if it proved a female, had its ear slit, and was dismissed to free pasture, none being permitted to make use of its flesh or milk, or to ride on it; though the women were allowed to eat the flesh of it when it died: or it was the female young of the Sâiba, which was used in the same manner as its dam; or else an ewe, which had yeaned five times. These, however, are not all the opinions concerning the Bahira: for some suppose that name was given to a she-camel, which, after having brought forth young five times, if the last was a male, had her ear slit, as a mark thereof, and was let go loose to feed, none driving her from pasture or water, nor using her for carriage; and others tell us, that when a camel had newly brought forth, they used to slit the ear of her young one, saying, "O GOD, if it live, it shall be for our use, but if it die, it shall be deemed rightly slain;" and when it died, they ate it.
Sâiba signifies a she-camel turned loose to go where she will. And this was done on various accounts: as when she had brought forth females ten times together; or in satisfaction of a vow; or when a man had recovered from sickness, or returned safe from a journey, or his camel had escaped some signal danger either in battle or otherwise. A camel so turned loose was declared to be Sâiba, and, as a mark of it, one of the vertebrae or bones was taken out of her back, after which none might drive her from pasture or water, or ride on her. Some say that the Sâiba, when she had ten times together brought forth females, was suffered to go at liberty, none being allowed to ride on her, and that her milk was not to be drank by any but her young one, or a guest, till she died; and then her flesh was eaten by men as well as women, and her last female young one had her ear slit, and was called Bahira, and turned loose as her dam had been.
This appellation, however, was not so strictly proper to female camels, but that it was given to the male when his young one had begotten another young one: nay, a servant set at liberty and dismissed by his master, was also called Sâiba; and some are of opinion that the word denotes an animal which the Arabs used to turn loose in honour of their idols, allowing none to make uses of them, thereafter, except women only.
Wasila is, by one author, explained to signify a she-camel which had brought forth ten times, or an ewe which had yeaned seven times, and every time twin; and if the seventh time she brought forth a male and a female, they said, "Wosilat akhâha," i.e., "She is joined," or, "was brought forth with her brother," after which none might drink the dam's milk, except men only; and she was used as the Sâiba. Or Wasila was particularly meant of sheep; as when an ewe brought forth a female, they took it to themselves, but when she brought forth a male, they consecrated it to their gods, but if both a male and a female, they said, "She is joined to her brother," and did not sacrifice that male to their gods: or Wasila was an ewe which brought forth first a male, and then a female, on which account, or because she followed her brother, the male was not killed; but if she brought forth a male only, they said, "Let this be an offering to our gods." Another writes, that if an ewe brought forth twins seven times together, and the eighth time a male, they sacrificed that male to their gods; but if the eighth time she brought both a male and a female, they used to say, "She is joined to her brother," and for the female's sake they spared the male, and permitted not the dam's milk to be drunk by women. A third writer tell us, that Wasila was an ewe, which having yeaned seven times, if that which she brought forth the seventh time was a male, they sacrificed it, but if a female, it was suffered to go loose, and was made use of by women only; and if the seventh time she brought forth both a male and a female, they held them both to be sacred, so that men only were allowed to make any use of them, or to drink the milk of the female: and a fourth describes it to be an ewe which brought forth ten females at five births one after another, i.e., every time twins, and whatever she brought forth afterwards was allowed to men, and not to women, &c.
Hâmi was a male camel used for a stallion, which, if the females had conceived ten times by him, was afterwards freed from labour, and let go loose, none driving him from pasture or from water; nor was any allowed to receive the least benefit from him, not even to shear his hair.
These things were observed by the old Arabs in honour of their false gods, and as part of the worship which they paid them, and were ascribed to the divine institution; but are all condemned in the Koran, and declared to be impious superstitions.
The law of Mohammed also put a stop to the inhuman custom which had been long practised by the Pagan Arabs, of burying their daughters alive, lest they should be reduced to poverty by providing for them, or else to avoid the displeasure and the disgrace which would follow, if they should happen to be made captives, or to become scandalous by their behaviour; the birth of a daughter being, for these reasons, reckoned a great misfortune, and the death of one as a great happiness. The manner of their doing this is differently related: some say that when an Arab had a daughter born, if he intended to bring her up, he sent her, clothed in a garment of wool or hair, to keep camels or sheep in the desert; but if he designed to put her to death, he let her live till she became six years old, and then said to her mother, "Perfume her, and adorn her, that I may carry her to her mothers;" which being done, the father led her to a well or pit dug for that purpose, and having bid her to look down into it, pushed her in headlong, as he stood behind her, and then filling up the pit, levelled it with the rest of the ground; but others say, that when a woman was ready to fall in labour, they dug a pit, on the brink whereof she was to be delivered, and if the child happened to be a daughter, they threw it into the pit, but if a son, they saved it alive. This custom, though not observed by all the Arabs in general, was yet very common among several of their tribes, and particularly those of Koreish and Kendah; the former using to bury their daughters alive in Mount Abu Dalâma, near Mecca. In the time of ignorance, while they used this method to get rid of their daughters, Sasaa, grandfather to the celebrated poet al Farazdak, frequently redeemed female children from death, giving for every one two she-camels big with young, and a he-camel; and hereto al Farazdak alluded when, vaunting himself before one of the Khalifs of the family of Omeyya, he said, "I am the son of the giver of life to the dead;" for which expression being censured, he excused himself by alleging the following words of the Koran, "He who saveth a soul alive, shall be as if he had saved the lives of all mankind." The Arabs, in thus murdering of their children, were far from being singular; the practice of exposing infants and putting them to death being so common among the ancients, that it is remarked as a thing very extraordinary in the Egyptians, that they brought up all their children; and by the laws of Lycurgus no child was allowed to be brought up without the approbation of public officers. At this day, it is said, in China, the poorer sort of people frequently put their children, the females especially, to death with impunity.
This wicked practice is condemned by the Koran in several passages; one of which, as some commentators judge, may also condemn another custom of the Arabians, altogether as wicked, and as common among other nations of old, viz., the sacrificing of their children to their idols; as was frequently done, in particular, in satisfaction of a vow they used to make, that if they had a certain number of sons born, they would offer one of them in sacrifice.
Several other superstitious customs were likewise abrogated by Mohammed, but the same being of less moment, and not particularly mentioned in the Koran, or having been occasionally taken notice of elsewhere, I shall say nothing of them in this place. ______
OF THE INSTITUTIONS OF THE KORAN IN CIVIL AFFAIRS.
THE Mohammedan civil law is founded on the precepts and determinations of the Koran, as the civil laws of the Jews were on those of the Pentateuch; yet being variously interpreted, according to the different decisions of their civilians, and especially of their four great doctors, Abu Hanifa, Malec, al Shâfei, and Ebn Hanbal, to treat thereof fully and distinctly in the manner the curiosity and usefulness of the subject deserves, would require a large volume; wherefore the most that can be expected here, is a summary view of the principal institutions, without minutely entering into a detail of particulars. We shall begin with those relating to marriage and divorce.
That polygamy, for the moral lawfulness of which the Mohammedan doctors advance several arguments, is allowed by the Koran, every one knows, though few are acquainted with the limitations with which it is allowed. Several learned men have fallen into the vulgar mistake that Mahommed granted to his followers an unbounded plurality; some pretending that a man may have as many wives, and others as many concubines, as he can maintain: whereas, according to the express words of the Koran, no man can have more than four, whether wives or concubines; and if a man apprehend any inconvenience from even that number of ingenuous wives, it is added, as an advice (which is generally followed by the middling and inferior people), that he marry one only, or, if he cannot be contented with one, that he take up with his she-slaves, not exceeding, however, the limited number; and this is certainly the utmost Mohammed allowed his followers: nor can we urge as an argument against so plain a precept, the corrupt manners of his followers, many of whom, especially men of quality and fortune, indulge themselves in criminal excesses; nor yet the example of the prophet himself, who had peculiar privileges in this and other points, as will be observed hereafter. In making the above-mentioned limitation, Mohammed was directed by the decision of the Jewish doctors, who, by way of counsel, limit the number of wives to four, though their law confines them not to any certain number.
Divorce is also well known to be allowed by the Mohammedan law, as it was by the Mosaic, with this difference only, that, according to the latter, a man could not take again a woman whom he had divorced, and who had been married or betrothed to another; whereas Mohammed, to prevent his followers from divorcing their wives on every light occasion, or out of an inconstant humour, ordained that, if a man divorced his wife the third time (for he might divorce her twice without being obliged to part with her, if he repented of what he had done), it should not be lawful for him to take her again until she had been first married and bedded by another, and divorced by such second husband. And this precaution has had so good an effect that the Mohammedans are seldom known to proceed to the extremity of divorce, notwithstanding the liberty given them, it being reckoned a great disgrace so to do; and there are but few, besides those who have little or no sense of honour, that will take a wife again on the condition enjoined. It must be observed that, though a man is allowed by the Mohammedan, as by the Jewish law, to repudiate his wife even on the slightest disgust, yet the women are not allowed to separate themselves from their husbands, unless it be for ill-usage, want of proper maintenance, neglect of conjugal duty, impotency, or some cause of equal import; but then she generally loses her dowry, which she does not if divorced by her husband, unless she has been guilty of impudicity or notorious disobedience.
When a woman is divorced she is obliged, by the direction of the Koran, to wait till she hath had her courses thrice, or, if there be a doubt whether she be subject to them or not, by reason of her age, three months, before she marry another; after which time expired, in case she be found not with child, she is at full liberty to dispose of herself as she pleases; but if she prove with child, she must wait till she be delivered; and during her whole term of waiting she may continue in the husband's house, and is to be maintained at his expense, it being forbidden to turn the woman out before the expiration of the term, unless she be guilty of dishonesty. Where a man divorces a woman before consummation, she is not obliged to wait any particular time, nor is he obliged to give her more than one-half of her dower. If the divorced woman have a young child, she is to suckle it till it be two years old; the father, in the meantime, maintaining her in all respects: a widow is also obliged to do the same, and to wait four months and ten days before she marry again.
These rules ar also copied form those of the Jews, according to whom a divorced woman, or a widow, cannot marry another man, till ninety days be past, after the divorce or death of the husband: and she who gives suck is to be maintained for two years, to be computed from the birth of the child; within which time she must not marry, unless the child die, or her milk be dried up.
Whoredom, in single women as well as married, was, in the beginning Mohammedism, very severely punished; such being ordered to be shut up in prison till they died: but afterwards it was ordained by the Sonna, that an adulteress should be stoned, and an unmarried woman guilty of fornication scourged with a hundred stripes, and banished for a year. A she-slave, if convicted of adultery, is to suffer but half the punishment of a free woman, viz., fifty stripes, and banishment for six months; but is not to be put to death. To convict a woman of adultery, so as to make it capital, four witnesses are expressly required, and those, as the commentators say, ought to be men: and if a man falsely accuse a woman of reputation of whoredom of any kind, and is not able to support the charge by that number of witnesses, he is to receive fourscore stripes, and his testimony is to be held invalid for the future. Fornication, in either sex, is by the sentence of the Koran to be punished with a hundred stripes.
If a man accuse his wife of infidelity, and is not able to prove it by sufficient evidence, and will swear four times that it is true, and the fifth time imprecate GOD'S vengeance on him if it be false, she is to be looked on as convicted, unless she will take the like oaths, and make the like imprecation, in testimony of her innocency; which is she do, she is free from punishment, though the marriage ought to be dissolved.
In most of the last-mentioned particulars the decisions of the Koran also agree with those of the Jews. By the law of Moses, adultery, whether in a married women or a virgin betrothed, was punished with death; and the man who debauched them was to suffer the same punishment. The penalty of simple fornication was scourging, the general punishment in cases where none is particularly appointed: and a betrothed bondmaid, if convicted of adultery, underwent the same punishment, being exempted from death, because she was not free. By the same law no person was to be put to death on the oath of one witness: and a man who slandered his wife was also to be chastised, that is scourged, and fined one hundred shekels of silver. The method of trying a woman suspected of adultery where evidence was wanting, by forcing her to drink the bitter water of jealousy, though disused by the Jews long before the time of Mohammed, yet, by reason of the oath of cursing with which the woman was charged, and to which she was obliged to say "Amen," bears great resemblance to the expedient devised by that prophet on the like occasion.
The institutions of Mohammed relating to the pollution of women during their courses, the taking of slaves to wife, and the prohibiting of marriage within certain degrees, have likewise no small affinity with the institutions of Moses; and the parallel might be carried farther in several other particulars.
As to the prohibited degrees, it may be observed, that the pagan Arabs abstained from marrying their mothers, daughters, and aunts both on the father's side and on the mother's, and held it a most scandalous thing to marry two sister, or for a man to take his father's wife; which last was, notwithstanding, too frequently practised, and is expressly forbidden in the Koran.
Before I leave the subject of marriages, it may be proper to take notice of some peculiar privileges in relation thereto, which were granted by GOD to Mohammed, as he gave out, exclusive of all other Moslems. One of them was, that he might lawfully marry as many wives and have as many concubines as he pleased, without being confined to any particular number; and this he pretended to have been the privilege of the prophets before him. Another was, that he might alter the turns of his wives, and take such of them to his bed as he thought fit, without being tied to that order and equality which others are obliged to observe. A third privilege was, that no man might marry any of his wives, either such as he should divorce during his lifetime, or such as he should leave widows at his death: which last particular exactly agrees with what the Jewish doctors have determined concerning the wives of their princes; it being judged by them to be a thing very indecent, and for that reason unlawful, for another to marry either the divorced wife or the widow of a king; and Mohammed, it seems, thought an equal respect, at least, due to the prophetic as to the regal dignity, and therefore ordered that his relicts should pass the remainder of their lives in perpetual widowhood.
The laws of the Koran concerning inheritances are also in several respects conformable to those of the Jews, though principally designed to abolish certain practices of the pagan Arabs, who used to treat widows and orphan children with great injustice, frequently denying them any share in the inheritance of their fathers or their husbands, on pretence that the same ought to be distributed among those only who were able to bear arms, and disposing of the widows, even against their consent, as part of their husbands' possessions. To prevent such injuries for the future, Mohammed ordered that women should be respected, and orphans have no wrong done them; and in particular that women should not be taken against their wills, as by right of inheritance, but should themselves be entitled to a distributive part of what their parents, husbands, and near relations should leave behind them, in a certain proportion.
The general rule to be observed in the distribution of the deceased's estate is, that a male shall have twice as much as a female: but to this rule there are some few exceptions; a man's parents, for example, and also his brothers and sisters, where they are entitled not to the whole, but a small part of the inheritance, being to have equal shares with one another in the distribution thereof, without making any difference on account of sex. The particular proportions, in several cases, distinctly and sufficiently declare the intention of Mohammed; whose decisions expressed in the Koran seem to be pretty equitable, preferring a man's children first, and then his nearest relations.
If a man dispose of any part of his estate by will, two witnesses, at the least, are required to render the same valid; and such witnesses ought to be of his own tribe, and of the Mohammedan religion, if such can be had. Though there be no express law to the contrary, yet the Mohammedan doctors reckon it very wrong for a man to give away any part of his substance from his family, unless it be in legacies for pious uses; and even in that case a man ought not to give all he has in charity, but only a reasonable part in proportion to his substance. On the other hand, though a man make no will, and bequeath nothing for charitable uses, yet the heirs are directed, on the distribution of the estate, if the value will permit, to bestow something on the poor, especially such as are of kin to the deceased, and to the orphans.
The first law, however, laid down by Mohammed touching inheritances, was not very equitable; for he declared that those who had fled with him from Mecca, and those who had received and assisted him at Medina, should be deemed the nearest of kin, and consequently heirs to one another, preferably to and in exclusion of their relations by blood; nay, though a man were a true believer, yet if he had not fled his country for the sake of religion and joined the prophet, he was to be looked on as a stranger: but this law continued not long in force, being quickly abrogated.
It must be observed that among the Mohammedans the children of their concubines or slaves are esteemed as equally legitimate with those of their legal and ingenuous wives; none being accounted bastards, except such only as are born of common women, and whose fathers are unknown.
As to private contracts between man and man, the conscientious performance of them is frequently recommended in the Koran. For the preventing of disputes, all contracts are directed to be made before witnesses, and in case such contracts are not immediately executed, the same ought to be reduced into writing in the presence of two witnesses at least, who ought to be Moslems and of the male sex; but if two men cannot be conveniently had, then one man and two women may suffice. The same method is also directed to be taken for the security of debts to be paid at a future day; and where a writer is not to be found, pledges are to be taken. Hence, if people trust one another without writing, witnesses, or pledge, the party on whom the demand is made is always acquitted if he denies the charge on oath, and swears that he owes the plaintiff nothing, unless the contrary be proved by very convincing circumstances.
Wilful murder, though forbidden by the Koran under the severest penalties to be inflicted in the next life, is yet, by the same book, allowed to be compounded for, on payment of a fine to the family of the deceased, and freeing a Moslem from captivity; but it is in the election of the next of kin, or the revenger of blood, as he is called in the Pentateuch, either to accept of such satisfaction, or to refuse it; for he may, if he pleases, insist on having the murderer delivered into his hands, to be put to death in such manner as he shall think fit. In this particular Mohammed has gone against the express letter of the Mosaic law, which declare that no satisfaction shall be taken for the life of a murderer; and he seems, in so doing, to have had respect to the customs of the Arabs in his time, who, being of a vindictive temper, used to revenge murder in too unmerciful a manner, whole tribes frequently engaging in bloody wars on such occasions, the natural consequence of their independency, and having no common judge of superior.
If the Mohammedan laws seem light in case of murder, they may perhaps be deemed too rigorous in case of manslaughter, or the killing of a man undesignedly, which must be redeemed by fine (unless the next of kin shall think fit to remit it out of charity), and the freeing of a captive: but if a man be not able to do this, he is to fast two months together, by way of penance. The fine for a man's blood is set in the Sonna at a hundred camels, and is to be distributed among the relations of the deceased, according to the laws of inheritances; but it must be observed that, though the person slain be a Moslem, yet if he be of a nation or party at enmity, or not in confederacy with those to whom the slayer belongs, he is not then bound to pay any fine at all, the redeeming a captive being, in such case, declared a sufficient penalty. I imagine that Mohammed, by these regulations, laid so heavy a punishment on involuntary manslaughter, not only to make people beware incurring the same, but also to humour, in some degree, the revengeful temper of his countrymen, which might be with difficulty, if at all, prevailed on to accept a lighter satisfaction. Among the Jews, who seem to have been no less addicted to revenge than their neighbours, the manslayer who had escaped to a city of refuge was obliged to keep himself within that city, and to abide there till the death of the person who was high priest at the time the fact was committed, that his absence and time might cool the passion and mitigate the resentment of the friends of the deceased; but if he quitted his asylum before that time, the revenger of blood, if he found him, might kill him without guilt; nor could any satisfaction be made for the slayer to return home before the prescribed time.
Theft is ordered to be punished by cutting off the offending part, the hand, which, at first sight, seems just enough; but the law of Justinian, forbidding a thief to be maimed, is more reasonable; because, stealing being generally the effect of indigence, to cut off that limb would be to deprive him of the means of getting his livelihood in an honest manner. The Sonna forbids the inflicting of this punishment, unless the thing stolen be of a certain value. I have mentioned in another place the further penalties which those incur who continue to steal, and of those who rob or assault people on the road.
As to injuries done to men in their persons, the law of retaliation, which was ordained by the law of Moses, is also approved by the Koran: but this law, which seems to have been allowed by Mohammed to his Arabians for the same reasons as it was to the Jews, viz., to prevent particular revenges, to which both nations were extremely addicted, being neither strictly just nor practicable in many cases, is seldom put in execution, the punishment being generally turned into a mulct or fine, which is paid to the party injured. Or rather Mohammed designed the words of the Koran relating thereto should be understood in the same manner as those of the Pentateuch most probably ought to be; that is, not of an actual retaliation, according to the strict literal meaning, but of a retribution proportionable to the injury: for a criminal had not his eyes put out, nor was a man mutilated, according to the law of Moses, which, besides, condemned those who had wounded any person, where death did not ensue, to pay a fine only, the expression "eye for eye and tooth for tooth" being only a proverbial manner of speaking, the sense whereof amounts to this, that every one shall be punished by the judges according to the heinousness of the fact.
In injuries and crimes of an inferior nature, where no particular punishment is provided by the Koran, and where a pecuniary compensation will not do, the Mohammedans, according to the practice of the Jews in the like case, have recourse to stripes or drubbing, the most common chastisement used in the east at this day, as well as formerly; the cudgel, which for its virtue and efficacy in keeping their people in good order, and within the bounds of duty, they say came down from heaven, being the instrument wherewith the judge's sentence is generally executed.
Notwithstanding the Koran is by the Mohammedans in general regarded as the fundamental apart of their civil law, and the decisions of the Sonna among the Turks, and of the Imâms among those of the Persian sect, with the explications of their several doctors, are usually followed in judicial determinations, yet the secular tribunals do not think themselves bound to observe the same in all cases, but frequently give judgment against those decisions, which are not always consonant to equity and reason; and therefore distinction is to be made between the written civil law, as administered in the ecclesiastical courts, and the law of nature or common law (if I may so call it) which takes place in the secular courts, and has the executive power on its side.
Under the head of civil laws may be comprehended the injunction of warring against infidels, which is repeated in several passages of the Koran, and declared to be of high merit in the sight of GOD, those who are slain fighting in defence of the faith being reckoned martyrs, and promised immediate admission into paradise. Hence this duty is greatly magnified by the Mohammedan divines, who call the sword the key of heaven and hell, and persuade their people that the least drop of blood spilt in the way of GOD, as it is called, is most acceptable unto him, and that the defending the territories of the Moslems for one night is more meritorious than a fast of two months: on the other hand, desertion, or refusing to serve in these holy wars, or to contribute towards the carrying them on, if a man has ability, is accounted a most heinous crime, being frequently declaimed against in the Koran. Such a doctrine, which Mohammed ventured not to teach till his circumstances enabled him to put it in practice, it must be allowed, was well calculated for his purpose, and stood him and his successors in great stead: for what dangers and difficulties may not be despised and overcome by the courage and constancy which these sentiments necessarily inspire? Nor have the Jews and Christians, how much soever they detest such principles in others, been ignorant of the force of enthusiastic heroism, or omitted to spirit up their respective partisans by the like arguments and promises. "Let him who has listed himself in defence of the law," says Maimonides, "rely on him who is the hope of Israel, and the saviour thereof in the time of trouble; and let him know that he fights for the profession of the divine unity: wherefore let him put his life in his hand, and think neither of wife nor children, but banish the memory of them from his heart, having his mind wholly fixed on the war. For if he should begin to waver in his thoughts, he would not only confound himself, but sin against the law; nay, the blood of the whole people hangeth on his neck; for if they are discomfited, and he has not fought stoutly with all his might, it is equally the same as if he had shed the blood of them all; according to that saying, let him return, lest his brethren's heart fail as his own." To the same purpose doth the Kabala accommodate that other passage, "Cursed be he who doth the work of the LORD negligently, and cursed be he who keepeth back his sword from blood. On the contrary, he who behaveth bravely in battle, to the utmost of his endeavour, without trembling, with intent to glorify GOD'S name, he ought to expect the victory with confidence, and to apprehend no danger or misfortune, but may be assured that he will have a house built him in Israel, appropriated to him and his children for ever; as it is said, GOD shall certainly make my lord a sure house, because he hath fought the battles of the LORD, and his life shall be bound up in the bundle of life with the LORD his GOD." More passages of this kind might be produced from the Jewish writers; and the Christians come not far behind them. "We are desirous of knowing," says one writing to the Franks engaged in the holy war, "the charity of you all; for that every one (which we speak not because we wish it) who shall faithfully lose his life in this warfare, shall be by no means denied the kingdom of heaven." And another gives the following exhortation: "Laying aside all fear and dread, endeavour to act effectually against the enemies of the holy faith, and the adversaries of all religions: for the Almighty knoweth, if any of you die, that he dieth for the truth of the faith, and the salvation of his country, and the defence of Christians; and therefore he shall obtain of him a celestial reward." The Jews, indeed, had a divine commission, extensive and explicit enough, to attack, subdue, and destroy the enemies of their religion; and Mohammed pretended to have received one in favour of himself and his Moslems, in terms equally plain and full; and therefore it is no wonder that they should act consistently with their avowed principles: but that Christians should teach and practise a doctrine so opposite to the temper and whole tenour of the Gospel, seems very strange; and yet the latter have carried matters farther, and shown a more violent spirit of intolerance than either of the former.
The laws of war, according to the Mohammedans, have been already so exactly set down by the learned Reland, that I need say very little of them. I shall, therefore, only observe some conformity between their military laws and those of the Jews.
While Mohammedism was in its infancy, the opposers thereof taken in battle were doomed to death, without mercy; but this was judged too severe to be put in practice when that religion came to be sufficiently established, and past the danger of being subverted by its enemies. The same sentence was pronounced not only against the seven Canaanitish nations, whose possessions were given to the Israelites, and without whose destruction, in a manner, they could not have settled themselves in the country designed them, but against theAmalekites and Midianites, who had done their utmost to cut them off in their passage thither. When the Mohammedans declare war against people of a different faith, they give them their choice of three offers, viz., either to embrace Mohammedism, in which case they become not only secure in their persons, families, and fortunes, but entitled to all the privileges of other Moslems; or to submit and pay tribute, by doing which they are allowed to profess their own religion, provided it be not gross idolatry or against the moral law; or else to decide the quarrel by the sword, in which last case, if the Moslems prevail, the women and children which are made captives become absolute slaves, and the men taken in the battle may either be slain, unless they turn Mohammedans, or otherwise disposed of at the pleasure of the prince. Herewith agree the laws of war given to the Jews, which relate to the nations not devoted to destruction; and Joshua is said to have sent even to the inhabitants of Canaan, before he entered the land, three schedules, in one of which was written, "Let him fly, who will;" in the second, "Let him who surrender, who will;" and in the third, "Let him fight, who will;" though none of those nations made peace with the Israelites (except only the Gibeonites, who obtained terms of security by stratagem, after they had refused those offered by Joshua), "it being of the LORD to harden their hearts, that he might destroy them utterly."
On the first considerable success of Mohammed in war, the dispute which happened among his followers in relation to the dividing of the spoil, rendered it necessary for him to make some regulation therein; he therefore pretended to have received the divine commission to distribute the spoil among his soldiers at his own discretion, reserving thereout, in the first place, one-fifth part for the uses after mentioned; and, in consequence hereof, he took himself to be authorized on extraordinary occasions, to distribute it as he thought fit, without observing an equality. Thus he did, for example, with the spoil of the tribe of Hawâzen taken at the battle of Honein, which he bestowed by way of presents on the Meccans only, passing by those of Medina, and highly distinguishing the principal Korashites, that he might ingratiate himself with them, after he had become master of their city. He was also allowed in the expedition against those of al Nadir to take the whole booty to himself, and to dispose thereof as he pleased, because no horses or camels were made use of in that expedition, but the whole army went on foot; and this became thenceforward a law: the reason of which seems to be, that the spoil taken by a party consisting of infantry only, should be considered as the more immediate gift of GOD, and therefore properly left to the disposition of his apostle. According to the Jews, the spoil ought to be divided into two equal parts, one to be shared among the captors, and the other to be taken by the prince, and by him employed for his own support and the use of the public. Moses, it is true, divided one-half of the plunder of the Midianites among those who went to battle, and the other half among all congregation: but this, they say, being a peculiar case, and done by the express order of GOD himself, must not be looked on as a precedent. It should seem, however, from the words of Joshua to the two tribes and a half, when he sent them home into Gilead after the conquest and division of the land of Canaan , that they were to divide the spoil of their enemies with their brethren, after their return: and the half which was in succeeding times taken by the king, was in all probability taken by him as head of the community, and representing the whole body. It is remarkable that the dispute among Mohammed's men about sharing the booty at Bedr, arose on the same occasion as did that among David's soldiers in relation to the spoils recovered from the Amalekites; those who had been in the action insisting that they who tarried by the stuff should have no part of the spoil; and that the same decision was given in both cases, which became a law for the future, to wit, that they should part alike.
The fifth part directed by the Koran to be taken out of the spoil before it be divided among the captors, is declared to belong to GOD, and to the apostle and his kindred, and the orphans, and the poor, and the traveller: which words are variously understood. al Shâfei was of opinion that the whole ought to be divided into five parts; the first, which he called GOD'S part, to go to the treasury, and be employed in building and repairing fortresses, bridges, and other public works, and in paying salaries to magistrates, civil officers, professors of learning, ministers of public worship, &c.: the second part to be distributed among the kindred of Mohammed, that is, the descendants of his grandfather Hâshem, and of his great-uncle al Motalleb, as well the rich as the poor, the children as the adult, the women as the men; observing only to give a female but half the share of a male: the third part to go to the orphans: the fourth part to the poor, who have not wherewithal to maintain themselves the year round, and are not able to get their livelihood: and the fifth part to travellers, who are in want on the road, notwithstanding they may be rich men in their own country. According to Malec Ebn Ans the whole is at the disposition of the Imâm or prince, who may distribute the same at his own discretion, where he sees most need. Abu'l Aliya wen according to the letter of the Koran, and declared his opinion to be that the whole should be divided into six parts, and that GOD'S part should be applied to the service of the Caaba: while others supposed GOD'S part and the apostle's to be one and the same. Abu Hanifa thought that the share of Mohammed and his kindred sank at that prophet's death, since which the whole ought to be divided among the orphans, the poor, and the traveller. Some insist that the kindred of Mohammed entitled to a shire of the spoils are the posterity of Hâshem only; but those who think the descendants of his brother al Motalleb have also a right to a distributive part, allege a tradition in their favour purporting that Mohammed himself divided the share belonging to his relations among both families, and when Othmân Ebn Assân and Jobeir Ebn Matam (who were descended from Abdshams and Nawfal the other brothers of Hâshem) told him, that though they disputed not the preference of the Hâshemites, they could not help taking it ill to see such difference made between the family of al Motalleb and themselves, who were related to him in an equal degree, and yet had no part in the distribution, the prophet replied that the descendants of al Motalleb had forsaken him neither in the time of ignorance, nor since the revelation of Islâm; and joined his fingers together in token of the strict union between them and the Hâshemites. Some exclude none of the tribe of Koreish from receiving a part in the division of the spoil, and make no distinction between the poor and the rich; though, according to the more reasonable opinion, such of them as are poor only are intended by the text of the Koran, as is agreed in the case of the stranger: and others go so far as to assert that the whole fifth commanded to be reserved belongs to them only, and that the orphans, and the poor, and the traveller, are to be understood of such as are of that tribe. It must be observed that immovable possessions, as lands, &c., taken in war, are subject to the same laws as the movable; excepting only that the fifth part of the former is not actually divided, but the income and profits thereof, or of the price thereof, if sold, are applied to public and pious uses, and distributed once a year, and that the prince may either take the fifth part of the land itself, or the fifth part of the income and produce of the whole, as he shall make his election.
OF THE MONTHS COMMANDED BY THE KORAN TO BE KEPT SACRED; AND
OF THE SETTING APART OF FRIDAY FOR THE ESPECIAL SERVICE OF
IT was a custom among the ancient Arabs to observe four months in the year as sacred, during which they held it unlawful to wage war, and took off the heads from their spears, ceasing from incursions and other hostilities. During those months whoever was in fear of his enemy lived in full security; so that if a man met the murderer of his father or his brother, he durst not offer him any violence: A great argument," says a learned writer, "of a humane disposition in that nation; who being by reason of the independent governments of their several tribes, and for the preservation of their just rights, exposed to frequent quarrels with one another, had yet learned to cool their inflamed breasts with moderation, and restrain the rage of war by stated times of truce."
This institution obtained among all the Arabian tribes, except only those of Tay and Khathaam, and some of the descendants of Al Hareth Ebn Caab (who distinguished no time or place as sacred), and was so religiously observed, that there are but few instances in history (four, say some, six, say others), of its having been transgressed; the wars which were carried on without regard thereto being therefore termed impious. One of those instances was in the war between the tribes of Koreish and Kais Ailân, wherein Mohammed himself served under his uncles, being then fourteen, or, as others say, twenty years old.
The months which the Arabs held sacred were al Moharram, Rajeb. Dhu'lkaada, and Dhu'lhajja; the first, the seventh, the eleventh, and the twelfth in the year. Dhu'lhajja being the month wherein they performed the pilgrimage to Mecca, not only that month, but also the preceding and the following, were for that reason kept inviolable, that every one might safely and without interruption pass and repass to and from the festival. Rajeb is said to have been more strictly observed than any of the other three, probably because in that month the pagan Arabs used to fast; Ramadân, which was afterwards set apart by Mohammed for that purpose, being in the time of ignorance dedicated to drinking in excess. By reason of the profound peace and security enjoyed in this month, one part of the provisions brought by the caravans of purveyors annually set out by the Koreish for the supply of Mecca, was distributed among the people; the other part being, for the like reason, distributed at the pilgrimage.
The observance of the aforesaid months seemed so reasonable to Mohammed, that it met with his approbation; and the same is accordingly confirmed and enforced by several passages of the Koran, which forbid war to be waged during those months against such as acknowledge them to be sacred, but grant, at the same time, full permission to attack those who make no such distinction, in the sacred months as well as in the profane.
One practice, however, of the pagan Arabs, in relation to these sacred months, Mohammed thought proper to reform: for some of them, weary of sitting quiet for three months together, and eager to make their accustomed incursions for plunder, used, by way of expedient, whenever it suited their inclinations or conveniency, to put off the observing of al Moharram to the following month Safar, thereby avoiding to keep the former, which they supposed it lawful for them to profane, provided they sanctified another month in lieu of it, and gave public notice thereof at the preceding pilgrimage. This transferring the observation of a sacred month to a profane month, is what is truly meant by the Arabic word al Nasi, and is absolutely condemned, and declared to be an impious innovation, in a passage of the Koran which Dr. Prideaux, misled by Golius, imagines to relate to the prolonging of the year, by adding an intercalary month thereto. It is true, the Arabs, who imitated the Jews in their manner of computing by lunar years, had also learned their method of reducing them to solar years, by intercalating a month sometimes in the third, and sometimes in the second year; by which means they fixed the pilgrimage of Mecca (contrary to the original institution) to a certain season of the year, viz., to autumn, as most convenient for the pilgrims, by reason of the temperateness of the weather, and the plenty of provisions; and it is also true that Mohammed forbade such intercalation by a passage in the same chapter of the Koran; but then it is not the passage above mentioned, which prohibits a different thing, but one a little before it, wherein the number of months in the year, according to the ordinance of GOD, is declared to be twelve; whereas, if the intercalation of a month were allowed, every third or second year would consist of thirteen, contrary to GOD'S appointment.
The setting apart of one day in the week for the more peculiar attendance on GOD'S worship, so strictly required by the Jewish and Christian religions, appeared to Mohammed to be so proper an institution, that he could not but imitate the professors thereof in that particular; though, for the sake of distinction, he might think himself obliged to order his followers to observe a different day form either. Several reasons are given why the sixth day of the week was pitched on for this purpose; but Mohammed seems to have preferred that day chiefly because it was the day on which the people used to be assembled long before his time, though such assemblies were had, perhaps, rather on a civil than a religious account. However it be, the Mohammedan writers bestow very extraordinary encomiums on this day, calling it the prince of day, and the most excellent day on which the sun rises; pretending also that it will be the day whereon the last judgment will be solemnized; and they esteem it a peculiar honour to Islâm, that GOD has been pleased to appoint this day to be the feast-day of the Moslems, and granted them the advantage of having first observed it.
Though the Mohammedans do not think themselves bound to keep their day of public worship so holy as the Jews and Christians are certainly obliged to keep theirs, there being a permission, as is generally supposed, in the Koran, allowing them to return to their employments or diversion after divine service is over; yet the more devout disapprove the applying of any part of that day to worldly affairs, and require it to be wholly dedicated to the business of the life to come.
Since I have mentioned the Mohammedan weekly feast, I beg leave just to take notice of their two Beirâms, or principal annual feasts. The first of them is called, in Arabic, Id al fetr, i.e., The feast of breaking the fast, and begins the first of Shawâl, immediately succeeding the fast of Ramadân; and the other is called Id al korbân, or Id al adhâ, i.e., The feast of the sacrifice, and begins on the tenth of Dhu'lhajja, when the victims are slain at the pilgrimage of Mecca. The former of these feasts is properly the lesser Beirâm, and the latter, the greater Beirâm: but the vulgar, and most authors who have written of the Mohammedan affairs, exchange the epithets, and call that which follows Ramadân the greater Beirâm, because it is observed in an extraordinary manner, and kept for three days together at Constantinople and in other parts of Turkey, and in Persia for five or six days, by the common people, at least, with great demonstrations of public joy, to make themselves amends, as it were, for the mortification of the preceding month; whereas, the feast of sacrifices, though it be also kept for three days, and the first of them be the most solemn day of the pilgrimage, the principal act of devotion among the Mohammedans is taken much less notice of by the generality of people, who are not struck therewith, because the ceremonies with which the same is observed are performed at Mecca, the only scene of that solemnity.
OF THE PRINCIPAL SECTS AMONG THE MOHAMMEDANS; AND OF THOSE
WHO HAVE PRETENDED TO PROPHECY AMONG THE ARABS, IN OR
SINCE THE TIME OF MOHAMMED.
BEFORE we take a view of the sects of the Mohammedans, it will be necessary to say something of the two sciences by which all disputed questions among them are determined, viz., their Scholastic and Practical Divinity.
Their scholastic divinity is a mongrel science, consisting of logical, metaphysical, theological, and philosophical disquisitions, and built on principles and methods of reasoning very different from what are used by those who pass among the Mohammedans themselves for the sounder divines or more able philosophers, and, therefore, in the partition of the sciences this is generally left out, as unworthy a place among them. The learned Maimonides has laboured to expose the principles and systems of the scholastic divines, as frequently repugnant to the nature of the world and the order of the creation, and intolerably absurd.
This art of handling religious disputes was not known in the infancy of Mohammedism, but was brought in when sects sprang up, and articles of religion began to be called in question, and was at first made use of to defend the truth o those articles against innovators; and while it keeps within those bounds is allowed to be a commendable study, being necessary for the defence of the faith: but when it proceeds farther, out of an itch of disputation, it is judged worthy of censure.
This is the opinion of al Ghazâli, who observes a medium between those who have too high a value for this science, and those who absolutely reject it. Among the latter was al Shâfei, who declared that, in his judgment, if any man employed his time that way, he deserved to be fixed to a stake, and carried about through all the Arab tribes, with the following proclamation to be made before him: 'This is the reward of him who, leaving the Koran and the Sonna, applied himself to the study of scholastic divinity." Al Ghazâli, on the other hand, thinks that as it was introduced by the invasion of heresies, it is necessary to be retained in order to quell them: but then in the person who studies this science he requires three things, diligence, acuteness of judgment, and probity of manners; and is by no means for suffering the same to be publicly explained. This science, therefore, among the Mohammedans, is the art of controversy, by which they discuss points of faith concerning the essence and attributes of GOD, and the conditions of all possible things, either in respect to their creation, or final restoration, according to the rules of the religion of Islâm.
The other science is practical divinity or jurisprudence, and is the knowledge of the decisions of the law which regard practice, gathered from distinct proofs.
Al Ghazâli declares that he had much the same opinion of this science as of the former, its original being owing to the corruption of religion and morality; and therefore judged both sciences to be necessary, not in themselves, but by accident only, to curb the irregular imaginations and passions of mankind (as guards become necessary in the highways by reason of robbers), the end of the first being the suppressing of heresies, and of the other the decision of legal controversies, for the quiet and peaceable living of mankind in this world, and for the preserving the rule by which the magistrate may prevent one man from injuring another, by declaring what is lawful and what is unlawful, by determining the satisfaction to be given, or punishment to be inflicted, and by regulating other outward actions; and not only so, but to decide of religion itself, and its conditions, so far as relates to the profession made by the mouth, it not being the business of the civilian to inquire into the heart: the depravity of men's manners, however, has made this knowledge of the laws so very requisite, that it is usually called the Science, by way of excellence, nor is any man reckoned learned who has not applied himself thereto.
The points of faith, subject to the examination and discussion of the scholastic divines, are reduced to four general heads, which they call the four bases, or great fundamental articles.
The first basis relates to the attributes of GOD, and his unity consistent therewith. Under this head are comprehended the questions concerning the eternal attributes, which are asserted by some, and denied by others; and also the explication of the essential attributes, and attributes of action; what is proper for GOD to do, and what may be affirmed of him, and what it is impossible for him to do. These things are controverted between the Asharians, the Kerâmians, the Mojassemians or Corporalists, and the Mutazalites.
The second basis regards predestination, and the justice thereof: which comprises the questions concerning GOD'S purpose and decree, man's compulsion or necessity to act, and his co-operation in producing actions, by which he may gain to himself good or evil; and also those which concern GOD'S willing good and evil, and what things are subject to his power, and what to his knowledge; some maintaining the affirmative, and others the negative. These points are disputed among the Kadarians, the Najarians, the Jabarians, the Asharians, and the Kerâmians.
The third basis concerns the promises and threats, the precise acceptation of names used in divinity, and the divine decisions; and comprehends questions relating to faith, repentance, promises, threats, forbearance, infidelity, and error. The controversies under this head are on foot between the Morgians, the Waidians, the Mutazalites, the Asharians, and the Kerâmians.
The fourth basis regards history and reason, that is, the just weight they ought to have in matters belonging to faith and religion; and also the mission of prophets, and the office of Imâm, or chief pontiff. Under this head are comprised all casuistical questions relating to the moral beauty or turpitude of actions; inquiring whether things are allowed or forbidden by reason of their own nature, or by the positive law; and also questions concerning the preference of actions, the favour or grace of GOD, the innocence which ought to attend the prophetical office, and the conditions requisite in the office of Imâm; some asserting it depends on right of succession, others on the consent of the faithful; and also the method of transferring it with the former, and of confirming it with the latter. These matters are the subjects of dispute between the Shiites, the Mutazalites, the Kerâmians, and the Asharians.
The different sects of Mohammedans may be distinguished into two sorts; those generally esteemed orthodox, and those which are esteemed heretical.
The former, by a general name, are called Sonnites or Traditionists; because they acknowledge the authority of the Sonna, or collection of moral traditions of the sayings and actions of their prophet, which is a sort of supplement to the Koran, directing the observance of several things omitted in that book, and in name, as well as design, answering to the Mishna of the Jews.
The Sonnites are subdivided into four chief sects, which, notwithstanding some differences as to legal conclusions in their interpretation of the Koran, and matters of practice, are generally acknowledge to be orthodox in radicals, or matters of faith, and capable of salvation, and have each of them their several stations or oratories in the temple of Mecca. The founders of these sects are looked upon as the great masters of jurisprudence, and are said to have been men of great devotion and self-denial, well versed in the knowledge of those things which belong to the next life and to man's right conduct here, and directing all their knowledge to the glory of GOD. This is al Ghazâli's encomium of them, who thinks it derogatory to their honour that their names should be used by those who, neglecting to imitate the other virtues which make up their character, apply themselves only to attain their skill, and follow their opinions in matters of legal practice.
The first of the four orthodox sects is that of the Hanefites, so named from their founder, Abu Hanifa al Numân Ebn Thâbet, who was born at Cufa, in the 80th year of the Hejra, and died in the 150th, according to the more preferable opinion as to the time. He ended his life in prison at Baghdâd, where he had been confined because he refused to be made Kâdi or judge; on which account he was very hardly dealt with by his superiors, yet could not be prevailed on, either by threats or ill-treatment, to undertake the charge, "choosing rather to be punished by them than by GOD," says Al Ghazâli; who adds, that when he excused himself from accepting the office by alleging that he was unfit for it, being asked the reason, he replied, "If I speak the truth, I am unfit; but if I tell a lie, a liar is not fit to be a judge." It is said that he read the Koran in the prison where he died, no less than 7,000 times.
The Hanefites are called by an Arabian writer the followers of reason, and those of the three other sects, followers of tradition; the former being principally guided by their own judgment in their decisions, and the latter adhering more tenaciously to the traditions of Mohammed.
The sect of Abu Hanifa heretofore obtained chiefly in Irâk, but now generally prevails among the Turks and Tartars: his doctrine was brought into great credit by Abu Yusof, chief justice under the Khalifs al Hâdi and Harun al Rashid.
The second orthodox sect is that of Mâlec Ebn Ans, who was born at Medina, in the year of the Hejra 90, 93, 94, or 95, and died there in 177, 178, or 179 (for so much do authors differ). This doctor is said to have paid great regard to the traditions of Mohammed. In his last illness, a friend going to visit him found him in tears, and asking him the reason of it, he answered, "How should I not weep? and who has more reason to weep than I? Would to GOD that for every question decided by me according to my own opinion, I had received so many stripes! then would my accounts be easier. Would to GOD I had never given any decision of my own!" Al Ghazâli thinks it a sufficient proof of Malec's directing his knowledge to the glory of GOD, that being once asked his opinion as to forty-eight questions, his answer to thirty-two of them was, that he did not know; it being no easy matter for one who has any other view than GOD's glory to make so frank a confession of his ignorance.
The doctrine of Malec is chiefly followed in Barbary and other parts of Africa.
The author of the third orthodox sect was Mohammed Ebn Edris al Shâfei, born either at Gaza or Ascalon, in Palestine, in the year of the Hejra 150, the same day (as some will have it) that Abu Hanifa died, and was carried to Mecca at two years of age, and there educated. He died in 204, in Egypt, whither he went about five years before. This doctor is celebrated for his excellency in all parts of learning, and was much esteemed by Ebn Hanbal his contemporary, who used to say that "he was as the sun to the world, and as health to the body." Ebn Hanbal, however, had so ill an opinion of al Shâfei at first, that he forbad his scholars to go near him; but some time after one of them, meeting his master trudging on foot after al Shâfei, who rode on a mule, asked him how it came about that he forbad them to follow him, and did it himself? to which Ebn Hanbal replied, "Hold thy peace; if thou but attend his mule thou wilt profit thereby."
Al Shâfei is said to have been the first who discoursed of jurisprudence, and reduced that science into a method; one wittily saying, that the relators of the traditions of Mohammed were asleep till al Shâfei came and waked them. He was a great enemy to the scholastic divines, as has been already observed. Al Ghazâli tells us that al Shâfei used to divide the night into three parts, one for study, another for prayer, and the third for sleep. It is also related of him that he never so much as once swore by GOD, either to confirm a truth, or to affirm a falsehood; and that being once asked his opinion, he remained silent for some time, and when the reason of his silence was demanded, he answered, "I am considering first whether it be better to speak or to hold my tongue." The following saying is also recorded of him, viz., "Whoever pretends to love the world and its Creator at the same time, is a liar." The followers of this doctor are from him called Shâfeites, and were formerly spread into Mâwara'lnahr and other parts eastward, but are now
Ahmed Ebn Hanbal, the founder of the fourth sect, was born in the year of the Hejra 164; but as to the place of his birth there are two traditions: some say he was born at Meru in Khorasân, of which city his parents were, and that his mother brought him from thence to Baghdâd at her breast; while others assure us that she was with child of him when she came to Baghdâd, and that he was born there. Ebn Hanbal in process of time attained a great reputation on account of his virtue and knowledge; being so well versed in the traditions of Mohammed, in particular, that it is said he could repeat no less than a million of them. He was very intimate with al Shâfei, from whom he received most of his traditionary knowledge, being his constant attendant till his departure for Egypt. Refusing to acknowledge the Koran to be created, he was, by order of the Khalif al Mutasem, severely scourged and imprisoned. Ebn Hanbal died at Baghdâd, in the year 241, and was followed to his grave by eight hundred thousand men, and sixty thousand women. It is relate, as something very extraordinary, if not miraculous, that on the day of his death no less than twenty thousand Christians, Jews, and Magians, embraced the Mohammedan faith. This sect increased so fast, and became so powerful and bold, that in the year 323, in the Khalifat of al Râdi, they raised a great commotion in Baghdâd, entering people's houses, and spilling their wine, if they found any, and beating the singing-women they met with, and breaking their instruments; and a severe edict was published against them, before they could be reduced to their duty: but the Hanbalites at present are not very numerous, few of them being to be met with out of the limits of Arabia.
The heretical sects among the Mohammedans are those which hold heterodox opinions in fundamental, or matters of faith.
The first controversies relating to fundamentals began when most of the companions of Mohammed were dead: for in their days was no dispute, unless about things of small moment, if we except only the dissensions concerning the Imâms, or rightful successors of their prophet, which were stirred up and fomented by interest and ambition; the Arabs' continual employment in the wars, during that time, allowing them little or no leisure to enter into nice inquiries and subtle distinctions: but no sooner was the ardour of conquest a little abated than they began to examine the Koran more nearly; whereupon differences in opinion became unavoidable, and at length so greatly multiplied, that the number of their sects, according to the common opinion, are seventy-three. For the Mohammedans seem ambitious that their religion should exceed others even in this respect; saying, that the Magians are divided into seventy sects, the Jews into seventy-one, the Christians into seventy-two, and the Moslems into seventy-three, as Mohammed had foretold; of which sects they reckon one to be always orthodox, and entitled to salvation.
The first heresy was that of the Khârejites, who revolted from Ali in the thirty-seventh year of the Hejra; and not long after, Mabad a. Johni, Ghailân of Damascus, and Jonas al Aswâri broached heterodox opinions concerning predestination, and the ascribing of good and evil unto GOD; whose opinions were followed by Wâsel Ebn Atâ. This latter was the scholar of Hasan of Basra, in whose school a question being proposed, whether he who had committed a grievous sin was to be deemed an infidel or not, the Khârejites (who used to come and dispute there) maintaining the affirmative, and the orthodox the negative, Wâsel, without waiting his master's decision, withdrew abruptly, and began to publish among his fellow-scholars a new opinion of his own, to wit, that such a sinner was in a middle state; and he was thereupon expelled the school; he and his followers being thenceforth called Mutazalites, or Separatists.
The several sects which have arisen since this time are variously compounded and decompounded of the opinions of four chief sects, the Mutazalites, the Sefâtians, the Khârejites, and the Shiites.
I. The Mutazalites were the followers of the before-mentioned Wâsel Ebn Atâ. As to their chief and general tenets,
I. They entirely rejected all eternal attributes of GOD, to avoid the distinction of persons made by the Christians; saying that eternity is the proper or formal attribute of his essence; that GOD knows by his essence, and not by his knowledge; and the same they affirmed of his other attributes (though all the Mutazalites do not understand these words in one sense); and hence this sect were also named Moattatlites, from their divesting GOD of his attributes: and they went so far as to say, that to affirm these attributes is the same thing as to make more eternals than one, and that the unity of GOD is inconsistent with such an opinion; and this was the true doctrine of Wâsel their master, who declared that whoever asserted an eternal attribute, asserted there were two GODS. This point of speculation concerning the divine attributes was not ripe at first, but was at length brought to maturity by Wâsel's followers, after they had read the books of the philosophers.
2. They believed the word of GOD to have been created in subjecto (as the schoolmen term it), and to consist of letters and sound; copies thereof being written in books to express or imitate the original. They also went farther, and affirmed that whatever is created in subjecto is also an accident, and liable to perish.
3. They denied absolute predestination, holding that GOD was not the author of evil, but of good only; and that man was a free agent: which being properly the opinion of the Kadarians, we defer what may be farther said thereof till we come to speak of that sect. On account of this tenet and the first, the Mutazalites look on themselves as the defenders of the unity and justice of GOD.
4. They held that if a professor of the true religion be guilty of a grievous sin, and die without repentance, he will be eternally damned, though his punishment will be lighter than that of the infidels. 5. They denied all vision of GOD in paradise by the corporeal eye, and rejected all comparisons or similitudes applied to GOD.
This sect are said to have been the first inventors of scholastic divinity, and are subdivided into several inferior sects, amounting, as some reckon, to twenty, which mutually brand one another with infidelity: the most remarkable of them are:--
I. The Hodeilians, or followers of Hamdân Abu Hodeil, a Mutazalite doctor, who differed something from the common form of expression used by this sect, saying that GOD knew by his knowledge, but that his knowledge was his essence; and so of the other attributes: which opinion he took from the philosophers, who affirm the essence of GOD to be simple and without multiplicity, and that his attributes are not posterior or accessory to his essence, or subsisting therein, but are his essence itself: and this the more orthodox take to be next kin to making distinctions in the deity, which is the thing they so much abhor in the Christians. As to the Koran's being created, he made some distinction; holding the word of GOD to be partly not in subjecto (and therefore uncreated), as when he spake the word Kun, i.e., Fiat, at the creation, and partly in subjecto, as the precepts, prohibitions, &c. Marracci mentions an opinion of Abu Hodeil's concerning predestination, from an Arab writer, which being by him expressed in a manner not very intelligible, I choose to omit.
2. The Jobbâians, or followers of Abu Ali Mohammed Ebn Abd al Wahhâb, surnamed al Jobbâi, whose meaning when he made use of the common expression of the Mutazalites, that "GOD knows by his essence," &c., was, that GOD'S being knowing is not an attribute, the same with knowledge, nor such a state as rendered his being knowing necessary. He held GOD'S word to be created in subjecto, as in the preserved table, for example, the memory of Gabriel, Mohammed, &c. This sect, if Marracci has given the true sense of his author, denied that GOD could be seen in paradise without the assistance of corporeal eyes; and held that man produced his acts by a power superadded to health of body and soundness of limbs; that he who was guilty of a mortal sin was neither a believer nor an infidel, but a transgressor (which was the original opinion of Wâsel), and if he died in his sins, would be doomed to hell for eternity; and that GOD conceals nothing of whatever he knows from his servants.
3. The Hashemians, who were so named from their master Abu Hâshem Abd al Salâm, the son of Abu Ali al Jabbâi, and whose tenets nearly agreed with those of the preceding sect. Abu Hâshem took the Mutazalite form of expression, that "GOD knows by his essence," in a different sense from others, supposing it to mean that GOD hath or is endued with a disposition, which is a known property, or quality, posterior or accessory to his existence. His followers were so much afraid of making GOD the author of evil that they would not allow him to be said to create an infidel; because, according to their way of arguing, an infidel is a compound of infidelity and man, and GOD is not the creator of infidelity. Abu Hâshem, and his father Abu Ali al Jobbâi, were both celebrated for their skill in scholastic divinity.
4. The Nodhâmians, or followers of Ibrahim al Nodhâm, who having read books of philosophy, set up a new sect, and imagining he could not sufficiently remove GOD from being the author of evil, without divesting him of his power in respect thereto, taught that no power ought to be ascribed to GOD concerning evil and rebellious actions: but this he affirmed against the opinion of his own disciples, who allowed that GOD could do evil, but did not, because of its turpitude. Of his opinion as to the Koran's being created we have spoken elsewhere.
5. The Hâyetians, so named from Ahmed Ebn Hâyet, who had been of the sect of the Nodhâmians, but broached some new notions on reading the philosophers. His peculiar opinions were--I. That Christ was the eternal Word incarnate, and took a true and real body, and will judge all creatures in the life to come: he also farther asserted that there are two GODS or Creators--the one eternal, viz., the most high GOD, and the other not eternal, viz., Christ-- which opinion, though Dr. Pocock urges the same as an argument that he did not rightly understand the Christian mysteries is not much different from that of the Arians and Socinians. 2. That there is successive transmigration of the soul from one body into another; and that the last body will enjoy the reward or suffer the punishment due to each soul: and, 3. That GOD will be seen at the resurrection, not with the bodily eyes, but those of the understanding.
6. The Jâhedhians, or followers of Amru Ebn Bahr, surnamed al Jâhedh, a great doctor of the Mutazalites, and very much admired for the elegance of his composures; who differed from his brethren in that he imagined the damned would not be eternally tormented in hell, but would be changed into the nature of fire, and that the fire would of itself attract them, without any necessity of their going into it. He also taught that if a man believed GOD to be his Lord, and Mohammed the apostle of GOD, he became one of the faithful, and was obliged to nothing farther. His peculiar opinion as to the Koran has been taken notice of before.
7. The Mozdârians, who embraced the opinions of Isa Ebn Sobeih al Mozdâr, and those very absurd ones: for, besides his notions relating to the Koran, he went so directly counter to the opinion of those who abridged GOD of the power to do evil, that he affirmed it possible for GOD to be a liar and unjust. He also pronounced him to be an infidel who thrust himself into the supreme government: nay, he went so far as to assert men to be infidels while they said "There is no GOD but GOD," and even condemned all the rest of mankind as guilty of infidelity; upon which Ibrahim Ebn al Sendi asked him whether paradise, whose breadth equals that of heaven and earth, was created only for him and two or three more who thought as he did? to which it is said he could return no answer.
8. The Basharians, who maintained the tenets of Bashar Ebn Mutamer, the master of al Mozdâr, and a principal man among the Mutazalites. He differed in some things from the general opinion of that sect, carrying man's free agency to a great excess, making it even independent: and yet he thought God might doom an infant to eternal punishment, but granted he would be unjust in so doing. He taught that God is not always obliged to do that which is best, for, if he pleased, he could make all men true believers. These sectaries also held that if a man repent of a mortal sin, and afterwards return to it, he will be liable to suffer the punishment due to the former transgression.
9. The Thamamians, who follow Thamâma Ebn Bashar, a chief Mutazalite. Their peculiar opinions were--I. That sinners should remain in hell for ever. 2. That free actions have no producing author. 3. That at the resurrection all infidels, idolaters, atheists, Jews, Christians, Magians, and heretics shall be reduced to dust.
10. The Kadarians, which is really a more ancient name than that of Mutazalites, Mabad al Johni and his adherents being so called, who disputed the doctrine of predestination before Wâsel quitted his master: for which reason some use the denomination of Kadarians as more extensive than the other, and comprehend all the Mutazalites under it. This sect deny absolute predestination, saying that evil and injustice ought not to be attributed to GOD, but to man, who is a free agent, and may therefore be rewarded or punished for his actions, which GOD has granted him power either to do or to be let alone.
And hence it is said they are called Kadarians, because they deny al Kadr, or GOD'S absolute decree; though others, thinking it not so proper to come from Kadr, or Kodrat, i.e., power, because they assert man's power to act freely. Those, however, who give the name of Kadarians to the Mutazalites are their enemies, for they disclaim it, and give it to their antagonists the Jabarians, who likewise refuse it as an infamous appellation, because Mohammed is said to have declared the Kadarians to be the Magians of his followers. But what the opinion of these Kadarians in Mohammed's time was, is very uncertain: the Mutazalites say the name belongs to those who assert predestination, and make GOD the author of good and evil, viz., the Jabarians; but all the other Mohammedan sects agree to fix it on the Mutazalites, who, they say, are like the Magians in establishing two principles, light, or GOD, the author of good; and darkness, or the devil, the author of evil: but this cannot absolutely be said of the Mutazalites, for they (at least the generality of them) ascribe men's good deeds to GOD, but their evil deeds to themselves; meaning thereby that man has a free liberty and power to do either good or evil, and is master of his actions; and for this reason it is that the other Mohammedans call them Magians, because they assert another author of actions besides GOD. And, indeed, it is a difficult matter to say what Mohammed's own opinion was in this matter; for on the one side the Koran itself is pretty plain for absolute predestination, and many sayings of Mohammed are recorded to that purpose, and one in particular, wherein he introduces Adam and Moses disputing before GOD in this manner: "Thou," says Moses, "art Adam; whom GOD created, and animated with the breath of life, and caused to be worshipped by the angels, and placed in paradise, from whence mankind have been expelled for thy fault:" whereto Adam answered, "Thou art Moses; whom GOD chose for his apostle, and entrusted with his word, by giving thee the tables of the law, and whom he vouchsafed to admit to discourse with himself: how many years dost thou find the law was written before I was created?" Says Moses, "Forty." "And dost thou not find," replied Adam, "these words therein: 'And Adam rebelled against his Lord and transgressed'?" which Moses confessing, "Dost thou therefore blame me," continued he, "for doing that which GOD wrote of me that I should do forty years before I was created? nay, for what was decreed concerning me fifty thousand years before the creation of heaven and earth?" In the conclusion of which dispute Mohammed declared that Adam had the better of Moses. On the other side, it is urged in the behalf of the Mutazalites, that Mohammed declaring that the Kadarians and Morgians had been cursed by the tongues of seventy prophets, and being asked who the Kadarians were, answered, "Those who assert that GOD predestinated them to be guilty of rebellion, and yet punishes them for it:" al Hasan is also said to have declared, that GOD sent Mohammed to the Arabs while they were Kadarians, or Jabarians, and laid their sins upon GOD: and to confirm the matter, this sentence of the Koran is quoted: "When they commit a filthy action, they say, We found our fathers practising the same, and GOD hath commanded us so to do: Say, Verily GOD commandeth not filthy actions."
11. The Sefâtians held the opposite opinion to the Mutazalites in respect to the eternal attributes of GOD, which they affirmed; making no distinction between the essential attributes and those of operation: and hence they were named Sefâtians, or Attributists. Their doctrine was that of the first Mohammedans, who were not yet acquainted with these nice distinctions: but this sect afterwards introduced another species of declarative attributes, or such as were necessarily used in historical narration, as hands, face, eyes, &c., which they did not offer to explain, but contented themselves with saying they were in the law, and that they called them declarative attributes. However, at length, by giving various explications and interpretations of these attributes they divided into many different opinions: some, by taking the words in the literal sense, fell into the notion of a likeness or similitude between GOD and created beings; to which it is said the karaites among the Jews, who are for the literal interpretation of Moses's law, had shown them the way: others explained them in another manner, saying that no creature was like GOD, but that they neither understood nor thought it necessary to explain the precise signification of the words which seem to affirm the same of both; it being sufficient to believe that GOD hath no companion or similitude. Of this opinion was Malec Ebn Ans, who declared as to the expression of GOD'S sitting on his throne, in particular, that though the meaning is known, yet the manner is unknown; and that it is necessary to believe it, but heresy to make any questions about it.
The sects of the Sefâtians are:
I. The Asharians, the followers of Abu'l Hasan al Ashari, who was first a Mutazalite, and the scholar of Abu Ali al Jobbâi, but disagreeing from his master in opinion as to GOD'S being bound (as the Mutazalites assert) to do always that which is best or most expedient, left him, and set up a new sect of himself. The occasion of this difference was the putting a case concerning three brothers, the first of whom lived in obedience to GOD, the second in rebellion against him, and the third died an infant.
Al Jobbâi being asked what he thought would become of them, answered, that the first would be rewarded in paradise, the second punished in hell, and the third neither rewarded nor punished: "But what," objected al Ashari, "if the third say, O LORD, if thou hadst given me longer life, that I might have entered paradise with my believing brother, it would have been better for me?" to which al Jobbâi replied, "That GOD would answer, I knew that if thou hadst lived longer, thou wouldst have been a wicked person, and therefore cast into hell." "Then," retorted al Ashari, "the second will say, O LORD, why didst thou not take me away while I was an infant, as thou didst my brother, that I might not have deserved to be punished for my sins, nor to be cast into hell?" To which al Jobbâi could return no other answer than that GOD prolonged his life to give him an opportunity of obtaining the highest degree of perfection, which was best for him: but al Ashari demanding farther, why he did not for the same reason grant the other a longer life, to whom it would have been equally advantageous, al Jobbâi was so put to it, that he asked whether the devil possessed him? "No," says al Ashari, "but the master's ass will not pass the bridge;" i.e., he is posed.
The opinions of the Asharians were--
I. That they allowed the attributes of GOD to be distinct from his essence, yet so as to forbid any comparison to be made between GOD and his creatures. This was also the opinion of Ahmed Ebn Hanbal, and David al Ispahâni, and others, who herein followed Malec Ebn Ans, and were so cautious of any assimilation of GOD to created beings, that they declared whoever moved his hand while he read these words, "I have created with my hand," or "stretched forth his finger," in repeating this saying of Mohammed, "The heart of the believer is between two fingers of the Merciful," ought to have his hand and finger cut off; and the reasons they gave for not explaining any such words were, that it is forbidden in the Koran, and that such explications were necessarily founded on conjecture and opinion, from which no man ought to speak of the attributes of GOD, because the words of the Koran might by that means come to be understood differently form the author's meaning: nay, some have been so superstitiously scrupulous in this matter as not to allow the words hand, face, and the like, when they occur in the Koran, to be rendered into Persian or any other language, but require them to be read in the very original words, and this they call the safe way.
2. As to predestination, they held that GOD hath one eternal will which is applied to whatsoever he willeth, both of his own actions and, those of men, so far as they are created by him, but not as they are acquired or gained by them; that he willeth both their good and their evil, their profit and their hurt, and as he willeth and knoweth, he willeth concerning men that which he knoweth, and hath commanded the pen to write the same in the preserved table: and this is his decree, and eternal immutable counsel and purpose. They also went so far as to say, that it may be agreeable to the way of GOD that man should be commanded what he is not able to perform. But while they allow man some power, they seem to restrain it to such a power as cannot produce anything new; only GOD, say they, so orders his providence that he creates, after, or under, and together with every created or new power, an action which is ready whenever a man will sit, and sets about it: and this action is called Casb, i.e., Acquisition, being in respect to its creation, from GOD, but in respect to its being produced, employed, and acquired, from man. And this being generally esteemed the orthodox opinion, it may not be improper farther to explain the same in the words of some other writers. The elective actions of men, says one, fall under the power of GOD alone; nor is their own power effectual thereto; but GOD causeth to exist in man power and choice; and if there be no impediment, he causeth his action to exist also, subject to his power, and joined with that and his choice; which action, as created, is to be ascribed to GOD, but as produced, employed, or acquired, to man. So that by the acquisition of an action is properly meant a man's joining or connecting the same with his power and will, yet allowing herein no impression or influence on the existence thereof, save only that it is subject to his power. Others, however, who are also on the side of al Ashari, and reputed orthodox, explain the matter in a different manner, and grant the impression or influence of the created power of man on his action, and that this power is what is called Acquisition. But the point will be still clearer if we hear a third author, who rehearses the various opinions, or explications of the opinion of this sect, in the following words, viz.: Abu'l Hasan al Ashari asserts all the actions of men to be subject to the power of GOD, being created by him, and that the power of man hath no influence at all on that which he is empowered to do; but that both the power, and what is subject thereto, fall under the power of GOD:al Kâdi Abu Becr says that the essence or substance of the action is the effect of the power of GOD, but its being either an action of obedience, as prayer, or an action of disobedience, as fornication, are qualities of the action, which proceed from the power of man: Abd'almalec, known by the title of Imâm al Haramein, Abu'l Hosein of Basra, and other learned men, held that the actions of men are effected by the power which GOD hath created in man, and that GOD causeth to exist in man both power and will, and that this power and will do necessarily produce that which man is empowered to do: and Abu Ishâk al Isfarâyeni taught that that which maketh impression, or hath influence on an action, is a compound of the power of GOD and the power of man. The same author observes that their ancestors, perceiving a manifest difference between those things which are the effects of the election of man and those things which are the necessary effects of inanimate agents, destitute both of knowledge and choice, and being at the same time pressed by the arguments which prove that GOD is the Creator of all things, and consequently of those things which are done by men, to conciliate the matter, chose the middle way, asserting actions to proceed from the power of GOD, and the acquisition of man; GOD'S way of dealing with his servants being, that when man intendeth obedience, GOD createth in him an action of obedience, and when he intendeth disobedience, he createth in him an action of disobedience; so that man seemeth to be the effective producer of his action, though he really be not. But this, proceeds the same writer, is again pressed with its difficulties, because the very intention of the mind is the work of GOD, so that no oman hath any share in the production of his own actions; for which reason the ancients disapproved of too nice an inquiry into this point, the end of the dispute concerning the same being, for the most part, either the taking away of all precepts positive as well as negative, or else the associating of a companion with GOD, by introducing some other independent agent besides him.
Those, therefore, who would speak more accurately, use this form: there is neither compulsion nor free liberty, but the way lies between the two; the power and will in man being both created by GOD, though the merit or guilt be imputed unto man. Yet, after all, it is judged the safest way to follow the steps of the primitive Moslems, and, avoiding subtle disputations and too curious inquiries, to leave the knowledge of this matter wholly unto GOD. 3. As to mortal sin, the Asharians taught, that if a believer guilty of such sin die without repentance, his sentence is to be left with GOD, whether he pardon him out of mercy, or whether the prophet intercede for him (according to that saying recorded of him, "My intercession shall be employed for those among my people who shall have been guilty of grievous crimes"), or whether he punish him in proportion to his demerit, and afterwards, through his mercy, admit him into paradise: but that it is not to be supposed he will remain for ever in hell with the infidels, seeing it is declared that whoever shall have faith in his heart but of the weight of an ant, shall be delivered from hell fire. And this is generally received for the orthodox doctrine in this point, and is diametrically opposite to that of the Mutazalites.
These were the more rational Sefâtians, but the ignorant part of them, not knowing how otherwise to explain the expressions of the Koran relating to the declarative attributes, fell into most gross and absurd opinions, making GOD corporeal, and like created beings. Such were--
2. The Moshabbehites, or Assimilators; who allowed a resemblance between GOD and his creatures, supposing him to be a figure composed of members or parts, either spiritual or corporeal, and capable of local motion, of ascent and descent, &c. Some of this sect inclined to the opinion of the Holulians, who believed that the divine nature might be united with the human in the same person; for they granted it possible that GOD might appear in a human form, as Gabriel did: and to confirm their opinion they allege Mohammed's words, that he saw his LORD in a most beautiful form, and Moses talking with GOD face to face. And--
3. The Kerâmians, or followers of Mohammed Ebn Kerâm, called also Mojassemians, or Corporalists; who not only admitted a resemblance between GOD and created beings, but declared GOD to be corporeal. The more sober among them, indeed, when they applied the word body to GOD, would be understood to mean, that he is a self-subsisting being, which with them is the definition of body: but yet some of them affirmed him to be finite, and circumscribed, either on all sides, or on some only (as beneath, for example), according to different opinions; and others allowed that he might be felt by the hand, and seen by the eye. Nay, one David al Jawâri went so far as to say, that his deity was body composed of flesh and blood, and that he had members, as hands, feet, a head, a tongue, eyes, and ears; but that he was a body, however, not like other bodies, neither was he like to any created being: he is also said farther to have affirmed that from the crown of the head to the breast he was hollow, and from the breast downward solid, and that he had black curled hair.
These most blasphemous and monstrous notions were the consequence of the literal acceptation of those passages in the Koran which figuratively attribute corporeal actions to GOD, and of the words of Mohammed, when he said, that GOD created man in his own image, and that himself had felt the fingers of GOD, which he laid on his back, to be cold: besides which, this sect are charged with fathering on their prophet a great number of spurious and forged traditions to support their opinion, the greater part whereof they borrowed from the Jews, who are accused as naturally prone to assimilate GOD to men, so that they describe him as weeping for Noah's flood till his eyes were sore. And, indeed, though we grant the Jews may have imposed on Mohammed and his followers in many instances, and told them as solemn truths things which themselves believed not or had invented, yet many expressions of this kind are to be found in their writings; as when they introduce GOD roaring like a lion at every watch of the night, and crying, "Alas! that I have laid waste my house, and suffered my temple to be burnt, and sent my children into banishment among the heathen," &c.
4. The Jabarians--who are the direct opponents of the Kadarians--denying free agency in man, and ascribing his actions wholly unto GOD. They take their denomination from al Jabr, which signifies necessity, or compulsion; because they hold man to be necessarily and inevitably constrained to act as he does, by force of GOD'S eternal and immutable decree. This sect is distinguished into several species; some being more rigid and extreme in their opinion, who are thence called pure Jabarians, and others more moderate, who are therefore called middle Jabarians. The former will not allow men to be said either to act, or to have any power at all, either operative or acquiring; asserting that man can do nothing, but produces all his actions by necessity, having neither power, nor will, nor choice, any more than an inanimate agent: they also declare that rewarding and punishing are also the effects of necessity; and the same they say of the imposing of commands. This was the doctrine of the Jahmians, the followers of Jahm Ebn Safwân, who likewise held that paradise and hell will vanish, or be annihilated, after those who are destined thereto respectively shall have entered them, so that at last there will remain no existing being besides GOD; supposing those words of the Koran which declare that the inhabitants of paradise and of hell shall remain therein for ever, to be hyperbolical only, and intended for corroboration, and not to denote an eternal duration in reality. The moderate Jabarians are those who ascribe some power to man, but such a power as hath no influence on the action: for as to those who grant the power of man to have a certain influence on the action, which influence is called Acquisition, some will not admit them to be called Jabarians; though others reckon those also to be called middle Jabarians, and to contend for the middle opinion between absolute necessity and absolute liberty, who attribute to man acquisition, or concurrence in producing the action, whereby he gaineth commendation or blame (yet without admitting it to have any influence on the action), and, therefore, make the Asharians a branch of this sect. Having again mentioned the term Acquisition, we may, perhaps, have a clearer idea of what the Mohammedans mean thereby, when told, that it is defined to be an action directed to the obtaining of profit, or the removing of hurt, and for that reason never applied to any action of GOD, who acquireth to himself neither profit nor hurt.
Of the middle or moderate Jabarians were the Najârians and the Derârians. The Najârians were the adherents of al Hasan Ebn Mohammed al Najâr, who taught that GOD was he who created the actions of men, both good and bad, and that man acquired them, and also that man's power had an influence on the action, or a certain co-operation, which he called acquisition; and herein he agreed with al Ashari. The Derârians were the disciples of Derâr Ebn Amru, who held also that men's actions are really created by GOD, and that man really acquired them. The Jabarians also say, that GOD is absolute Lord of his creatures, and may deal with them according to his own pleasure, without rendering account to any, and that if he should admit all men, without distinction, into paradise, it would be no impartiality, or if he should cast them all into hell it would be no injustice. And in this particular, likewise, they agree with the Asharians, who assert the same, and say that reward is a favour from GOD, and punishment a piece of justice; obedience being by them considered as a sign only of future reward, and transgression as a sign of future punishment.
5. The Morgians; who are said to be derived from the Jabarians. These teach that the judgment of every true believer, who hath been guilty of a grievous sin, will be deferred till the resurrection; for which reason they pass no sentence on him in this world, either of absolution or condemnation. They also hold that disobedience with faith hurteth not; and that, on the other hand, obedience with infidelity profiteth not. As to the reason of their name the learned differ, because of the different significations of its root, each of which they accommodate to some opinion of the sect. Some think them so called because they postpone works to intention, that is, esteem works to be inferior in degree to intention and profession of the faith; others, because they allow hope, by asserting that disobedience with faith hurteth not, &c.; others take the reason of the name to be, their deferring the sentence of the heinous sinner till the resurrection; and others, their degrading of Ali, or removing him from the first degree to the fourth: for the Morgians, in some points relating to the office of Imâm, agree with the Khârejites, the Kadarians, or the Jabarians, are distinguished as Morgians of those sects, and the fourth is that of the pure Morgians; which last species is again subdivided into five others.
The opinions of Mokâtel and Bashar, both of a sect of the Morgians called Thaubanians, should not be omitted. The former asserted that disobedience hurts not him who professes the unity of GOD, and is endued with faith; and that no true believer shall be cast into hell: he also taught that GOD will surely forgive all crimes besides infidelity; and that a disobedient believer will be punished, at the day of resurrection, on the bridge laid over the midst of hell, where the flames of hell fire shall catch hold on him, and torment him in proportion to his disobedience, and that he shall then be admitted into paradise. The latter held that if GOD do cast the believers guilty of grievous sins into hell, yet they will be delivered thence after they shall have been sufficiently punished; but that it is neither possible nor consistent with justice that they should remain therein for ever; which, as has been observed, was the opinion of al Ashari.
III. The Khârejites are they who depart or revolt from the lawful prince established by public consent; and thence comes their name, which signifies revolters or rebels. The first who were so called were twelve thousand men who revolted from Ali, after they had fought under him at the battle of Seffein, taking offence at his submitting the decision of his right to the Khalifat, which Moâwiyah disputed with him, to arbitration, though they themselves had first obliged him to it. These were also called Mohakkemites, or Judiciarians; because the reason which they gave for their revolt was, that Ali had referred a matter concerning the religion of GOD to the judgment of men, whereas the judgment, in such case, belonged only unto GOD. The heresy of the Khârejites consisted chiefly in two things.
I. In that they affirmed a man might be promoted to the dignity of the Imâm, or prince, though he was not of the tribe of Koreish, nor even a freeman, provided he was a just and pious person, and endued with the other requisite qualifications; and also held that if the Imâm turned aside from the truth, he might be put to death or deposed; and that there was no absolute necessity for any Imâm at all in the world.
2. In that they charged Ali with sin, for having left an affair to the judgment of men, which ought to have been determined by GOD alone; and went so far as to declare him guilty of infidelity, and to curse him on that account. In the 38th year of the Hejra, which was the year following the revolt, all these Khârejites who persisted in their rebellion, to the number of four thousand, were cut to pieces by Ali, and, as several historians write, even to a man: but others say nine of them escaped, and that two fled into Omân, two into Kermân, two into Sejestân, two into Mesopotamia, and one to Tel Mawrun; and that these propagated their heresy in those places, the same remaining there to this day. The principal sects of the Khârejites, besides the Mohakkemites above mentioned, are six; which, though they greatly differ among themselves in other matters, yet agree in these, viz., that they absolutely reject Othmân and Ali, preferring the doing of this to the greatest obedience, and allowing marriages to be contracted on no other terms; that they account those who are guilty of grievous sins to be infidels; and that they hold it necessary to resist the Imâm when he transgresses the law. One sect of them deserves more particular notice, viz.--
The Waidians, so called from al Waid, which signifies the threats denounced by GOD against the wicked. These are the antagonists of the Morgians, and assert that he who is guilty of a grievous sin ought to be declared an infidel or apostate, and will be eternally punished in hell, though he were a true believer: which opinion of theirs, as has been observed, occasioned the first rise of the Mutazalites. One Jaafar Ebn Mobashshar, of the sect of the Nodhâmians, was yet more severe than the Waidians, pronouncing him to be a reprobate and an apostate who steals but a grain of corn.
IV. The Shiites are the opponents of the Khârejites: their name properly signifies sectaries or adherents in general, but is peculiarly used to denote those of Ali Ebn Tâleb; who maintain him to be lawful Khalif and Imâm, and that the supreme authority, both in spirituals and temporals, of right belongs to his descendants, notwithstanding they may be deprived of it by the injustice of others, or their own fear. They also teach that the office of Imâm is not a common thing, depending on the will of the vulgar, so that they may set up whom they please; but a fundamental affair of religion, and an article which the prophet could not have neglected, or left to the fancy of the common people: nay, some, thence called Imâmians, go so far as to assert, that religion consists solely in the knowledge of the true Imâm. The principal sects of the Shiites are five, which are subdivided into an almost innumerable number; so that some understand Mohammed's prophecy of the seventy odd sects, of the Shiites only. Their general opinions are--I. That the peculiar designation of the Imâm, and the testimonies of the Koran and Mohammed concerning him, are necessary points. 2. That the Imâms ought necessarily to keep themselves free from light sins as well as more grievous.
3. That every one ought publicly to declare who it is that he adheres to, and from whom he separates himself, by word, deed, and engagement; and that herein there should be no dissimulation. But in this last point some of the Zeidians, a sect so named from Zeid, the son of Ali surnamed Zein al âbedin, and great-grandson of Ali, dissented from the rest of the Shiites. As to other articles, wherein they agreed not, some of them came pretty near to the notions of the Mutazalites, others to those of the Moshabbehites, and others to those of the Sonnites. Among the latter of these Mohammed al Bâker, another son of Zein al âbedin's, seems to claim a place: for his opinion as to the will of GOD was, that GOD willeth something in us, and something from us, and that what he willeth from us he hath revealed to us; for which reason he thought it preposterous that we should employ our thoughts about those things which GOD willeth in us, and neglect those which he willeth from us: and as to GOD'S decree, he held that the way lay in the middle, and that there was neither compulsion nor free liberty. A tenet of the Khattâbians, or disciples of one Abu'l Khattab, is too peculiar to be omitted. These maintained paradise to be no other than the pleasures of this world, and hell fire to be the pains thereof, and that the world will never decay: which proposition being first laid down, it is no wonder they went farther, and declared it lawful to indulge themselves in drinking wine and whoring, and to do other things forbidden by the law, and also to omit doing the things commanded by the law.
Many of the Shiites carried their veneration for Ali and his descendants so far, that they transgressed all bounds of reason and decency; though some of them were less extravagant than others. The Gholâites, who had their name from their excessive zeal for their Imâms, were so highly transported therewith, that they raised them above the degree of created beings, and attributed divine properties to them; transgressing on either hand, by deifying of mortal men, and by making GOD corporeal: for one while they liken one of their Imâms to GOD, and another while they liken GOD to a creature. The sects of these are various, and have various appellations in different countries. Abd'allah Ebn Saba (who had been a Jew, and had asserted the same thing of Joshua the son of Nun) was the ringleader of one of them. This man gave the following salutation to Ali, viz., "Thou art Thou," i.e., Thou art GOD: and hereupon the Gholâites became divided into several species; some maintaining the same thing, or something like it, of Ali, and others of some of one of his descendants; affirming that he was not dead, but would return again in the clouds, and fill the earth with justice. But howmuchsoever they disagreed in other things, they unanimously held a metempsychosis, and what they call al Holul, or the descent of GOD on his creatures; meaning thereby that GOD is present in every place, and speaks with every tongue, and appears in some individual person: and hence some of them asserted their Imâms to be prophets, and at length gods.
The Nosairians and the Ishâkians taught that spiritual substances appear in grosser bodies; and that the angels and the devil have appeared in this manner. They also assert that GOD hath appeared in this manner. They also assert that GOD hath appeared in the form of certain men; and since, after Mohammed, there hath been no man more excellent than Ali, and, after him, his sons have excelled all other men, that GOD hath appeared in their form, spoken with their tongue, and made use of their hands; for which reason, say they, we attribute divinity to them. And to support these blasphemies, they tell several miraculous things of Ali, as his moving the gates of Khaibar, which they urge as a plain proof that he was endued with a particle of divinity and with sovereign power, and that he was the person in whose form GOD appeared, with whose hands he created all things, and with whose tongue he published his commands; and therefore they say he was in being before the creation of heaven and earth.
In so impious a manner do they seem to wrest those things which are said in scripture of CHRIST by applying them to Ali. These extravagant fancies of the Shiites, however, in making their Imâms in laying claim thereto, are so far from being peculiar to this sect, that most of the other Mohammedan sects are tainted with the same madness; there being many found among them, and among the Sufis especially, who pretend to be nearly related to heaven, and who boast of strange revelations before the credulous people. It may not be amiss to hear what al Ghazâli has written on this occasion. "Matters are come to that pass," says he, "that some boast of an union with GOD, and of discoursing familiarly with him, without the interposition of a veil, saying, 'It hath been thus said to us,' and 'We have thus spoken;' affecting to imitate Hosein al Hallâj, who was put to death for some words of this kind uttered by him, he having said (as was proved by credible witnesses), 'I am the Truth,' or Abu Yazid al Bastâmi, of whom it is related that he often used the expression, 'Sobhâni,' i.e., 'Praise be unto me!' But this way of talking is the cause of great mischief among the common people; insomuch that husbandmen, neglecting the tillage of their land, have pretended to the like privileges; nature being tickled with discourses of this kind, which furnish men with an excuse for leaving their occupations, under pretence of purifying their souls, and attaining I know not what degrees and conditions. Nor is there anything to hinder the most stupid fellows from forming the like pretensions and catching at such vain expressions: for whenever what they say is denied to be true, they fail not to reply that our unbelief proceeds from learning and logic; affirming learning to be a veil, and logic the work of the mind; wherein what they tell us appears only within, being discovered by the light of truth. But this is that truth the sparks whereof have flown into several countries and occasioned great mischiefs; so that it is more for the advantage of GOD'S true religion to put to death one of those who utter such things than to bestow life on ten others."
Thus far have we treated of the chief sects among the Mohammedans of the first ages, omitting to say anything of the more modern sects, because the same are taken little or no notice of by their own writers, and would be of no use to our present design. It may be proper, however, to mention a word or two of the great schism at this day subsisting between the Sonnites and the Shiites, or partisans of Ali, and maintained on either side with implacable hatred and furious zeal. Though the difference arose at first on a political occasion, it has, notwithstanding, been so well improved by additional circumstances and the spirit of contradiction, that each party detest and anathematize the other as abominable heretics, and farther from the truth than either the Christians or the Jews. The chief points wherein they differ are--I. That the Shiites reject Abu Becr, Omar, and Othmân, the three first Khalifs, as usurpers and intruders; whereas the Sonnites acknowledge and respect them as rightful Imâms.
2. The Shiites prefer Ali to Mohammed, or, at least, esteem them both equal; but the Sonnites admit neither Ali nor any of the prophets to be equal to Mohammed. 3. The Sonnites charge the Shiites with corrupting the Koran and neglecting its precepts, and the Shiites retort the same charge on the Sonnites. 4. The Sonnites receive the Sonna, or book of traditions of their prophet, as of canonical authority; whereas the Shiites reject it as apocryphal and unworthy of credit. And to these disputes, and some others of less moment, is principally owing to the antipathy which has long reigned between the Turks, who are Sunnites, and the Persians, who are of the sect of Ali. It seems strange that Spinosa, had he known of no other schism among the Mohammedans, should yet never have heard of one so publicly notorious as this between the Turks and Persians; but it is plain he did not, or he would never have assigned it as the reason of his preferring the order of the Mohammedan church to that of the Roman, that there have arisen no schisms in the former since its birth.
As success in any project seldom fails to draw in imitators, Mohammed's having raised himself to such a degree of power and reputation by acting the prophet, induced others to imagine they might arrive at the same height by the same means. His most considerable competitors in the prophetic office were Moseilama and al Aswad, whom the Mohammedans usually call the two liars.
The former was of the tribe of Honeifa, who inhabited the province of Yamâma, and a principal man among them. He headed an embassy sent by his tribe to Mohammed in the ninth year of the Hejra, and professed himself a Moslem: but on his return home, considering that he might possibly share with Mohammed in his power, the next year he set up for a prophet also, pretending to be joined with him the commission to recall mankind from idolatry to the worship of the true GOD; and he published written revelations, in imitation of the Koran, of which Abulfargius has preserved the following passage, viz.: "now hath GOD been gracious unto her that was with child, and hath brought forth from her the soul, which runneth between the peritonaeum and the bowels." Moseilama, having formed a considerable party among those of Honeifa, began to think himself upon equal terms with Mohammed, and sent him a letter, offering to go halves with him, in these words: "From Moseilama the apostle of GOD, to Mohammed the apostle of GOD. Now let the earth be half mine, and half thine."
But Mohammed, thinking himself too well established to need a partner, wrote him this answer: "From Mohammed the apostle of GOD, to Moseilama the liar. The earth is GOD'S: he giveth the same for inheritance unto such of his servants as he pleaseth; and the happy issue shall attend those who fear him." During the few months which Mohammed lived after this revolt, Moseilama rather gained than lost ground, and grew very formidable; but Abu Becr, his successor, in the eleventh year of the Hejra, sent a great army against him, under the command of that consummate general, Khâled Ebn al Walid, who engaged Moseilama in a bloody battle, wherein the false prophet, happening to be slain by Wahsha, the negro slave who had killed Hamza at Ohod, and by the same lance, the Moslems gained an entire victory, ten thousand of the apostates being left dead on the spot, and the rest returning to Mohammedism.
Al Aswad, whose name was Aihala, was of the tribe of Ans, and governed that and the other tribes of Arabs descended from Madhhaj. This man was likewise an apostate from Mohammedism, and set up for himself the very year that Mohammed died. He was surnamed Dhu'lhemâr, or the master of the ass, because he used frequently to say, "The master of the ass is coming unto me;" and pretended to receive his revelations from two angels, named Sohaik and Shoraik. Having a good hand at legerdemain, and a smooth tongue, he gained mightily on the multitude by the strange feats which he showed them, and the eloquence of his discourse: by these means he greatly increased his power, and having made himself master of Najrân, and the territory of al Tâyef, on the death of Badhân, the governor of Yaman for Mohammed, he seized that province also, killing Shahr, the son of Badhân, and taking to wife his widow, whose father, the uncle of Firuz the Deilamite, he had also slain. These news being brought to Mohammed, he sent to his friends, and to those of Hamdân, a party of whom, conspiring with Kais Ebn Abd'al Yaghuth, who bore Al Aswad a grudge, and with Firuz, and al Aswad's wife, broke by night into his house, where Firuz surprised him and cut off his head. While he was dispatching he roared like a bull; at which his guards came to the chamber door, but were sent away by his wife, who told them the prophet was only agitated by the divine inspiration.
This was done the very night before Mohammed died. The next morning the conspirators caused the following proclamation to be made, viz.: "I bear witness that Mohammed is the apostle of GOD, and that Aihala is a liar;" and letters were immediately sent away to Mohammed, with an account of what had been done: but a messenger from heaven outstripped them, and acquainted the prophet with the news, which he imparted to his companions but a little before his death; the letters themselves not arriving till Abu Becr was chosen Khalif. It is said that Mohammed, on this occasion, told those who attended him that before the day of judgment thirty more impostors, besides Moseilama and al Aswad, should appear, and every one of them set up for a prophet. The whole time, from the beginning of al Aswad's rebellion to his death, was about four months.
In the same eleventh year of the Hejra, but after the death of Mohammed, as seems most probable, Toleiha Ebn Khowailed set up for a prophet, and Sejâj Bint al Mondar for a prophetess.
Toleiha was of the tribe of Asad, which adhered to him, together with great numbers of the tribes of Ghatfân and Tay. Against them likewise was Khâled sent, who engaged and put them to flight, obliging Toleiha, with his shattered troops, to retire into Syria, where he stayed till the death of Abu Becr: then he went to Omar and embraced Mohammedism in his presence, and, having taken the oath of fidelity to him, returned to his own country and people.
Sejâj, surnamed Omm Sâder, was of the tribe of Tamim, and the wife of Abu Cahdala, a soothsayer of Yamâma. She was followed not only by those of her own tribe, but by several others. Thinking a prophet the most proper husband for her, she went to Moseilama, and married him; but after she had stayed with him three days, she left him and returned home. What became of her afterwards I do not find. Ebn Shohnah has given us part of the conversation which passed at the interview between those two pretenders to inspiration; but the same is a little too immodest to be translated.
In succeeding ages several impostors from time to time started up most of whom quickly came to nothing: but some made a considerable figure, and propagated sects which continued long after their decease. I shall give a brief account of the most remarkable of them, in order of time.
In the reign of al Mohdi, the third Khalif of the race of al Abbâs, one Hakem Ebn Hâshem, originally of Meru, in Khorasân, who had been an under- secretary to Abu Moslem, the governor of that province, and afterwards turned soldier, passed thence into Mawarâlnahr, where he gave himself out for a prophet. He is generally named by the Arab writers al Mokanna, and sometimes al Borkaí, that is, "the veiled," because he used to cover his face with a veil, or a gilded mask, to conceal his deformity, having lost an eye in the ward, and being otherwise of a despicable appearance; though his followers pretended he did it for the same reasons as Moses did, viz., lest the splendour of his countenance should dazzle the eyes of the beholders. He made a great many proselytes at Nakhshab and Kash, deluding the people with several juggling performances, which they swallowed for miracles, and particularly by causing the appearance of a moon to rise out of a well, for many nights together; whence he was also called, in the Persian tongue, Sâzendeh mah, or the moonmaker. This impious impostor, not content with being reputed a prophet, arrogated divine honours to himself, pretending that the deity resided in his person: and the doctrine whereon he built this was the same with that of the Gholâites above mentioned, who affirmed a transmigration or successive manifestation of the divinity through and in certain prophets and holy men, from Adam to these latter days (of which opinion was also Abu Moslem himself); but the particular doctrine of al Mokanna was, that the person in whom the deity had last resided was the aforesaid Abu Moslem, and that the same had, since his death, passed into himself. The faction of al Mokanna, who had made himself master of several fortified places in the neighbourhood of the cities above mentioned, growing daily more and more powerful, the Khalif was at length obliged to send an army to reduce him; at the approach whereof al Mokanna retired into one of his strongest fortresses, which he had well provided for a siege, and sent his emissaries abroad to pursuade people that he raised the dead to life, and knew future events. But, being straitly besieged by the Khalif's forces, when he found there was no possibility for him to escape, he gave poison, in wine, to his whole family, and all that were with him in the castle; and when they were dead he burnt their bodies, together with their clothes, and all the provisions and cattle; and then, to prevent his own body's being found, he threw himself into the flames, or, as others say, into a tub of aqua fortis, or some other preparation, which consumed every part of him, except only his hair: so that when the besiegers entered the place, they found no creature in it, save one of al Mokanna's concubines, who, suspecting his design, had hid herself, and discovered the whole matter.
This contrivance, however, failed not to produce the effect which the impostor designed among the remaining part of his followers; for he had promised them that his soul should transmigrate into the form of a grey-headed man riding on a greyish beast, and that after so many years he would return to them, and give them the earth for their possession: the expectation of which promise kept the sect in being for several ages after under the name of Mobeyyidites, or, as the Persians call them, Sefid jâmehghiân, i.e., the clothed in white, because they wore their garments of that colour, in opposition, as is supposed, to the Khalifs of the family of Abbâs, whose banners and habits were black. The historians place the death of al Mokanna in the 162nd or 163rd year of the Hejra.
In the year of the Hejra 201, Bâbec, surnamed al Khorremi, and Khorremdin, either because he was of a certain district near Ardebil in Adherbijân, called Khorrem, or because he instituted a merry religion, which is the signification of the word in Persian, began to take on him the title of a prophet. I do not find what doctrine he taught; but it is said he professed none of the religions then known in Asia. He gained a great number of devotees in Adherbijân and the Persian Irâk, and grew powerful enough to wage war with the Khalif al Mamún, whose troops he often beat, killing several of his generals, and one of them with his own hand; and by these victories he became so formidable that al Mutasem, the successor of al Mamun, was obliged to employ the forces of the whole empire against him. The general sent to reduce Bâbec was Afshid, who having overthrown him in battle, took his castles one after another with invincible patience, notwithstanding the rebels gave him great annoyance, and at last shut up the impostor in his principal fortress; which being taken, Bâbec found means to escape thence in disguise, with some of his family and principal followers; but taking refuge in the territories of the Greeks, was betrayed in the following manner. Sahel, an Armenian officer, happening to know Bâbec, enticed him, by offers of service and respect, into his power, and treated him as a mighty prince, till, when he sat down to eat, Sahel clapped himself down by him; at which Bâbec being surprised, asked him how he dared to take that liberty unasked? "It is true, great king," replied Sahel, "I have committed a fault; for who am I, that I should sit at your majesty's table?"
And immediately sending for a smith, he made use of this bitter sarcasm, "Stretch forth your legs, great king, that this man may put fetters on them." After this Sahel sent him to Afshid, though he had offered a large sum for his liberty, having first served him in his own kind, by causing his mother, sister, and wife to be ravished before his face; for so Bâbec used to treat his prisoners. Afshid, having the arch-rebel in his power, conducted him to al Mutasem, by whose order he was put to an ignominious and cruel death. This man had maintained his ground against the power of the Khalifs for twenty years, and had cruelly put to death above two hundred and fifty thousand people; it being his custom never to spare man, woman, or child, either of the Mohammedans or their allies. The sectaries of Bâbec which remained after his death seem to have been entirely dispersed,
About the year 235, one Mahmud Ebn Faraj pretended to be Moses resuscitated, and played his part so well that several people believed on him, and attended him when he was brought before the Khalif al Motawakkel. That prince, having been an ear-witness of his extravagant discourses, condemned him to receive ten buffets from every one of his followers, and then to be drubbed to death; which was accordingly executed; and his disciples were imprisoned till they came to their right minds.
The Karmatians, a sect which bore an inveterate malice against the Mohammedans, began first to raise disturbances in the year of the Hejra 278, and the latter end of the reign of al Mutamed. Their origin is not well known; but the common tradition is, that poor fellow, whom some call Karmata, came from Khuzistân to the villages near Cufa, and there feigned great sanctity and strictness of life, and that GOD had enjoined him to pray fifty times a day, pretending also to invite people to the obedience of a certain Imâm of the family of Mohammed: and this way of life he continued till he had made a very great party, out of whom he chose twelve, as his apostles, to govern the rest, and to propagate his doctrines. But the governor of the province, finding men neglected their work, and their husbandry in particular, to say those fifty prayers a day, seized the fellow, and having put him into prison, swore that he should die; which being overheard by a girl belonging to the governor, she, pitying the man, at night took the key of the dungeon from under her master's head as he slept, and having let the prisoner out, returned the key to the place whence she had it.
The next morning the governor found the bird flown; and the accident being publicly known, raised great admiration, his adherents giving it out that GOD had taken him into heaven. Afterwards he appeared in another province, and declared to a great number of people he had got about him that it was not in the power of any to do him hurt; notwithstanding which, his courage failing him, he retired into Syria, and was not heard of any more. His sect, however, continued and increased, pretending that their master had manifested himself to be a true prophet, and had left them a new law, wherein he had change the ceremonies and form of prayer used by the Moslems, and introduced a new kind of fast; and that he had also allowed them to drink wine, and dispensed with several things commanded in the Koran. They also turned the precepts of that book into allegory; teaching that prayer was the symbol of obedience to their Imâm, and fasting that of silence, or concealing their dogmas from strangers: they also believed fornication to be the sin of infidelity; and the guilt thereof to be incurred by those who revealed the mysteries of their religion, or paid not a blind obedience to their chief. They are said to have produced a book, wherein was written (among other things), "In the name of the most merciful GOD. Al Faraj Ebn Othmân of the town of Nasrâna, saith that Christ appeared unto him in a human form, and said, 'Thou art the invitation: thou art the demonstration: thou art the camel: thou art the beast: thou art John the son of Zacharias: thou art the Holy Ghost.'" From the year above mentioned the Karmatians, under several leaders, gave almost continual disturbance to the Khalifs and their Mohammedan subjects for several years; committing great disorders and outrages in Chaldea, Arabia, Syria, and Mesopotamia, and at length establishing a considerable principality, the power whereof was in its meridian in the reign of Abu Dhâher, famous for his taking of Mecca, and the indignities by him offered to the temple there, but which declined soon after his time and came to nothing.
To the Karmatians the Ismaelians of Asia were very near of kin, if they were not a branch of them. For these, who were also called al Molâhedah, or the Impious, and by the writers of the history of the holy wars, Assassins, agreed with the former in many respects; such as their inveterate malice against those of other religions, and especially the Mohammedan, their unlimited obedience to their prince, at whose command they were ready for assassinations, or any other bloody and dangerous enterprise, their pretended attachment to a certain Imâm of the house of Ali, &c. These Ismaelians in the year 483 possessed themselves of al Jebâl, in the Persian Irâk, under the conduct of Hasan Sabah; and that prince and his descendants enjoyed the same for a hundred and seventy-one years, till the whole race of them was destroyed by Holagu the Tartar.
The Bâtenites, which name is also given to the Ismaelians by some authors, and likewise to the Karmatians, were a sect which professed the same abominable principles, and were dispersed over several parts of the east. The word signifies Esoterics, or people of inward or hidden light or knowledge.
Abu'l Teyyeb Ahmed, surnamed al Motanabbi, of the tribe of Jufa, is too famous on another account not to claim a place here. He was one of the most excellent poets among the Arabians, there being none besides Abu Temâm who can dispute the prize with him. His poetical inspiration was so warm and exalted that he either mistook it or thought he could persuade others to believe it to be prophetical, and therefore gave himself out to be a prophet indeed; and thence acquired his surname, by which he is generally known. His accomplishments were too great not to have some success; for several tribes of the Arabs of the deserts, particularly that of Kelâb, acknowledged him to be what he pretended. But Lulu, governor in those parts for Akhshid king of Egypt and Syria, soon put a stop to the further progress of this new sect by imprisoning their prophet and obliging him to renounce his chimerical dignity; which having done, he regained his liberty, and applied himself solely to his poetry, by means whereof he got very considerable riches, being in high esteem at the courts of several princes. Al Motanabbi lost his life, together with his son, on the bank of the Tigris, in defending the money which had been given him by Adado'ddawla, soltân of Persia, against some Arabian robbers who demanded it of him, with which money he was returning to Cufa, his native city. This accident happened in the year 354.
The last pretender to prophecy I shall now take notice of is one who appeared in the city of Amasia, in Natolia, in the year 638, and by his wonderful feats seduced a great multitude of people there. He was by nation a Turkmân, and called himself Bâba, and had a disciple named Isaac, whom he sent about to invite those of his own nation to join him. Isaac accordingly, coming to the territory of Someisat, published his commission, and prevailed on many to embrace his master's sect, especially among the Turkmâns; so that at last he had six thousand horse at his heels, besides foot. With these Baba and his disciple made open war on all who would not cry out with them, "There is no GOD but GOD; Bâba is the apostle of GOD:" and they put great numbers of Mohammedans, as well as Christians, to the sword in those parts; till at length both Mohammedans and Christians, joining together, gave them battle, and having entirely routed them, put them all to the sword, except their two chiefs, who being taken alive, had their heads struck off by the executioner.
I could mention several other impostors of the same kind, which have arisen among the Mohammedans since their prophet's time, and very near enough to complete the number foretold by him: but I apprehend the reader is by this time tired as well as myself, and shall therefore here conclude this discourse, which may be thought already too long for an introduction.