Page images

III. A reference to the prophetic Scriptures, with a view to ascertain whether any disclosure is made of the future history and final termination of Mohammedism.

Let me

I. Present for your consideration an outline of historic facts regarding the rise and progress of Mohammedism.

Mohammed, the son of Abdallah, was born at Mecca, in the latter part of the sixth century. His orphan infancy was taken under the protection first of his grandfather, Abdol-Motalleb, and afterwards of his uncle, Abu-Taleb. His lineage was high, but his patrimony was small. His education, like that of his countrymen in general, was very limited; and his early life was devoted, in part to the pursuits of commerce, and in part to the occupations of war. He became the confidential agent of Kadijah, the widow of a wealthy merchant; and at the age of twenty-five years, by receiving her hand and her fortune, he took his rank among the most affluent and influential inhabitants of Mecca. For a series of years he addicted himself, at certain periods, to retirement in the cave of Hera, where he appears to have yielded his ardent mind to the impulses of an enthusiastic ambition. At length, when about forty years of age, he ventured to assume the character of a Prophet, and to affirm, that by a communication from the angel Gabriel, he was divinely appointed the Apostle of God. His wife became his first convert, his slave the second, and Ali, his youthful and impetuous cousin, the third. In the course of three years his arts of persuasion succeeded to the extent of six additional converts. In the year 612 he boldly avowed his pretensions in an assembly of his relatives and friends; and when an effort was made, by the father of Ali, to dissuade him from the prosecution of his purpose, he resolutely exclaimed, -" Though the sun were set against me on my right hand, and the moon on my left, I would not swerve from my course." He assured them that by a supernatural conveyance, he had ascended, under the guidance of Gabriel, to the very throne of the Almighty, and had been honoured with an unveiled vision of the Deity, and with direct communications from God. He declared that he had received the salutations of the patriarchs, the prophets, and the angels; and he described with graphic minuteness the marvellous scenery of the seven heavens, through which, as he asserted, he had penetrated in the night of his mysterious career.

So daring a demand on the principle of credulity was for several years successful with but

few. Many derided his pretensions, while some dreaded and others resented his ambition. Factions thus produced, disturbed and divided several of the Arab tribes; and on the death of Abu-Taleb, his powerful protector, Mohammed was compelled to seek security by flight. Accompanied by his friend Abu-Beker, he eluded with difficulty the pursuit of his enemies, and arrived in safety at Medina. This flight of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina, in the year 622, became the epoch of Mohammedan chronology, the epoch of the Hegira. The fugitive was received as a prophet, and obeyed as a sovereign. He assumed the supreme power in religion, as the Apostle of God; and from that time he issued the mandates of undisputed authority, alike in the pulpit, in the city, and in the camp. During the thirteen years of his indefatigable perseverance at Mecca, his attempts at proselytism had been viewed in the light of a bold, a perilous, and a doubtful adventure; but on his auspicious reception at Medina, his power was consolidated, his enemies were alarmed, and his converts rallied around him, with the aspect of a determined, a numerous, and a united band.

Whilst Mohammed possessed not the means of employing coercion, to augment the number of his followers, he devoted his talents and his

influence to the arts of persuasion : the results, however, were not such as to satisfy the ambition of his aspiring mind; and resources only were wanting for attempts at propagation, without the slow and uncertain processes of argument. Power, therefore, instantaneously transformed the persuasive preacher into a relentless persecutor; and most opportunely he received, as he pretended, instructions from the angel Gabriel to propagate his religion by the sword. In a discourse then delivered at Medina, and subsequently introduced into the Koran, Mohammed exclaimed, “ The sword is the key of heaven and hell; a drop of blood shed in the cause of God-a night spent under arms—is of more avail than two months of fasting and prayer. Whosoever falls in battle receives the forgiveness of his sins; at the day of judgment, his wounds shall be resplendent as vermillion, and odoriferous as musk; and the loss of his limbs shall be replaced by wings of angels and cherubim.”

The romance of Paradise which Mohammed had the extravagance to frame and the boldness to promulge, his followers had the credulity to receive. With the enthusiasm of fanatics, calculating on the rewards of eternity; with the mania of fatalism, disdaining all discrimination between security and danger; and with the fury

of hostile tribes inured to most desperate and most deadly feuds, they rushed upon their foes, regardless of their numbers, with the war-cry of Victory or Paradise.”

At the end of seven years, computed from the Hegira, the exile of Mecca became its Lord, uniting in his own person the sovereignty of its laws, the sovereignty of its armies, and the sovereignty of its religion. The conquest of Mecca facilitated the subjugation of all Arabia. But the limits of Arabia were too contracted to afford scope for the ambition and the rapacity of the conqueror. The rich and fertile regions of Syria attracted his cupidity; and when, on their march through the burning desert, his army was dismayed by the pestilential winds and the withering heats, he awakened their fears when it was difficult to enkindle their hopes, and endeavoured to deter them from desertion, by the assurance that “ Hell is hotter than the desert.” During the three years which intervened between the conquest of Mecca and his death, “ Mohammed extended his dominions to the very borders of the Greek and of the Persian Empires, and rendered his name formidable to those once mighty kingdoms. His power was now firmly established, and an impetus given to the Arabian nations, which in a few years induced them to invade, and enabled them to subdue, a great

« PreviousContinue »