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OUR knowledge of Mahomet, his life and his teaching, is derived entirely from documents which have been handed down by Muslims; no contemporary non-Muslim account is extant, and the testimony of later non-Muslim writers has as little claim to consideration as the statements in the Talmud concerning Christ. Among our authorities the Koran, for obvious reasons, occupies the foremost place. The pieces of which it is composed are acknowledged, alike by those who assert and by those who deny its supernatural character, to have been promulgated as divine revelations by the Founder of the religion himself, nor is there any ground for the supposition that the text underwent substantial change in later times. But although the authenticity of the Koran admits of no dispute its interpretation is involved in peculiar difficulties. It was not put together till about two years after Mahomet's death, and the arrangement of the chapters is wholly arbitrary, without regard to subject-matter or chronological sequence. Even a single chapter, as is recognized not only by modern European critics but also by all Muslim theologians of repute, sometimes consists of earlier and later fragments which were combined either by accident or through some mistake as to their import. Such mistakes were all the more likely to occur in consequence of the peculiarly allusive style in which the Koran is written; when it refers to contemporary persons or events, which is often the case, it seldom mentions them in explicit terms, but employs various circumlocutions. Hence it is impossible to explain the book without continually calling in the aid of Muslim tradition, as embodied in the works of theologians and historians, the earliest of whom lived some generations after the time of the Prophet. This literature is of enormous extent, but it contains many unintentional misrepresentations and many deliberate falsehoods. To separate the historical from the unhistorical elements is often difficult and sometimes impossible.

Arabia before Islam

The condition of Arabia in pre-Muslim times is, from the nature of the case, very imperfectly known to us. The great majority of the inhabitants consisted of small nomadic tribes who recognized no authority but that of their own chiefs. The nomads, being wholly ignorant of the art of writing, could leave behind them no permanent records, and as tribes were frequently broken up, in consequence of famine, internal dissensions, and other calamities, their oral traditions had little chance of surviving. It was only in a few districts that a settled and comparatively civilized population existed. Wherever such a centre of civilization was formed, the nomads in the immediate vicinity had a tendency to fall under the influence of their more cultured neighbors, and sometimes tribal confederacies, dignified with the name of "kingdoms," came into being. In early times, by far the most important of these civilized regions was to be found in south-western Arabia, the land of the Sabaeans, or, as it is now called, Yaman (i.e. the South). The power and prosperity of the Sabaeans, to which innumerable ruins and inscriptions still bear witness, began to decline about the time of Christ and were utterly overthrown, near the beginning of the sixth century, by the inroads of the half-savage Abyssinians. Meanwhile other Arabian kingdoms had arisen in the north, in particular that of the clan called the Ghassän, on the eastern frontier of Palestine, and that of the Lakhm on the Euphrates; the former kingdom was politically subject to the Byzantine Emperors, the latter to the Persians. But about the time when Mahomet came forward as a prophet both of these vassal kingdoms ceased to exist, and for a while there was nowhere within the borders of Arabia any political organization which deserved to be called a State.

In religious, as in political matters, Arabia presented no appearance of unity. The paganism of the Arabs was in general of a remarkably crude and inartistic kind, with no ritual pomp, no elaborate mythology, and, it hardly needs to be said, no tinge of philosophical speculation. The religion of the ancient Sabaeans probably bore a greater resemblance to that of the more advanced nations, but in the time of Mahomet this Sabaean religion was almost wholly forgotten, and the paganism which still survived consisted mainly of certain very primitive rites performed at particular sanctuaries. An Arabian sanctuary was, in some cases, a rudely constructed edifice containing images of the gods or other objects of worship, but often it was nothing more than an open space marked by a sacred tree or a few blocks of stone. Some sanctuaries were frequented only by members of a particular tribe, while others were annually visited by various tribes from far and near. The settled Arabs, as a rule, paid more attention than the nomads to religion, but even in the settled districts there seems to have been a singular lack of religious fervor. The traditional rites were kept up from mere conservatism and with hardly any definite belief as to their meaning. Hence wherever the Arabs came into close contact with a foreign religion, they readily adopted it, at least in name. Arabian communities professing some sort of Christianity were to be found not only on the northern frontier but also at Najran in the south. Judaised communities were especially numerous in the north-west of the Arabian peninsula, and Zoroastrian communities in the neighborhood of the Persian Gulf.

Mecca [c. 570

Among the centres of Arabian paganism, none occupied a more distinguished place than Mecca (in Arabic Makka, or sometimes Bakka) which, thirteen centuries ago, was a small town situated in a barren valley, about 50 miles from the Red Sea coast. In an open space near the middle of the town stood the local sanctuary, a kind of rectangular hut, known as the Kaba (i.e. Cube), which contained an image of the Meccan god Hubal and various other sacred objects. A large proportion of the Arabian tribes regarded Mecca with exceptional veneration; all the surrounding district was a sacred territory, within which no blood might be shed. Some miles from the town a yearly festival took place and was attended by crowds of pilgrims from all quarters. Recent investigations have proved that this institution, called in Arabic the Hajj, i.e. "festival" or "pilgrimage," originally had no connection with Mecca itself, and may possibly have been established before Mecca and the Kaba had come into existence. However this may be, it is certain that in historical times the pilgrims who attended the festival usually visited the Kaba and were treated by the Meccans as their guests; hence the annual Pilgrimage came to be intimately associated with the holy city.

In the sixth century after Christ most of the inhabitants of Mecca belonged to a tribe which bore the name of Kuraish. It was well known, however, that the Kuraish were recent immigrants. Both the town and the sanctuary had formerly been in the possession of other tribes, but as to the origin of Mecca no credible tradition survived. The Kuraish were subdivided into a number of clans, each of which claimed the right of managing its own affairs. On important occasions the chief men of the various clans met to deliberate; but there was no central authority. The sterility of the soil rendered agriculture almost impossible, and the Meccans had long subsisted by trading with distant countries. Every year great caravans were despatched to Syria and returned laden with wares, which the Meccans sold at a large profit to the neighboring Bedouins. The mercantile population of the town was naturally far superior, in general intelligence and knowledge of the outer world, to the mass of the Arabs. A considerable proportion of the Meccans had learnt the art of writing, but they used it for practical purposes only. Book-learning, as we understand it, was quite unknown to them.

At Mecca, about A.D. 570, Mahomet (properly Muhammad) was born. The clan to which he belonged, the Banu Hashim, is commonly represented by Muslim writers as one of the most distinguished branches of the Kuraish, but the evidence which we possess tends to prove that in pre-Muslim times it occupied quite a subordinate place. Of Mahomet's father, Abdallah, son of Abd-al-Muttalib, we know scarcely anything except that he died shortly before the Prophet's birth. Amina, the mother of Mahomet, died a very few years later, and the orphan boy afterwards lived for a while in the charge of his grandfather, Abd-al-Muttalib, who had a numerous family. On the death of Abd-al­Muttalib, one of his sons, Abu Talib, undertook the care of Mahomet, who seems to have been treated kindly but to have endured many hardships, since none of his near relatives were wealthy. When he was about 24 years of age he entered the service of an opulent woman, considerably older than himself, named Khadija. The antecedents and social position of Khadija are shrouded in some mystery, but it is certain that she had been twice married and that at the time when she made the acquaintance of Mahomet she was living at Mecca with several of her children, who were still quite young. Mahomet appears to have succeeded at once in gaining her confidence. She entrusted him with the management of her property, and about the year 594 sent him to Syria on a commercial expedition, which he directed with conspicuous success. On his return he became her husband. For a few years he led the life of a prosperous tradesman; several daughters were born to him and two sons, both of whom died in infancy.

The process whereby Mahomet was led to occupy himself with religious questions and finally to believe in his divine mission is altogether obscure. That the doctrines which he afterwards preached did not arise spontaneously in his mind but were mainly derived from older religions seems obvious. It appears certain, however, that he was wholly unacquainted with religious literature. Whether he ever learnt the Arabic alphabet is a question which has been fiercely debated, both among Muslims and Christians; at all events we know that, in his later years, whenever he wished to record anything in writing he employed a secretary. But the question whether he could read is of little practical importance, since no religious books seem to have existed in Arabic at that period, and that he could read any foreign language is utterly incredible. We are therefore obliged to conclude that his information was derived entirely from oral sources; who his informants were we can only conjecture. At Mecca itself there was apparently no permanent colony of Christians, Jews, or Zoroastrians, but isolated adherents of the principal foreign religions doubtless visited the town from time to time. It has often been suggested that Mahomet acquired some knowledge of Christianity during one of his commercial journeys in Syria. This is possible; but it should be remembered that an Arab trader, ignorant both of Aramaic and of Greek, would have great difficulty in obtaining information on religious subjects from Syrian Christians, since those of them who spoke Arabic usually belonged to the most illiterate class. Moreover another and a very important fact has to be taken into consideration. According to Muslim tradition there were about this time, at Mecca and a few other places in western Arabia, certain individuals who had become dissatisfied with the popular paganism, devoted themselves to religious meditation, and professed a monotheistic belief. These persons were called Hanifs, a term of which the origin and precise meaning are obscure. The Hanifs did not form a sect, for they had no organization and, it would seem, little communication with one another. Our information about them is naturally very meagre, being derived, for the most part, from scraps of poetry which they are said to have composed; but the authenticity of these pieces is often doubtful. One of the most celebrated Hanifs was the Meccan Zaid ibn Amr, who appears to have died during Mahomet's boyhood. Another was Waraka ibn Maufal, a cousin of Khadija. This man died, at a very advanced age, some years after Mahomet's marriage. The relation in which he stood to the Prophet renders him an object of peculiar interest: it is therefore all the more to be regretted that so little can be ascertained concerning him. According to one tradition, he ended by adopting Christianity, which is possibly true; he is also said to have translated part of the Christian Scriptures into Arabic, which is highly improbable. But vague as is our knowledge of the Hanifs in general and of Waraka in particular, we are justified in believing that before Mahomet's birth a movement in the direction of spiritual monotheism had already begun among the Arabs. How far this movement was originally due to Christian and other foreign influences we can scarcely hope to determine. Our acquaintance with Oriental Christianity in the sixth century is almost entirely confined to the great official Churches; the smaller Christian communities, and especially the half-Christian sects, with whom the Arabs were likely to come in contact, have, with rare exceptions, left no literary records.

With regard to the beginning of Mahomet's prophetic career, and the circumstances under which he received his earliest revelations, we possess many legends but very little genuine tradition. All accounts agree as to the fact that at this period he spent much time in fastings and solitary vigils, a practice which was probably suggested to him by the example of Christian ascetics. He appears to have been naturally of a nervous temperament, with a tendency to hysteria; whether he suffered from epilepsy, as several European writers have believed, may be doubted. In any case he was subject to paroxysms which presented the appearance of a violent fever; these seizures were regarded, both by himself and by his followers, as symptoms of divine inspiration. It is therefore evident that we are here dealing with a psychological problem which no information would enable us to solve.

The Koran admits that Mahomet forgot some of the communications made to him by God, and it is possible that even the oldest passages now extant were produced some time after he had become conscious of his divine vocation. One point seems quite clear, namely that during the first few years of his mission he did not come forward as a public preacher but carried on a secret propaganda within the circle of his more intimate companions. Among the earliest converts were his wife Khadija, his cousin Ali (properly Ali), son of Abu Pith, and Abu Bakr, who did not belong to the Prophet's clan but remained to the last his most trusted friend. The passages of the Koran which can with any probability be assigned to this more private period are few in number and invariably very short. Those which belong to the earlier part of his public career are much more numerous. They deal mainly with three subjects, (1) the unity and attributes of God, (2) the moral duties of mankind, and (3) the coming retribution. Mahomet's monotheism, like that of the later Hebrew prophets, necessarily involves the condemnation of idolatry, but it is to be noted that he nowhere describes the religion of his pagan fellow-countrymen as something wholly false. Though he identifies the one true God with the God of the Jews and the Christians, he at the same time assumes that the heathen have some knowledge of God  and even that God is, in some special sense, the God of Mecca. In a very early passage of the Koran the Kuraish are exhorted to worship "the Lord of this house," that is, of the Kaba. Hence it is evident that Mahomet considered himself rather as a reformer than as a preacher of an altogether new religion. Similarly in dealing with ethical questions he often implies that the pagan notions of justice, honour, and propriety are to some extent valid. Thus, for instance, his repeated denunciations of avarice are quite in the spirit of the ancient Arabs, to whom the "miser" was an object of special abhorrence.

Doctrine of the Koran

But in contradistinction to the ethical code of the heathen, which was mainly based upon tribal patriotism (asabiya), Mahomet emphasizes the universal obligations of morality, and above all the duty of forgiving injuries instead of avenging them. It is in his doctrine of the Judgment and the life to come that he departs most widely from the ordinary beliefs of the time. The heathen Arabs, like other primitive peoples, were familiar with the notion of a ghost, or wraith, which haunts, at least for a while, the resting-place of the dead body; but the idea of a future retribution was quite foreign to their habits of thought. The doctrine of the Resurrection, as it appears in the Koran, seems to be mainly derived from Christianity; that some details were borrowed from Judaism or Zoroastrianism is possible but can scarcely be proved. Mahomet, as we might have expected, conceives the Resurrection after the most crudely materialistic fashion; to him the reconstruction of the physical organism was an essential postulate of the future recompense. The descriptions of the Judgment itself and of the torments of the damned do not differ substantially from those which are found in popular Christian writings of medieval and modern times. On the other hand the delights of Paradise are often painted in colors to which neither Christianity nor Judaism affords any parallel. But what especially characterizes the older portions of the Koran is the constant emphasis laid on the nearness of the Resurrection and the Day of Judgment. Although Mahomet nowhere specifies any definite time, and when questioned on this point by his opponents always professed ignorance, it is clear that he lived in daily expectation of the great events which formed the main subject of his preaching. Nor is this at all inconsistent with the fact that some passages of the Koran seem to announce a special calamity which was to befall the Meccans for their unbelief, rather than a world-wide catastrophe. Similarly, it will be remembered, among the early Christians the expectation of the judgment of the world and the expectation of the overthrow of Jerusalem were sometimes so closely connected as to become indistinguishable.

A great part of the Koran consists of narratives, inserted for purposes of edification. Scarcely any of these can be described as historical; on the other hand, scarcely any is a pure invention of Mahomet's. In almost every case he utilizes some legend that he has heard, in order to enforce his doctrines. Thus he repeatedly introduces persons mentioned in the Old Testament and puts into their mouths discourses in favor of monotheism, moral precepts, etc. The opposition which they encountered and the chastisements which overtook their adversaries are likewise described at great length. The allusions to Christ and the early Christian Church present some very curious and hitherto unexplained features. That Christ, or any other being, can be a "son of God" is emphatically denied; at the same time the belief that Christ was born of a virgin is fully accepted, and among the prophets of past ages He occupies a specially prominent place. But of the facts of Christ's life Mahomet appears to have known next to nothing. In one of the later chapters of the Koran the Jews are condemned for asserting that Christ was put to death and the crucifixion is represented as a deceptive appearance. The fact that Christians believed in the Crucifixion is totally ignored, and we may therefore conclude that on this very important point Mahomet's Christian informants held opinions resembling those which are ascribed to the ancient Docetists.

The disciples of the Prophet called themselves Muslims, but were usually known by the name of "Sabians(Sabiun). Their organization and rules of life were at first of a very simple kind. They bound themselves to abstain from idolatry and from certain immoral practices, especially fornication and infanticide. The cult consisted mainly of prayers, according to the formulae prescribed by the Prophet; meetings for this purpose were held at stated times, but always in strict privacy. In order to indicate that the God whom he proclaimed was identical with the God of the Jews, Mahomet commanded his followers to adopt the Jewish practice of praying towards Jerusalem. At this time he appears to have had scarcely any notion of the difference between Judaism and Christianity; consequently he was able to regard both Jews and Christians as his brethren in religion.

Opposition of the Meccans

For several years Mahomet continued to preach with little apparent success. His converts were, with rare exceptions, persons of a low class or even foreign slaves, such as Bila the Abyssinian. Some members of his own family, in particular his uncle Abd-al-Uzza, nicknamed Abu Lahab, bitterly opposed him; even his protector Abu Talib remained to the last an unbeliever. It would be a mistake to suppose that the enemies of the new faith were actuated by religious fanaticism. They were, for the most part, simply men of the world who, proud of their social position, objected to recognizing the claims of an upstart and dreaded any sweeping change as likely to endanger the material advantages which they derived from the traditional cult. To the majority of the citizens Mahomet appeared a madman; some called him a "poet," an accusation which gave him great pain, for, as the Koran shows, he regarded the poets with peculiar aversion. That he had to endure many affronts was quite natural, but actual violence could not have been employed against him without risk of a blood-feud, which the Meccans were always most anxious to avoid. Those of his disciples, however, who had no relatives to protect them were occasionally treated with cruelty. At length the majority of the converts, finding their position intolerable, fled for refuge to Abyssinia, with the full consent, if not at the express command, of the Prophet. He himself remained at Mecca with a mere handful of followers.

When it became known that the emigrants had been kindly received by the Christian king of Abyssinia, considerable alarm prevailed among the chiefs of the Kuraish, lest the Abyssinians, whose devastating invasions were still vividly remembered, should be tempted to intervene on behalf of the persecuted Muslims. Accordingly a deputation was sent from Mecca for the purpose of persuading the king to hand over the fugitives as prisoners; the king, however, refused, whereupon the indignation of Mahomet's enemies was still further excited. The Prophet, reduced to extremities, fell into the error of attempting to overcome opposition by means of a compromise. He went so far as to publish a revelation in which the three principal goddesses of Mecca were recognized as "highly exalted beings whose intercession may be hoped for." For a while the polytheists appeared to be satisfied, and a report that the persecution was at an end caused some of the emigrants to come back from Abyssinia. In the meanwhile the Prophet repented of the concession he had made, and declared that the verse in question had been put into his mouth by Satan. The feud thereupon broke out afresh. To the heathen Meccans Mahomet's conduct on this occasion naturally seemed to convict him of imposture; since, however, he had long been accustomed to regard all his impulses as due to some supernatural cause, it is by no means certain that he did not sincerely believe himself to be acting by divine command both when he made the concession and when he withdrew it.

Mahomet reduced to straits

It was probably about this time that an important conversion took place, that of Omar (Umar) ibn al-Khattab, a young man of no high social position but endowed with extraordinary ability and perseverance. He had at first been vehemently opposed to the new religion, so that his sudden conversion, of which there are several conflicting accounts, attracted all the more notice and doubtless inspired the Muslims with fresh courage. It is said that he set the example of praying publicly, in the neighborhood of the Kaba; at all events from this time onwards the movement assumed a more open character. The chiefs of the Kuraish finally determined to adopt the only method of coercion known to them, short of positive violence; they offered to Mahomet's kinsmen, the Banu Hashim, the choice of declaring him an outlaw or of being themselves excluded from intercourse with the other Meccan clans. Most of the Banu Hashim were still unbelievers, but such was the sanctity attached to ties of blood that they all, with one or two exceptions, preferred to incur the penalty of social excommunication rather than deliver over Mahomet to his enemies. How long this breach lasted and by what means it was healed is uncertain; probably the manifold inconveniences which it caused to all parties soon brought about a change of public opinion.

Very soon after intercourse had been re-established between the Banu Hashim and their fellow-townsmen, two serious calamities befell Mahomet, the death of his wife Khadija and that of his protector Abu Talib. There can be little doubt that this double bereavement rendered the Prophet's position at Mecca more precarious; henceforth he began to consider the possibility of finding a home elsewhere. His first attempt was made at a neighboring town, called Taif, but he met with so unfavorable a reception that he speedily returned to Mecca, where he succeeded in obtaining a promise of protection from an influential heathen, Mutim ibn Adi. For two or three years the Prophet remained in his native city, making, it would seem, scarcely any effort to gain fresh converts among the resident population. His attention was turned chiefly to the pilgrims who visited Mecca or the immediate neighborhood on the occasion of the yearly festivals. To these motley crowds he used to preach his doctrines, generally encountering indifference or ridicule. There were, however, some exceptions. In A.D. 620 he fell in with some pilgrims from Yathrib and, finding them well-disposed, entered into a series of negotiations which finally brought about a complete change not only in his own fortunes but in the history of the world.

The Converts from Medina [616-620

Yathrib, known in subsequent times as Medina, was a scattered group of villages rather than a city, situated in a fertile plain about 200 miles to the north of Mecca. Unlike the Meccans, who subsisted by commerce, the people of Medina had, from time immemorial, devoted themselves to agriculture, in particular to the cultivation of the date-palm. Long before the birth of Mahomet, Jewish colonists established themselves at Medina and propagated their religion with such success that by the beginning of the sixth century most of the inhabitants professed Judaism and were regarded as Jews, though they must have been mainly of Arab descent. These Judaised Arabs were divided into several clans, each occupying its own territory. In civilization, especially in mechanical arts such as metal-working, they were greatly superior to their heathen neighbors, and for a while they dominated the whole district. But in the course of the sixth century, owing to circumstances with which we are imperfectly acquainted, the power of the Jews declined. Much of their territory passed into the hands of two heathen tribes (the Aus and the Khazraj), who in the time of Mahomet formed the bulk of the population. Between these tribes there raged a long and bitter feud. About the year 616 the Aus, with the help of the Jews, inflicted a severe defeat upon the Khazraj; this battle is known in Arabian tradition as the Day of Buath. But the Khazraj, though humbled, were by no means crushed, and during the next few years everyone went about in fear of his life. To the more intelligent of the people of Medina the situation must have seemed intolerable; peace was urgently required, yet no authority capable of restoring peace appeared to exist.

Such was the state of affairs when certain influential citizens of Medina became acquainted with Mahomet. Some of them who through intercourse with Jews had already imbibed monotheistic ideas, were doubtless attracted by his religious teaching; others perhaps, who were indifferent to religion, felt that a stranger claiming to speak with divine authority might be able to effect what they themselves had attempted in vain. In any case, a period of about two years elapsed between their first interview with the Prophet and their final decision to offer him a home in their midst. Meanwhile he had sent to Medina one of his Meccan disciples, Musab ibn Umair, to act as his representative and keep him informed of all that passed.

The Emigration

In the year 622, on the occasion of the annual pilgrimage, about seventy of the converts from Medina arranged to hold a meeting with Mahomet at midnight a few miles from Mecca. The Prophet went thither in the company of his uncle Abbas, who was still an unbeliever, but from the heathen public in general the matter was carefully concealed. Mahomet demanded of the Medinese a solemn promise that if he betook himself to their country they would protect him from attack as they would protect their own families. This they all swore to do. As soon as he had secured a place of refuge, the Prophet ordered his Meccan disciples to emigrate to Medina. Attempts were made by the chiefs of the Kuraish to prevent the departure of the Muslims, but nearly all succeeded in escaping and reached Medina a few weeks later in small parties. The Prophet himself, with Abu Bakr and Ali, remained behind for a short time, apparently awaiting news as to the manner in which the Emigrants had been received. It is related, on somewhat doubtful authority, that his departure was hastened by a plot to assassinate him in his bed. In any case he left Mecca secretly, accompanied by Abu Bakr, in the summer or early autumn of 622. For a few days they remained hidden in a cave near Mecca, and then proceeded, as rapidly as possible, to Medina. Thus was accomplished the great event known as the Emi­gration (hijra, distorted by Europeans into hegira), which forms the starting-point of the Muslim era.

On his arrival at Medina the Prophet was welcomed with enthusiasm by a large proportion of the natives; but he did not at once claim the position of a ruler. Those who acknowledged his divine mission could merely promise personal obedience. The people as a whole had not submitted to his authority; they were only his "Helpers" (Ansar), pledged to defend him, for, according to Arabian notions, a guarantee of protection given by one member of a clan binds all the rest. It was by the gradual extension of his personal influence, not in virtue of any formal agreement, that he succeeded in making himself master of the place. The Meccan "Emigrants " (Muhajiranwere, of course, entirely devoted to him from the first, and formed, so to speak, his bodyguard. Many of the Medinese, especially those of the younger generation, were no less zealous in his cause; their principal duty, during the first few months after the Emigration, consisted in housing and feeding the Emigrants. But not a few, even of those who called themselves Muslims, were either hostile or indifferent; the Koran frequently refers to them as the "Hypocrites". The most celebrated of these was a certain Abdallah ibn Ubayy, a chief of the Khazraj, who before the arrival of Mahomet had played a very prominent part. The opposition of such persons is to be ascribed mainly to personal jealousy or other worldly motives. More consistent, and hence more formidable, was the enmity of the Jews. It is clear that at first Mahomet confidently reckoned on their support, but he soon discovered his mistake. With rare exceptions they absolutely refused to acknowledge him as a prophet, and thus forced him to become their adversary. Henceforth the antagonism between Islam and Judaism began to show itself even in externals. This was seen most clearly when, in the second year after the Emigration, Mahomet ordered his disciples to pray towards Mecca instead of praying towards Jerusalem.

The historian Ibn Ishak has preserved for us the text of an important document which seems to have been drawn up, under the Prophet's direction, at about this time. It may be described as an attempt to settle, at least provisionally, the relations between the various classes into which the people of Medina were divided. All the inhabitants, believers and unbelievers alike, are declared to be a single community (umma); the clans remain distinct for certain purposes but are debarred from making war on one another. Should any dispute arise, the matter is to be brought before "God and Mahomet." All are bound to unite for the defence of Medina in case it should be attacked. No one is to conclude an agreement with the Kuraish (i.e. the heathen Meccans) or with any ally of the Kuraish.

Legislation of the Koran

The establishing of public security at Medina was necessarily the first object which the Prophet had in view; but in addition to this he found himself compelled to supply his own followers with the rudiments of a legal code. At Mecca his teaching had been almost entirely confined to the sphere of faith and personal morality; of external regulations he had seldom had occasion to speak. But as soon as Islam became the religion of a political society, the need of positive enactments made itself felt. Hence those parts of the Koran which were produced after the Emigration—amounting to rather more than one-third of the whole book — consist largely of prescriptions as to the details of practice both in religious and secular matters. Systematic legislation was, of course, a thing of which Mahomet could form no idea; he provided for each case as it occurred, not striving after theoretical consistency but freely modifying previous commands in order to suit altered circumstances. That all these contradictory directions were given out as the word of God caused scarcely any embarrassment at the time, for it was assumed that the Deity, like any other despot, may revoke His orders whenever He chooses; but it is needless to say that later generations, who had no trustworthy information as to the dates of the various passages, some­times found it hard to decide which commands were revoked and which were still in force. In a few cases we are informed by early Muslim authorities that passages of the Koran were not only "revoked" but actually suppressed.

The institutions which assumed a definite form during the years subsequent to the Emigration may be classed under the following heads : — (1) Religious ceremonial, (2) Fiscal and military regulations, (3) Civil and criminal laws.

To the first class belong the five obligatory daily prayers, the public service held every Friday, the duty of fasting from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan, and the annual Pilgrimage (of which more will be said later). To these may be added the rules of ceremonial purity, the distinctions between lawful and unlawful food (which were largely borrowed from Judaism), and the prohibition of wine-drinking. The rite of circumcision—performed on boys, not, as among the Jews, on infants —prevailed everywhere in heathen Arabia and was retained by the followers of Mahomet; but it is never mentioned in the Koran and does not properly form part of the religion of Islam.

The second class includes the payment of "alms," that is, a kind of income-tax levied on all Muslims, originally for the relief of the poor, but in later times for the maintenance of the State. Moreover all Muslims capable of bearing arms might, under certain circumstances, be required to serve as soldiers.

The civil and criminal laws laid down in the Koran are partly based on old Arabian usages and are partly of foreign origin. Slavery and polygamy having existed in Arabia from time immemorial, we may assume, as a matter of course, that Mahomet never thought of abolishing either the one or the other, but he introduced certain restrictions whereby the condition both of slaves and of women was somewhat improved. In particular, he condemned the practice of "inheriting women against their will," that is, of treating widows as chattels to be appropriated by the dead man's heir. He also made every effort to secure the rights of orphans and in general to protect the weak against the strong. The ancient rule of blood-revenge he recognized in principle, but confined it within narrow limits. A startling innovation, from the point of view of the Arabs, was the punishment of fornication by scourging. It may be mentioned that, according to tradition, the Koran once contained a passage which ordered that fornicators should be put to death by stoning; and Omar, when he was Caliph, is said to have maintained that this law was still in force.

In describing the Prophet's sojourn at Medina, it is necessary to say something of his domestic history, to which several passages of the Koran explicitly refer. Before he left Mecca, he had already taken to himself a second wife, named Sauda, and during the years which followed the number of his wives steadily increased. The most celebrated of them was Aisha (daughter of Abu Bakr), whose marriage to Mahomet took place a few months after his arrival at Medina; she was then only about nine years old, but in spite of her tender age she rapidly acquired great influence. When, some five years later, she was accused of misconduct, a passage of the Koran was specially revealed for the purpose of clearing her character. The ascendancy which she gained during the Prophet's lifetime continued long after his death and enabled her to play a prominent but by no means an honorable part in the politics of that period. In the books of Muslim tradition Aisha is one of the authorities most frequently cited.

For more than a year after the Emigration Mahomet and his Meccan disciples were in a condition of great economic distress. The attempts which they made to relieve their necessities by means of pillage did not at first prove successful. In these earliest raids the natives of Medina took no part, for the general principle that it is the duty of Muslims to engage in aggressive warfare against unbelievers had not yet been announced. Moreover it is to be noticed that Mahomet did not at once venture to shock the feelings of his countrymen by violating the sanctity of the four sacred months during which, according to ancient custom, no raids were permitted. At length, towards the end of the year 623, he sanctioned an attack, in the sacred month of Rajab, upon a caravan belonging to the Kuraish, at Nakhla near Mecca. The caravan was taken by surprise and the raiders came back with a considerable amount of booty to Medina. But so strongly was this expedition condemned by public opinion that the Prophet found it necessary to give out that his orders had been misunderstood.

624] Battle of Badr

Two months later his followers achieved their first victory. A large caravan, laden with rich merchandise, was returning from Syria to Mecca under the leadership of Abu Sufyan, the chief of the Banft Umayya, one of the proudest families among the Kuraish. Mahomet determined to waylay it at Badr, a place south-west of Medina, a few miles from the Red Sea coast, and himself set out thither with rather more than 300 armed men, of whom about 80 were Emigrants and the rest Medinese. Abu Sufyan, however, received news of the intended attack, changed his route and despatched a messenger to Mecca asking for help. The Kuraish hastily fitted out an expedition consisting of about 900 men, among whom were most of the Meccan aristocracy. While they were on their way northward they learnt that the caravan had succeeded in reaching a point where it was out of danger; some of them therefore returned to Mecca, but the great majority, confident in their superior numbers and equipment, determined to advance, rather, it would seem, with the intention of overawing than of crushing their adversary. The two armies reached Badr almost at the same moment. Mahomet, ignorant of what had happened, was still expecting the caravan; on discovering his mistake he probably saw that a retreat would be extremely perilous, if not impossible, and accordingly resolved to fight. The Meccans, on this occasion, displayed an extraordinary slackness and absence of forethought. They allowed Mahomet to take possession of a well situated in their immediate neighborhood and thereby to deprive them of their water-supply. Next morning, when they approached the well they found the bulk of Mahomet's army drawn up around it. But even then no general attack was made. One by one, or in small groups, a number of Meccan chieftains came forward and were killed in hand-to-hand combat by champions of the opposite side. Among the slain was one of the most formidable of the Prophet's enemies, Abu-l-Hakam, son of Hisharn, usually known by the nickname Abu Jahl. Mahomet himself did not take part in the fighting but remained in a small hut which had been erected for him, praying with passionate fervor and trembling violently. At length, about noon, the Meccans, realizing that nothing was to be gained by further bloodshed, began to retire. Being much better mounted than their opponents, they were able to escape with a loss of only 70 slain and 70 captured. Of the Muslims 14 had fallen.

Battle of Uhud  [625

Insignificant as this battle may appear from a military point of view,  the importance of its results can scarcely be exaggerated. Hitherto the enemies of the Prophet had continually taunted him with his inability to perform miracles; now at length it seemed as if a miracle had been wrought. The victory gained at Badr over a greatly superior force is ascribed in the Koran to the intervention of angels, an explanation which, it is needless to say, was unhesitatingly accepted by all Muslims. On his return to Medina, Mahomet ventured on a series of high-handed measures which struck terror into all his opponents. Several persons who had offended him were assassinated by his order. At the same time the Banu Kainuka, one of the Jewish clans resident at Medina, were banished from the place; their houses and valuables became the property of the Muslims.

Meanwhile the Meccans, irritated by their defeat and fearing for the safety of their caravans, on which they were dependent for the means of subsistence, had determined to make an attack in force. Early in the year 625 an army of about 3000 men, commanded by Abu Sufyan, marched from Mecca and encamped near a hill called Uhud, a few miles to the north of Medina. A considerable proportion of the Medinese, in particular Abdallah ibn Ubayy, wished to remain on the defensive; but Mahomet, with less than his usual prudence, rejected their advice. Although the force at his disposal scarcely numbered 1000 men, he resolved to make a sortie and assail the Meccans in the rear. At first this bold plan appeared likely to prove successful. He was able to take up a strong position on the slopes of Uhud, whence the Muslims charged the enemy and drove them back with some loss. But the Meccan horsemen, led by Khalid ibn al-Walid, succeeded in outflanking the Muslims, who were at once thrown into confusion. Some fled to Medina, while others fought their way back to the hill. Among these latter was Mahomet himself, who for a while remained hidden in a ravine. Meanwhile a rumor that he was slain had spread in the ranks of the Meccans, and for this reason, it would appear, they did not take advantage of their victory. Supposing that they had sufficiently avenged the bloodshed at Badr, they made no attempt to attack Medina but prepared to march homewards. Of the Muslims only about 70 men were left dead on the battle-field; one of these was Hamza, the Prophet's uncle, a valiant warrior, it is true, but not by any means a model of piety. Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan and mother of the Caliph Meawiya, had, together with a number of other women, accompanied the Meccan army; remembering that Hamza had slain some of her nearest relatives at Badr, she took vengeance on his corpse by tearing his liver with her teeth. Such barbarity was quite unusual among the Arabs of that period, and it is therefore not to be wondered at that the act of Hind was long afterwards a topic on which the enemies of her posterity loved to dwell.

625-627] Punishment of the Banu-n-Nadir

When the Meccans began to retreat, Mahomet, realizing that Medina was no longer in danger, endeavored to efface the shame of his defeat by a great show of activity. Although he had himself received some slight wounds he marched a few miles in the track of his victorious foes, obviously not with the intention of attacking them but in order to reassure his own followers. This plan attained its object, and there is no reason to suppose that after the battle his influence at Medina was in any way diminished.

A few months later he made a second attack upon the Jews. The Banu-n-Nadir, a Jewish clan who owned some of the most valuable palm-gardens in the neighborhood of Medina, were suspected, rightly or wrongly, of plotting to murder him. He accordingly declared war against them, and after a siege which lasted about three weeks forced them to emigrate to Khaibar, an oasis inhabited chiefly by Jews, about 100 miles north of Medina. The lands of the Banu-n-Nadir were partly appropriated by Mahomet and partly divided among the Emigrants, who thus ceased to depend on the charity of the Helpers.

That Mahomet's conduct should have been bitterly resented by the Jewish population of Arabia is quite natural; but on this, as on other occasions, the Jews showed themselves wholly incapable of combining in order to resist him by force. The utmost that they attempted was to stimulate the enmity of the heathen Meccans and of the neighboring nomadic tribes. By this time the chiefs of the Kuraish had perceived the fruitlessness of their victory at Uhud and they there­fore listened readily to the Jewish emissaries who urged them to make another and a more serious effort. Accordingly, in the year 627, an alliance against Mahomet was formed between the Kuraish and a number of Bedouin tribes, of whom the most important were the Fazarathe Sulaim and the Asad. The combined forces of the Kuraish and their allies proceeded to march towards Medina. They are said to have numbered 10,000 men, which is perhaps an exaggerated estimate, but in any case it is certain that they formed an army much larger than that which had fought at Uhud two years earlier. Meanwhile the Khuzdaa tribe who dwelt in the immediate neighbourhood of Mecca, had sent to Mahomet full information as to the impending attack; their conduct was probably due much more to jealousy of the Kuraish than to any special sympathy with Islam. By the time the assailants reached Medina the town was well prepared to stand a siege. In most places nothing more was necessary than to erect a few barricades between the houses; but on one side there was a large open space, across which Mahomet caused a trench to be dug. This device, which appears to us so obvious, struck the Arabs with astonishment; by Mahomet's enemies it was denounced as a dishonorable stratagem. Hence this siege is usually called "the Campaign of the Trench." The idea, we are told, was suggested to the Prophet by an emancipated slave of unknown origin, who is celebrated in Muslim tradition under the name of Salman the Persian; at all events the word applied to the trench (khandakis derived from the Persian language. In digging the trench Mahomet himself took an active part. The implements required for the purpose were mostly supplied by the Kuraiza, the only Jewish clan who still remained at Medina. It is difficult to believe that the Kuraiza regarded Mahomet with friendly feelings, but it would appear that, in spite of the manner in which he had treated their coreligionists, they still considered themselves as bound by their agreement with him; moreover they probably realised that if Medina were taken by storm the hordes of Bedouins would plunder all parties indiscriminately. During the siege the vigilance and discipline of the Muslims contrasted strangely with the disorder which prevailed on the opposite side. The besiegers, in spite of their vastly superior numbers, seem never to have contemplated a real assault. Small troops of cavalry now and then endeavored to cross the trench but were easily repulsed by a shower of arrows and stones; on the one occasion when some of them succeeded in forcing an entrance they soon found it necessary to retreat. In explanation of these facts it must be remembered that an extreme dread of attacking fortifications, however rudely constructed, has been characteristic of the Arabs, and in particular of the Bedouins, down to the present day.

Though the loss of life on either side was quite insignificant, both the besiegers and the besieged were soon reduced to great straits. The cold and stormy weather severely tried the defenders of the trench, while the Bedouins without suffered greatly from lack of provisions. Accordingly both parties strove hard to bring the siege to an end by means of negotiation. Mahomet's principal object was to detach the Bedouins from their alliance with the Kuraish; the besiegers, on the other hand, sent secret messages to the Kuraiza urging them to violate their agreement with Mahomet. The chief of this Jewish clan, Kab ibn Asad, at first indignantly refused to listen to these suggestions, but finally he yielded, and the Kuraiza forthwith assumed so menacing an attitude that the Muslims became seriously alarmed. The Jews, however, did not venture to make an attack; they remained, as usual, shut up in their fortresses, until the Kuraish and their allies, weary of waiting, suddenly raised the siege, which had lasted only a fortnight, and returned to their homes. Thus ended the last attempt, on the part of the Meccan aristocracy, to crush the new religion.

As soon as the besiegers had departed the vengeance of Mahomet naturally fell on the Kuraiza. He did not content himself with pillaging them but, having compelled them to surrender after a brief siege, offered them the choice of conversion to Islam or death. The heroism which they displayed on this occasion seems hard to reconcile with their former timidity; rather than commit apostasy they preferred to be slain one by one in the market-place of the town. The number of these martyrs amounted to over six hundred; the women and children were sold as slaves.

628] Expansion of Islam

Henceforth the population of Medina was, at least in name, almost exclusively Muslim; the "Hypocrites" who remained were a small minority, and though they sometimes angered the Prophet by their murmurs and intrigues he had no reason to fear them. Accordingly his policy, which he had at first represented as one of self-defence, now became avowedly aggressive. Medina was no longer the refuge of a persecuted sect — it was the seat of a religious despotism which in a few years subjugated the whole of Arabia. To ordinary Europeans this development of Islam naturally appears as a mere misuse of religion for purposes of political aggrandizement; it is, however, necessary to remember, in judging of Mahomet's conduct, that the communities which he attacked were not organized States but societies which recognized no permanent bond save that of blood. With the exception of the Kuraish, who inhabited a sacred territory, almost every Arabian tribe was engaged in perpetual feuds with its neighbors. In founding a community united solely by religion Mahomet necessarily placed himself in a position of antagonism to the tribal system, which required every man to take the part of his fellow-tribesmen against the members of all other tribes. But Mahomet was very far from being a cosmopolite of the modern type. Though his doctrines logically involved the equality of all races, it probably never occurred to him that it was his duty to ignore national and tribal distinctions. The authority of the tribal chiefs was not to be overthrown but it was to be subordinated to a higher authority, which could be none other than that of the Prophet himself. Moreover Mahomet's belief in the peculiar sanctity of Mecca rather increased than diminished during his long exile. Until the House of God had been purged of idols the main object of the Prophet's mission was still unattained. To win over Mecca to the true faith seemed therefore a matter of supreme importance.

The first expedition made for this purpose took place in the year 628. Shortly before the time of the annual Pilgrimage Mahomet marched towards Mecca accompanied by several hundreds of his disciples and taking with him a large number of camels which were marked with badges, according to ancient Arabian custom, to denote that they were victims intended for sacrifice. If his aim was to force his way into the city, he carefully concealed the design, giving out that he and his followers were coming simply as pilgrims, to do honor to the Meccan sanctuary. He hoped to convince the Kuraish that Islam would not in any way interfere with the privileges which they had hitherto enjoyed, and he persuaded himself that they might thereby be induced to recognize his claims. But the memory of the bloodshed at his command and especially of the occasion on which he had violated the truce of the sacred months was vividly present to the minds of the Meccans, and they determined on no account to admit him. When he reached Hudaibiya, a place within a few hours' march of Mecca, he found his way blocked by an armed force consisting partly of Meccans and partly of their Bedouin allies. A series of negotiations ensued, in the course of which Othman (properly Uthman) ibn Ann went as Mahomet's agent to Mecca; the selection of this man was doubtless due to his being a relative of Abu Sufyan and other influential citizens. During Othman's absence a rumor that he had been murdered spread through the camp of the Muslims, whereupon Mahomet, fearing, or pretending to fear, an attack on the part of the Kuraish, assembled his followers under a tree and required from each of them a promise that he would on no account flee, if a conflict took place. To this scene the Koran alludes' as one specially pleasing to God; hence in Muslim tradition it is called "the Homage of good pleasure." Almost immediately afterwards Othman returned to Hudaibiya, bringing, it would seem, proofs that his mission to Mecca had not been fruitless. The negotiations were accordingly resumed in the Prophet's camp, whither the Kuraish sent a certain Suhail ibn Amr as their representative. After prolonged discussion a compromise was agreed upon, whereby Mahomet consented to withdraw for that year, while the Kuraish, on their part, promised that the year following he and his disciples should be allowed to enter Mecca, without weapons, and remain there for three days. Furthermore both parties were to refrain from hostilities for ten years; during that time no member of the Kuraish who was still a minor might join the Muslim community without the permission of his parents or guardians, whereas the sons of Muslims might freely go over to the Kuraish.

The terms of this treaty appeared at first so unfavorable to Islam that the more zealous followers of the Prophet, in particular Omar, vehemently protested. Mahomet, however, perceived that the conditions, humiliating as they might seem, would in the end turn to his advantage, and he accordingly adhered to them in spite of the opposition of his too eager disciples. Never was his influence put to so severe a test and never did he achieve a more signal triumph. From the moment when the treaty of Hudaibiya was concluded the number of conversions to Islam became larger than ever.

According to the ordinary Muslim tradition, the Prophet about this time took a step which showed that he contemplated the conversion not only of Arabia but of the world—he despatched messengers to the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, to the Persian king, and to various other foreign potentates, summoning them to recognize his divine mission. But the evidence for this story is by no means satisfactory, and the details present so many suspicious features that it may be doubted whether the narrative rests on any real basis.

629]  Battle of Muta

Soon after his return to Medina, Mahomet set out on an expedition against Khaibar, where the banished Banu-n-Nadir had taken refuge. The Jews, as usual, shrank from a conflict in the open plain and shut themselves up in their fortresses, which fell one by one into the hands of the Muslims. The vanquished were compelled to surrender all their wealth, which was very considerable, but they were permitted to remain at Khaibar as cultivators of the soil, on condition that half of the produce should be annually made over to the Muslim authorities. This is the first instance of an arrangement which was afterwards adopted in most parts of the Muslim Empire where the population consisted of non-Muslims.

Early in the year 629 Mahomet, with about 2000 followers, carried out his project of visiting Mecca as a pilgrim, in accordance with the treaty of Hudaibiya. For the stipulated three days he was allowed to occupy the sacred city and to perform the traditional ceremonies in the sanctuary. The scene must have been a curious one, never to be repeated—the great preacher of monotheism publicly doing homage at a shrine filled with idols. The sight of Mahomet's power deeply impressed the Meccan aristocracy, and two of the most eminent among them, Khalid ibn al-Walid and Amr ibn al-As, took the opportunity of going over to Islam. Both of these men afterwards played a prominent part in the building up of the Muslim Empire.

A few months later Islam for the first time came into conflict with the great Christian power against which it was destined to struggle, with scarcely any intermission, for a period of eight centuries. In the autumn of the year 629 Mahomet despatched a force of 3000 men, commanded by his adopted son Zaid ibn Haritha, to the north-western frontier of Arabia. The reason which most of the historians assign for this expedition is that a messenger sent by the Prophet had been assassinated, a year earlier, by an Arab chieftain named Shurahbil, who owned allegiance to the Byzantine Emperor. But since Ibn Ishak, the oldest writer who records the expedition, does not allege any pretext for it, the correctness of the aforesaid explanation is at least doubtful. In any case it is difficult to believe that Mahomet contemplated an attack on the Byzantine Empire, for ignorant as he was of foreign countries he must have been aware that an army of 3000 men would be wholly inadequate for such a purpose. When the Muslim force reached the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea, they found themselves, to their great surprise, confronted by a much larger army composed partly of Byzantines and partly of Arabs subject to the Emperor. After some hesitation Zaid ibn Haritha determined to fight. The battle took place at Muta, a village to the east of the Dead Sea. The Muslims fought bravely but were totally defeated; among the slain was their leader Zaid and Jafar, a first cousin of the Prophet. The recently converted Khalid ibn al-Walid, who had accompanied the expedition, finally assumed the command and succeeded in bringing back the greater part of the army safely to Medina.

Capture of Mecca  [630

This reverse was quickly followed by a great success in another quarter. The truce of ten years, established by the treaty of Hudaibiya, might perhaps have been observed faithfully if the matter had depended solely on the two contracting parties, Mahomet and the Kuraish. But each party was in alliance with certain Bedouin tribes, and, as anyone might have foreseen, a feud among the allies was likely to produce a general rupture. In fact the truce had lasted only a year and a half when Mahomet's allies the Khuzaa were attacked by a small tribe, the Bakr ibn Abd-Manat, who likewise dwelt in the neighborhood of Mecca and happened to be in alliance with the Kuraish. Some members of the Kuraish were accused, rightly or wrongly, of assisting the Bakr ibn Abd-Manat, whereupon the Khuzaa naturally complained to Mahomet that the terms of the treaty had been violated. The Kuraish, on their part, sent Abu Sufyan to Medina, in the hope that hostilities might be averted. What passed between Abu Sufyan and Mahomet on this occasion it is, of course, impossible to know with certainty, but it appears highly probable that, as several modern historians have suggested, the ambassador of the Kuraish, realizing the superiority of the Muslim forces, agreed to facilitate the surrender of Mecca, while the Prophet promised to avoid all unnecessary bloodshed. No sooner had Abu Sufyan returned to his native city than Mahomet collected an army of about 10,000 men, chiefly Bedouins, and marched southwards. But he abstained from declaring war against the Kuraish and endeavoured to conceal the real object of his expedition. On the way he was met by his uncle Abbas, who at length professed himself a convert to Islam and joined the Prophet's army. About the end of January 630 the Muslims were encamped within sight of Mecca. No one could now doubt what was Mahomet's aim, but very few of the Meccans showed any inclination to risk their lives in defence of the city. With the exception of a small band who perished in a fruitless skirmish, the citizens, following the advice of Abu Sufyan, threw away their arms, retired into their houses and suffered the conqueror to enter unopposed. Mahomet, on taking possession of the city, at once proclaimed a general amnesty, from which only ten persons were by name excluded; even of these the majority soon obtained pardon. He then proceeded to destroy the idols with which the city abounded; it was even thought necessary to efface some of the paintings which adorned the interior of the Kaba. A curious legend relates that while this process of purification was being carried out one of the Meccan goddesses, called Naila, suddenly appeared in the form of a black woman and fled away shrieking — an example of the belief, familiar to us from early Christian literature, that the pagan deities are devils. But while many of the ancient gods vanished forever, one at least remained and in fact has continued to the present day. A certain black stone, which formed part of the wall of the Kaba, was regarded by the heathen Arabs with extraordinary veneration; the practice of kissing this object and of stroking it with the hand was not only tolerated but expressly sanctioned by the Prophet. That such fetish-worship disgusted some of his own followers appears evident from a saying ascribed to the Caliph Omar. How far Mahomet's policy in these matters was due to genuine superstition and how far to the desire of conciliating the heathen cannot be determined; but it is certain that a large part of the ancient cult was adopted into Islam with little change. For this it was necessary to devise some historical justification; accordingly the Prophet gave out, perhaps in good faith, that the Meccan sanctuary had been originally founded by Abraham and that the ceremonial practiced in it was a divine institution though it had been partially corrupted through the perversity of men. The Meccans, it is needless to say, gladly accepted the theory which tended, on the whole, to enhance the prestige of their city. Henceforth the Kuraish, who had so long opposed the new religion, were among its firmest adherents, if not from conviction at least from self-interest.

The news of the capture of Mecca spread a panic among some of the neighboring tribes of Bedouins. It is not probable that they were much influenced by religious feeling, but they dreaded the loss of their independence. An army was quickly brought together, consisting of several tribes who bore the collective appellation of Hawazin; the most prominent members of the coalition were the Thala a tribe to which the inhabitants of the town of Taif belonged. Mahomet at once marched from Mecca with a much larger force and encountered the Hawazin in the valley of Hunain. The Muslims, in spite of their numerical superiority, were at first thrown into confusion by the onslaught of the enemy, and the Prophet himself was in great peril; the troops from Medina, however, succeeded in turning the tide of battle. At length the Hawazin were not only routed but were forced to abandon their women and children, together with a vast quantity of flocks and herds which, after the fashion of the Bedouins, they had brought into the battlefield. Immediately after the victory Mahomet proceeded to besiege Taif, but the inhabitants of the town defended it with unusual vigour and the Muslims were soon obliged to retreat. This discomfiture, however, does not seem to have injured the Prophet's cause, for a few days later the majority of the Hawazin announced their intention of adopting Islam. The new converts received back their wives and children, but the rest of the booty taken at Hunain was distributed among the victors. Nor did the people of Taif long remain faithful to their old religion; after an interval of about half a year they entered into negotiations with the Prophet and finally sub­mitted to his authority.

Expedition to Tabuk [630-632

In the autumn of this year (630) a report reached Medina that a great Byzantine army was advancing into Arabia from the north­west. The report was certainly false; whether Mahomet believed it or merely utilized it as a pretext for a raid it is impossible to say. In any case he collected all his forces and marched with them as far as Tabuk, which is about 300 miles to the north-west of Medina. As no Byzantines appeared to oppose him, the only result of his expedition was the subjugation of some small Jewish and Christian settlements in the north of Arabia. Both Jews and Christians were allowed to retain their property and the right to profess their religion, on condition that they paid a yearly tribute, the amount of which was fixed in each case by a special treaty.

On the occasion of the next annual Pilgrimage, in the spring of 631, Mahomet issued a solemn proclamation, now contained in chap. IX of the Koran, whereby heathens were thenceforth excluded from participation in the Pilgrimage and the cult of the Kaba. The following year the Prophet himself performed the Pilgrimage and finally settled the details of the ceremonies to be observed in connection with it. During all subsequent ages this institution, notwithstanding its purely heathen origin, continued to be the great bond whereby Muslims of all parties were held together. Such a result could not have been attained by the Koran alone or by any abstract creed however carefully formulated.

Another matter which he undertook to regulate at about the same time was the sacred Calendar. Till then the Arabs, so far as can be ascertained, had reckoned by solar years but by lunar months, that is to say, they followed the practice, which appears to have been common among the Semitic nations, of inserting an intercalary month from time to time so as to adjust the year to the seasons. But as their notions of astronomy were of the crudest sort, much confusion naturally arose. This the Prophet, who was equally ignorant, endeavored to remedy by announcing, in the name of God, that thenceforth the year was always to consist of twelve lunar months. Accordingly the Muslim year was altogether dissociated from the natural seasons, for which reason the more civilized Muslim nations are obliged to have a civil Calendar, consisting of Persian, Syrian or Coptic months, as the case may be, in addition to the sacred Calendar.

Soon after his return to Medina, Mahomet made preparations for another campaign against the Byzantines, but before the expedition had started he was seized with fever and expired, in the arms of Aisha, on Monday, 7 June 632. Of his last utterances there are various accounts, many of which are obvious fabrications designed to support the claims of rival candidates for the Caliphate. That he ever appointed a successor is highly improbable.

It would be vain to attempt an enumeration of the conflicting judgments which have been passed on his character and his work, not only by fanatical devotees and opponents but even by scientific historians. The immense majority of the attacks published in Europe may be safely ignored, since they were made at a time when the most trustworthy sources of information had not yet come to light. During the last two or three generations more favorable estimates have been formed, but it would be a grave mistake to suppose that even at the present day there is anything like a consensus of opinion on this subject among those who are most qualified to judge. One of the greatest Orientalists that ever lived has recently stated that having, in his younger days, planned a work on the history of the early Muslim Empire he was finally deterred from carrying out the scheme by his inability to offer any satisfactory account of the Prophet's character. This example should suffice to inspire diffidence.

In discussing the subject there are two opposite dangers which we must constantly strive to avoid. On the one hand, we should beware of assuming that Mahomet's doctrine and policy were determined solely by his own personal qualities. Much that strikes us as peculiar in his preaching may in reality be due to his Jewish or Christian informants. It is likewise clear that the spread of his religion was largely governed by factors over which he had no control. All the evidence tends to show that during the first few years of his propaganda he never dreamt of acquiring political power. He strove, it is true, to convert Mecca as a whole,' and not merely a few individuals, to the true faith; but this was not in view of an earthly kingdom—it was in view of the impending Day of Judgment. Even when at length circumstances placed him in the position of a ruler his authority rested much more on the voluntary co-operation of his followers than on any material resources that were at his command. It has often been suggested in recent times that the religious movement of which Mahomet was the head coincided with a great national movement on the part of the Arabs who, it is said, had already developed, independently of Islam, a sense of their superiority to other races and were eager to overrun the neighboring countries. On this question it is difficult to pronounce a definite opinion, since nearly all our information about the Arabs of that period comes through Muslim channels. But in any case there can be no doubt that in the diffusion of Islam the national feelings of the Arabs played a very important part.

On the other hand, we must not fall into the error of ignoring the extraordinary influence exerted by the Prophet over his disciples, an influence which was apparently due quite as much to his moral as to his intellectual qualities. The confidence which he inspired may seem to us undeserved, but it is only just to acknowledge that he used his immense power much oftener for the purpose of restraining than for the purpose of stimulating fanaticism.