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however, which were by no means unknown | reputation it enjoyed on account of the richamong his contemporary Meccans. Expert- ness and beauty of its dialect, is it wonderful ness in horsemanship and in the use of arms; that among the prophet's own kinsmen were skill in the management of cattle ; shrewd- men whose verses were familiar over all ness in buying and selling and in judging of Arabia. Lebid and Hareth, two of the wares, together with such general ingenuity seven poets of “ The Moallakat,” were and manual dexterity as were necessary to Koreishites, and contemporaries of Masupply one's personal wants in so primitive homet; and at the time when the prophet a state of society—these were, doubtless, the was ready to announce his mission to the most conspicuous of the early acquisitions of people of Meoca, there were poets enough in the future prophet. But even in such a the place to criticise and lampoon him.
impulses were not wholly wanting. To that as from the daily convergations that he must passion for song and legend, in which no have listened to in the streets and houses of race of any promise has ever been found de- Mecca, Mahomet, doubtless, acquired such ficient, and which the peculiar conditions of knowledge as he afterward exhibited of the Arabian life were so well calculated to fos- legendary lore of his countrymen. Of the ter, the wild Arabs of Mahomet's days joined matter thus accumulated in his mind, much a degree of literary taste and fastidiousness would necessarily consist of traditions realmost amounting to dilettantism. To hear lating to the history of his own tribe, espea fine story well told ; to sit at sunset at the cially in its connection with Mecca. Much, door of a tent, listening to the tinkling sylla- however, would be of wider import-tradibles or rythmic cadences of a practiced tions relating to such great events of primespeaker, as he wove forth some gorgeous val times as the Creation, the Flood, the prose-fancy of the wonderful, or declaimed dispersion of races, the peopling of Arabia, some earnest ode of war-was a recreation and its early relations with the adjoining of all most suitable to the constitution of the countries of Persia, Syria, Palestine, and Arab, with his craving for mental stimulus, Egypt; traditions also of specially Arabic and his oriental love of repose. Hence, significance, respecting such notable men of among the ancient Arabs, an æsthetic sus- those old times, as Adam, Seth, Enoch, ceptibility to the pleasure of sound for its Noah, Nimrod, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, own sake, and a conceit in the structure and Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, and the other wealth of their own language, such as we Biblical heroes. What proportion of this hardly find among any other people at the mass of legendary matter had come down to same stage of its history. To be able to ex- the Arabs by an independent stream of trapress himself fluently and with elegance on dition from the great Shemitic foreworld, any given occasion, was an accomplishment and what proportion, on the other hand, conwhich, as it was easy by nature to the Arab, sisted of real Biblical bistory, originally difso it was his study to acquire and improve. fused among the Arabs by the Hebrews, and And when this power flashed out at all con- subsequently corrupted to Arabic use, it is spicuously, when a poet was born in any altogether impossible to determine. Among tribe or family, the event was celebrated the purely Arabic legends, without doubt, with all honor; neighboring tribes sent their are to be reckoned those that related to the recognition in gifts, or assembled to hear the extinct tribes of Ad, Thamud, Tasm, Jadis, new star of Arabian song. At a great fair, the first Jorham, and Amalek, to which too, that was annually held at Ocadh, in tribes, it was alleged, the Arabian peninsula Yemen, poets from all parts of Arabia met had belonged before it was occupied by the to recite their compositions, and to compete posterity of Joktan. The age of these primifor prizes; and such poems as then pleased tive Arabians lay behind the historic period most were afterward written in letters of of their successors like a dark and gloomy gold on flags of Egyptian silk, and sent to background ; and one of the most favorite be hung up on the walls of the Kaaba, at exercises of the Arab musé was to open up Mecca. Seven of these ancient Arabian this background, by fictitious descriptions, prize-poems have been preserved to us, in a revealing, as it were, in lurid glimpses, the collected form, under the name of “ The splendors of its buried cities, the banners of Monllakat," that is, “ The Suspended.” To its vanished tents, and the once defiant ensuch
poems Mahomet must have often list- ergy of its now dead populations. One leened in his youth ; nor, considering the pre- gend of this ideal Arabic foreworld appears eminence of the tribe of Koreish, and the to have been in special repute—the legend, namely, of Hud, the prophet sent by God to Al Uzza; the idol of the tribes of Hodhail reclaim the idolatrous Addites. Long and and Khozah, between Mecca and Medina, wearily, said the legend, had the good Hud was a large stone, named Manah; the tribe preached the Word of God to the Addites, of Thakif worshiped a goddess named Allat ; but they would not listen to him; so that and other local deities of note were Wadd, God at last grew wroth against them, and Jawa, Yaguth, Yauk, and Nasr. In one sent a blast of suffocating wind across their part of Arabia, the chief idol was a lump of country, which destroyed them all. Similar, dough ; in others, stones were worshiped, also, according to another legend, had been that had been originally brought, it was said, the fate of the men of Thamud. To them from the holy valley of Mecca. And, as it was sent the prophet Saleh, as Hud had was a principle of the Greek Polytheism, been sent to the Addites; nay, to cure their that every locality should tolerate the gods unbelief, God had, at their request, wrought of every other, so among the Arabs, the mula miracle by His servant, and caused a she titudinous local gods that existed over the camel, big with young, to issue from a hard surface of the country, were by no means rock; but, in their wantonness, they killed supposed to exclude or interfere with each this camel, and God, to punish them, sent other. On the contrary, in token of their an earthquake, which strewed the ground purely local efficacy, and of the subordinawith their corpses. These and other legends tion or their worship to catholic Arabic feelof the same kind appear to have made a pro- ing, no fewer than three hundred and sixty found impression on the mind of the young such idols, collected from the Arabic area, and Mahomet of Mecca.
even from districts lying beyond it, within the But it was not merely in the legendary boundaries of Syria and Persia, were ranged lore of his countrymen, and their Arabicised in niches round the Kaaba at Mecca, so as to versions of Hebrew narratives, that the attract, as it were, to that holy centre, all the nephew of Abu Thaleb had matter of thought possible rays of Arabic devotion. In ensupplied to him. Looking abroad over the circling the Kaaba, therefore, during the field of Arabia from his stand-point at Mecca, holy months, the pilgrims virtually did homhe could command a view of a whole sea of age to all the gods of Arabia, while, in the intermixed and confused speculation. In the more special acts of kissing the black stone, “Age of Ignorance," as the Arabs call the drinking the waters of Zem-zem, and gazing period prior to Mahomet, Arabia was a kind on the tomb of Ishmael, they merged, as it of waste area of the East, upon which had were, all their local idolatries in burning rev. been accumulated the rubbish and debris of erence for their ancestry, and reverted to the various religious systems.
purer memories of olden days. In the first place, and forming, as it were, Superinduced upon this native Arabic the lowest stratum of Arabian thought, there Polytheism were elements borrowed from was the native religion of the Arabs, a kind two extra-Arabian systems—the Sabæanism of medley of Fetichism and Polytheism, ex of the Chaldees, or Assyrians, on the one side; hibiting precisely such a degeneracy from and the Magian or Zoroastrian religion of the the pure Monotheistic Faith of the days of Persians on the other. The peculiar feature Job, as would have been presented by the of the Sabæan religion was its open and sysHebrews, if they had been permitted without tematic worship of the celestial luminaries. interruption, for a series of ages, to follow Nowhere on the earth, not even in its native their idolatrous tendencies. That there were Chaldæa, was this form of idolatry, if once still gleams of belief, particularly among the recognized, so likely to prevail
, as in that men of Koreish, in one only living and true vast peninsula of rock and desert, on which God, nay, that speculatively the unity of God by day the sun looks down like a great bloodwas always present to the thoughtful Arab as shot eye, and over which, by night, there roll a tenet of faith, is sufficiently clear to all who such sapphire stars. Not a few of the Arab study the language of the time. But, escaping tribes of Mahomet's days, therefore, were profrom underneath this grand doctrine, the Ara- fessed Sabæans, making pilgrimages at stated bic mind at large had provided itself with times to Haran in Mesopotamia, but still resomething lower and more palpable, in the specting Mecca as the Kebla of their race. shape of a Pantheon of local gods and god. Less considerable, perhaps, but still appredesses, conceived according to the Arabic, as ciable, had been the influence exerted on the the Greek pantheon was according to the Arabians, especially those of the East, by the Greek mode of thinking. Thus the tribe of doctrine of the Persian Magi. The effect of Koreish, it is said, worshiped an idol called I this doctrine on the Arabic mind seems to have
been to tincture it with something of the Man- | tual energy and acumen was the theory of ichæan sentiment, intensifying the native She- the Trinity. Heresies innumerable had sprung mitic sense of the eternal antagonism existing up in the Eastern empire, in connection with in the world between the principle of light or this doctrine, almost all having taken their goodness, and the principle of darkness or evil. rise in the great Arian controversy, by which
Into this chaos of native Polytheism, As in the fourth and fifth centuries, the Universal syrian Sabæanism, and Persian Magianism, Church had been distracted. Now, it was there have been introduced a stream of cor- precisely these cast-off heresies of the Eastrupt Judaism, and a stream of still more ern Church that Arabia imbibed. The corrupt Christianity. Independently of the Christians of that peninsula, whether native intercouse that had from time immemorial converts or settlers from Syria and Asia Minor, been more or less vigorously kept up be were almost exclusively sectaries of the foltween the Jews and the Arabs, and the ef- lowing denominations :-Nestorians, so callfect of which had been, as we have already ed from their founder, Nestorius, Bishop of seen, to diffuse some notions of the Jewish Constantinople, and whose heresy consisted in religion and history among the Arabs, and a recondite distinction between Jesus the man, even to introduce among them fragments of and Christ the God-man : Jacobites, so callthe Pentateuch, the Psalms, and other booksed from Jacobus, Bishop of Edessa in Syria, of the Jewish Scripture, various positive at- and wiose doctrine, directly contrary to that tempts had from time to time been made to of the Nestorians in one point, denied the Judaize portions of the Arabian peninsula. double nature of Chirst in his state of incarThus, about two centuries before the Chris- nation : Mariamiles, so called because they itan era, an Arabian king of Yemen is said to worshiped the Virgin Mary, and regarded have introduced Judaism among his idolatrous her as, along with the Father and the Son, people, and to have endeavored to establish one of the persons of the Divine Trinity : and it by force. Later still, the crowds of Jew-Collyridians, a sect guilty of a similar hereish fugitives that had dispersed themselves sy, and deriving their name from their practhrough Arabia, after the destruction of their tice of offering to the Virgin Mary a particular own country by the Romans, had been the kind of cake, called Collyris
. Of these four means of spreading a knowledge of Jewish sects the Jacobites seem to have had most beliefs and customs among the native Arabs. disciples in Arabia ; and they and the NesIn addition to the pure Scripture and its con- torians together were numerous enough to tents, these Hebrew settlers, not a few of sustain several bishops, who regarded themwhom must have resided in Mecca, brought selves as attached to the Eastern Church. with them the multitudinous legends, com- Heretical as the Arabic Christians were, they ments and ceremonial addenda of the Mish- were still (the Nestorians particularly) denu, the Talmud and the Rabbinical schoo's positaries of precious seeds; and through all It was precisely in the same manner, and the wranglings of their creeds, and the foralmost exactly to the same extent, that malities of their worship, certain glimpses Christianity found its way into Arabia. must have reached the Arabs at large, of the Since the visit of the Apostle Paul to the great light that had been kindled for men, Peninsula, not a few missionaries had doubt- six centuries before, at Jerusalem. As the less tried to add this outlying portion of the Jews had brought the Old, so the Christians East to the field of Christendom. It was re- brought the New Testament into the Arabian served for those Christian exiles, however territory; and hence both were known to the whom the persecutions of the early centuries Pagan Arabs as the “ People of the Book.” drove into the desert, really to spread the There were doubtless copies of the Scriptures the knowledge of Christianity among the in Mecca, and Mahomet may have heard pasArabs But as these exiles belonged almost sages of them read. exclusively to the Eastern or Greek Church, There remains yet to be mentioned the Christianity that they carried with them another important ingredient of that ferinto Arabia was of that lifeless and barren menting mass of thought with which Arabia kind that had been manufactured in the Sy- was laboring about the period of the birth of nods of the East. Relic-worship, incense Mahomet. This was the ingredient of posiburning, monotonous chantings, and minute tive and dogmatic Atheism, of Sadduceeism, ceremonial observances were its outward of open incredulity in the supernatural under characteristics; and the single point of Chris- any expression whatever. We do not think tian theology on the elaboration of which it that sufficient notice has been taken of this seemed to have concentrated all its intellec- l fact by those that have written on the history of Mahomet. We have even a suspicion that, rated, were the speculative elements and to many the fact will appear incredible. tendencies that were diffused through the Atheism, we are told by some of our modern Arabian atmosphere at the time when Matheorists—the spirit, in other words, that homet began to breathe it. These were the prescribes the resolute non-recognition of the influences to which, till his manhood, he was supernatural as the highest effort of rational necessarily subjected. Nothing is more clear excellence, and that, chalking on the doors than that the forces which operated on the of the grand questions of God and Immor future Prophet were exclusively those that tality, the peremptory phrase “ No data," the soil of Arabia supplied. There is, inwould drag back the soul to earthly task- deed, a story, that in his boyhood he accomwork and earthly pleasures—this spirit, we panied bis uncle, Abu Thaleb, in a caravanare told, is the latest result of human expe- expedition from Mecca, along the borders of rience ; the calm and equable state of mind the Red Sea, as far as Bostra in Syria ; and into which the human race, long harrassed that at Bostra a Nestorian monk, or priest by infinite problems, is only now beginning called Sergius, took great interest in him, to work itself in some favored spots of and gave him lessons in the principles of the Western Europe. But it is not so—it is not Christian religion. And certainly, if there so. This occidental and nineteenth century was any country besides Arabia from which thing called Atheism has, in its essence, ex- Mahomet derived hints and impressions, it isted in all ages. Even among the so-called was Syria ; a country more closely connected Shemitic races, the characteristic of whose with Arabia than any other, and which his very speech is, and always has been, a sur- mercantile persuits must have led him even charge of “the religious idea,” the spirit of frequently to visit. But the fact is, that in unbelief and Sadduceeism prevailed like a returning from such visits Mahomet could venom. “The fool hath said in his heart, bring very little with him in the shape of inThere is no God," said the Hebrew psalmist; tellectual material that Arabia might not itthat is to say, there were Hebrew Atheists self have furnished. During his journeys to in the days of David. And that there were and from Syria, however, as well as during ancient Arabic Atheists too-men who, his journeys southward and eastward across amid all the Kaaba-worship of Mecca and its the peninsula, he necessarily picked up much neighborhood, cherished the cold theory, that Mecca could hardly have given him. that behind the grass, and the earth, and the Scenes, for example, seen during such jourclouds, and all the apparent show and para- neys, would haunt his memory afterward, phernalia of life, there was actually and and legends first heard amid sueh scenes literally Nothing, and that all was but a would not be easily forgotten. Mahomet bad chance-spun cob-web over the pit of dissolu- doubtless crossed the very track of the Istion : this every page of the Koran ought to raelites on their return from Egypt; had make clear. "They say, After we shall gazed across the Red Sea at the spot pointed have become bones and dust, shall we surely out by tradition as the place of their pasbe raised new creatures ?” • They will say, sage; and, walking perchance by the watchWho will restore us to life ?” "They swear fire amid his sleeping camels in the valley of most solemnly by God, saying, God will not Sinai, had seen the stars rise and set behind raise the dead." Such are the incessant allu- the mount of thunders. But all this was sions of Mahomet in his book; proving, at Arabic. Arabia bounded his views. That least, that many of his countrymen, even Syria formed part of a large monarchy callwhile talking the language of Theism, swear- ed the Greek or Eastern Empire, the capital ing the oaths of Arabia, and trembling to all of which was Constantinople, and that bethe Arabic superstitions regarding the pre- yond Arabia, on the other side, was a great sent life, were infected with a speculative Persian Monarchy, were facts which he Sadduceesism, equivalent, in fact, io a total could not but know ; but of the great Medrejection of the supernatural. Mahomet in iterranean world that lay beyond Syria, his youth, must have listened to such Sad- and of all that under the name of Greek and ducees discussing their theory of No data Roman history had been transacted there, as with regard to the Resurrection, and may well as of the vast Asiatic regions that Perhave shuddered at the daring wit with which sia commanded, he can hardly have had even they announced their Epicurean conclusion, the faintest conception. The Shemitic area that it would be best to make sure of Para- was the only part of the earth that he disdise in this life.
tinctly recognized as existing ; and the events Such, so far as they can now be enume- | that had occurred on that area were all history to him. A vast peninsula of peopled | critics would have pronounced absolutely herock, turf, and desert, shut in somehow from retical and irrational. Like the other men of the shadowy regions that begirt it, and over Koreish, his relatives, he regularly attended this peninsula a familiar canopy of changing the ceremonies and festivals of the Kaaba, sky-such was the world of Mahomet, such and complied with all the other practices of the universe of his thoughts and impressions, the established Polytheism. Nevertheless, such the limits within which his soul could under all this a struggle was going on as expatiate.
terrible and as protracted, we doubt not, in In his twenty-fifth year, Mahomet ex- the mind of Mahomet, as any that even these changed the service of his uncle for that of a days of ours, so different in all other respects, rich widow of Mecca, named Kadijah. For would be able to exhibit. Looking back as we three years he conducted her affairs as her do upon the men and events of the past from steward or factor, making several journeys a distance, and viewing each life and each in her behalf to Syria, to Yemen, and to transaction therein contained as a small comother parts of Arabia. Grateful to him for pleted whole, which we can neither approve the skill and faithfulness with which he dis- or condemn at a glance, we are apt to forget charged his trust, as well as touched more that in its actual march and evolution, the tenderly by his other merits, she at length past was as slow and heavy as the present; made her wealth his own by marrying him that each minute then fell as deliberately At the date of their marriage Mahomet was from Time's hammer on the bowl of brass, twenty-eight years of age; Kadijah, who and was as full of pain or joy as minutes had had two husbands before, was forty. are now; and that the lives, therefore, that
During the twelve years that followed his we examine so lightly as perfected historic marriage with Kadijah, we are to imagine results, were all produced and put together Mahomet a wealthy Arab, living chiefly in by the very process we ourselves are now Mecca, one of the most influential men of pursuing, namely, by an infinite series of the tribe of Koreish, and the proprietor of small advances through a medium of circumnumerous camels and herds of cattle. He stances. In the life of Mahomet, for examwas likewise the father of a family; four ple, there must have been some minute of daughters, besides a son that died when an first deviation from the polytheistic mode of infant, having been born to him by Kadijah. thinking in which he had been educatedThe Meccans, recognizing him as a man of some minute when, walking round the Kaaba his word, always upright in his dealings, in a clear and critical mood, the assiduous named him Al Amin, or The Faithful, and genuflexions of some fat and too prominent used to consult him in their disputes; and Arab may have shot ridicule to his heart, when the Kaaba, having been injured by and brought contempt to his lip; some fire, was repaired, it was a matter of course minute, again, when a powerful word from a that he should take part in the ceremony of Nestorian monk may have roused and startreplacing the black stone. In short, if we led him; or, finally, some minute when, unconceive distinctly any of the best Arabs der the stars of the desert, nature may have described by Mr. Layard in his book on talked to him with a new and thrilling voice. Nineveh, we shall have a reduced type be- But whencesoever the impulse came, it must fore us of the kind of man that Mahomet have required months and years of ever must have been among his contemporary added stimulus and speculative distraction to Meccans.
produce the result. The sharp end of the But during these twelve years a process wedge may be easily inserted, but it requires was going on in the heart of the Arab that many blows and much violent wrenching his countrymen knew nothing of. From the afterward to split the tree. first he must have been a man of great sa- Although it is impossible to trace, with gacity, vehemence, and determination—an any degree of exactness, the process that Arabic man of genius, seeing more deeply, must have been secretly going on in Maand feeling more intensely, after the Arabic homet's mind long before he announced himmethod, than any other of the Meccans. Up self to the people of Mecca as a prophet, a to bis forlieth year, however, it was not diligent reader of the Koran would be able, noticed that in his character there was any- we think, to divide the mental change, as it thing decidedly abnormal; any craze, eccen- actually happened, into several parts or tricity, or madness, that carried him, strictly stages. For, although the Koran was all speaking, out of the common circle of Arabic written after the change was complete, yet ways and customs; anything that Meccan I the particular mood or state of conviction in