Mohammed or Mahomet

Mohammed or Mahomet (written also Mahonsmed or Mahommet, and Mtuhamed or Muhamet, an Arabic word meaning the predicted Messiah; applied to him in allusion to Hag 2:7; but formerly called, according to a tradition quoted by Halabi, Kothanm) was a great Arabian legislator, who not only completely changed the face of the world in his own age, but still continues to exercise a powerful influence in the civilization of the Eastern world, being best known as the founder of a religious system which has spread extensively among men, and is denominated Islam, or, more properly, after its founder, Mohammedanism (q.v.).

Sources for his Life. — Arabian literature is very rich in sources for a biography of Mohammed. Besides the Koran, which records the most important events of his' life, there exist numerous collections of traditions in which the expressed views of the Arabian prophet on. various incidents and relations of life are introduced; then there are biographies proper, some of which extend as far back as the first century of the Mohammedan era. They are, it is true, written with a religious prejudice, and more or less spiced with legends, but in most cases the historical part worthy of credit is easily discerned. It must not be believed that these biographies were allowed too free a rein to fancy, or were permitted to distort facts or pass them over in perfect silence; for they had to fear being convicted of mendacity and negligence by no less an authority than the Koran itself, already collected by the contemporaries of the prophet. Still another circumstance helps the historian in determining truth, namely that. the Mohammedans rarely try to conceal the frailties of their founder, for their judgment is guided by a standard different from that of non-Mohammedans — they praise some of his deeds and words as virtuous which we brand as infamous. They even proceed generally on the principle that Mohammed, as a privileged individual, was exempt from the common laws.' Hence, notwithstanding the abundance of historical accounts on the rise of Islam (the proper name for the religion established by Mohammed, while its professors are called Moslems), and the continued lively intercourse between Mohammedans and Christians in Syria and Palestine, as well as in Egypt and Spain, the most perverted opinions on Mohammedanism and its author came to prevail among the non Mohammedans, even in the Occident. He was represented either as a sorcerer or as an idol; some believed him the Antichrist, others a renegade cardinal. And in proportion as the later Mohammedans — especially the Persians, greedy of miracles and mysteries — rendered the historical Mohammed of the ancient Arabians scarcely recognisable by over-much adoration and proximity to the supernatural, and the more Mohammedanism spread in the Occident and threatened to become dangerous to Christianity, hatred and fear exerted themselves to disfigure Mohammed and his creed by ridiculous and absurd calumnies. Even in modern times, after several translations of Arabian biographies of Mohammed had been published, his true character was little understood. As late as 1829 a work appeared in London demonstrating, or rather aiming to demonstrate, that Mohammed was. foreshadowed by the little horn which issued from the fourth monster described by the prophet Daniel. In 'a still later publication, the author endeavors, at a great' expense of learning, to prove that Mohammed was an; instrument of the devil's device and handling. But, as observed in Weil's work, Mohammed der Prophet, the advance of knowledge in these days requires the historical characters handed down to us from remote periods to be re-examined by the light of new and of better classified authorities, and to be recast upon a surer and more truthful basis. See Meth. Review, January 1889.

Among characters of world-wide celebrity, there is none other that calls more loudly for a reinvestigation of the "original sources" than that of Mohammed. Born in an obscure age, among a people whose antecedents are dimly shadowed out to us, in a country of all famous regions the least explored, his own career was a series of marvels and contradictions. While searching earnestly for truth, he taught millions of men to believe a gigantic fable; and. while tormented with doubts agonizing to his own breast, he inspired others with an invincible faith: in his infallibility. With too little energy or too little ambition to support himself, except by the despised employment of a shepherd, he withstood for years the ridicule, the malice, and the furious opposition of the leaders of his own family and of the nation, and finally vaquished all their efforts. Over this extraordinary and seemingly unfathomable character the disciples and the opponents of his doctrines have alike combined to draw an additional veil of uncertainty. The first Mohammedans piously encompassed their prophet with a cloud of miracles — "the mythology," as Dr. Sprenger calls it, of Islam... Romish prelates foolishly distorted history to calumniate him; and philosophers, more impartial but equally unjust, endowed him with crimes of their own invention, such as they thought congenial to the character of an impostor. Thus, while Khadijah beheld him shaded by angels on his journey to Syria, Prideaux accuses him of robbing orphans of their patrimony, and Voltaire depicts him as yielding to the indulgence of his passions on his triumphal return to Mecca — a triumph of which the greatest glory was his clemency and forbearance. Of those who have pretended to describe this singular being, one party has studiously disguised or perverted what they knew, and another has sedulously invented what they did but suspect or hope. In fact, the great difficulty of the Arabic language, and the rarity and inaccessibility of the MSS. of early Mohammedan writers, were sufficient of themselves, if not to deter Europeans from undertaking the biography of the apostle of Islam, at least to cover the attempt, until a comparatively recent date, with the disgrace of failure. The earliest and most authentic chronicles of the rise of Mohammedahism were not known, even by name, to those who aspired to guide the opinions of Europe on that great event. Gibbon, for example, appeals to Gagnier's translation of Abulfeda, a prince who wrote in the fourteenth century, as his "best and most authentic, guide." But to consider so late a historian as Abulfeda an authority at all would convict an Orientalist of the most culpable ignorance in Arabic literature. Yet before we can turn from the Mohammed as pictured by enthusiastic Musselmen, or the monks of the Middle Ages and their successors among modern writers, to the true historical Mohammed, as he comes before us after a profound and unprejudiced study of the original documents, it is necessary that we take a hasty glance at the condition of Arabia, the country that, claims him as her own, at the time and previous to the birth of Mohammed.

State of Arabia previous to the Introduction of Islam. — From time immemorial the aboriginal inhabitants of the peninsula had been divided into a great number of free and wandering clans, limited communities, and petty states, whose peculiarities of character, mode of life, and political institutions, as they were mostly dependent upon local circumstances, were for centuries stamped with the same unalterable features, and had been preserved almost unchanged even from the time of the patriarchs 'of the. book of Genesis. The mountainous table-land of central Arabia, abounding in rich pasturage and fertile valleys, but at the same time intersected and- .skirted with dreary wastes and sandy plains, was occupied by those roving tribes who, in opposition to the settled inhabitants, are proud of the name of Bedouin, or people of the plains. Most of them were addicted to a wandering pastoral life, but from being strongly. disposed to war and chivalrous adventures, their peaceable occupations were interrupted, either by conducting a caravan of merchants, or still oftener by assailing and robbing their fellow-tribes. Every tribe was governed by the most aged or worthy sheik of that family which had been exalted above its brethren by fortune and heroic deeds, or even by eloquence and poetry. For as the heroic bards were at once the historians and moralists by whom the vices and virtues of their countrymen were impartially censured or praised, a noble enthusiasm for poetry animated those Arabs, and at an annual fair at Okhad thirty days were consecrated to poetical emulation, after which the successful poem was written in-letters of gold and suspended in the .temple of Mecca. These meetings, however, formed but a very. feeble bond of union among the independent and hostile tribes, who only occasionally, and in times of danger and warfare, submitted to a supreme chief, or emir of emirs, and had never yet been united into one body. And the tie was still less binding on those inhabitants who, being collected in flourishing towns and cities on the coasts of the peninsula, and mostly employed in trade and agriculture, were regarded with supreme contempt by the free Bedouin as a weak and degenerate race of slaves.

Concerning the religious condition of the Arabs before, the promulgation of Mohammed's doctrines, we have. but scanty information. The Mohammedans themselves disdained inquiry into the idolatrous worship of their ancestors.. For what we. do know about it we are indebted, to accidental notices of some of their deities mentioned in the Koran (q.v.), and to sundry not always trustworthy accounts diffused through the more. ancient works, and not to any connected treatise upon the pagan religions of Arabia. The scanty notices of the Greeks and Romans concerning this topic are very uncertain. We must not, however, fail to mention the genealogical records, to which the Arabs attribute great importance, as auxiliary sources for the religious faith of the ancient Arabians. From these genealogical tablets we learn the names of some of their idols and the distribution of their worship; for many personal names relate to the worshipped deities or the places where they were worshipped. Thus we are not altogether without some clew respecting Arabian polytheism, and secure the information that no one religious system prevailed throughout all Arabia, or at any given time.

Their religious worship, it would appear, consisted chiefly in the adoration of the heavenly luminaries which were considered as so many tutelar deities of the different tribes; and among these, after the sun and moon, the planet Venus had acquired such peculiar preeminence that even to the pious Moslem Friday ever after remained the sacred day of the week. These deities, with many other images of the personified powers of nature, rudely represented by idols of every variety of shape, were principally gathered round the ancient Kaaba — the Pantheon of Arabian idolatry; and their worship was accompanied, not only with the most horrid rites and shocking ceremonies of a degraded paganism, but even with human sacrifices and cruelties of every description. Even children were immolated by some of the ruder: clans to the idols, while others, as the Kendites, buried their daughters alive (Sur. 6:137; 16:58; 81:8); and we need scarcely remark that, except a vague belief of the soul becoming transformed. into an owl, and hovering round the grave, there is no indication that the Arabian idolaters believed in a future life and final retribution. (Comp. Pococke, Specimen Historie Arabun, ed. White, 1806.)

Arabian idolatry centered in Mecca, whither annual pilgrimages were made by all Arabians. SEE MECCA. Its temple, which tradition claimed to have been founded by Abraham and Ishmael, was, so to speak, the hotel (khan), where the most diverse idols of the various Arabian tribes were lodged. It was the object of high veneration for the whole Arabian peninsula. Every tribe had its particular deity represented here, as well as its own chief. SEE KAABA. But there were also many Arabs who acknowledged a supreme being, and regarded all idols as subordinate to this principal being. Some were even converts to Judaism or to Christianity, especially those who had much intercourse with Jews and Christians. As a rule, however, religious life occupied but little the minds of the Bedouin, so much engrossed with their material wants and affairs, and to this day religious fanaticism is rarely found among the children of the desert. The particular wishes of the votaries were brought before the idols and their priests. and their advice was desired; but if expectation were disappointed, the idols were broken to pieces and their priests insulted and maltreated. Besides the idolaters, in a literal sense of the word, there lived in Arabia single tribes, who worshipped the sun, moon, and other celestial bodies, or inclined to the religion of the Magi and vestiges of hero-worship, and worship of trees and stones are also traceable.

Among the foreign settlers in Arabia, we pass over in silence the few adherents of Zoroaster, scattered along the Persian Gulf, and the Sabeans, on the southern coast of the peninsula, who, even from the time of David and Solomon, stored their rich emporiums of Ophir, Saba, and afterwards Aden, with Indian-merchandise, and who, as is clear from many good arguments, were undoubtedly of Hindu origin. The Christian religion had long been established in several parts of Arabia, but the Christianity of the Oriental Church at that time almost resembled paganism, being associated with monachism, and with the worship of martyrs, relics, and images. Among the heretical sectaries who, absorbed in their monophysitical and other abstruse dogmatical controversies, looked upon each other with the utmost hatred, we find particularly mentioned the Nestorians, Jacobites, Marcionites, and Manichaeans, besides some other obscure sects, such as the Collyridians, who, deifying the mother of Christ, and adoring her as. the third person in the Trinity, probably gave rise to the Christian tritheism so often dwelt on by the author of the Koran. The Jews were at this time in Arabia in great numbers. After the destruction of Jerusalem many of them had retired hither, where, owing to the loose connection and the jealousy of the aboriginal tribes, they had gained considerable power. Some of them, adopting the fierce manners of the desert, chose a wandering life, connected with all its dangers and adventurous strife, and a poem composed by a Jewish Bedouin has been: preserved in the Hamasa, which breathes the true spirit of Arabian chivalry (Hamasa, page 49, ed. Freytag). But in general the Jews were peacefully settled in towns and fortified castles, principally along the coast, or dispersed among the inhabitants of large cities. Comp. Krehl, Vorislamitische Religionen [Leips. 1863]; Zeitschrift d. deutsch. Morgenl. Gesellsch. 10:61 sq.; 19:262; 20:284; Malcom, History of Persia, 1:168 sq., 180 sq.) SEE ARABIA.

Early Life. — Since Mohammed was by birth anything but a prince, nothing certain is known about its time, and even the oldest sources do not agree as to the date. According to the most probable reckoning, he was born in April, A.D. 571, at Mecca. This city was at that time a considerable commercial centre, where caravans from Southern Arabia, Abyssinia, Persia, and India crossed those from Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia, and exchanged their agricultural and industrial products. This happened particularly at the time of the pilgrimage. By descent Mohammed belonged to the aristocracy of Mecca, but the branch of which he was an offspring was very much impoverished. His mother, Aminah, possessed, it is said, a peculiarly nervous temperament, and used to fancy, while between sleeping and waking, that she was visited by spirits. It is probable that Mohammed inherited from her his constitutional tendency to epilepsy, as well as his most remarkable mental peculiarities. Mohammedan authors have labored to endow the birth of their prophet with miraculous events, and in consequence many marvellous stories are told. It is related, among other things, that his mother experienced none of the pangs of travail. As soon as her child was born, he raised his eyes to heaven, exclaiming, "There is no God but God, and I am his prophet!" That same night, it is related, also with the same inclination to extravagance, that the fire of Zoroaster, which, guarded by the Magi, had burned uninterruptedly for more than a thousand years, was suddenly extinguished, and all the idols in the world fell down.

When only two months old, Mohammed's father died (according to some accounts, he died two months before the birth of Mohammed). Aminah for a short time nursed the infant herself; but sorrow soon dried the fountains of her breast, and the young child, after much exertion to meet this extra expenditure, was committed to the care of a nurse, with whom he remained about five years. It is related by Mohammedans that when the nurse, who was a shepherd's wife, showed the child to a celebrated soothsayer, who was an idolater, the latter exclaimed, "Kill this child!" Halimah snatched away her precious charge and fled. Afterwards the soothsayer explained to the excited multitude: "I swear by all the gods that this child will kill those who belong to your faith; he will destroy your gods, and he will be victorious over you." When Mohammed was six years old he lost his mother, and the poor orphaned child fell to the care of relatives. He was taken charge of by his grandfather, Abdul Mutalib, who was then the chief priest of the Kaaba. Upon his decease the care of the child fell to his uncle, Abu-Talib; but he was so indigent that he could not long afford to keep his nephew, and Mohammed was obliged to earn his livelihood as a shepherd — an occupation to which only the lower class of the population resorted, while the more opulent engaged in trade. Later (in his twenty-fifth year) he entered the service of a rich widow (Kadijah), attended to her affairs in Southern Arabia, according to some accounts also in Syria, where he is said to have become conversant with monks, who gave him information regarding Christianity. Mohammed soon gained Kadijah's confidence to such a degree that she offered him her hand in matrimony, which he accepted, though she was much his senior — she was forty years old.

Preparation for his Mission. — Placed in affluent circumstances by marriage, Mohammed gradually abandoned commercial enterprises and. gave himself up to religious contemplation, to which he may have been induced by a cousin of his consort, who, like many Arabs of his time, had relinquished idolatry, and had been converted first to Judaism, then to Christianity, but had failed to find satisfaction in either. Mohammed was no scholar — it is even doubtful whether he acquired reading and writing in later years — his education had certainly been neglected in his earlier years by reason of circumstances. Chirography had only been introduced into Arabia a short time previously, though poetry was highly cultivated — for this, however, in spite of his oratorical talent, he had little aptitude. On the whole, his visionary character and piety formed a great contrast to the sober and robust Arabs of his time, who indulged in wine, gambling, and sensuality as the main objects of life; while he, though not insensible to terrestrial enjoyments, was more disposed to religious reflection. Retired in solitude, he made God, the future life, and revelation the themes of his thoughts, and reviewed the various systems of religion known to him by oral tradition, in order to form from them a new religion adapted to Arabia. There were at this time Ebionitish Christians in the country the Rakuisi and the Hanifs. To the first belonged, according to Sprenger's conjecture (Leben u. Lehre des Mohammed, 1:43 sq.), Koss, who preached at Mecca the unity of God and the resurrection of the dead, and for this purpose also visited the fair at Okhad, where Mohammed had heard him. The Hanifs were (as Sprenger will have it) Essenes, who had lost nearly all knowledge of the Bible, and had submitted to various foreign influences, but professed a rigid monotheism. Their religious book was called the "Roll of Abraham." In the time of Mohammed several members of this sect were living at Mecca and Medina, and Mohammed himself, who originally had worshipped the gods of his people, became a Hanif. The doctrine of the Hanifs was "Islam" — i.e., submission to the one God; they were themselves "Moslem" — i.e., men characterized by such submission. Besides his knowledge from such connections, Mohammed enjoyed the instruction' of Jewish scholars, among whom are particularly mentioned a celebrated rabbi, Abdallah Iba-Salaam, and Waraka, the nephew of his wife. (Comp. Abrah. Geiger, Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judenthumne aufgenommen, Bonn, 1833.) The Arabs, Mohammed knew, were ready for a new faith, and he desired the establishment of a religious system which should embody the essentials of all that his countrymen were acquainted with. Idolatry was already on the wane. The idols were considered by the poets and other intelligent Arabs as powerless beings, at most as mediators between the supreme God (Allah) and mankind; and there were some who even accepted the belief in a future life, as entertained among the Jews and Christians of Arabia. The greatest opposition he had reason to fear was from religious indifference, scepticism, and selfishness. According to the Koran, from which alone we can correctly gather Mohammed's religious views, he laid down the following fundamental doctrines: The existence of a monotheistic divinity, a being superior to all; a revelation, but only by special inspiration (by which alone the. prophets were distinguished, while in all other respects on an equality with the rest of mankind); and, finally, a life hereafter, in which the virtuous were to be rewarded and the vicious punished. In his opinion, this was the religion of Abraham, who, as the Koran says, was neither Jew nor Christian, but a pious, God-fearing man.

Moses and Christ were prophets; but their revelation had been distorted by Jews and Christians. He there, fore,, determined that some of the laws and ordinances of the Old Testament, not suitable for Arabia, should be set aside; and of the New, many dogmas, which were looked upon by him and his contemporaries as bordering on idolatry, should be revoked, in order to successfully convert his people to monotheism.

Mohammed having arrived at these results by reflection and tradition, notwithstanding the prejudices of his time, from which he was by no means himself free, and endowed with a nervous constitution and a lively imagination, it was not at all unnatural for him to come, after a time, to regard himself as actually called of God to build up his people ii a new faith. Mohammed, as we gather from the oldest and most trustworthy narratives, was an epileptic, and as such was considered to be possessed of evil spirits. At first he believed the same; but gradually he came to the conclusion, confirmed by his friends, that daemons had no power over so pure and pious a man as he was, and he conceived the idea that he was not controlled by evil spirits, but that he was visited by angels, whom he, disposed to hallucinations of vision and audition, and afflicted with a morbid state of body and mind, saw in dreams, or even while awake conceived he saw. What seemed to him good and true, after such epileptic attacks, he esteemed revelation, in which he, at least in the first stage of his prophetic course, firmly believed, and which imparted to his pensive, variable character the necessary courage and endurance to brave all mortifications and perils.

Mohammed as a Religious Teacher. — Mohammed .was, according to Mohammedan reports, forty years of age when he began to act the part of a prophet, and this he did first among his nearest relatives and friends. He claimed to have been "moved" to teach a new faith by a special "divine" communication which he had received in the solitude of the mountain Hira, near Mecca. Gabriel, he asserted, had appeared to him, and in the name of God commanded him to "read" — i.e., to preach the true religion, and to spread it abroad by committing it to writing (Sur. 96). In three years he made only fourteen converts; but among these were the high-spirited, devoted, and indomitable Ali, who was afterwards surnamed the "ever- victorious Lion of God," and Abu-Bekr, whose character for good-sense, benevolence, and straightforward integrity contributed not a little to the respectability and ultimate success of the new religion. In the fourth year of his mission, in .obedience, as he alleges, to an express command from heaven, he resolved to make a public declaration of his faith. He addressed himself to the Koreish and others, asking them, "If I were to tell you that there is an army on the other side of that mountain, would you believe me?" "Yes," they answered "for we do not consider thee to be a liar." He then said, "I come to warn you; and if you do not believe me, a great punishment will befall you;" he told them they must renounce idolatry, and make a profession of the one true God; that unless they did so they could have no true happiness in this life nor salvation in the life to come.

The people listened to the precepts of the moralist, and though they were enraptured by the force of his eloquence, very few were yet inclined to desert their hereditary and long-cherished ceremonies, and to adopt a spiritual faith the internal evidence of which they were unable to comprehend. Mohammed was repeatedly urged by them to confirm his: divine mission by miracles, but he prudently appealed to the internal truth of his doctrine, and expressly declared that wonders and signs would depreciate the merit of faith and aggravate the guilt of infidelity. The only miraculous act which Mohammed professed to have accomplished, and which has been greatly exaggerated by his credulous adherents, is a nocturnal journey from the temple of Mecca to Jerusalem, and thence through the heavens, which he pretended to have performed on an imaginary animal like an ass, called Borak (lightning); but we need scarcely remark that the simple words of the Koran (Sur. 17) may as well be taken in the allegorical sense of vision. The few converts he made were of the lowest class, the aristocracy in the mean time growing more decided in their opposition to the enthusiast and innovator. Hitherto they had contented themselves by mocking him and deriding him as a sorcerer and demoniac, but as the number of converts was gradually increasing, and there seemed danger that the sacredness of Mecca might be disturbed by the new religionists, and thus the city be deprived of her chief glory and the aristocracy of the ample revenues of the pilgrimages, they rose in fierce opposition against the new prophet and his adherents, who dared to call their ancient gods idols, and their ancestors fools. Many of the converted slaves and freedmen had to undergo terrible punishments, and others suffered so much at the hands of their own relatives that they were fain to revoke their creed; so that the prophet himself advised his followers to emigrate to Abyssinia. Mohammed himself, now belonging to the aristocracy, and further protected by the strong arm of Abu-Talib, had of course nothing, personal to fear; but yet he became so low-spirited and fearful lest his attempt should fail altogether that he decided to appeal once more to the prejudices of the aristocracy, and he even went so far as to raise the idols, which hitherto he had represented as naught. to intermediate beings between God and man — a dictum, however, which he soon revoked, as an inspiration of Satan, thereby increasing the hatred of his adversaries, at whose head stood two members of the family of Machzum, Al-Walid and Abulhakam Amr (called by Mohammed "Father of Foolishness"), and who in every way tried to throw ridicule on him.

Several years elapsed in this unsettled state, Mohammed all the while actively engaged in the propagation of his new doctrines. Apparently but little progress had been made, when he suddenly received vigorous support by the conversion of several of the noblest citizens, such as Abu-Obeida, Hamza, an uncle of Mohammed, Othman, and the stern and inflexible' Omar, who were successively gained by the moderation and influence of Abu-Bekr, with whom, by marrying his only daughter Ayesha, the prophet had become more nearly allied after the death of his wife Kadijah. With this revival of the new faith hostility against its author became more decided, and the jealous leaders of the Koreishites, directing their animosity and violence against the whole line of Hashem, now demanded that Mohammed should be delivered into their hands for punishment; and when compliance with this request was refused them, they finally pronounced excommunication against the whole tribe of the Hashemites. The feud thus kindled between the different parties also obliged the few adherents of the prophet who had thus far remained to quit Mecca, and the new religionists spread through the country. Mohammed's enemies now came forth in open revolt, and it was formally and publicly resolved that he should be slain. In order to baffle the vengeance of the Hashemites, and to divide the guilt of his death,, it was agreed that one man from every family should at the same moment plunge his sword into the heart of their victim. Nothing now remained for Mohammed but death or instant flight. At the dead of night, accompanied by his faithful. friend Abu-Bekr, he took his flight to Yatreb, afterwards known by the name of Medina (Medinat al-nabi), or the City of the Prophet.

About a league from Mecca, at the cave of Thor, the fugitives halted, and there they remained hiding for three days from their Meccan pursuers. According to one account, these, after exploring every hiding-place in the vicinity, came to the mouth of the cave. But a spider having providentially spread her web over the entrance, the Koreishites, deeming it impossible that Mohammed could have entered there, turned back from their pursuit. Perhaps a more probable explanation is that as the Koreishites knew Medina to be the destination of the fugitives, they never suspected that they could be concealed in the cave of Thor, which lay in an opposite direction. While they were in the cave, the legend goes, Abu-Bekr, contrasting their weakness with the strength of their enemies, said, trembling, "We are but two." "No," replied Mohammed, "there is a third: it is God himself." On the fourth night the prophet and his companion left their hiding-place, and, riding on camels which the servant of Abu-Bekr had brought, arrived safely at Medina sixteen days after their flight from Mecca..

Mohammed's reason for turning his face towards Medina may be found in the sympathy which the Medinans had frequently manifested towards the prophet. They had been moved to this by various causes. Mohammed's mother was a Medinan, on account of which her clansmen considered themselves under obligation to take sides with him. There was another motive still: the Medinans, jealous of the authority of Mecca as a place of pilgrimage, might have hoped to attain the ascendency over Mecca by the aid. of Mohammed and his followers. There were, moreover, many adherents to the new cause among the inhabitants of Medina, who had paid homage to the prophet while he was yet at Mecca. There were some who looked to him as perchance the Messiah expected by the Jews. Accordingly a considerable part of Medina was enthusiastic in the new cause, and when Mohammed's approach was made known to them, hundreds of its citizens advanced in procession to meet the coming prophet, welcoming him with loud acclamations; and he who a few days before had left his native city as a fugitive, with a price upon his head, now entered Medina more like a king returning victorious from battle than an exile seeking a place of refuge. This separation or flight of Mohammed from the city of his nativity, called in Arabic Hejrah, oranglicized Hegira (q.v.), formed not only an auspicious turning-point in the prophet's own life, but became the point of departure in the Mohammedan movement.

His earliest attention after his arrival at Medina was given towards the consolidation of the new worship and the minor arrangements in the congregation of his flock. At this time Mohammed endeavored, by various concessions, to gain the Jews over to his faith. He selected Jerusalem as the point of direction in prayer, appointed the tenth day of the first month as a day of fasting, and allowed the new converts to celebrate their Sabbath. But when the Jews, notwithstanding these advances, would not acknowledge him as prophet, ridiculed his pretension to be the Messiah, and enraged him by their constant taunts, he soon abrogated his concessions, became their bitterest enemy, sought closer alliance with the heathenish Arabs, and substituted practices likely to please them. In prayer the worshipper was now directed to turn towards Mecca, the month Ramadan was henceforth fixed upon as a fasting-time, and Friday as the day of rest.

Gradually Mohammed now appears in a new character. His internal arrangements perfected, his followers increased, and his allies concluding to yield him armed assistance, he was no longer content to convert his adversaries by words; he was no longer come to give peace, but to make war; where the warnings of the prophet had failed to convince, the strong arm of the conqueror must compel, and the persecuted apostle appears suddenly transformed into the triumphant soldier. He who had formerly insisted upon liberty of conscience for himself, and had opposed religious violence, now. maintained that Islam should, if necessary, be defended and propagated by the sword. "The sword," said he, "is the key of heaven and of hell: a drop of blood shed in the cause of God, or a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting and prayer; whoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven him, and at the day of judgment the loss of his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of cherubim." This was a sort of manifesto, directed mainly against the Meccans, and he was not long in carrying his new principles into practice. Not powerful enough to warrant an open fight with his enemies, he determined to weaken their strength by attacks and pillage upon the caravans of the Meccans, which on their commercial expeditions to Syria passed in the neighborhood of Medina, and erelong plunder and robbery were sanctioned, even during the sacred months yea, many an, assassination, consequent upon these attacks, was instigated by Mohammed himself.

Henceforth Mohammed ceases to be a religious leader in the eyes of the impartial biographer; he cannot possibly have, at this time, fancied himself inspired of God, and as acting according to divine pleasure; for, aside from the circumstance that some pretended revelations concerned only his own advantage, or even sometimes solely the gratification of his lust, he frequently withheld them, and waited for the temper of his adherents to manifest itself before he dared to proclaim them. Thus, to mention one instance of his irresolution and trickery, he commanded one of his votaries to waylay a caravan which he was cognizant could be reached only in a sacred month; and when the order had been complied with, and great dissatisfaction prevailed on account of this desecration of the holy month, he maintained not to have arranged the same, for he had given the order in so ambiguous a manner that he could clear himself of the responsibility of an act execrated by all Arabia.

Mohammed as an Impostor. — While at Mecca the prophet had. kept unflinchingly in his path through mockery and persecution. No threats,-no injuries, had hindered him from preaching to his people the unity and the righteousness of God, and exhorting to a far purer and better morality than had ever been set before them. He had claimed no temporal power, no spiritual domination; he had asked but for simple toleration, for free permission to win men by persuasion into the way of truth. He claimed to be sent neither to compel conviction by miracles, nor to constrain outward profession by the sword. He was but a preacher, sent to warn men that there is one God, and that there is no other; that all that He requires is that men should do justice and love mercy, and walk humbly with their God, and as the sanction of all, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, as well of the just as of the unjust. Such had been his teachings at Mecca, and in his own person he had fulfilled the duties urged upon others-a thoroughly good and righteous man, according to his light, with nothing to be alleged against his life, even if judged by a higher morality than that of the Koran. His virtues may have been hypocrisy, his mission may have been imposture, but as a resident of Mecca all his actions outwardly had created a presumption in his favor. With his arrival at Medina, however, the scene shifts, and with the days of power and victory of the. propagandist opens a dark and bloody page in the history of the East. From the moment when the formerly despised "madman and impostor" was raised to the position of highest judge, lawgiver, and ruler of Medina, and of the two most powerful Arabic tribes — thus opening a vast theater to the enthusiasm and ambition of Mohammed — his revelations assumed a much higher claim. He now inculcated as a matter of religion and of faith the waging of war against the infidels; and the sword once drawn at the command of heaven, from that time remained unsheathed until the tribes of all Arabia and the adjacent countries had joined in the profession that there is no God but Allah, and that Mohammed is his apostle.

Acts of such character, Mohammed, even if not endowed with a very delicate ethic sense, must have known to be wrong, and could have approved solely for a selfish end. Even before his emigration to Medina he had, in several instances, deviated from the truth, where it seemed to answer his purpose best. Thus he had related the whole history of the Old and New Testament prophets, spiced by Jewish and Christian. traditions, and had claimed them as communicated to him by the angel. Gabriel — an assertion which was of course discredited by the Meccans. who guessed rightly that he owed this knowledge to his conversations with foreign scriptural scholars. Revelations also concerning his Own person, and which he can certainly not have believed himself, abound in the Koran. Thus he had restricted the number of legitimate wives to four, but exempted himself from that restraint, and after the death of his first wife married twelve others. Another time he fell in love with a female slave, and when his consorts expressed their displeasure he swore that he would forsake her. A few months subsequently he had himself released from his oath by some verses of the Koran, and threatened his women with divorce if they should continue to stand in the way of his voluptuousness. His relation to Zeineb or Zaid, the spouse of his former slave and later adopted son, throws a still worse light on his revelations. Zaid, observing that Mohammed paid undue attention to his wife, caused himself to be divorced from her. ' Mohammed took her in matrimony. But when this marriage was found very reprehensible, because he had shown so little regard to Zaid's feelings, and because an adopted son with the Arabs was deemed equal to a son german, wherefore matrimony contracted with his wife, even after divorce, was considered illegal, Mohammed, in the name of God, branded as absurd, first, the usage hitherto in vogue calling an adopted male child a son, and in future declared such procedure even sinful, by actual proof drawn from the Koran, and announced that, far from having advised Zaid. to separate himself from his wife, he had rather tried to dissuade Zaid from such a course; and, in the second place, that he (Mohammed), even after the separation, afraid of men's judgment, had hesitated to marry, her, until God commanded him, in order to demonstrate that he who acted according to the Lord's will need not care for the talk of men, and in order that he might add, by the force of his own example, more vigor to the law respecting adopted sons.

But to return to the external history of Mohammed and. his votaries. First of all our attention is claimed by the first battle proper, fought near Badr, situated between Mecca and Medina, which, though insignificant as to the numbers of the combatants, was of material consequence. The original object was the pillage of a Meccan caravan. The Meccans, having been advised of this intention, despatched succor to their people, and, as was supposed, were thus prepared to meet the Hashemites and Medinans. Yet, the Meccans, although superior in number, were nevertheless defeated by Mohammed's adherents. Some Moslem writers will have it that 3000 angelic warriors, on white and black steeds, guided and assisted the faithful. The prophet himself, during the fight, was engaged in prayer. In most of the later wars, also, Mohammed generally kept at a distance from the melee. He obtained many a victory, to be sure, by skilful disposition of his forces, but he distinguished himself by no means as a brave warrior. This is especially manifest in the expedition immediately following, and undertaken by the Meccans to take revenge for the defeat, by which they had suffered not only severe loss of lives and property, but had added booty, glory, and increase to the new religionists. Mohammed, namely, when the Meccans, a few thousand strong, advanced against Medina, wanted to retire to the city and to confine himself to its defence, and only when his disciples declared this plan dishonorable, he unwillingly turned out against the enemy, and was vanquished near Mount Ohod. Many of the faithful covered the battle-field with their corpses. Mohammed himself was wounded slightly; he wore a double coat of mail and a closed helmet, so that the Meccans did not recognize him, and his companions promptly secured his safety. When the Meccans advanced a second time with a superior force, Mohammed's advice to his own to fortify themselves in the city as promptly complied with, and the Meccans, inexperienced in siege operations, and by Mohammed's intrigues having fallen cut with their confederates, were obliged after a few weeks to retire without accomplishing anything.

We pass over the wars waged by Mohammed against the Jews in Medina and in other parts of Arabia, all of which were marked by great cruelty on his side also the conflicts which he waged against several Arabian tribes allied with the Meccans, and remark only that, in spite of many a failure, in the sixth year of the Hegira (A.D. 628) he felt sufficiently confident to venture at the head of his votaries on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Yet, though he exhorted to this pilgrimage in the name of God, it was not participated in to the degree expected, and nothing remained to him but the hope that the Meccans would be afraid to shed. blood in the holy month, though he himself had violated it long ago by robbery and murder. When he arrived at the boundary of the Meccan territory, he was bidden to stop, and threatened with force in case he should attempt to penetrate into the city. After protracted negotiations, however, many Meccans being desirous of peace on account of their commercial interests, concluded it, and, among other terms, it was fixed that Mohammed should be allowed to partake of the pilgrim celebration the ensuing year. This treaty of peace, by which Mohammed was recognised as an equal power, increased his authority, and permitted him to despatch his emissaries to all parts of Arabia, to make proselytes and enter into alliances. Soon he felt strong enough to avail himself of an opportune pretext to break the peace, and on a sudden surprised Mecca, without, any formal declaration of war, at the head of 10,000 men. The chief magistrates of the city were obliged (A.D. 630) to make their submission, and acknowledged him not only as secular ruler, but as a plenipotentiary of the Deity. SEE KOREISH. With this the victory of the new religion was secured in all Arabia. While, however, employed in destroying all traces of idolatry in the besieged city, and fixing the minor laws and ceremonies of the true faith, Mohammed heard of new armies which several warlike Arabic tribes had sent against him, and which were concentrated near Taif (630). He went forth to encounter the enemy, was again victorious, and his dominion and creed extended further and further every day. From all parts flocked the deputations to do homage to him in the name of the various tribes, either as the messenger of God, or at least as the Prince of Arabia, and the year 8 of the Hegira: was therefore called the year of the Deputations.

Even before the capture of Mecca, Mohammed had been bold enough to summon the princes of the countries antiguous to Arabia — Chosroes (of Persia), the emperor Heraclius (of Constantinople), the king of Abyssinia, and several Byzantine and Persian provincial governors — to be converted to his faith. His letter to the king of Abyssinia has been discovered on a leaf of parchment, which served as a cover to a manuscript, in a Coptic monastery in Upper Egypt, and accords tolerably with what we know from Arabian biographers. It reads as follows: "In the name of God, the all- gracious and all-merciful, from Mohammed, the servant and ambassador of God, to Almucaucas, the prefect of the Copts. Hail to him who follows the divine guidance! I summon thee to confess the Islam. If thou compliest with this summons, thy salvation is secured, and God will give thee a double reward for thy devotion. 'But if thou refusest, the guilt of the Copts rests on thee. Oh, ye men of the Scriptures! approach and become our. equals by professing that we adore only Allah, unassociated with terrestrial beings, and own as Lord none beside him. If you will not agree to this, testify that we are God-resigned and faithful." The governor of Egypt was no more converted than Heraclius and Chosroes. He, however, received the delegates of Mohammed hospitably, and sent him, besides other valuable presents, two Abyssinian female slaves, one of whom (Mariam or Maria) charmed the prophet to such a degree that he neglected his other wives on her account.

The execution of one of Mohammed's emissaries by Amru, the chief of the Christian Arabs on the Syrian frontier, occasioned the first war between Mohammed and the Byzantines, terminating unfavorably to the former. Nor had a second campaign the desired Success, for he did not secure the wished-for participation of the pagan allies, and he had to be satisfied with the homage of a few minor princes on his way to the frontiers, and returned without having carried out his intention.

Towards the end of the 10th year of the Hegira he undertook, at the head of at least 40,000 Moslems, his last solemn pilgrimage to Mecca, and there (on the Mount Arafat) instructed them in all the important laws and ordinances, chiefly of the pilgrimage; and the ceremonies observed by him on, that occasion were recorded in the Koran and fixed for all time. He again solemnly exhorted. his believers to righteousness and piety, and chiefly recommended them to protect the weak, the poor, and the women, and to abstain from usury. Among the most important of his ordinances at this time are to be noticed the abolishment of the leap-year, which the Arabs, in common with the Jews, had been accustomed to observe, and in its place introduced the pure lunar year, by which alone the sacred months as well as the pilgrimage and the month of fasting were fixed. Another very important commandment which he gave at this time was that thenceforth the sacred city of Mecca was to be entered only by Mohammedans, and that even outside of it idolaters were to be entirely exterminated. Jews and Christians were to be tolerated, if they would humbly submit and pay a capitation tax. His caliph-Omaradded to the commandment, in order to humiliate those of another faith, several oppressive restrictions for the nations conquered by him, and the succeeding caliphs, according to the degree of tolerance or fanaticism actuating them, mitigated or aggravated the same. Non-Mohammedans, in order to be easily recognized as infidels, were obliged to distinguish themselves by the color of their turbans, the Jews being enjoined to wear black, the Christians blue ones. They were forbidden to carry arms, were ordered to ride on asses (not on horses), on the streets to yield the way to the Mohammedans, and in public assemblies to rise before them. Their houses must not be higher than those of the faithful; nor were they permitted to hold public processions nor ring bells, nor make proselytes, nor keep any Moslem slaves, nor acquire any captives or other military persons, nor possess any seal with Arabic letters, nor have any intimacy with Moslem females. Jews and Christians should not bet employed in offices of chancery — an interdiction enacted by Omar, but rarely observed because of the ignorance of the primitive Arabians as well as later Turks, who, for want of knowledge of state affairs, found the services of Jews and Christians in various administrative. branches indispensable.

After his return from Mecca, Mohammed busily applied himself to the fitting-out of a new expedition against the Byzantines. In the very midst of his warlike preparations he was suddenly taken dangerously ill with fever. One night, while severely suffering, we are told by Mohammedan chroniclers, Mohammed went to the cemetery of Medina, and prayed and wept upon the tombs, praising the dead, and wishing that he himself might soon be delivered from the storms of this world. For a few more days he went about; at last, too weak further to visit his wives, he chose the house of Avesha, situated near a mosque, as his abode during his sickness. He continued to take part in the public prayers as long as he could; until at last, feeling that his hour had come, he once more preached to the people, recommending Abu-Bekr and Usama, the son of Zaid, as the generals whom he had chosen for the army. He then asked, like Samuel: whether he had wronged anyone, and read to them passages from the Koran, preparing the minds of his hearers for his death, and exhorting them to peace among themselves, and to strict obedience to the tenets of the faith. A few days afterwards he asked for writing materials, probably in order to fix a successor to his office as chief of the faithful; but Omar, fearing he might choose Ali, while he himself inclined to Abu-Bekr, would not allow him to be furnished with them. In his last wanderings he only spoke of angels and heaven. He died in the lap of Ayesha, about noon of Monday, the 12th (11th) of the third month, in the year 11 of the Hegira (June 8, 632). Mohammedan biographers maintain that their prophet died of the consequences of eating roast mutton poisoned by a Jewess, who is said to have sought the revenge of a brother whom the Islamites killed in the campaign of Cheibar. But, as this campaign took place four years previous to Mohammed's death, it might have been a difficult task to the contemporary Arabian physicians to prove it, even if the attempt at poisoning were verified. It is much more probable (what also occurred in the case of Abu-Bekr, the later caliph) that such a story was concocted to have him die a martyr's death; for the Arabs regard as martyrs those who perish in a holy war, i.e., in a war carried on against infidels.

Many fictions were resorted to in the first century of the Mohammedan era to glorify their deceased prophet. Fanatic Moslems represent him to have enjoyed special favors from on high from the day of his birth. We recur to the exclamation he is said to have uttered as he made his appearance in the world; as a man, we are told the desert was covered with shade-trees as he wandered through the same, and even rocks saluted him as the apostle of the Lord. A man created before all created beings, as tradition has it (at whose birth there were supernatural manifestations), must not die of a common illness: he must perish at least as a martyr. It is difficult to decide how much Mohammed himself has contributed to these legends; certain it is that he frequently, in order to attain his ends, did not despise any means of imposture and delusion, and made the angel Gabriel play a part as bearer of divine revelations in which he did not himself believe. He probably feared the destruction of his whole work — a work which, after naive credulity and religious enthusiasm had been succeeded by sober sense, he cannot possibly have considered salutary for his people, certainly not if his new doctrines were to be forced upon them by the sword and persecution. The inconsistency of his course is certainly marvellous, for he introduced those very measures against which he had himself declaimed so loudly until suddenly transformed from the subject to the ruler. It may be granted even that he frequently played the deceiver for the good of a cause which he believed just and worthy of his best strength, and for which he judged his people ill prepared unless he could claim the authority of a divine messenger; but it is to be regretted that if Mohammed actually strove to elevate his people, as we believe he did at first, he continued the deceiver after he had attained power sufficient to enforce his dicta, and that he not unfrequently did so to further his own personal purposes, often only for a transient accommodation, as, for instance, when he represented God as commanding that nobody should enter his house unless invited, and to retire immediately after taking a meal. "The Prophet hesitates to dismiss you, even if you are tedious; but God does not hesitate to tell you the truth." As much as his public life and his appearance as prophet and legislator may be liable to censure, his private life, excepting his sensuality, if his biographers report the truth, was exemplary. He was affable, conversed with everybody, was plain in dress and diet, and so little pretentious as to forbid external reverence from his companions, and to refuse from his slaves a service which he could perform himself. He was often seen in the market buying provisions, and at home milking goats and mending clothes. He visited the sick, and was in sympathy with sufferers; he was generous and forbearing, if policy did not dictate a contrary course. His benevolence and liberality were especially makred; and indeed they must have been great, for he left no riches, though the war-booty which he shared, and the presents which flowed to him from all sides, must have placed large means at his command. Upon the whole, it cannot be denied that Mohammed improved and elevated the political and religious condition of Arabia. He united the dispersed, mutually inimical, idolatrous Arabian tribes into a great nation, allied by a faith in God and a belief in a future life. In place of bloody vengeance for murder and of rude force, he instituted an inviolable code, which, in spite of deficiencies, still forms the fundemental law of the Islamitic kingdoms. On the women he bestowed, in spite of some restrictions, many rights which they had not enjoyed before him. He mitigated the lot of slaves, as far as the spirit of his age permitted, and declared emancipation to be a work agreeable to the Deity. He cared like a father for the poor, the widows, and orphans; condemned the vices which degrade humanity and have a disturbing influence on social life, and exhorted to the virtues recommending in the Old and New Testaments. This, in brief outline, is the history of Mohammed's career. We have not been able to dwell, as we could wish, at any length, either on the peculiar circumstances of his inner lief, which preceded and accompanied his "prophetic" course, nor on the part which idolatry, Judaism, Christianity, and his own reflection; nor have we been able to trace the process by which his "mission" grew upon him, as it were, and he, from a simple admonisher of his family, became the founder of a faith to which above 130,000,000 are said to adhere.

Personal Characteristics. — In appearance, Mohammed was of middling size, had broad shoulders, a wide chest, and large bones; and he was fleshy, but not stout. The immoderate size of his head was party disguised by long locks of hair, which in slight curls came nearly down to the lobes of his ears. His oval face, though tawny, was rather fair for an Arab, but neither pale nor high-colored. The forehead was broad, and his fine and long but narrow eyebrows were separated by a vein, which you could see throbbing if he was angry. Under long eyelashes sparkled bloodshot black eyes through wide slit eyelids. His nose was large, prominent, and slightly hooked, and the tip of it seemed to be turned up, but was not so in reality. The mouth was wide; he had a good set of teeth, and the fore-teeth were asunder. His beard rose from the cheek-bones, and came down to the collarbone; he clipped his mustaches, but did not shave them. He stooped, and was slightly hump-backed. His gait was careless, and he walked fast but heavily, as if he were ascending a hill; and if he looke dback, he turned round his whole body. The mildness of his countenance gained him the confidence of every one; but he could not look straight into a man's face: he turned his eyes usually outwards. On his back he had a round fleshy tumor of the size of a pigeon's egg; its furrowed surface was covered with hair, and its base was surrounded by black moles. This was considered as the seal of his prophetic mission, at least during the latter part of his career, by his followers, who were so devout that they found a cure for their ailings in drinking the waters in which he had bathed; and it must have been very refreshing, for he perspired profusely, and his skin exhaled a strong smell. He bestowed considerable care on his person, and more particularly on his teeth, which he rubbed so frequently with a piece of wood that a Shiah author was induced to consider it as one of the signs of his prophetic mission. He bathed frequently, washed several times a day, and oiled his head profusely after washing it. At times he dyed his hair and beard red with henna, in imitation of his grandfather, who imported this habit from Yemen. Though he did not comb himself regularly, he did it now and then. At first he wore his hair like the Jews and Christians; for he said, "In all instance in which God has not given me an order to the contrary, I like to follow their example;" but subsequently he divided it, like most of his countrymen. Every evening he applied antimony to his eyes; and though he had not many gray hairs even when he died, he concealed them by dyeing or oiling them, in order to please his wives, many of whom were young and inclined to be giddy, and whose numbers he increased in proportion as he became more decrepit. The prophet was usually dressed in a white cotton shirt, or blouse, with pockets, and sleeves which reached to his wrists. He had a skull-cap and a turban on his head, the extremities hanging down the back; and sandals, with two leather straps over the instep, on his feet. In the house he wore merely a piece of cloth tied around his temles, leaving the crown of his head uncovered. Sometime he wore, instead of the shirt, a "suit of clothes," which consisted of an apron — that is to say, a piece of cloth tied round the waist and hanging in folds down to the legs, like a woman's petticoat — and a sheet, or square shawl, which was thrown over the left shoulder and wrapped round the body under the right arm. Sometimes he wrapped himself in a blanket. In temperament, Mohammed was melancholic, and in the highest degree nervous. He was generally low- spirited, thinking, and restless; and he spoke little, and never without necessity. His eyes were mostly cast to the ground, and he seldom raised them towards heaven. The excitement under which he composed the more poetical Surahs of the Koran was so great that he said that they had caused him gray hair; his lips were quivering and his hands shaking while he received the inspiration. Any offensive smell made him so uncomfortable that he forbade persons who had eaten garlic or onions to come into his place of worship. In a man of semi-barbarous habits this is remarkable. He had a wollen garment, and was obliged to throw it away when it began to smell from persipiration, "on account of his delicate consitution." When he was taken ill, he sobbed like a woman in hysterics; or, as Ayesha says, he roared like a camel; and his friends reproached him for his unmanly bearing. During the battle of Badr his nervous excitement seems to have bordered on frenzy. The faculties of his mind were extremely unequally developed; he was unfit for the common duties of life, and even after his mission he was led in all practical questions by his friends. But he had a vivid imagination, the greatest elevation of mind, refined sentiments, and a taste for the sublime.

The articles KORAN SEE KORAN and MOHAMMEDANISM SEE MOHAMMEDANISM contain some further details on his doctrine and its history.

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.