MOHAMMED

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MOHAMMED, the founder of a religion which has spread over a great part of the East, and has been productive of much good by the abolition of the worship of idols, was a scion of the Arabic line of Koreish. and the family of Hashem, cele brated in their country as the princes of the holy city of Mecca, and guardians of the kaaba. The date of his birth is placed with most probability in A. D. 569. Mecca was his native place. His grandfather, Abdul Motalleb, a rich and noble citizen, had thirteen sons. One of them, Abdallah, married Amira, and died while his son Mohammed, or Mahomet, was still a child. As he left little property, Mohammed was educated first by his grandfather, and, after his death, by his oldest uncle, Abu Taleb. This uncle, a merchant, destined Mohammed for the same employment, and was accompanied by him on a commercial journey to Syria. On this occasion, he visited a Nestorian monastery, where he was especially distinguished by one of the monks, and received impressions which perhaps contributed to give the tone to his subsequent character. The Mohammedan, writers are very prolix in their descriptions of the wonderful qualities of mind and body for which their prophet was eminent from his youth ; he shared, however, the general ignorance of his countrymen. His uncle had recommended him as agent to a rich widow, named Khadijah, and he acquitted himself so much to her satisfaction, that she married him, and thus placed him in easy circumstances. She was fifteen years older than he, but, from gratitude or prudence, he lived with her in happy and faithful wedlock, and, till her death, restrained the sensual appetites which he afterwards indulged. He was still a merchant, and made a second journey to Syria, where he again had interviews with the Nestorian monks. He seems to have had, from his youth, a propensity to religious contemplation, for he was every year accustomed, in the month Ramadan, to retire to a cave near Mecca, and dwell there in solitude. At what time the idea of a new religion came into his mind, whence, in the midst of an idolatrous people, he derived the conviction of the unity of God, and to what degree he blended the ambition to assume theprophetic character with the struggle for personal aggrandizement, are questions to which only conjectural answers can be given. That an untaught Arab should conceive elevated views of the state of man in his age, and found on them comprehensive projects, is not credible : in all probability, his first plans were limited to his countrymen. That he was honest in his zeal to abolish idolatry, and disseminate a purer doctrine, although he sought to obtain this object by deception, may be easily believed, iiwe remember the many examples of a similar inconsistency in other legislators and religious reformers. Mohammed began his pretended mission A. D. 609, in the fortieth year of his age. He first converted his wife Khadijah, to whom he communicated the particulars of an interview with the angel Gabriel, by whom he w as declared an apostle of God. Through hor instrumentality, her uncle or cousin VVaraka was gained, who is said to have been a Christian, and well acquainted with the Old and New Testaments. These were" followed by Mohammed's servant, Zeid, to whom he gave his freedom, and by his young nephew, the fiery Ali. Of great importance was the accession of Abubeker, a man of estimable character, who stood in high respect, and persuaded ten of the most considerable citizens of Mecca to follow his example. ,They were all instructed by Mohammed in the doctrines of the Islam, as the new religion was styled,which were promulgated as the gradual revelations of the divine will, through the angel Gabriel, and were collected in the Koran, (q. v.) Three years passed in the quiet dissemination of his doctrines: in the fourth, Mohammed invited his relatives of the family of Hashem to an entertainment, openly announced to them hir prophetic mission, and asked which oi them would undertake the office of his vizier. All were silent, till the youthful AH declared his readiness to do so, and, at the same time, his resolution to inflict vengeance on all who should dare to oppose his master. In vain did Abu Taleb, the father of Ali, dissuade them from the undertaking. But, although he remained himself unconverted, he did much to promote the new doctrines, by protecting Mohammed against his enemies, and affording him refuge in times of danger. On several occasions Mohammed was attacked by the adherents of idolatry with open force, and compelled to change his residence; but he often had*the satisfaction of converting his bitterest enemies. In the tenth year of his prophetic office, he suffered a severe loss in the death of Abu Taleb and his faithful Khadijah. Deprived of their assistance, he was compelled to retire, for a time, to the city of Tayef. On the other hand, he was readily received by the pilgrims who visited the kaaba, and gained numerous adherents among the families in the neighborhood. At this time occurred Mohammed's famous nocturnal journey to heaven on the beast Alborak, under Gabriel's guidance, respecting which the Koran contains some obscure intimations. In the twelfth year, the Islam was also spread among the inhabitants of Medina (Yathreb), several of whom swore fidelity to the prophet, and proffered their assistance. Mohammed now adopted the resolution of encountering his enemies with force. Only the more exasperated at this, they formed a conspiracy to murder him : warned of the imminent danger, he left Mecca, accompanied by Abubeker alone, and concealed himself in a cave not far distant. Here he spent three days undis covered, after which he arrived safely at Medina, but not without danger. This event, from which the Mohammedans commence their era, is known under the name of the Hegira (q. v.), which signifies flight. In Medina, Mohammed met with the most honorable reception: thither he was followed by many of his adherents. Mohammed now assumed the sacerdotal and regal dignity, married Ayesha, daugh^ ter of Abubeker, and, as the number of the faithful continued to increase, declared his resolution to propagate his doctrines with the sword. The hopes of booty added new fervor to the religious zeal of his partisans. Their first great military exploit was the spoiling of a rich caravan, led by Abu Sophian, the chief of the Koreishites, with a strong guard. Mohammed surprised them, with an inferior force, in the valley of Beder, and inflicted on them a total defeat. He took a rich booty, and a number of prisoners. Other successful enterprises followed ; but, inv the third year of the Hegira, Abu Sophian, with 3000 soldiers, attacked Mohammed with 950 on mount Ohud, not far from Medina. A desperate conflict ensued, in which the Moslems were utterly beaten, and the wounded prophet hardly saved his life. This misfortune naturally shook the authority of him whose pretended mission from God should have secured him the victory. But by attributing the fault to the sins of the Moslems, by promising the slain a paradise provided with all sensual enjoyments, and inculcating an unconditional predestination, he succeeded in restoring his tottering credit. Good need had he of it in the following year, 625, when Abu Sophian appeared before Medina with 10,000 men. Mohammed prudently limited himself to the defensive; but the enemy raising the siege, after twenty days, on account of internal discord, Mohammed, under the pretence of a divine command, led his party against the Jewish race of Koreidha, who had made common cause with the enemy. After twenty five days, the Jews were compelled to surrender their chief fortress to the will of the conqueror, who took the most bloody revenge, slaughtered between 600 and 700 men, and carried away the women and children into captivity. Some years afterwards, he also took Khaibar, the principal seat of the Jewish power in Arabia,, bywhich meanshe completed the subjugation of this unhappy people. It is probable that the many murders and cruelties practised on his enemies were sufficiendy justified in the eyes of his followers, by his divine mission ; but they must have been highly offended by the violation of all right and decency, of which he was guilty in his passion for Zeinab, the wife of his emancipated slave and adopted son Zeid, while a particular chapter was introduced into the Koran, to give him power to marry her; this he did publicly, without regard to a degree of relationship which the Arabs had hitherto held inviolable. This weaknesSj with respect to the female sex, increased with the years and authority of Mohammed. Besides the numerous wives, whom he took at different times, he indulged in several transient, amours, such as are forbidden in his own laws, and always justified his incontinency by new chapters in the Koran. That such shameless pretences could have any effect rather proves the credulity and fanaticism of the people than his own talents of deception. At the same time, his doctrines and authority, gained ground among the neighboring tribes. The expeditions of his officers rarely failed to produce a considerable booty. He was himself almost worshipped by his partisans. His views, meanwhile, continued to expand, and, in the seventh year of the Hegira, he sent a summons to the principal neighboring princes, particularly Chosrou Parviz, king of Persia, Heraclius, emperor of Constantinople, Mokawkas, ruler of Egypt, the king: of Ethiopia, and the princes of various districts of Arabia, to embrace the new revelation of the divine law, made through him. The manner in which this embassy was received differed according to the power and pride of those to whom it was directed. The more remote and powerful gave no heed to it: on the contrary, the weaker and nearer, who were informed of his increasing power, had cause to fear his arms. It was of particular importance to him no longer to be an exile from Mecca, the holy city, which was in a high degree the object of the adoration of the Arabs. He appeared, therefore, at the head of 1400 men, with the ostensible purpose of peaceably visiting the temple of Mecca. The Koreishites opposed his entrance, and compelled him to a treaty, in the seventh year of the Hegira. For three days only, he and his partisans wrere to be allowed to pay their devotions, unarmed, in the kaaba; on the fourth day, he was to withdraw. He succeeded, however, on this occasion, in converting three persons of influence among the Koreishites, who had afterwards still greater renown among the MoslemsCaled, Amru and Othman. In the eighth year of the Hegira, a Mohammedan army, under Zeid's command, advanced against the city of Muta, in Palestine, where the governoi of the emperor Heraclius had murdered a Moslem ambassador. Zeid was slain, and the defeat of the Moslems was prevented solely by the courage of Caled, who, on this occasion, obtained the appellation of "sword of God." A breach of compact on the part of the Koreishites gave Mohammed the desired opportunity to lead against Mecca 10,000 wellarmed soldiers, inspired by pious zeal. The terrified Koreishites made little resistance, and received fife and liberty only on condition that they embraced the Islam. The idols of the kaaba were demolished, but the sacred touch of the prophet made the black stone again the object of the deepest veneration. The temple became the principal sanctuary of the religion of Mohammed, and its professors alone are allowed access to the holy city of Mecca. This important event took place in the eighth year of the Hegira. The destruction of some celebrated idols, and the subjugation of various Arab tribes, now employed the Moslem arms. In the valley of Honain, not far from Mecca, where Mohammed incurred great personal danger, he achieved the victory only by the utmost exertions. The following year the Mohammedans call the "year of embassies," because a number of Arab tribes announced by deputies their submission and conversion. At the head of 30,000 men, among whom were 10,000 cavalry, Mohammed was resolved to anticipate the hostile plans of the emperor Heraclius. He marched into Syria to Tabuk, half way to Damascus, but returned to Medina, and contented himself with summoning the emperor in writing to embrace his doctrines. After his return, he promulgated a new chapter of the Koran, revoked all regulations in favor of idolaters, and declared all the compacts concluded with them null. He might now be regarded as master of the whole of Arabia, although all the inhabitants had not yet received his religion. He allowed the Christians a free exercise of their worship on the payment of a tribute. In the tenth year of the Hegira, Mohammed undertook his farewell pilgrimage to Mecca. On this occasion, he was surrounded with the utmost splendor, and attended by 90,000, or, as some say, 150,000 friends. This was the last important event of his life. He died soon after his return to Medina, in the arms of his wife Ayesha, in the eleventh year of the Hegira, in his sixtythird year. Of all his wives, the first alone bore him children, of whom only his daughter Fatima, wife of Ali, survived him. The Mohammedan writers undoubtedly exaggerate the corporeal and mental endowments of their prophet: it is, however, very credible, that there was a prepossessing majesty in his appearance, and that he united much natural eloquence with a decisive and enterprising mind. By these gifts, he succeeded in exalting himself above his equals, and gaining confidence and popularity. Compared with his countrymen, he stands preeminent ; compared with other legislators and monarchs, he holds but an inferior rank. Whether he himself|J3elieved what he promulgated as a divine revelation is a hard question to answer. Most probably he ought to be regarded as a religious enthusiast, who deemed himself actually inspired by the Divinity, but was not so entirely blinded as to overlook the means of making his doctrines acceptable to the people, and of confirming his dominion over their minds. Thence the fabrication of his interview with the angel Gabriel ; thence his visionary journey through the seven heavens of paradise; thence his indulgence of the sensual desires of a sensual people. The first tenet of his creed was, "Allah alone is God, and Mohammed is his prophet." At the ,same time, Moses and Christwere regarded, in his system, as divinely inspired teachers of former times, and he by no means denied the authenticity of the sacred histories and l'evelations of ancient Judaism and Christianity, which he only believed to be corrupted. The paradise which he promised to his faithful adherents was a heaven of sensual pleasure; he himself perhaps anticipated no other. His morality was compiled from the ancient Jewish and Christian systems. The faithful adoration of Allah as the only God, unwavering obedience to the commands of the prophet, the necessity of prayer, charity to47 * the poor, purifications, abstinence from forbidden enjoyments (especially from strongdrinksthis prohibition was caused by the quarrels that arose among his ad herents), bravery, upholding even to death the cause of God, and entire resignation to unavoidable fate, are the chief points of his moral system. Of solemnities, fasts and usages such a religion for a sensual people could not be destitute; but the injunction of a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina was unquestionably a political measure, in order to sanctify for ever the original seat of the Islam, and to secure permanently the political and religious importance of Arabia. These doctrines are contained in the Koran, to which was soon after added a second collection, Sunna (second book of the rules of life, founded on Mohammed's example). But all Mohammedans do not receive the lat ter: those who do, are therefore called Sunnites. One of the principal means of the rapid and extensive diffusion of his doctrines and dominion was force, all who did not submit of their own accord being compelled to do so at the edge of the sword. Rarely do we find in his history any traces of his having made use of women for promoting his plans, although hs allowed polygamy, With some restrictions, and concubinage without any bounds. That he persuaded his first wife that the attacks of epilepsy which he had were celestial trances, and' that she first procured him adherents by the propagation of this fable, seems to be a tale, devised by his Christian opponents, to expose the prophet to contempt. Certain it is that he himself declared he did not work miracles. His disciples, nevertheless, ascribe to him the most absurd miracles; for example, that a part of the moon fell into his sleeves, and that he threw it back to the heavens; that stones, trees and animals proclaimed him aloud to be the prophet of God, &c.; but of such fables we find abundance in the legends of the Christian saints. In a moral view, he can never be compared with the divine Founder of Christianity. His system has been widely propagated in Asia and Africa. The reverence which the faithful Moslems pay to the prophet, and all that is connected with him in the remotest degree, is as great as the reverence of relics has ever been in Christendom: thus, for example, the camel which carries the Koran to the kaaba, and, in the territory of Mecca, an enormous number of doves, which must not even be scared from the fields, much less be killed, because they are though?to be descended from the dove that approached the ear of Mohammed, are objects of the most sacred reverence. But. the wonderloving populace alone gives credence to the fable that Mohammed's coffin is suspended in the air: on the contrary, he lies buried at Medina, where he died, and an urn, enclosed in the holy chapelj constitutes his sepulchre, which is surrounded with iron trellis work, and is accessible to no one. The (so called) Testament of Mohammed is a spurious work of later times. Mohammed's doctrines have given rise to many sects, among which the Sunnites and Shiites, the chief ones, still entertain the most violent mutual hatred among the Persians and Turks. (See Hist, of Mohammedanism, &c, by Charles Mills; also the articles Koran, and Islam.)