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look at the conquest of America by the Spaniards, and hold an Arab, into whose possession Heaven had as by miracle given arms, an evident knave, and no enthusiast, for believing that God designed him to use the arms thus given for the purpose of spreading that truth which men would not otherwise receive ? Nothing, perhaps, tells more against Mohammed in the popular mind, than the idea that he wished to spread his faith by the sword; and yet how strange would it have been, had he persevered in peaceful addresses to men's reason, after laboring so long in vain, and being at last empowered to use other means, — the same means that were used against him! Truly, had he refused the armies of Yatreb, he would have deserved from all of us the name of prophet, and would have proved himself one of the truest successors to the spirit of the gentle Jesus. But so great virtue was not in him ; the offer of the sword was to his mind not to be refused, for God offered it. The means of conversion which the greatest monarch of Christendom tried some three centuries later, this untutored Arab appealed to. Was Charlemagne dishonest in his bloody baptisms? If not, why Mohammed ? It will be said, because he once taught a better doctrine ; but shall there be no end to God's forbearance ? Had not a clear proof reached the fugitive from Mecca, that the day of retribution was at hand ?
But Mohammed, when in power, was cruel, vindictive, and showed that he used the sword for selfish, not noble, purposes; so many appear to think. In two lives of the prophet lying before us, the fact, that, after the battle of Beder, the bodies of the Meccans were thrown by Mohammed's followers into a well, is mentioned as a striking instance of their barbarity. Did the writers of those works remember how Christians, in this nineteenth century, treat the corpses of their foes ? Did it occur to them, that, in the situation of the victorious army at Beder, no other mode of burial was possible than the one adopted ? and that the act which is denounced as barbarous may have been an act of unusual respect Surely, to leave the body of an enemy to the kites and dogs is as barbarous as to bury it, even though the grave be a well. And to aid them in estimating the barbarity of the victor in that wonderful battle, they had the fact, - more important, one would think, than the disposition of the dead, that, of seventy prisoners taken, but two suffered death. VOL. LXIII. - NO. 133.
But the charge of cruelty is utterly false. Mohammed forgave the very men of Mecca who had driven him forth and hunted him like a wild beast ; he probably forgave the Jewess who administered the poison which produced his death ; nor does a spirit of cruelty show itself in any part of his career.
He entered Medina, as we have said, in triumph. He found himself Prophet, Priest, Lawgiver, Judge, General, and King. Never was monarch so revered by his people, as the son of Abdallah by his followers. He built a temple or mosque of the most primitive simplicity, and reared for himself a palm-tree for a pulpit. His private life was one of marked abstinence and plainness. He lit his fire, and swept his chamber ; mended his own garments, and spread his own table; dates and barley-bread, milk and honey, were his food.
One charge, and only one, relative to his private conduct, is, or can be, made ; he is accused of licentiousness. Into a full discussion of this subject we cannot enter ; but we ask the inquirer to consider these suggestions. From his youth to the age of fifty-three, Mohammed had been a model of chastity, and this at a time when no external circumstances operated upon his mind to make him so. Is it, then, to be at once believed that he, who had been so free from licentiousness through youth and manhood, would become a profligate in his old age, when every inducement from without called upon him to control himself ? He was trying to reform his countrymen in regard to the very vice of which he is accused ; and should we look, in the course of nature, for utter abandonment on the part of the Reformer, heretofore so continent, just when he was preaching continence ? Ought we not, before we admit so improbable a charge, to weigh well the evidence on which it rests? And what is this evidence? It is, first, the tradition of his followers; secondly, certain portions of the Koran. In regard to the first, we hold it as worthless, for it is clear that what we look on as criminal his followers viewed in a wholly different light ;* and this, leading, as we know it did, to immense exaggerations and fables, vitiates the tradition entirely. And what is the evidence of the Koran ? We take it to be this,
See Gibbon, chap. 50, notes 162, &c.
and nothing more ; Mohammed took a greater number of wives than he allowed to his followers, under an assumed permission from God to do so. Why? From a licentious spirit ? We cannot believe it. What then ? it may be asked. We answer, that the conduct of the prophet may, very probably, have been induced by the same feeling which led Napoleon to repudiate Josephine ; the only sons he had appear to have died in infancy, and he had no one to succeed him in that priesthood to which God had raised him. In short, that charge of unbounded licentiousness, which Christian and infidel writers have brought against the husband of Cadijah, we believe may be regarded as a misinterpretation of the fact, that, in his desire for an heir, he supposed himself allowed by Heaven to increase the number of his wives beyond the bounds prescribed to his followers. No other explanation than this seems to us to accord with his previous purity, and this explanation coincides entirely with the idea upon which we are proceeding, that Mohammed was a monomaniac, a self-deceived enthusiast, up to the time of his flight from Mecca.
And how do the other circumstances of his life at that time accord with our theory ? Take, for instance, the first noted event after his accession to power, that battle of Beder, to which we have already referred. A caravan of the Koreish was on its way to Mecca. Anticipating an attack from the followers of Mohammed, a reinforcement from Mecca, consisting of nine hundred and fifty men, went out to meet and defend their fellow-citizens. To this force the Prophet could oppose only three hundred and thirteen soldiers ; but he did not hesitate about engaging the superior body, assuring his followers of divine aid. At first, he stood aloof from the battle, calling on God to assist his true worshippers ; but when he saw his men wavering before the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, throwing himself upon a horse, and casting a handful of sand into the air, with a loud cry he led his yielding followers back to the charge, and by his enthusiasm so inspirited his supporters, and daunted his opponents, that he gained the day.
In relation to this battle, we have another specimen of the way in which prejudice can lead a man to write. Professor Bush, after giving an account of the contest, says this triumph is often alluded to in the Koran “ in a style of selfsatisfied vaunting,” and immediately quotes this passage :“And ye slew not those who were slain at Beder yourselves, but God slew them. Neither didst thou, O Mohammed, cast the gravel into their eyes when thou didst seem to cast it, but God cast it” ; together with one or two others of similar import, all ascribing the victory to God.
But perhaps no period will more fully prove a man's honesty than the hour of death. How was it then with the Arabian impostor ? He knew, for many months before his death, that his end was approaching, as he died from the lingering disease produced by poison. As long as his strength permitted, he pursued his usual course, promulgating his faith by force, where the Koran was not enough. Though he knew Azrael to be so near, he changed neither in language nor action, but continued to claim to be God's messenger, and to fulfil the duties of his mission. At length his strength failed him, but not his courage, his enthusiasm, or his faith. For the last time he caused himself to be borne to the mosque, and spoke to his people. He told them that his last hour was near, and called upon any to whom he had been unjust, or whose name he had injured, to accuse him openly; and if he owed any, he prayed them to make their claims then, rather than at the day of judgment. From the crowd there came a voice making a demand ; it was acknowledged and paid, with many thanks to the creditor. He then set free his slaves; arranged every thing for his funeral ; appointed Abubekir to succeed him as priest, but made no mention of any successor in command ; and, with his head resting on Ayesha's knee, prepared to die. When the delirium of fever was upon him, he wished to dictate new messages from God; when the delirium passed by, he bade his weeping friends be comforted. Around him were gathered his chief followers; the worthlessness of power, the poverty of the rewards of ambition, could not fail to be seen by the dying man. Did he point out their vanity to Ali and Abubekir ? Were his last moments given to self-reproach, or even silent despair? Could this impostos, this liar, this greatest of quacks and deceivers, pass away, and not utter one word showing that his soul was stricken with agony, when he looked back upon the villany of his mature years
? His lips moved ; they leant over him to catch the feeble sounds. “O God ! pardon my sins,” he cried ; “yes, I
come among my fellow-laborers on high !” He dipped his faint hand in the water, sprinkled his face, and died. that a liar's death-bed ?
But there is one fact in the history of Mohammed which is usually regarded as conclusive ; the fact, that he had revelations to suit his own plans, wishes, and position ; in any difficulty or danger, he was informed from heaven what course to pursue.
This is considered as certain proof of his imposture. But we think the history of monomania would show it to be one of the most common results of that disease. An enthusiast whose mind is unsound will, in most cases, have his visions or voices, when circumstances make them desirable ; his revelations will be guided by his wishes. We cannot, therefore, think this strongest of all the evidences of the Arabian's dishonesty of any weight.
We have now given the leading points which need to be considered, in estimating Mohammed's honesty. For ourselves, we look upon him as honest to the last hour of his life ; and we suppose his success and his influence to have been the result of his truthfulness and his real greatness of soul. It is disheartening to think, for a moment, that a mere deceiver and cheat could rule men's minds as this man did; but it is full of comfort and food for faith, the conviction that earnest, heartfelt, fearless devotion to the cause of God, as he believed, enabled the Arab Reformer to change the fortunes of so many millions. We regard the lesson to be learned, from the study of the prophet's life, as in favor of uprightness ; not, as by the imposture theory, in favor of deception and knavery.
But not only do we look on Mohammed as honest, we regard him as one of the great souls of the world. We have no room to discuss his whole character, but we would call the attention of the reader to his forgiveness of the Meccans who had sought his life ; to his ability as a soldier, though educated to arts of peace; to the fact, that he originated the laws and literature of a great people, though but partially taught himself; and to that peculiar power which he gained over all about him. Had he been less great, his honesty would not have enabled him to perform the wonders he did ; and had he been otherwise than honest, we cannot believe his name would have been now known to the reader of history.